I don’t believe in gods, but I do pray to gods. I use them.
When praying to a god, however, you have to for a second kind of believe in them, and that’s part of the point. But that’s the involuntary kind of believing you have when in a theatre and watching a play. While you are telling yourself a story, no matter how ridiculous it is, you believe it. It’s neuroscience, baby.
As a result of this effect, telling stories motivates us. It also unifies us by bringing to light our shared experiences. It humbles us, reaches us and is deeply ingrained into our brains by evolution.
How about the story of God? Long ago, for many reasons, I stopped believing in a single God. Now, I don’t know what I really believe or even care about as far as godly ideas. I’m very tentative in my theories. UFOs are real and the USA is controlled by a global capitalist empire, these are plain facts. But is there a God or gods? It seems literally unknowable.
I think my friend Sheldon is probably right about his thought that God peers out from all eyes. If so, to what level does this Being or Beings think or exist? How can we hope to understand such an entity or connect with it?
Perhaps this all-seeing and knowing God cares deeply about them while experiencing them, (shades of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane). But She also knows a greater Whole which is obscured to us. Concern for us cannot be Her greatest worry.
If there is such a distant inscrutable God, that being does not give a dang about me. “Giving a dang” is something that humans do, largely based on fear, on this level of existence. Gods as I suppose them to be do not limit themselves to ordinary shit nor do they fear. Like I said, I don’t know.
Back when I was a Christian, I did notice that praying to God unlocked a deeper part of my mind. I was taught by the Church to call this “part of me” the Holy Ghost., who whispers the Truth of All Things (shades of the Muse from the Greek pantheists).
I knew enough neuroscience to realize the brain had to be involved in this process, perhaps my subconscious. At the time I theorized that this “voice” was like a neural radio circuit that tuned into God’s Truth Channel somehow.
As an aside, the pseudo-scientific theories that rational people create as a defense of religious ideas always seem comedic from the outside. Yet such stories are an intellectual tragedy of sorts. They mire believers in puddles of explanation when they could swim in an ocean of open questions.
After I abandoned the idea of a personal God, I still held onto this thought of a deeper Me or set of Selves within me. I started associating these aspects of myself with various times and circumstances. I named these people Morning Rich, Exercise Rich, Powerful Rich, Evening Rich, etc. Each has a way about him that requires a different approach.
I did not literally think these to be different people of course, but my behaviors were distinct enough in these circumstances. Speaking to each as a separate person gave me a natural way to think about and solve problems. I could deal with those circumstances in relational, human terms.
This kind of thinking invokes the primal self, the tribal connector logic. The dynamic relational part of the brain is supercharged and runs at times exponentially faster than the Engineer Linear Brain. It’s like a graphics card on a computer. If you can transform a problem into these terms, your brain will process it in lightning time. It’s worth the effort to make the transformation.
Later, while learning a few things about the arts, I noticed that the Greek Pantheon is also such a cast of characters and immediately connected to that model. From there it was a short step to connect them to aspects of my life, just as I had done with my own aspects of personality, and to begin to talk to them.
Now, I’ve found that despite my general lack of trust or respect for any gods, I have learned that if I act out a story, in which I am a devout believer praying to a god of my choosing, it has power to move me in useful ways. Usually a pantheon of Greek Gods is the most satisfying at the moment, but whatever gods operate in my realm of interest, such as art or writing or planning or health, for the project at hand, I tend to open my activities with a benediction.
I view these entities as living in their own plane, but having interest in our lives and a desire to participate. The rules of the game require our invoking them for them to exist with us, however. So I bring them into existence and form agreements with them about what I want and what I will do in return as a gift to them.
Example: “Dear Athena, Goddess of knowledge and wisdom, as I study these books, guide my mind to find the new truths that I seek this day. Help me to create from this knowledge knew things in the world.”
Example 2: “Hermes, I’m studying 30 minutes today. Please guide my brain so I learn cool shit.”
It’s worth repeating that before and after saying this, I know it’s total bullshit, but as I say it, I believe it. I enjoy the dramatic feelings it creates and the spiritual attitude it fosters. Using settings and characters deepens the scenes, so I bring in magic talismans to show my devotion. This is a powerful and surprisingly grounded start to my Focus Blocks approach to productivity, which I may explore in another post.
I offer this as a practice for others to enjoy and explore and comment on. Cheers.