Starting Your Own Spiritual Journey
Many people feel overwhelmed and inundated with so much information on the bookshelves and online. It’s hard to know which way to go or where to start your own spiritual journey. Getting started isn’t as hard as you might think, and there are many places to begin for accurate and safe information. Here is my suggestion and a little information for those with an interest and desire to begin their spiritual journey.
To start the search into your own spiritual interests, define what you currently believe. Whither you’re interested in Pagan Metaphysics or some other spiritual path, you should have an idea of what you believe now. Putting your beliefs into writing instead of just talking about them, helps you define the connection between your beliefs, understand what you believe, and identify what you might not understand or where there are gaps in your beliefs. Learn more about Defining Your Beliefs.
Next, do your own research. Read everything! The more you read, the more you’ll be able to distinguish what is good source material from what is not. Look for material that cite the sources of their information.
On my site The Pagan’s Path, I’ve tried to list the resources I used to create the article at the bottom of the page. You can use these to further your research and reading. Some of the original articles on the site (some 10+ years ago) may not have this, but most of them do.
Take time to look in the back of books you’re interested and review the bibliography. If the book doesn’t have one, then you might question the accuracy of information it provides. None of what you read is new information. Spiritual insight and knowledge has been written about for centuries. The perspectives might be new, the applications to today’s life might have evolved and changed. But the information has been around in one form or other for ages. So in theory, there’s no reason books shouldn’t have a list of resources backing up their information.
Blogs are designed to share insight and perspectives from the writer. And while some may take the time to list resources for their posts, not all do. But don’t let that stop you from reading what they offer and searching Amazon or Google for additional resources about the topic. If you’re interested in the resources I use for my articles here on Spring’s Haven, I keep a running list @ Books & Resources.
A Basic Foundation
There are some basic concepts that you should be aware of as you begin your research that can help guide you along the way. So let’s start by setting a solid foundation which you can build on and develop your own perspectives.
Many people argue that Witchcraft is a craft of magik and not a religion. It’s an argument that will never be resolved as opinions vary greatly even within the craft community itself. But let’s look at this from an academic perspective:
A religion is:
Any specific system of belief, often involving a code of ethics and a philosophy.
By this definition it is indeed a religion.
It’s a notion that I personally agree with. In 2008 I wrote an article on this debate entitled “Is Witchcraft a Religion“. The debate over this label is one reason the new title “Pagan Metaphysics” is becoming popular with practitioners.
Pagan Metaphysics as a religion, is not about spells or potions, or even psychic gifts and abilities. There is a difference between Spellcraft and Witchcraft. Though many practitioners do practice the science of energy manipulation (magik), it’s not a major focus of the belief system. So if spells are all you’re interested in, the spiritual path of Pagan Metaphysics is not what you’re looking for.
It is also a recognized religion in many countries. Recognized by the United States in 1975, it was added to the U.S. Army’s Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains. In that section of the book, the religion is referred to as Witchcraft and as Wicca. Last updated in 2002, it’s unclear if the Handbook will be modified to correct some of the generalized concepts this section of the handbook put’s forth. It’s not totally accurate, but at least it’s something.
Basically, Pagan Metaphysics is a religion of Indo-European origins based in the foundation of I alone am not the Goddess, you alone are not the God. But you and I and all things seen and unseen make up the interconnected Divine Universe.
Keep in mind that not all traditions within Pagan Metaphysics are Polytheistic. Some denominations, specifically those that follow a Shamanistic path, see the Divine as a single all-inclusive source which is often referred to as the Universal Spirit, the Divine Spirit, the GreatSpirits and a variety of other titles including God or Goddess. It’s really up to you and what label best fits your view of the Divine force on your own personal path and perspective. If you’re interested in Greek, Norse, Celtic or some other cultural Pantheons, then by all means, honor the God and Goddess that you feel drawn to.
My tradition follows the path of non-Polytheistic. Where some traditions see the Divine as a tree whose branches are represented by different Gods and Goddesses, we see the Divine as the entire Tree. Why work with just an aspect of the branches, when you can work with the entire Tree. We put an emphasis on the plural “GreatSpirits” meaning the Divine is made up of all things. I am not the goddess, you are not the god, but you and I and all things seen and unseen make up the Divine Consciousness of the Universe.
If you want to read more about Pagan Metaphysics, you might want to read the following articles. I suggest reading these in the order I’m listing them.
~ What Is Paganism? – A Basic Description of Paganism & Pagan Metaphysics
~ What Is Pagan Metaphysics? – A more in-depth overview
~ Frequently Asked Questions – on PagansPath.com
~ Getting Started – On your Pagan study and research
~ Meditation, Energy & Action – The most important article for any spiritual journey.
Keeping A Journal
Keep a record of what you read and a review of your impressions of the resource. This can help you down the road to separate resources you found helpful vs those you felt were less than accurate. If you like the resource, take some notes about concepts that stand out for you and include your interpretation or thoughts on the subject. There’s a good reason for doing this.
Many people highlight items that they feel are important and before you know it, the entire page is yellow. But this doesn’t help you think about the subject and interpret its information from your perspective. On a spiritual journey this is an important step to contemplating the topic and applying it to your path. Writing it down, either on paper or digitally, forces you to put your perspective into your own words and helps you see contradictions with what you think you know vs what you’re sure you know.
This will also help you update your ‘Define Your Belief’ questions as you learn. Remember that education expands your awareness and understanding. Your beliefs should also evolve and expand with that knowledge. As you put your beliefs into practice, you will gain further understanding and develop wisdom along the way.
Your spiritual path will take effort, time and practice. But there are a few things to keep in mind as you go:
~ Conduct your research through a process of reading various perspectives to get a full understanding of a topic.
~ Don’t accept definitions simply because someone wrote it in a book.
~ Verify and double-check information that you’re drawn to and ensure its validity for your own perspectives.
~ Ask your Guides and Spiritual Teachers for guidance.
~ Don’t be afraid to follow your own instincts.
Putting Your Perspectives Into Practice
One of the most common things people tell me is “I don’t want to do something wrong”. Don’t worry, you won’t. If you go into any ritual, ceremony or practice with a positive intent and follow your instincts, you’ll be fine. Take time to read about ceremonies related to the practice you want to implement. You’ll probably be given generic concepts that you’ll want to read about more, before you invoke them into your practice.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone starting their spiritual journey is to learn How To Meditate. Prayer allows you to talk to the Divine and petition for assistance. Meditation allows you to become one with the Divine and discover the divine within your own inner being. It sets the gateway between your physical conscious mind and your higher Divine consciousness. This in turn will give you access to the connection between you and the Divine Universal consciousness.
Before you cast a circle or spell, make sure you fully understand what Energy is, how it works, how to create it, manipulate it and cast it. Understand the Universal Laws that govern it, like the Law of Accountability and the Law of Manifestation.
Finding Like Minded People
Spiritual beliefs and practices are very personal things. What rings true to you may not ring true to me or anyone around you. That doesn’t make you or them wrong in beliefs. Each one of us hold our own views, perspectives and experiences within us that help to mold our beliefs. Since each one of us are unique unto ourselves, we are going to hold minor differences in how we see things. In other cases, we might hold significant differences as well. But if you take time to sit down with someone who you think is different; you’ll find a lot more similarities than you will differences.
Everyone wants to share their interests and feel as though they are part of something, part of a group who believe as they do or generally see things the way the do. On your spiritual path however, going it alone in the beginning of your journey is wiser than looking for a group to teach you what to believe and how to practice.
It takes effort and work to walk on your spiritual path and that’s not something you hand off to an other and simply follow along blindly.
Pagan Metaphysical practices are not set in a single book like mainstream religions. We have shared knowledge and methods of practice from one generation to the next through oral teachings. Consequently there isn’t one authoritative method to our beliefs and practices.
That can make this a path of practice that’s open and accepting to a variety of interests and ideas. Bringing people together to learn and experience varying concepts or perspectives. It’s a great way to expand views and evolve one’s understanding of the world and the Divine universe around us.
At the same time, it can also open the door to fraud. There’s no governing body that sanctions or certifies the pagan metaphysical clergy. What we call our Priests, Priestess, Sages or Shamans. So anyone can make claims and hang out a shingle and say they’re experts. Many are what they say; but others are not and simply have an ego to be looked at by others as teachers or those who are in service to their community.
For this reason alone, I strongly suggest those new to the path study, read and practice on your own. How long you do this is up to you. But you should understand the basics of belief and practice, what’s true for you and feels right for you, before you go out looking for people to practice with. This will help you discover those who know what they’re talking about and will guide you on your path, from those who are only interested in controlling your path either from a place of ego or lack of knowledge.
You are responsible for your actions and your path. And you should be the one who decides what your path looks. Your teacher(s) should help to empower you, not control you. Some groups, covens, groves or clans have specific practices that aren’t meant to control you, but rather are designed to further the teachings held within the group. If they ring true to you, then you would probably enjoy being part of their family.
If you want to find people in your area who might share you views, look for pagan and new age stores in your area. Do a web search, they’ll probably have a site you can check out. Visit those stores and see if they have local newspapers for groups or gathers. Or ask them if they know of any groups or events that you can check out. There are also eZines online you might want to check out. One of my favorites is Pathways Magazine, but there are many and with a little effort you can find them.
One of my other favorite places to send people to is The Witches’ Voice and their community network Witches of the World. I love their community. You can set up your own profile and search profiles of others who are in your area, your state or country, be they people, groups, stores or resources.
The Divine Universe understands you’re walking an unfamiliar path. Your spiritual guides and teachers will try to communicate with you and show you the path to take if you prepare properly for practice. That means, clearing/cleansing the area you will work in, setting protective shields and calling upon your guides, teachers and the Divine for assistance. Working to put what you learn into practice by being Mindful of the actions you take through thought, voice and action.
If you put in the time to research, you will gain an understanding of basic spiritual concepts while learning about yourself. Apply what you learn through experience and you will attain wisdom. Walk Your Talk and that wisdom will guide you to self empowerment and more importantly spiritual enlightenment.
Many blessings to you upon your personal spiritual journey. And remember if you have a question, ask. If your question isn’t respected, then find someone else who will answer your question with respect and explanation.