A year and a day

I have waited since last summer for admission to a Wicca internet class, and was finally accepted. I signed a contract on June 30 to be a student “for a year and a day,” to complete assignments on time, and to send $20 to my teacher (Wiccans—at least these Wiccans—don’t accept payment, but a token gift is required). There are five students, four mentors, and the teacher. We have weekly assignments, a newsgroup, meetings on mIRC, and a great deal of personal attention. Much is given and much is expected. So much that I am quite overwhelmed, but also quite delighted. It is a new and strange world, and I look forward to learning more about it. Here is a part of my application form.

1) How do you define your religion/spirituality?

I feel spiritual mostly when I am in the woods or some other purely natural setting. I do not believe in supernatural entities, yet I am often drawn to particular objects (rocks, trees, colors, smells, locations) with trust and affection. I would like to think that the affection of which I speak is returned, but I doubt that it is. I also feel myself to be immortal, but again my feeling is in conflict with my intellect. Likewise, I suspect that awareness pervades the universe, but I see no evidence for this either. If something does not make intellectual sense to me, I cannot embrace it consistently.

2) What led you to your religion?

The desire to believe that the universe is not indifferent. I want to feel permanently and deeply connected to what is as opposed to feeling like an ephemeral being that doesn’t matter. Do I then get these things from my religion? No. What I do get is a sense of overwhelming, and, at times, excruciating, wonder. These are not feelings that I seek out but feelings that come to me naturally. As to the other things (like believing in connectedness or purpose), I don’t really know what these things mean much less whether they are true.

3) What are your strengths?

I am a good writer and handyman, and possess a fair amount of knowledge about a variety of things. I am also good with dogs, resourceful, sentimental, gentle, frugal, orderly, humorous, personally and domestically clean, consistent in my affections, thoughtful in small ways, and willing to do what must be done.

4) What are your weak points?

I am prone to loneliness, depression, feelings of futility, and obsessing about things that scare or anger me.

5) Does your immediate family share your religious beliefs? If not, what are their beliefs?

My wife has no religious beliefs. She gives religion too little thought to even qualify as a theist, atheist, or agnostic. I have never known her to be different, although she was brought up a strict Southern Baptist.

6) How do they feel about your being a witch?

I have belonged to four churches, was a non-resident editor for American Atheist, and briefly attended the local Self-Realization Fellowship, so she would neither be surprised, nor would she expect me to stay with it. She would consider it one of my weirder attempts at what might be called a religious affiliation, but she would not give me a hard time about it.

7) Are you ‘in’ or 'out' regarding your religious beliefs? To what degree?

I would talk about my religion if asked, but no one asks. My experience is that the older people become, the less likely they are to discuss religion. I am an active Freemason and an Odd Fellow, and most of the people I spend time with are in those fraternities. A belief in God is required, but the term is undefined, and not considered a proper topic for discussion at lodge events.

8) Is there anything else you think we should know about you?

I consider all forms of divination as things that might be interesting to study, but not as things to be taken seriously. I do not believe that spirits can be called into a circle because I do not believe that spirits exist. I would interpret such things as meaningful contemplatively, psychologically, and socially. By way of comparison, I would offer that I feel very positively about the religious aspects of my lodge memberships, although I am aware that my actual beliefs differ greatly from those of my fellows.

My lodges give me permission to define my beliefs for myself, and this makes it possible for me to worship with a completeness that I could not feel within the context of a group in which well-defined beliefs were required. I can feel connected to both my lodge brothers and sisters and to WHATEVER IS without having to worry about whether my beliefs are so different that I don’t belong. If I can do as much within this class, I am likely to prosper.

My conclusion about god is simply that he does not exist, at least not as a conscious, purposeful, caring entity. Despite this, I believe in something that might be called a higher power. Call it energy, beauty, love, or whatever; I cannot completely let go of the notion that there is something greater than we of which we are a part. I mean by this that we are of it rather than it being of us. It is the ocean, and we are the droplets, and I take some little comfort in that.