I hear this one pretty often, among Polytheists and Pagans alike:
“We’re not a religion of faith. We don’t need faith, we have experience!”
I’m pretty sure that faith is still part of most Pagan and Polytheist religion. Faith that the voices we hear sometimes are the spirits, and not our own minds. Faith that the meaningful coincidences are actually divine action, and not ordinary coincidences lent meaning by our self-created internal narratives. Faith, in short, that we’re actually experiencing something other than wish fulfillment and self delusion.
I’m not sure I’ve ever had an experience so solid that I don’t need faith. In fact, it’s usually not fifteen minutes after any spiritual experience I have is over before the doubts set in, armed with reasonable explanations and scientific materialism. Any feeling of concrete reality I have in the moment fades shortly after the moment passes, and I can never quite recall it to mind.
Sometimes, I dream dreams that feel absolutely real, as convincing and solid as any waking experience. A few years back, I had a series of recurring dreams in which I was living my normal life, but secretly owned a pistol I kept hidden from my no-guns-in-my-house partner. It felt so real that, sometimes, I’d catch myself wondering (in waking hours) whether or not I really did have a gun hidden in my bedroom. I don’t, actually. It’s just a dream, and any truth to it can only be allegorical.
But that’s the dilemma. A dream can feel real enough to leave me momentarily confused about my gun ownership, but my spiritual practice doesn’t?
Well, I don’t expect my relationship with Dionysos to confuse me about gun ownership. But you get the idea, I hope.
Which brings us back to faith. I have to have faith that I’m not crazy, or wasting my time. It’s hard to keep.
So, seriously… Anyone reading this: Am I alone in this? Do other Polytheists have the same doubts? Or is the reality of the gods somehow as concrete as it seems, reading your blogs, and I’m somehow missing out?