So what if I can’t hear the Gods?

This… should be a little different. I apologize for the rambling course this piece will take, but I’ve a feeling that really is just the best way to tackle this issue. Hopefully I can help myself and maybe a few others wrestling with this issue by writing it all down.

A week or so ago I had gone out to somewhere I could find at least a modicum of privacy to make offerings of alcohol (Jagermeister, my personal favorite so as it’s what I love it just feels right to offer it to the Gods for me) and have a pair of conversations. The first with Loki, that has a little less to do with this… and I probably shouldn’t go too far into as at the time I was pissed at Him and wanted Him to know it. Insane right? Well, seemed to be a good thing I did the insane thing as since doing that, I’ve been able to better understand what made me so upset and now I’m just… not. Suppose that’s as natural for relationships with Gods as with humans: sometimes you just need to hash it out in order to understand each other. Well… in this case it was more one sided. Loki already knew why I was angry. I was the one who needed to understand why that was and realize my feelings for the Flame Haired One who makes me laugh haven’t changed. Now I’m not as sure why I was so angry at Loki for being Loki in the first place. Foolish really, but there you have it.

The second was a conversation I have put off having for far far too long with the Old Man, Odin. It’s been nearly four years (maybe longer) since I first felt called to Him and in that time I’ve done a lot of foolish things. Things that allowed others to take advantage of me, wasting time and energy I could have been dedicating to Him in some way. At least spent in further study and reflection. I’d put off speaking to Him about it, in hindsight like a child hiding a broken vase. Still, even during that time I did notice small ways He was involved in my life, even ways that I was forced to notice were His ways of putting me to good use even if I couldn’t see it till after the fact. In all that time though, I have not heard His voice or felt His touch in quite the same terrible way I did all those years ago when I first noticed His hand in my life.

So I went, made my offering, apologized for the healthy drink I needed for myself in order to do this… and owned up to all of the foolishness I’ve put myself and those around me through for the past four years. It wasn’t long before I was a sobbing wreck, something that practically never happens with me. It isn’t that I hold back tears or anything so macho, it’s just that hard for me to understand the feelings that make others break down and cry. Not this night though. Not before Him. Not after how far I’ve strayed.

Amidst all the blubbering, I found myself admitting two painful things. First, that I needed Him. Part of my own foolishness has always been an insistence on my own independence, pushing away any source of help and especially divine help. A part of me always wishes to meet others on my own terms, even Gods (yes that is very arrogant, welcome to my world). Some of that I recognize now is hold overs from leaving the Christian Church and the first time I moved out of my parents house. I hated the feelings of dependence I had had for either and allowed that to permeate the rest of my relationships. Result being I allowed others to grow dependent on me to the point of leaching my time energy and finances away to nearly nothing. Growing past all that though, I’m forced to admit that after so long since I last allowed anyone to guide my path at all, I need that guidance in my life.

The second thing that came out of all that, and more to the point of this article, was that I was desperate to hear His voice. More than anything I wanted that, past the point of considering what consequences I might endure to attain it.

I left that night rather unsteady on my feet, but feeling comforted in a way I couldn’t be sure of. I had a sense that Loki and Odin were both pleased, more so with how broken I had allowed myself to become than anything else, but I didn’t hear either of Them speak to me.

There’s been a few times since that night that I’ve felt similar senses and thought I may have heard the voice of one or the other of Them. Trouble is, while once I thought myself able to tell for certain if a God was speaking to me rather than just me talking to myself, I’m not sure if I can anymore. I keep asking myself now, was that real or just me hearing what I want to hear?

I have my own personal metaphor for what it’s like trying to be sure if I’m hearing the voice of a God: “The voice of a God is like a mouse speaking beside the roaring waterfall of our desires.” We’re human. We’re prone to self delusion and that’s fine. Just means we need to work hard at recognizing what it is that we desire so that we might perceive the rose colored lenses we’ve put on, and see past them.

The trick now is that what I desire most is to hear the voice of Odin and to an extent Loki and other Gods and Goddesses I wish to build relationships with. So the delusion I’m most vulnerable to is hearing something I may believe is one of Their voices, because that is what I wish to hear. Thinking on that leads me to the next uncomfortable thought: what if I can’t hear the voices of the Gods? What if I never could, and never would be able to?

That was painful to think about for a time, until I metaphorically slapped myself in the face and said “So what?”

Seriously: So what if I can’t hear the Gods? What’s the big deal about being able to hear Them anyway?

Well, quite a bit. As my wife recently pointed out to me: even in my approach to the spiritual I can behave somewhat like a scientist. I like having something tangible I can grasp to be able to prove (if only to myself) that something is real. Being able to hold a two way, rather than one way, conversation with a God would provide a great deal of that reassurance, but do I need that? I have felt the touch of Odin in my life in many other small ways. Am I just behaving like a child who can not bear to be out of his parent’s presence for more than a moment without some reassurance that he or she is nearby? I think I am and it’s time to work past that.

The thing is, even if I can’t hear Them nothing really should change. If I am sincere in my feelings for Them, there is no reason why I need to hear the voice of Odin or any other Deity in response to my devotion. I can still pray, give offerings, build altars and other forms of welcoming sacred space for Them in my home and offer what support I can to those around me. The ones who follow the same path as I do and those who do not, but support me and accept my support none the less. None of this requires me to hear the voices of Gods or receive any other reassurance of Their reality. If the Old Man or any other Deity does choose to make His or Her voice known to me, They will. If not, there is still work to be done.

So what if I can’t hear the Gods? That would not make my love for Them any less real. Nor Theirs for me.

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9 responses to “So what if I can’t hear the Gods?

  1. I am glad that you shared this. I have trouble hearing Them myself and have only gotten a couple of messages somewhat clearly. I think it is important that we remain open to Them and the possibility even if it never manifests. I wish you luck on your journey.

  2. Thank you for sharing a deeply personal moment.

    The question, “Am I hearing the gods or just my own voice?” is rationally unresolvable; it comes down to trust. Even if you were stopped in the desert one day by a trumpet blast and a burning bush, you could convince yourself it was a psychotic break; the question is, whom do you trust?

    You say that you know that the gods care about you, so you have your answer. Can we still delude ourselves, after the gods have become a part of our lives? Sure; a lot of life is learning to see past our self-delusions. But that mouse’s voice you mention takes a lot of effort and will to drown out; it’s persistent. Taking a gross example: let’s say you really want to go out and get stupid with a bunch of friends. You hear that voice within, nagging at you, telling you it isn’t the best of ideas; but you really, really want it because you think it will make you happy. So, you ignore the voice, because another voice is telling you how great it will be; you go out, get really drunk and relieve your bladder in front of a police station during shift change. That’s how you learn which voice to listen to: by making mistakes. If the gods really care about you, they won’t let you make one too big for your to recover from. That doesn’t mean you won’t endure some really embarrassing moments. Or painful ones, for that matter.

    There are times when the gods seem absent. When I was a Christian, the rationale given for this was that it was a trial of faith; and I don’t think that’s off the mark. We need to learn to rely on them rather than ourselves. You framed this as dependence, as opposed to independence; I think that’s a false silemma. We are a lot like children in an adult world, or blind men in a world of seeing entitles. To grow, to heal, we need guidance; and to get that guidance we need to trust a guide. This relationship is like a ballroom dance; neither partner dominates or submits; both cooperate, but one leads and the other allows him to lead. This is a cooperation rather than a power struggle; can you imagine what the dance would look like if it were a power struggle? But it takes trust, which is the real meaning of “faith.”

    It has taken me years to come to the point where I have a measure of confidence distinguishing the voice of my Goddess from my own – years of experience, trial and error, taking chances (or not). And I think it boils down to learning, both to trust and to recognize the character of Her voice. Naturally, there are times I still don’t know, not for sure. But with experience comes some measure of wisdom, particularly in recognizing self-delusion.

    I hope this helps. I think most people struggle with these issues, and suspect that those who don’t are often the most deluded.

    • Thank you for writing such a well thought out and supportive comment! I’ll do my best to respond as I can.

      “The question, “Am I hearing the gods or just my own voice?” is rationally unresolvable; it comes down to trust. Even if you were stopped in the desert one day by a trumpet blast and a burning bush, you could convince yourself it was a psychotic break; the question is, whom do you trust?”

      I think that’s a good part of my issue right there. I’m a rational creature at heart, and a spiritual creature. It’s just going to take time to get the two halves to become a whole. I do hope though that I don’t run into a burning bush of any sort… that One and I… don’t get along so well. It’d be about the quickest way to put me on my guard to see something like that.

      “This relationship is like a ballroom dance; neither partner dominates or submits; both cooperate, but one leads and the other allows him to lead. This is a cooperation rather than a power struggle; can you imagine what the dance would look like if it were a power struggle? But it takes trust, which is the real meaning of “faith.” ”

      Heheh… I can. Having come from a Christian upbringing in which I was encouraged to have personal conversations with YHVH, when I was younger that was my world and I had let Him lead. The more I studied and grew, the more that relationship became toxic to me and so I left it behind. After that when I began to forge new relationships with other Gods, I found myself constantly pushing Them back and saying “no, I need to do this on my own with You” and it was much like a power struggle. A messy awkward tangled up power struggle. Now… I know as you say neither partner dominates or submits, I think for me I’ve reached a point where that is the best way to describe it. I do submit, or at least wish I knew how to and say “I get it, You’re the Boss” and be happy to do so.

      “I hope this helps. I think most people struggle with these issues, and suspect that those who don’t are often the most deluded.”

      It does immensely, and I agree. I think that’s another facet of my struggle: I do not wish to become one of those persons who deludes himself into believing he heard the voice of a God and uses that to justify his actions. Little by little I’ll figure it out.

  3. In the religious tradition I grew up in, everything revolved around “feeling the Spirit, ” i.e., having a mystical experience of the presence of God. It was very nearly the most important thing. It was supposed to confirm the truths of the religion (despite other evidence to the contrary), evidence one’s worthiness before God, and generally guide all of one’s actions.

    The reality is, God (whoever your God is) is not on tap. The history of human religious experience shows us clearly that (1) people do consistently experience something described as the prresence of God but (2) it is not available on demand.

    So one of the big downsides to the religion I grew up in was that, because their theology said that “feeling the Spirit” is supposed to happen under certain conditions, in practice the bar for what counts as feeling the Spirit got lowered so far that it was basically impossible to not feel the Spirit. It was a big exercise in question-begging: because we believed that the Spirit would always be manifest in certain circumstances, we “proved” it by always finding something we could label as “the Spirit” to confirm our beliefs.

    This was a huge obstacle for me in coming out of my birth religion: I had a hard time feeling like anything religious was legitimate if it was not backed up by a mystical experience. But that’s a loser’s game. It places demands on God that a real god just isn’t bound or inclined to fulfill.

    So now I am learning to experience the absence of God, and to let the worship I offer be something I give to God whether or not he responds by filling me with warm feelings or whatever. I’m not engaging in an immediate transaction, going to the mysticism bar and paying my $5 of worship to get a pint of the ol’ Spiritual Feelings. There is reciprocity in my worship, but it’s a bigger picture than a microtransaction and I’m in it for more than the quick spiritual high. So I pray and I worship, and sometimes I feel God’s presence and that grows my faith, but most times I don’t feel anything special and I let that grow my faith too.

    • Now I’m curious. If you’re alright with me asking, what was your birth religion?

      Thank you for the way you ended your comment as well, about allowing the times when you don’t feel the presence of your God to grow your faith as well. Faith is… a word I’ve been struggling to come to terms with again, and I think that phrasing helped.

      I’ve seen a lot of people write on the absence of Deity as a test of faith… but I’m beginning to wonder how true that is. Perhaps it’s more as simple as… absence makes the heart grow stronger?

  4. This is something I learned in college. I hear the spiritual best while in alpha brain wave state(when you are day dreaming, or just about to sleep). So I practiced free writing and learning to recognize that state.

    Trees also help a lot with that state of mind. Practice knowing that state and bringing it up, and listening to the trees. You will know it is the spirit, because you will feel it. Your imagination doesn’t have the color or oomph that the spirits do.

    That will help in hearing the Gods.

    my two cents at any rate.

    • Hmm… achieving various states like that (Alpha, Delta, etc.) I’ve experimented with a little… but always struggled with the most basic principles of. Perhaps I should go back and study up on such things again.

      • IT was my kitchen witchy take on Power of the witch, by laurie cabot. Trees helped. The first step was free writing with a quartz rock(college 101 writing assignment). I also learned what my imagination felt like, and used my more logical mind to catalouge what the imp visions felt like. It helped in comparing and contrasting.

        My opinion… You are fighting your creative brain. It’s about balance and both sides integrating. You need the logical part to help you deduce what you see. YOu also need the creative part to just be able to see, fell, hear etc. You are holding to tightly when you just need to let go.

        The creative part is just as important as the logical part. Or to put more hallmarkey. Your heart is just as important as your head.

        It is also about acceptance. You have to accept that you are weird and just go with the flow of it all.

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