One of the major discoveries I made about myself on my journey over the past year, is that I’ve always been drawn to the mystical. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I never thought about it deeply before. I am aware of my interests while growing up, but I never bothered to follow all of the crumbs to see where they could lead me. In retrospect, more self-awareness at a younger age could have saved me a lot of heartache and pain, but I also wouldn’t be where I am at today if I had made the connections then. The destination is only a small part of the journey. The fun is in the road trip.
As a kid, I was first fascinated by the religion I was born into, Roman Catholicism. I was the kid who knew all of the holy days of obligation, collected prayer cards like baseball cards, knew all of the mysteries of the rosary and prayed them obsessively, and I got into Marian apparitions. I even took a trip to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia when I was seventeen years old. The Virgin Mary is alleged to appear there to this day.
When I went to college I started to shift away from Catholicism, though I clung to it for a while. Much of the beliefs and dogma didn’t add up for me anymore. It was a difficult time as I was introduced to so many different religions and philosophies. I felt like I kept having the rug pulled out from under me. I found something that would make a little sense, but in the end, it would always leave me cold. You could say I became a temporary atheist then, though I’m not sure that is entirely accurate. I even called myself a non-practicing atheist because I didn’t know what else to call it. I had no idea what I really believed; I just knew what I didn’t believe any longer. But my spiritual life dwindled to occasionally playing Magic: The Gathering with friends. This mostly consisted of me creating my own decks and watching others play. I was more concerned with certain colors and spells that appealed to me than creating a competitive deck, so I lost a lot when I bothered to play.
Philosophy of science and 20th century existentialism where far more interesting to me than religion during my undergrad years. I studied philosophy, cultural anthropology, archaeology, geology and paleontology. These things resonated with me and they still do today. But something was missing. Even then, I felt a soul-sucking hole in my life and it ached.
I would occasionally try to go back to Catholicism, but I didn’t feel moved by it anymore and I felt guilty engaging it it. I stopped going to church completely, which still upsets my mother. But if it’s not there, it can’t be forced. I didn’t feel any connection with any other denomination in Christianity either. And it felt like cheating. I didn’t have a beef with Catholicism in terms of a bad experience, I just couldn’t connect with it anymore. I felt nothing at all for Protestant Christianity or non-traditional forms of it. It was the mysticism I felt an attachment for, and outside of Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, there’s not a lot of it in the other branches.
When I decided to go back for graduate school, I opted for a religious studies program that focused on the academic study of religion rather than a theological approach. It is during my tenure at grad school that I began to slowly find my way back to a spiritual pursuit. I remember being asked what I believed and I couldn’t answer the question. I pulled out the ole non-practicing atheist spiel, which made people laugh, but left me feeling rather empty.
I also noticed that I’d drift back and discuss my Catholic upbringing when I would be asked about my religion. I had nothing to offer in terms of what I believed, so I mined my past. But it said nothing of what my current beliefs were.
Time went on, I graduated with a masters in religious studies and I procured a few jobs in academia. I still felt no real connection to any belief systems. I felt adrift. Students would occasionally ask me what I believed, and I still couldn’t tell what it was. I knew by then it wasn’t atheism. I started to embrace a form of pantheism, but I wouldn’t classify it as Hinduism or Buddhism. It was more of a scientific pantheism in which there was no real difference between God and the Universe. But for that matter, it might as well be atheism.
About two years ago or so, I woke up in the morning when a desire to find out about the Egyptian god Thoth. I’ve always been fascinated with mythology, particularly Celtic, Nordic and Greek mythology. As a child I was interested in Egyptology (I had a great love for Indiana Jones, I wanted to be an archaeologist), but not so much in the gods of Egypt. I knew them in passing only. So, it was out of the blue that I felt this urge one morning to look up the Egyptian deity of communications, magic, wisdom, the moon and invention. I did what most of us do, I looked up the Wikifile on him.
Which led me to Hermeticism and all of the mythic stories surrounding Thoth, Hermes Trismegistus, the Emerald Tablet and the Kybalion and… here I am today. I quickly started to obsess over the hermetic tradition. I searched the internet for information, bought every book I could afford, bought tarot decks, took classes, and fell in love with everything I learned. Since I’ve been on this road, I’ve experienced magic through a series of synchronicities that I would never have believed if I hadn’t experienced it myself.
Hermeticism gave God back to me in a way I could understand and follow. All of the paradoxes I could never resolve were resolved under this ancient philosophical tradition. I could even reclaim bits of Christianity through the lenses of Gnosticism and alchemy. Divinity wasn’t outside of us, but within us. All religions, understood through the hermetic lens, blossomed with a new comprehension. The ancient symbols of the gods and goddesses, both east and west, revealed their power. The myths and legends from antiquity were — and remain — the magical alchemy that help people, then and now, to understand the divinity within the soul. These symbols, internalized, empower us if we are able to turn them from ideas into action.
It’s been quite the road trip to get to this point. I don’t think I would have gotten to this place right here, right now, had I not gone through the badlands of confusion, and the climbed a few mountains to nowhere. Most of us learn our lessons the hard way on a road paved with blood, sweat and tears. I’ve stopped beating myself up for not understanding it all earlier. We start to understand when we’re able to and not a moment before. The point is to be open to that understanding when we are able to grasp it and act on it.
Thoth came to me in a dream and put me on this path. Here I am.
Road Trippin – Red Hot Chili Peppers
“These smiling eyes are just a mirror for the Sun…”