I’ve come to really appreciate cognitive dissonance. It’s the feeling of unease when there is a incongruity between what you really believe and what you think you believe, or think you should believe. (That is my very informal definition anyway.) As a Christian child growing up in an Evangelical household I was taught to fear and suppress the feelings of cognitive dissonance because it was doubt and doubt could put my soul in danger. But now that I no longer believe that the fate of my ‘soul’ rests on me believing the right thing, I’ve come to recognize cognitive dissonance as a gift.
In studying Pagan paths, I’ve put aside my skepticism a bit in order to explore and experiment. I’ve purchased a couple Tarot decks and learned the basics of how to read them. And I’ve done reading for myself (not for anyone else yet), not so much for guidance, but for inspiration and ideas. I’ve put aside my judgement and read about magic (magick?) and spells and even tried spells for boosting my mood and created an herb talisman that is supposed to help me in my job search. For about a week I made an ‘offering’ of a bowl of water on my personal altar to the Goddess and God while saying a short invocation I got out of a book on Wicca.
It’s been fun to experiment, but I think it’s come time for me to be fully honest with myself and others. I do not believe in the God and Goddess — at least not beyond the most abstract metaphorical sense possible. I don’t believe any Tarot reading has any power to tell you your future, although the artwork on the cards is very pretty and I intend to continue using them as objects of meditation. I don’t believe in astrology and I don’t believe that objects light-years away have any influence on my life outside holding the planets, sun, and other astronomical bodies in orbit. And I’m pretty certain that ideas like ESP and out of body experiences have been tested scientifically and been found lacking in actual testable existence. Whatever people’s experience has been in their inner world (and I can see the value in that all by itself), it has not seemed to have any influence on the objective world.
It seems I have to clarify this, at least to myself, or the resulting cognitive dissonance will stress me out. That is the gift of cognitive dissonance: it pushes me toward honesty.
So what about being Pagan? I do still have my altar, where I still light candles and incense and contemplate (the metaphor of) the Goddess. Now that we are seeing the signs of Spring more and more I am itching to get outside and commune with Nature. There is still the Wheel of the Year and the cycles of the moon, and the associated rituals. Things like “planting” the “seeds” of new projects at Imbolc still makes a lot of sense to me, and I love my growing awareness of all the tiny signs of Spring and the growing days and the strengthening sun. The sky is amazing and I am fascinated with the moon any time I see it. These are the kind of things in the Pagan world that make sense to me.
So I am most definitely a Naturalistic Pagan, and I am glad to have clarified that for myself. I am that much closer to finding my path.