I’m not big on the metaphorical pen and paper lately, at least when it comes to spiritual matters.
When you read most Pagan-themed spiritual books, you are drilled with the message that you must write, write, write your spiritual experiences down: the aftermath of rituals and meditations, thoughts on your past and current trajectory, your dreams. Emerge from your sleep or your trance state, and grab that trusty ballpoint and notebook. Keep the pad handy as you shuffle the tarot.
And to that end, for years I purchased bound, lined books of paper and jotted my thoughts, my readings, my dreams in blue ink. This wasn’t a labor of joy as much as it was of resignation. This is what spiritual people do. In truth, I struggled. After my rites, I generally prefer to put my paraphernalia away and decompress, returning to reality with a snack, a walk, a nap. After my readings, I prefer to let the information percolate silently in the recesses my mind, letting spirit decide what I should remember or not. And after dreams, I prefer to roll out of bed, grab a cup of tea and get on with my damn day.
In the end, I have books upon books of those jotted notes, dating from my teen years. I can’t say that I ever really look at them. In the past decade, I’ve transferred the labor of pen and ink — always hard on my hands, wrists, eyes and brain, the latter over the meaninglessness of the chickenscratch I call handwriting — to the ease of computer typing and personal online journal. Convenient? Yes; I could jot down my thoughts anywhere with Internet access and a keyboard. But the resistance remains.
I’m not sure why I resist journaling as much as I do. As someone who writes for a living, it seems an odd resistance. But I suppose it comes down to a syllable: Why? Why do we write these experiences down? Why should we?
Is it for posterity? I have no children to leave said writings to. Is it for my older self? Perhaps, to jog the failing memory. But so much of life, spiritual or otherwise, is minutiae. Do I want to remember my teenage angst over meaning, written in tarot cards and magic spells? The reading I gave myself one morose afternoon in college, over some boyfriend or another?
The big visions, the most profound experiences, stay with you, whether you grab the ballpoint or not. They are the dreams that wake you with their intensity, the signposts on your life journey. They bring you to tears. They sing to your spirit.
As a Druid, my spiritual ancestors wrote nothing down. It was a deliberate decision, to keep sacred visions and words to the realm of mind, memory and tongue, lest they fall into unsympathetic hands. The forced use of memory also honed the faculty of mind.
And I reminded, too, of the taboo of speaking of visions. Even with others on my path, it’s difficult — for everyone. Speak of your visions, your messages from Gods and spirits, and you may be labeled delusional, a kook. At least that’s the pervasive fear, in our secular, psychoanalyzed world. And so, religions of visionaries have very few open discussions of said visions. It would be akin to giving others the gritty details of your sex life; it feels like an unwanted insertion of something intensely personal — and personally intense — into a world that prefers to keep conversation light, and/or academic.
It’s an odd conundrum, a maze that I still cannot navigate with any certainty. Perhaps we have replaced the writing taboo with a speaking taboo. Perhaps our modern culture leaves no space for shared expression of anything truly intimate.
And perhaps that’s the real reason behind all the journaling: It gives us a way to share spiritual experiences, if only with ourselves. Perhaps it makes us feel less alone, and defuses the need to speak of what one has seen.