Sacred submission

Deity orientated religions often talk about submission to the divine, or the will of the divine as being the goal of spiritual practice. Religious activities are designed to attune the believer, and enable them to submit to the will of their deity. Paganism isn’t always so submission orientated, many prefer to stand before their gods, but we have these threads too.

Sacred submission isn’t an event. It’s not something you do once and then are all sorted. Submission to deity, to a belief system, to a way of living, is a day to day, moment to moment sort of process involving every choice and action in a person’s life. It is the ongoing nature of it that makes it so powerful; the constant, conscious submission of personal desires to a higher goal. I don’t follow that path, but I can entirely respect it.

Submission is a gift. It is a gift we may offer to deity, or to a partner, or to a cause. The problems start when the flow is in the other direction. Submission should be an act of gifting from one who submits, not forced on them by someone with more power. If you are making someone act in accordance with your religious rules, or making them perform acts that you want, in no way are they submitting. They may be coerced into going along, but this is a whole other thing, and it tends to be very toxic, and very abusive not only of its victims, but of the ideas that have been subverted.

For a spiritual path to be meaningful, it has to be chosen. Anything we do in fear, under duress and threat of violence, is not being given freely. If there is no gifting, there is no spiritual power. There is no spiritual depth and value in what is done, you just go through the motions to stay alive. From the outside, it isn’t always easy to tell who is giving freely, and who is forced to conform – the veiling of women provides a wealth of examples of both. Veiling by choice is a powerful act of dedication. Veiling out of necessity is an affront.

You can’t force gifts out of someone. They cease to be gifts and become the fruits of conquest. An act of submission, is an act of gifting, and needs valuing as such. It should flow from love and be an expression of love. To demand submission is to be a tyrant, and there is no love if the submission is not gifted.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Sacred submission

  • Saige Sweetwater

    This is very beautifully stated.

  • lornasmithers

    I think I get this in a sense… but no so much in terms of submission as trust… submission says to me “I abandon my will completely” whereas trust says “ok, I’ll walk with you, even if I don’t know where our future will take us…”

    • Nimue Brown

      I certainly find trust a more comfortable word than submission 🙂

    • Terry

      I agree…submission says to me the abandoning of will, yet in a sense we are submitting to a certain degree in our trust. Thus we are gifting from our love and trust, we are accepting and agreeing to a cooperation and support. I dont follow the path of total and complete submission because I just dont understand the request. If we are to believe that we have been given our own free will to make our own choices then why the request to give it all over? I do respect the choices of others to do so.

      • JK

        This is a thoughtful piece, Nimue – thank you. I particularly like your point that to submit to deity and/or a belief system is a process, not an event. And of course you’re entirely right that such a course must be chosen, not coerced. Your point here about submission as gift is key: to submit – freely, in gifting – can be a powerful act of love.

  • Éilis Niamh

    I completely agree, Nimue. Just a thought: I use the word “submission” to denote the coercive domination and control of another person and “allowing” or “active surrender” to explain choosing to get out of the way to spiritually grow. Different words but talking about the same thing. I actively surrender all the time and, at least for me, it is not at all incompatible with standing before my gods and ancestors as an equal in the highest spiritual sense. I personally think our spiritual equality makes such surrender possible. I’m not sure supplication can be had among equals and I share your concern that it can instead easily be an imbalance of power which is always unhealthy. In any case, when I speak to/interact with my gods and ancient family I stand tall and look them in the eye. That way we fully recognize each other for who we are. And to do that, to be fully seen, we both choose to meet the other with honesty and without defensiveness. As a physical person this means I let go and get my ego/small self out of the way. This is simply what works for me and I thought I’d share.

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