Who would not choose to be loved by the divine? It’s the ultimate validation, the proof of worth that none can challenge, the proof of rightness and righteousness and whatever else you want it to be, to go forth into the world confident that a deity, or deities, love you.
There’s a vast array of perspectives within Paganism about what deities are, and how you might interact with them. How much scope to pick and choose the deity has can vary – in people’s minds at least. For some (based on what I’ve read) it’s enough to show up interested, your relationship with the divine will flow from this. This is often the Christian perspective – when they postulate their God as one of unconditional love, all you have to do is show up for Jesus and that love will flow towards you. My understanding is that when Christianity came along, this was one of its more unusual features and that historical Paganism viewed its deities as a fussier and more demanding lot.
In my teens I was drawn to the idea of deity for a while, and there were moments, but nothing clear aside from a couple of very intense dreams. In my twenties I lost all sense of divinity, and in my thirties, as part of a deliberate project (When a Pagan Prays) I set out to try and reconnect. The gods do not talk to me, I do not feel called to work for, or be lead by, or blessed by any deity in particular, and no matter what I do or how I do it, nothing much happens. And I know, because I’ve faced the sentiments repeatedly, how much of a validation it would be to be picked. Special. Chosen. Wanted by a deity for some purpose that I alone can serve. It’s not happening. My wanting it does not make it happen. Either what I’m doing is sufficient and requires no interference, or there’s nothing I could do, or I’m irrelevant or combinations thereof.
It raises some interesting questions about the idea of equality within spirituality. Are we all on an even footing, or are some of us more spiritually advanced than others? If you think we’re reincarnating towards perfection, then it’s a given that some are doing better at this than others. While there’s something tempting about the idea that we’re all good enough and loved by the gods, there’s also something bland and limiting about that idea. The heroic cultures of our ancestors were all about standing out, being memorable, and myth-worthy. But taken too far, the urge to specialness becomes a way to put down those you see as less special. To speak for the deity is to have power, importance and status. For fallible humans, there’s a lot of risk to your spiritual wellbeing involved in buying into the idea of your own importance. It’s so often the case in organised religion that worldly power becomes more important than personal spirituality. For some people people to be special, others of us have to get our heads round not being special, and I’m increasingly inclined to think that’s ok.
Perhaps the gods speak to me in ways that I remain too ignorant, fearful or closed to hear. Perhaps there are right things I could do that I’m not doing. Perhaps I’m not good enough. Perhaps it isn’t my path. On the whole though, it may be as well for me that I have nothing of this in my life. I watch the debates go by on blogs and social media about fashions in deities, and who really knows what, and who really is in a relationship with their god… and I am glad to have nothing to say. There’s a certain relief in having nothing to contribute. There’s nothing of mine that can be hurt by other people believing or not believing me. There’s nothing in my spiritual experience that gives me any entitlement to claim authority.
Of course there are times when the security of being loved by the divine would be a welcome, encouraging thing, a balm for my troubled soul perhaps. There is no one to do the work for me, and whatever is broken inside me is mine to fix, and only mine. On the plus side it makes me easier to be around for other people who do not get miracle cures, magical insights and demands for action. I think the days when I am jealous of those who have a personal experience of deity, is outweighed by the days when I’m glad of not having to deal with that, and not having to navigate my all too fragile ego through the many traps spiritual authority has to offer a person. I’m just a scruffy Druid, muddling along, and learning how to be ok with that has been an important part of my personal journey.