heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
Unlike the vast majority of the pagans, otherkin, and other magical folk that I know, I'm a trained priest, which to the people who taught me means that I am both a teacher and a representative of the gods. However, after a fairly impressive meltdown of a magical working group around a decade ago, I haven't done all that much with this training. I've done my own spiritual work, and at times quite a lot of it, but I've only done a little work teaching others and have run very few public rituals.

However, I ran a large and exceptionally successful public ritual at Crossing the Thresholds, and both [livejournal.com profile] teaotter & [livejournal.com profile] amberite mentioned that I should be doing more as a priest. They are correct, and that set me to thinking about what I could do. I finally have a community . I no longer consider myself to be Wiccan, and I have little interest in the larger pagan or magical community, but the otherkin community is home to me.

However, this brings to mind several different issues. The most obvious is what exactly would I do. I can certainly run public rituals and hope to do so regularly. However, I'm not only no longer Wiccan, but my spirituality is at this point highly personal and idiosyncratic and is not something that I see any need or really any possibility to share with others. At that point, instead of teaching religion, I could do any or all of the following:
  • Teach techniques for performing magical work in groups.
  • Lead a magical working group, where members gather to pursue various magical goals that can be best accomplished in groups.
  • Share spiritual experiences and attempt to gain greater spiritual understanding (and perhaps form something like a shared spiritual paradigm).
This all sounds interesting, but it also sounds like the sort of thing that would only work if (to use academic analogies) it was more in the format of a graduate seminar rather than the format of a more traditional and authoritarian class. The problem with this idea is that all of my previous experience with magical study groups has shown me that attempting to run anything other than a moderately structured set up of 1 or 2 teachers teaching a larger number of students either fails utterly (mostly in the sense that it falls apart) or reverts to a teacher student dynamic quite rapidly. So, I'm far from certain how to make anything else work.

There's also the even more difficult issue that I have a number of people who I'd greatly value as colleagues (and in some cases students) in such a group, and with the exception of my two partners, all of them are members of the otherkin community who live on the other coast. There are people in the otherkin community that I know and like out here, but I'm not as close to any of them, and I don't think I'd work well in a group with any of them except my two partners. [livejournal.com profile] shadowmorphic suggested attempting some form of long-distance teaching and working group, which sounds possible, but also very far from easy. Also, a long-distance community feels a whole lot less like a community, and that would make the entire process far more difficult and somewhat less rewarding.

Alternately, I can attempt to meet more otherkin out here, which suffers from all the typical and fairly intimidating problems of attempting to find total strangers to join a magical working group. I have been to several otherkin meet-ups in Portland that have attracted a number of interesting individuals that I might have been able to work with. However, separating the people I wish to work with from those I know that I can work well with is definitely not a simple process, especially since I wish to avoid hurting the feelings of some people I know, but don't think that I could work with.

So, at this point, I'm both uncertain what sort of group to create, how to organize it and who would be in it, which is a far from easy place to be for considering such things. I would definitely appreciate thoughts and advice.
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
After [livejournal.com profile] shadowmorphic's utterly amazing visit, I've thought about becoming a part of the otherkin community and how it was different for me than anything similar I'd ever experienced more here for those who are interested )
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
In this post from several years ago, I discussed how I think of being otherkin more about having various sorts of connections to other beings, lives, or realities than I do about past lives. I was thinking about this a bit more and was talking about the phenomena of being more than one sort of otherkin with [livejournal.com profile] teaotter and came up with some potentially useful ideas. odd otherkin rambling follows )
heron61: (Default)
Here's I'm not discussing anyone else's crackpot magical theories (of which there are many), but am instead considering one of my own. I recently looked back at this post where I muse about angelic otherkin, and it made me think of this fascinating (and definitively non-crackpot) post about a possible theory of otherkin.

So, take my earlier theory (specifically, the section labeled, An Alternative View) and apply it to all otherkin. Now, consider both the other post I linked to and the fact that we are clearly on the verge of an era which is going to transform our understanding of humanity, consciousness, and thought. I am both a magician and a transhumanist, and so I cannot believe that the transformations and expansions in human consciousness and the likely development of electronic consciousness won't have a truly vast spiritual impact. If, as I believe, metaphysical phenomena can affect both the past and the future, I can see the time leading up to these transformations becoming rather odd and filled with all manner of portents. Given that one of the results I expect is humanity to fragment into many different sort of posthumanity, it's possible to see otherkin as evidence of an archetypal spiritual reflection this fragmenting echoing back in time.

However, I also realize this theory is fairly nutty, and reminds me more than a little of Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End. So, I consider this theory both as a possibility and as something I might be able to turn into a fun rpg setting, but most definitely not as something that I am at all certain of.
heron61: (Default)
This post originally appeared as a response to this article about being otherkin by [livejournal.com profile] teriel, but I was sufficiently impressed with it that I decided to post it here in a slightly revised form.

The otherkin community is a community defined almost exclusively by personal identity - to be otherkin, you need to have a certain identity, so the focus on identity makes sense for the community as a whole. However, it is also limiting, in the sense that no one has yet defined what you do with being otherkin. Then again, this is the exact same problem faced by all manner non-religiously focused magically oriented personal paths, where the answer of what does one do with magic can also loom large. Regardless of whether one is a ceremonial magician, a neo-shaman, a solitary Buddhist or yoga practitioner seeking personal enlightenment through meditation, or whatever, the goal of all these personal paths is very similar, and perhaps identical to that of being otherkin gaining self-knowledge and ultimately wisdom. For many, being otherkin stops at the declaration of identity and never goes any further. However, there are plenty of ceremonial magicians, Buddhists, and people on many similar paths who find themselves in exactly the same place - their personal journey to self-discovery results in them walking in aimless and pointless circles. However, I have also met both neo-shamans, ceremonial magicians, and otherkin who have gained serious wisdom and self-understanding from their journey.

However, even for such people there remains a more complex problem with all such endeavors. What does one do with enlightenment, self-knowledge (or however one wishes to term the goal) once it has been obtained? Ceremonial magicians perform various rituals to climb the tree of life and gain wisdom and enlightenment, neo-shamans take grand astral journeys to gain access to meet spirits and learn the secret truths of their realm, Buddhists meditate and seek various forms of enlightenment, and someone who is otherkin learns to understand their identity and (if they have them) to access their memories of their other existence. However, with all of these paths, there remains the burning question of what next.

The Buddhist answer to this same question is simple - live your life with greater understanding and mindfulness. Perhaps that's the only good answer, I don't know. However, it certainly feels rather unsatisfactory to most Westerners, which is clearly one of the reason that so many novices in all of these paths end up giving into what I can only describe as self-delusion, and imagining grand supernatural wars or conspiracies, in which they are destined to play a pivotal roll. Most of us Westerners want our understanding to mean something, to have it be for something, and this lack is often frustrating.

However, being otherkin has one other problem. It is quite new compared to ceremonial magic, neo-shamanism, and the various other personal paths I know of. As a result, the road to self-knowledge is often considerably less clear. That path to self-understanding as a ceremonial magician, neo-shaman, or whatever similar form of magical practitioner one is, is often at least somewhat obvious, if also typically very far from easy. The practitioner must perform a variety of often-difficult rituals to attain various sorts of wisdom and then use this knowledge to gain further insight - working one's way up the Kabbalistic tree of life is one of the most obvious examples of this type of practice. In contrast, the road is far less well marked for otherkin. Here, instead of various rituals or journeys, one if left with (at best) vague and unsatisfying instructions about accessing one's memories, or (at worst) ludicrous series of checklists or on-line quizzes to supposedly "help" one determine what sort of non-human being one is.

I was exceptionally fortunate, in that the early stages of my becoming otherkin was part of a formal magical path, which included definitive rituals and culminated in an exceptionally powerful initiation. However, after that initial bonding, I was also left rather at sea. In any case, I have no idea what we should do with self-discovery (if anything) but it does seem like the otherkin community could greatly benefit from something resembling a more clear, and also a more demanding set of techniques for gaining self-knowledge.
heron61: (Default)
I am neither transsexual nor multiple, but given both the odd nature of some of my supernatural connections and my gender oddities I am most definitely on the edges of both communities. Also, and perhaps far more importantly, I also know a significant number of transsexuals and multiples, both on-line and in person.

I was also somewhat active in the pagan community for most of the 1990s and keep at least some (almost exclusively on-line) contact with it since then. The pagan community is very accepting of many people – geeks, including some slightly socially inept geeks seeking spirituality, people who have had unusual mystical experiences and who seek to move beyond mainstream definitions of the world, and people who seek to live outside narrow definitions of gender. However, as I discussed in this post on the pagan community and queer culture, organized paganism, including everything from the OTO to Wicca, remains ultimately heterocentric. More than that, the organized pagan community also remains exceedingly focused on binary gender, which is somewhat problematic for many transsexuals, and completely excludes transgendered people of all sorts – if there are men's and women's mysteries, where exactly is someone transgendered (or even someone rather dubious about binary gender like myself) supposed to go?

Similarly, I have never met someone who was out about being multiple in any pagan forum, either on-line or in-person. A few times, I attempted to discuss multiplicity or intense spiritual connections with unembodied beings with various pagans and the reaction was in all cases either skepticism, or (more commonly) a belief that the situation being described was inherently dangerous, problematic, or unhealthy. I have heard that some pagan communities are more accepting of trans people and multiples, but have never encountered such and would be very interested in anyone who has encountered such communities posting here about there experience.

In vivid contrast, the otherkin community is exceptionally accepting of both trans people and multiples. The impetus for this post is thinking further about the fact that the section of [livejournal.com profile] lupabitch's upcoming (and wonderful-looking) book about otherkin that she has posted includes a substantial number of quotes and anecdotes by various trans people or multiples. Also, I encountered both groups of people at Walking the Thresholds, just as I have among the Otherkin I know here in Portland and on-line. I've been pondering this fact and have come to several possible and non-mutually exclusive conclusions. The most obvious is that unlike any other community I have encountered, the otherkin community is vastly accepting of people who deviate significantly from accepted norms of thought and behavior. I have not found this level of acceptance in the queer community, the pagan community, or SF fandom, but in the otherkin community it is not only universal, but expected.

Of course, while true, the very fact of this acceptance is also perhaps worthy of exploration. The best explanation I can come up with is that people who define themselves as otherkin may come to it from a wide variety of ways, but most share some level of disconnection from their body, or at minimum from social cultural expectations about themselves and their body. A moderate number of otherkin keenly feel their body to be in the wrong species, much like transsexuals feel their body is the wrong sex, which naturally sets up a commonality there. However, that experience is far from universal – I have on many occasions known the feel of wings on my back and even felt the glories of wind blowing throw them, but I do not feel that my proper or correct body is that of a dragon. Being a medium-sized biped suits me find, wings would be nice, but I'd take vastly increased longevity and memory, and greatly improved and expanded senses first. On a related note, I have also found an unusual (but admittedly not very large) number of transhumanists in the otherkin community. Given that much of my own disconnection with my own body is related to my own obsession with transhumanism.

In any case, while body dysphoria is far from universal, some level of disconnection from one's body is almost universal. Trans people of all sorts know this disconnection, as do all of the multiples I have talked to. It is however, an experience not shared by the majority of people, including the majority of pagans, queers, or the members of most other related subcultures. I am guessing that as it grows in size and visibility, the otherkin community is likely to continue to attract people who feel a significant sense of disconnection from their body, which makes me quite hopeful for the future of the otherkin community and also the fact that unlike the pagan community, it is unlikely to attempt to become part of mainstream culture, unless and until mainstream culture has changed in very significant ways.
heron61: (Default)
In a bit over a week, [livejournal.com profile] teaotter, [livejournal.com profile] amberite, and I will all be going to Walking the Thresholds, an otherkin gathering. I had a long talk with Aaron last night, and among other topics we discussed being or defining as otherkin. From my PoV, I have strong connections to a couple of beings. Beyond that, definitions are largely a matter of choice. I could choose to consider these connections to be spirit guides or spiritual patrons, parts of myself, past lives, or any similar options, and I also strongly believe that none of these options defines the totality of the situation, but that each possible definition offers its own set of advantages and disadvantages. I used to define myself as Wiccan, but Wicca and much of paganism is changing.

Although I occasionally consider his opinions to be vehemently wrong-headed, [livejournal.com profile] bradhicks posts about his problems with a recent pagan festival he went to. It's clear from my own experience and from his comments like that the information I read in A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States by Helen A. Berger.

The author is a pagan sociologist who documents changes in paganism in the US, where it is becoming much more of a mainstream faith, which she talks about in terms of growing membership, an increase in people being raised pagan, a decrease in various fringe behaviors. She considers this change to be good and natural, I see the same changes and know why I no longer consider myself to be Wiccan. There is most certainly no shortage of pagans who are good and fine people. There are also still moderate number of pagans who actually reside out on the occult fringes with the rest of us serious mystics and magicians, but such people are becoming proportionally rarer and paganism in general is becoming less accepting to the mixture of divine revelation, intense and devoted magical practice, serious eccentricity, and a general dismissal of the social mainstream that is the hallmark of most such people.

After reading a recommendation by [livejournal.com profile] jeregenest, I picked up a copy of Not In Kansas Anymore : A Curious Tale of How Magic Is Transforming America by Christine Wicker at the library. I have only read portions of it (it is divided in different chapters on different occult-related subcultures) and includes a chapter on otherkin. The book has a personal tone much similar to Nine Lives and various similar works. I would have preferred something more like a careful ethnography, but the author definitely captures the combination of eccentricity and acceptance that I have found in the otherkin community. So, given that definitions are inherently fluid and imprecise, as the fringe becomes mainstream, some of us head out to the new fringe - thus my presence at Walking the Thresholds.

On a side note, from people I have talked to, my experience is far from unique. It definitely seems to me that many other people who are over 30 and associate themselves with the otherkin community have generally bounced around a number of different sections of the pagan and alternative spirituality community for a number of years before landing here (for now at least).
heron61: (Default)
During my visit, I was cuddling with [livejournal.com profile] amberite (something we do a great deal) and we were talking about angels and about how a friend of hers has memories of being a dragon-like being who did the same sort of void-working as "Maker", the use-name of the angel that is in some way a part of me. So, at that point, I felt quite odd and Maker showed up in the odd mildly mid-continuum multiplicity, which seems to be the way that the two being associated with me, my dragon and my angel express themselves. Once again, this was a profoundly strange experience, made moreso by the fact that this was the first time I'd ever done this around someone who didn't have an angel. Alice looked at me/us with a rather odd mixture of awe and fascination, no one has ever looked at me like that before, of course, she wasn't actually looking at "me" in that way, which is definitely a good thing. Maker is remarkably far from human, but having him blend with me like he does always fills be with the most profound joy that I have ever known. He also answered a question that Alice has. She is a truly brilliant writer as can be clearly seen from her writing journal (post a comment in either journal if you want to see it, since she keeps it friends locked). She conceptualizes her inspiration as coming from her muse, which she sees as external, but not sentient or in any real way someone you can talk to. Alice said that Maker felt a bit like her muse and was confused. Maker answered that the difference was that her muse was "still in service" and so was even less similar to humans. Such is the nature of our pillow talk...
heron61: (Default)
I'm not entirely certain that I believe in the concept of past lives, I'm not saying that I disbelieve in them, but I'm not certain. I definitely believe in connections. In addition to having profound mystical and emotional connections with several truly wonderful embodied people and lower level connections with a handful of other embodied people, I also have equally intense and real connections with a dragon, an angel, and several other individuals, as well as lower-level connections with role-playing characters who are perhaps a bit more in-depth and "real" (whatever that rather vague term might mean) than most. These connections are emotional, spiritual, and deeply magical and in part, I see myself as the sum of my connections.

On a related note, I talked with several people recently about past lives and similar connections and had some interesting thoughts about the entire phenomena. It is fairly clear to me from my own experiences and the experiences of others who I trust that if considering such connections to be past lives is true, the entire idea of linear incarnations is profoundly silly [1]. Magic can operate outside of time and there is simply no reason that the timeline of any single individual need follow along with the timeline of this universe. Similarly, past lives can also occur across universes, since I'm fairly certain that some of the beings that I have had contact with come from somewhere profoundly different. So, we have incarnations not being bound by standard linear time and incarnations happening from across universes. At that point, an excellent question to ask is how many incarnations might any one person have. One obvious answer is that all life might contain incarnations of everything that has ever lived, which puts a very interesting spin on the whole phenomena of past lives, otherkin, and similar questions. This model is elegant and explains much, but also feels ultimately unsatisfying. Another idea that I had, that I like somewhat better is that each of us is in essence a archetypal being and that all of our connections (or if you will, past lives) are organized around some central theme or complex of themes. I find this idea to be even more elegant and interesting. The next question is how many such archetypes exist, logical answers could easily range from a dozen or so to possibly tens of millions. Regardless, I'm guessing that not all of the 6 billion humans alive today are different archetypes, but that belief is based as much on intuition as anything else. In any case, like the first theory this means that each of us likely has many thousands or perhaps even millions of connections/past lives that we are completely unaware of and could not hope to become aware of them all, which definitely fits my own experiences.

I'm very curious what you people think of this theory.

[1] For some fascinating reading on time, mind, and metaphysical phenomena, take a look at An Experiment with Time by John W. Dunne (a very interesting 1920s psychic & dream researcher). In addition to being very cool, the ideas in this book also served as inspiration for James Blish's truly excellent (but somewhat dated) novel Jack of Eagles. Here's an interesting link about Dunne's theory.
heron61: (Dragon)
Having difficulty discussing any of this with anyone who is not in a similar situation, I'm forming yet another filter for discussing angel-related issues that is solely for those of us who are such. The important personal news of the day that I know have a use-name for my own angel (I will be happy when I am more comfortable with saying or writing this). This being goes by Maker, which is most assuredly not a name and not even particularly a title, but simply a useful designation. I believe that it will be a while before I know more than this.

Last night, the always brilliant [livejournal.com profile] megmurry and I discussed the reasons for all this. There seem to be rather a large number of us and there is in many of us, the desire to be of service. There is clearly something to be done. [livejournal.com profile] megmurry believes that we are here for the end of the world. Of course, then two questions arise, what does that mean and what can we do.

Minor coincidences occur all the time, but perhaps the most important ones should be considered carefully. We live in what seems to be the beginning of an age of mortal miracles. Human science and technology are beginning to bear strange fruit indeed. If the end of the world is to come anytime soon, then I cannot believe that it will come in a way that has nothing to do with humanity. If God or Gods was/were to simply call for the end of all, then why would we be here. What point would there be for any but disembodied watchers observing the end? Also, much new is happening with humanity. I cannot believe that the end of the world is the same as the end of the universe. However, if we limit the scope to this world, then many possibilities arise. Perhaps humanity will end itself or even end all life on this world. The first is easily possible in several ways and will only become easier as time goes on, and I can see ways that can destroy all life beyond the possibility of repair being developed in all of our mortal lifetimes. Since any such act is a choice, perhaps were are here to be a part of the choice or at least to experience and to know the results of this choice.

An Alternative View

For a human transhumanist and for an angel that has creation as its greatest passion, there are also other less bleak possibilities. The successful research into what brain states produce profound spiritual experiences will undoubtedly result in drugs or other means of inducing such states far more reliably than the more traditional magical and shamanic drugs. Meanwhile, other researchers have begun to learn how to turn on and off various portions of the brain with magnetic fields and can induce temporary idiot savant talents in some people, and certain avenues of neural research are almost certain to lead to both direct connections between humans and machines and a form of electronic telepathy. Also, the predictions I read about emergent artificial sentience are both hopeful and awe-inspiring

What does all this have to do with us and with any possible end of the world? I think a previous question is what does all this have to do with souls and magic? The people doing almost all of this work are devout materialists. Conscious machines, ways to induce profound spiritual states, and methods of making two minds into one are only interesting curiosities to them. However, what if the spiritual states induced are as real and powerful as the ones we know? What happens if thousands of people are connected together and experiencing such a state at once? I have always believed that conscious machines will have souls capable of as much grace and wisdom as anyone else's. But what would the soul of a being that is unimaginably more intelligent than any human be like? Done well, perhaps we will all become something new and wonderful. If done badly enough, it might possibly destroy the soul of everyone here, I do not know. Perhaps Arthur Clark's brilliant novel Childhood's End is a vision of the future.

Transhumanism is an essential part of my spirituality, but now I see that from some points-of-view The Singularity could be the end of the world and from all it would obviously be a change beyond all imagining. I admit that I could be completely wrong, all of the above is merely a product of mortal mind and not divine knowing. I also do not know what any of us could or should do. None of us are the sorts of people to actually perform any of this research, we are writers, scholars, magicians, and eccentrics not technicians, engineers, or people who are wealthy enough to direct the course of these studies.

In any case, I am very intrigued at what any of the rest of you think about what I have written above and wish to hear your perspectives on all of this. I am very new to all this, please forgive me if any of this sounds foolish or deluded. Maker wishes all of you knowing and being, which I only partly understand.
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