I enter the incense smoke filled room and make our intentions known. I chant, dance, sigil and sing. I visualize goddesses rising in the fiery engine of the world. I finish and ground ourselves, celebrate and contemplate what I’ve accomplished and what I’ve learned. I ponder messages received, even if they are, “meet the goat at the sign of the cat.”
And then, my overly analytical, Virgo-mind kicks in and I ask myself, how do I know what I know? How do I know that the information I’ve just received isn’t me making things up as I go?
In some cases, it’s obvious. If I do a spell to obtain $500 by next Tuesday and I receive the money on the following Monday, I know it worked. But, what if I specify a way I want the money to arrive and arrives via a different method? I still think we know it worked; there was simply some other force in play that prevented it from happening in my originally stated way. This is all cause and effect and I think it’s epistemologically straight forward.
Never Stop Thinking Critically
But, what about cases where we receive information from whatever spirit, intelligence, or deific mask which whom we work? If the information is actionable and intelligible, and we act on it and receive our desired result, again we know it’s real.
If we receive communication on more theoretical matters we can compare it against what others have recorded. As in all things, the scientific method matters! If we can’t validate it, it remains unverified personal gnosis. That’s ok, but we can’t claim it as objective fact. It’s only our experience. That doesn’t mean it’s invalid in anyway, but we have to understand how we know what we know.
How do we know what we know that we think we know?
I spend a lot of time ripping my own UPG apart. No doubt I’ve done it to the point where it’s lost its meaning. I’m also a shoddy excuse for a reporter, so I’ve no doubt there is information which I’ve lost. That is definitely a discussion for another time!
But, with all that internal ripping, tearing, and mind-flaying, I’ve learned a few things.
Trust your instinct – If you have spent any time doing spirit or magickal work, your instinct will have become sculpted and practiced enough to know when something is happening; when information is received.
Trust the truth of your mind – Everything is at least part projection. In other words, the truth is always in you, we just sometimes need help from our deific masks and other helpers to understand that.
Trust your authority – You don’t need validation from anyone. This isn’t a math test. There is no authority you have to answer to save for yourself.
Trust Your Growth – You may find out you’re wrong. As in mundane life, we can sometimes misunderstand what other people tell us. Sometimes we think we know something only to find out later that we were wrong. This is growth and change and discovery. Again, it’s not a math test.
Trust your patience – I have done path-workings or other information-heavy rituals where it’s taken a year or more to truly understand the information I received. Sometimes the truth of it takes on different shades of importance or understanding over time without changing its essential truth.
Trust your detective skills – Critical and interpretive thinking go hand in hand, sometimes. As Alistair Crowley said, “Our method is Science, our aim is Religion.”
The Balancing Point
Kabbalistically, this act of discernment happens at every level, but it is very much a Tiphareth-centered action. From that we see all the voices and messages balanced out in front of us and moving higher and lower and leading us to our higher self as we learn to look deeper and ferret out the noise that distracts us. This too, is discernment.
Like so much of the spiritual life, how we learn and what we know is like a dance or a poem, unraveling itself to us over time. Part of that process is to blend the scientific with the poetic to determine the truth of what we receive as it moves us forward. That’s the real final test – does what we receive move us forward, whether it be practically (I need $500 by next Tuesday) or more abstractly (meet the goat at the sign of the cat).
Also, as with any other discipline, the more we know, the more we are capable of knowing. If I enroll in an advanced foreign language class before I know the basics and can say, “hello, how are you?,” I will be lost. If I learn the basics first I will ease into the advanced classes in time and become an expert.
In other words, discernment now leads to more, deeper discernment later. Practice it early and often!