What’s your Dogma? Using Your Past to Discover Your Future

I guess, after prayer, the next big thing to determine on a spiritual quest is the dogma of it all.
dog·ma
noun
  1. a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

As a Pagan, I believe that the divine dwells in all mankind and in all life.  I believe that what we lack is the realization of that, which creates a separation of our physical selves from our spiritual selves and the divine.  We aren’t separated from the divine, but we might not realize that the divine is all around us at the same time.  Think of the divine like the ocean.  We’re the fish swimming in that ocean, sometimes aware and sometimes not aware of the water that we live in.

I’m currently reading a book called Jesus Through Pagan Eyes by Rev. Mark Townsend.  This book is amazing so far, and I seriously suggest that everyone read it, whether you’re Christian or Pagan.

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One of my favorite statements in this book so far is this:  Townsend quotes Fr. Sean O’Laoire by saying, “[The Christian] God is the only “person” in the universe, to use an anthropomorphic term, who can’t forgive and doesn’t forgive.  Because in order to forgive, He first has to hold a grudge against me and then subsequently let go of it.  And since God, as the ineffable ground of being is totally incapable of holding a grudge, God is the only person who can’t forgive.  Forgiveness comes from inside each other.” 

The deal with dogma is that it is supposed to be laid down by a figure of authority, but who determines who that authority is?  In all honesty, we are all an authority on ourselves and what we personally believe; therefore, we’re all capable of determining our own dogma.

Being from the South, I feel my spiritual dogma (that of Independent Family Reformed Kemetics) has to involve/include my stance for/against the mainstream religions and faith practices, not because I hate or am again Christianity (being the Bible Belt), but because it make it easier when explaining it to those around me who aren’t IFR Kemetics or even Pagan.

My personal beliefs are that all Deity are part of The One, so when determining what it is you believe spiritually, focus less on names and more on practice, faith, and principles.  The wonderful thing about Deity is that Power hasn’t changed sine the dawn of time.  Deity has loved creation from the dawn of time because Deity is Creation.  You, as a human, are created (and someone can argue evolution, but I’m talking egg and sperm making a baby created, not humanity as a whole); therefore, Deity loves you.  And it doesn’t matter if you know Deity’s name(s) or not, Deity will love you regardless.

Now, with that said, consider this: in order to grow, you must start somewhere.  If you are looking to discover a new spiritual life, you need to consider where you come from and why that spiritual journey isn’t the one you should be on anymore.  For me, and for many Pagans for that matter, it started with Christianity.  Please be aware that I’m not here to dog on Christianity because I’ve reconciled my faith with Christianity and no longer hold the grudges I once did, but I am here to explain how to begin to determine your personal dogma and it starts by examining your past.

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My past is from a very Christian upbringing in the Presbyterian Church.  My family and I believed that God had a chosen people and those were the Presbyterians.  Everything in your life was already written, and you were simply fulfilling God’s plan as long as you stayed on the righteous path.

So when I came away from that I wasn’t one of those that fell away from faith, I was simply labeled as not being “one of the lucky chosen.”

There’s plenty of Biblical evidence to support this type of thinking as well as there being other Gods and Goddesses that are worthy of worship.  Religious pluralism wasn’t some foreign concept and the “Gods of your ancestors” weren’t Satanic like they’re labelled today, but that’s definitely something I want to write about in a different blog.

When I’m thinking about what my dogma is as an IFR Kemetic, I think of it first in terms of how my beliefs now compare and contrast with my past Christianity and then expand on it in a purely IFR Kemetic way.

So I’ll answer some questions that relate to my past and expand on them:

1) What/Who is God?

What most people thing of as “God” is what I call the Higher Power or in Kemetic terms, Netjer.  But Netjer isn’t exactly a power that is comprehensible by humans.  Netjer is in everything, around everything, beyond everything.  Netjer dwells inside and outside all.  Netjer is the life force, the connection to the cosmos, the binding existence of life.  Netjer is creation, love, acceptance.  But, as humans, we cannot fully understand what this means and who/what Netjer is, so then we have the Netjeru.

The Netjeru are the faces of Netjer, and there are many faces.  Commonly in Kemetic faith, there are the Egyptian Faces of God, but all faces of God are part of the One.  In this, I include the Christian God.  What this means is that when I kneel to pray to Ubasti or Ma’at or Anpu or Bes, I pray to the same life-giving-love-force that Christians pray to when they kneel to God.

2) What’s your thoughts on Jesus?

I believe that Jesus, the man, existed.  I believe he came and taught a radical message to the Jewish people that God didn’t exist solely in the temples, that He was accessible to all people, that He dwelled in all people.  He went out and broke bread with people deemed unworthy by those in charge.  He angered both religious and secular authority who didn’t believe the same way that he did.  I believe the he was a Son of God just as every human and living creature on this planet is a Son or Daughter of God.  I don’t believe that he is my savior, someone to pray to and welcome into my life so that I can be forgiven of my sins and wrongdoings by God.  And I believe this for a few reasons: 1) I don’t believe that was the message he taught to begin with. 2) I don’t believe that I need to be forgiven my “sins” and 3) I don’t believe in sin.

I’ll address number one in a different blog, but the skinny on two: If I do something wrong or stray from the path, I come back and say that I’m sorry and the response I get from Deity is this: There’s no reason to apologize because I’m not angry or upset with you.  There’s no reason to apologize because there’s nothing to forgive.  You are where you need to be, and that’s all that matters.

3) What do you believe about sin?

The simple answer is: I don’t believe in sin, as most people define it.  As a Kemetic, I believe in upholding the principles of ma’at as set for in the 42 Negative Confessions.  They’re kind of like the ten commandments, but forty-two of them.  This isn’t my favorite translation of them, but it gives you an idea.  By living by these principles, one upholds ma’at, the concept of truth, justice, order, and balance.  When we uphold ma’at, we feed the Netjeru and sustain them with our actions.  We glorify them in our behavior and how we treat the world.

When we don’t live in ma’at, we are creating or doing isfet, which could be considered “sin” but isn’t really.  This site says it best, “Isfet is the force that negates your existence.”  It’s not chaos or destruction because those lead to a renewal.  Death leads to birth in all cases: we live because other life dies (the plants and animals we eat) other life continues on because we die (our bodies decay and get used by decomposers to sustain future generations of organisms).  But a force that negates your existence might be difficult to really wrap your head around, which is why there’s actually a lot of ways to define isfet.  Isfet, depending on who you talk to, can mean “uncreation,” but it can also be as simple as “the opposite of Ma’at” or whatever harms creation.  I’ve seen people say whatever impedes ma’at.

If ma’at represents the actions that support creation, then isfet represents the actions that support uncreation. If we live in ma’at, our actions support creation and feed the Netjeru.  If we do not live in ma’at, we live in isfet, and our actions support uncreation and feed Apep.  Ma’at is determined by the 42 negative confessions and a close watch on our personal well being and the well being of those around you.  I’ve seen people say that living in ma’at is like living in a society as “do unto others how they do unto you” or “an eye for an eye,” but I disagree with that.

Negativity hurts your health and well being, so I feel that if we respond to others negative actions against us with negative actions back at them (the eye for an eye bit), we introduce negativity into our personal well being, thereby hurting us and creating isfet.  Sin is defined as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.”  In Kemeticism, a transgression isn’t necessarily against divine law as much as it creates isfet into your life.  You aren’t against the Netjeru, you’re for Apep, the Uncreated One who’s name is best not invoked through speech.

(This isn’t something that easy, and it’s definitely something I struggle and work with on a regular basis.)

4) What do you believe about Satan?

I believe in one Higher Power with many faces.  I believe that we are all children of this higher power and that the divine spark of life lives within us all.  I believe that we feed that spark by living a life in ma’at and shunning isfet.  By not living in ma’at, we create and live in isfet, which feeds the Uncreated One, Apep.  Now, here’s the thing about the Uncreated One:  it’s not like the Satan of Christianity.

Satan in the Bible is referred to multiple times throughout the New Testament as the tempter.  He tempts people to sin.  The Uncreated One isn’t simply trying to test your faith and get you to fall into a state of rebellion.  Satan tries to destroy the good in the world and replace it with the bad.  The Uncreated One tries to destroy the good and the bad in the universe.

Ma’at is balance.  Balance contains both the good and the bad in the universe.  The chaos and death we see allows space for new creation.  Apep doesn’t want new creation.  In fact, Apep wants creation to simply not exist.  Not now.  Not ever.  The Uncreated One was never worshiped, only worshiped against.  The rituals surrounding Apep were to banish it as to prevent it from destroying all of creation.

Apep, it is said, was created accidentally at the time of creation of the universe.  When all creation occurred, uncreation happened as a response.  Creation includes positive and negative within its balance, so uncreation lies somewhere outside of that.

5) What are your thoughts on forgiveness?

A few months ago, my roommate and I had some issues.  Erin and I were having a hard time.  We were busy and stressed, and the house cleaning slacked off.  My roommate wasn’t feeling well and was going through a lot of stuff herself.  All of us weren’t in a good place.  There was some conflict.  This past weekend, I called her to talk about some stuff that had come up.  I wanted to hear her opinion or her side of things, even though I was fairly certain I already knew.  After we talked, she apologized for how she acted the past few months, and I said, “There’s no reason to apologize.  We both weren’t in good places, and I don’t hold any hard feelings against you.  I understand that things just weren’t right.”

Forgiveness is “the action or process of a readiness or willingness to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.”  To gain forgiveness, there has be an offense (sin) that someone feels resent or angry about.  Then there has to be an act of letting go of that anger or resent to gain back a feeling of peace and oneness.

An apology isn’t so much asking for forgiveness as it is to recognize that you have done something wrong, admitting to doing that something wrong, and then telling someone what you did and explaining that you won’t or will try not to do it again.  Forgiveness, then, becomes the act of the other person letting go of the anger they feel towards the transgressor for the transgression.

I don’t believe in divine forgiveness because I don’t believe in divine anger or resentment.

At one point in time, humanity turned away from the Netjeru and planned to overthrow Them.  Ra got angry and sent HetHert in the form of Sekhmet to punish humanity.  Once He sees that She may destroy humanity completely, He gets her to stop and to prevent Himself from unleashing His anger on His creation that He loves, He distances Himself from the physical plane of Earth.  If you’d like a more detailed explanation of the story, go here.  Ra recognized His error and took responsibility for His actions and determined to not let it happen again.  And Ra’s love for us is never-ending.  Even if we choose not to worship or believe in the Netjeru, They will love us anyway.  When we mess up, They still love us.

Forgiveness isn’t something I ever need or ever get because the love of my Gods is so great that they never feel anger or resentment towards me for my actions.  When I mess up or commit isfet, it is my responsibility to recognize my actions as negative, apologize as a public announcement that I have done something wrong and correct them.  I don’t need forgiveness because the Gods aren’t angry.  They’re actually glad and happy that I’ve come back and recognized the errors of my ways, but they’re love is so great that they were never once angry at me for my wrongs, so they don’t have a reason to forgive.

I’ve believed this for so long that when I read the earlier quote in Jesus Through Pagan Eyes, it felt so absolutely wonderful to see that I wasn’t the only one (or that Pagans weren’t the only ones) that believed and felt that way.

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This gives you an idea about the principles behind my belief, my dogma.  As a teacher, I’m taught to discover what the students already know and then build on that knowledge with new experiences and new information.Ankh

As a spiritual seeker, you can do the same thing on your journey.  Look to your past.  Think about what you were already taught.  Think about the dogma of that past spiritual path.  Then, sit down and really examine your past experiences with that dogma.  Determine if there are parts about that dogma that don’t necessarily fit with the experiences that you’ve had.

For me, my past and my experiences showed me the parts of the dogma of my past that didn’t add up to what I knew to be true from my life.  I experienced the divine in a way that Christian doctrine didn’t fully form to.  When I analyzed the differences, it led me away from Christianity and towards my new path, Kemeticism.  I determined that remaining on the path I was on would compromise my spirit, so I left it.

Now that I’m older, I don’t deny Jesus as a great teacher and spiritual leader, but I don’t believe he is any more a son of God than I am a daughter of God, and I definitely don’t believe he is my savior because I don’t see that there’s anything that I need to be saved from.  I am a blessed child of the Netjeru who strives to live in ma’at and shun isfet.

When you’re on your own journey, I challenge you to think critically about your past to best determine your path for the future.  If you’re seeking guidance, pray.  If you’re seeking dogma, think critically.  And above all, have patience.  All will be revealed in time.

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Posted on February 13, 2014, in Belief, Kemeticism, Pagan Blog Project, PBP, Religion, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. A very thoughtful and well written post which I really need to read again in order to “get” all the aspects but will comment now. I found it very interesting, your dogma and your post very thorough. Well done.

  2. Wonderful, thoughtful post! I read an introduction of “Jesus through Pagan Eyes” by the Author and it has since been on my “to read” list! Very compelling and thought-provoking material. Your post, ironically, is listed next to my own entry for the Pagan Blog Project this week, “Do Demons Exist”. I find that intriguing in a magical sort of way. Now, I’m anxious to explore more of your blog. 🙂

  1. Pingback: Exploring the Purifications: One, Three, Thirteen | Stumbling Through Faith

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