Leave my brain alone. Seriously.

I get really tired of being told by other woo people that I need to do less thinking.

 Have you heard this?

 “You’re thinking about this too hard—just go with your gut.”

 “This isn’t intellectual—you need to get out of your head.”

 “You’re making this too complicated—just go with your feelings.”

 Sure, there might be limits in certain circumstances where one can over-think (maybe), but I’ve always sensed a general sort of mistrust of things intellectual in Pagan and occult circles (woo communities).  Everyone’s all about their intuition and their feelings and there’s a tendency to discount the conclusions that must be reached through reason or complicated analysis.  Nevermind the sort of inherent problems that go along with the intellect/intution, mind/body dichotomies that we all take for granted, but the total discounting of (because I’m out of words) brainy approaches to magical stuff really grates on me.

 This is sort of embodied for me in my approach to tarot.

 Me, I could give a shit about what the cards “mean to you.”  Most readers seem to do their work intuitively, and that’s just dandy if that’s your approach, but I find a great deal of meaning in considering historical context and traditional symbolism.  I use the Rider-Waite because of its rich symbolic connections with the Golden Dawn and Kabbalah (or Qabalah, if we want to get a bit more New Agey), and because I think the history of this specific deck is fascinating.  So I bring that into my readings for other people, with great effect.  It turns out that when we consider (for example) the use of the color yellow in The Fool, and stop caring about what yellow means to you and you alone, there’s still a lot of really useful information to be gleaned (maybe even more).  I think that when people choose not to learn the systems in which the cards are based—instead relying upon feeling—a great deal is lost.  You might still be a great reader, but how much better could you be if you added these additional elements?

 Magic, Wicca, whatever, seems to work the same way.

 At our open circle the other night, we had two gentlemen (of varying levels of experience) engaging in a conversation about magical practice.  The more inexperienced of the two was trying to connect his budding practice to his work as an engineer, and finally the other (presumably more experienced) fellow simply told him, “You’re making this too complicated.”

 I can see where the latter was coming from, but what he essentially did was discount the guy’s understanding of magic as overly intellectual.  He told him later that he should just focus on “feeling it.” 

Well excuse me, but what does that even mean?

 It’s not my intention to disparage the sort of visceral or intuitive approach to magic that so many people advocate, only to politely observe that there are alternatives.  Intellectualism isn’t the sin that woo people so often make it out to be.

 This is why I’ve lost my shit at people (quietly, politely, demurely even) for suggesting that I meditate to “quiet [my] mind.”  That I’m somehow spiritually deficient if I don’t block everything else out and just focus on breathing or something. 

 My mind is my greatest asset.  It’s my favorite thing about myself and a hell of a lot more reliable than my feelings (which are usually stupid and not to be trusted).  Why on earth would I discount its input in my magical or religious endeavors?

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2 thoughts on “Leave my brain alone. Seriously.

  1. Raven

    I’ve had the same thing happen. Especially when it comes to tarot. “Get your nose out of the book and look at the cards, what does your gut say?” I’ve heard that several times. Pardon, but I find a great deal of meaning in what the artist said and what the cards traditionally mean. I don’t work with the Rider-Waite deck (artwork doesn’t appeal to me at all. I tried working with it and I just didn’t resonate with it), but I still like knowing the history of the cards and what the general accepted meaning of them is. I can add that to what feelings etc the cards evoke from me. Why only have one “set” of information, when I can have both?

    Reply
  2. livingnexus

    Speaking of tarot, my own approach is that of intellect + intuition, rather than the intellect vs. intuition that many tarot readers seem to espouse, which you’ve run into as well. To my particular sensibilities, if a symbol can mean ANYTHING then it stops being a useful symbol. The traditional meanings of the cards have great weight, not just metaphysically but in our own collective conscious/subconsciousness.

    I have a great deal of respect for people who can read a spread at a glance. I, however, still have to lean heavily on collected knowledge websites like learntarot.com and the opinions/experience of vets like James Rickclef and Camelia Elias. No matter how often I turn out to be wrong or off-base about a reading, it’s always a valuable learning experience for me, and that’s what I really value. The cards themselves have made it very clear that it’s the marriage of reasoning and intuition that is the most powerful for me, and I abide by that philosophy.

    Reply

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