Another dispatch from ‘Hey I’ll believe anything’ land. This time from Celtic Myth and Magic by Edain McCoy.
There’s a great long section in the middle of this book about ‘Pathworking.’ Pathworking, we are told, is another name for ‘guided meditations.’ Okay and what are guided meditations? Apparently they are pre-scripted daydreams. What you do is, you read one of the stories McCoy writes out for you, then you do the relaxation/meditation thing (you know: get comfortable, do breathing stuff, empty your mind, all that), then you have a daydream in which you are the protatgonist of the story you’ve just read (complete with pronunciation guide, because we wouldn’t want to be mispronouncing all those Celtic names in our daydream, now would we – Maeve and Cuchulain might get annoyed). Got that? You read a story, you lie down and empty your (already probably not overfull) mind, you have a daydream about the just-read story. Okay. Sounds a little childish and pathetic for a grown-up (I mean come on, grown-ups ought to be able to come up with their own daydreams, am I right?), but okay; whatever floats your boat, as the saying goes.
But of course ‘pathworking’ is not at all the same thing as a scripted daydream, even though that’s what it sounds like. No, it’s More.
Pathworking, as guided meditations are called, is a term which comes to us through ceremonial magick. It is one of the most potent tools we have for aligning ourselves with the energies of deities and mythic figures. The term ‘pathworking’ has been adopted by Pagans who define it as a guided journey into the inner-world, or universal/archetypal/astral plane, for the purpose of acquiring a lasting change on both the conscious and sub-conscious mind of the journeyer.
Ah. It’s a daydream, but one that takes us on a real journey, to the astral plane (aka the universal or archetypal one). Oookay. And don’t be in any doubt – these deities and mythic figures whose energies we get to ‘align ourselves with’ (what does that mean?) are real. Not pretend, not imagined, but real. Understand?
The inner/astral world should never be mistaken for being somewhere which is not ‘real,’ or where the inhabitants are also somehow less than ‘real.’ The archetypes we humans have created on these inner-planes over the centuries are indeed real, and even sentient, creatures. If they were not real, then how would we be able to go to these places, draw energy or information from them, and bring that change or knowledge back into our concrete world?
Er – by making it all up? Because things like ‘energy’ or ‘information’ that someone claims to have found or ‘drawn’ on the astral plane are a little on the intangible side, you know? It’s not like coming back with a carbon-datable dagger or slice of tea-cake. Oh dear oh dear. And the people who write this kind of stuff are allowed to drive cars and vote and have children. It’s scary.
And then it gets even better. McCoy reassures us and tells us not to be fearful, and then she warns us – leaving at least one reader with a feeling of profound confusion and mixed-message-reception.
There are a lot of people, some Pagans included , who have an unnatural fear of altered states…and especially of inner-world journeys. Possibly this is because they have been taught…that they will ‘lose control’ of themselves or even become lost in the inner-worlds, or not be able to awaken to deal with emergencies. All of these fears are basically groundless.
That’s page 117. On page 118 we find this:
Some persons have experienced or read about others who have become ‘stuck’ on the astral plane and unable to return to their bodies. Generally this does not happen…Being stuck ‘out’ is a mental blockage caused by one’s own fears and it can almost always be overcome by relaxing…
Wait. ‘Generally’? ‘Almost always’? But you said all these fears are basically groundless. What exactly does ‘basically’ mean? Is it a new synonym for ‘not’?
Getting lost should never be a problem. If you find it is, you might consider seeking psychiatric help to find the cause of the blockage.
Yeah, I look forward to that little chat with the shrink. ‘Well, see, I was having this daydream, and…’ Not to mention all this confusing stuff about should, and never, and if it is. ‘Your fears are groundless, there is basically no danger, but if you do burst into flames, we’ll do our best to extinguish them.’
And there’s an even better bit.
Some people also excessively fear the creatures they meet in the inner-world. While it cannot be over-emphasized that the inner-planes are in the mind but are still a very real place, there is no more to fear than there is in your own home. You must always be respectful of the deities and other beings you encounter on the inner-planes, but you should never overtly fear them. Most of them are benevolent or, at worst, neutral to your presence.
Most of them. Most of them. Okay, but what about the others, however few? She doesn’t say, you’ll be unsurprised to learn.
If you do encounter a being in whose presence you feel uncomfortable, simply move yourself slowly away from it.
Okay. As I would if it were a tiger, right? and I just hoped I could move myself away before it springs. And this ‘uncomfortable’ thing – do I feel uncomfortable because it is walking quickly toward me swinging a large axe? Or just because I think it doesn’t look quite friendly or even neutral. Well, she doesn’t say.
I think I’ll just stay here.