I am so excited that I found this group. I've been looking for something like this for a while :-)
I've been heavily indoctrinated into just about everything related to paganism and also the occult, too. It's gotten to a point where it's terrifying for me, it feels too real, and I think I'm confusing my own imagination with the spiritual (which I now think is imaginary too, so maybe I'm not confusing it after all). I'm not sure if atheism is my true nature or not, but I know it's what I aspire to be, what feels safe for me, and that my rational mind embraces it.
But my emotional side is still really attached to pagan and occult beliefs. It was fun. I had a sense of belonging, feeling special, having 'special powers,' license to be silly, wild and crazy, and many of my friends I feel most attached to are into it. Also, I seem to be drawn to people, and then find out they're pagan.
Yet, I also feel out-of-control and afraid of these things, too. I'm afraid of the darker side of it. The people who think they can make energy balls and manipulate energy. The people who claim to read my mind (and coincidentally actually did say the sentence I was thinking even though they'd just met me a few hours prior). The law of attraction freaks me out, too, because if I can manifest good things, then I get scared I'm going to accidentally manifest bad things if my mind isn't always thinking positively. I seem to have accumulated every "bad luck" superstition from every religion I've ever studied, so that drives me crazy too, because with so many of them, it's bad luck if I do something and bad luck if I don't. It doesn't just happen randomly, it's because people I care about in my life keep convincing me that it's so.
I gave way too much power to people who claimed to be healers and psychics. But that's because they seemed to know me upon meeting me. They told me things about myself. They could "sense" certain things about me, and most of them usually said the same things about me, even though they didn't know each other. So that made me think they really could see spirits around me or something.
It's not like I thought everything was real. I knew that there are a lot of illusionists and con artists out there. But I "knew" that there were people who were practicing the "real thing." Magic was fake Disney crap, but magick was real. The psychics at the fair were phonies, but the one I went to was "real." The way I could "tell the difference" was if someone asked me my birthdate I knew they were a fake and were just going to make something up based on my astrology sign. If they asked a bunch of questions they were fake. But if I walked in there and they seemed to understand me right away, and connect with me, and tell me true things about myself without me having to say anything, that's when I "knew" that they were "real." Also I thought I could feel it, could sense it, when they were "real." I got this feeling of warmth, a sense of awe, my whole body filled up with love, it even felt like my energy was moving differently when I went to the healer, like something was swirling around in my head.
For all the good and fun that I had, right now the fears have gotten way too out of control and I really want to feel comfortable being an atheist. I've always looked up to atheists, thinking they were some of the smartest people in the world, but I never felt like I could be one because I've always been such a "true believer" no matter what path I follow, until I became a true believer in everything I've ever read, which are way too many rules to have to follow. I'm at a point where I have to be my own person. I have to trust that I can make up my own rules. And nothing bad is going to punish me (threefold or otherwise) for not following the rules.
Are there any good sites, arguments, discussions, etc. that debunk a lot of these types of beliefs? This has always seemed more real to me as opposed to other belief systems because of the spirits not being far away but right here on earth. It kind of freaks me out and makes me feel like I'm being constantly watched or stalked or something. Something following me waiting to hurt me in some way, or blocking me from doing things that I want and not being able to reach my full potential.
One reason the rational side of me stopped believing is because as soon as I started to get freaked out and was afraid of the evil spirts trying to harm me, that's when most of the psychics and healers and believers would say that they don't sense anything or see anything. (Well there was one guy from a cultish thing who said he saw two demons with me, that I brought them in with me, and blamed me for it saying that it's because my family has practiced witchcraft and black magic for generations and that's why I'm 'haunted.') They didn't know why I was freaking out and suggested I see a therapist. I do have post traumatic stress disorder, and rationally I know that's why I thought I could see/sense all these things, and why my fear is such a phobia.
Even though I know all this, it still feels so real. And whenever I am around people who encourage me to have these beliefs, all it takes is one conversation to undo months of therapy. Because that part of me, the true believer part of me is in conflict with my rational atheist side. It's so confusing, and that's why looking at sites and hearing arguments would be very helpful for me, to reinforce the rational way of thinking.
Thanks! Nice to meet all of you!
Well, about the feeling special thing, I knew a lot of people who said things like "I knew I was pagan before I even knew there was a word for it", and "I always knew I was different" blah blah blah. People feel special because they're part of a select group of people that allegedly has magick powers. I replaced that (which I was trying to convince myself of, more than actually believing) with feeling special because I saw through all the woo. Not all intelligent people do (most pagans are pretty intelligent).
The brilliant thing about the law of attraction (marketing-wise) is that it can't be disproven. If something bad happens, the person can say you were thinking negative. You can say that you weren't, or that you were thinking positive, but you can't prove it. Much like "faith", the person can just say you weren't thinking positive enough. This horribly insensitive law is just one in a long line of philosophies that try to make life fair; according to the law of attraction, the universe says "your wish is my command" and you always get what you want, so if you were hit by a car, it happened because you wanted it. Karma is similar (if something bad happens to you, you must have deserved it) but at least it doesn't penalize people for their thoughts.
This group is about the best and most therapeutic place I've found that's helped me with deconversion. I was shunned by my coven and reading others' experiences shows me that similar things have happened to a lot of other people. Unfortunately, most of the other things I've found about ex-pagans is from a Christian perspective and about how paganism is of the devil, instead of something that looks into the falseness of the claims and doesn't replace it with additional false claims (Christianity). Too many atheists think that paganism is a benign and harmless religion, and some pagans like to kiss up to atheists b/c they don't like Christians--meanwhile they don't think that the same critical thinking applies to their own beliefs.
Thank you for responding!
Yeah, most pagans I know are quite intelligent which is one of the reasons I gravitated towards them to begin with.
> This horribly insensitive law is just one in a long line of
> philosophies that try to make life fair; according to the
> law of attraction, the universe says "your wish is my
> command" and you always get what you want, so if you were
> hit by a car, it happened because you wanted it.
Seriously. And I have been in car accidents that were not my fault, but had others try to tell me it was "the universe" trying to tell me something, or teach me some lesson, or that I'd willed it upon myself because I was so negative.
I think this may be where my fear of the negative comes in because I was majorly criticized for negativity, as if it was my ego that was standing in the way of getting healed. When in reality they were effectively knocking out my critical thinking and logic.
Some of the sickest reasoning I've heard regarding accidents is if I was a passenger, one healer told me that the accident was meant to injure the driver but since I was in the car it injured me. They thought their philosophy was proven when the driver fell off a horse the following year and she said, "See! She was meant to get injured." And instead of trying to physically help me, they would ask questions like "Who in your life does she remind you of?" then "Well you should work on your emotional issue with so-and-so."
I would get angry at the response, the logical part of me knowing it was B.S., but they acted so sage-like that repetition of hearing these things got part of me to buy into it. I had such trust and faith in these people. That's convenient how there is such an emphasis on trusting, trust the process, things happen in time, etc.
I am sorry to hear that you were shunned by your coven. That must have been very hurtful.
I agree. I've run into the same problems with ex-pagan sites where they replace it with something else. Sooooo unhelpful. When a person is afraid of demons and evil spirits, then having born-agains try to tell me the stuff I'm into is "of the devil" it kind of re-inforces the whole evil spirits thing. Chrisitan deconversion sites don't work for ex-pagans because knowing that the christian devil idea was incorporated from the hellenic underworld gods doesn't help someone who believed in the ancient systems, or the supposed spirits they were based on.
You mentioned many good things. Thanks for the insight!
I think you are very much on the road to figuring this out :) Congrats! I wrote a really cool response to this earlier then lost it, argg! anyway, I basically encouraged you to look at the FACTS. You mentioned feelings a lot in your post. Feelings are not facts. You are probably a sensitive, very emotional person who found that paganism often did a good job of explaining your heightened emotions (Me too!) Also, it provided stimulus for more positive emotions. When did the negatives emotions start to take over? My take away message was that you can still have all those good emotions (love, awe, inspiration, connectedness) without lying to yourself or others or giving up everything to follow someone with charisma (that is why some people make you feel an instant connection, they are charismatic and either naturally, or by practice, know how to manipulate your emotions, no magick involved.) From my own experience, I can tell you that once I let go of "negative energy" (the belief in it), "bad spirits" and "bad luck" my life got 100% better. Letting go of the idea of manifesting and karma was like setting myself free from a cage I had built in my mind! do you know what the real dark side of magick is? what you are going through right now, that's all. It might be hard to purge all this from your life and your thinking (especially if you have family who is pagan? sounds like you do) but it's been about 3 years for me and I am SO MUCH HAPPIER! I can even participate in some pagan events and see it for what it is (fantasy fulfillment) and still enjoy myself ;) Gosh, there is so much more I want to tell you! Why don't you write some specific questions up for us? Like, things that make you think paganism, magick, gods and goddesses, whatever, might be real?
Thank you so much!
>I basically encouraged you to look at the FACTS. You mentioned feelings a lot in your post. Feelings are not facts.
True! It is good to get that reminder :)
>You are probably a sensitive, very emotional person
> When did the negatives emotions start to take over?
Very good question. When I went through some traumatic life experiences years ago, I started to think I was somehow bringing bad luck upon myself. There was a lot of re-inforcement of this thinking with family members, friends, and community. It kept building for years, growing with each new person who told me I was causing the bad things to happen because I had negative thoughts.
Then three and a half years ago, I had a terrifyingly vivid imagination/flashback/hallucination (not sure exactly what it was) of being physically attacked by a demon while I was at some weekend conference that my sibling was trying to get my mom and I involved with. It must have been a type of cult because you're supposed to follow what they teach and not ask for explanations nor "think too much." Ding ding ding.
When I tried to call my therapist and my best friend from the hotel to get support for feeling attacked, my mom said "You signed a contract that you wouldn't discuss what goes on here." (I'd never planned on signing it, but they wouldn't let you in if you didn't, and this was after you paid and couldn't get a refund.) I was like are you kidding? But then I subsequently became afraid that the guy who ran the event would come after me if I said anything. I thought he had some kind of psychic powers and he'd know if I broke the contract. Since he claimed to be able to heal from afar, I feared he could also harm from afar.
That's when I started to get some really serious phobias, and I pretty much never felt safe no matter where I was, because if someone could attack me on an astral/psychic/spiritual level, it wouldn't matter if I was home alone with the doors locked.
There were other bad or scary people I've known, when some of them claimed to have powers made me terrified that they could attack me forever.
I feel silly writing all this. Silly that I could have been duped into thinking these things. But this is good. I'd rather feel embarrassed than still be terrified.
I'm starting to figure out for myself that I get more afraid of the negative energy/ negative spirits when I've been triggered in some way, or feel a loss of control.
Whatever progress I make is brief then fades.
When I feel afraid, it's like I get some sort of amnesia, and completely forget all the intellectual realizations I've made. As if the things I'm learning aren't making it into the long term memory yet.
>charisma (that is why some people make you feel an
> instant connection, they are charismatic and either
> naturally, or by practice, know how to manipulate your
> emotions, no magick involved.)
Wow!! That's really great insight!! I suppose I am drawn to people with a certain charisma. Maybe people who have charisma like to feel special, and get drawn into these things? I don't know.
> From my own experience, I can
> tell you that once I let go of "negative energy" (the belief
> in it), "bad spirits" and "bad luck" my life got 100%
That's so awesome! I can not wait until I can do the same! I learn this over and over. I hope someday soon it will "stick."
> do you know what the real dark side of magick is? what you
> are going through right now, that's all.
Yeah, I already feel like I'm under attack, so I guess it doesn't get much worse (lol, of course it still feels like it's unlucky to say that)
>It might be hard to
> purge all this from your life and your thinking (especially
> if you have family who is pagan? sounds like you do)
Yeah, the rough part is that my sibling is still involved with the cult thing. My mother bounces around between different spiritual paths, currently it's some new age mixed with a liberal christianity. My dad is a catholic and so is most of the rest of my family. Most of my friends are into new age and spirituality, a good percentage are pagans, most of whom believe strongly in spirits.
I'm glad that you are so much happier now :-) That is really wonderful!
There are good and bad people in every religion or non religion, Wicca does NOT encourage its followers to commit insurance fraud, lol, Im sorry these were your experiences but its not the norm for sure.
I was raised in Paganism, Im still torn between it and Atheism, I love the rituals, I love incense, candles, sage, meditation, spirit dancing and other various practices and yet Intellectually I think like an Atheist, I dont believe in most claims made by people who believe in the supernatural, I dont believe in God.
Naturalistic Pagan? I dont know.
All I know is that Wiccans who are truth to their path follow the rede which says-an it harm none do what ye will- Back in my day, that included animals but most new agey Wiccans believe in their own ideas now so.... and thats most likely the group you encounteree--not true representations of Wiccans at all.
I still participate in the culture when it has to do with my art. I came back to my art and magick culture five years ago, having been away from it for over a decade. I thought that things would be like they were in the 1980s...when we used various traditions to draw from for our art...but I found that things were not the same, what I called surrealism, they called sacred. From my perspective they were no longer able to engage in surreal activity (as I understand it), because they believed that doing so was actually a magical working that caused things to happen.....I did also, but not like they did. I believed that we might actually cause art to manifest (poetry, music, drawings, collages)...but alas, nothing happend...no demons appeared (darn) and it broke my heart to see that no art came of it either...just stress from bickering about psychic safety and taboo breaking.
I am reconsidering whether I should ever participate in social cultural pagan/occult events again. I may just have to say its a wash, and do my own thing.
I have, however, found collaborators who are not superstitious about my end/my art process side of the collaboration...and one of the main reasons I joined is to learn how to communicate with artists who are theists.
Since joining this morning, and reading stories and posts that I can relate to...my stress level has decreased a LOT...now that is what I call magic!
I just joined today. I really liked reading your posts here. I've been through it also. It just gets to be too much, doesn't it? I don't mind the creative thinking aspect of the occult/pagan mentality...I enjoy it, in fact, it fuels my artwork....but it just gets to be too much when I would get different responses for the same question (from the same people). They say that the best way to confuse a child (and animals in lab experiments) is to respond differently to situations that are the "same". Makes ya crazy! A study with pigeons that I just read about in Dan Dennett's "Breaking the Spell" book goes something like this: they gave a pigeon a treat at random times during the day that did not depend on what the pigeon did. (after the pigeon had learned specific things to get a treat) the bird began to try to figure out what worked...and having received a treat after it had spun around with its tail out...it tried to spin around with its tail out again to see if that worked.
I've been spun into pigeon dancing more times than I can count while attempting to communicate with people in the pagan community.
Allison, you had suggested mentioning specific examples. One of the reasons I thought all this stuff was real, was that I thought I could "sense" that spirits (whether good or bad) were near me. I'd get this strange sensation on the top of my head, can't describe it, kind of prickly, as if some of the hairs were standing up (like when you get goosebumps), and it felt like that "crown chakra" was open to the spirit word.
This was re-inforced by a few "pychics" who would tell me the reason I had so much fear was that my "third eye" has been open from a very young age, so I've seen things that I shouldn't have and wasn't strong enough to deal with the scary images/whatever.
Also sometimes when I'd be walking near streetlights I'd get that weird goosebump feeling on my scalp and a lamp would go out, or go on, or flicker. When I told the psychic she said depending on if it's going on or off, one is a good sign and one is a bad sign.
I haven't had that feeling in several months, but just started feeling it today after being triggered with upsetting words and not having any resources to help me with that. Even some people on this site seem to have a fasination with the darker elements of woo and I don't feel strong enough yet to be able to easily forget about it.
Hi Again :) One thing that might help is to realize that people all over the world have mystical experiences characterized by physical sensations BUT they interpret them in the context of their own cultural and religious traditions. So, culture A says that goosebumps are a sign that ghosts are near while culture B says it's a sign that your Chi is moving, culture C says goosebumps are your chakras openings and culture D says you're now possessed by demons ;) I'm being a little silly to make a point. The point is: humans get goosebumps and it has a physiological explanation tied to the fact that we used to be monkeys! And we still are hairy mammals. Here is a great article about goosebumps: http://www.syncrat.com/7jn. You could also look at this: various things happen to us on a day to day basis, some good, some bad. If a psychic tells you that a "good omen" has just occurred and something good will happen, your brain will scan everything that happens to you that day until it hits upon something that matches. Same with bad omens. The coincidence might be so dramatic that you remember it for a long time but that doesn't discount all the times the "omen" was wrong or not real impressive. You just don't remember those. So, like I said before, you sound like a very sensitive person and strong emotions cause a strong physical response for you but that is just your body doing it's work, nothing more or less ;)
Hope this helps,