… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

The merciless path through the tended garden

I was interested to hear in David Beth’s podcast about the concept of the Merciless Path. How willing are we to sacrifice the comfort of living like others to pursue our spirituality? What are our priorities? Is our spirituality a mere hobby, an addendum to the rest of our life? Or is it our life, prioritised above all others and above all things? Is our passion for the divine compulsive or merely permitted at convenient moments?

In separating from my partner last year, I made a very conscious step to follow the Merciless Path. From then on, everything was to move me along that path; even my translation work I view as a means to an end, a means to fund my study. I am also lucky enough to work from home, which means I can break from work to do whatever ritual is required at whatever time of day; a luxury that not many people have.

So a commitment has been made. Sometimes that feels enough. Most of the time it isn’t. In listening to David’s podcast I became very aware of how little I know, and how far I still have to go. A tiny part of me (the child) sighed and wanted to sit and sulk. The greater part of me felt inspired and eager to ‘get on with it then’.

There is a quote in Aghora Vol. I (Svoboda) that describes it well:

To be a guru you have to say, “I know and I can teach you.” But if I say that, well, I’m finished. I can never learn anything else. I have shut myself off from anything new. If I remain a student all my life, though. I will always be ready to learn new things.

Although the least of my aims is to be guru to anybody (I have been asked and always respond with a gentle ‘no’ – I am willing to be a friend and exchange mutual discoveries and learn alongside a person, but I am no teacher), I am still conscious of how easy it is to rest for too long in the limited knowledge we possess. There is always more. To be reminded of and excited by another’s passion for More is a great inspiration to study and practice. It is like being reminded of the horizon when we have spent too long looking at the path directly in front of our feet; we have to be aware of the path directly in front to avoid stumbling and falling, but the horizon is the inspiration and reason for walking.

Another interesting point in David’s podcast was the questioning of our motivations in learning magick and in practising our spirituality. To really develop there needs to be a sharp blade of honesty applied to the fruit of our being – peel off the skin and see if the fruit beneath is truly edible, unripe or rotten. The pursuit of spirituality has been a priority for me since childhood, even before my introduction to monasticism, I knew that the relationship with god was the backbone to my life and always would be – I couldn’t conceive of a life that wasn’t focused around working towards divine union (something my dreams showed me at the time). And yet, even with such a focus it is easy to allow ego-motivated needs and weaknesses to infect our direction. I am starting to slowly uncover motivations that at times may drive me, but which ultimately steer me away from true divine union. This is a continual process of self-examination; a garden will always attract weeds, so the gardener must work at the soil while enjoying the fruits of her labours.

I have seen the level of work required in my spiritual garden, and I dare to see the potential there for growth. Time to get to work and get my hands very dirty.

Β© StarofSeshat 2009

10 responses

  1. David

    A very understanding of the concepts. It is people like you that I hope will listen to the interview and draw from it!

    Kosmic salutations,


    January 26, 2009 at 6:08 pm

  2. I share the energy of this post. I feel I have ‘dabbled’ for too long – even though I would never have seen myself as a ‘dabbler’ at the time, I fear that this is what I was. Now it is time to move on, but to move on in the way that is revealed to me. 2009 is going to be an interesting year for me, I think – and I wish you every blessing as you continue to move forward.


    January 26, 2009 at 10:31 pm

  3. Gruss dich, David! There’s a lot of food for thought in the podcast. I am still munching and will be going back for a second helping soon πŸ™‚

    Merry, merry meet Andy – so lovely to see you in the blogosphere again! I know how hard 2008 has been for you and I wish multiple blessings on your path for 2009.


    January 27, 2009 at 7:34 am

  4. Peace Seshat,

    An interesting post, as always. I certainly agree with what you say here regarding the determination needed to pursue the path of inner purification and development. Hearing it described as the ‘merciless path’ sounds very strange to me. I would describe it as the merciful path

    January 27, 2009 at 12:54 pm

  5. I think it is merciless because it requires sacrifice and often the rejection and judgement of others. It may be merciful in taking you ultimately to divine union, but the actual traversing of the path I think calls for us at times to be merciless in enforcing it. That is my understanding of it. Perhaps I am wrong. I know that, for example, the prime motivation in me breaking up with my partner was the need to pursue my spirituality in a way I couldn’t do in the relationship with him (a non-pagan atheist). I still care for him greatly as a friend; my decision hurt me and I know it hurt him, but my path required it of me. In that sense She is a merciless mistress demanding all and not just part of me…

    January 27, 2009 at 12:59 pm

  6. Peace Seshat

    I see what you mean. Merciless meaning more ‘determination’ perhaps? It’s not so much the meaning, more the phrase sounds strange in my ears.

    January 28, 2009 at 1:40 pm

  7. Shalom Abdur,
    I know what you mean but I think sometimes it’s useful remembering that a spiritual path can be cruel to those around us and to ourselves – it can hurt before it heals. Didn’t even Jesus say “I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword” (Matthew)?

    From the pagan perspective it is easy to get caught up in fluffiness and then be put off when it comes to the hard work and difficult decisions. Perhaps if more people DID call it the Merciless Path, they would think hard before even starting to walk it.

    It’s a matter of perspective as well – taking my own example, some may see my decision to split with the RH as determined, others have seen it as cruel. I continue to love him and care about him, but not in the way he might have wished. There was tremendous pain in the decision and getting through to the other side (where he is now dating other women, and I have my books πŸ™‚ ), especially as we still share a home. I think ‘merciless’ is not so descriptive of the attitude that is required but perhaps of the difficulties such a dedication involves.

    I wonder as well if it is a matter of perspective in that you can view the path as your desire for divine union; and you can view the path as what is required of you by the deity who calls you. Does being merciless exclude compassion if ultimately it leads you to perfect healing and divine union? I understand it in terms of being broken down into constituent parts to be rebuilt again – a merciless process – and yet it is a gift if we can survive that and be reborn in some way. Is it perhaps as crass as “being cruel to be kind”?? I don’t know …

    I’m glad you’ve got me thinking about this – I obviously need to give it more thought…

    January 28, 2009 at 2:05 pm

  8. Shalom Seshat,

    In one sense, perhaps ‘cruelty’ and ‘mercy’ are a matter of perspective. That is, as you say, is chopping through the accumulated emotional fluff really cruel if it leads to greater honesty and insight? And, is it really merciful to one’s self to allow others to dictate the terms and course of our life?

    For me, I see it as merciful because it is fundamentally about opening out, about being opened by love. In that sense, even where there is pain, it is deeply merciful pain. A Sufi master (whose name escapes me at present) described this inner work as a path where nothing at all remains hidden. Our hidden motivations are laid bare, as are our deeds. Our hopes and dreams, wishes and fantasies are all laid bare to God and to our opening selves. This itself is a mercy, though it may not always be pleasant (as I can certainly attest to myself)! Ya Allah! πŸ™‚

    I think we’re actually talking much the same thing, using different approaches and words.

    January 28, 2009 at 4:13 pm

  9. Exactly. We are talking about the same thing and I find it fascinating from a philosophical and linguistic perspective that you say merciful, I say merciless and we mean the same thing. Potayto potaato / tomayto tomaato LOL πŸ™‚

    January 28, 2009 at 4:17 pm

  10. What strange things words are!!! For me, this is why listening carefully is so very important

    January 28, 2009 at 8:47 pm