This is Part Two in a series on Dealing with Spiritual Doubt as a Pagan. Read Part One here!
While my personal spiritual experiences form the foundation of my religion, spiritual experiences shared with others have been some of my strongest allies against doubt.
Shared Spiritual Experiences
Sharing spiritual and magickal space with others is transformative and helps to build community. It opens a dialogue about faith, and exposes you to new ideas and possibilities. Shared spiritual experiences can also provide evidence against uncertainties you may have about your practice.
Shared spiritual experiences can happen in a variety of ways. My most common shared spiritual experiences have been in the context of group ritual. This could manifest as the quality of energy felt in a circle, the presence of a Deity or Otherworldly being, or something seen or felt in meditation. When other people saw/felt/heard/experienced the same thing (or close to it) that you did, it doesn’t leave much room for doubt.
When other people feel my magick, or sense a Deity that I have invoked, it is confirmation to me. Not all of these shared spiritual experiences have to be serious, though. They can be small or even silly things.
For example, I’ve had multiple people tell me that I look taller when I am leading a ritual or telling a story. This is pretty impressive, since I am very petite (just over five feet tall). While I didn’t necessarily feel “taller” per se during the ritual, it was an indicator to me that something magickal was happening in that moment.
I’ve heard the quality of my voice change as I was speaking Divinely inspired words, and had the experience confirmed by people after the ritual. I’ve written a ritual in an almost trance-like state, not knowing why that particular topic ended up on the page, only to be told by attendees afterwards that it met a need that multiple people in our community had (which I did not know about prior). My boyfriend (who is an agnostic atheist on the best of days) has jumped at the heat of the healing energy beneath my palm when I cared for him while he was injured.
Then there are experiences that are so fantastical, I was glad that there were other witnesses. My friend and I have seen a flame burn in ways and colors that shouldn’t have been physically possible. When I went into the ocean as a part of my initiation as Aphrodite’s priestess, I was “embraced” (my friends’ words) by a wave that was three times the size of any other waves we had seen that morning, knocking me off my feet and serving as a very visceral and humbling reminder of Aphrodite’s power as I took on the mantle of priestesshood.
A friend and I have found ourselves in places in the woods that were not there before and were not there when we came back. Thankfully, I had a witchy companion to wonder with me “Where did this giant rock come from?” and confirm “There wasn’t grass here before… and now the grass is gone again.” I’ve channeled words I don’t remember, and felt the presence of Deity with others. I’ve danced wildly around a campfire to music that was somehow MORE than music. I’ve had friends tell me I was literally glowing during a Beltane ritual.
So many of these things seem impossible and unbelievable, but because there were others there who experienced the same thing, it helps me to banish my doubt.
These shared spiritual experiences don’t necessarily have to happen in the same physical location. A shared spiritual experience can come from the combination of individual personal spiritual experiences. Sometimes these experiences can be of the same Deity or Otherworldly being, or a similar topic or issue. I’ve had individual visions or dreams that don’t make sense by themselves, but when combined with someone else’s personal spiritual experiences, the puzzle pieces fit together.
If you and others experience a Deity in a particular way, even at different times and in different places, this can be a type of shared spiritual experience. This can take the form of mannerisms, messages, physical appearance, or energy, particularly if what you feel is outside of the “norm” of lore. Cerridwyn is usually depicted as a dark Goddess crone, but both my friend and I have seen Her as a shining maiden with flowers in Her hair. These visions were years apart, but so incredibly similar that it became a shared spiritual experience.
Shared spiritual experiences are easier to have if you are able to practice in a group or have a larger Pagan community with which to discuss these things. Even if you don’t have access to other Pagans or don’t feel comfortable talking about these types of experiences with others, you can still find some of these shared spiritual experiences in other ways. Books, blogs, and online groups are great resources.
You can also have shared spiritual experiences with people you don’t know or never meet in person. If how I experience Aphrodite resonates with you, and is similar to your own encounters with Her, then we have a shared spiritual experience. You can have a shared spiritual experience during an online ritual or group meditation. There are endless possibilities.
Knowing that other people can see/hear/feel/sense the same spiritual and magickal phenomena that I do helps me to challenge any doubt I may have about my spirituality. It is incredibly comforting to know that it is not just me. This is one of the many reasons why spiritual community is so important to me. And the wonder and excitement that I feel in those moments that I know deep in my bones that all of this is real… It’s amazing.
This is Part Two in a series on Dealing with Spiritual Doubt as a Pagan. Read Part One – Personal Spiritual Experience – here. Part Three coming soon!