Happy April Fool’s Day!
Many other spiritual seekers will know recognize this experience. You have been following a particular path for a while, and something about it starts to bother you. You scratch at the itch, examining what is underneath an realize that you can’t stomach something about the story you’ve been told. Maybe it’s the behavior of a God that’s important to you or that path, maybe it’s a tenet regarding the dead or the fate of those who die, maybe it’s a dangerous or unwholesome social trend in the broader community, maybe it’s a core virtue that is over-emphasized – or a virtue that feels like it is missing entirely.
Yet you struggle, because you are comfortable here. You know your way around. You’ve benefited and learned from it, and likely some of the practices are beneficial to you and your community. However as you look around you increasingly find that this underlying dissatisfaction spreads to other things, revealing a truth about your path that you can’t countenance. The wood is rotted beneath the bark, and although you’ve salvaged some things of value, the structure that you clung to is falling away from you.
Your spiritual experiences lead you along a path, and the whole time you walk the path you feel a growing understanding of what that path is leading to. You are trepidatious, but the growing enlightenment or advancement that you know deep in your bones is coming keeps you going.
You find discipline and do the work that is required. Whatever spiritual guides or mentors you have are encouraging (you might notice that their understanding of what you are working towards is different from your vision, or you might ignore that if that happens; we often see what we want to). You feel accomplished and more sure of yourself.
Then it fails. You look around at what you have become and it is not what you imagined. You might feel weakened, lost, betrayed, or confused. The journey you took to get there, however, prepared you for other things. It’s strengthened you in ways and taught you things that might not be readily apparent. You may not ever notice them at all. It’s natural to feel a bit betrayed at that point.
I call experiences like these Loki’s Truths.
A World Built of Lies
At a certain point of maturity, humans come to realize that most of the “truths” that they hold dear are fabrications of one variety or another.* Money consists of units with agreed-upon value; there is no objective value to it yet it regulates and controls much of the infrastructure of our societies. Position in society is likewise an agreed-upon fabrication, enforced socially through behavior. Politicians only hold power because enough people (and especially the “right” people, the ones who can help them enforce it) agree upon it.
Our religions are full of lies. Anything stated about the Gods or other noncoporeal powers with any certainty is based on conveying the authority of another through teachings or claiming your own authority through gnosis and hoping that people will accept it. Even the models that we use to approach our faiths – polytheist, pantheist, panentheist, henotheist, monist, monotheist, atheist – are models that are used because they create useful context for our spirituality. When I say that I know that my Gods are real, I’m saying that the experiences that I have had and shared with others suggest that they are independent, self willed beings with agency. This does not go into explaining what, in an objective sense, They are, nor does it provide an objective and useful proof of their existence. I have built a convenient structure that makes my observations make sense and helps to guide my actionswhat has been been successful in the past. That structure is based mostly on personal observations – which we all know are as likely to be false as anything else.
We navigate our worlds using fantasy worlds built in our own minds, as we assume things will happen certain ways and act accordingly. Those fantasies aren’t “real”; or rather, don’t represent real events, unless they’re memory which is notoriously unreliable. These fantasies and the complex structures we build with them help us to navigate the world. Or, in many cases, these structures hinder, confine, or harm us, especially when they weren’t made by people who share our experiences.
So, you have helpful lies that build castles to live in, tools to work with, and structures to interact through. You also have corrosive lies, ones that point out a weakness in a structure and spread through it, causing the basic firmament to fall away bit by bit.
Web of Sacred Lies
The thing to focus on is not whether or not these things are lies. We know that they are. That is one truth that we can rely on. What needs to be remembered is that a lie, once you know it as such, becomes something that you can pass through or ignore (if only personally; shared lies require a weakening of the web that holds them together through group or mass disagreement). That doesn’t mean that you can no longer use them to navigate; but it does mean that if they are no longer useful, you have options.
Returning to the spiritual examples above, in both cases the lies are the active part of the narrative. In the first example, we find a reality that we do not agree with underlying the base of a structure that we probably don’t need. In the second, we find a lie or a series of lies pushing us towards a goal that has nothing to do with the fantasy; it’s like dangling a carrot in front of a beast of burden, or more kindly, staring at pictures of fitness models when you exercise.
We learn through sacred lies, half-truths and suppositions that build a structure that we can gain in confidence and ability on; psychic jungle gyms. They are no less real or powerful than whatever lies we tell that create nations and money and society. They are sacred because they lead us on the wild wyrd paths that we may follow, and they are lies because we can have only a small amount of certainty of them even when we speak them with certainty.
They do hurt. They hurt when they fall away, just as scabs do, but just as scabs do, they often protect you during healing or growth. They feel like betrayals because they are – but only if you assumed that you were dealing with an absolute truth in the first place. They are necessary though, and how you choose to respond can affect how open you are to learning and growing from the experience.
So at the end of our annual celebration of deceptions, pranks, and outright lies, I invite you to take a step back from whatever it is you believe, and find the places where the lies cover the holes in the walls and bolster the supports. Not because I’m asking you to cast them away – without them your house would collapse – but because they show you the places where unhelpful beliefs can be removed or changed or supplanted with more helpful ones (some wise words on disbelief here). I also invite you to forgive yourself for believing some of the lies that got you to where you are today. We’ve all been fooled before, and in learning to reject them you grew as a person.
Respect the sacred magic of the lies we use to make our world, the webs we weave to deceive our societies, standards, and selves into being. Give some respect to Loki and the other Tricksters who lie to us to show us the truth, and who spill their corrosive, poisoned wisdom on hardened falsehoods that bind us.
And don’t use April Fool’s day as an excuse to be a jerk!
*Note: I am a believer in objective reality. Much of what we believe is only tangentially related to it, though.
** I also think that lying to people in harmful ways is bad, and most ways of deliberately lying to people are harmful, and if you got otherwise out of this piece you weren’t paying attention.