Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Positive Power of Negativity

When practicing any “flavor” of magick, it is easy to get caught up in what you are doing, and not notice the ripples of effect it has – that you have – on others around you. I suppose that is true of all sincere spiritual practice.

I used to think that my spirituality was undertaken in isolation, that nothing I did mattered to anyone else. Whether it was my ritual, my crafting, my writing, teaching, or even my podcast, I was convinced that while it had meaning and significance for me, it didn't make one whit of difference to anyone else. But when I was sick in hospital, my friends – and Facebook – made it clear to me that something I was doing was apparently resonating with a bunch of people, as healing, well-wishing and comments about how I had affected peoples’ lives came in from around the world. It moved me, and my spiritual work in all arenas has been greatly influenced since then by an awareness of the effect it can have, those ripples, spreading out and touching other lives.

I have always considered myself to be a very straightforward person – my motivation has always been, I though, pretty evident. In my own mind’s eye, I have always been exactly what I appear to be. I am, I think, passionate about exploring my Craft, and sharing the results. I have a driving need to teach, and, while I find myself in a leadership position because of the students I teach, and the books, DVDs, workshops and the podcast, I have no real desire to lead… it just sort of happened, almost in spite of myself.
But lately I’ve started to try to see myself through the eyes of others, because I think that I might learn something about myself. That isn't hard when listening to friends – the other day a good friend told me how remarkably talented I was at taking deep and complex subjects and teaching them in a user-friendly and understandable way, which was very easy to hear, despite my typically British embarrassment at hearing myself being complimented.

It isn't so easy to listen to the opinions of one’s detractors, however, though that is likely to be the more useful exercise. Ignoring the claims about me that are manifestly ridiculous, or projection from those who do what they accuse me of, how I am seen by those who do not hold me in high esteem can actually tell me things about myself that can help me be a better me… or at least, I think it can.

For example, I've heard that I am pompous and opinionated. Now I have no doubt that I am opinionated, but I've never thought of myself as pompous. I do know that the British accent I speak with can sound pompous to some, and I know that when I am on a roll, I can get very loquacious, which can make it difficult for others to get a word in edgewise. So I can sort of understand that one. But there are plenty of other faults that my detractors are keen to point out, that I find harder to understand.

It has been said that I am a Machiavellian schemer, power-hungry, and manipulative. These are the things that I find hardest to understand, and the most painful things that I hear about myself. As I stated earlier, I truly believe that my motivations are simply to learn and share. Some of this, considering the main source, may be  projection, but I've heard it from people who have never met me. No doubt, they were influenced by who consider me “the enemy” (pretty much the entire Pagan community of Salt Lake City, UT, apparently hates me, though less than a handful have ever met me), and that is something that I find puzzling – I try not to form an opinion on someone based solely on the opinions of others, myself – but it happens a lot in the Pagan community, unfortunately.

Ultimately, I find exploring these negative reactions quite useful, because it both spurs me on to be better than before, and it keeps me humble. On the one hand, everyone says that if you aren’t annoying somebody, then you are not “doing it right”, but on the other hand, it isn’t like I’m trying to preach the one true way. I love to share what I’ve learnt, but I am fine with people having different ideas, disagreeing with me, or whatever. As long as I can make them think, make them feel, make them as passionate about their art as I am, then it is all good. What is a little badmouthing compared to that?


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  2. loquacious - I love this word.

    Unfortunately when you put yourself, or rather, find yourself in a position of leader or 'knowledgeable expert', there are people who are going to be negative. Unlike others in the Pagan community, I've found you to not be pushing an agenda, believing your own hype or trying to turn yourself into a "guru". You're very straight forward and I enjoy your work.

    The Pagan community, while wonderful to have, does on occasion breed jealousy, pettiness and a sense of ownership over certain ideals. It's become an issue but I don't consider you part of that. It's always interesting to hear the negative and understand its origin and point, but I think dwelling on negativity by people who don't know you is not a wise course of action.

    I would certainly just ignore them. Unless they have an actual and valid point or problem, it is just others trying to make themselves appear better or less insecure.

  3. Peter, I have been listening to you from the beginning of the Crooked Path Podcast. You have helped me explorer parts of my craft that I would have never found without your insights. These ideas have creep-ed into the group I work with. So thanks. First off I live by the age old adage that "if you meet the Buddha on the road kill him". We don't need gurus. Thanks for being real. The next thing I live by is 'I don't expect everyone to like me, in fact I would think less of myself if some people did". People that have formed an opinion of you without meeting you means that they are practicing what I call contempt prior to investigation. Keep up the good work. You have helped a lot of us find the true practitioner in us.