Judging the Message by Yourself
The Process of Discernment Part 1
There are two parts to successful personal gnosis: discernment and signal clarity. In this chapter we’ll focus on the process of discernment. Let’s say that you have been working on listening to the Gods or spirits, and you think that you have something. A message came, whether in a waking vision or a dream or a voice or just a strong feeling. Perhaps an omen fell in front of you. How do you know if it’s real? Here are the steps to take, one at a time, to discern whether it’s real or your own internal voice, or some combination of the two.
1. Is it consistent with external reality as we know it? Deciding this part could range from “Is it really possible for me to levitate my actual body with my own will, as this spirit tells me I can?” to “Is that person really doing what that spirit says they’re doing, and is that consistent with what I know or can find out about them?” Be extremely skeptical if it does not pass this point. At the very least, check with other sources multiple times.
Mental shapeshifting does not contradict well-supported scientific findings, but full physical shapeshifting from a human into a wolf contradicts known biological possibility. Now, just because something isn’t consistent with known science does not mean I discard it outright--what is scientifically “ known” has been known to change, after all, and could be inaccurate or misleading--but it does mean I am more skeptical and will subject the phenomenon to a harsher scrutiny.
Djeriwepwawet, U.S. Kemetic Pagan
2. Is it consistent with what is already written about that God or spirit? If it’s completely off from all written accounts, that’s another strike against it. By “off” we don’t mean “not written about,” because certainly we don’t know everything about all the Gods and spirits, and they might be telling you something that is not in the sources you can find. We mean that there is explicit writing saying the exact opposite of what you have; for example, saying that a deity had no children when multiple written accounts say otherwise. Be careful to look at multiple sources; Gods were often worshipped differently from one place and time to another, and your gnosis may be congruent with a different tradition of that deity.
3. Is it consistent with what other devotees of that deity say about them? While we’ve stated that every God or Goddess treats every worshipper differently, if you interview a number of people who are devoted to or have worked closely with that deity and they all say, “That really doesn’t sound anything like Him (or Her)--actually, very much the opposite,” then that’s another strike against it. If the reviews are mixed--if some people say that it sounds familiar while others don’t--then you may be dealing with a different aspect of that deity, or more than one of you may be wrong. Ask the deity or spirit in question for more clarification.
4. Does it contradict your own experience of that deity or spirit? If, up until now, you’ve experienced Deity X as wanting this and valuing that, and now you have something that is entirely different, be suspicious. It may just be that you’re experiencing another aspect of them--deities and spirits are not one-dimensional--or, in some cases, that your former experiences of them were your own mental sock puppets, and this is the real thing. But be careful anyway until you have better corroboration.
If I normally experience Bast as a bright warmth, and then suddenly one day some entity pokes at me saying she’s Bast but feels like prickling saltwater, I’m going to be suspicious, because it doesn’t fit my past experiences of Bast. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an alternate explanation (i.e., a different spirit or one of Her messengers), but I’m nonetheless going to be very careful in my interaction with it.
Djeriwepwawet, U.S. Kemetic Pagan
5. Is the tone and nature of the message consistent with itself and with the worldview of the cosmology it claims to be from? Watch for internal inconsistencies to both the message and the nature of the creature. If a spirit claims to be the soul of a piece of wild natural land and then asks you to sacrifice a chemical-filled Twinkie to it, that’s a problem.
6. If this message came from another person but is specifically about me, do I trust the source? How well do you know and trust the individual from whom it came? If you know them well, you might know that they are solid and don’t go around throwing their unconscious opinions out in the form of messages to others; or, you might know them well enough to remember that they tend to be melodramatic. If you don’t know them well, what do other people who know them better say about them?
7. Intuitively, does the message feel right on every level? Does it “ping”? If not, put it aside and look at it again in a few days. If it still just doesn’t feel right, discard it. If much of it doesn’t feel right but something in it somehow pings, then it might have a kernel of truth underneath the baggage. See if you can uncover that kernel, either by a twenty questions form of divination, or by meditating on each part of it to see what does feel right. It’s fine to say, “I think there’s some truth in it, but I haven’t figured out how much yet.”
8. Is it too gratifying? One of the hallmarks of one’s internal sock monkeys is that the message always props your ego in some way. This doesn’t mean that every real message is guaranteed to make you miserable, but if it’s too close to what you already hoped it would be, be suspicious.