When was the last time you actually thought about who you are? With all the demands that life places on us, it is very easy to get caught up in performing our duties, and we end up loosing track of who we are. We forget about our goals, our dreams. We fail to create time to improve ourselves, especially in the spiritual realm. In fact many of us fail to really know who we are.
One of the most challenging writings I have encountered in the Craft is the 13 Goals of a Witch. The first goal, according to this list, is to Know Yourself. This does not just include knowing your roles in society, although this is a part of it. Each of us may be an employee, student, parent, spouse, musician, writer, child, Wiccan, or any host of other titles. Yet these combined titles or duties fail to completely define who we are.
The goal of knowing yourself goes much deeper than just knowing your roles. It is more like seeking to answer the age old questions of “What am I, and what is my purpose here?”. Humankind has been asking this question in one form or another for centuries.
The answer lies in knowing that we are comprised of many aspects, or characteristics, which combine to define who we are; our personality, nature, and individuality. Before we can accurately begin to define who we are, we first must analyze each of these major components. Once we are able to define the individual parts, we will then be better equipped to correctly define the whole.
Listing each individual component of ourselves would require volumes to cover. For our purpose we will focus on four major categories that collectively contain all of our individual characteristics. Each of us are comprised of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. These categories may be viewed as specific “self’s” that harmoniously work together to provide the finished product, that being the whole person.
In our current society we tend to be defined, by ourselves and others, based on our abilities and material accomplishments of our physical self. Our end goal is obtaining a higher status or being more like someone else. We are tempted to base our fulfillment and success on physical accumulations, rather than on true peace and contentment that only comes from within ourselves. Success seems to be an elusive goal that can only be achieved through more physical gains. The problem is that we can never seem to reach that goal can we? There is always some physical or material item that is lacking. It may be a job, or spouse, or house, or _________________ (you fill in the blank). Regardless of what that item is, our goal of being complete and happy seems to elude us. And yet, because we are basing our definition of who we are, or more appropriately our worth, on these physical items, we are compelled to continue to strive for a goal that we will never be able to achieve.
If we choose to believe that our purpose, our essence, is merely defined by what we achieve physically, then we will never be truly at peace, truly fulfilled. There’s always going to be some other “thing” we must accomplish or obtain first. Furthermore, with this definition, we will never achieve the goal of knowing ourselves, because all our time and effort will be devoted to improving this one aspect, which is only one of many that combine to define who we are.
Now, I am not suggesting that we should cease from striving to be our best physically. However, that should not be our sole purpose. How many people can you think of who appear to have it all, but you can tell they are miserable inside? They are miserable largely because they have ignored the other aspects of themselves.
A second category which also contributes to our whole person is our mental self. This part of us is driven by knowledge. We attend educational facilities, read journals and magazines to remain current in our professions, and study our chosen spiritual paths, all in the pursuit of additional knowledge.
When someone is striving to improve their physical or mental aspects, society tends to applaud their noble efforts. When we are describing someone, or forming an opinion of them, we tend to focus on these two sides as well. Financial success, intellectual achievements, and physical appearance are often the first attributes we notice or refer to regarding ourselves and others. Can you see where most of our focus is on these two aspects of the whole person? Again, I am not suggesting that it is wrong to strive to be your best physically or mentally. Far from it. However, in order to achieve our goal, we must give equal time and attention to our other aspects.
One of our more often neglected aspects is our emotional components. I will be the first to admit that this is a very difficult, and sometimes frightening, aspect to focus on. Our society as a whole frowns on emotional baggage. We do not tend to associate emotional and successful together, or do we? What we do is take emotions like ambition, drive and dedication and view them not as emotions but rather adjectives of success. However they choose to look at it, each of these are traits of our emotional sides. Being emotional is not limited to crying at the drop of a hat. Take an athlete for instance. When a player makes a really big play there is a lot of emotion behind it. I think of Michael Jordan jumping up and down swinging his fist in the air after sinking the winning shot in a playoff game against Cleveland years ago. That is emotion, and nobody told him he didn’t have a right to show it.
Part of the problem stems from our errant perception that showing our emotions too much is a sign of weakness or immaturity. Our emotions are not based on logic, they are just there. Today we like things that we can explain and prove with our manuals and charts. We are very analytical, and our emotions are the antithesis of logic. We are so programmed to be mental and professional giants that as a by product we are being programmed to ignore our emotions.
Another matter to consider is that our emotions allow us to experience fear, pain, old resentments and other not so pleasant memories. Since none of enjoy feeling these things, there is a definite temptation to choose to ignore or suppress our emotional self.. Yet without sorrow, there is no joy, without fear there is no peace, without pain there is no healing, and without confronting and acknowledging your emotional side it will be impossible to finally know who you are, and why you are here.
The fourth and final “self” that must also be acknowledged is our Spiritual Self. Each religious structure teaches, in their own manner, that the spirit will continue on after this life is over. Whether you believe in reincarnation, or a heaven, or some other such place, most people believe that the spirit will go on long after this body is worn out.
So if the spirit is going to continue on, why do we ignore it so? Why do we not spend more time nurturing our spiritual side and allowing it to grow?
Maybe it’s because we link spiritual and religious together. Upon close examination we will find that being religious and being spiritual are two separate, unique characteristics. To be religious one must: a) find a belief structure to hold fast to, b) observe his/her religious traditions, and c) follow the teachings of that religion. No where does true spirituality enter the picture here.
In order to clear up any misconceptions, let me expound for just a moment. I am not saying that religion and spirituality can not work together. In fact most of the time they do, to some degree. What I am saying is that they are not the same things, nor do they depend on each other for their existence. In my opinion true spirituality: a) strives to commune with the Divine force, b) forces us to confront ourselves and our world around us, and c) gives us the drive and desire to truly know ourselves. While this is a brief comparison, hopefully it will stimulate additional thought on the differences between religion and spirituality. Our spiritual growth should not be dependent on any set religion. Rather than closing our minds to opportunities for spiritual growth that fall outside our chosen religion, we should allow our spiritual self to lead us toward other avenues of growth. When we begin to allow our religiousness, with all it’s dogma’s and rules, to dictate all aspects of our spiritual life, we are in fact depriving our spiritual self of chances for growth. Following these rules must not become more important than growing spiritually.
Many of us find the lack of religious dogma and rules to be a very important part of Wicca. This allows each of us the freedom to develop ourselves spiritually in whatever manner we choose. My only fear is that we may get so caught up in the practice of the craft (the spells, chants, rites, and tools etc.) that we miss the whole point of the craft, which I believe is to grown physically, emotionally, mentally and certainly spiritually until we are the best that we can be.
Striving for the goal of knowing yourself is not an easy path. It will require dedication, confrontation, change and patience. As with anything else that is worth achieving, the rewards far outweigh the cost. As you learn to nurture each of your “self’s” equally, you will be amazed at the sense of accomplishment, contentment, and fulfillment that are waiting.