Today's Draw: The Hermit from the Portland Tarot by Theresa Pridemore (with a book co-written by Jamie Morris). How do you define the difference between spirituality and religion? How much of what you believe is learned from a source like a priest or guru and how was learned by just you, acting alone? Have you found it hard to maintain some relationships as you've walked further and further down your spiritual path?
I have a confession. I had looked at the Portland Tarot online a few times and it just didn't appeal to me. Not knowing the companion book was co-written by one of my Facebook friends, Jamie Morris, I decided not to buy it. But then Jamie asked me if she could send me a deck as a gift. Now having received it and seen it in person, I like the Portland Tarot. Much more than I anticipated! It looked "computer collage" to me, which is a look I'm not into, especially if it's done poorly. And you don't usually get a feel for that until the deck is in your hands. But while this deck is still something I would consider computer collage (if that's even a term...I just mean images layered on top of other images) it's really well done. Whether it was the mood I was in while viewing them or whatever, now that I have it in my hands, I like it a lot.
The guide book is very substantial and the description for the Hermit conjured up many thoughts for me, which is always appreciated. I've been writing this blog for over three years now. This marks the 10th time I've written a blog post about the Hermit. You know, you kind of run out of things to say after the first half dozen page-long posts...haha. But the book's description of the card and its meaning sparked many thoughts for me.
The entry identifies the Hermit as a spiritual teacher of sorts. He's gone within and learned many things and is ready to share those things. But the book goes on to say, "while we can emulate the Hermit's path, we cannot walk his path. We must find our own way...It's a journey no one can travel with us."
One of my many unwritten books is called, "Ten Things the Spiritual Gurus Never Tell You" and this card touches on two of them in one way or another. One of the things is just like it says above, we can learn from the path our gurus or others have walked and we can adopt some of the lessons they learned along that path, but ultimately we can't look outside of ourselves for what we believe. The answers we seek to the questions we ask reside within us and we have to find a way to ferret them out on our own.
If you want someone to tell you what to believe, turn to organized religion. But if you really want to know the higher power, you have to seek it alone. That's what spirituality is by MY definition...the things you believe in based not on what you're told, but based on your personal experience through communion with the higher power. Those things may not entirely mesh with what is taught through organized religion. Some people choose to only consider what is taught by their pastor. Some choose to only consider what they know inside them to be true. And some, of course, choose a bit of both—a dose of religion followed by a chaser of spirituality.
Religion is easy—go to church, listen, believe. But spirituality is harder. For the religious, it can cause discomfort if one adopts a belief along their path that is not supported by their church. And for everyone, it's difficult because, no matter what techniques and practices you learn, if you're doing it "right", then you're feeling around in the dark and relying on your personal take on things, rather than the teachings of another. I mean, the teachings of another can help, don't get me wrong. But eventually you're going to bump up against a teaching that doesn't sit right for you and you're going to have to find the answers yourself.
So that's one thing. The other is the part about going it alone. While religion is something you do in an organized manner that you share with many others, the spiritual path is solitary. Your experience of it is unique. And as we've all come to learn in life, what you believe and what you follow can draw a line in the sand with relationships at home and in your community. Also, the further you go down your path, you're bound to find less in common with some people as you did before. Shedding old layers of yourself sometimes mean shedding relationships, too...or at least minimizing relationships that were once strong.
With each layer shed, you'll find new people to share with, but it can be a very solitary path, especially if it becomes central to your life. So the solitary nature of spirituality lies not just in having singular beliefs, but in walking alone in places along your path and losing things that were once important to you.
So that's what the Hermit came to us to tell us today. And one part of the Hermit's path, imo, is to keep your mind open. I almost had the door closed on the Portland Tarot and I'm glad it got reopened for me. Now just a majors-only deck, it's slated to grow into a full-sized deck over time, so check it out.