Responsibility to Self and Spirit
by Tony West / Three Blade Jaguar
All things pass between the Four Quarters of the Earth. And any stray accident or obligation, fancy or dream can account for a person’s first visit to the Land we call Four Quarters. What will draw you back though, is always a quest for Spirit. Something you saw here, someone who touched you here, showed you a way of being alive that is larger, fuller, truer… so you came back for more.
There is a relationship, then, between you and what you have found on this Land. Where there are relationships, there are responsibilities.
Some people talk of searching for their Self or their Soul. Others experience an encounter with Gods that arise beyond us and dwell outside us; yet that can approach us, enter us and move within us. Still others sense an immanence in this Land itself, that Sideling Hill Creek lies coiled us around like the World Serpent, along with all its natural components rocks and waters, breezes and critters reaching up to encompass and embrace us when we come home to the Land.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s call it all just “Spirit.” Its multifarious distinctions are real and Four Quarters is an ideal place to dive into their study but common rules of right living apply to all manifestations of Spirit and will help you survive your dive, even into its chilliest, rockiest and most fluid depths.
Living requires breathing, and diving into Spirit, as into water, requires special breathing. The Latin root of “spirit”, spîritus, means “breath”. This is standard for the spiritual vocabulary of many societies and languages: words for “soul” and “ghost” and “life” arise from this root meaning of breath. So the responsibilities that arise from Spirit follow the discipline of trained breathing.
Breathing is like a bellows and moral responsibility adheres to the same simple two-stroke rhythm. There is a skill and a duty to the right exercise of breathing in; likewise to the right exercise of breathing out.
To be able to breathe in Spirit responsibly, you must open your heart. Bare yourself to the chance that a creature you see, a thought that comes to you, a wind that blows in, a person you meet, is an Appearance sent by a higher power.
“We” are Spirit in part, but not in full. It is the nature of Spirit to pass through the rest of our being. Its duty is complete when it touches us and moves on. But Spirit pushes the rest of our mass, changes our angle of approach to the world. It leaves behind an urge to capture and retain that change even after the glow of primal contact has faded, the same way we cling to the memory of a kiss as we walk forward into everyday life after a night of love.
Feelings of responsibility spring from this afterglow. They are a transformative gift that ecstasy leaves behind for mundanity when ecstasy departs. Because of responsibility, ordinary life can play a role in the cycle of Meaning that is sparked when Spirit touche s us. Responsibility is the follow-through … the memory of Meaning. It shows me how to live in Spirit during those moments and they are most of my moments when I am personally asleep to Spirit. By acting responsibly, even in a spiritual daze, I can still accumulate the energy I’ll need for my next direct contact with the Divine. I don’t have to be a god, in order to welcome a god and admit a god; all I have to do is work in a good way.
So arrive on the Land with these possibilities in mind. You cheat yourself if you aren’t prepared to find Spirit in whatever you find at Four Quarters! Consider also the obverse of one possibility. If some person you meet at Four Quarters may be manifesting Spirit to you in any interaction … then it follows you may be manifesting Spirit to someone else! And you may not be consciously aware of it. Be not afraid of this fact. But live and act in peace with it. You may be drafted as a god for others whenever you are among us, so conduct yourself accordingly. Be your ordinary self, but simultaneously divine. It’s what the Navaho mean when they advise, “Walk in beauty.”
Bare yourself to the chance that a creature you see, a thought that comes to you, a wind that blows in, a person you meet, is an Appearance sent by a higher power.
When it comes to the responsibilities of exhaling Spirit, do not be afraid to speak your mind on mundane occasions about spiritual concerns. You need to be able to say things like, “Spirit wants you to keep the portapotties clean” or “Spirit wants me to sing you this song,” even if you don’t actually hear Astarte’s voice in your ear at that moment. You cannot remain in ecstasy during every moral deed of your life. In other words, follow through -the way you go to work on the days you hate your job as well as the days you love your job, or kiss your sweetheart on the days you’re squabbling as well as the days you’re harmonizing. If you made a promise to Spirit, deliver.
All duties are limited. In this case, the same Spirit that requires loyalty to your last inspiration, requires you to relinquish it when a new inspiration gives you a new mission. Don’t cling to yesterday’s Spirit at the expense of tomorrow’s!
But spirituality is no excuse for either duplicity or insanity. If Odin advises you to organize a ritual on a given night, and later Loki advises you to go clubbing
instead without telling anyone … don’t feed us that! Spirit, and spirits, make judgments you should live by. But they are never an excuse for avoiding purely human judgments about right and wrong.
Be not afraid of judgment by Spirit, by the community or by yourself. You will survive and come out stronger, the less you fear. Responsibility is a complex, lifelong experience that spirituality only deepens. But the sweetness it delivers, no headstrong indulgence can match.