Right, Wrong and the Self

Working with thoughts on the self, and release of the self these last few years (even more so since the publication of my first book, Zen Druidry) has been the focus of my studies and journey on the path of Druidry, yet has lately become the centrepoint in my vision of my own personal Druidry, ethics and the act of living with awareness.

We can appear, online at least, to be very focused on our individual selves, even to the point of megalomania. Social media comes from an individual’s personal viewpoint, or a company’s, a philosophy – it is an entity in and of itself. As an author it can appear even worse – we write, constantly, sorting out issues, celebrating life in all its glory with words spread across the screen if we decide to share those ideas and inspiration into the wider world.

Yet in my personal, living practice it is quite different. Yes, I do think a lot – but it is thoughts on the dissolution of the self in order to greater experience the world around me. Ironic, writing a blog post about it, but there you go.

Considering ethics within Paganism, there are many levels of “rightness” and “wrongness”, both morally, legally, socially and culturally. What matters most in our current culture here in Britain is legality, with social and cultural repercussions following the legal ones in order of importance (in secular circles) to consider. Morality can kind of get a back seat on this ride, all too sadly. However, what I’ve been thinking about is right and wrong and the ego, the sense of self that is always grasping to have its own expression heard, justifying itself and seeking validation any which way it can (yes, this blog is an irony in that, as well).

The most poignant thing that I have realised is that even though there is right and wrong, it doesn’t actually make anyone better if they are right, or worse if they are wrong. Just because someone is right doesn’t make them a better person, a better human being, nor vice versa. Even in a legal context, even if someone is found wrong, guilty of whatever transgression, it doesn’t make us better – it just makes us legally right.

Legally right may not even mean morally or ethically right. As a species, I don’t think we can actually live without a concept of right and wrong, as it is so ingrained into our psyche. That spark of human consciousness overrides the concept with the constant striving of the ego, the neocortical part of the brain laying down all manner of experience, assumptions, judgements, memories, possible outcomes etc. It’s often said that we instinctively know right from wrong, but does right and wrong have anything to do with instinct, or it is a purely human construct?

I know when someone is doing something wrong in my own social context, in my culture and society. I can condemn their behaviour as wrong, as something that needs to be addressed in order to fulfil our social contract with each other. I can report abusive behaviour, I can write letters of protest to local planning authorities, I can sign petitions and raise money to benefit those in need. All of these things do not make me a better person. They just make me, me.

The man who kicks his dog, I can report to the RSPCA. That doesn’t make me better than him though. The woman who abuses her child, I can also report to the authorities – that doesn’t make me better than her in any way. I may be right in thinking that these things are wrong, but it doesn’t make me a better person for not doing these things.

Ideas of right and wrong often include a judgemental factor that makes us feel that we are better than others. That is the striving of the ego for validation in any form, its screaming claws inside our head hoping for some sort of recognition. What we need to do is to be right, but not have the need to feel right, to feel better for being right.

In taking my inspiration, learning from the natural world around me, I am currently seeing things from a very different perspective. In a world where there is no human notion of right or wrong, and allowing my sense of self to dissolve slowly into that environment, whole new ideas on the nature of the human existence come blazing to the fore.

Stopping that chattering, self-centred mind to actually be in the world is time very well spent. Each time you do, you hear and learn more about the world, thus better defining your place within it. If you begin to lose even that, your sense of self, you come back less and less – the ego becomes smaller and smaller, and the true self has the opportunity to shine through.

Eventually, I hope to never come back at all.

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Midsummer

Ah – midsummer. I remember when I first moved to these isles over 16 years ago from Canada – it was a cold and wet summer, and I wondered just what on earth I had done. And yet, the light fascinated me at that time of year, and later at the winter solstice, the darkness. It was so much more than where I grew up – the twilight of midsummer and the barest space of total darkness, the unrelenting darkness that forces you to face it head on in winter. The difference in latitude was a great teacher – (Montreal, 45.5N, London 51.5N).

 
The current is running strong in the British Isles right now. As I go to my outdoor altar every evening, laying my hands upon the soft, mossy earth I feel the white dragon that has risen to the surface and is dancing in the ethereal currents of energy crisscrossing the land. It is a time of great joy, of celebration.

 
This is a time of year to be proud of what you have done so far in the year’s cycle. But beware – the carpet can be pulled from underneath you, and the harvest may not quite be as expected. For this brief moment, however, we can perform this wonderful balancing act, in a liminal time before the tide tips over and we tumble headlong with it. It is important to be proud of what you have achieved – it is too easily done to become prideful.

 
Stand and feel the earth beneath your feet. Feel the serpent energy rising, the dragons of these lands, filling your soul with this time of year. Reflect on your achievements, and state them aloud under the eye of the sun. Confirm for yourself the good that you have done for the world, for your family, your community, for yourself. Let the sun’s rays witness this confirmation.

 
On Saturday I will be reflecting on the good investment of my solar panels – this time of year it is especially rewarding to know that the longer daylight hours are helping others in the village, ie. local businesses. I will take a bow for the two books published (and doing well), and the third and fourth on their way. I will applaud the money that has been raised for various charities through a lot of hard work in fundraising, events and suchlike over the course of the year. For this brief moment, I will take pleasure in my achievements, and remind myself that this is why I do the work I do, and live the life that I live. I will remember this moment in the darker times, to guide me through them and out the other side.

 
And then I will immerse myself once again, into the landscape, losing that sense of self and becoming a part of it, letting it guide me, teach me, blend with my blood and my bones with the whispers of the ancestors blessing it all.