Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Path of the Hearth-Fire

In her book, The Training and Work of an Initiate, Dion Fortune discusses what she calls the Path of the Hearth-Fire. She didn't walk this particular path herself but manages to understand it, as much as is possible for an outsider to understand. The Loyal Hoard knows that I believe if you haven't walked the labyrinth yourself, you cannot guide others through it. Here, however, she isn't guiding, she's discussing, but have the salt grains handy anyway.

She's schitzophrenic in her treatment of this idea, and I think it's because it was revealed knowledge colored by her personal point of view instead of shared plainly. This just seems to be her style.  She was married, she had no children, and there is nothing written about her having to care for anyone except herself and somehow that means she is "free from karma." I'd say that's "bad karma." She got to "combat spiritual wickedness in high places" but that's a lonely life, not the comfortable, happy life of someone who sits at the center of a circle of family they care for and who cares for them. The whole thing reads as judgmental, especially the part where she suggests that this path is sometimes chosen because someone who is "advanced" turns back to help others who are "progressing more slowly."

I don't like that she calls family obligations "bonds" in a negative way and treats them as delays to initiation, that somehow "karma" has put loved ones "in the way" of becoming an initiate or that the person isn't ready to be the Special Ops of the Inner Planes because they have others to care for.

"Again, it sometimes happens that souls which have advanced far into the Mysteries turn back at the call
of human love and forge anew the chains of karmic ties. In subsequent lives the debts thus incurred must be discharged. Sometimes the turning aside is motivated by the passions and the senses; sometimes a higher motive determines the choice, and out of pure pity a soul that is traveling fast may turn back to hold out a hand to a beloved one who is progressing more slowly."
"... if the choice of pity and patience has been made, it must be abided by cheerfully and willingly if its good karma is to be reaped. "
Objection! Must be discharged? Love is not one of Jacob Marley's chains which needs to be cast off in order to "progress." Love is the reason for progress. My bonds strengthen me. My roots are responsible for my growth. If you have no one to care for, what is the point of being Magic-leet? What does your magic matter? Having no bonds isn't "good karma" or even a laudable goal. Willingly sharing the bond of love is the best "karma" you may reap. I wonder what Nemesis thinks of this abuse of the word "karma!"

We are born to each other again and again for a reason. She calls it pity and patience. I prefer Love and learning. I completely disagree that the reason for this is some kind of "failure" to learn the lessons in a previous life. I think of it as rereading a book: I love to go back and read books I haven't picked up in a long time- I always find something that I missed before, or something I didn't understand previously now clicks thanks to the experiences I've had since last I read it. Have you ever watched a movie more than once? Bet you have ;) Bet you appreciated the movie more the second time and got more out of it.

Let's turn to a few examples that I appreciate (actually, I do appreciate most of what she says about the path itself, just not the why of walking it).
"Which is the higher duty, the service of the Masters or the service of the family and home?
This is a big question, and one that is constantly recurring, and its answer is not as simple as some would have us think. "
Agreed. Mostly. In previous posts about working with deity, I've talked a but about how negotiation isn't just ok, it's necessary because They don't live in this day to day world. Most of us are not free to drop everything to heed Their call so we need to make our limits clear, and be willing to push our own boundaries as well.

Another disagreeable objection: Keep your house clean and enjoy doing it or you will "fail to initiate?" Well then I'm fucked. And so is everyone else I know who can't afford a cleaning service. I will dust and I will do laundry, but I don't have to like it! Funny that within a few pages she says cheerfully accept things and don't whine, then says you have to like it. Not complaining isn't the same thing as liking it.

But back to the parts I do like:

"If our home problems prove very difficult, let us, in imagination, always put a chair at the fireside and lay a place at table for the Unseen Guest, and live our life and do our work in the light of that Invisible Presence."
We already do this, but Strega don't just do it in imagination: Offerings at the hearth, sharing with our ancestors at their altar/mantle, offerings at the Lare shrine, including the Ancestors in daily life and special celebrations, honoring the Goddess of the Hearth. This is a daily part of life for us and not a separate magical practice we have to put on like donning on a starchy robe.
"If we rule our homes in a spirit of selfless love and serenity of heart, asking no return, but doing our duty for the sake of the need of those to whom we minister, our house will be a true Temple of the Hearth- Fire in which we can receive our initiation."

What she said.

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