Spiritual Realism - What does that even mean?
Updated: Jun 17, 2020
The world of self-discovery and spiritual practice can be a wild and nebulous place.
It is often full of people insisting you must only use this particular crystal for this purpose, or must never leave a strand of hair anywhere outside your home lest you be controlled by dark forces...or only practice on a full moon while completely naked and moving clockwise at a 45 degree angle while sticking out your tongue. To the left, specifically.
It can all be a bit...much, for the uninitiated. For those who are just coming to investigate what all the hubbub is about over here in this occult corner, it's super easy to be scared off by all the noise. And even if you're not, it can leave you desperate for a concrete set of rules to follow, so as not to accidentally unleash a demon apocalypse in your living room.
I have both good news and bad news for you - these rules do not exist.
Everyone's way of practicing is different, which means everyone's individual process is different. What works for someone else may not necessarily work for you, no matter how many candles of the right color you place in the right positions.
This is not some crazy, mystical thing. It's simply human nature.
To wit - I'm willing to bet I don't make my grocery list out the same way you do, but we both get the job done, right? Food gets bought, food gets transferred, food gets eaten. Mission accomplished. The truth is, if you'd tried my OCD way of laying out my list, it would have driven you nuts and taken you twice as long to do the same shopping trip. This is because 'my' way doesn't resonate with you in an organic sense, because it did not originate from you.
The same goes with tarot, energy work, or any other spiritual discovery or practice. You can learn the basics from anyone (okay, almost anyone), but the development of that skill is going to be your own personal, intrinsic, internal education.
Thus we see the fallacy in trying to nail down a singular, 'correct' way of doing anything in the metaphysical realm, and the absolute ridiculousness of gatekeeping something so incredibly rewarding and life-changing.
People can be frightened away by the overwhelming specificity that exists in some paranormal circles, and by the fear that bad things can happen if you make one tiny mistake. (i.e. "I was trying to send love to my grieving friends but I put the candle in the East corner instead of the West and now there are ghosts in my fridge.")
This, my dear friends, is horseshit. Life is mistakes. Learning is literally achieved through trial and error. So fearing that process simply ensures you stay stagnant and frozen where you are. Growth requires courage, and courage requires strength and vulnerability.
What truly matters in metaphysical work, as it does in absolutely every area of life, is intent.
If I could put some fancy flashing sign around that word - INTENT - I would. It is everything, absolutely everything in the spiritual realm.
You can grid your room, light a black candle, burn a bunch of sage, call the corners, face North and invoke your deity...but if your heart and mind and energy are not in the right place, it will not have the effect you're after. Period.
Conversely, even if you're slugging through the grocery store after a grueling day of work, dreaming of a peaceful evening but knowing chaos awaits you at home, and you pass an exhausted mom with a screaming toddler who is at her definite breaking point...if your heart is love and your mind is compassion and your energy is honoring her struggle, you can send an effective wave of peace and gratitude her way and improve their evening a little bit.
It's all about where you are, internally, and what your intent is for the energy you're working with.
Listen, if you need tools, use them. I use some, because they help me to focus. I don't use others, because they don't. No judgment, no requirement. It's that simple.
You already have what you need inside of you. You simply have to learn to trust it.
(Read that again)
And this is our most difficult lesson of all...self-trust. It is not an easy journey to make, and (so far, at least) I have yet to find an end to it. But it is the only way - the only way - to move forward on any spiritual path of meaning.
What does this look like? Well, anything. That's the point.
Do you feel the need to study the entire history and development of Tarot through the ages, dress in elaborate, dramatic clothing, and grid your carefully positioned table with crystals at the cardinal points before every reading? That's totally valid.
Do you think all that is ridiculous and you can do energy work in jeans in a Denny's as easily as in some woo-woo mystical space? Also valid.
If you want to call yourself a witch, spiritualist, psychic, energy worker, intuitive, etc. - all okay. All valid. All individual to your journey, and frankly none of anyone else's damn business.
This is the entire basis of the way I use the term 'spiritual realism'. I'm aware there's a traditional meaning for that phrase, but in this metaphysical realm, it takes on a new connotation.
No one knows who you are or how you work better than you. Full stop. It's just not logistically possible. So take the knowledge you are offered whenever you can, and then integrate it into your own system of beliefs and practices that are already working for you. There's no wrong way to do it.
There is one, unavoidable piece of this I would be remiss if I did not mention. And (as with everything else I offer), you are free to take it or leave it as you will. Know it is based on years of study and practice, and do your own research if it sounds nuts to you.
Like attracts like. Water seeks its own level. Vibrations resonate with similar vibrations. What you put out, you will get back.
We have many different ways of describing this phenomenon throughout history and various cultures, as well as within the scientific community. But the premise remains the same - whatever you push out into the world will return to you. If this is love, fantastic. More love is never a bad thing.
But if it is negativity, judgment, anger, jealousy...these come back as well, and they come back swingin'. You make the choice every time you have a conscious thought or take an action. You can choose to multiply the love in the world, or send forth something negative instead.
Energy is real. That's just science. How the more nuanced aspects of it work in and around our own bodies and move through our lives is largely unknown (or unverified), but the results are the results. It's all within your power.
So. What does this all mean?
It means you are enough, just as you are. As you develop your own spiritual life and explore more of what that means for you, you will change immensely, time and time again. Every step along that path, and every change you observe in yourself - as long as it is rooted in truth and in love - will be right, be valid.
Trust it. Be grateful for it. Learn from it.
Do what you can with what you have. you don't need a fully-stocked herb garden and twelve cats to be a witch - that's what's inside you. You don't need twenty different tarot decks and forty years of experience to be a reader - it's already within you. Learn the skills, learn the art, and the apply it with your own beautiful unique brand of you-ness in the way only you can.
I'll take a moment here to say also there's nothing at all wrong with having a fully-stocked herb garden or forty years of experience. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to have all those things, or with wearing only pointy shoes and carrying a broom everywhere. Tear it up, sister. You do you.
The point is there is no right way to do it that covers everyone. The right way is your way, because it's for you. For someone else it will look different, and part of the beauty of being honored for who you are is being able to honor others for being their authentic selves, too.
Acknowledge that they are on their journey, in their own time, learning what they need to learn. Drop the attachment to the idea that we must all do things 'just this way' or the universe will implode.
And then extend that grace to yourself, as well. Come join us in this wild and nebulous place. Walk alongside on this wide path carved out by our ancestors over generations of misunderstood benevolence. Or just go give someone a reading the park.
You do you. No one does it better.
All love, fellow travelers.