In a previous post, while listing things that don’t necessarily make you spiritual, I also included “using fancy pseudonyms”. This reminded me that I myself had a pseudonym back in high-school, although for different reasons. A guy I had a big crush on used to call me Little Shiva. I didn’t know much about Shiva back then, except that he was a Hindu deity. Nor did I know how important he was going to be for me years later. In the meantime I started calling myself Shiva, to such extent that some former high-school classmates still call me Shiva or Shivy, which I find funny (well, Sadhguru once pointed out that in India people name everything and everyone “Shiva”, even their dogs, so I guess in India I wouldn’t be suspected of too much arrogance).
Anyway, when I googled it to find out more, all that caught my attention was that he was nicknamed The Destroyer. I only wanted to understand what I only wanted to understand from that, and not what it truly meant. But “The Destroyer” seemed to fit very well with my intense nihilism and my wishing for an Apocalypse (imagine how it would have been if I had found out about Kali). I remember one time in the classroom I saw how storm clouds were gathering outside and I cried out, bitterly and with cold passion, that I wished the Apocalypse would come and wipe us all off of the face of the earth – I wasn’t completely serious about it, but the bitterness was sincere. My former class coordinator was a bit worried about me, and after my first year of college, when I recommender her to go see a certain play, she was a bit amazed that it was a comedy.
It was the time when I was feeding on Cioran, Nietzsche, Battaile, Bergman, Camus, a bit of Sartre (and, thankfully, no Simone de Beauvoir), A clockwork orange, and so forth. Later on, I saw how I didn’t read them properly; I got some things right, but other times I read into them stuff that wasn’t really there.
I was at one point so enmeshed in Cioran’s writings, so full of admiration, and so immaturely arrogant as to try to convince myself that maybe I am his reincarnation (yet another contradiction to my pretended atheism). The hypothesis crumbled when I realized that he died two years after I had been born. And back then I hadn’t heard about soul transfers or walk-ins so I abandoned the idea. Otherwise maybe I would have tried to push it a bit more. Now it seems, of course, ridiculous.
I would think of myself as an atheist and would pick up intellectual arguments with the priest that was teaching us the religious education class (1). The thing is I wasn’t an atheist because I was in a constant fight with God (with what I believed back then to be God, with the idea of it at least), so I credited it with reality through the mere fact of arguing with it. And sometimes, secretly, I would even pray. It’s when the going gets tough when you can see who’s a genuine atheist and who isn’t.
One time I joked that I wanted to kill myself but then gave it up because I couldn’t decide on the method.
I opened my second book of poetry with a poem that turned the Apostles’ Creed around and instead of “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” I wrote “I believe in Almighty Nothingness, creator of heaven and earth.”
Last year, when I visited some former high-school friends that lived in Prague, I told them I want to go visit a cathedral. They weren’t up to date with how I’ve transformed over the years so one of them jokingly asked me if it’s because I want to burn it down. Well I might have been rebellious, but I had never wanted to burn down anything, and surely not a church, but that says something about the kind of attitude I must have been radiating back in high-school (2).
But I have more examples, dating even earlier: When I was a little kid and used to spend the summer vacation at my grandmother’s, I would sometimes make noise during the quiet hours and she would tell me to keep it down. That’s when I would say I don’t care, and she would reply that some neighbor might come and complain. So I would reply I will kill all neighbors, then. She would say that it’s outrageous to say something like that and God is watching me. So I would then say that I will kill God too, and that I am God. When I think about it now, it seems crazy and funny (because I was a kid). It sometimes makes me joke that maybe that attitude was some sort of past-life residue, and to wonder what kind of a hell-raiser I must have been in that previous lifetime.
On a side note, there was only one neighbor I was afraid of – my grandmother learned that pretty quickly and made use of that. Just across her apartment was this guy who used to get really drunk, and one time I saw him lying in the grass face down, in front of the building. I got scared because I thought he was dead (back then I didn’t know the difference between “dead” and “dead-drunk”, but I spent plenty of time later field-researching this subject). So each time her other methods of calming me down didn’t work, my grandmother used to tell me that he will tell him to come to our apartment, something I didn’t look forward to.
Looking back, it all seems very immature. I would now normally give someone a good shake-up for such things. I mean that kind of an attitude was kind of ok for high-school and high-school may be the most proper time for it anyway, but if I would still be in that place now, it would be sad and I would have some very serious questions to ask myself.
One thing I am, let’s say, proud about, is that I was sincere about my torment, I was really involved in it. I was already intense about things and, as I’ve said many times, intensity is one of the things I cherish most in other people and especially in myself. Apart from that, it also seems to me that, in addition, I might have enjoyed that I could design my own game and play it.
I have transformed tremendously since then, and this certainly didn’t take place because I have converted or had a revelation. It also had nothing to do whatsoever with the idea of repentance, because I don’t think I have anything to repent for in this regard (except for, eventually, the worry I caused to people who loved me). Furthermore, it’s not like I now believe what I then rebelled against. My transformation was not that mechanical and artificial. It has been very gradual and organic. I simply went along with my inner process and made certain choices.
I am still very analytical. I am still very intellectually-inclined. I still care very much about clarity, common-sense, rationality, and coherence. What has maybe changed is that I am much more aware that there’s another, at least equally important dimension of me that hasn’t got much to do with rationality. One friend who sometimes makes fun of all my woo-woo spiritual stuff and discourse and who is very skeptical about it (to put it very mildly) pointed out to me that I am in the same time one of the most rational and coherent people he ever met. I told him I don’t see any real contradiction between the two aspects. That I’m not from here, I’ve know very clearly for quite a while now. But I also know that if I’m here, it’s because I have something to do here. And even if there would be no particular reason as to why I’m here (although I strongly think there is), I would still ask myself what I can do with the fact that I’m here, what I can make of it. It’s just crucial for me to understand what this plane of existence is about, to be involved in it, and to understand what my existence here is about. And for this purpose, I will use all the necessary instruments, both rational and non-rational, in accordance with the proper plane of reference. Apart from that, my fundamental nature is beyond all this, it is of a dimension beyond any label or reference point. It is like Shankara once said: “My logic is for the world, this is for me.” (3)
I should also note I never had religious education, I mean apart from the fact that we had religion classes in school. I knew some prayers from my grandmothers, but neither me nor my parents used to go to church or stuff like that. My parents were not atheists, they simply weren’t involved in any kind of religious practice. In fact, the only time I went to the Holy Resurrection ceremony was when me and my parents spent Easter at some family friends – and we went to the ceremony because they used to go to it. Some think that one starts walking the such-called spiritual path because they had religious education as a child and, while this stands true in some cases, I would rather say that it’s precisely because one is not programmed with all sorts of religious dogma and half-truths that they eventually pursues genuine spirituality – I find this is the case for me.
(1) Ironically, during elementary school I went to the Religion Olympiad two years in a row. It’s still funnily mysterious how I ended up doing that, in the sense that I had no interest in it. The religion teacher was an acquaintance of my mom so maybe he tried to count on that when he talked me into going, I don’t know. I was also probably too naïve, too much of a ‘good girl’ i.e. not being able to stand up for myself. The thing is I did go, despite not truly wanting to. I remember one of the subjects was something about Mother Mary and apparently I deduced that one has to write a glorifying essay and mix some theological dogma into it in order to get a high mark, so I did just that. It seems it worked, because I won the second place or something (I still have the diploma). But, obviously, it all was such a charade: the essay, the people there, and so on. It had absolutely nothing to do with a genuine understanding of spirituality.
(2) As far my relationship with the church in previous lifetimes is concerned: apparently, in a previous life I had such-called supernatural powers so I was deemed a witch and consequently sentenced to death by the witch-hunters (which could have been people of the church). Could that be a reason why in this lifetime I am a fan of the Zambian band called W.I.T.C.H.?
This reminds me of yet another dubious episode from childhood: I was a Black Sabbath fan (still am) and, learning that there is such a thing as a Witches’ Sabbath, I imagined how I would gather with my fellow witches and participate in such ceremonies. I understood basically nothing about it, it just seemed cool. In truth, I never resonated with the concept of the witch, with the practices, or with the adjacent stylistic arsenal.
(3) You can hear the story here.