The first time I received any true information regarding my current belief system, I became broken. I had just found out that Samael and Abrasax, as a Mormon, were the gods I cried out to for help. Though it had been nearly a year since I met Them, and They were helpful, I thought they were separate beings from the Christian God. I had, up until that time, blamed all my problems as a child and throughout most of my adulthood on YVWH. I felt like my world was falling apart, and it was hard to come to the terms with all the times I really needed someone, but heard only silence. The times where I was in situations that They could have prevented. It didn’t make any sense, and I needed to make sense of it. I couldn’t believe with how nice They had been to me that they were involved in my perception of Them being an uncaring God.
This type of feeling and situation is called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is when you are presented with new information that contradicts previous information – and as a result causes the mind to resist new information. This resistance is a type of protection, because for some people all they have is their worldview. This is why religious people are so resistant to new information, once they accept wholly what they believe. It upsets everything they know, and they do not have the ability to keep an open mind.
This goes into the saying that if you have a full cup, you can’t fill it – meaning you don’t have the ability to learn anything new if you have solid preconceptions of information presented. Sometimes, we need to empty that cup and keep an open mind.
So, how does this effect us in magic? It effects us greatly, especially if we are searching for answers and truths. We cannot find either if we have concrete beliefs. There are beliefs that fall under ethical and moral compasses, which are subjective, but I am talking about ultimate truths.
For example, one of these truths is that everything is dynamic, not static. Everything is moving as a cycle only to recycle and begin again. This is a truth that may help with cognitive dissonance. Keeping an open mind and looking for clues, which may lead back to the beginning with even greater understanding. This seems to be a theme in my life, and in many others. I think that is why we have a hard time “breaking karma”. Once we understand what our lesson is, it goes in deeper. For example, one of my lessons is boundaries; I attract people that seem to like me, but in reality are only using me because I have a generous heart. My lesson now, because I have closed up, is to open up to being generous again – but this time have boundaries and know who is really my friend.
It has been harrowing, and full of sorrows, the path that I have taken. There has been a lot of cognitive dissonance, especially since I work with “poisonous” entities such as Samael and Sutekh (Set). Spiritual poison may transform or destroy, and that poison is the root of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is asking us to review our thoughts and beliefs. This can lead to periods of despondency and feeling hollow. While those are some of the negative effects, they are healing – it allows for our cup to empty before becoming full again. The trick is to realize you are in a slump, and choose a direction. It is in choosing the direction, and carrying out actions to go in that direction, that is difficult. It is easier to wallow in self pity and just see what happens, but this is also detrimental spiritually.
Along any path, especially when dealing with magic and the occult, you will have these feelings. It is natural to have cognitive dissonance, especially when breaking down old values to add new ones.
Cognitive Dissonance Symptoms
There are many feelings and events that happen when you have cognitive dissonance, especially in a spiritual sense. Here are few things you may experience.
- You may hear something and automatically dismiss it, not because you know it from experience, but because you believed something you were told, or that you read. This happens a lot, especially if there is a religious aspect. I consider religion a set of rules and beliefs that deal with your spiritual life; essentially dogma. Whether most people want to admit it, or not, dogma is in almost every practice, even atheistic cults.
- You feel torn, or at war, with yourself regarding any of your beliefs. You beliefs become your identity, and that is problem. You can still have a foundation of self, and have several identities working together. I call these labels and titles. It is how we, and other people, perceive ourselves as. Drop the labels and get to know yourself. We all have contradictions, whether through societal programming, biology, or mental health. It’s okay to admit this and reconcile with your whole self.
- You feel personally attacked every time someone mentions you or your beliefs in a negative light. It isn’t about you when someone expresses their opinion. Learn to take things less personally, if you have this problem.
- Everything seems dull. You feel lost and don’t know where you stand. You have conflicting emotions on what to do. These are common feelings of many people. This is where you need to choose something, anything, to start living again. It doesn’t even have to be big. You can start any type of project, and it should facilitate a purpose in your life. The key is to keep going. If you finish a project and don’t feel fulfilled, try another project. It’s difficult, but it does help in the long run.
There are other symptoms, but these are some of the most common.
There is no real relief from cognitive dissonance. Most people either suppress it, even if it is constant, or avoid anything that causes the problem. I suggest avoidance only until you are ready to face it, but not complete avoidance. That can eventually lead to a mental breakdown, especially if the information keeps presenting itself.
Cognitive dissonance can be a great tool to see where you are at in your development, and even help to open new avenues of thinking. This could include enhancing empathy, too. You just need to be aware in this state that sometimes things are not as they seem.
Remember that one of the biggest lessons and skills on the Left Hand Path is to take charge of your life, which cognitive dissonance teaches us how to do. Though it may seem difficult, you have the strength to carry on. The human spirit can become indomitable through adversity.
May your path be illuminated through the darkness. Hail Thyself!
Photo Credit: Found at https://www.boredpanda.com/depression-through-art/