I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast where we're adventuring into the world of mindful modern magic and authentic spiritual practice. It's April 28, 2022, and today's topic is whether our spiritual beliefs and practices can be a way to solve the problems in our lives. Are you ready to grow your soul?
Welcome back to the podcast, witchy friends!
I didn’t plan for the podcast to go this direction or for it to be any kind of series, but I’ve kind of found my brain going to these kind of important questions about the fundamental nature of spirituality and magic and all of that, and today is no exception. Can spirituality, can our spiritual practices solve the problems we face in life? Is that the function that it… I don’t like the phrase “meant to solve” because I don’t think spirituality is something that is “meant” to do anything, it’s something that has evolved to serve a purpose. But what are the limits of that purpose? And within those limits, does that include all of the things that we sometimes want it to do for us?
Specifically I want to just get down and dirty and talk about things like, you know, can we turn to spiritual practices and spirituality and, I mean, even magic to deal with poverty or health problems or things like that? This is one of those things that I feel like the magical community especially, definitely the New Age spirituality community, and in a lot of ways just the spiritual community in general likes to shy away from unless we’re arguing the limitations of forms of spirituality we don’t believe in, but it’s something that I think we all need to think through in terms of our own spiritual beliefs and practices. Because it’s not a matter of, like, if we believe in the… whatever we believe in, if we believe in that, we have to believe that the potential capabilities of those powers or whatever are unlimited. But any belief we’ve ever, as a human race, as human civilizations and religions, any belief we’ve ever had in the unchecked power of a deity is only theoretical at best.
Because we see that there are limits, we see that there are things that the forces we believe in don’t do, right? Either they can’t or don’t, and if they don’t then the reasons why there are limitations, even if they are self-imposed, become part of the mythology and dogma of that belief system. We know that our gods aren’t all-powerful. We know it. Even if we believe they could be, they clearly don’t exercise those abilities.
Now, to be clear, and if you’ve been a regular listener you know that I’m not one who believes in any deity, definitely not any all-powerful ones, but the point I’m making is not to argue against the belief in entities like that. My point is that it’s just literally part of every single belief system that the highest powers either can’t literally do anything or that they refrain for whatever reason, and either way that means that their power has limits.
If the highest powers in our belief systems have limits, so do we. As magical practitioners, we have limits. We can’t grow extra limbs, we can’t topple governments, we can’t stop natural disasters, and we know this, yeah? We know that our ability to influence our reality, to make things happen in our lives even through mysterious and magical means does exist, for sure, but we know that somewhere between manifesting an extra $20 for ourselves and ending poverty in the world, there’s a point in there where our powers reach their limit.
Now, the one thing I’m not even going to try to get into here today is trying to pinpoint where that limit is. Delineating what we can and can’t do either spiritually or magically or just flat out human ability and effort, but what I do want to get everyone thinking about is the importance of understanding that, no matter how much you like the Mean Girls quote, the limit does exist.
And that has ramifications for our practice. It means that there are things, there are situations and occurrences and parts of reality that we have to deal with but which we either have to acknowledge can’t be fixed or changed through spiritual means and maybe can’t even be fixed or changed by any means at our disposal.
So what does it mean for us in a spiritual sense that there are parts of our lived experience we can’t change? For some of us, that’s where we turn to our faith in a higher power whose abilities are greater than ours. For some of us, that’s where we acknowledge that we’re part of a greater universe and that we are called to do what we can with what we’re given. For some of us, that’s where we fall back on a trust or faith that there’s a greater plan or purpose in whatever we experience. And I’m sure a zillion other approaches.
But what’s important to recognize in a lot of ways, past the point where we’re able to literally change things in our lives, our spirituality doesn’t so much solve our problems as much as it gives us some foundation for understanding them. Which is super significant, right? Super important? I think if we just take the question of can spirituality really solve our problems as a simple yes or no, clearly it can’t solve them all. It can solve some, and I’ll get more into that in the next portion of the episode, but in terms of literally making problems go away, literally changing the conditions that we define as problems, it doesn’t do that for everything. But it can and I think as one of its most important functions, and I’m talking about spirituality in general, here, it can and does help us contextualize and redefine and find ways to deal with the problems it can’t solve.
But that’s not the entirety of the answer, of course, and it’s not the root of what I really wanted to get into most, so let’s break this down in a different way.
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Now back to the episode!
I’ve talked on here before about the alchemical essences that, in that way of seeing the universe, make up everything in existence. Everything has a body, soul, and spirit – salt, sulfur, and mercury. And I think this is a good framework for looking at how our spirituality, how our spirit interacts with and impacts things beyond ourselves and how that, you know, how it works when it comes to the things that are problems and things that need to be fixed or addressed in our lives. And it’s a good framework for understanding where those limits might be and why they exist.
And since we’re talking about spirituality, that starts from a place of spirit. When it comes to us as individuals, as humans, our spirit is made up of energy, stuff like thoughts and ideas and communication as well as more literal forms like motion and heat and sound and whatever. In fact, we can break down the overall idea of spirit into its own essences. So, like, spirit of body would be the kinds of exchange and energies that support and fuel the body like nutrition and oxygen and those that are physical outputs like movement and action. There’s spirit of soul which are the energies and exchanges which shape and come from the soul, which are things like memories and emotions. And then there’s the spirit of spirit, our thoughts and ideas, the information we take in, narratives and stories, that kind of thing. All of that is spirit, and it’s not a coincidence that our spirituality and spiritual practices are wrapped up in that stuff.
And working with those energies is really where our power lies, right? The way we handle problems in our lives is fundamentally spiritual when we talk about it in this, like, alchemical sense.
Now, the stuff around us, everything from each individual person in our lives to the objects around us to bigger things like the human race and the earth itself, all of it has its own body, soul, and spirit. And we interact with that stuff through spirit. So, like, we communicate with each other through movement and sound and by exchanging ideas, that sort of thing, right? If something is in my way and I need it to move, I either use more physical forms of spirit like force and movement and kinetic energy to, like, literally move it, or I use forms of spirit like communication or whatever to get someone else to put in the physical forms of spirit to do that. Right? There’s either that compatibility of forms of energy and the right amount of it to produce the impact, or we find a way to collaborate and collect the right amount of the right form of energy, or we’re kind of past that limit.
There are things in the world, in the universe, which… Everything has spirit, but not everything has consciousness, not everything is animated, not everything is… I don’t want to go on and on here but this could be a whole treatise getting into the details. But part of what limits us is that, like, the forms of spiritual exchange we have at our disposal isn’t enough and isn’t the right form to change things in the way we want to.
So, like, I can scream at the moon to try and get it to change its orbit, but the moon doesn’t respond to energy in that form, I don’t have the ability to be heard that far away even if it did, and therefore it’s just not, like, that’s not going to work. Now, depending on our spiritual beliefs and the entities and forces we feel connected to, if we have the spiritual capability of bringing them into play to get the impact we want and if they are spiritually capable of it, then yeah, our spiritual practices, magical practices, whatever transcends our own individual limitations. If we’re part of a larger community, especially a larger community united in similar spiritual practices, that also allows us to transcend our own individual limitations by, you know, the power of larger numbers putting their energy towards the same goals. If we have certain types of resources at our disposal, things like money or influence or whatever, which are all forms of spirit but which kind of exist as entities in themselves, then that does the same thing.
It’s really helpful to kind of understand the ways that our spirituality can help us transcend our individual spiritual limitations because it helps us understand why there are things we can’t change and can help us not pour our energy into things that deplete us without purpose or without having an impact.
So if we then think about the nature of the problems we turn to spirituality to solve, looking at the roots of them, the things that need to change to bring solution, and what the spiritual implications of that is, is it… There’s that point where we get into faith and magic, right? Where we don’t really know for sure if what we put out is going to have the impact we want, where we maybe don’t know for sure what kind of changes, what kind of spiritual chain reaction needs to happen to make the change we want, where we kind of hopefully put out what we can in the form we thing is best and just trust that the universe or the gods or the whatever will work in ways we can’t control and do the thing. And that’s… Faith and hope and luck are all parts of spirituality, for sure. But at some point then there are things that are just not within the reasonable bounds of what we can change.
And going back to what I was talking about earlier, turning to that faith and hope and stuff as a way to help us recontextualize and redefine things, to help us deal with things we can’t fix or change, on a spiritual level can also be a way of fixing our problems. Just because we can’t undo things that have happened or always change things in the ways that we think they need to change to make our problems go away doesn’t mean, spiritually or in a more mundane sense, doesn’t mean we can’t look to spirituality for solutions, which is what I want to dig into next.
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Part of what I think has to be addressed when we think about spirituality as a functional solution-creator in our lives is exactly what we mean by problems and what we mean by solving them. Because I think one of the biggest and most detrimental bits of mindset in spirituality and in just, like life in general is the way we kind of go one-track on this. We have a vision for the way things should be, should have been, ought to be, and when reality doesn’t match that, it’s a problem to solve, right?
And I’m not saying that nobody has real problems. I think part of this whole question is also kind of thinking through this idea that comes up in spiritual circles where, like, mundane difficulties are unimportant as long as your spiritual self is aligned or whatever. The material and mundane world and all the difficulties we face are real to varying degrees and, I mean, it’s not separate from our spiritual existence.
But when we break down the things that we think are problems to solve, a lot of times the thing we think of as the solution is just one of many, and sometimes there is a spiritual path forward where the practical or mundane “fix it” type solution isn’t a possibility. Because there is, you know, if you’ve run in the mindset-focused, spirituality-is-everything circles, there’s absolutely some belief stuff in there which just defies not just logic but even, like… Faith does have its limits, the power of spirit does have its limits, and there’s plenty of circles out there where those limits just aren’t perceived, where literal damage is done by convincing people that mind over matter, the power of magic, the power of spirit, faith in a higher power, all of that is all it takes to literally rewrite and restructure the fabric of reality on an individual’s behalf.
Can we change every situation that we struggle with if we have enough faith or the right mindset? Of course not. But can we leverage our spirituality in ways that have a huge impact on these situations? Usually, yeah. Because the things we struggle with in life aren’t usually just simple material, physical issues to be solved by simple action. The struggles we face have emotional components, relationship components, they challenge our level of knowledge or know-how. A lot of our struggles have more to do with things not going to the plan or expectations we have than they do with present difficulties. Some struggles can’t be fixed or solved or removed but they can be just, like, walked away from, and the reasons we don’t want to walk away are emotional and relational and all of that. There’s… Those things, the emotional, relational, mental stuff especially, that’s absolutely in the realm of spirit, right? That’s the kind of thing that spirituality can absolutely be brought in to help with and in that way yes, our spirituality can solve lots of our problems even in cases when it can’t really be used to literally change a situation for us.
Which is why… I find it really frustrating, personally, to watch people wait and hope and pray and do spells and whatever to try and entice the powers that be to literally change reality for them so they they don’t have to deal with the emotional stuff, the relational stuff, even though going through that would open doors for them. And I think it’s important for us to not just be honest with ourselves about, like, how much we do that, how often we find ourselves in that kind of situation and way of thinking.
But it’s almost and maybe even more important to really dig into our spiritual belief systems, really sit with our attitude toward things like faith and magic and the limits of our power, what is absolute in the universe and all of that, and what that means about the role of spirituality in our lives. If we expect spirituality and magic to be the fix-it squad and make life easy for us, is that a reasonable expectation? What has that looked like in your life and what do you think it is supposed to look like?
And I don’t say this to try and damage anyone’s faith or beliefs, seriously. It’s… When we use our spirituality to absolve us of any need to do work on ourselves, to do what we can to make our reality better, all of that, then we’re also sitting out and avoiding the most beneficial parts of spiritual practice. We’re avoiding the connections and the growth and all of that.
We’re bypassing, right?
It’s… I think one of the worst things humans have done in the name of spirituality is turn spiritual practice into an excuse to just, like, sit down and do nothing and expect the universe to reward us for being good or being special or whatever. It is absolutely part of magical traditions, too, by the way. This isn’t just, I’m not just talking about organized faith-based religions or New Age spirituality and mindset, it’s part of how we often approach magic these days, too. Expecting that if there’s something wrong, we can turn to our practices and our faith and our goodness and our power to shape reality to our desires.
Hopefully this… I will say that if, like, if this bothers you to think about, then it’s that much more important to confront it and do some thinking about all of it. Not because there’s one right answer to what is possible and what is not, but because the real power of spirituality and magic is rooted in the kind of deep and realistic understanding that only comes from asking some really deep questions of ourselves.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.