The Pursuit of Happiness

Sometimes I write posts for others, and sometimes I am mostly writing for myself. This post is mainly something I am writing for myself to sort out my own thoughts. Happiness is probably one of the most discussed topics for mankind through all times. It’s also a concept which many have tried to explain. One of my favorite quotes related to happiness is from the philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau:

Happiness requires three things, a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.

What I like about this quote is that it says nothing explicitly about what happiness is, only three things which are required for it without really being too specific. Still it is simple and easy to understand.

In modern times, the ideology of individualism has gotten an increased importance. My argument is that it began after the 2nd World War when the shock from the two world wars was over and the economy was growing again in Europe. Groups which used to be marginalized got increased individual rights and the possibility to take place in and be heard in a society which traditionally had been ruled by white men. Welfare increased, I am not saying without any issues, but the argument here is that with better economy, social and technological advances it became easier for everyone to break out of the homogenous society and eventually a diverse society of individuals evolved. So before any group that feels marginalized cries out, I realize that many groups think they are quite far from reaching their end goal, but at least we have come quite a long way since the starting point for many of them.

The point here though is about happiness. And my argument is that with the increased diversity and individualism, the idea of what happiness is about, is also more diverse than before. And the focus on the individual has just continued to increase together with advances in technology and economy in particular. What I find interesting though, is that suddenly happiness, for many, doesn’t seem to be that simple anymore that it could fit with that simple quote by Rousseau.

               The Modern Idea of Happiness?

The world has most definitely changed with social media. Those of us who have chosen (is it really a choice for many of us though?) to be on social media are constantly bombarded with impressions and statements from every possible direction. At the same time most people try to make a portrait of themselves as successful as possible. The right selfie at the right time is important to us now. Some people are even risking their lives for the likes they get on social media, just so that they can get recognition by others, because that is what brings happiness nowadays, right?

Apparently the worst insult you can say to someone nowadays is: “there is nothing unique about you.”

Today perhaps this version of Rousseau’s happiness would be more fitting:

Happiness requires three things, a good bank account (as long as you can show off your prosperity to others), a good cook (remember to document what, when and where you ate), and a good digestion (be sure to express how healthy and well you feel now with a smile).

I guess most looked over to their neighbour in the past, but I don’t think we have compared ourselves to others as much as we are doing today than anytime before.

So am I going to be that one guy who tries to tell you to get your act together and live a simpler life? Most certainly not. That might work for some people, but for us knowledge seekers who would like to understand the world, it is not a satisfying answer. It must be broken down further so we can understand it.

I don’t think it is possible to find happiness as long as the main focus in on happiness itself. In search for their own happiness many seek to have ambitions. As long as they reach their ambitions, they think that will be satisfied and live a happy life. Then when they fulfill their ambition and realize it does not hold up to their expectations, they realize that they are still not content. Don’t misunderstand me and think that being unambitious can remedy it. Ambition has its uses, but they are not for the pursuit of happiness itself. What I mean is that we are building up our Ego, which is a false self. The Ego can never be satisfied or be content over time. It will always desire more or desire what is lost and cannot be retrieved again.  Therefore the Ego is an enemy of happiness.

To free oneself from that and “live a simpler life” is not a simple thing to do. It may mean accepting one’s fate, in the sense that there are circumstances outside of our own control, and that we may have to accept some rather uncomfortable truths in our lives. With social media we seem to have raised the expectations of what we can achieve beyond what’s reasonable.

Having a decent economy so that they can eat healthy and enjoy good health are things that most people in the western world can achieve. It’s fairly basic, but it only relates to things that you to some extent have control over. It does not involve other people with different agendas, which will happen when the desires gets more complicated.

            What can the tarot teach us about happiness?

Tarot is of course not a tool that will guide you to a simple path on your way to happiness, but if used correctly, as the tool that it is, it can challenge you to question some parts of your self that might be counterproductive.

This is why I find it so repulsive when people try to lighten up the tarot or even remove the darker aspects of it. I just don’t subscribe to this endless well of positivity that seems to be quite popular in big parts of the New Age or Alternative Movement.

On the other hand it can be equally annoying with people claiming that difficult situations are just a part of a growth process.

I don’t think the tarot is about any of that. It attempts to tell the whole story as it is. What is, simply is. It’s purely descriptive and it is our job to interpret it. If you go through the Major Arcana, you can put together quite a dramatic story. It has been done before and popularized  through the “Fool’s Journey”.  Some people put a lot of emphasis on it and like to teach beginners, because it makes it a little easier to remember what’s going on in the Major Arcana. I am not sure about its origins, but I think it is a fairly modern invention. Some people like it, some people don’t. The point is that it tells the story of the spiritual development of a character with all its ups and downs.

I am personally quite fond of Søren Kierkegaard’s three stages of existance: the aesthetic stage, the ethical stage and the religious stage of life. You can be content in any of these stages, but Kierkegaard’s argument is that it is not something stable that will be lasting in the first two stages. According to him you need to take a leap of faith and enter the religious stage before you can become truly happy. Kierkegaard was a Christian, so for him it was an attempt to explain why Christianity was important. I don’t think that following Christianity or any other religion is the correct way to happiness, but I do think that they offer some kind of spirituality that will allow people to deal with the hardships of life.

The Major Arcana can be split up into 3 equal parts 1-7, 8-14 and 15-21. The Fool is left out, as it is both the beginning and the end. I think it is quite plausible to add Kierkegaard’s three stages to them. The religious stage would be the last of the three categories as this is the part that deals with existensial crisis and spiritual questions. It is here that some of the darkest cards of the tarot appear such as The Devil and the Tower. On the other hand, it is also here that some of the most positive cards appear such as the Star and the Sun, and at the end The World (I prefer the Universe).

So how can tarot really help us towards happiness? It reminds us that there are no shortcuts to the ultimate goal. Once we accept who we are and focus on our own journey or development all these other factors or disturbances don’t really matter anymore. It forces you to accept that there will be some hardships, but also better times. Accepting both are equally important. It is impossible to be happy if everything needs to be perfect all the time, but it is also impossible to find happiness without hope or the celebrations of some achievements. Tarot is of course not necessary, but it is a tool that can be used as a reminder for or as a guide to self development. It is easy to get distracted towards something else without a focus point. As stated in the article I linked to above: “Kierkegaard believed one should look to oneself and in that relationship look to Christ as the example instead of looking at others because the more you look at others the less you see of yourself.”

It’s also important to keep in mind that it is just a tool. As the Chinese proverb says: “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.”

 

                                  Closing Words

I don’t think my thoughts here are either new or revolutionary. Yet we seem to live an age where people look more to others than ever before rather than concentrating on themselves. This kind of ego-driven individualism where it is more important to look good in the eyes of everyone else is counterproductive and in some cases even dangerous. There are so many bad things coming with it such as virtue signaling and political correctness, which can be a very dangerous unless the values that are being promoted are sometimes questioned. I think we need diversity. Accepting something, does not mean that it has to be something you agree with or something that you like.

If everyone looks to others for their own happiness and need their acknowledgement for it, then I don’t think it is possible to ever become truly happy. We also end up being very similar to one another and most likely trying to put on our brave masks in public, while in reality we probably (at some point at least) feel quite empty inside.

Rousseau was right, you don’t really need much more than a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.

-Thus Spake the Night Spirit

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Have you ever been out in nature all by yourself and felt like the wind, the trees and the animals are trying to tell you the same story, but all in their own unique way? 

 

 

The Secrets of the Runes

I think it is hard for me to avoid the mystery of the runes in the part of the world where I reside. So I decided to research a bit on the runes and learn how to use them for divination. It’s a bit cooler to be reading runes when you meet up with the local vikings, right? And for me with my heritage, it is simply something I see as must be done. So, I have decided to use the Elder Futhark runes, which is quite standard if you use runes for divination.

There are some fundamental things that I find important when it comes to reading runes for divination that I think would be useful for beginners to know. The ancient art of rune reading is unfortunately not something that history has preserved for us in an unbroken line. What we have today is an attempt at reconstruction and anyone claiming anything else would not be speaking the truth.

Having that said, I don’t find that very problematic. If you look at modern tarot practice there are as many ways to read tarot as there are readers. There is no reason to believe that it would have been any different for rune readers back in the days. As tarot readers interpret the cards differently, rune readers probably also interpreted the runes differently. It is an art, and to be good at it, you have to make it your own (and practice a lot).

I don’t subscribe to any idea that there is a clear and definite meaning for the runes. When working with tarot we are working with archetypes and it is the same when working with the runes. The keywords for tmodern rune reading come from the rune poems: the Icelandic, the Norwegian and the Anglo-Saxon rune poems. And this is also where it is appropriate to point out that the rune poems aren’t actually based on the Elder Futhark. There are 24 runes in the Elder Futhark and the rune poems describe 16 runes in the Icelandic and Norwegian versions and 26 in the Anglo-Saxon version. The Anglo-Saxon version also shows influences from Christianity. So this means that the rune poems are based on the Younger Futhark and all that we have left  for the Elder Futhark is an attempt at reconstruction. There may have been an older rune poem for Elder Futhark, but if so, it never survived.

There are various sites out there on the divinatory meaning of the runes, and I think it is important to realize that many have added their own personal interpretations. That is not to say that it is a bad thing, but it is important to know so that you don’t get stuck with what each rune means. It is the very same thing that make a lot of people struggle with tarot cards. Runes are arguably more difficult though, as there are no images to support your reading. My suggestion is to first start with memorizing the names of the runes and just a couple of keywords for each rune. Start with a notebook where you note down all the runes and the keywords and later on you can add your own if you find that it makes sense to you.

The reason I am writing this is that there has been a lot of false information over the years. Particularly during the 80s with New Age movement and pagan revival. Books and systems were being made without being completely honest about the motivation behind them and the origin of the material.

I think it is much better to be open about that it is a constructed system (tarot is also a constructed system), but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. In fact it means that magic is very much alive today. Perhaps it is meant to be something that is living and evolving and only then can you unlock the true potential and secrets of the runes. I will leave it at that and write another post about the nice set of runes that I got for myself. And perhaps later will I share some spreads that I find useful that I have created myself.

Thus spake the Night Spirit

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How the tarot has helped me in unexpected ways

I never really liked the term tarot master, because it gives you the idea that there is some kind of ladder involved that you can climb to improve your skills. It is true that you can improve your skills and knowledge of the tarot, but it is nearly impossible to measure it.  I suppose it is quite measureable to analyze your hit/miss right for divinations, but is that all that counts?

It is my belief, that the more skilled you become with the tarot, the more you realize that divination is only a small part of what you can do with it. Reading about it and continuing working with it will in itself be rewarding.

When I picked up my first tarot deck it was of course the divination that I found the most exciting. Let’s be honest, it is probably the most exciting work you can do in the short term. You get an instant answer to your question and you may get feedback from clients. In this day and age where we live with social media and are used to get constant confirmation of our ego by others, it feels very good to feel that rush from a successful divination and positive feedback from an inspired patron.

I don’t deny that is fun and a great feeling, but if someone would ask me what my most valuable experiences with the tarot would be, it would not be those divination sessions. It would probably be the knowledge that I know I can acquire if I am willing to commit to keep studying and using the tarot. For example, if I take the fool card and ask myself how can I apply the ideas from this card into my life?

My answer to that is that it reminds me that I can allow myself to approach situations in life with a childlike curiosity and allow myself to make some mistakes while learning something new. It does not mean that I should be careless and irresponsible, but most of the time making some mistakes doesn’t really matter that much. And in many cases you will also learn from them and improve your skill.

When I first started out with tarot, I did not realize that you can get valuable lessons or advice from the tarot just by contemplating. It can be done with any card in the deck and it gets even more interesting when you put together cards that belong together. The lessons you gain from that can take a long time to comprehend though. When I did that for “The other part of Venus” post I wrote, I had no idea that it would take me a year to even get a grasp on how to approach the next part of the post. And I am not even sure if I have understood enough yet to write out the second part quite yet.

For me at least that is one of the deeper and more profound experiences that I have had with tarot.

I have also attempted to use tarot in spirit communication and felt that it has been a good tool for me to have there. Particularly, because I am not a person who tend to have a lot of visions or hear voices. I suppose this is not quite an unexpected way, but I included it anyway.

I also believe that you don’t really need to be particularly spiritual to benefit from tarot. It’s basically a deck full of ideas and can help to map out a difficult situation and challenge you to try and see something from different angles. I can understand though that it will be difficult for someone who isn’t all that spiritual to use a tool that is heavily connected to spirituality. But it can be done.

If you haven’t tried to use tarot for something else than divination, just give it a chance. Maybe the results will surprise you.

-Thus spake the Night Spirit

Tarotkort

 

 

A Living World – part 1

Once upon a time in my younger days I had to struggle myself through a book called “The Making of the Modern Mind” by John Herman Randall, JR. Or at least parts of it. I was nineteen years old at the time, and I was studying history of ideas. It’s an old book first published in 1926 and then edited and released again in 1940. It’s an excellent book, but perhaps not the easiest to read for a 19 year old with English as a second language. What I learned from reading it was how the worldview gradually changed to a mechanistic worldview where the world was treated like a dead object. It was during this period in the history of mankind that science as we know it today emerged. This led to a lot of technological breakthroughs and eventually the industrialization of the world. “God is dead” Nietzsche claimed. And many thought that eventually religion and spirituality would vanish. Today, we know that is not the case.

There is a thriving magic community alive today, and there are probably more books on the subject of spirtituality published now than ever before. In the magic scene old texts have been rediscovered and been put back together again by scholars then they are published so that they become available to anyone. People, read, discuss, argue and try to practice themselves.

When doing so, people are reading and reconnecting with a very different worldview than what is predominant today. They are discovering that there once was a very different world where it was not treated as a dead thing. In a historical perspective, modernity, which is roughly the past 500 years, is only a very brief moment in time. Science has given us many technological breakthroughs and greatly improved the standard of living for most people in the world, but the need for spirituality seems to be unchanged through all of it. Many people seem to think that spirituality and/or religion is contradictory to science, I personally, don’t think it is. Science is basically just a method of proving theories wrong (note that it is about falsifying and not confirming anything) based on experience. What science doesn’t offer is spirituality or a more complete understanding of the world. It is fragmented and often in disagreement with itself (which it has to be, or else science could not evolve further). There are some people who seem to think that science offers an explanation for everything and are even willing to use inadequate scientific models to construct their reality. I would refer to that as “Scientism”. Ironically though, that is exactly what science should avoid, so “Scientism” isn’t really a proper scientific view of the world.

What most people tend to get mixed up in the debate of religion/spirituality vs science are the criterias for what will be accepted as truth. A spiritual or religious understanding of the world is usually more fluid and less precise than what a scientific understanding of the world is. Therefore it doesn’t fit into the scientific model (and it never will). The problem though is that the scientific criterias are too strict. Religions and spiritual experiences are not something that can be shared and observed by multiple people at the same time and written down in a journal with precise language, which would be a requirement for it to ever be described properly in scientific terms. As I said, science is just a method and that method is not directly connected to our own human sensory experiences. We may have sensory experiences that would be very difficult to put down in scientific terms (or even in proper language). Dreams we have may be a good example where our senses can be distorted and when we wake up and remember the dream we rationalize it and try to make out what really happened in the dream, even though the experience itself felt hazy and distant. Only after we have processed it, it becomes a tangible memory.

So why am I bringing all of this up? Primarily, because it helps sort out my own thoughts on the subject and I find it very interesting. What I think will happen long term though is that the “collective consciousness” if we can call it that is going to change. It will no longer be purely scientific or religious/spiritual, but it will merge together and exist side by side (today it is more like you have to choose between one or the other). 500 years are nothing when you look at how long this world has existed. In a historical perspective paradigms are often thesis and antithesis to eachother and eventually they merge together in a synthesis (check out the Phenomology of Spirit). This is also what I think eventually will happen with science and religion/spirituality. And by that I don’t mean that they necessarily will merge into the same thing, but rather that there will be a way that they can co-exist and people have learned that they offer different criterias for truth and that it is actually possible to shift between them.

Having that said there is no denying that there are religious and spiritual groups out there who blatantly ignore science and what it stands for. This post is absolutely not for defending these people. I am of the opinion that any kind of spirituality that doesn’t take science into consideration, doesn’t have the right to exist.

I also realize that what I have written this far is merely the introduction to the topic. I think it is necessary though to explain the background before I start exploring what I think is a living and dynamic spiritual world. I will have to continue this later…

-Thus spake the Night Spirit

 

Fullmoon