Of gates and bridges

A recent read, from someone who has gone through manipulation and betrayal at the hands of spiritual predators (and such people can unfortunately be found in just about any religious community) made me remember something I postulated years ago, when discussing the topic of the priesthood with another Heathen. A priest, or any other kind of spiritual leader, works best when s/he functions as a bridge to our gods, not as a gate. A gate is something that serves the person opening and closing it, and is subject to the agenda of the person doing the opening and closing. A bridge, however, is meant to serve those who cross it – it is not subject to its own agenda, other than to facilitate a way for people and gods to connect with one another. Functioning as a bridge, a true religious leader cannot afford a great ego – said leader understands that their purpose includes being trod upon. Bridges are open, you can see what’s on the other side … this isn’t necessarily the case with gates. Finally, bridges unite, while gates divide.

If you would look for a way to your gods, look for the bridges that are stable and sturdy, and let the gate keepers keep their gates as they will.

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14 responses to “Of gates and bridges

      • As a priestess I can see this problem very clear. There are people who like it to be a gate… I don’t like it. It makes me exclusive… in a bad way. I want to connect, not to separate.

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      • I think there are, historically, two main reasons for religious leadership. One has much to do with controlling people – it is as political in nature as it is religious. The other reason is simply to help unite people with the gods and spirits they are seeking. I can see where it might be possible to serve both purposes at once; but it is my opinion that this dilutes the leader’s effectiveness at either purpose. And you are absolutely right about the exclusivity that the gatekeeper mentality generates – perhaps this is preferable for some people, but I would prefer to have none of it.

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      • I like this topic. And I think much about it because I find it important to know what you want as a priest/ess (and how you define your job). I hope some other people will comment here, too.

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  1. Yes. This. Absolutely yes to this. :)

    I wrote a stumbly poem once about an extended metaphor, about keys, doors and mysteries in regards to accessing the Gods. While it contained the line concerning a bridge to all I must remember, the poem concerned the concept of access. I like the meaning and the imagery of bridges so much better. I like the part about purpose and ego – a priest must be aware of the bridge being a structure that is to be trod upon – and that is a necessary and valid point. I may have touched on a similar point when I wrote about mentors as well.

    In that sense, I shall seek bridges rather than doors when choosing my mentors.

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    • Your poem – did you post it to your blog, by any chance? If so, what is the title? I would be interested in reading it (as I find myself interested in most of your creative endeavors!).

      I remember reading about the ‘pre-training’ or testing for would-be shamans in some cultures: they are denigrated and humiliated by the people they mean to serve. Their egos are systematically broken down, so that they can be rebuilt for the very purpose of serving their communities. While I am not advocating this practice in our modern approach to building good religious leaders, I do think it’s a good idea to avoid those personalities whose sacred circles clearly aren’t large enough to contain their egos.

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    • A good point, about spiritual mentors being capable of straying in that fashion. Truth be known, I believe I have encountered someone who actually did stray from his original calling. I believe he originally felt drawn to helping people to connect, and had a capacity for being insightful that typically left me in awe; but somewhere along the way, I guess he got too big a kick out of having control over people, and fell into being a sort of spiritual predator. I never fell into the spiritual side of his abuse of trust; but I did at one point call him friend, and had my trust in him abused in that way. Eventually, when I called him on what he was doing, we had a falling out and have not spoken for quite some time.

      Your comment provokes another thought, when you write that not many such people are able to find their way back. I feel like this might actually be something worth discussing in its own right: can such leaders redeem themselves in their communities? Is a bridge that no one is willing to trust any different from a gate that no one wishes to pass through?

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      • I used to work in holistic medicine and I came across many people who used their title of “healer” or “guru” as a way to manipulate people and/or to boost their own egos. I have a pretty good radar for these types and can deflect them immediately.

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      • This is why I wanted to post about this topic, I’m hoping to make the radar a little more accessible – as you said in a prior comment – to people of any faith.

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  2. I love this post and agree so much with the shift in mental imagery between the gate and the bridge that a spiritual person whether leader or initiator has to make. Personally I think a lot of the gate mentality has to do with being judgemental while the whole purpose of choosing a spirtual path is to understand that we can neither know nor even seek to judge others nor even ourselves though we may attempt to do so initialy for we can only love others like we love ourselves.

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    • I think you are very right about the role judgement plays in all of this. It is one of the reasons why, sometime ago, I taught myself to avoid judgements, in favor of estimations … a judgement is normally a very rigid sort of thing, that is difficult to change when life and situations change. An estimation, on the other hand, is more fluid and tolerant not just of the imperfections of others, but of our own imperfections.

      Thank you for making the point that the bridge imagery doesn’t just apply to religious or spiritual leaders … this is a very profound point!

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      • When I was younger I was inclined to judge. Now I concentrate on just loving people however they are. This does not mean I believe in the “other cheek” theory that the Christian faith promotes as I think that we ought to love ourselves as we too are the Other like the Other is us. We should therefore keep ourselves of harm’s way when it is intentional and repetitive. Love others but love yourself enough to not let others consistently harm you is what I try to practise and it joins what you mention about estimations. I assess people’s ability to repeatedly harm me or others around me and then decide whether I can keep in contact or need to stay out of their reach. Perhaps one day my art of loving others will be strong enough to go beyond the hurt they could cause and cancel it before it starts but that day has not come yet

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