Boundaries II: “I have a message from God…”

This is a revised version of an essay that I put together previously. It is part of a series of essays on proper boundaries between yourself and the world around you and within you.

In my last essay on Boundaries I discussed emotional boundaries between people. In Part II, I plan to take this concept one step farther and discuss Spiritual Boundaries between people and how to deal with it when you hear a medium convey a message from a god, or even your god.

Religions have long struggled with the question of how to handle people who say I have a message from the Divine… Kaldera states of such a position that:

This is the voice of the mystic, and it is secretly or not-so-secretly hated by both the other sides. One reason for that hatred is that it seems dangerous to trust the word of someone who has no credentials except a claim to talk to God, or the Gods, or the spirits, or whatever. […] Who are you, anyway, that they should believe what you say? You could be delusional, or lying in order to manipulate people, or just earnestly mistranslating the puppets in your head. And, to be fair, those are rational fears; any of those things could be true.

The other reason is that in order to believe in the slim chance that you’re telling the truth, they must confront their feelings about the fact that Jesus or Freyja or the ghost of the dead guy is not talking to them.

The question for most of us–including those of us who are spirit workers ourselves–is what to do when someone else conveys a message on the behalf of some entity supposedly outside of ourselves. Should we believe them? Should we automatically reject what they say? Should we go to that deity ourselves and ask? If our own UPG or established Lore™ contradicts what we are being told, does that mean they are wrong or that we are? How should we respond if that’s the case?

I will talk about proper boundaries when delivering these messages in a future essay, but for the moment the focus will be on receiving that information.

No matter what the status of your UPG is or the state of the message, you should probably respond to the deliverer the same way and then performing the same sanity check, as Danielle Higgins puts it:

I think the best way to respond to this is with a “Thank you for your concern, I’ll think on that,” and then check with your gods yourself.

Telling them “no, you are wrong!” even if you have radically differing gnosis is generally not a good tactic: it won’t go over well with them, and they may earnestly believe what they are conveying to you. They may even be right, no matter how strongly you think “that can’t be right” or respond negatively to it. On the other hand: Blindly following the advice, no matter what it is, also is a good way to get badly burned, even if you are 100% confident in the deliverer and that the message is itself genuine.

Thus, regardless of what the message is or who it is coming from–a well respected Shaman of your path, a newbie spirit worker, or a crazy man on the street–the first response should always be the same: Thank your for concern, I’ll think on that, Thank you, I’ll ask Him further about that, or some other variation on the theme. Even if the information was delivered via someone acting as a medium or a Horse, the best response is to courteously say Thank you for your concern, I’ll think on that.

The next step is to check with the gods/spirits/universe yourself. Even if you have poor signal clarity or are not a spirit worker, performing this check is essential. Even if “all” you do is sit down and meditate or pray for a while and never receive a definitive “answer,” this process allows you some space to let your mind process the message properly, and to help separate yourself from it and understand it. It will give you a gut reaction, and–more importantly–give you a chance to understand where that gut reaction is coming from. It gives you a chance to run through a sanity checklist on your own, asking questions along these lines:

What is my gut reaction to what was said and to who delivered it?

Your gut reaction is very important, because it is part of one of your judgement processes. To quote Nathaniel Branden: A clash between mind and emotions is a clash between two assessments, one of which is conscious, the other might not be. It is not invariably the case that the conscious assessment is superior to the subconscious one; that needs to be checked out. So, first question, what is your gut, emotional reaction to the message and to who delivered it.

It is also important to distinguish between these two reactions. To quote Raven Kaldera, in his essay Defining the Conundrum of Academic Research Into Spirit-Work: I know from experience that the Gods and spirits do not choose their targets on the basis of intelligence, competence, sanity, morals, life history, or general goodness. Actually, most spirit-workers (including myself) are completely bewildered as to what criteria the Gods and spirits do base their choices on.

You may love or not be able to stand the person delivering the message. You may find their behaviors vile and revolting, or you may find them to be a paragon of virtue. Either way, you will need to separate out your response to the message from your response to the messenger.

Why is my gut reaction what it is?

Having established what your reaction is to both the message and to who delivered it, the next question becomes why. Why do you react that way?

This is where Mindfulness becomes extremely important. We need to dispassionately examine our emotions and our reactions to and determine what is causing them. Is a past bad experience, a schema, some latent doubt coloring my reaction, or just my subconscious putting together something I can’t quite put into words? Regardless, I need to think about it and analyze that subconscious assessment.

No one’s gut reaction is perfect. Frequently that reaction is colored by schemata, past experiences which may-or-may-not apply, and current circumstances which may have nothing to do with the advice given.

On the other hand, no one’s conscious rational process is perfect. Frequently the rational process–which is conscious–ignores subconscious data that may be lingering just beyond our conscious perception. It may also factor in data that is relevant, but not directly enough so to be included in our conscious process. Either way, they both can be strengthened by applying one to the other.

Regardless of the quality of your own UPG, those are the first things to ask.

Next, you can check out the message itself: check on your own and/or (preferably and) check with someone else to get a “second opinion.” If it is really important, the gods have ways of making sure you get the message even if your signal clarity is down, and certainly won’t mind you asking. You don’t have to follow it–especially without checking it out on your own first–but you also shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand simply because it came from an outside source.

There are three basic cases that need to be addressed:

  • You have no UPG on the matter and cannot get any
  • You have agreeing UPG on the matter
  • You have contradictory UPG on the matter

Some thoughts on this topic and all three of these cases will be part of a future essay on boundaries. For the moment, the key questions are: What is my reaction, why am I having that reaction?

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3 Responses to Boundaries II: “I have a message from God…”

  1. Nornoriel says:

    “Blindly following the advice, no matter what it is, also is a good way to get badly burned, even if you are 100% confident in the deliverer and that the message is itself genuine.”

    I wish I could put this post in a bottle and send it back in time to myself 2-3 years ago. It would have saved me from a lot of grief.

    I agree with much of what you say here. I would add the caveat that sometimes a person has been burned enough (like myself) where we may not be open at all to random Deity messages or advice-giving, and just need to sort things out in our heads for a bit, and the person on the other side needs to respect that boundary… but I know you’re going to have a post dealing with the boundaries of those giving the message, too, so I’m probably jumping the gun here.

    I’d also add the caveat this is just in regular interactions; if someone is going to an event where a Deity is being horsed, or is consulting someone as an oracle, etc etc ad nauseum, I assume that the person knows what they’re potentially getting into as far as the Deity wanting a word or five with them… and they still have the option to do a gut check afterwards rather than follow it blindly.

    “What is my reaction, why am I having that reaction?”

    *nods* I think this is something that needs to be applied _all over the place_ for healthy boundaries, honestly…

    Anyway, excellent post… :)

  2. Hrafn says:

    @Nornoriel Thank you for the comment ^_^

    Yep, I’ll have the revised installment on boundaries when communicating messages out next week. It’ll talk about respecting other people’s identity boundaries and is basically just the mirror of the advice given in this essay: Tell them and then essentially let them be to figure things out for themselves.

    I know a lot of people, it seems, who have issues with channeled or relayed messages from a deity. Particularly if that deity is one that they have a closer association with than the messenger does (rightly, really). This is a particularly delicate case, and not one I feel all that qualified to address fully at this time, but that I may try to tackle specifically at a later point since it is a very important topic.

  3. Nornoriel says:

    Yeah, the issue that I have is not with channeled messages from Deity in and of itself, because I do acknowledge that sometimes the Gods will hijack a person’s brain to pass on a message. The issue that I have is a lot of people set themselves up to do the guru mentor thing and it gets very manipulative. Once upon a time, I used to have a bunch of people telling me (back when I was a Germanic Pagan, and Frey was my primary Deity) “Frey wants this”, “Frey wants that”, and whenever I would do what “Frey” supposedly wanted, I got screwed over, badly. This wound up contributing to the eventual destruction of my relationship with Him, though it was not the sole contributing factor.

    So I did want to get it out there that sometimes people might genuinely think they’re receiving a message they need to pass on, but they’re projecting what they think the other person “should” do… and that can be manipulative. And sometimes when people have been manipulated this way, we need a break from being given messages from other people, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    That being said… I really wish an essay like this existed 2-3 years ago. I wish I knew I had an option to say “OK thanks, I’ll go think about it,” rather than assuming I had to listen to people. But it is what it is, now. I just know I tend to be pretty skeptical in general of people who want to do the guru mentor thing, and I’m more likely to listen to someone who normally never dispenses advice or channels things and gets hit with it out of left field. I readily admit I’m biased because I got burned, but… yeah.

    Anyway… all that said, you’re welcome for the comment, thank you very much for re-posting this ^^ I’m looking forward to other posts in this series.

    -Noni

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