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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. November's Theme: "Faith"
Volume 3 Issue 1 ISSN# 1708-3265

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Pain and Predestination
by Tira Brandon-Evans

Some time back one of the apprentices (Society of Celtic Shamans) emailed me saying she had been suffering with a headache for several days and was thinking she must have done something awful to deserve being in such pain.


When I heard this my heart went out to her. It is bad enough to be in pain without also having to feel guilty for causing the pain. I answered the headache was not her fault. We don't deserve pain and we don't deserve pleasure.

These things are.

We don't deserve to have the rain water our gardens in its season and we don't deserve to lose our favorite hosta to the slugs, or our strawberries to drought.

These things just happen.

Of course, if I see the strawberries are getting too dry I can water them. If I fail to water and tend to them I do deserve to go without strawberries. If I see evidence the slugs are eating my hosta and I do nothing to prevent this, I deserve to lose my hostas. But, even if I do everything I can to tend my garden, there are going to be some plants that just up and die on me for no reason I can see, and there will be other plants that spring up from nowhere - happy surprises I will enjoy in years to come. That is just the way things are in the garden - and so in life.


When I seek answers to this age old question, I read Job. I know it sounds odd to hear an animist and thoroughgoing Heathen reads Job when she is looking for wisdom. But Job is wonderful reading material and anyone looking for answers will find these in the pages of Job as surely as in one of Dr. Phil's books.

The reason Job is such a wonderful story is because it addresses all the hard questions - why do bad things happen to good people? What did I do to deserve this pain and misfortune? If God/Goddess, Spirit, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Brighid, Mary is so great and wonderful how could he/she let this happen? Why doesn't she/he punish people who are evil and reward people who are good? Why does he/she allow wars, plagues, starvation, tsunamis, earthquakes, and all the dreadful things that happen everyday to happen at all?

And the answer to all these is God/Goddess has nothing to do with it.

I know people who get mad at Goddess/God for allowing bad things to happen - but this is because they have been taught - and they believe - God/Goddess is:

(a) all powerful and so able to control all things, and
(b) all knowing and thus involved in the minute to minute operation and control of everything in the universe.

If these two propositions are true then it must follow that Goddess/God not only allows bad things to happen to good people, he/she causes the bad things to happen to good people.

Rather than believe something so horrible, many people prefer to be atheists and believe in nothing at all, for if we accept propositions (a) and (b) as true then we have to decide the "why" - and the answer must be that if she/he is all powerful and in 100% control then she/he cannot be very nice. But we are also taught that he/she is all good - good clean-through - light, love, all good things - that's Goddess/God. Right?

Well then, how can she/he be all powerful/all knowing/all good and allow bad things happen to good people? - who do we blame here? We have two choices - we can blame an alternate Goddess/God - call him/her Satan, Lucifer, Kali, Lillith - for all the bad things. Or we can blame ourselves.


Dualists go with the first choice - they divide the divine power into two halves - one dark, evil, chaotic and one light, good, orderly. In some belief systems the dark force and the light force are both active, aware, and working against one another. They are involved in an eternal war and looking for souls to help them out, to fight for the light or for the dark. Christians, Moslems, Jews, Zorastrians, and many other people of this world are 'war in heaven dualists'.


Then there are dualists who see the two halves as being essential to one another - as maintaining the balance of all things, as operating in perfect harmony - these include Taoists, Buddhists, Wiccans, and many New Age folk. They believe that we have to experience all things in our lives. That life is a sort of school. That the world is an illusion - sometimes they see the material world as an evil illusion - and our 'job' is to see through the illusion so we can get out of here and never, ever come back.


Predestination is the doctrine - the belief - that everything was set in stone from the day the universe was created and God/Goddess is never surprised. That she/he arranged the fall of every sparrow from before creation and nothing ever deviates from this plan.

According to this belief free will is an illusion. If you are born into a prosperous family, live a life of affluence, never know a day of illness in your life, marry the partner of your dreams, and enjoy a wonderful life of joy and perfection - it is because Goddess/God loved you from before the beginning of all things and set the whole universe up this way.

If you come from a poor family, live a life of hardship, never know a day of good health, marry Mr/Ms Wrong, and struggle through a life of sorrow and depression - it is because God/Goddess hated you from before the beginning of all things and set the whole universe up this way.


Now, as silly as this sounds, there are millions of people who believe this. Fundamentalist Christians are among those who believe this. This is the belief underlaying the spoken or unspoken opinion that the man begging on the street probably deserves it. He is not among God's elect and so we should not really second guess God by looking after the poor - except to put them into workhouses or prisons so we won't be bothered by them.

This is a heartless and selfish doctrine because it is arrogant and completely egocentric. "I am fortunate because I am good. I am good because God made me good. God made me good because he loves me therefore I am fortunate because I am good, upright, and saintly ."

And, as weird and crazy as this sounds, there are people all over the world who tell themselves the opposite - but equally egocentric - thing everyday. "I am poor, sick, and miserable because I am evil. I am evil because God made me evil. God made me evil because he hates me therefore I am poor, sick, and miserable because I am a wretched sinner."


Furthermore, there are people who believe that by telling themselves they are rich, perfectly healthy, and incredibly lucky in all things they will be - their declarations will make what they say true. Some are New Age folk who buy books full of these declarations to repeat. Others are folks who use mantras, charms, prayers, and spells to bring good luck. Either way, when things go well they believe it is because of their affirmations, prayers, mantras, and charms.

When things turn around and they get sick, lose their jobs, someone they love dies, or they suffer any misfortune they then blame themselves for not affirming or praying well enough, not repeating their mantras well enough or often enough, not doing their spells right, forgetting to 'recharge' their charms and so on. Or, they decide they need new affirmations, charms, spells, prayers and mantras and go off seeking someone or some group that will give them the secret of eternal happiness and good luck.

Positive affirmations, mantras, spells, charms, and prayers are good things. I use all these in my work, in my life, in my home, and garden to make me aware of the beauty, good, and wonder of our amazing world and to show my deep gratitude to whatever powers-that-be for all the good things in my life. But I do not expect my affirmations, mantras, spells, charms and prayer will keep me from all harm.

I do not control the world, not even the tiny part of it I occupy. Neither I nor Job can add even one inch to our heights by thinking about it.


It is obvious that either of these beliefs - "I am good because God made me good" and "I am evil because God made me evil" are both equally absurd.

We each build our own characters and our own lives through our day to day actions. We have free will. Today I may be good, kind, patient and loving. Tomorrow I may be mean, harsh, impatient and hateful. The next day I may be good and kind again. Why? Because that is human nature. It would be awfully nice if we could, each and every one of us, be perpetually good, patient, kind, and loving. But we aren't.

It would be nice if we could always be well in mind and body - but we aren't. It would be heaven on earth if we could all be prosperous, considerate, ecologically aware, and enlightened. But we aren't. That is the fact.

Should we try to be all good things all the time? Sure, of course we should.

Will any of us ever manage to be 100% good, wise, kind, healthy, or loving 24/7? No, of course not.

One of the reasons we won't ever be all good or all bad is because we are influenced by chance.


Chance, fortune, luck… all one and the same thing. We are each and every day influenced by random events. Some of these may be in our own homes, some may take place locally, regionally, nationally, internationally, or out in the wide world in nature. All events are bound to affect us in some way or other.

You wake up in the morning. Have some toast for breakfast. Get dressed and start your day. You leave your home and you have a choice - which way shall I go today? Shall I go along my usual route to work? or for my morning run? or to the shops? Shall I go another way? You make your choice. If you are a creature of habit you will probably choose to go the way you always go. Or you may remember the road work in progress there yesterday and you choose to go in another direction. The choice is yours.

What happens for the rest of the day will be shaped by that choice. You will see certain things along the way that will colour your thinking for a time or for your whole life. You will almost certainly arrive safely back home later in the day with little incident to recall, nothing out of the ordinary to report, but that safe and uneventful day is never guaranteed. You may be in a crash. You may be struck down by a bus. Or not.

There is no way to predict how your day will unfold because of free will and chance. Free will is what you decide, what action you choose to take. Chance is how that decision or action interacts with the world at large.


So, if it is all free will and luck or chance then why do things seem to work together sometimes - for good or for ill? Why is it that sometimes I turn on the tv or walk into the book store or surf the net and the very thing I am looking for pops up? I find the bit of information I need to jump-start my spiritual quest.

Is this 'just coincidence'? or is there a pattern here? and if there is a pattern, isn't that pattern the same thing as predestination?

Yes, it is. No, it isn't.


This is what I believe - and no one else has to believe it - this is just how I have worked things out for myself.

99.99% of what I do and who I am is chance and free will. My appearance is the result of a DNA dice toss, being overweight is due to my bad food choices.

My temperament is formed through luck of the draw or through a free will choice. Some say we chose when, where and to whom we will be born and if that is so my temperament is my choice, if I did not choose my parents and place of birth, then my character and temperament is formed entirely by chance. Nevertheless, once I reach the age of reason it is my choice to be patient or impatient, angry or forgiving, kind or cruel each day.

What of the other 00.01%? That tiny bit is fate. My residence in British Columbia is by chance and choice, but my emigration to Canada was FATE.

The universe conspired on that day to bring everything in my interior and exterior worlds together to one point, in one moment in time. That was what I call a 'two roads moment'. "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference." (Robert Frost)

That two-roads moment came to me in Daytona, Florida - on February 18, 1969 - I had just been through a number of unhappy years in my first marriage, my husband and I had split up, I was working in a nowhere job, my life was going nowhere, Daytona was a cultural desert, the war in Vietnam was raging, and I was very conscious of the fact that my taxes were supporting that war, - in short, everything was really horrible and horrid. I was very 'in the moment' and it was not a nice moment to be in.

I was driving along the main drag out by the raceway and pulled up to a stoplight behind a big pick-up truck, guns in the rack across the back window in the cab, a couple of red-tick hounds slobbering in the bed, and two bumper stickers - one on each side below the tail lights. One visually bellowed - "Kill 'Em All and Let God Sort 'Em Out". The other righteously proclaimed - "America, Love It Or Leave It".

In that moment I knew what I was going to do. I knew I was going to 'leave it'. I knew I was going to Canada. I knew this. I did not decide this. There was no choice involved. All the choices leading to this moment had already been made. Maybe every single choice I ever made and every single chance from the moment of my birth led to that one moment in time where two roads diverged in a wood and I knew I was going to take the one less travelled by.

So, is that fate?

Fate, I think, is when free will - all the decisions you have ever made all the actions you have ever taken - and chance - all the random chances that have happened since you first drew breath - come together in one moment and when they come together there is no more free will or chance. In that moment there is only fate.

99.99% of our lives is controlled by free will and chance. 00.01% is fate.

When we come to the place where the two roads diverge we are fated to do what we next do. We are fated to experience what chance brings us next.

That place where the roads diverge is not always so obvious. We sometimes don't realize we started down the road less - or more - travelled until years later. And sometimes we don't go driving off to Canada, or get married, or divorced, or have a baby, or meet the partner of our dreams, or find the perfect job. Sometimes we just pick up a book and our world is made or unmade in the reading of that book.


I believe we are here in this world to adventure - this is not a school. We are not here to learn lessons. We are here to experience the beauty and ugliness, the courage and fear, the pain and pleasure, the joy and the sorrow. We cannot have an adventure unless we have something to ad-venture - something to lose. In this world we can lose our lives and our honour. Or we can adventure well, with high heart and courage, and find something of infinite value along the way.

We are not here to do make-up work because we messed up last time we were around this way.

We are here to fully realize all things together, at once. To help and heal, to make and mend, to dwell in the perfect shining moment in the heart of the mystic rose and be love in action.

You get to come here only when you are ready, willing, and able to undertake the great adventure. Enjoy it.

One hundred thousand blessings to you and yours,
Tira of the Groves

Tira Brandon-Evans is the Founder and Moderator of the Society of Celtic Shamans, an editor of "Earthsongs: Journal of the Society of Celtic Shamans", and is, herself, a Faery Shaman.

Her books, "The Green and Burning Tree: A Faery Shaman's Handbook",
"Portals of the Seasons: A Celtic Wheel of the Year",
"Through the Unremembered Gate: Journeys of Initiation",
"The Labyrinthine Way: Walking Ancient Paths in a Modern World",
and "Healing Waters", are all published by Elder Grove Press. She is presently writing a book about the Ogham. You may contact Tira by email.

Surrender to Light, copyright (c) 2004 by Tira Brandon-Evans, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

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