The issue of control loss and/or relinquishment to one’s gods is one that pops up often in the context of discussing relationships with the divine. On a side there’s the ‘you must NEVER refuse gods and ALWAYS submit to them, because service is IMPORTANT, HUMBLING work’ argument. On another side there’s the ‘ Stay in control! you should be careful about not allowing them to ask for too much -set boundaries and let them see it.’ argument.
I see points in both arguments, to be honest. I think boundaries are necessary when dealing with spirits, even if only so you know how far you are ready to go. Boundaries are also important because not all spirits/gods will care about you in the same capacity and some might even be interested in a pushover they can take advantage of, if they can find one.
Knowing when and how to tell ‘no’ is a valid tool as any when it comes to spirit-work. You are not the part of the equation with the most power after all, so knowing how to barter/negotiate yourself out of a tough spot without causing offense keeps the scales of your devotional relationships relatively even. Also, my experience is that excessive subservience or even co-dependence are not what most gods are after.
Codependence and interdipencence are not the same thing. A deity-type-person is still a deity … that difference of power comes along with a wider perspective than ours, a wider awareness of the universe. Walking with them can bring us out of our comfort zones – it can happen to be asked to take a leap of faith in some situations and relinquish the control in their hands, to an extent . Now, we do live in a pretty chaotic world and we are aware every day of how much chance makes a fool of our projects, yet the fact our culture exalts the appeareance of safety and control over nature ‘s forces as the ideal we should all strive toward tends to paint the notion of relinquishing even a slice of your control over your life as almost blasphemous.
We are taught that we as human beings are entitled to dominate the natural world and that we should take up a journey only we are the only ones who decide when to quit and when to strive forward, that we should be always complete masters of ourselves and our surroundings. The concept of offering fealty and sticking to it though thin and thick (even when you don’t see immediate benefits or understand the sense of the twist in the path) became rather distant from us as culture.
Fealty is not something one gives blindly – it’s given out trust and respect and yes, even personal benefit. Sometimes standing by that means submitting to a will greater than yours.
It can mean that you don’t rage against your deities the moment they shove you into completing that bit of shadow-work you don’t feel up to at a given time, even if you had asked for their help, that you don’t turn away from them the instant they didn’t give you exactly what you wanted but what they think you need . It can mean that occasionally your desires are not top priority and that’s okay – even if maybe you don’t see the whys and the hows until much later.
Relinquishing control is not equal to having no personal agency and to serve/submit, are not equal to lose yourself to existential subservience.
Religious service is a give and take – you may give some things in order to receive others. You feed, in order to be fed.
It’s not infrequent that in a devotional relationship the devotee is asked to relinquish control, to put hirself in a situation where zir deity can either catch hir or let hir fall. I wonder often why – from a Christian viewpoint, tests like that are about how much ‘faithful’ you can stay even in the face of contrary odds, at least if you go by the Bible.
In polytheistic/mysticism-related context on the other hand… it’s not so simple. Every time I have been in that sort of situation it was never about the outcome or the blind faith trial thing. It was about the process. Letting go of the boundaries of the ego by giving over the reins -for a moment- became a transformative event in itself.
The path of preparation to the ordeal, the conscious choice of exposure , were always more important than the final step beyond the threshold – they were about something more than building trust even if trust was necessary to go through it. And when the final step was taken, there was just as much to be learned from failure as there was from success.
So… I bet you thought there was a moral coming to whole this long, long ramble, but I am not really the type and what is tested as good for me may not be as good for someone else.
I think the *ability* to relinquish control is important to the mystic path, even if that’s really not something I excel at. Same for the capacity of set boundaries, mental ones and not.
I also think that discrimination is your best ally – there are moments to assert yourself and your will, even when dealing with gods, and moments to just bow to authority and do the work, regardless of how you feel (at least if you want to keep the relationship going). You can be respectful in both instances.