“The fire, the well and sacred tree; flow and flame and grow in me.” So goes a commonly used phrase in ADF liturgy. It is said in various ways at high day rites and by different groves, but the idea is all there. The other day, a person publicly announced that they were leaving ADF because they found it did not focus enough on what was going on inside a person. That it was too focused on devotionals. That they also think we spend all our time talking about “right relationship” and that they do not care about that or right action. That ADF does not spend enough time dealing with “the messy, mucky, complicated, beautiful acts of being human that have nothing to do with how virtuous or pious we are.”
I have pondered over their words for several days now, and to the writer I can only say they did not integrate the concepts, they did not enfold the metaphor to their inner life. That is, the fault is not so much with the ADF but with the person. You see good readers it is all METAPHOR! Every religion; all of them. Every single one of them is a metaphor for our spiritual experiences in life. Hey!, Great if they think they are literal truth, but with that truth is a metaphor. It is up to the individual to integrate that metaphor into their life, thus finding the wisdom and unlocking the secrets to a spiritual existence. No one can do this for another. At best we can say “look this is a metaphor for your life, now figure out what it means to YOU. Apply it to YOU as you can.” So to the charge that ADF is not inwardly focused, let me point out just a few of the ways I see that it is. As noted at the beginning of this post ADF ritual tell us to “Let the waters flow within us, let the fire burn within us, and to let the tree grow within us.” This is a metaphor that means that we each need to tend to all the associations of the well, fire and tree, inside us. What are these associations you ask? I am happy to tell you, but it’s all just metaphors. You would be a thousand times better off going about your own inner work and coming to understand what the associations are TO YOU. How do you do that? YOU TURN INWARD.
ADF is concerned with “right relationship” and rightly so I think. Before I go on we need to have an understanding of what is meant by “right relationship”. It means to maintain a balanced relationship between you and the gods, the spirits of nature (thus nature itself) and the ancestors. It also means to maintain a right relationship with yourself. How do you maintain right relationship with yourself? YOU TURN INWARD. To know if you are in “right relationship” with oneself you are forced to turn inward and address what one finds, then taking actions both internally and externally to bring that relationship back to balance.
As part of the Dedicant’s path the novice is asked to start what is called “mental discipline”. This is some sort of practice that forces the novice to sit down at least once a week and turn inward. For most this is some sort of meditation, though not always. Though the requirement is weekly, I recommend that it be done daily. Though again not required, this practice is encouraged to go on long after the Dedicant’s path work is done. All of this is a form of ADF having a person TURN INWARD.
Once past the Dedicant’s work, we have several trainings that encourage further practices of Trance work and poetry that if applied correctly will cause a person to TURN INWARD.
So I have shown a number of ways that ADF directs the person to turn inward. ADF gives metaphor with which to navigate the inner world, and in the courses it asks the student to find techniques that will turn them inward. All of these are tools that help a person deal with the “..messy, mucky, complicated, beautiful act of being human that have nothing to do with how virtuous or pious we are.”
The author finishes with “…I don’t think I can, through my own actions, earn my way to good standing with the Gods.” To this I would share what a wise druid once told me, “Whether you think you can or you can’t…your right.”ADF is not at all a perfect organization, and probably not a perfect religion. It certainly is not the religion for everyone. People come, do, and decide to go. That’s great. Just do not blame the system for your missing the road signs, not internalizing the metaphors, or finishing the work of the DP.