Close your eyes and breathe deeply, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Take a few moments and focus on your breathing and on relaxing your body. You see yourself standing in a brightly lit hall. Around you are thousands of people all waiting, all seeking judgment and the knowledge of their own inner balance.
In the distance you see the Goddess Ma’at standing at an ornate daïs. She appears as a young woman with long flowing dark hair. On her head is an ornate headdress holding a single ostrich feather. In one hand she holds the scepter of power and in the other the ankh of eternal life. Person after person approaches her and as each comes to stand before her, she takes the feather from her headdress and weighs the value of each individual’s heart and worth for a lifetime of deeds.
From where you stand you cannot see the outcome of her judgment. Nor have you been called to stand before her yet. As the next person approaches her, the world seems to pause and your eyes meet. Her lips do not move and yet you hear her voice so clearly. She asks, “What is the value of your heart? What worth have your deeds? Have you found your perfection, your Utopia yet?”
You turn away with tears in your eyes, for you have no answer for her yet.
The scene shifts around you and you find yourself standing in an empty room. On the walls you see flickering shadows. They are a reflection of the fire burning in one corner. Intrigued, you walk towards the fire until you stand at the edge of the flames. You stare into the flames and in them you see reflected images from your life. For good or bad these images are a part of you. They represent who you are today, but not who you can become.
As you reach this realization, the room around you begins to fade away and you return to an awareness of yourself and your body. Awake — you open your eyes.
In 1982, Starhawk first published a small book called Dreaming the Dark, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity to the Pagan Community at large.1 This was a largely political book and challenged the reader to reject the “power over” structures of modern society and to embrace the “power within.” Starhawk confronts the traditional notions of family, success, and value. In doing so, she invites the possibility of personal worth based on something other than the expectations of others or the traditional values of our society. It is only when we perceive the world in a new way do we really begin to understand our personal power and can really begin the process of mastery necessary for a true magickal awakening. Starhawk describes the quest for a utopian state where each person struggles within herself to find her own value structure(s) and to reject the values imposed by what she describes as the “power over” structure. Here the individual/society emphatically rejects some parts or even the whole of the old system and seeks instead to create a new idealized structure.
Starhawk claims it is a necessity to achieve a more balanced sense of self and a more balanced relationship with the world around us. But is a total rejection really necessary? It hasn’t worked for other Utopians – think the Soviet Union – where emphatic rejection was interpreted as calling for violent revolution and a total destruction of the old system in favor of the new. Instead is it possible to find an inner balance that works within the traditional values of our society and yet is still true to the desires of self? Will destruction of the old bring you back into balance with yourself? Can you ever really erase the past?
It is not easy to reinvent yourself because you carry with you the memory, insecurities, and the pains of your past. Many people, in seeking to create a new self, reject or hideaway those parts of the original self that do not fit in or do not belong. They justify this rejection of self by calling it transformation. But transformation does not come from hiding from yourself, it comes only when you truly embrace and accept all of your disparate parts. Only then do the scales truly balance.
1 Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark, Penguin 1982, reprinted with a new preface in 1997.