ADF has a program for new members, or older members, who want to deepen their engagement with ADF called the Dedicant Path (fondly known as the DP). As I was finishing my PhD a year or so ago, I decided I would attempt the DP as a way to get my devotional path back on track. I felt I needed some sort of structure to refocus – and that I needed that renewed focus to finish my dissertation on time.

The dissertation came together, but I’ve run into an odd problem. The DP pushes participants to develop a devotional path based in an Indo-European culture, to celebrate regular high days to honor the gods and spirits, and to practice at least five months of “mental discipline” – meaning some form of meditative practice, very loosely bounded. It was this structure of requirements I needed to get my practice back on track – and I did, and it has enriched my work. The problem is one is supposed to write about it in a series of miniature essays broken up into specific topics that are meant to align one with ADF’s vision of practice.

Most people seem to snag on the practice of mental discipline, but since this was a good part of what I was looking for, that was the simplest requirement for me. But now I am meant to write essays about what I learned, how it affected me, how I’ve developed my relationships with the gods and spirits. This is not bad, but this is all framed in research terms: cite your sources, explain and define.

I am not convinced that defining the numinous is a useful pastime. Have I developed a relationship with the gods and spirits? Yes! Do I want to break them down into categories and define them in a way that is suitable for public consumption? Not really. Research is incredibly valuable, but we cannot engage with the worlds by citing spirits into submission. There are no texts that can substitute for experience with the holy powers. No amount of research will teach you to walk in *Xartus. No book can grant you inner contacts who can enliven your work.

Will I finish the DP? Probably, if I make time between career, relationships, and Work. The question I think I’m really asking myself is whether these little essays will add anything. I suspect they will – putting thoughts into words is an exercise in clarity, and the shortness of the essays rewards clarity’s succinctness – they just seem a pale shadow compared to living, breathing, ecstatic practice.