How the universe speaks to me, by Ryan Spellman


For me, it’s all about what raises the hair on the back of my neck.

photo: Sunwheel, by Ryan Spellman

This week, Ryan Spellman shares the story of his journey toward a naturalistic spirituality.

A personal narrative of how I got to where I am

Throughout my life I have gone through several phases of spiritual evolution. In my youth, my first step seems to have been a time of rebellion. During this time, I was seeking to divorce myself from the Christian religious views forced upon me as a child. I’ve never harbored any ill feelings toward Christianity, it’s just something that never worked for me. From there, I began to grow and found myself experimenting with paganism, which eventually led to an interest in Teutonic traditions. Something about it felt right, so I soon got in touch with a community of Asatruar. I truly felt at home and continued to work with them for years. About midway through this period of my life, I had what was at first a very exciting, and later heart-wrenching, realization.

I cannot remember when it struck me exactly, but I do remember it being one of those “eureka!” moments. I had already started making my way toward the discovery that the gods and goddesses were not supernatural, external beings for me. As these thoughts began creeping in, I started to develop concerns regarding what others would think about such views. Would they accept my personal understanding of the gods, goddesses and ritual as being introspective/psychological rather than metaphysical? For a time, these concerns had me turning a blind eye to my true feelings. It was in the middle of this mental struggle that I had an epiphany. So what if I didn’t see anything supernatural in what I was doing? Essentially, what I had done was discover how the universe speaks to me.

There is nothing supernatural about it, and there is not a single thing wrong with that. I had found something that resonates within me. The ritual, myths and lore had become a very important part of my growth over the past four years and would continue to for many more.

True to myself

Following this discovery, I knew that I had to be honest with everyone. No matter what the response might be, it was important to be true to myself and open about my views.

As it turns out, not many pagans have similar ideologies – which was to be expected. However, most of those that had come to know me still respect me, and are comfortable with me being around during their functions. I have run into several folks who seem to take offense to such naturalistic views, but it is something I’ll get used to. The important thing is that I have come to such a deep understanding of myself and my spirituality.

The largest argument that comes up is the question, “Why bother?” To paraphrase a response I once had: With views such as these, any fictional world would work just as well. They weren’t entirely off the mark, but the deep psychological connection I have to Teutonic mythology was missed in this statement. For me, it’s all about what raises the hair on the back of my neck. It always makes me think back on a writing I read when I was in my teens by Anton LaVey entitled The Combination Lock Principle. In it, he stresses the importance of finding the right “tumblers” and getting them to fall into place. Of course, he was likely working toward a more metaphysical slant than I, but the general principle is the same.

How the universe speaks to me

Honoring the gods and goddesses is a way I can connect on a deep psychological level with different aspects of the natural world around me. This connection is obtainable without metaphor, but those moments tend to be spontaneous. With ritual, those times of connection are controllable. It doesn’t stop at the gods and goddesses, either. Similarly, the runes are outstanding tools for reflection and meditation. The myths and lore provide avenues of self-exploration and solid advice on how to live a good life. So much of what I found within Asatru still speaks strongly to me. Even though I don’t call myself Asatru any longer due to such a philosophical deviation from the norm, I still hew tightly to its traditions. Through them, the universe speaks to me.

The author

Ryan Spellman

Ryan Spellman

Ryan Spellman lives happily in the foothills of Appalachia with his wife of seven years and three spoiled kitties. He is lucky enough to spend his day job working at a library and does a little web and graphic design, painting, drawing and almost anything else creative he can get his hands on as time allows.

5 Comments on “How the universe speaks to me, by Ryan Spellman

  1. Ryan, were there any specific experiences of people reacting negatively to your views that you wish to share? How did you get over those experiences?

  2. My personal negative experiences are actually limited to the one incident I already mentioned, where I had both the “what’s the point” question posed and even someone chime in with “cheap hobby” as a reason. It was pretty hard to deal with at first, as I wasn’t expecting such harsh responses. But I got over it once I realized how hard it would be for them to understand, coming from such a different mindset.

    A lot of the other reactions I found were from just reading discussions online. One of the first things I started to do was look for others with the same ideas as myself. Online discussions can be somewhat disheartening! I saw various comments about not having literal belief in the gods and goddesses that were very negative (“hangers-on” and “poser” for example). But I also came across others that were more encouraging.

    I’m discovering that explaining it in person makes all the difference. So far, everyone I have spoken with about it seem very understanding. Something else that has helped is to redefine myself a little. I’m not trying to fit into a mold – what I’m doing is very personal. I think adding “naturalistic” in with a description of my beliefs, (and avoiding the term Asatru altogether), helps get people on the right track to understanding where I’m coming from. This way there is no shock when they find out I view things so differently (or perhaps similarly in some cases).

  3. Yeah, online discussions seem to empower people to be total jerks more than in real life.

    I actually fell into Paganism thinking that literal belief in gods was somewhat of a rarity. When I read definitions of magic like “the art of changing consciousness at will”, it sounded pretty naturalistic. Whenever the “archetypes” interpretation of gods came up it seemed consistent with that. And when Pagans said their gods were “natural” I took them at face value. Only gradually did it finally dawn on me that my naturalistic view wasn’t in the majority.

  4. Like I think I’ve seen mentioned before – the minority issue could change once more people see there are others with similar ideas out there. One never knows… there could be more of us out there than we realize.

    I know it made me feel much better when I discovered an article about naturalistic paganism on WPM’s site ( ), and later Humanistic Paganism. Good to know I’m not alone!

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