The Goal of Thean Practice

What is the primary goal of all people? Quite simply, we all wish to be happy. In order to do this we must first become at peace with our internal and external worlds. But the reality of our external world is completely dependent on the reality of our internal world. Therefore, the place to begin our search for happiness is always within.

In modern Earth spirituality there are the axioms of “as above so below” and “as within so without”. However, these are not strictly modern ideas and certainly do not originate with Neo-pagan ideologies. Instead they come down from a long history of mythology and are some of the first concepts taught by the ancient stories of the Goddess. These ideas tell us through allegory and metaphor that the outside, or material world will never bring us to our goal so long as we neglect the nature of our own suffering. As modern Goddess worshipper, Doreen Valiente said in the Charge of the Goddess “Know that the seeking and yearning shall avail you not, if you know not the mystery. For if that which you seek you find not within, you will never find it without.”

So what is the mystery? What is the Goddess trying to say when she tells us to look within? The rest of the stanza says “For I have been with you since the beginning and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.” When the Goddess says she has always been with us could she in fact be saying she IS us? Could she be illustrating the reality that we are divine and always worthy? Is she telling us to look within and find love and wholeness? Might this be an illustration of the necessity of self love?

So how do we achieve the goal of happiness through self love? One of the first concepts to think about is what Buddhists call unwholesomeness – unwholesome thoughts and actions. First let’s define unwholesome.

When we examine the word unwholesome we can see that it quite literally can be interpreted as that which makes us not whole. This can be applied to being not whole individually and as not being part of the greater whole illustrated by the concept of oneness. To be not whole is not good for us and does not allow us to actualize self love thereby cutting off our connection to the universal oneness that is the ultimate reality of existence. And as illustrated in the First Natural Law, oneness and an intimate connection is what human beings (consciously or unconsciously) always seek.

When we are thoughtful it is easy to see that unwholesomeness is not a question of morality but pertains to our own personal well being. Some actions that may appear selfish are in fact not self serving at all. Instead they are harmful to our search for inner peace, especially if they cause us to judge ourselves. We should not feel shame or guilt for unwholesomeness, but have compassion for ourselves and strive to remove the negative afflictions of our lives. The emotions of guilt and shame could also be considered unwholesome.

Let’s look at an example. When we feel angry there may be a tendency to feel justified in that anger and we might think that the anger is directed at another person and will not harm us. In reality, the anger we feel most specifically causes harm to ourselves. It brings us suffering and inner turmoil with an intensity that will most often never touch the source of our anger. But instead of feeling shame for this anger, we should seek to understand it so that we may have conscious control over our emotions and actions instead of being controlled by them.

Unwholesomeness is anything that creates separation and perpetuates suffering. It is not about morality or a black and white distinction between right and wrong. There should be no judgment and no shame when reconciling unwholesome thoughts and actions; only compassion that brings understanding, peace, and ultimate happiness.  

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there..." - Rumi

The Thean Eightfold Path

The purpose of the Thean Eightfold Path is to encourage practices and ways of thought that promote happiness and peace in the practitioner thus creating a happier and more peaceful world in general. These are not step by step instructions, but may instead be seem as concepts that work interdependently with each other in a cycle of practice that is ongoing and has no beginning and no end.

The Maiden

Freedom from Ignorance and Delusions
It is important to know yourself and the true nature of existence through the practices of self reflection and non-judgment. You must know yourself void of judgment, cultural delusion, and unwholesomeness before you can achieve awareness.

Self Responsibility
We must accept that our thoughts and actions create change. We are ultimately in control of our own lives and what we become. We must also understand that creating peace and happiness within our own souls removes suffering and betters our world.

The Mother

Love and Compassion
It is of primary importance that we strive to cultivate self love in order to truly love others and spread compassion through the Universe. We can cultivate love and compassion better once we are free from delusions and judgment and then learn to accept and understand the nature of humanity through the Four Natural Truths. Then we can strive to remove negative and unwholesome thoughts and emotions towards ourselves and others.

Service to Others
It is important to realize that a life lived in service to others is most rewarding and creates in our souls self worth, purpose, and true connection. Selfish endeavors only bring suffering to ourselves and others. We must always make an effort to be generous in spirit. 

The Crone

Transformation of Illusions
Our world is full of illusion. Impermanence, emptiness, and oneness are realities to be pondered, accepted, and ultimately understood. We should also strive to remove unwholesomeness from our minds. What is unwholesome can be characterized by anything that creates separation and prevents the intimate connection required for humanity’s wholeness and happiness as described in the Four Natural Truths.

Meditation and Mindfulness
There is no past and no future. There is only the present in which we can transform, connect, and simply be. Mindfulness and meditation are the tools we utilize to actualize the lessons of the Dharma of the Goddess.

All Goddess

Understanding and Acknowledging Oneness
We are all connected as part of the ever becoming Universe. We can use meditation and connection with the natural world as a tool to understand this concept in totality. We are all divine and wholly human; perfectly imperfect as we are. But, who we are, how we behave and how we affect relationships with others can change the world for better or worse.

Responsibility of Oneness
We must first do no harm while living in balance with nature. It is our birthright and our responsibility to walk gently upon the earth and do our best to care for her creatures. It is also our birthright and our responsibility to pursue spiritual enlightenment so that we may strive to heal our spirits in order to heal others and find the intimate connection all people require for happiness and an end to suffering.

The Fourth Natural Truth

Human beings have a deep desire to create and search for meaning.

Here is where everything is tied together. When we create and seek meaning, whether it be in art, music, architecture, scholarly knowledge, or scientific discovery, we are in essence circumventing our conditioning and biology referred to in the second and third Natural Truths to seek the intimate connection spoken of in the first. Though we don’t often realize it, self expression and exploration are tools humans use to facilitate our deepest desire for intimacy.

You could say creating is a way to solve the problem of the exterior conditions of existence and get straight to the core of being human. Learning or seeking meaning serves the same purpose of connection when understanding is created in our minds and we gain something new. It is the way we find significance within ourselves by creating or looking for something we assume is exterior.

In the act of creation we can effectively explore inner space in a way that is comfortable and non-threatening to our own ego and present something of our deeper selves that can be widely accepted by us and by others. We can say “this is of me and isn’t it beautiful” even though, if we have yet to love ourselves, we may not find much beauty within us at all. Through creating we express a desire for self-acceptance and self-love without even being conscious of it.

When we search for knowledge we are also exploring our inner selves in a safe way. We are pursuing the depths of our own minds, pushing our limits, and connecting with something we perceive as bigger and better which in turn makes us feel more worthy or more valuable. Again, through this search we express a greater desire for self-love.

We must use these gifts to our advantage and realize that through the acts of creating and learning we are expressing our deep desire to connect and grow spiritually. By utilizing and nurturing these very specifically human endowments we can achieve those desires more readily.

When human beings create and quest for meaning they self-actualize and connect to the greater oneness of the Universe. If we could develop this gift with mindfulness, with an understanding of what it is and why we do it, we can move closer to actualizing our true human potential.

The Third Natural Truth

Human beings are not controlled by instincts.

A lot of clout is given to the idea that human beings are merely animals and the product of their evolutionary makeup or barely understood brain wiring. It seems the public grabs onto these ideas with both hands, allowing their lives to be defined by what they believe is their innate and uncontrollable nature.

But the reality is that having minds that allow us to overcome or contradict what some might call instinct is at the core of what it means to be human. While other animals have been shown to make choices, we are the only animals that have the capacity for rational thought that truly gives us free will. We are unique in that we are not simply a product of biological forces, but also of an extremely powerful force of mind.

According to Joanne Naiman in How Societies Work (Thompson Publishers, 2004) instinct is defined as "an inborn complex pattern of behavior that must exist in every member of the species and, because it is embedded in the genetic code, cannot be overcome by force of will. It should be distinguished from a reflex which is a simple response of an organism to a specific stimulus, such as the contraction of the pupil in response to bright light or the spasmodic movement of the lower leg when the knee is tapped. Instincts, in contrast, are complex sequential stimulus-response patterns; such behaviors are readily identified in non-human animals".

Because human beings vary so greatly in behavior, it’s hard to believe we truly have instincts in the scientific sense of the term. However, the fact remains that we are indeed influenced by biological forces or drives. But, because these are not true instincts, they can be bent by sheer will. Not all women want children and thus overpower any sense of a maternal instinct. Some people decide to end their own lives which then negates the idea of universal human survival instincts.

So why are people so eager to be instinctual animals? Perhaps the biggest reason is because it allows them to avoid personally responsibility. It is much easier to shrug our shoulders and say we’re just animals and take no control over our lives. This idea removes the need for self awareness, self improvement, and spiritual enlightenment. And in doing so we are settling for being less than human.

To take a deep, long look at ourselves and who we really are takes extreme courage. And no one said it was supposed to be an easy undertaking. It is understandable to feel tempted to sink into the box of “unwitting human animal” so we don’t have to see that we are the ones controlling how we succeed or fail and who we have become. However, this way of living and thinking will never lead to happiness, wholeness, or an enlightened state of mind.

In summation, biology is not an excuse for behavior that may cause suffering. No one is a helpless slave to their drives. We are always in control. The trick (and where the real hard work comes in) is to be aware of that control, to take the reins of our lives with both hands and create of ourselves a fully actualized human being. 

The Second Natural Truth

 Human beings are subject to their environment and cultural conditioning.

Who are we? What makes us into the person we are today? Are we the product of the society we live in? Are we simply the conglomerate of body and brain? What is the nature of our true being?

We must learn to differentiate between what is learned and what is innate about being human. This is perhaps one of the first steps towards becoming self-aware (for lack of better terminology). But this is no easy task. From the time we are children, we are taught what is expected of us. We learn about our place in the world, what we are supposed to do with our time, and who we are supposed to grow into. Little thought is given to simply being. We are taught we must do and become something more, something better.

We are also taught what it means to be male and female and how the sexes are meant to interact with one another. But these are societal constructs created in a world that pays no mind to what the words masculine and feminine actually mean or how they translate on a spiritual level. So we must work to see these ideas not as universal truths but as inventions of our culture.

We should not allow ourselves to be defined by our successes or material possessions any more than we should be defined by our failings and mistakes. We should also not be defined by our appearances and our perceptions of exterior beauties and imperfections. We are not better or worse than anyone else, no matter how much we may gain or lose throughout our lifetime(s). None of that changes what it truly means to be a human being.

In short, you are not the car you drive or the money you make and you are not a man or a woman because someone else says you meet certain criteria. You are a person, a whole human being. And you get to define who you are by loving yourself truly and completely as part of the greater universal, always-becoming, creation.

The First Natural Truth

Human beings are intensely emotional creatures that require intimate bonds.

It has been observed in modern medical science that when a child is born and does not form an intimate, touch-based bond with a caregiver, that child may wither and die even when they are fed and cared for on a basic level. I am not sure there is a better illustration of the human need for intimacy. It is almost as though when we feel we have no connection, no bond with another, we believe we are not meant for this world and soon leave it. 

The Buddha taught that what we think of as “self” is merely a delusion that does not exist interdependently without the unending becoming of the Universe. However, much is made in our society about being independent and not needing other people. This is a focus on self that does not actually nurture what it means to be human. Perhaps this is because we are unable to accept that other people may invariably let us down at one time or another. We may become hurt and suffer great losses by needing other people. And so we build a hard shell and isolate our hearts from the eyes of others.

It is certainly possible to exist without real connections with other people – if that can indeed be called existing. We can spend time with others physically and feel as though we are not alone for a time. We may even surround ourselves with animals that make us feel connected and unconditionally accepted. But deep within there remains a void where true emotional connection should be. This may lead us to seek intimacy in less than healthy ways with substances or unwholesome physical pursuits.

In order to allow ourselves to be truly intimate we must first be able to love ourselves. We must understand that while we strive to be our best, we must also accept our own failings. It is important to see ourselves as good enough and full of the innate human potential needed to achieve all things. We must be willing to be vulnerable, to fall down, to make mistakes, and to love ourselves despite of and because of those human frailties. I believe it was Thich Nhat Han who said “The moment you start loving yourself is the moment you cease to create suffering in the world.”

Once we love ourselves we can truly begin to love others. We can understand that those we love do not work to let us down and that their world and their suffering is not all about us. They have their own anguish and may be so wrapped up in it that they can’t even see the harm they cause because of it. We must have compassion for them and help them to have compassion for themselves until they can truly love themselves as we love them.

Imagine if all people approached relationships in this way. Then the world would be full of those who loved themselves and thus were truly able to love others. This in turn helps others love themselves and so on in a beautiful cycle of love and compassion.

The Four Natural Truths

I am planning on elaborating on these ideas in the very near future, but I thought I'd post these first nuggets here as food for thought while I ponder the deeper meanings and spiritual significances. Note: Links will be added to individual posts on each of the Four Natural Truths as these concepts are expanded on.

I have focused exclusively on the nature of being human because these ideas are meant to be utilized for spiritual purposes that impact the human mind-soul connection which is where true spiritual work and the pursuit of enlightenment must begin. Please feel free to comment and get a conversation started.

1. Human beings are intensely emotional creatures that require intimate bonds.

2. Human beings are subject to their environment and cultural conditioning.

3. Human beings are not controlled by instincts.

4. Human beings have a deep desire to create and search for meaning.

Theanism: Beginnings and Buddhism Comparison

Theanism can be loosely characterized as a combination of Nature Based, Goddess religion and the spiritual practices commonly found in traditional Eastern faiths such as Buddhism. In fact, if I had to pick a modern, main stream religion that most closely illustrates what I believe are the lessons of the Goddess, it would have to be Buddhism. I believe the Goddess is shown in the practices of loving compassion, meditation, inner reflection, peaceful living, etc. But, because Buddhism seems, in my opinion, to avoid embracing the nature of being human, since enlightenment appears only attainable to monks and nuns who forgo “earthly” lives, it is an incomplete concept of Goddess Religion - which I believe encourages a kind of graceful hedonism.

Still the teachings of the Buddha are the closest example and so I have chosen to begin defining Theanism through the framework of Buddhist teachings beginning with the Four Noble Truths. Please keep in mind this is an exercise in defining core beliefs and organizing thoughts for me. I often find putting my beliefs and thoughts into words a bit challenging. This is where I decided to begin and nothing that flowed onto the screen has yet been edited.

First Noble Truth: Life means suffering.

“To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness, life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by, we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.” (

Perhaps it is important to accept suffering as part of life. Without it would we truly know what happiness or joy felt like? Without darkness how do we define light? Suffering brings with it lessons for this life and those that follow and may in fact lend a more acute insight into the nature of existence and eventually bring us closer to enlightenment. However, recognizing the lessons of suffering are not always easy.

This does not mean we shouldn’t strive to remove suffering from our lives. After all, isn’t happiness the prime goal of all people? Doesn’t everyone work towards happiness? But the clincher here is that happiness does not come from the outside world and the Goddess teaches us as much. Happiness must come from within. No matter what you’re looking for, if you’re filling the void in your heart with material things and shallow endeavors, happiness will always escape you. “Know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not if you know not the mystery. For if that which you seek you find not within, you will never find it without.”

Second Noble Truth: The origin of suffering is attachment.

“The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and -in a greater sense- all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardor, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a "self" which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call "self" is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.”

This is where I see some of the biggest conflicts in comparing Buddhism with Goddess religion. I believe in the idea of impermanence but I don’t think it is beneficial to a human being to avoid the emotions that come from attachment to others and relationships. Let me ask you a question. Would you rather have a great love that teaches you about your soul, gifts you with intimacy and peace, and adds joy to your life or never know a love like that as long as you live? What if you could only have that love for 20 years? Would you still want it? Even if you knew you would suffer the loss of it? Of course you would. Everyone would. So, allowing yourself to be attached to something (in an obviously healthy way) can not only add to your quality of life but also teach you important lessons that can make you a better person. However, material things and vapid pursuits of greed or power will never make us happy and will inevitably cause suffering to ourselves and to others.

Those of us who don’t choose a monastic lifestyle will most likely get married, have children, and live a life filled with various relationships. Should we avoid feeling the intense emotions brought on by interactions with others? Should we remain detached from others because they are impermanent? Would our lives be as full and happy as they could be if we did?

I believe the Goddess teaches more of a “middle way” approach to the idea of attachment. It is good and wonderful to love with all your heart, to not be afraid that suffering may appear if your love is lost, and to feel all the emotions that comes naturally to us as human beings. Love, feel, cry, heal. This is being human. To not be passionate about anything in your life is to not have lived at all. But these passions must not be allowed to control us or lead us down paths that will cause suffering. We must always accept the nature of impermanence as an inevitable reality.

Third Noble Truth: The cessation of suffering is attainable.

“The cessation of suffering can be attained through nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion. Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.” (

The first thing that comes to mind here is what I’ve basically been saying about the other two Noble Truths. In order to have joy, perhaps some amount of suffering is necessary and should be accepted as such. If all things are subject to impermanence, then suffering is also temporary. While I am not proposing we walk intentionally into suffering, I am saying it may be at times a fair trade off for true happiness – permanent or not. And the word “dispassion” actually makes me shudder. If we are not to feel passion, love, joy, and the losses that come with those feelings, we may as well not exist at all. Passion should be embraced not destroyed because we want to avoid suffering.

Fourth Noble Truth: The path to the cessation of suffering.

“There is a path to the end of suffering - a gradual path of self-improvement, which is described more detailed in the Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism); and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth. The latter quality discerns it from other paths which are merely "wandering on the wheel of becoming", because these do not have a final object. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.” (

Ah, and now it all comes together to basically sum up my entire argument. The “middle way” between two extremes is what I refer to when I say Goddess teaches a sort of graceful hedonism. She tells us to live completely, to love passionately, and endure suffering so that we might learn from our existence. To enjoy food is healthy. Gluttony is dangerous. To love someone selflessly and desire their company, both mentally and physically, leads to joy and happiness. But selfish love or love taken for granted, serves no purpose other than suffering. So basically, being a graceful hedonist means to enjoy life and earthly pleasures to the fullest without causing harm to yourself or others. We’ll talk more about some of these ideas as we venture on into the Eightfold Path of the Buddha.

Happy High Spring!

And their immortal flesh stirred a white foam
around them, and in it grew a girl. At first
it floated to the holy Cythera, and from there
it came to Cyprus, circled by waves. And there
came forth a goddess, beautiful and feared,
and grass grew up beneath her delicate feet.
Her name is Aphrodite among men and gods
because she grew up in the foam.

Aphrodite is then the daughter of Heaven and Sea – the original mother goddess in many traditions – and the first fruit of the separation of Heaven and Earth, carrying as her birthright, as it were, the memory of their union. By imagining Aphrodite at the very beginning of the process of creation when Heaven and Earth are parted (…) love is drawn in the greater perspective of humanity’s longing for the whole. Aphrodite is no longer the one Great Mother Goddess who is the origin of all things, but, as daughter of the sea, she is the child of the beginning. Consequently, she is the figure who, in the likeness of the original goddess, brings back together the separate forms of her creation. In this sense Aphrodite is “born” when people joyfully remember, as a distinct and sacred reality, the bonds that exist between human beings and animals and, indeed, the whole of nature. The myth proposes that this happens through love. Union is then reunion, for love that begets life resounds with the mystery of life itself.

Myth of the Goddess by Cashford and Baring, page 353


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