Many times I have stood awaiting entrance to a circle either in a private esbats and sabbat observances or even at a large festival gathering. As I stood watching others ahead of me I pondered the playing out of the beginnings of the ritual before my eyes. Many rites would include an individual smudging or a challenge by the circle guardian. Invariably all asking the same question of each participant. “How do you enter the circle?” our password spills forth, “In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust”.
Even if we do not ascribe to Wiccan theology, we have heard this ubiquitous password over and over, and most likely used it ourselves. My question to you; Do we really understand what we are saying, when we repeat these words?
Many authors, Priests and Priestess, will tell you that Perfect Love refers to unconditional love. Many pagans would agree it is generally their assessment of that statement as well. Is that something we really do? Do you walk into a circle of strangers, a delineated sacred space of any variety, with unconditional love for everyone there? I can tell you, I don’t. Unconditional love means just that, to love freely without any condition whatsoever. While there is some innate truth that the ability to love without condition, we are finite, flawed beings in our present incarnation. We are here to work through our lessons, via the flaws which exist, and to work to creating the perfection within ourselves that we seek. Our existence is the testing and proving grounds for our divine spirits.
All of our love has conditions. We ask that you do not hurt us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We ask, hopefully, you help us grow and develop in the direction we choose. We ask you are true to your words with us, and you allow a foundation to be built for trust. We might not realize this consciously, but this is the criteria for every person we meet- and yes, even flesh and blood, even children. Does that mean you can not love them, if they don’t meet all of our criteria? No it doesn’t. When you look to parents of children whom have committed horrific crimes, you find that in spite of the crime, there is love. However is it complete and perfect? Is it wholly without condition, no matter how destructive their behavior is to you? Can you walk into a sacred space with this intention and remain true to it? Only you can truly answer for yourself. Personally, while I “might” be able to have unconditional love for my child, extending that without reservation to all comers is something a bit different. We are all a bit pragmatic, are we not?
So where does the word “perfect” really come from? As children we are taught that perfect or perfection as a concept is something unattainable. The highest, most correct or beautiful state.
Perfect as defined by Miriam Webster is “to be perfectly without fault or defect; flawless; corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept; expert, proficient; pure or total.”
There are some big scary words there, when we look at doing something in perfect love and trust. Flawless comes to mind first. Thinking on perfection and periods of perfection in our lives, do they exist? A point at which everything falls into place and fits, resulting in a STATE of perfection! Perfection comes in bursts, more like an “AH HA!” moment, the epiphany. It is transient and in its transience it motivates us to work towards achieving that state again and again. So by its very nature perfection, propagates itself by motivation, through desire.
So yes perfection is attainable and by its nature, it seeks to attain itself. So when we apply this concept to Love what are we really saying? Let me step back for a moment to my roots in philosophy. Erich Fromm, a psychologist and social philosopher, in his 1956 book, The Art of Loving, observes that real love “is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached by him. All his attempts for love are bound to fail, unless he tries most actively to develop his total personality, so as to achieve a productive orientation; that satisfaction in individual love cannot be attained without the capacity to love one’s neighbor, with true humility, courage, faith and discipline. In a culture in which these qualities are rare, the attainment of the capacity to love must remain a rare achievement. Or – anyone can ask himself how many truly loving persons he has known.” Fromm goes on to state that the “active character of true love involves four basic elements; care, responsibility, respect and knowledge.” This is exceedingly interesting from a pagan perspective! Fromm’s basic elements correlates to our own elements; care (water), responsibility (earth), respect (fire), knowledge (air). For any whom have worked to balance their total personality from an elemental point of view, you will know each of this varies markedly from person to person, based on the people involved and the circumstance within their lives at any given time. Working towards developing the total personality with true humility (earth), courage (fire), faith (water) and discipline (air), is no small working, but rather a lifetime of effort. Seen this way we find love is hard work, however it is the most rewarding type of work. What is perhaps even more powerful with this type of creative work, toward true or Perfect Love, is it resonates from us, touching all others around us. You need never say a word. It moves energetically through you.
Fromm also addresses self love. To love one’s self, applies the same elements; caring about oneself, taking responsibility, respecting and knowing oneself. For example, be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses. Know when and where to push yourself emotionally and when perhaps it is time to heal so that you may work your boundaries and limits even further. To every truly have the capacity to love another, first one needs to be able to love one’s self in this way.
”Love is an active power in man, a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from fellow man, which unites him with others, love makes him overcome the sense of isolation and separateness, yet permits him to be himself, to retain integrity.” Fromm
So this is all fine philosophy, and it sounds like a great deal of work, but what does this have to do with stepping into a circle with Perfect Love? One of Fromm’s points is that modern humans are alienated from each other and from nature, I will go on to conjecture, from the Gods. We as humans today tend to seek refuge from our aloneness in romantic love and marriage. We are disappointed and frustrated when it does not fill the need we have. In truth romantic love could never totally fill it. Our aloneness spans more than one type of love, it encompasses ALL love. From the point of view of a Priestess, when we enter circle, most of us will go through the motions of Perfect Love, it is truly something for which we long, that drive for unification, with others, nature, the elements, The Gods; to have our sense of aloneness drop away and feel the magick and power of union. Perfect Love is the active power of love! It is each one of us stepping into sacred space with care, respect, responsibility and knowledge of our circle mates, the elements, the Gods and most importantly with ourselves!
So we have developed an understanding of Perfect Love, what about Perfect Trust? Mirram-Webster defines trust as an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength and truth of someone or something. One in which confidence is placed, as well as responsible charge or office, and care or custody. Any of this sound familiar yet?
For myself, I would have thought Perfect Trust would have been the easier of the two concepts to work through. I am a relatively well balanced Libra, with very few relationship emotional scars, and a fairly decent childhood. I do have a degree of trust for everything and everyone with whom I come into contact. For the most part, throughout my life I would have answered trust, although earned to some extent, was easy for me. I learned otherwise. Part of that alienation we refer to comes from our inability to truly open ourselves up to love and trust, and this is generally derived from the trust portion. We allow connection to a point, yet there is always that part of ourselves, we hold separate and closed to the rest of the world. Perhaps it was because; at an early age the world (our environment) damaged it in some way, through neglect, abuse, ignorance, or its own self absorption. Perhaps because we hold within it our most treasured dreams, hopes, ambitions, those things we are loathe to open to that same world, for fear they would be damaged. So our block truly appears. It is fear. It is fear of being open and hopeful, fear of loss, disappointment, destruction. Fear paralyzes us, and strips away the assured reliance.
Where does Perfect Trust come from, how do we obtain it? Perfect trust “blossoms” from love. Through our active power of love, the ability to trust springs forth. In fact it is not just an ability to trust, but a longing within.
Whom do we trust when we are working towards Perfect Trust. Like love, trust requires foremost we trust ourselves. That sounds easy, right? Not really we usually have quite the track record of mistakes with ourselves. In fact we usually have let ourselves down, more than any other person or entity in our existence. Equally we are harder on our own mistakes than on anyone or anything else. Where fear is our block, many times that fear is a result of our own mistakes, as much as anything else. So if fear is our block to opening ourselves to trust, how do we find our way past? Working through fears individually is always positive, difficult and rewarding, most often necessary for your growth. The key is Forgiveness. Who we need most to forgive is ourselves.
Forgiveness frees you from your fears. It clears blockages to love and opens the ability of trust to return or blossom forth. While it is important work to forgive others their ‘trespasses” and it enables us to move forward. The movement forward is then to forgive ourselves. Perhaps our personal forgiveness maybe for getting involved with someone, or a group, it could be for the individual mistakes we made in a relations with others, our own inability to stay true to our thoughts, words or deeds, no matter the reason. Whatever the reason it must be dealt with and let go.
“In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust” It is funny how six simple words actually speak volumes of our ability to free ourselves and connect with the universe around us. How they attempt to describe a type of loving, openness and resonance which can and should exude from each of us.
We are able to step confidently into our circles and sacred space, knowing our ability to love frees us to unite with nature, our circle mates, the elements, the Gods and most importantly ourselves. Through our power to love and unite we are assured through strength and truth that we act for our highest good. We are assured we work in harmony with nature and The Gods, and those individuals that are contained within our sacred space are working towards the same perfection, and if not, that our resonance inspires them to do so. Because of our care, responsibility, knowledge and respect, we have the foundation upon which to lay our trust as we come together to work in the most intimate way, to touch each other with power and magick, to join and become one.
So the next time you stand outside awaiting to enter sacred space, and you are asked for your “password” remember all of this and know as you actively work toward both Perfect Love and Trust, you are able to truly step into space with them and they are not just empty words.
How do you enter the circle?
Fromm, Erich, The Art of Loving, circa 1956
Miriam Webster Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Sutphen, Dick; Lighting the Light Within May 1997, Valley of the Sun Pub. Co