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  • Writer's pictureMyles Jeffers

The Gods We Pray To

Updated: May 16

"If you are trying to gain muscle mass, but are unwilling to eat beyond the point of feeling full, you must realize that comfort is more important to you than putting on muscle mass."

In this blog, I am going to write in a highly blasphemous way, so if you are a devout Christian, this may not be the blog post for you. But, if you are ready to open up your mind to a new way of framing the concept of God(s), take a breathe and get ready to face an uncomfortable paragraph. The word God, in the West, is most widely used to represent this single religion's conception of their God, whose general symbol is an old-white-male-authority figure who will be pissed at you if you sin

In the West we are taught from a young age, even if we are not Christians, that you should not use this dude's name in vain and his influence is graffiti'd all over Western society creating shame complexes in adults even to this day. All this is too bad really, because the word God used to be more fun before the Christian's got a hold of it.

Gods are actually cool and useful, and don't really care if you use their names in vain. Also, the coolest thing about Gods is that you can create them whenever you want, and they can be designed to suit your trajectory, and then you can 'pray' for their blessings. 

In fact, whether you know it or not, you already pray to Gods all the time. 

I have likely lost some readers by this point already, but bear with me, it gets weirder and more uncomfortable. I am simply approaching the problem of God(s) from a far more Norse or Ancient Greek point of view. In other cultures, and in other era's of time, the word God, or Gods, had been used in a much more dynamic way to represent a value or ideal. An example could be my one of my favourite Gods named Dionysus who is the God of Wine and Pleasure who I was first introduced to in an undergraduate Philosophy class, and I soon came to realize that Dionysus held a massive amount of influence over my lacrosse team.

"Win or lose.... the fellas are gonna booze." #ferda

Admittedly, I am a bit of a square, and tend towards the disciplined, so I often need a bit of coaxing to relax, indulge, chill, or simply be cool. So, when it is brought to my attention by my stress levels, or someone who is close to me, that I have been a bit too school for cool lately, I will make a point to indulge, let loose, and have a little fun. On these occasions I enlist the help of Dionysus and invite her energy into my evening to protect and guide me. 

Let's be clear however, I do not think there is an ethereal figure out there made of mist and flowing robes that refers to his or herself as Dionysus that shows up to hold my hand when I need to let loose. Rather, Dionysus is simply a symbol which represents the value/experience/concept of being coolpure indulgence, merrymaking. Dionysus represents the concept of a party  and all that entails, which is to say that Dionysus is the symbol for all parties that ever were, are, or will come to be.

Now, take a look at society as whole in The West, do we not collectively pray to Dionysus all over the place? I am thinking of Vegas, Spring Break, Tailgaiting, etc. ad infinitum.

I have another one for you. An extremely popular God from the Ancients that is still worshipped today in humungous form is Agon, even though you rarely hear his name. Agon is the god who represents the struggle of competition and he was even the symbol for the original Olympic Games. On Sundays in America when grown men spend hours playing dress-up, making costumes akin to their teams logo, and sit in front of a screen shouting at people they'll never meet to 'run harder’, they are praying to or paying homage to Agon. When tens of thousands of spectators fill stadiums and arenas, they are all their praying to Agon whether or not they know it or would admit it.

Now that you have a grasp on how the word God is going to be treated in this text, perhaps you can think about your own life and the society you are a part of and consider what Gods you worship. A famous book by Neil Gaiman named American Gods is a fantastic read and a part of the inspiration for this text. In this novel Gaiman uses God in the more Norse/Greek sense as I do, and as such, in the book you will find Gods of Pepsi, Gas Stations, etc. It can be rather fun, and altogether horrifying if you spend some time considering what some of the gods of the Modern West are.

Some of the most powerful Gods go almost completely unnoticed while retaining massive influence on both society, and individuals. As an individual, whether you know it or not, you have a set of Gods that you pray to. There is no need to investigate that now if your brain is still getting used to thinking about your values and motivations as Gods, and I will share a personal example that is light-hearted.  

I personally pray to The Gods of Iron, which I created. Just like Dionysus is the God of indulgencewine, and pleasure, I use The Gods of Iron to represent self-cultivation, discipline, and encyclopedic strength. If I were more creative, I may even give The Gods of Iron a more individual name like Barbellios. Actually, I quite like that. So why is it that I pray to Barbellios? Well, I place high value on the cultivation of strength in my life, so I pray to the god which represents that by showing up to the gym each week and putting in the work, or in other words competing my religious rituals. I do in fact think about The Gods of Iron, or now Barbellios, as I train, even though they are imagined beings. Another example could be a musician imagining The Gods of Harmony as her guides when she practises the cello.

But here is the catch... not all the Gods you create and pray to are serving your highest self. And, to bring more truth to that statement it should be added that in most cases you had no part in choosing the Gods you worship. Just as you can create a God to follow that represents an expression of your highest potential, you can also accidentally pray to a God that feeds off your your lowest self, or most base human drives.

Unfortunately, it is hard to notice when you are stuck praying to these lower gods and unintended prayer to these lower Gods may in fact become the greatest barrier preventing you from reaching your highest potential. We will name these The Gods of Light and The Gods of Darkness respectively.  I warn you to be careful, and get a magnifying glass ready, because the Gods of Darkness are cunning shapeshifters capable of misleading you at every turn and in every moment. Additionally, depending on where you are at in life, it may take a serious ‘journey of self’ to bring yourself to the point where you can choose your own gods, as opposed to adapting those of your neighbours, and society as a whole. 

Before I begin however, I want to insert a dense consideration here and re-stress a point that could be an entire text on its own. It is important to note that most humans have not autonomously selected their own Gods. Societal influences are too strong and so attractive that most people choose to follow the Gods of their society, as opposed to their own light. An individual needs to remove themselves from the influences of society (through work on self), before they can really make decisions for themselves.

But I digress. Back to creating Gods. 

Inside of you, there is a continual battle between the Gods of Light and the Gods of Darkness. The art of self-cultivation can be accurately described as the work it takes to realign your trajectory to follow the Gods of Light. I am going to use the modern phenomenon of 'getting in shape' to discuss the ancient phenomenon of humans creating Gods to worship. 

Let's take the example of imagined Jessica. Jessica is much like you or at least someone you know. She has been focused on her family and career for the past fifteen years (those were her Gods), and now she is in a place where her body hurts, she doesn't feel confident naked, her energy is really low, and she hurts her back every few months. From this point of frustration, a fire is lit in her belly, and she is ready to make some changes. So, she joins The Church of Fitnaeism. By joining this religion she gains access to the Temple (the gym), the Holy Scriptures (training program of reps/sets), a God (Fitnaesio), and although entirely unnecessary, she purchases $300 worth of religious garments as well (Lululemon). Below is a sneak peak inside one of these churches…

For now, we can say that Jessica has found her Gods of Light. She is paying homage to The Church of Fitnaeism, and her training regimen honours the God Fitnaesio. If only it were this easy, we could stop here and assume that because she has found her God of Light that she will be led to new heights. However, Fitnaesio is unfortunately not a bright enough light to wipe out the influence of darker gods which lay hidden, yet still hold the primary position of rule over Jessica's actions. 

Since Jessica joined The Church of Fitnaeism she has considered herself a devout follower of Fitnaesio, but after six months of training she is finding that not a whole lot has changed about her self. She enjoyed some noticeable results in the first month, but has found that since then she feels pretty much the same as before she joined the gym. So, she reaches out to a Priest of The Church of Fitnaesio (a personal trainer) in hope that she may be able to figure out why she is stuck.

The priest invites her to a confession. 

The Priest begins by asking her questions about her life outside of the church, and simply nods his head as he takes in all of the information. He then begins asking questions more specific to the church and the quality of her prayer (training) and how well she follows the scriptures (the training/nutrition plan). She reveals that since she joined the Church of Fitnaeism, she has been following 'most of it', but she just can't stand exercising for more than 30 minutes a day, so she skips the warmups, and cool-downs. Anything longer is too inconvenient for her. Concerned at this, the Priest then inquires as to how closely she adheres to the tenants put forth in the scriptures, and she reveals that she doesn't like eating when she feels full and the meals take too long to prepare, so she skips one or two meals a day and replaces them with protein bars, and smoothies. Upon hearing this, the Priest thanks her for sharing, and says that he has heard enough. To her utter despair, the Priest goes on to tell Jessica that despite what she may think, she is not a member of this church, but is instead a devout follower of a different church. A darker one. This church is the most popular and powerful church in the world despite few admitting their membership. Upon investigation however, it is found that almost all prayers are sent to the Gods of this Church first and then filtered down to the rest of the gods.

This is The Church of Comfort & Convenience which is the house of the twin Gods named Comfortius and Convenysius. 

Instead of brining Jessica back into play, let us instead turn the lens toward ourselves. Take a minute to think about human 'advancement' in technology over the past several decades. How many of these advancements are the result of trying to make things more convenient and comfortable for human beings. It needs to be stated that not all forms of worship of Comfortius and Convenysius are negative.

Take for example the invention of the automobile. Driving from Saskatoon to La Ronge in January is a lot more enjoyable in an automobile than it would be on horseback or by dogsled. And, we can also imagine how some of the improvements to the automobile with comfort and convenience in mind just seem to make sense, like climate-control if you live in Canada, or rubber tires that are less likely to slide off track. By this example, one may even say that this looks like the work of Gods of Light because it made things better for people and this is true. However, what often happens with Gods is that they grow too bright. When that light grows too strong, it can blind its followers, with the ultimate result being darkness.

Since comfort, up to a certain point, was beneficial for all, it became a God and from this point the benefit of comfort, ceases to be re-examined and all prayers to comfort are considered positive. These increases in comfort for humanity helped up to a certain point and created space for advancement. But on the other side of the bell-curve, modern society’s craving for comfort is now arguably leading people collectively towards darkness as they are unable to see beyond the horizon of comfort. Life outside of comfort has become alien and scary and something to be avoided.

On the individual scale, I see this battle of light and dark a lot in my role as a fitness coach and mentor. To re-use some of the former analogies, one may say that my actual job is like the Priest of the Church of Fitnaesio, as I routinely have many of these style of conversations with current and prospective clients.

People generally find me when they decide they want to join The Church of Fitnaesio. In other words, they are ready to create some new Gods to follow in their life that will lead them to a better experience of life. What often reveals itself during a confessional (assessment) is that although the individual states that the primary God they want to follow is Fitnaesio, that this is in fact nowhere near the case. In reality, Fitnaesio is the third God being followed and is utterly subordinate to the twin Gods Comfortius and Convenysius who holds spots one and two together. People want to change, but are not willing to make changes to do so, which is to say they are unwilling to put up with the inconvenience and discomfort of change. It is a bit like running on a hamster wheel then.

Unfortunately, as a wise man once said,

"There is no satori (enlightenment) without tears."Richard Pyle?

This quot illustrates the point that there is no change without discomfort, or more accurately, change requires discomfort.

The vast majority of people I take through assessments are found to be under-eating protein by a rather large degree. Telling someone how much protein to eat, and how much of each food to eat to hit that target is quite easy. All that knowledge has been readily available for decades and passing this information onto a disciple is not difficult. But getting the disciple to follow the scripture closely enough and long enough is extremely difficult because despite how much a new disciple may profess that they are devoted to Fitnaesio, they are in fact far more devoted to Comfortius and Convenysius. 

Here are some examples, and I am purposefully using blunt language, and common situations to stress the point and get you thinking about how your own decision making flows.

If you are trying to gain muscle mass, but are unwilling to eat beyond the point of feeling full (ex: 6 eggs a day instead of 3), you must realize that comfort is more important to you than putting on muscle. Your prayers are being sent to Comfortio before Fitnaesio.

If you are trying to eat healthier, but are not willing into invest time into preparing and eating food (relying on smoothies instead), you must realize that convenience is more important to you than eating healthier. Your prayers are falling on the ears of Convenysius long before Fitnaesio ever hears them.

In the above cases, devotion to Comfort and Convenience eclipse the devotion toward gaining muscle and eating healthier. These examples are rather representative of this concept as a whole, and the continual battle of The God of Light and The Gods of Darkness within you that always is, has always been, and always will be raging. 

The Gods of Light are your higher self, which is to say the self that thinks beyond your external circumstances, reaches up into the worlds of ideals, and plans ahead for a great future. The Gods of Darkness are your lower self, which is to say the self that is unable to think beyond its immediate circumstances, subordinates to emotions and cravings, and aims to avoid discomfort in the present moment at the cost of the future.

By stating that the work of self-cultivation is really just the work it takes to get an individual to follow The Gods of Light as opposed to The Gods of Darkness, it can be directly related to the concept that to reach new heights one must develop the ability to delay immediate gratification for later reward. Terms like self-actualize, elevating your consciousness, finding enlightenment are all just different ways of representing the ability to follow the Gods of Light as opposed to The Gods of Darkness.

Sufi Master Saadi of Shiraz stated that,

“The Alchemist dies in pain and suffering, while the fool finds treasure in a ruin.”

In this quote ‘The Alchemist’ simply represents anyone trying to change themselves, or to use a modern term ‘level up’. He or She dies in pain and suffering because the work of Alchemy is the work of balancing the energies of The Gods of Light with The Gods of Darkness and this is difficult, scary, and uncomfortable work that sends most adults running back to their cribs.

‘The Fool’, which I think is too negative of a moniker, is the person who chooses to give into The Gods of Darkness which are going to appear as treasure in the moment because they will soothe the immediate moments discomfort, such as staying up past your bedtime to watch that last episode of Netflix, because you ‘can’t wait’ til tomorrow to find out what happens.

The Work is getting yourself to the place where you can rise above the darkness (cravings, emotions, fears, etc.), into the light (decisions and trajectories that serve your higher self) and then developing the tesiticular/ovarian fortitude to follow that guiding light despite all the Gods of Darkness which will continually try to pull you back down. It is important to note that a very few people in all of history have been able to completely quiet and move beyond The Gods of Darkness. For most individuals both sets of Gods will always be present. This inner tempest of struggle is what makes you who you are and what creates the waves of your Self that you feel throughout the day, week, month, and year. This duality of self is represented by the Yin Yang symbol, which represents this duality on a cosmic level as well.

The journey of self-cultivation does not necessarily have the goal of quieting the tempest and capping the waves altogether. Rather, through work on oneself, one can begin to realize that work on oneself is not about getting the proverbial crests of your inner-self to eliminate the troughs completely, but rather accept them as well.

As you contemplate becoming a cosmic surfer, I thank you for getting this far, and wish you luck on your 'paddle out'. I’ll see ya out there.


Myles Jeffers

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