First, I’ll initiate this blog by saying that translating one’s experiences can often be difficult, because we all come into a situation of communication with presuppositions and sometimes think that others have at least a basic grasp on the things we’re discussing when often they do not. So, I first want to welcome each and every one of my readers here to ask questions, to send me messages, to speak to me, here, on Facebook, on IM, or whatever means, if there’s something I say in particular that needs clarification or doesn’t make total sense.

Second, I want to explain that I am not an enlightened person. Stumbling up the mountain of enlightenment may indeed be a good metaphor for what I’m going through, but I am by no means a guru, a teacher, a swami, or someone who can teach anyone else. While the Sufis are adamant and wise to suggest that all we need to arrive on the Other Shore is someone who walks but a single step ahead of us, I would daresay the person walking behind me might find themselves tripping over me and smashing their nose into the ground as I became distracted by a butterfly or an apple or something seemingly innocuous.

Recently, I’ve had an increase of psychological healing. But as I’ve known for a while and as a few good teachers can point out, the healing of the individual traumas and integration of the Shadow in the psyche is not synonymous with enlightenment. A sign of maturation, yes, but a dissolution of the ego and eventually the entire Self, no.

So, as a disclaimer of sorts, I want to make everyone who reads my blog understand that I’m doing this as a first-hand account of what I personally have experienced and still encounter, a sort of real-time record of the journey and the trials and struggles that I face on it. Most accounts of the journey appear to be written from a retrospective standpoint, and thus we only hear about when expectations have been defied from that reference point. Here, I can clearly state expectations and projections and then test how they play out.

In my last blog, I mentioned a few things about Bernadette Roberts and not having a clear “system” of what to do. Now, I’ll give a further critique of Christianity and try to explain why the system appears difficult.

Christianity is, in my opinion, a difficult and cumbersome system, and I don’t mean to convey this in the same sense that a typical Evangelical would mean it: “Of course it’s difficult, it’s the TRUTH! Of course it isn’t easy to be a Christian!” This amounts to simply being, “We’re right, and so any adversity we face necessarily is proof that we’re right.”

What I mean to convey is that Christianity doesn’t tell us what to do, and when it does, the doing is in terms of ritual and has little to no direct psychological work. (I’ll address the role of the Mass and of the Sacraments momentarily, but let’s keep going where we are.) Christ says to love our enemies. Okay, but how does one do that when one naturally reacts with fear, anger, distrust, and yes, even hatred of one’s enemies? How does one simply stop hating?

So the equivalent of telling someone to love their enemies without explaining how to do deal with the hate first is of telling a child to go bake a cake for his grandparents without the child knowing how to cook. The child can certainly identify a cake, knows what a cake tastes like- much as the Christian knows what love feels like- but the child isn’t given the tools or the instructions that break the cake down into something he can create, and even then, he needs help from a parent most of the time to learn how to do this in the first place.

The most we’re offered is that we should simply resist the flesh, but herein lies the problem: when the “flesh” becomes intoxicated with its own desire, resisting that desire is not only difficult, it’s almost impossible. From what I have personally observed, one cannot “resist” the flesh; one must simply ride out the emotion or distract one’s self, as a one-to-one battle with the instincts will certainly lose and one will give in. There are no tools that are given, no instructions that are given.

Ideally, and I say ideally for a reason, we’re to love God so much that our love for him simply exceeds the passions of the flesh, minimizing our ability and tendency to sin. But this works largely only in hypothesis and is rarely, if ever, carried out in the world around us. The majority of people don’t do bad things or “sin” because they’re afraid of temporal and eternal consequences or, on the flip side, are greedy for temporal and eternal rewards. Rarely have I seen Christians being ultimately motivated by love, but I have seen it, so I know it happens; mostly, Christians seem motivated by greed and fear, which is to say, greed for heaven and fear of hell. Rarely does a Christian seek God for God’s sake. Perhaps this can just as easily be said of any other religion, and I’m not going to contest that here.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the baptismal water. Andy of a Red State Mystic makes an extremely good point in one of his responses to a comment: the beauty and holiness of the Christian liturgy will, in and of itself, eventually transform the individual. In many ways, there is a parallel here to Sufism, as it speaks of God transforming one and not the other way around. Thus, one’s ego does not have a hand in the transformative process and cannot upset it. The mysticism of Christianity is found largely in the Holy Eucharist. Simply go and partake of the Holy Eucharist, and the Great Work is done within you- Christ freely offers himself.

So the Christian mystical transformation may well begin on the unconscious level, comparable to that of the (Golden) Sufis. In theory, the transformation simply happens on its own accord, and one day you awaken enlightened. The difficulty then is the steadfastness and patience required to wait for the transformation to take place, and that is where I find myself: questioning, wondering if there’s anything happening at all. Where are the synchronicities? Where are the signs? Where is the Face of God? Moreover, the Earth has come to a crisis point with itself: there isn’t time for me (or anyone) to wait for a 30-year-process to transform us. But there also isn’t time to waste just thinking something’s happening on the unconscious level if there’s not a true restructuring taking place.

I can daresay most modern Americans cannot fathom the idea of receiving the Holy Eucharist as being a transformative process, but there’s a great deal of theory and explanation behind why it is a transformative experience. I am not concerned with a salvation in the afterlife; I am not concerned with what happens when we die so much as I am concerned with living out the divine destiny in this world, to ultimately alleviate the suffering that we as humans encounter.

As most of my readers know, earlier this year, I gave up Christianity for the third time in my life. I spoke to a friend the other night who asked if it was Christianity that had abandoned me or Christians. To add to this, he may as well have asked if Christ had abandoned me.

Frankly put, I don’t think most Christians understand their tradition. To put this into words is difficult, and certainly I’m not the first person to come along and claim that the majority of a people in a religion don’t understand their religion and what’s really being said or what’s really going on. There is a useful Christian expression about making God in one’s image, but typically this is used by a particular denomination to refer to a contradiction of the authoritative image of God in that denomination; making God in one’s image means not following the Jewish image of God according to Genesis or the early Christian image of God according to the Greeks and Romans or some other such ilk. In essence, one is redefining the definition of “God” according to that denomination.

But herein lies the exact problem: God ultimately transcends and outright explodes any system that attempts to quantify him (or it.) God exists above and beyond the images we make of him, and this, perhaps, is why the Jews prohibited idols and initially a Temple: ultimately, God could not be contained in one particular form or image. So any ideas and formulations and opinions about God we have ultimately are blown apart by the sheer enormity of God.

It’s also no secret that if one reads the Old Testament, the God presented there is not much better than the the pagan deities who demand blood sacrifices and are violent and so forth; Jehovah doesn’t come off as being any holier or better than Zeus or Thor or any other deity of the ancient world. Theologically, the only difference is that Jehovah doesn’t have anyone with whom to compete.

It’s also no secret that, despite what many evangelical Christians now think, the early Christians didn’t regard the Old Testament as that big of a deal, which is to say that the image of God being so human-like was ridiculed and used as one of the major reasons why the Jews “got it wrong.” God the Father in the New Testament is extremely lofty and transcendent, loving, holy, ethereal, beyond our comprehension and senses as opposed to the smite ’em up Jehovah of the Old Testament.

Catholic Christianity has dealt with this with mediocre success. Conservative Protestant Christianity will likely wrestle with it until the day they die. The Gnostics did the best job, though: the Old Testament deity simply isn’t the same as God the Father, but a kind of imposter an inferior God. Christ comes to liberate us and reveal the True God.

Protestant Christianity, when not devolving into complete “modern worship” ilk, simply exists as a kind of reformed and continuous Judaism. Judaism is the real mystery, and Jehovah is their God; humanity screws up, so Jesus is sent to complete the mystery of Judaism. Thus, Judaism is the essentially puzzle of Christianity, and Jesus Christ is the missing piece to the puzzle. You now have the whole picture; nothing is left out once Jesus comes as the Christ.

But Catholic Christianity has more to wrestle with. There is a greater depth of mysticism and practice; the Mystery of Christ and the Gospel certainly almost completely usurp the place of the Jewish tradition, while still maintaining many aspects of it such as the structure of the Temple, the Tabernacle, the use of incense and candles, and the Priesthood. The vibe of Catholicism being different from Protestantism cannot be chalked up to being simply because of early “pagan” influences of Christianity. Rather, Catholicism relates to Judaism in the exact opposite way that Protestantism does: Catholicism sees CHRIST as the TRUE MYSTERY of God and Reality, and Christ was ultimately intended to be the TRUE MYSTERY the entire time; what we see then is that Judaism’s role in Christianity is almost incidental! Referring back to the image of the puzzle, instead of the puzzle being complete except for one piece, Christ reveals that Judaism is only a small fraction of the real puzzle, only a small hint at the true tremendous reality of God and reality.

Now, a word about Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church.

A Red State Mystic is by no means a closet Episcopalian or mystic. He certainly has been granted the gift of Faith which I have not been, and he’s much more comfortable in the world of Christian orthodoxy than I am. So much the better, as he can communicate with more orthodox minded Christians what his experiences and encounters with God are in a language they will understand. He, too, has run into the same problem I formerly ran into with the “label game.” Anglicanism is a broad term. One Episcopal Church may be “I can’t believe it’s not Catholic” whereas another may be “I can’t believe it’s not Methodist.” There is no set standard or rule for it. To clarify where Andy’s sentiments (and mine) have lain, he has used the word “Anglo-Catholic” in the past but recently wrote this blog entry discussing why the term “Anglo-Catholic” may be unsuitable at this point. His assertions are incredibly fair and accurate when compared against my own experiences.

I cannot, at this point, properly term myself “Christian.” I have too many issues with Christianity, I have too many bad memories of it, too many negative encounters, and too many attempts at forcing the “Christian worldview” onto the world as I actually experience it. In some technical way, or, in some mystical way of which I am not yet aware, I may indeed be Christian whether or not I would like to admit it. But if I were going to participate in Christianity, I would do so at the Episcopal Church, which is to where many dreams would point. I would pray for God to show me which church I should join. I would dream of the Episcopal Church. This is not a difficult thing, especially since this happens so consistently. My other option would be the Gnostic churches, but they are so few and far in between that joining one would require a move across the country.

My main perspective on Anglicanism at this point is that it should be understood as its own tradition- instead of arguing that it is Catholic or that it is Protestant or that it is both, it should argue that it is neither- it is its own tradition in its own right with its own compromises and its own peculiarities. No one should categorize it as Catholic or as Protestant; it should be categorized only as Anglicanism. That’s a harsh pronouncement, but that is where I would stand at this point.

Most of that is quite cerebral, I am aware, and little of it has anything to do with the so-called actual practice that I constantly refer to as being missing from the writing. But the underlying theory on why one participates in such a practice is also necessary. One cannot simply have the practice without understanding what is going on, nor is it good to have theory without any kind of practice and test grounds.

Now, I turn to another subject, which goes back to Christ (who else?). The essential mystery of Christ may be that he has never been who he has portrayed to be. Several Christian mystics have come upon the horror of their image of Christ being destroyed and replaced with the raw reality of Christ, and I think this may be the key to my own experience as well. What we think Christianity is- and who we think Christ is, at least in the typical sense of both these words- happens to be incorrect, an image that has been perpetuated through misunderstanding and misinformation for the sake of power and control and so on.

But the question is why the impression of the raw reality would still be that of Christ. Is it simply a mislabeling, a forcing of the reality into a particular paradigm? Most lately I have encountered him as a kind of elder brother figure who guides me through the Void that is Reality. Is this really Christ, or is Christ only a convenient name we give to this strange reality? I wrote before about the connection among Lord Shiva, Christ, and the Earth Father Archetype. But even with that connection being established, I take into account that Archetypes are never experienced in-and-of themselves; only images and hints at the reality of the Archetype are encountered.

On the one hand, this all seems important, and on the other hand, it all seems to be a bunch of intellectual masturbation.

I know this blog has been long and tedious, so if you’ve made it this far with me, you have my thanks.