On Humility

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Humility has begun to make sense to me.

Christianity is rife with the word “humility,” and often it’s reduced to some trite sentimentalism and often born out of false piety, whereby I mean piety that is feigned or forced. True devotion to God cannot be forced; it must be born of sincerity and truth.

God is not sappy. God is not about maudlin syrup. God is God is God- which is to say that God is the Absolute Mystery beyond all things.

Thus have I journeyed to the point of my own assumptions and presuppositions, now being confronted with what absolute lack of humility I’ve had when coming into the Presence of God.

Allow me to be clear: “humility” is so often feigned or forced that it’s disgusting. To humiliate someone, to force someone to bow to one’s will out of abuse of one’s own superior position in a hierarchy, is monstrous and born of the sin of Pride.

Pride is the chief sin from which all others flow, and we are prideful to a remarkable degree by our very nature.

Yet pride cannot be smashed but by realization of God’s true grandeur, and this can be terrifying.

We want God to love us- we want to feel good and happy and right in this world, and that’s fine. At the same time, we don’t want to recognize the truly tremendous REALITY that is God.

Even our own love for God might seem inaccessible to us due to our own pride- I think it is in our nature that we want to love God and feel love for Him. (I say “Him” because we don’t have a better, gender-neutral word to use.) ┬áPride blocks the way.

In humility truly experienced, the Mysterium Tremendum becomes apparent, a crushing Reality pressing down on the heart and mind. In this experience, I can apprehend chants of old- this is what they celebrate, what they worship, the rhythm and the falls and rises- this is what they mean to speak of.

Yet even the chants in all their beauty, the churches in all their glory, all the art that has gone into the Christian religion pales in comparison of the simple, sweet moment of humility in which Heaven is opened and the heart knows directly.

In some cases, we have a feeling of self-satisfaction or smugness that we were correct about something. This, too, is evidence of pride, yet the antidote is nearby- that we do not uphold our correctness in matters as indicative of our own abilities but that somewhere grace and mercy were near enough that we fell into no error.

Let he who has ears, listen. Those who are traveling the mystic’s path will hear what I am saying; to others, I will sound insane or at least muddled. No, my friends- this world- this world is what is muddled, and it’s up to us to solve the problem.

Pax vobiscum.

Steve

Numerous Notes and the Greater Debtor

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To open this blog, let it be noted that I do not feel well. Documenting my current mood is an important sort of thing for the sake of any current and potentially future readers. I suffer from migraines or some other type of headache; today, I’ve had a dull one pounding away in my left temple no matter what I do. I would take medicine but am sick of consuming pills to get relief. I’m only 30, yet I take prilosec on a daily basis on doctor’s orders for heartburn and will probably be on it for the rest of my life due to the inherited acid reflux on my father’s side of the family.

A while back, circumstances where I overreacted to the renovation of a local church caused me to renounce my Anglicanism. The truth is that Anglicanism has always been something of the best alternative to Gnosticism that I could find- not that Anglicanism is in and of itself Gnostic, mind you, but that it seemed more open to people who would identify as mystics.

I often have not been able to distinguish truly in myself the difference between an identity as an Anglo-Catholic mystic and a Gnostic. The words are interchangeable. That “Gnostic” would scare someone or be condemned as heresy is bizarre as I find myself also disagreeing, in part, with those various aspects condemned among the historical Gnostics.

Two angry blogs I’ve read lately, the one on liturgy and the other on matters of social justice, have me mulling over a number of things. I would like to note that my own blog isn’t meant to be an alternative news source but rather as the on-going documentation of what exactly a mystic goes through.

The angry blog on liturgy actually had a fair point, though I found it by way of Facebook and a wave of criticism against the blog that I thought was unfair and missing the point of what the angry author wrote. In reality, her complaint was that the mystery of the Mass had been compromised by modern innovations. The truth is that Mass has been adapted in many ways in many places, and in some ways, I can see the merit of adapting Christian worship as necessary.

On the other hand, I think that the worship is designed in such a way as to create a specific state of quiet in the individual that God might be reached. Mass might be fun and engaging for some people; believe it or not, some of us actually have incredible fun doing things like reading and being quiet and solemn.

It isn’t for everyone. And I feel compassion for the people who would find worship a different way than myself and goodwill that they find it.

I’m not sure that means that the Mystery of Christ should be compromised to cater to people who might not find it “fun” to attend.

Having been raised in an Assembly of God church for a number of years, I think there’s a sort of backlash within myself as well to worship that is less structured or unfocused. It’s unfulfilling for me.

But I digress.

The second blog about social justice touched on racial issues and relations. A fantastic point was raised; unfortunately, it was crushed by the obviously angry tone of the blog along with a few incorrect lines of reasoning. Ultimately, I was able to find charity in myself, but not before reacting with anger.

I’ve been reading The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, a saint that is a patron of mine if for no other reason than she is a well-known mystic of the Church. Many times I have started The Interior Castle; many times I have failed to read through it. But the time has come that I am ready. Her words are a great comfort to me in that I am able to relate, to trace certain happenings of which she speaks to my own experiences. There are few reliefs so great as this.

The worldly things distract me; oftentimes, I’ve wondered if the superior path for me would have been to take vows and live the monastic life. Here I am, married and with a family but am attending a Unitarian Universalist church, raising my son as a UU; that is fine and wonderful, and my life is comfortable, yet ideally, I would raise my family in a Christian household with strong regard for knowledge and traditions of the world and religion- that is, not compromising the core imagery used to contain the Mystery of God.

I miss attending Mass, and greatly so. I miss receiving Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and no doubt much of my suffering in this world at this point is due to the separation between myself and Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

My obligations and involvement with the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship are out of devotion to my husband and to the people at the Fellowship as my community, as my friends. Yet spiritually, I am devoid of what my soul yearns for.

The path is ultimately interior, and that is something I know. I have tried to submit to God in being where I am, knowing that perhaps I can shine a great light on the people present there, that perhaps the UU gives me a chance to truly show the charity of Christ and the effective presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit in my life. But in the meantime, how I suffer!

The fact is that I never knew that one could be so spiritually lonely even while surrounded by a good community, yet that’s exactly where I am. To have like-minded individuals about you and to have people who understand one in some capacity spiritually are different things.

While I might read The Interior Castle and romance the life of nuns and monks in the Middle Ages and even today, the reality is that my path as a householder is a fulfilling one still. I love my husband and son very deeply. I would not trade this life for the life of a monk. I only wish that I could augment the life I have in some way to reflect that same sort of spiritual depth that I perceive. It’s also possible that I have this spiritual depth but am projecting it on to others.

To add to issues, my mother has potentially been diagnosed with a chronic though manageable condition. That my parents are aging also terrifies me greatly.

These may all seem to be great complaints that are in fact petty, and in some ways, they are. The mood drives them; the problems seem much greater, yet I know the mood will pass, and that God will attend to me thus.

One thing that St. Teresa said that particularly stood out to me is that God owes us no consolations on the mystic path; God owes us nothing, having redeemed us from our fallen state, and we are therefore the “Greater Debtor.” These states me struck out and lashed my ego something fierce. In a world where people demand the proof of God, people scream, shriek, and bellyache at the lack of God’s presence or evidence for God, this one statement summed things up for me well.

I have doubted the existence of the Devil and demons for some time. To believe in the Devil is to admit to something terrifying, something that could possibly be influencing me. Yet I do not think that all impulses arising in the human beings are so easily attributable to some outside force; to blame everything on the influence of a demon comes off as stupid and unreflective.

But to suggest that perhaps demons are afflict us with negative thoughts from time to time, bringing up accusative thoughts and painful memories over and over again to sway us from the final goal of union with our Lord Christ- this is something I have experienced. The reality is that ignoring negative or painful thoughts isn’t easy, and I’m fully against repression.

What I describe here isn’t about repressing how one feels but reorienting one to what one TRULY seeks.

Yes, as I write this, I feel as though a much larger heart is within me and comes without as well, and that it burns with a warm and eternal flame of goodness, the sort of goodness one might feel among friends and family during the Christmas season. I sense in the world around and outside me the Black Fire blazing as well, the Luminous Darkness so far beyond our comprehension but that it is a total and utter THERE-ness.

It is difficult to tell if I’ve progressed at all spiritually. Where am I on the mystic’s path? It seems I might know, but I dare not name the Mansion lest the Devil itself come forth and shake it from the foundation. God knows; and that is enough for now.

Steve