The Episcopal Church

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A fun video explaining the Episcopal Church. Check it out!


Being without a proper Gnostic Church to attend, I’ve given heavy consideration over the past few years about joining the Catholic Church or the Episcopal Church. I’ve even attended Mass a few times with Tyler at the Episcopal Church and enjoyed it.

Beaux


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Common Misconceptions about Catholicism

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Growing up, I was provided with innumerable misunderstandings of Catholicism. Whether they were outright fabricated, misconceptions, or something in between, I’m not totally sure, but here I’ll address a few of the things I’ve heard over the years.

#1. Catholics believe you must have faith and works to attain salvation.

TRUE, but there’s a reason for this: the Holy Scriptures support it.

James 2:14-26

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

The point is, it’s strange how the Sola Scriptura-ists are so adamant about believing the Bible, knowing what the Bible says, and then slamming Catholics as being oh-so-unbiblical, and then someone such as myself can pull out said verses and point out that the Catholic Tradition is actually more rooted in the Bible in this case.

So basically, the Catholics don’t say anything more than the fact that one’s Faith should be reflected in one’s Works to help people; it’s a pretty simple concept.

Could be worse…the Gnostics say that it is by direct experience of God and not by faith OR works that we experience salvation. Personally, I think all three are important, but that’s for another blog.

Next!

#2. Catholics “pray to Mary.”

This is a statement that never made a lot of sense to me. I was told Catholics prayed to Mary, and that you were only supposed to pray to God. But the concept of what they meant by “pray to Mary” seemed to be ill-defined; when people said this, they meant it almost in the context of, “Catholics pray to Mary and exclusively to Mary because they feel unworthy to pray to God.”

That would be FALSE.

But what IS true are that prayers for intercession are offered to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as to the Saints, and sometimes even Angels. However, the majority of prayers, and by majority, I mean VAST majority, are directed to God.

#3 Catholics are all hell-fire and brimstone, stodgy, and fuddy-duddy.

This was my own misperception that happened early on, but in my experience, largely FALSE; every Catholic I’ve personally known has been rather amicable, and they’ve also been the people who were vegetarians, eco-friendly, in bands, funny, and not afraid of alcohol.

Even many of the Catholics I’ve talked to online have been great; the only scary Catholics I’ve seen are in certain forums online, and even then most of them are open to having a dialogue or educating people. The frightening, condemning ones are definitely in the minority, at least within the English-speaking world, or I haven’t run into them very often.

Okay, well, that’s enough for now.

Beaux


Christianity: Pros and Cons

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A blog with some thoughts on Christianity.

What I like about Christianity:

  • The imagery and symbolism
  • The art
  • The music
  • The connection of Christianity with my own culture and history (familiarity)
  • The rituals, specifically the Sacraments
  • The Holy Tradition
  • The mysticism
  • The intellectual and philosophical tradition of theology, where and when present
  • The Awe and Mystery that the Mass inspires in me
  • The Love of Jesus Christ (saved the best for last)

What I do not like about Christianity:

  • Fundamentalism and ignorance; at times, outright stupidity
  • The denial of its origins and connections with other world religions
  • The excessive dogmatism and obsession with rules and legalism
  • Its claim to exclusivity of Truth
  • Its discouragement of free thought and opinion
  • Its ignoring data from science and variation in opinion
  • The squabbling and bickering among various denominations
  • The exclusion of the Gnostic Scriptures and other important historical Scriptures that would have actually enriched Christianity and its message, not detracted from it

Now, I do want to point out some things: this isn’t meant to represent every last Christian perspective, but it is a summary of what I personally have encountered in Christianity that has both attracted and repulsed me.

Instead of allowing the sickening feeling after reading various forums and arguments among more orthodox-minded Christians completely turn my stomach and drive me away from the Lord Jesus Christ, I’ve decided to stick with it and spell out exactly what I like and what I don’t like. This helps me and others to have a better understanding of where we stand and why.

As I will come to mention in one of my Memoirs blogs in the future, I’ve been working for literally years now to reconcile myself with Christianity, or perhaps more properly, to allow the Lord Jesus Christ to reconcile me to Him.

The problem is that my understanding of Christianity is by far more Gnostic in nature than orthodox, and I consider the Gnostic Scriptures equal to if not superior to the canonized Scriptures. That therefore leads me to be damned as a heretic before I’ve even entered into the Church in a proper sense.

Provided, there are Gnostic Churches that exist- but they are situated across North America, far-flung from one another, and thus I am again put in a position where I cannot attend such a church.

Given, Gnosticism is highly misunderstood and frequently demonized by the more orthodox churches, being one of the earliest and most powerful so-called “heresies.” However, the joke is on the Church- God’s Presence, the Holy Gnosis of knowing Him one-to-one, continues to manifest even this day and cannot be simply killed or persecuted out. Instead, it will return, time and time again, as we see in the great Christian mystics.

Unfortunately in this day and age, there are a number of groups that pop up as self-proclaimed “gnostics” that are neither Gnostic in a historical sense nor connected with the modern appearance of the Gnostic Church; this doesn’t help the Gnostic movement in any way or proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps this smacks of the No True Scotsman fallacy to make such a pronouncement, but even Gnostic Churches that are not formally affiliated (the Ecclesia Gnostica and the Apostolic Johannite Church being the two predominant ones that come to mind) are overwhelmingly similar to one another. Just slapping the label “Gnostic” on isn’t a good idea if you don’t know what that means in the first place, and as misunderstood as Gnosticism is, it only adds to the stew-pot of confusion.

These are my thoughts for the moment.

Beaux


Mysticism

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As this blog and many of my writings often refer back to the fact that I am a mystic, it would be helpful if some kind of working definition were provided to explain precisely what I mean by the word “mystic.”

To my own knowledge, there are several different uses for the word “mystic,” and this is precisely why it will help to explain what I mean when I say “mysticism” and “mystic.”

According to the dictionary on my computer:

mystic |ˈmistik| noun

a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.

That definition resonates very well, as abstract as it may be. Contemplation as read above is defined more so in the Christian sense, whereby “contemplation” and “contemplative prayer” are analogous to what we Westerners now call “meditation” that comes from the East, e.g., clearing and stilling one’s mind.

Gladly I would admit the above definition at any time.

According to Dictionary.com:

mys-tic

-adjective

1. involving or characterized by esoteric, otherworldly, or symbolic practices or content, as certain religious ceremonies and art; spiritually significant; ethereal.

2. of the nature of or pertaining to mysteries known only to the initiated: mystic rites.

3. of occult character, power, or significance: a mystic formula.

4. of obscure or mysterious character or significance.

5. of or pertaining to mystics or mysticism.

–noun

6. a person who claims to attain, or believes in the possibility of attaining, insight into mysteries transcending ordinary human knowledge, as by direct communication with the divine or immediate intuition in a state of spiritual ecstasy.

7. a person initiated into religious mysteries.

Mysticism, from Dictionary.com:

Mysticism, noun

1. the beliefs, ideas, or mode of thought of mystics.

2. a doctrine of an immediate spiritual intuition of truths believed to transcend ordinary understanding, or of a direct, intimate union of the soul with god through contemplation or ecstasy.

3. obscure thought or speculation.

Definition 2 would resonate with what I mean, followed closely by definition 1, and I would outright reject definition 3 in terms of what I mean when I say “mysticism.”

These definitions, too, summarily tell us as much about mysticism as we can immediately tread within the confines on my own blog.

So what do I mean when I say “mysticism” if we go beyond the technical definitions? What do I mean in saying that I am a mystic?

I mean to say that it is my own experience, my own direct encounter with God, the Absolute, the Ultimate Reality, or whatever term you may like to use, that counts, that allows for Salvation, that allows for Freedom, and that is not the product of a book, of a ritual, or of the authority of some outside source.

That does not mean that I think outside references to God are completely and utterly worthless; time and time again I will repeat how the Sacraments and Sacred Scriptures of various traditions are extremely important if understood in the proper context, and I think the whole mess that Religion proves itself to be so often is that said the majority of people who practice those religions have no clue what’s really going on or supposed to be going on but smugly assume that they and their backwards interpretation of things constitute the entire Truth of Reality.

Typically I try to watch out for people who assume that they know everything and that they and they alone have the Truth, because those people are usually the ones who are the most dangerous and hateful. Mystically speaking, everyone is privy to the Truth and has the birthright of coming to God- but no one is forced or evangelized to be a mystic, and mystics, as a general rule, tend to be accepting of other people’s Faiths and Traditions and seek the underlying Reality that is God in every human being and in every practice.

Then again, I understand that I cannot speak for any other mystic, only this mystic! That doesn’t disqualify this as my general understanding of things, however.

I realize in writing all these things that it sounds incredibly abstract and ethereal, and the truth is that mysticism often works with a level of reality seemingly so subtle that the only way to even begin to express anything of it is to speak in extreme abstractions.

People often ask me what I “believe,” and in essence, they’re questioning my basic world view, wondering what it might be. Most of what I’ve written above counts for that, though it may be a little more detailed. The mystic world view is the basic, absolute core of how I view things, and even then I realize it’s subject to change depending on the situation. However, mysticism is often fluid enough to where such changes are not a terrible thing.

The problem is in trying to express mysticism in every day language and in finding an appropriate religious context in which to pour the energy. This is what has produced, in the minds of the people that I know, my apparent “changing of religions so often.” The reality is that my core “beliefs” never change, or rarely do, and that a different set of symbolism in a religion suddenly comes up to me and speaks to me.

My own conflict with religion is that so often the “orthodox” (from the Greek meaning “correct belief”) views constrict the mystery and life out of the religious experience, and then claim that whoever disagrees with them is a heretic and must be excommunicated. The other difference is that the orthodoxy of many religions requires you simply swallow whatever they teach you with no questions, and then go on your merry way just nodding your head in agreement.

Mysticism, on the other hand, provides the doctrines, rituals, and symbols as guideposts in a religion- they refer to the Living God, they symbolize the Living God, they speak and attempt to meagerly proclaim the Living God, but they are not the Living God in all His Absolute Glory; experience them, yes, but experience them in order to experience God.

Yes, it all goes back to the direct, one-on-one encounter with God, and I must say I’m quite fine with knowing for myself as opposed to putting my belief in someone else’s belief in someone else’s experience.

Praise be to God!

Beaux


God is in the Music

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Today I went to see Tyler perform in a concert at a local church.

I haven’t been inside many Protestant churches in the proper sense in a long, long time, so I was surprised to note how the Baptist church had a very modern layout, something akin to a theatre. Even the churches I typically see on TV often have a more “traditional” layout, but we won’t linger at this point.

Without realizing it, I had walked into a concert that had predominantly religious songs, all of which were beautiful. There’s something to be said for the effect of a live performance as opposed to one that is recorded or being viewed on TV; the difference in the immediacy cannot be adequately expressed in words.

It is said in the Qur’an that every creature has its own mode of praise and glorification of God, whereby the meaning is that every individual relates to God in a different manner. Though the reasoning behind it has never been fully revealed to me, I learned long ago that I relate to God through Sacred Music, and the music today was certainly sacred!

The singing took me to new heights, and I noticed my throat chakra especially was reacting to the music, which makes sense. My consciousness in general seemed expanded, and I recall having rapid insights about what was going on.

I did my best to send energy to the singers, and to focus on the Presence of God.

A few times, for split seconds, I could see faintly that rose from the choir. The energy lines were faint to my own vision, so perhaps it was veiled, but whether I could see the energy or not, I certainly felt the connection among everyone in the church.

Truth be told, I love all kinds of music, and I love traditional church hymns. Organ music especially appeals to me, along with chant. I suppose this may be in part the unconscious reaction to my upbringing in the so-called “low” churches.

But also, traditional prayers, such as Ave Maria (or the Angelic Salutation, also called the Hail Mary), when sung are absolutely the epitome of sung beauty. Who is not lifted up into the Presence of God when hearing such things?

Chanting in any language, in any religion, is beautiful to me. Myself, I love to chant as well, though I can’t do any of the actual Gregorian chants of Christianity.

When one repeats a prayer, for instance, and focuses intensely on the meaning of the prayer, the sounds begin to break apart and reveal a deeper essence. Initially this will seem akin to the words no longer having meaning, and this is doubly apparent when one prays with words from another language, yet beneath the sudden meaninglessness is a meaning far beyond our normal conception.

I find it so amazing that God can speak to so many different people in so many different religions and in so many different ways. Certainly not everyone feels the same way about Sacred Music as I, but likely there is something that helps to lift them up to a higher place within themselves.

Beaux