Sinful Nature

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The sinful nature of the human being is often depicted in a strange sort of way.

The image present in many strains of Christianity is something like this: God, an old, grumpy man in the sky, has set forth Rules. The individual breaks a rule, which then pisses God off, and so God decides the individual must burn forever.

I condemn this view because of how weak, childish, silly, and outright dangerous it is. This idea of sin and God is at the level of understanding of a three-year-old, yet some Christians perpetuate this for the duration of their life to disastrous consequences, not the least of which that it leads no one and has never led anyway to theosis.

While in bed this morning, praying because I was trying to go back to sleep and because I find prayer much easier in a relaxed state (but this should go without saying), a more suitable illustration came to me:

imagine that a person beholds a perfect, clear light, a light which heals and sets right any ailments the person may have in their spirit, a light which endows the individual with infinite meaning in their life and experience.

Now imagine that instead of beholding that light, the person is inclined to put heaps of mud upon their eyes because the mud provides a sort of soothing, pleasurable sensation. And it isn’t just an idea that comes to us; no, the desire to put mud upon our eyes because it feels good is a natural happening (or seemingly so).

There you have it- that’s the sinful nature of mankind in the presence and experience of Almighty God. We deprive ourselves by substituting something else that seems to be what we would like but is ultimately lacking, even if it seems sensible at the time.

Now, that being said, please understand that this illustration is by no means absolute or perfect. I’m only pushing it forward to try to give a more mature and spiritual understanding of the relationship between a human being and God.

As for the Book of Common Prayer experiment, I’ll say that’s been the best decision I’ve made in a long time, right up there next to ceasing to be vegetarian. I’ll also say that this experiment works for me because somehow I was instructed in my spirit about the matters; this is by no means an absolute rule.

Some people are strange in that the figure out a new way to do something or something that works for them, and they make an error of ultra-generalization, “Why, if EVERYONE just used the Book of Common Prayer every day, we would all be okay!” True, it would be helpful for those of us officially belonging to the Anglican Tradition to practice our tradition, but our culture is a specific one, and what works for us might not work for others.

This brings us to another point of interest with regard to theology: the night of my Confirmation Mass, I told the Bishop that I felt the theology of Anglicanism has a greater flexibility than the theology of the other considered denominations, which is what caused me to go with Anglicanism after all was said and done. (That and the lack of more mystical denominations around me also caused this decision. I also blame the Red State Mystic for making mainstream Christianity make sense to me.)

And herein lies the need of the flexibility: the Mystery the Living God is an explosive one, and if one has a theological framework that is bricked up and inflexible, the Actual, True, Real, Living Mystery will shatter the theological framework by revealing things unpredicted and for which the theology does not prepare you.

The flexibility effect, instead, allows for the containing of that Mystery so that it might be lived out and experienced and (very importantly) shared through the being of the individual.

I think this is enough for tonight.

Stevo

Return of Meaning

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For a while, life had become meaningless. What I mean to say is that a severe disconnected had erupted between me and the world around me, in the experiencing of holidays and outings and the passing of the seasons. I couldn’t enjoy life and all that life offers because I wasn’t meditating.

Of course, by meditation, I mean contemplative prayer, but that should be known by now.

So it’s strange, but the further outside of myself I tried to reach, the greater came the disconnect; my own external strivings meant little.

But surrender to the living God, that God Who is Life Itself, and lo and behold, suddenly all the meaning is poured back into my world and my life.

So now I know I can never live a life apart from God. The challenge is the same, of course, at this point- bringing that knowledge and experience of the Living God into the mundane, everyday things that most of us would rather eschew. Where can God be found in the washing of laundry and dishes and sweeping of floors?

Yet we can’t waste any moments; a general sweetness of the Presence and Knowledge of God in life is, in many ways, “good enough.” God calls us to our full potential, though, so “good enough” isn’t what we can really do.

If we are to bring about peace in this world, if we are stop wars, rapes, and all the atrocities caused by the dark side of human nature, then we must have this infinite sweetness in all moments, every one of us, regardless of our station in life.

Because nothing else really matters- the healing of the world must take place now, and it must start with the broken human soul. Once the human soul begins to heal, then the healing can move out from that person and spread.

I should also note that recently, I’ve returned to reading The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. And my soul shakes and quakes when I read some of the things he wrote. At some points, of course, I wonder if he’s made strange leaps in reason and not realized it, and I do consider that the book was written well after his conversion, so he writes in terms of hindsight.

But rarely have I read someone’s words and felt myself so drawn to the truth that is driving the person to write in the first place. And this is coming from someone who’s read Irina Tweedie’s Daughter of Fire twice and started it for a third time.

That isn’t to suggest that I doubt Ms. Tweedie’s experiences or any other such nonsensical conclusion that might be drawn- it’s rather to say that in spite of all the wonderful things she wrote, my own spirit didn’t react this way while reading her diary.

Yes, I feel that I am at the door of a mystery, a mystery involving the God-Man Jesus Christ, though I can’t solve the Mystery alone; God must reveal it. Perhaps I’m enduring in order that my finite mind can contain the explosive Truth that will be revealed; I cannot be certain at the moment.

I am becoming more certain that in the Mass, we are offered to God as part of the sacrifice; we offer ourselves, and in receiving the Holy Eucharist, we are offered up with Christ. Confirmation and the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit plays into this, I think, but again, exactly how it works isn’t clear in my mind. Saying the Holy Spirit takes on the role as priest would seem to remove Christ as the priest, yet Christ is the Sacrifice; so the Eternal Sacrifice is also the Eternal High Priest, all made manifest by the Holy Spirit.

But these are only words of the Christian tradition that can’t convey the true and palpable sweetness of the Black Fire blazing within.

Stevo

On the Book of Common Prayer and More

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My home parish, St. Michael’s, gave me a portable copy of the Book of Common Prayer upon my Confirmation in 2012.

And while I’ve used the BCP, I haven’t used it as much as I could or should.

Anyone reading my blog knows that I’m always pushing forward on the spiritual quest and asking questions. And honestly, sometimes the archetypal forces of the Evangelical Christianity with which I was raised rear their ugly heads, and I just feel disgusted with Christianity.

At that point, I have to refocus and realize that I’m committing a number of errors in reasoning, not the least of which is predefining Christianity and then reacting against that definition.

But when I think fondly of the people at St. Michael’s, and I think of my far-flung friends Anglican and Gnostic and Catholic and Orthodox across the world, I relax a bit, and I realize that these people are the ones that give me reassurance of Christ’s goodness in me and in the world.

Anyway, the Book of Common Prayer is a nifty little thing, though sometimes I do wish we featured more prayers to Mary and various saints beyond their being mentioned in the Collects.

So, let’s discuss how I’m currently using the BCP.

One issue that I heard of long ago from a Roman website is that the Holy Spirit must teach us how to pray. My problem, of course, is that I always seem to think of things as “this, not that,” whereby I mean that I fail to recognize the Holy Spirit or my own spirit.

But enter the Black Fire, of which I’ve spoken for so, so long. The key here is to pray with and as the inner Black Fire- by praying this, by praying the very best part of me and best experience I can have, by offering that to Christ in the Holy Eucharist (the Eternal, Cosmic Eucharistic Christ, in other word) consistently, I can pray and begin to understand the words of the Book of Common Prayer.

Mostly, it’s best effects are for the Cycle of Prayer. Many people are against the idea of consistency because they think acting whimsically is more authentic. The whimsical and random action may have its place in individuality, sure, but if one also of one’s own volition subscribes to a Cycle of Prayer, doesn’t that also express one’s own individual needs?

I wish I could get to Mass more often. I wish to receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist more often. But in my life, this has increasingly become difficult and problematic, which can only mean that a very good solution is coming my way soon (and yes, I’m praying about it.)

I confess, the last time I attended Mass was with my husband, right after we were married, at the Great Easter Vigil. It was glorious and magnificent and wonderful. But that’s been the only time this year, and we need to remedy the matter soon.

Trouble is, now my husband is on the NIGHT shift, so we’re usually sleeping in the mornings. But of course, he doesn’t work weekends, so we could hypothetically get some sleep in. If only more Vigil Masses were offered in the Episcopal Church!

Anyway, the mysticism in any religion is something that ultimately comes from the encounter of the individual spirit with that of the Ultimate Reality. Our prayers, our rituals, all such things, are the channels through which this connection grows- and while I myself have had any number of days when the prayers I said and thought and sung seemed empty and decayed, that isn’t the fault of the prayers themselves, which ultimately serve to be channels for bringing the Ultimate Reality in daily consciousness.

Thus, one might conceive of something such as the Book of Common Prayer as being a candle that must be lit; the BCP does not in and of itself contain the fire, though it can draw out the fire within one, in other words.

I also recommend highly to people to light a candle while praying. Just one will do. More are great. But one will do, I think. Incense is also lovely, but I know that if you’re like me, a lot of incense triggers allergies and stuffy sinuses and sinus headaches, yikes.

That’s why incense is preferable in the church itself, of course, because it disperses so much that one gets the heavenly scent of frankincense without a sinus headache.

Well, in typical Stevo fashion, this blog has been all over the place. However, it does function to kind of give the unfolding realizations of a mystic as I think this is extremely important. Any mystic recording their journey is good; however, to see what happens along the way is also good.

Anyway, we’ll see what happens with the Cycle of Prayer using the BCP.

Stevo

Imago Dei Revisited

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I affirm that I am a sinner.

Where I perhaps differ from other Christians in making this statement is that my affirmation of being a sinner is a reference to separation; my statement could otherwise be read as, “I affirm that I am separated from God.” 

Here, I depart, in some ways, from so-called “normative” Christian theology in that I do not see sin specifically in terms of moral failings. 

Restated, I do not see sin as being a matter of breaking arbitrary rules that have been set. The argument that the rules exist on a Divine level and somehow make sense there is unsuitable, and I reject it. 

In many ways, but not in every way, I also reject the concept of concupiscence as it states that humans are naturally disposed toward sinfulness or making moral failings. 

I do not deny that I fail, morally speaking, perhaps even on a daily basis, nor do I deny that I fall short of ideals and high standards I even set for myself.

These matters, in and of themselves, do not speak directly to separation from God. Rather, they are a by-product, an indirect consequence of separation from Holy Trinity. 

Direct consequences of the Great Separation are firstly the broken images, of which I will speak, and secondly the pain that arises from the broken images.

Two images of reality are broken in our separation from Holy Trinity: first, the Imago Dei itself. It is no wonderful that our modern Evangelical Protestant notion of God (and oftentimes, the older Catholic notion of God) appears as a war-like, angry father figure, what I term rather derisively as the “socially-sanctioned crystallized patriarchal archetype” of God. No wonder we have so many images of God that exist throughout time, all of them imperfect in some way, all of them symbolic in some way; light, when broken down, produces color, and while the color is beautiful, each individual ray does not tell the full story. 

So, we see in the glass darkly because our image of God is smashed, a broken mirror of the perfect Holy Trinity. 

But this is not the only issue; so, too, because we cannot clearly see the Imago Dei in its perfection, we cannot see the image of man clearly. Our image of ourselves is distorted in the same way.

I touched on this idea some time ago when I had a crying and laughing spell at an inner realization of God being man’s secret and man being God’s secret. Here we arrive at it again: we are deprived of two great secrets, one of which is God’s image, and one of which is man’s image, both damaged, though not permanently and irrevocably. 

So our Separation, for reasons that are not totally discernible, perhaps because we chose to leave, perhaps because we were forced to leave, perhaps because something malevolent forced us to leave, shattered both images of God and Man, and the pain of the continued brokenness is what forces us to seek a remedy for the pain. 

And this is where moral failing arrives: if we were to affirm the notion of concupiscence, let it be affirmed that it is only a poorly executed attempt to find relief from the Deep and Terrible Pain from which few have escaped save in the arms of Saint Death herself. We break rules thinking we are breaking the veils that keep us from Holy Trinity. 

And yet even our attempts to see Holy Trinity are misguided in so many ways; God is kept distant from us, God is kept in a broken image, several broken images, kept in a labyrinth of shattered mirrors that we might ever see our reflection and His reflection distorted and in our face, and what happens but that we bump into the glass and cut ourselves again and again. 

There is no greater oppression than to be separated from God. With God, all things are possible; God is our rest, our fullness, our peace, the fulfillment of every desire. 

I’m tired at this point in the mystic’s journey. I’m at a standstill in many ways. The pain of separation is too great. To carry on is to find the heaviness in my heart so great that it stops; to cease is to find the heaviness in my heart so great that it stops. 

And this pain brings to the light the evil within; pain begets evil. The more pain we feel, the more we cry out, the more we lash out, the more we lose control, desperately seeking something that will STOP the pain. 

If the death of me as an ego is the death of this pain, then I am ready. I am ready to die. 

Stevo

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church Again

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Over a year ago, I first walked through the doors into St. Michael’s Episcopal Church to a loving congregation. I found myself attracted to the tradition and openness of the church members while frustrated with various aspects of the liturgy that I felt weren’t traditional enough or simply didn’t understand. 

Tonight, a year later, I have a certain kind of measurement between last year and this year, and a certain deepening of mystical consciousness that has changed at least since last year. To be honest, this year, I’ve only received Holy Communion once, and this was my second time. 

Thank God.

The drive to St. Michael’s filled my heart with longing, and as I was there, during the simplified version of the Mass, I felt the energy rise higher and higher, even to the point where the headache I’ve had for two days disappeared. 

Yes, it was gone, at least for a little while.

The drive back felt akin to how one feels after finding one’s lover, after the sexual experience, and I couldn’t help but think back to the Sufi teachings about God as the Beloved and how Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee established that, essentially, the Gnosticism of Christianity became absorbed into Islam as the Sufi teachings…and of course, the story is probably infinitely more complex than that, but it’s a simple bird’s eye view of things.

So, the Holy Eucharist, then, has an effect on me, whether or not I’ve realized it all this time. Mystical consciousness progresses for some more quickly than others, and perhaps I’m on the slow track after all; if so, I’m fine with that. 

What remains to be seen is if Christ has chosen me as one of His own to be taken permanently into His Mystical Body, never to be separated from the Beloved. In life and in death, I belong entirely to Him.

Stevo

life, Life; reality, Reality

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The deadness on my inside hasn’t left.

 

I’m terrified, to be honest.

 

But the terror is muted over, like a gray, melting demon has not allowed me to even feel the fear.

 

Last night, I committed a grave sin. I can’t detail and confess the sin online, only that I committed it. I heard Our Lady’s voice tell me at the very moment after the sin was committed: “You have a committed a grave sin.”

 

Perhaps this wasn’t the actual voice of Our Lady; most likely, my own conscience was dictating this to me.

 

Yet the sin was committed and cannot be undone.

 

Sin is about life. Sin committed by myself, the people who would be counted among God’s number, is not about trying to hurt God; it’s about trying to feel alive. So much sin involves our emotional faculties, so much sin involves our feeling alive and our need to feel alive; even something simple like stealing something gives an adrenaline rush because one is “breaking a rule.”

 

So we sin, and we sin all for the sake of seeking to be alive.

 

A Red State Mystic wrote recently about wanting Reality over reality, and I want the same. Mystics throughout the ages have suggested that this life is like a dream, and that we must wake up.

 

Only I would say that this life is like a nightmare, and I know I’m asleep, and I still can’t seem to wake up; I’m screaming, I’m screaming so loudly, and I can’t find my way out.

 

I have those rare few moments where I do make it out, where I wake up, and I think, “Oh…!”

 

But those moments, those awe-inspiring moments of feeling alive, are becoming foggier and foggier. My mind feels as though it’s perpetually asleep, as though there’s always a wall between me and the world around me, and now, all I want to do is cry about it, because I don’t know what to do, I can’t imagine what to do, I can’t figure out how to change things.

 

I cry out to God, and God turns a deaf ear to me. It doesn’t matter that I witness to Him when I can: “Yes, I hear You! I hear You in the flow of the song, in the blow of the wind; I see you in the symbols of my dreams, I see you in the smile of children. Yes, I feel you when the covers are snug around me in my bed, when I walk into the morning warmth before going to Mass.” No, I am despised none the less!

 

I sound like the biggest pseudo-psalmist emo-boy that ever existed.

 

So, in summary: I am separated both from life and Life. I am caught in the in-between, in a world that’s awful and won’t give me the pleasures of the world and won’t give me the pleasures of God. It’s like being dead. Or Dead. This must be what Hell is like.

 

Beaux

 

On Being One’s Individual Self, More on Bernadette Roberts, and Various Rantings

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Instead of engaging in Contemplative Prayer (which is what I should be doing), I am instead writing a bit about an insight I had earlier.

 

To counterbalance this grand insight, I ended up cutting myself shaving. I do think this is the whole paradox of reality- we recognize some powerful and great Truth which is then curbed by the distressing and often annoying realities of common life.

 

Unfortunately, I do spend too much time reading theology online, along with forums and people’s opinions on various matters of religion. I’ve done so less and less as time as progressed, rightly curbing such an atrocious habit, but it does possess me here and again.

 

Naturally, with my Jungian and mystical leanings to things, I do take it upon myself to Google Jung and Catholicism.

 

Some article or another popped up one day that, of course, was blasting Jung and the “liberalism” of certain Catholics who seem to think the goal of the Tradition is just to find the “Authentic Self” and apply this to the idea that the universal quest of all religion is to find the “Authentic Self,” and there ends the quest.

 

This is partially correct. However, the issue that many mystics seem to be pressing, and the issue that I discovered when I was age 15, is that there is a point where one transcends the Higher/Authentic Self.

 

The notion that there may be something beyond the Higher Self, or that the Higher Self could even be lost, is troubling and perplexing to many people who don’t understand how we could exist without it. However, there are some technicalities in the context of philosophical and theological definitions as to what the “soul” of a human being is, such that the soul includes body and mind.

 

Anyway, some of the issues I’ve seen recently are people’s attacking Bernadette Roberts and her particular way of viewing things. They seem to gloss over some points that she makes that are very important while dissecting her with all manner of philosophical attacks that they can, and the whole bit irritates me. I finally gave up reading that particular forum after I made it to the 8th or so page out of 18 pages of Walls of Text Coming After Me.

 

Given, I did find some of the philosophical points people were making interesting, but I think I can summarize in a better way what Bernadette is attempting to convey:

 

Instead of our having a ghost or inner spirit that pops out when we die, we have an aspect of the body that is immortal, an aspect of the body that our senses don’t normally inform us about. The Holy Eucharist, then, explains this: the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ while the Body and Blood don’t seemingly appear.

 

Now, this concept appeals to me, the idea of an immortal, unseen Body, because to me, it seems NOVEL. Christianity has a huge focus on the Incarnation, on physicality, and on the Sacraments being real and true and actual effective means of our receiving God.

 

I’m also not suggesting that this particular way of perceiving things should be accepted as dogma. Rather, one should test this and find out for one’s self by making the mystic’s journey, pure and simple.

 

There’s a bit of contradiction when it comes to people who perceive the Deceased and communicate with entities on the “other side,” along with comparisons of various Near Death Experiences. One wonders how these things possibly happen if it’s possible that we don’t have a thinking/feeling being that persists after the death of the body.

 

Anyway, moving on to the Insight I had earlier and referring back to the Authentic Self: as I’ve said, there’s been a new shift in my focus to try to stimulate the Third Chakra and to try to really have a sense of liking myself and who I am. The Bishop said something interesting to me prior to my Confirmation in that we have to be the person God created us to be. The problem is that this is variously understood to mean something along the lines of following a particular set of rules, but then in Catholic Christianity, the feel of it, too, is different. There is a specific measure in God’s plan that I can and should fulfill, and I have to embrace my individuality to the maximum.

 

Again, the irony that exists in trying to destroy a sense of identity and how that perpetuated my sense of self and then the embracing of a particular identity seems to erode the ego in a way I can’t precisely explain.

 

My concern has been that seeking my True Self or Ego Center might displace God. In fact, the opposite reality is what I’ve discovered: being one’s true self, finding one’s center, and living out that center, is in and of itself an act of worship. To be what God has created one to be IS a prayer, IS worship, and I’m satisfied with that.

 

I’ve heard the bit before about searching for God and finding one’s self or searching for one’s and finding God, which I think kind of illustrates this principle. I go searching for myself, and then I find myself in the Presence of God.

 

My heart chakra also seems to be able to open more freely now that I’ve been more wont to embrace the stomach chakra.

 

Another interesting thing, too, is that I’m able to enjoy my own being, my own company, and have a sense of appreciation for myself. A few times, I’ve finally felt like an adult somewhere, like there was a Bigger Me somewhere that understood things and could do things that I can’t normally do. I compare this to my finally feeling less like a child and more like a teenager; suddenly things that frightened me were more like an adventure of sorts, a fresh start, a new change that I could experience.

 

But that particular mode of being is something that requires such tremendous focus that I hope it becomes a force of habit after a while. I might well give up if I don’t get a second wind sometime soon, as it’s pretty difficult on the one hand.

 

Pax Vobiscum.

 

Beaux

 

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