Heirs to the Tradition that is Christianity I

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Many people do not necessarily understand why I even bother with Christianity, in any form, at this point in my life or in the progression of humanity. I established this blog in part for the sake of explaining, in as much length and grandeur and detail as I might deem appropriate, precisely why I would continue to bother with Christianity.

The problem is that the projection of Christianity is often one of conservatism and fanaticism. Christianity is claimed most loudly and boldly by, for want of better terms, the stupid and the hateful.

The people who attempt to deal with these things by holding varying theological opinions or, God forbid, actually doing research and inner spiritual work are quickly labeled as “progressive” and “liberal” and demonized as attempting to destroy the Gospel and as Satan’s henchmen.

Another form of Christianity we often see is a watered-down, semi-therpeutic variety that screams about the transformative power of Jesus but offers none of said transformation; people so often give the spiel about how Jesus Christ can heal you and offer it and offer it and offer it, and so rarely does it ever happen.

Salvation, too, has been watered down from an actual ontological alteration of the human being on all levels (body, soul, and spirit) into a new creature, a process which is lengthy and devastating in many regards, to simply being a mental event in which you shift gears and start using the secret password of “Jesus is Lord.”

I, for one, do not buy into the notion of the so-called “getting saved” or “salvation experience” that is marketed by evangelical Protestantism; it’s the equivalent of putting a band-aid on cancer and saying someone has been truly transformed. This is, however, a blog for another day.

Christianity does not belong exclusively to people who are ultra-conservative, hateful, dogmatic, and rigid; it is a system, a religion, a faith, a revelation of God to mankind as a whole. There is a nucleus to it, an essence, a core of Love, yes; there are sustaining aspects, manifestations and references back to the essence that is the Love of Christ, which take many forms; there are traditions and scriptures that refer to the essence that is the Love of Christ and through which Christ speaks to all mankind.

Christianity is not solely understood through a literalistic, immediate reading of the Scriptures, which is a point that, incidentally, both fundamentalists and atheists alike often miss.

Fundamentalists and those who believe in Biblical inerrancy on all matters scientific, social, and otherwise, will insist that if God wanted us to know something, He would spell it out, and that is that, never considering that maybe what God has told us is something that is quite powerful, perhaps too powerful for an ordinary and easily corruptible person to be given, as they could cause harm.

Likewise, fundamentalists are often people who want things spelled out for them, like dogmatists. Dogmatists differ from fundamentalists in that they may not accept Biblical inerrancy, but they accept Church Authoritarianism and Pronouncement as the absolute authority on all matters. Either way, both groups are likely to argue and throw around the word “liberal” as though it were a slur. These are the sort of people who, in reality, are so very confused and doubtful of their own faith and understanding of religion that they scream with fury at anyone who dares question it.

Provided, it is far more comfortable in reality to have something spelled out for you, so you know where the boundaries are, you know what rules to follow, and you don’t get in trouble. However, that’s not really how God and His Reality work, so…be wary.

Atheists, (and by atheists, I mean more the Modern Evangelical Atheists, not your garden-variety doesn’t-really-care type atheist) also ask stupid questions, such as, “What else could it mean but the surface meaning?” These are the sort of people who look around, and not seeing a man on a throne, declare there is no God, no meaning to life, that they can do whatever they want, that we live in an irrational universe but use rational means to understand the universe, think that if you are at all interested in religion that you’re a complete, ignorant nitwit…you get the picture.

But getting back to my blog: we are all the heirs of the Tradition of Christianity; it does not belong solely to one denomination or another or one theological persuasion or another.

It is the duty of people of any culture to carry on the customs of that culture, and the religious rites of a culture, in so far as they are not hurting anyone, by practicing those religious rites.

One thing we must remember is that the Tradition of Christianity has produced immensely valuable tools for spiritual journey. Somehow, whether by intuition or by other means, I can perceive these so-called “tools” in Christianity very well. Having been raised in a Christian context and having had a familiarity with the symbolism from an early age, I can easily relate to them in a way that I cannot with other religions. That doesn’t mean I find the traditions of other religions any less alluring, but they are less immediately connected to me, my culture, and my own psychic heritage, if you will.

In many cases, it is difficult to separate the spiritual current running through a religion and the cultural context in which the religion evolved. There are many, many cultural artifacts which are written into the Bible, into Tradition, hold-overs from a different era that are not Divine Mandates but rather world views as those people understood the universe according to their science and culture at the time.

Yet these are the very things that so many people become so nit-picky over! The leftover garbage that happens to be the incidentals and not the meaning of the story suddenly become deified and elevated to the level of Holiness, and frankly, if you will forgive my harshness, enough of us have smelled the bullshit long enough.

On track again: I cannot know if any of my ancestors were ever Buddhists or Hindus. I can know with some certainty that many of my ancestors in the last 2000 years were Roman Catholic, and with greater certainty that some of my ancestors within the last 500 years were Anglican.

Thus I can reason that my own ancestors at some point worshiped in a soaring church buildings and knelt at the altar to take the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and somehow, feeling that connection with them and with Europe is important to me.

As I write this blog, it is late, and I’m tired, so I’ll have to return to the theme at a later time.

Beaux


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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