Just Call Me Stevo…

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When I began blogging in the online world two years ago, I decided to adopt a pen name in an attempt to keep myself private in some capacity or another. Many writers use pen names, and I’m a blossoming writer in some capacity, as most of you may have guessed by now.

That being said, I’m going to take a very important stand at this point in time and put myself out there. Sometimes, the courage we gain and the right way to do something is out of sheer observation of another person who does the right thing. A new friend of mine has shown me that it’s more important to be one’s self and to be honest about one’s self than are a lot of things in this world.

So, while I’m going to keep the pen name “Beaux”  (pronounced just as “Bo”) for my food blog, The Yum Yum, I’m ditching it here.

My name is Stephen, and Stevo is a nickname. Or you can call me Steve. 

I’m gay, and I’m a gay mystic, and I’m a gay Christian mystic. I identify as Catholic, specifically, Anglo-Catholic, and I’m a member of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. 

I have interest in all the world religions; I like Voodoo, I like Hoodoo, I like reading Tarot cads, and I like divination in general. 

Of course, the naysayer smay want to come along and say things like, “ZOMG how can u be Christian n be gay too its against gods word”

It’s too laborious to have that conversation, especially with the stupid, because basically what Christians mean when they say you can’t be gay and be Christian is that you’re spoiling their barrel of apples by being a bad apple identifying as one of them. Then the comparisons between allowing murderers and rapists to be counted among their number will begin. This is precisely the sort of attitude that makes me want to label myself simply as “Gnostic” in order to already declare to the mainstream Christians that I’m not one of them and thus don’t have to risk their attempt to expulse me from their shitty level of hillbilliy theology.

Of course, that last parapraph, filled with its snark, lends to the idea that I make a damned good Episcopalian. Now all I need is an Old Fashioned, and we’ll be sitting pretty. 

So, from now on, I’ll sign my blogs on Craving Aletheia simply as “Stevo.” There’s no point in hiding my name; there’s no point in hiding who or what I am if I’m interested in the truth and most especially, the Truth.

There you have it.
 
 Stevo

 

 

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Video on Episcopalians

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A video on comparative religion explaining a bit about the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism.


Lately

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Does the darkness indicate that one is again approaching the Light?

Last week went so terribly on so many counts for me, and now this week, despite the physical pain, or maybe because of it, I’m having incredible insight. Is this the meaning of gnosis?

The love- oh, the LOVE! I remember in high school diving into the love, I remember the trip back from New Orleans when I understand my mission was to love, to love, to love, and that even when I died, I would reincarnate and suffer more for the sake of love. Is this the reality I’ve forgotten for so long?

Is that what it means to surrender to God? I will gladly return to this Earth to love. I will gladly endure the horrors to tell others of the Great Being of Divine Love.

Do you know what it feels like to be unable to love? That is a hell, a prison, a terrible place in which to be. To struggle, to fight, to break free and love again is not an easy task. Possible, yes. But it is not easy, and you will endure a hell to get there again.

Bernadette Roberts is wise in stating that the stages of the mystic’s path are only outlined in retrospect. I can now see that 2010 was such a horrible year because I facing my own Shadow.

Facing the Shadow is not what you might think it is. You’re plunged into it. Or at least, I was plunged into it- thrown into the very depths of my own darkness, unable to see that’s where I was, unable to see that there was a world outside of that strange and dark universe. I thought that was reality, that my actions were justified, that perhaps what I did was the will of God operating on a level that is beyond normal human understanding.

Now I can see the intense egotism in it all. I can see where I knew I was wrong but pushed forward anyway. Again, this is all in retrospect.

Then again, maybe there was a dim understanding that I was facing my Shadow, but as with so many things that happen mystically, these processes are unconscious. The Shadow is an unconscious process, and the dealing with it, the controlling it, the integrating it, relies on becoming aware of it. But you can never fully understand exactly how unconscious these things are until later on, when you’re far more aware of them.

At this point, through my own observation, I truly opine that the mystical changes in an individual begin on the unconscious level and trickle into the conscious mind. We can participate in our own transformation, yes- and those of us who are aware that such a process is going on are obligated to do so, I would say- but we do not create the change by our own hand in the ultimate sense. We can say, “Yes, let this happen” and start the ball rolling, but we are not responsible for the end results- something greater than us intervenes.

This is the reason I think religion is so important. It isn’t just about having a belief. It isn’t just a bunch of outdated science. Religion is a reflection, a conscious incarnation, of man’s deepest inner psychological happenings. Religion is a map, concretized and depicted, of man’s own consciousness. People of our modern era constantly miss that point.

These days, I often see the more orthodox-minded Christians going at it with one another, arguing over silly things like homosexuality and citing this verse or that verse in the Bible. The entire approach is often so far off-base that it makes the whole things laughable. I feel as though the entire point has been overlooked.

Maybe the days of being a self-proclaimed heretic should be embraced. Father Jordan said something interesting in one of his blogs once, that it seems most arguments come from people who are claiming to be orthodox but have nuances in doctrine as opposed to being between people who are orthodox versus so-called heretic.

But maybe I should also face the truth about myself: my views would typically be deemed heretical by the more mainstream churches. I’m not against the orthodoxy, though- I’m very much a huge supporter of Catholicism (both Anglican and Roman!) and Eastern Orthodoxy. When it comes to Protestantism as a whole, I tend to be more cautious, because Protestant encompasses everything from Lutheranism to Pentecostalism. Some would also lump the Anglican Communion in with the Protestants, but I’m staunchly against that for a variety of reasons.

But would it do any good to call myself Gnostic? Gnosticism, too, has a problem with the label game. There are so, so many misunderstandings about Gnosticism, and people much wiser than I have detailed endlessly how often misconceptions are spouted about Gnostics.

Something will come of it, I’m sure.

Beaux


The Label Game

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One of the most difficult aspects of my own spiritual journey has been the struggle to find a spiritual home. Perhaps this entry would be better titled “Memoirs of My Religion IV,” but for the moment, “Labels” should suffice.

Ultimately, it is not the label that is important, and anyone with a mystical understanding knows this. Yet sometimes I can’t help but feel that the concept of not labeling things is the product of modernist dogma, the idea that nothing can be pinned down, categorized, and so on with total certainty.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, the accusation has often been levied against me that I’m inconsistent with my religion. This is an oversimplified and grossly misunderstood point of view. The reality is that much of what I have believed has remained consistent at the core, rarely, if ever, altering. Instead, I have a problem finding an appropriate home, an appropriate articulation of the inner knowing.

One of my former friends once said that it’s difficult for us to ground ourselves in a particular Tradition because of the abuses we experienced in previous religions, notably fundamentalist Christianity. The world view articulated there is simply inaccurate, we were damaged by it, and now that causes a great deal of fear when trying to find a more concretized religion.

As many of you may know, when I returned to Christianity as a whole, my immediate interests went towards Catholicism and, by proxy, Anglicanism. My reasoning for this had to do with the mystical writings of Bernadette Roberts and various works by Gnostics. Catholicism, to me, represented a “higher” tradition Christianity: more organized, more ritualistic, more spiritual, more mystical, and outright deeper. Having grown up in an evangelical, extremely low (lowest of the low!) church setting, I was not about to return to it.

The reality of Catholicism, at least in the USA, is a bit more dismal than I realized. The Mass doesn’t look like you would think it’s supposed to; it’s virtually indistinguishable from a lot of evangelical services in some cases. With all due respect to Catholicism and especially to my Catholic friends whom I adore, it simply didn’t mesh well with me.

The Episcopal Church’s Mass is more traditional, and as I understand it, most Episcopal Churches are more traditional, though there are some that are more evangelical. The evangelical Episcopal Church seems to be the exception and not the rule, but I could be wrong about this.

Now comes the labeling game.

The Episcopal Church has a wide range of theological and liturgical positions. Simply saying one is an Episcopalian or an Anglican doesn’t mean too terribly much on the one hand, as that can represent everything from Pope-less Catholics to I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Presbyterian.

Provided, I am not officially a part of the Episcopal Church, and as it stands, I’m waiting, watching, and testing the waters carefully and extensively before I make any kind of leap into a formal organization. I cannot deny that I am overwhelmed and taken to God in the Mass, especially in taking Christ in the Holy Eucharist, but that may not be grounds for officially joining and thereby having a label slapped on me.

But since we are playing this game, if I were to become Episcopalian, I would be labeled a Liberal Anglo-Catholic mystic. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? And since I love to clarify things, I’ll clarify what I mean by this.

  • Liberal, as opposed to Conservative, meaning having no problem on the matters of female ordination, gay bishops, and gay marriage (OBVIOUSLY); this is mainly to distance myself from the perspective that most Anglo-Catholics are simply snide and conservative Episcopalians. Also, in my case, this would denote a level of theological flexibility while holding fast to certain core elements
  • Anglo-, to denote English, Anglican, and Episcopal association rather than Roman
  • Catholic, to emphasize the catholicity of the Church, of the Apostolic succession, the necessity, beauty, rightness, and holiness of the Liturgy, and most especially the importance of the Sacraments as the means by which we receive God’s Grace
  • mystic, to denote my seeking the deeper, contemplative, and altogether directly experienced Truth of Reality and God as opposed to strictly that which is an “approved” understanding, and that the direct experience is the whole point of the matter anyway

But, of course, that’s all a matter of “if and when,” not “this is the way it is.” Perhaps it really is just a game, hey.

Labels ultimately are for the convenience of other people, and in this way, I seem to be defining myself in a mixture of what I do and don’t stand for.

Another suitable label might certainly be that of “Gnostic.” However, opinions about Gnosticism and what exactly defines a Gnostic are wide and varied, though I certainly share many of the common elements in general with it. A blog about Gnosticism in particular will be posted soon enough.

Beaux


How Oddly “Conservative” of Me!

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Under most circumstances, I don’t like to have all kinds of labels attached to me. For many years, I understood labels as being nasty constrictions on the True Soul which underlies all things, and that to label ourselves was to become “attached” to something in the world, to some aspect of our transient selves.

Laying aside the Buddhist dogma and focusing on things from a practical angle is also an option.

The reality is, practically speaking, that we must necessarily identify ourselves to others in some way if we are to live in the world. This same rule does not apply equally to a monk living in a monastery among other monks.

But I am not a monk. Have I considered it? Sure. But I am not a monk, and I cannot live my life as one.

Perhaps the middle road of labels should be taken as well- accept labels when they are useful, as in social situations, but do not sit around and twiddle your thumbs thinking about the label when you are not socially engaged. Labels are simply reference points of convenience; use them as such.

The preface being said, I’ll get to my point- under normal circumstances, someone might label me as being “progressive” or “liberal.” This holds especially true in south Alabama.

I found myself on the other side of the spectrum concerning a recent situation (early 2009) that happened in, of all places, the Episcopal Church. A woman Priest by the name of Ann Holmes Redding claimed to be both a Christian and a Muslim.

They defrocked her.

(Wait for it.)

AS THEY VERY WELL SHOULD HAVE!!!

There you are, the “conservative” statement that I was planning to make the whole time.

Whereas I feel that a person can identify with the Beauty, Truth, and Holiness of a given religious tradition that is not one’s own, and in many cases, one can adopt certain practices from that tradition and its culture that are congruent with one’s own, I think that it is also intellectually dishonest for someone who is a representative of a particular tradition and not merely a lay practitioner to try to represent multiple traditions.

The situation of the layman varies from this. Depending on the religious tradition, a layman may be able to practice more than one religious tradition. Layman represent the tradition, but not in the same way that the Priesthood does.

True, I think that the core of religious traditions are the same- the internal essence remains the same across most of them, the Holiness, Love, and Bliss that are God.

But think of it this way: Alabama elects Jane Doe to be our Senator, so she goes to the US Congress to represent Alabama.

Not Georgia.

Not Florida.

Not California

ALABAMA.

Now, some might argue that the political situation differs from the religious one, but the point I’m making is that this Priest came from a specific religious “territory” but was attempting to hypothetically represent two different religious “territories,” which in this case are separated by a wide gulf of theological opinions and commentary.

Another situation that is similar but offers a solution is the Kevin Thew Forrester, an Episcopal Bishop who has a decade-long history of practicing Zen Buddhist meditation. Having reading his statement on the matter, the difference is that Forrester was led full-circle to the mystics and contemplatives of the Christian Tradition; in essence, he took a method, found it in his own tradition, and went on his merry way. The so-called “lay ordination” he received merely means that the Buddhists recognize that he’s trying to alleviate suffering in the world, and what could be more Christ-like?

The difference is remarkable, as well- the Zen meditation isn’t exclusively owned by Buddhists, and that particular practice is not incompatible with Christianity, as meditation is a huge part of the Christian Tradition (unbeknownst to many Christians themselves who would argue otherwise.)

This is not about “my God is bigger than your God” or “my religion is better than your religion,” in case you’re wondering. Rather, it is a matter of integrity and consistency; it is a matter of the preservation of certain traditions that we already represent and finding fulfillment in our being representatives of that tradition without having to take on the traditions of others as well.

There. I’ve said my piece.