A Few Important Notes

2 Comments

Long time, no update, but there’s been quite a bit going on within a small frame of time.

The first thing to note is essentially a dream that I had recently- I was inside a kind of complex of Catholic churches that had altars made of increasingly precious materials. The search was ultimately to go through a maze of these buildings until we could find the chapel that was made entirely out of gold. This, however, including going through Hell itself- not a fun part when we had to cross through rivers of liquid fire, I daresay.

But such was the case. The altars and chapels became increasingly beautiful, though I didn’t dream of the golden chapel at any point.

Moving on, another important note that I’ve come across recently with regards to paradigms: we might suggest that there is an Omega factor in religion, even in Christianity, whereby God never changes and therefore, the way in which God relates to us does not change.

But what does change is everything else- the world around us, us, and the way we relate to God; and the key and most subtle note here is to know that the way that we understand God is relating to us DOES change. That means OUR UNDERSTANDING of what and how God relates to us can and does change.

The point is that I had not considered a very important aspect of the paradigm- that there must necessarily be an accommodating aspect, an aspect that allows for change and flexibility, lest the paradigm not survive at all.

This is where the issue with Christianity comes in and is something I’ve been trying to articulate for a long time. The Roman Church, for instance, has tried to become more flexible and to accommodate for certain changes in the world around us and our culture- but they have done so with the WRONG ASPECT OF THEIR PARADIGM. Instead of allowing women as priests and for gays to marry, they worry about “lightening up” on the Mass itself. This is ridiculous at best.

So maybe the Anglicans have figured out the best aspects of the paradigm, so sometimes they go a little nutty, too.

Beaux


Advertisements

As for the Doubts and a New Shift.

Leave a comment

While reading Wikipedia yesterday (a dangerous past-time for intellectuals, as we’re likely to get swept up in a dozen or so articles when we only meant to read one or two), I stumbled upon the entry on Neo-Platonism.

As I read about Neo-Platonism, I was shocked, in many ways, to see how the cosmology aligned largely with what Bernadette Roberts’s take on Catholicism and her own mystical Christian journey.

Also, I was amazed to see Neo-Platonism accounted for a few intellectual hurdles that I’d encountered with both Catholicism and Gnosticism. We’ll come back to this.

First, allow me to say that Neo-Platonism has heavily influenced the interpretation of Christianity, specifically within the Catholic traditions (again here referring to Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.) The modern evangelical Christianity adopts a more immediate and literalist view of things, which, I think, is the wrong idea.

Second, allow me to break Christianity down into two major varieties that we may call Messiah-ism and Christ-ism to give respect to the Jewish and Greek names for the Logos. First, the official doctrine of Jesus Christ is that he is both FULLY God and FULLY Man. There are two natures united in one person; there is not one nature, there are not two people with two natures. There is ONE person with TWO natures.

Messiah-ism is the kind of Christianity that has more of an emphasis on the human nature, or shall we say, on “Jesus.” Messiah-ism is largely focused on the Jewish origins of Christianity, on the historical nature of Judaism and how it relates to Christianity, and so on. This goes back to what I said about Jesus being the final puzzle piece to the Jewish mystery and how we get this feeling from Protestantism much more often than not. Messiah-ism becomes suspicious of any kind of ritual that is not specifically and outwardly Jewish, as Jesus was specifically and outwardly Jewish. Thus Messiah-ism is much more literalistic and interprets that religion from that standpoint- the superficial standpoint, supplemented with historical and cultural understanding. This standpoint definitely seems to the be the choice among evangelical Christians of our era.

Christ-ism is the kind of Christianity that has more of an emphasis on the divine nature or shall we say, on “Christ.” Specifically, Christ-ism focuses on Christ as the Logos, as the Eternal Principle that creates the universe and binds the universe together. As Christ is cosmic and pre-existent to his specific Jewish incarnation as Jesus, Christ-ism is universal- or catholic as we might say- and doesn’t have to take on a specific formula of the rituals and imagery. That is to say, the symbolism of the Christ extends above and beyond a Jewish historical and cultural setting, as do the rituals. Certainly the Catholic traditions resemble, in abstract terms, the Jewish traditions of the temple without specifically wearing and using only Jewish symbolism. Christ, then, can also be understand in virtually an infinite number of modes.

Messiah-ism and Christ-ism parallel a phenomenon in the Hebrew Bible, which is the contrast between Jehovah and Elohim. Jehovah is the nasty god, the one that’s highly anthropomorphized and turns off both Christians and Jews and anyone else who reads about him. By contrast, Elohim is a magnificent, transcendent being, the ground of the universe, worthy of our praise and adoration.

Keeping on track: Messiah-ists become suspicious of sources of interpretation outside of the Bible and selected writings throughout Christian history. They believe that the Bible represents a form of “pure Christianity” (of which there is no such thing!), and that to interpret through a lens other than the Bible and Jewish world is to make a huge mistake about Christ.

But Christ-ists would insist that Christ is bigger than that- bigger than one culture, bigger than the Bible, that there is more to the Christian mystery and the universe, and besides, if we limit ourselves to the Bible and the world view of those people, we isolate ourselves from the modern world and therefore cannot experience and more importantly share the Eternal Mystery of the Logos with others as easily, whereby said Mystery of Christ appears to each person differently and uniquely.

So Messiah-ists are more likely to be the sort of people who need to nail things down and to have things set in stone. Christ-ists are more likely to see a wider picture and draw parallels among religions while pushing the bar and trying to penetrate more deeply into the Mystery of Christ- or more importantly, allowing the Mystery of Christ to penetrate them more deeply. These are two different approaches, and each has its own merits. In other words, Messiah-ists are more literal-thinking and Christ-ists are more abstract-thinking.

This does not mean that the Messiah-ist denies the Divinity of Jesus, nor does it mean that the Christ-ist denies the humanity of Christ. What matters is where the emphasis lays, what matters is the approach.

Now, a word on Anglicanism (Andy, you knew it was coming). The Episcopal Church, while fantastic for many reasons, oddly enough has a number of people who are shifting towards the “fully human” view of Jesus. I think what happens is that the Christ-ist view gets left out somewhere along the lines, and therefore many Episcopalians are left with Messiah-ism, and a watered-down Messiah-ism at that. I’m not really sure why that is. Bu at the same time, I have heard the saying that Anglicanism is “defined by the Incarnation,” so the notion of the Eternal Christ (that is, the eternal and pre-existent principle that allowed for and created the universe and its laws) limiting Itself in the form and appearance of a human being is something that certainly appeals to the Anglicans.

Now, I want to point out something to everyone else after I’ve written all this: the above categories are something that I invented. If others who have encountered Christianity have made the exact same sort of apprehension and been able to divide the theology about Jesus Christ into said categories, I am not personally aware of this. Others may have categorized this much better than I, so don’t take my views as the golden and solid ones.

Tying this back into Gnosticism: the cosmology of Gnosticism makes far more sense to me than the cosmology of orthodox Christianity. The mystical nature of Gnosticism, along with its sacramental nature and liturgy, appealed to me greatly.

To give a brief and crude summary, in Gnosticism, the Eternal Father, who is the ONE existence, pours forth from his own perfection attributes of himself that reflect himself: this process is called emanation. To understand what this means: God is Eternally Full and Complete in and of himself (that is, Perfect), and the Fullness and Completeness forced into existence reflections of itself. So God’s own Perfection created reflections of itself that are known as the Aeons.

The Aeons appear in masculine-feminine pairs. Different stories exist, but the final pair of Aeons are Christ (Logos) and Sophia. Logos and Sophia respectively would mean, “logic” and “wisdom.”

Different stories exist at this point, too, but the essence is that Sophia tried to emanate from herself without Christ’s help. In another story, she “falls” from her station. In another story, she is essentially raped. She gave birth a kind of lesser god that thought it was THE only god in existence, and with its afterbirth, it created the material universe, even lower gods, and Adam as a kind of helpless slave.

Some Gnostics do view the material universe as evil; they’re often accused of “radical dualism,” which is just not true for the majority of them and certainly not true for the modern Gnostics. Father Jordan Stratford of the Apostolic Johannite Church deals with the attacks on Gnosticism concerning “dualism” rather well in his own blog; I suggest you look him up if you’re interested. His main point is that matter is not the issue: the issue of the material world comes down to being the systems that are imposed on us, the laws and rules and regulations and so on.

Even so: there’s still the view that the material universe is a kind of prison for us, that it is essentially flawed but not evil. And this is where Gnosticism and I part ways: I see the material world as good. I see creation as being a good thing.

The Gnostic would argue that world was created flawed, so flaws are bound to pop up.

The Christian would argue that the world was created perfect, including mankind being created perfect, but that we collectively chose to leave that perfection (which is illustrated in the myth of the Garden of Eden.)

Enter Neo-Platonism. Neo-Platonism has the same system of emanations of the Aeons from God. who is called “The Good.” The difference is that the Creator, which is called Nous, is a being that is a perfect reflection of God (or the Good) and creates the universe. Thus, we can conclude that the Neo-Platonic Nous is one and the same as the Christian Logos, which all adds up to and refers to being Christ. Then comes the World Soul, which essentially splits into various Souls, and here we all are. Again, this is a very, very rough draft of this, and with more research, it can become more refined.

But I think the major issue with me is that I would be properly categorized as a Neo-Platonist who uses Christian imagery to reach the Good as opposed to a Christian who interprets Christianity through a Neo-Platonist lens.

For the moment, Neo-Platonism has resolved the issues I have with both Gnosticism and orthodox Christianity, at least on the intellectual level of trying to sort out the cosmology.

More importantly, Neo-Platonism unmasked the Reality behind Jesus Christ as a cultural phenomenon and revealed Christ as one-to-one universal reality that I have personally encountered; now I understand that this Reality is something quite real, something that I can accept, because I know I’ve encountered it personally.

I want to point out this entry has not been a matter of attacking orthodox-minded Christians or Gnostics; I’ve only wanted to point out my intellectual objections to both of them and how Neo-Platonism has offered a potential bridge between the two and likely among other world religions for the time being.

Moreover, I would say that the Gnostic understanding of their cosmology and scriptures has more to do with the human mind and our psychology than it does with the cosmology of the universe, thus setting them apart and saving them from their opponents attacks. So conflating the ideas of Gnosticism with literal understandings found in other denominations and religions would be a mistake.

I would also like to point out that Neo-Platonism apparently views evil as an absence of good. I can grasp this. I can totally grasp this. Evil is not the presence of something; it is the absence of something, like cold being the absence of heat. So in reality, there is no such thing as “cold,” there is only “absence of heat.”

I like it.

Beaux

P.S. Dear Gnostic Priests, if you happen across this blog and see any number of errors with regards to philosophy and Gnosticism, please forgive me and don’t burn my biscuits too much if you so choose to correct me.

P.P.S. I realize that in writing this blog, I apparently have included even more of an issue of so-called “measuring the spaghetti” instead of eating it, but I would like to point out to all my readers that I meditate/contemplate daily, along with doing a few other non-essential mystical practices, and thus I have action that I take in addition to simply thinking about these things.


“Those” Moments

Leave a comment

Many of us have had them. Perhaps all of us have had them, I don’t know.

Those moments.

The moments when we do something that is slightly out of character for us, but it is in pursuit of something greater in ourselves, in the world, in reality. The moments when we can sense the overshadowing of something greater in the world of ourselves and the situation we’re in. This is the moment of a Presence, and it is difficult to explain, but I can say that in those moments, we know that God is going with us.

Mostly I have seen this happen when I have been on the cusp of falling in love with someone. I went somewhere, I changed pace, and as I went, God was suddenly there with me, looming (though this sounds negative, it is not), encouraging me forth, pushing me to the goal.

These are the moments that astound and amaze us, the moments that we cling to when our relationships or loves have left us or ignored us or what have you. These are the moments that we remember: “But my God, that was so perfect- it was so right, it was so real. What happened?”

These, yes, are the moments so incredibly right and perfect in our lives that our first instinct is to not believe they are real. That 10% of life that’s so wonderful and the way life is supposed to be and so incredibly good that we can effortlessly embrace it and adore it and enjoy it and revel in it.

That’s the 10-10-80 formula. 10% of life is full of amazingly happy moments, 10% of life is full of amazingly terrible moments, and the other 80% becomes what you make it. That formula’s a bit rough, of course, but I’ve heard it mentioned before.

But maybe those great, unbelievable moments aren’t even about happiness- they’re more like a deep sense of fulfillment. A moment of knowing you are exactly who you are and where you’re supposed to be.

When I was with Howl and Swifty the other night, we were at a closed Winn-Dixie, getting movies from the Red Box. I walked, alone, over to the other side of the building to buy a drink. The sky was dark, the parking lot was empty, and the three of us were there, just the three us, and I was the odd man out.

But I didn’t care, because as I walked in my bright red shirt and Japanese beanie and japa mala swinging around my neck, I knew in that moment, in that pleasant weather and in that depth of night and with that cold diet soft drink firmly held in my hand that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I wanted to do, being exactly who I was meant to be, and nothing, not the dogma of Christianity, not the delusions of the Actual Freedom Trust, not any platitudes spit out by New Age Positive Thinkers, not Dustin’s pseudo-intellectual homophobic bullshit, nothing could compare with the deep sense of fulfillment in that moment, the deep sense of rightness, wholeness, completeness, effortlessness, and goodness in that moment. That was a moment that was meant to be, that was a moment that was meant to happen, that was a moment I could embrace, even if it wasn’t permanent, even if it just happened then and there. That was the moment that was as it should be.

That was one of “those” moments.

Why it happened, how it happened, I’m not totally sure. I went along for the ride. I expressed my individuality. I claimed my power somewhere, somehow. And that was that.

Then we all went back to Howl’s house and watched the movie Devil, which turned out to be a good watch.

That was a great night. I hope for more great nights in the future.

Beaux


This Whole Spiritual Thing is Progressively Confusing

Leave a comment

So much of spirituality and mysticism seems to conflict with itself.

But one thing I know is that the Great Void I remember experiencing way back when I was younger was actually not the finality of all things. This was my mistake, the assumption, that I had been making.

When Llewellyn talks of their being no goal and then talks of one’s problems not getting any easier in life, I find myself becoming belligerent and wanting scream, “Then what the fuck are we doing all this for?”

And it’s true- if the mystic’s path does not ultimately culminate in the end of suffering and the realization of “what it’s all about,” if it indeed has no end and is something through which we endlessly circulate, then it makes no sense to pursue it and in all honesty actually makes more sense to go play cards, have a gin and tonic, and try to find happiness in external things in life instead of worrying about meditating, God, or the Holy Eucharist.

Yet I am disinclined to think that there is no end to it all. I think, rather, the notion of their being no end is the product of people who have not yet arrived but have mistakenly assumed that the lack of an ego is the end of the journey.
I find it extraordinarily odd that Bernadette Roberts and Richard from the Actual Freedom Trust insist that they haven’t found any reference to the “no-higher-self” state in which they both find themselves in the literature. I figured it out from reading a website that dealt with mysticism long, long ago. Unfortunately, that website is now defunct.

But the point of the matter is that it was apparent that the Higher Self was not the Highest State, that it was not the end- and I was only a 15 year old in Alabama reading about this stuff.

To Bernadette’s credit, she does say that others have come upon the no-higher-self experience, and that eventually everyone will. I’m not sure if by this she’s referring to death, or if she means everyone will eventually hit Nirvana, or what exactly.
I understand, for the Sufis, the confusion is part of it. The confusion is naturally used to distract the ego, and the sooner the ego collapses, the sooner we can go on to a further stage of the path. But I wonder, too, about the ego and the nature consciousness.
Suffice it to say, I know that the ego can cease- I have been there, but it was only temporary, though it was pleasant. Predominantly what was missing was a certain pressure on the forebrain, and also tension that was in my shoulders. These things were completely gone- it was a state of relaxation, a state unburdened, and I wish I could exist in it all the time.
Maybe one day I will look back on the path and be like, “Great Scots, how much of an idiot was I to do this or that!” Hindsight is, however, 20/20.
Beaux


Spiritual But Not Religious and More Goodies for Tackling

Leave a comment

How many times have we all heard people make such a statement as, “I’m spiritual but not religious?”

If only I had a dime for every time I heard someone say it.

What someone means when they say this is a little more complicated: they mean to convey something more like,

“I do admit that there is a deeper reality than the everyday reality most of us encounter, but I’m so disenfranchised from the religionists who make little to no sense or have no substantive value to their practices that I do not commit myself in a formal or enduring way to an organized religion.”

Naturally, it’s much easier to say one is spiritual but not religious.

The real problem is that yes, there is a lot of corruption in organized religion, and at times, the orthodoxy in many religions is not encoded or poetic, it’s outright incorrect and doesn’t line up with reality, and maybe even more to the point, most people are idiots.

Okay, forgive the over-bearing, superiority-complex-laden statement above, but it’s the truth. The reality is that the number of people who actually understand what a religion is trying to convey through its mystical currents and decide to ride the waves to the so-called “other shore” on those currents is depressingly small, and they are and always have been in the minority.

Now, it’s true, not every person wants to make the mystical journey, and that’s okay- it’s their right to not do so, but it is also our birthright to be able to do so if we choose.

There is certainly a time for religious and spiritual exploration. Absolutely. Do not mistake me- this period can last a long time, especially now in the age of the internet with so much information immediately accessible to us, so many different paths presented and explained, so many Gurus, Teachers, Holy Men and Women who claim that their way is the best way (sometimes going so far as to say the only way), the contradictory paths and ideas and summaries of the people who have made the journey, and it can all become rather mind-boggling.

But we must take heart and sort through the mess, and for the vast majority of us, it will be easier to choose a path and walk down that path, come-what-may.

There is likely a time when we need things such as dogma and doctrine to guide us, and that is fine- but the time for dogma and doctrine to guide us will end as well, and we’ll have to keep walking with no such signposts or rules.

Religion often exists without the mystical core, and mysticism can exist without a definitive religious framework, but it’s much easier if they work together. Psychology, especially Jungian psychology, works as a translator between religions and mystical systems.

Another thing that irks me is when people try to say a religion is not a religion. This is not exclusive to any one religious group, but it does happen among various ones: I was taught in Christian school that Christianity is not “a religion” but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ- that Christianity is God teaching Man, while religion is merely Man seeking God.

I’ve also heard the same about Buddhism. Buddhism is not a religion; it’s a way of life! Again, wrong. Buddhism pretty much falls in line with the definition of “religion,” and it’s difficult to dice it otherwise.

So, the point is, religion, even formalized religion, provides us something, something important. It’s okay to be religious. It’s okay to be devout. And it’s also okay to question the orthodoxy of a religion. There is such a thing as being too rigid.

These are just some thoughts.

Beaux