High Religion, Low Religion, and the Synthesis

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Far it be it from me, the essential stodgy High Churchman whose own stodginess and reservation that gets him referred to as an “old lady” by friends from times past and who is 99% in line with all that Miss Manners advocates, to assert in any way that I have an affinity for that which we call “Low Church.”

That being said, there is ever the danger of being trapped in the label game. The realm of religious affiliation is so broad that it’s easy for identity to shift; the label game becomes damning as it may entail a relatively superficial shift in what one appreciates in any given moment as opposed to a substantial change based on a profound, consciousness-shaking experience.

However, we should also not get caught up in whether every experience is amazing with potential to shatter the psyche. The ultimate goal we seek, the end-goal for which humans are made and for which we strive (at the very least unconsciously), is truly a shattering experience from the perspective of the ego, but each step need not be so or even noticeable.

That brings up the danger of assuming we progress without having any real proof of progress.

Before I digress too much, I need to speak on what I intend to speak.

High Religion is that which seeks to change the interior life of the individual, thereby rendering the outer circumstances of less importance- the state of enduring happiness and peace in the face of the worst external circumstances is a noble goal indeed. However, it does little to address the day-to-day needs of those still securely trapped in the ego-life.

Low Religion, on the other hand, seeks to change the outer circumstances to satisfy internal cues- in other words, Low Religion deals with magic and conjure, the ability to get what we want in this world.

That the Low Religion appears to be little more than satisfaction of the ego is entirely beside the point- “satisfaction of the ego” need not be an evil or wrong thing, though for many this is the implication.

Of course, in our modern-day religious climate with the various sorts of admonishments present in mainstream and not-so-mainstream religion about not doing things for personal gain, it’s no wonder that Low Religion that seeks to do such things is deemed evil and of the Devil.  Oftentimes it seems that the very people who belong to the watered-down High Religions and who abuse their power and status in said religions are the first to make pronouncements about the evils of those who do as they do and do so openly and, more often than not, humanely.

I have found in Christianity as a whole a lacking of Low Religion. The best days of attending Mass and practicing the Sacraments along with contemplative prayer have great gain for the internal life but do not solve outer life problems.

And so I have turned to the folk varieties, to the saints, angels, and so forth. I have turned to lesser beings than the Holy Trinity Itself in order to remedy situations that have appeared in my life. Santa Muerte is especially one that has caught my interest.

I happened upon a video of a Santa Muerte Mass. It’s an actual Mass done in a shrine of Santa Muerte, and it’s beautiful- the liturgical elements are present while the Folk Elements are as well.

And it’s beautiful, a necessary synthesis that covers the Sacraments and Theosis as well as everyday life. Which is to say, I understand it on an intuitive level- it fuses reason with passion, it harmonizes the needs of the ego with the contemplation of the soul. I feel closer to God that His proclamation is done surrounded by Death herself. The experience is more vivid, more REAL- the divide, the divorce so often seen in other varieties of religion are gone.

Christ can baptism and legitimize anything He so wishes. Do not call unclean that which God hath cleansed.

Stevo

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The Catholic Mass…Revealed!

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I love this video.

I may end up in the RCC after all.

Beaux


Terribly Funny but Terribly Terrible: Ramblings

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Kudos to the author of this picture!

The Episcopal Church had rapidly gained attention in the USA for being liberal. Sometimes we see extremely liberal and rationalistic theologians who take out all the major tenets of Christianity, and so the more conservative Christians tend to deride the Episcopal Church because of this.

Even though I’m not (officially) Episcopalian and identify more with the Anglo-Catholic elements thereof, I think a hallmark of the Anglicanism is that there is a variety of opinions that people have theologically, both public and private, and the major difference between people in the Episcopal Church and other denominations is that they’re encourage to vocalize those theological opinions.

Now, I think people in the Roman Catholic Church would be surprised to find out that there’s a huge difference between 1) what the hierarchy teaches and 2) what a lot of individual Catholics believe. Roman Catholics who “pick and choose” what to believe out of the Church’s teachings are accused of being “cafeteria Catholics,” something frequently levied against the Episcopal Church as well.

The Episcopal Church, and certainly the Anglo-Catholic movement if I understand anything about it, is much more geared towards the solidity of the Sacraments and the Liturgy; this is known as orthopraxy. That isn’t to deny that there is the role of both the Bible and human Reason (as per the three-legged stool model) to inform Anglicanism.

I think in many cases (including my own), people who are drawn to the Episcopal Church are those who don’t care for the fundamentalist conservatives trying to propose ignorance and outright stupidity as the One, Sole Truth but also don’t care to be burdened down with the equally cumbersome obsession with rules and regulations on theology that you find in the Roman Church. And yes, I just said “the Roman Church,” so those of you who may take offense can just get over yourselves.

Oddly enough, I’m extremely conservative liturgically. The more smells and bells at Mass, the more I like it. I even refer to the service as “Mass.” Typically the Episcopal Church lists the Mass as being called the “Holy Eucharist,” but that’s also because the ritual itself is referred to as such, and Mass is an equally acceptable term.

I cross myself. I cross myself at Mass, I cross myself at home, I cross myself before I go to sleep at night and when I wake up in the morning, and I kneel in prayer. Let me say that if you have never kneeled on a wooden floor to pray, then you don’t know the meaning of kneeling.

Anyway, I read a number of articles and views on Catholicism and Anglicanism online- blogs, forums, what have you. I’m always irked to see the level of ignorance that exists on all sides of issues. Contrary to how many well-meaning individuals like to list the differences between the Eucharistic theology of the Catholics and Episcopalians, I think they’re incorrect- a good number of Episcopalians would defend the Holy Eucharist as being transubstantiation, and the 39 articles that so many like to refer to about the Holy Eucharist is more of a historical document than a guaranteed, everybody believes it, defining aspect of the Episcopal Church.

The problem with defining things such as “transubstantiation” and “consubstantiation” has do with the actual philosophical meaning of the change in substance and such- it’s a very subtle thing, but if you actually read through the Eucharistic philosophy, transubstantiation can appeal to the reasonable faculties as well.

The OFFICIAL position (and Lord knows there aren’t many of those) of Anglicanism is this: “The bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ- but how, and in what sense, is a Mystery.” This is known as the Mystery of the Real Presence, and making this as the official position is probably the wisest thing anyone has ever done with regards to Eucharistic theology.

There are Episcopalians who would say that the Eucharist is merely a symbol. They are few in number, I’m pretty sure.

But that isn’t to say that their opinion doesn’t matter or isn’t wrong- a number of Protestant denominations hold that the Holy Eucharist is, indeed, a mere symbol.

My feelings on the idea that the Holy Eucharist is a mere symbol is that it devalues it as a Sacrament and devalues the Sacramental system as a whole, and it also makes Christianity not make as much sense. What’s the point of going to a church just to listen to a man in a suit preach a sermon? There isn’t really any point in that, at least not for me.

In the Catholic Traditions, the sermon is a commentary, most often on the daily Scripture readings or on the particular Feast of that day. It relates somehow to the present moment, and it isn’t the main reason you’re there. You’re there to take the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of your living GOD.

That’s another odd thing. People freak out at the notion of being cannibalistic vampires who worship a zombie sorcerer as their God. They say things like that as though they’re disparaging- but tell a teenager that’s what your religion is, and see how fast they convert. It’s the making of a great novel and movie, and it’s exactly what Christianity is.

I naturally have far more reverence than that. I’m not pulling a “holier than thou” card here, but I am under the impression that I take my spirituality incredibly serious and have the utmost devotion to God. So when I talk about how interesting it sounds when someone makes disparaging comments like those mentioned above, I really am impressed with them.

At the time of this writing, I haven’t been to Mass in four Sundays or so. So much for my devotion, but the weather’s been just terrible, on top of my erratic sleeping habits.

Many people who worship liturgically have the same impressions that I do- the religion becomes something more. You use your whole body in the religion, not just one mental faculty of think this, think that, believe this, believe that. Christianity comes to life. The mytho-poetry of the Bible is something that we bring into every moment of our life. Crossing myself isn’t a superstition- it’s an act of devotion, an act infused with meaningfulness and holiness, an act which completes me as a person, reminds me of the Sacrifice and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, and reminds me to love as He loves, to seek to be One with Him even as He is One with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Wow, that sounded so nice, I think I’ll end my blog there.

Beaux

Working Towards a Definition of “Catholic” and Some Observations

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Within certain traditions, notably that of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, there is huge debate on the meaning of the word “Catholic” and the means by which one can identify specifically as Catholic.

With no doubt, there are a number of people in the Anglican Communion which identify as “Anglo-Catholic,” and the official position of the Communion is that it is both “Catholic and Protestant,” or more appropriately, “Catholic and Reformed.”

But within the Anglican Communion, there is a wide spectrum of worship styles: the High Church, which is no less than a Mass and Catholic, and Low Church, which is rather evangelical and would identify with being Protestant, and the Broad Church, which incorporates elements of both.

The actual word “Catholic” means “universal” and refers to the Christian Church as a whole. In the common language, people use it to mean “a member of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Initially, during the 1500s and the Protestant Reformation, the term “Protestant” referred to someone who was anti-papal; this came because of the continued abuses of the papacy in the Roman Catholic Church in those days. These days, however, “Protestant” has come to mean more so “anti-Catholic.”

If we should suggest that the Episcopal Church is anti-papal, in the sense that Anglicans as a whole do not recognize the Bishop of Rome/Pope as the absolute pontiff or having authority over their church but rather as a Bishop of special honor and recognition among other equal bishops, we might rightly use the term “Protestant.”

However, if we should suggest that the Episcopal Church retains the historical episcopate, that is, the Apostolic Succession, that the Church retains the Sacraments of old, that the Church celebrates the Holy Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Christian Faith, that the Church relies on the councils of the Church in the past and on the writings of the Church Fathers as well as on the Nicene and Apostle’s Creed as the sufficient summary of the Faith, then we might rightly deem them, unabashedly, to be Catholic.

The Episcopal Church under this situation cannot be deemed “Roman Catholic,” but certainly “Anglo-Catholic” or “English Catholic” may suffice.

On another note, it is oft-quoted that Henry the VIII “founded” the Church of England.

The Church of England was founded, strangely enough, in the 600s. Henry the VIII, in his political debacle with the Pope, declared that he, not the Pope, was the head of the Church of England. Thereto in addition, we must also consider that the concept of the Pope having primacy above and beyond other Bishops was a doctrine defined later in Christianity, around the year 1000 or so. It is, in fact, this very doctrine that contributed to the Eastern Orthodox Church breaking with the Roman Catholic Church. As I understand it, the concept of the Pope never did completely become accepted in England.

Many Anglicans also subscribe to what is known as the “Branch Theory.” The Branch Theory entails that the Original Church is comprised of three denominations- the Anglicans, the Roman Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox.

When religious debates begin on online forums, many snide Roman Catholics will claim that the Anglican Holy Orders are simply invalid. The Anglican Holy Orders are, however, recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Anglicans issued a statement back as to why their Orders are valid.

One thing to also consider is that there are, believe it or not, Independent Catholic Churches. That’s right, Catholic Churches that are not Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Orthodox. This is part of a movement known as the Independent Sacramental Movement. The Ecclesia Gnostica and other Gnostic Churches recognize the validity of the Holy Orders of the Church of England, and therefore it is the Roman Catholic Church’s ancient prejudice and political agenda that is invalid, not the Anglican Holy Orders.

Just some more thoughts.

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


The Seven Sacraments and the Seven Chakras

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While in bed one night, I suddenly had the realization that the Seven Sacraments of the Christian Church line up rather well with the Seven Chakras in the human body.

Some of you who are unaware of the older traditions in Christianity may be wondering what a sacrament is. Here, I’ll provide a few definitions that I think are suitable.

According to question 152 of the Gnostic Catechism,

A sacrament is a sacred rite; the visible and outward sign of an invisible, inward grace of God. Anciently, a sacrament was called a mystery.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the second half of Paragraph 1084 reads,

The sacraments are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that the signify.

Paragraph 1116 reads,

Sacraments are “powers that come forth” from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are “the masterworks of God” in the new and everlasting covenant.

The first problem we run into deals largely with the number of sacraments. Arguments among denominations arise at this point.

Officially, the Catholic Church declares there are seven sacraments. While the Anglican Communion states that there are two great sacraments, namely Baptism and Communion, largely within Anglicanism there are seven recognized.

The exoteric church’s sacraments are

  • Baptism
  • Confirmation
  • Holy Eucharist
  • Holy Matrimony
  • Penance
  • Holy Orders
  • Extreme Unction

Now, according to the Gnostic Church and furthermore, explicitly according to the Gospel of Philip, there are five initiatory sacraments, two sustaining sacraments, and two substitutional sacraments. Two of the five initiatory sacraments have been long forgotten in the exoteric churches.

  • Baptism
  • Confirmation
  • Holy Eucharist
  • Redemption
  • Bride-Chamber

The sustaining sacraments:

  • Holy Orders
  • Extreme Unction

And lastly, the substitutional sacraments:

  • Penance
  • Holy Matrimony

This adds up to nine sacraments for the Gnostic Church.

Whew, that’s a lot of info packed in such a short time, isn’t it?

Now, let’s see how these line up with the seven chakras.

Baptism would correspond to the first chakra, at the base of the spine. We are washed at birth, and being baptized is a form of washing us, purifying us from original sin and suchlike. The first chakra deals with early childhood and infancy.

Confirmation typically happens, as I understand it, just prior to or during adolescence. Since during Confirmation we receive the Holy Spirit, and since religious devotion awakens often simultaneously with the awakening of sexual energy in the body, this is corresponds great to the second chakra, which deals with emotions and sexuality.

The Holy Eucharist, which is the source and summit of the Christian faith, corresponds to the stomach chakra- which deals with things like identity, will, and power. It is interesting that the food corresponds to part of us that digests it. The Holy Eucharist is the effective means by which Christ is made manifest on Earth- His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. In taking the Holy Eucharist, we effectively “commune” with Christ.

Holy Matrimony, which deals with love and marriage, corresponds to the heart chakra. Are you beginning to the pattern yet? The heart chakra also deals with emotions, primarily such things as love, compassion, and affection.

Penance, which requires going to a Priest to confess one’s sins, corresponds to the throat chakra, and often the penance imposed deals with prayer. The throat chakra deals with expression and artistic vision, and so you can see well how this overlaps with things such as confession and penance.

Holy Orders corresponds to the third-eye chakra, which deals with being a seer, having intellectual functions, psychic powers, and so on. A Priest has an indelible mark placed on his soul in being ordained. To become a Priest, he must study and go through initiation such that his own self-knowledge is expanded and so that he can properly instruct the faithful in the religion.

Extreme Unction, the anointing of the sick, would correspond to the crown chakra. The crown chakra deals with God, a connection to the absolute and divine. Extreme Unction is given to people who are ill and especially to people who are on their deathbed- people who are about to met God.

This is a rough sort of sketch of how the chakras and sacraments correspond, but likely you get the idea.

What of the Sacrament of Redemption and the Sacrament of the Bride-Chamber?

First, since Redemption has been replaced by Penance, it would likely correspond to the throat chakra. Bride-Chamber would likely correspond to the heart chakra in the same way, but both are probably understood to correspond to deeper levels of these respective chakras.

The Sacrament of Redemption is understood in a specifically Gnostic way, dealing with the Archons and freeing one’s Spirit from them and so on. The Bride-Chamber, too, has a similar and more advanced purpose, but as I am no authority on these matters, I cannot speak about them in great detail.

These were just some more thoughts that were rumbling around in my head late one night.

Beaux