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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Religion of the Stars

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Things have begun to deepen or lighten up. The threshold is giving way into an unknown territory, the unknown land that we’ve all been to before but have forgotten.

I am standing again the Presence of God, but this is a different facet of God, a dark facet that I have rarely encountered.

The religion of the stars has returned to me, the Meta-Religion of mankind, the religion of the soul of which each and every religion and tradition in the world expresses a part, an aspect, an image.

It’s true, it’s easy to get lost in the practices, in the theology, in the images, but when reality intrudes, when God comes home, there’s no room for argument.

I’ve said “FUCK YOU” to God more times in the past year than I would’ve ever dared thinking of doing before. But I did it, and I have survived in whatever way, despite the momentary flashes of my survival instinct.

It is strange that only when I became absolutely hateful and irreverent towards God that God would dare reveal Itself. It counter-intuitive, it goes against everything that I ever believed or understand; it was only when I embraced Satan, when I embraced all the evil and hatred boiling inside of me as a paradox of my personality, as a contrast to the kind-hearted, generous, caring part of myself, that God began to crack through into my life in a more substantial way.

This process if far from over, but apparently, God wants me to be an asshole, at least part of the time. So I’m going to go with it.

In Forrest Gump, there’s a scene where Forrest and Lieutenant Dan are on a ship, and Dan constantly curses God, screaming and yelling at Him, challenging Him, going against Him, defying Him however he can…and I never put together the fact that the next scene is that Forrest and Dan’s ship is the ONLY ship that survives the storm.

So maybe the essence of it is courage. Maybe the essence of it is that God wants us to fight Him, to put a challenge, but not for His sake- for our sake, so that we can be shown how strong we truly are, so we can see our true colors, our true nature, whether that truth is good or bad.

But then, God is above and beyond taking offense, it would seem. God dances in the starlight He created, not caring about who would blaspheme Him or not.

It’s amazing. This Christmas has been a strange one so far, but the whole meaning of the Incarnation and so makes more and more sense. The Mystery of Christ is never exhausted. The Mystery of the Blessed Virgin is never exhausted.
I think that the darkness cannot comprehend the light, and I think that what we so often refer to as “Light” is actually only a prophet, testifying to the Light.

 

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2The same was in the beginning with God.

3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

Those few verses speak of all kinds of cosmology. This the unfolding of the universe: unbound light that shines into matter that cannot process and reproduce the true nature of the Light, and then the human mind seeing traces and patterns of the Light in the world, but not itself being the Light.

Kyrie eleison.

Christe eleison.

Ranting and Piskies

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A certain kind of joy dwells in me right now, a kind of celebration of the Anglican Communion and most especially the Episcopal Church.

The reason such a joy currently exists in me is because of a recognition that many in the Roman Church are not granting it at this very moment, an attitude and reality that I can see has blossomed in the Church and is something that is quite fair and definitely worthy of celebration.

What I mean to say is that we now see a return to ritual, a return to the Catholic liturgy of old, the return to the true nature and understanding of the Sacraments. It is unfortunate that in the Roman Church the mindset is extremely rigid among many members (of course, not all, but let us get to the point here) and things are either defined or not- that is, to a Roman Churchman, the fact that transubstantiation is rejected in the 39 Articles, and the fact that the 39 articles exist at all, is proof in the pudding enough for them to say that ALL ANGLICANS EVERYWHERE believe “only” that the Holy Eucharist changes in terms of consubstantiation.

Now I will say forthrightly as I have said before that I think the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation is not so vast as some would like to suggest, and what really happened was an attempt to explain why the Body and Blood of Christ still looked like Bread and Wine, and because of a cultural and mental shift at the time, the notion of what was going on became lost. More to the point, the fact that Aristotle and not Plato or the Neo-Platonists was used made transubstantiation even greater a target.

The human mind likes to be rationalistic about things, of course, so the deeper mystery is occluded by the clinging to the dogma without ever going any deeper into it.

But let us not get too far off track. The point I am making is that the Roman Churchmen’s mindset is that things are point-blank as they are- what is told to one is told to one, that’s that, there is no compromise, there is no debate, there is no personal opinion on the matter, so you might as well sit down, shut up, smile, and nod in agreement. What I mean to say is that the reality that people may have other opinions, ideas, or even insights into the Holy Eucharist, that there may be a spectrum of theological views, and that the spectrum may well end up supporting and refining one another is not something that crosses the person’s mind- Anglicans necessarily believe in consubstantiation, that’s the end of the story. Nevermind the Anglo-Catholics, declaring it is the very Body and Blood of our Lord, or the extremely Low Churchmen who would say it is merely a symbol, a meal of bread and wine alone- Anglicans only believe in consubstantiation.

Now let us consider Anglo-Catholicism, which is often mocked by the Roman Churchmen of the rigid mind. The attitude that they have is that Anglicanism is completely and utterly Protestant in nature, and that Anglo-Catholicism is a kind of hokey invention.

But the reality is that, even if Anglo-Catholicism is not necessarily what the Church of England came to look like after the death of Henry VIII, it is a sign of something much deeper and much more appreciable and something that the Roman Churchmen could take a hint from- Anglo-Catholicism is the great statement of Anglicanism that, when throwing out the so-called “Romanism” in the way that it happened, THEY GOT IT WRONG, and now they’re back-tracking (or have back-tracked.) What we see now is a revival of the great ancient rites because they are recognized as such.

Now, obviously, there are a great deal of Roman Catholics who are all too aware that the clergy are out of touch with the laity, and that their claims to be simply guarding the Truth are tired and that very few people buy such claims anymore. The issue I have is that the Church seems almost incapable of admitting that it can ever be wrong until, well, centuries later, and sometimes even that doesn’t work.

But ultimately, there’s a huge question of why Episcopalians seem to have a desire to call themselves Catholic in the first place, and this is where we should begin questioning things and delving into the matter.

To take a stab at it and guess, my own sentiments are that the Episcopalians want to distance themselves from the extremely low-church literalists and fundamentalists and Evangelicals. In other words, God’s Chosen Idiots, who largely are anti-Catholic and refer to the Roman Church as the Whore of Babylon and so on, and often fall into the category of “Protestant,” are NOT a group with whom the Episcopalians want to identify themselves, and rightly so.

That being said, I want to turn to a new subject. I looked into theosis today and saw several quotes given from the Church Fathers. What struck me as dumbfounding is that their statements seemed wholly and completely Gnostic in nature. I was shocked to see Ireneaus make a quote that any modern Gnostic would immediately point to and say, “This is what we’re doing,” especially since he was such an opponent of Gnosticism.

The problem with the orthodoxy is in the fact that it’s been reduced to a kind of political power puppetry, and the mystical core of Christianity becomes occluded. Time and again, I try to point out that what the early heresy-hunters argued against as “Gnosticism” is not what Gnosticism actually was or is; it’s a kind of straw-man they invented against which to argue. The radical, world-hating dualist carcicature is often cited, but it isn’t a dogma or necessary doctrinal position of Gnosticism on the whole, and the mystically flavored Christianity known as Gnosticism overlaps heavily with the orthodox mysticism, especially and specifically with regards to theosis.

Back to Anglicanism.

Certainly, I wouldn’t agree with a number of the 39 Articles, so I’m not too terribly worried about it. But it’s the idea that I would absolutely have to, or that anyone absolutely has to do things, that makes me really wonder.

In the words of a Red State Mystic, here endeth the rant.

Beaux


To Pray or Not to Pray: The Mother of God and Saints

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Having an evangelical Protestant upbringing and living in a largely evangelical area, the notion of prayers addressing anyone but God the Father (no, seriously) are often regarded with distrust, suspicion, and outright condemnation.

I honestly was confused when I first found myself inside of the evangelical world about the Holy Trinity, and eventually the formula presented was, “Pray IN the Spirit, THROUGH the Son, TO the Father.” Okay, that was nice and all, but I don’t think it’s necessarily THE ONLY way to pray.

Someone asked me recently about what I thought concerning prayers addressing the Blessed Virgin Mary, and I think here I can express my thoughts completely.

My ultimate feelings are that, with regards to spirituality in general, any kind of prayer, practice, or devotion that draws one closer to God is a good thing. However, this must be done within reason. Allow me to try to explain.

If, for instance, a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary were to completely eclipse devotion to God, then the devotion would be defeating the original purpose. The point of being devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary is by virtue of her being the Mother of God.

Prayers to the Saints are a little more foreign to me but nonetheless have an archetypal resonance.

Also, the experience of addressing the Saints is a bit different as well- one naturally doesn’t regard them as being God Himself, and yet in a way, because of Theosis, they are somehow related to God. It’s all very subtle and complicated on the psychological level but makes sense according to the intuition.

Some day, I’ll start creating charts and put them on here to explain things when I can conceived of suitable chart.

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