Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Advent of Darkness

I live in an area where we observe Daylight's Saving Time.  Not only does this mean that in the early hours of the evening we live in complete darkness, but it also means the bitter grasp of winter is upon us.  It means that even the noontime will soon be gray and overcast with darkening clouds.  It means that for quite sometime we will be without the sun or warmth.  Today is the first Sunday of Advent and for many, that simply means "pre-Christmas".  But Advent speaks of its own essence, away from the lights, the gifts and the hope found in Christmas.  Advent is not about the light, but instead about the darkness, without which there would be no light.

The darkness of Advent is not a darkness of evil exclusively but instead a darkness of possibility from which any manner of thing can be born.  It is a darkness of uncertainty in which we could wallow or one in which we could utilize for our benefit.  As children are being sprayed with pepper spray by grown adults for an Xbox, as people are losing their jobs and homes but still feel pressured to spend their paychecks on a massive amount of merchandise for Christmas presents, blinded by society's expectations, we constantly live in the darkness.  But Advent is a chance for us to face that.

At Liturgy, we light candles to banish the darkness, burn incense to relinquish the scent of earthly rot, asperge water to wash away the filth and feast upon Living Bread to survive through the winter.  We prepare ourselves for a new life, a new beginning for Advent is the liturgical new year, gathering weapons and supplies for the long journey into the spiritual night.  We don purple for spiritual preparation making Advent like a mini-Lent and with the same expectations for change.  We see the darkness and we know that something must die, left behind in the darkness, in order for something to be born into the light.

Most of us live in this darkness.  I know that I myself have been feeling spiritually lonely and creatively stifled lately.  With a lack of interest and support for St. Eve's, my optimism and enthusiasm has been waning.  I have recently been plagued with disappointment as all of my efforts have been for naught.  For a moment, this darkness had a hold of me and the light within became dim.  It was not until that I faced this darkness that I learned I was placing too much stock in the participation of others and was blinded by my inactivity.   The journey is now my own and unless I ignite my own spiritual fire, I could be lost in the dark wood forever.  Therefore I intend to use this Advent and its transformative darkness for change for myself and my life.  I shall arm myself with prayer and virtue, I shall ration my consumption of the material world in this time when life and light is sparse and I will seek the Divine Word in the Silence.  The Darkness is here. Winter is coming.  But, in the spirit of Advent, I prepare to kindle a Sacred Flame to guide and warm me until the dawn.

I pray that others will embark on this quest with me, however I know that must face this darkness alone.  While others place their value in their mundane lives I pray that I will not get lost in the darkness of the material world.  While others are pretending that the darkness does not exist, I seek to swim in it seeking the powers of transformation within.  While others are using this winter to hibernate, I prepare to be on an endless quest with my own inner Divinity to light the way.  I pray that I will not fall into forgetful ignorance but to remember that I am surrounded by a darkness, a darkness that will destroy me unless I subdue it, engage with it and give birth to a better, brighter Me.  And even though I feel lonely as I embark on this endless quest into the darkness, I hope that once I get through it that I will meet others of like-mind on the other side, even if it is just the integration of my shadow with an even greater darkness, a darkness from which our greatest light can be born.

Arm yourselves with prayer, fast from delusion and material falsehood and kindle the fires of spiritual connection because the Darkness is here and Winter is coming.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Saint Eve Mission

To love our God, however unknown, with all our hearts, minds and bodies and to treat our neighbor as ourselves;

To preserve, protect, and animate the Sacred Word, once thought lost and forgotten;

To continue the mystical tradition of faith passed onto us through baptism and sustained in the Eucharist;

To reunite the soul to her Beloved and become one within the Fullness of Divinity;

To seek the Divine in a world of chaos; to reveal Divinity to the world in our own person, leading all to God in Holy Gnosis.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gnosticism: A Religion of Freedom

We talk about this word a lot: Gnosis.  We all know that it means "knowledge" and in the short amount of time that we have been familiar with it, we have all been drilled on how this "gnosis" is not mere information and it can not be fully explained, only understood or experienced.  Sometimes we are given a proverbial definition such as, "Gnosis is direct experience with the Divine".  While that is all well and good on the surface, it is a definition that still does not satisfy.

Many people expect gnosis to satisfy.  In my readings of the testimonies of saints and visionaries of gnosis-past, I have come to know that they were anything but satisfied.  In fact, their experience of gnosis has instead inflamed within them an ever-greater burning desire to experience, to become, to know.  It quickened their resolve for the Divine and sent them whirling in a experience of ineffable proportions, leaving behind only shadows of a former self in its wake.  For these individuals, gnosis was not final rest.  Gnosis was not peace.  Gnosis was the end.  Gnosis instead was the beginning of their journey.

If I had to define "gnosis", I would borrow from others slightly and state that, "Gnosis is direct experience with True Reality".  This reality that surrounds us, pervades us and bears witness to all phenomenon, is far different from the mental constructs that we and society have created and are conjured when we think of a term such as "Divine".  "Divine" sounds so perfect according to human understanding.  "True Reality" sounds perfect from a detached perspective.  "True Reality" encompasses sorrow and joy, pleasure and pain, life and death, existence and non-existence, physical and imaginary, and so forth.  We experience this reality all the time however we do so with mental and emotional rubber gloves.  Our very approach is determined by our own understanding, our own filters that we create through our past, our misunderstandings, our opinionated egotism.  We buffer ourselves from the awakening nature of pain and from the mystifying depths of pleasure.  We avoid sorrow and are apprehensive of joy.  We fear death but loathe the mediocrity of life.  The crux to all of this is that we are so numb to it, that we are not even aware of it.  And that is when gnosis comes in.

Many people also read that gnosis comes in flashes, sometimes sparked as a catalyst perhaps in the form of a death, another tragic event or even the experience of rapturous pleasure.  It is something that wakes us up to what is happening to us, to the tyranny of the world, to the demand from society to be who we are not, from the pressure of envy by those who are determined to make us hate ourselves for who we are.  Gnosis inspires not the hearth fires of tranquility, but instead the raging inferno of righteous rage at our enslavement: limitless beings trapped in a limited world.  An even though hylic nature comes with its own natural limitations, what makes it even worse is the societal limitations that we compound upon it and then masquerade it through town as freedom.  This is why adherence to the law is not gnosis nor is it freedom.

Gnosis itself is not freedom and thus gnosis can not be the end of our journey.  It is only the dawning of understanding.  The day is still long ahead and even then cometh the night.  Once gnosis is revealed, once the true nature of that shiny, gold ring we call our separated self and life is revealed as being a ring of evil, then the long trek to Mordor begins, where there can be unity with its origin once again.  We can choose to abandon the journey as undoubtedly it will be hard, it will be painful, it will be epic but these are the milestones to real transformation from the drudgery of our daily lives, and such release is true freedom and is the essence and mission of this church.

We meet every week to discipline ourselves in prayer, magic, inquiry and discovery.  We seek out the True Reality and we embrace ourselves for the journey.  We seek out gnosis not to escape, but in anticipation of the hunt for our Authentic Selves.  We aspire to Knights searching for the Holy Grail.  We seek the knowledge of ourselves in hopes that we may be called to journey to the Beyond.  We search for Gnosis so that we are inspired towards Freedom.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Agape and Philios: A Conclave Riddle

It has taken me a few days to compile all of my thoughts and feelings about my experience at this 2011 AJC Conclave. I am still unsure if I have a complete grasp on it or not. The discussions were stimulating, the jokes were fresh, the atmosphere was serene and the affection was evident and genuine, however that alone does not adequately convey the experience. In one of our discussions, Monsignor Rassbach + made a comment that no one can understand the concept of “ineffable” because, well…it is ineffable. However I believe that because of this Conclave, I think that I do have a better understanding of “ineffable”. I cannot put into words how I feel about my experience there. I believe that bonds were made and friendships strengthened. I believe that minds were expanded and hearts were enflamed. I believe that joyful greetings and sorrowful farewells were ubiquitous amongst us all. Yet still, that does not adequately describe this sacred week.

Around an outside table in the back courtyard of the retreat center, in amongst cigarettes, Coke Zeros and plastic glasses of wine, a curious think tank developed amongst a number of us about a curious passage in the Gospel of our Beloved John. In John 21: 15-17, a resurrected Jesus asks Peter three times whether or not he loved him to which Peter always replies in the affirmative, but getting a little unnerved towards the end of the interrogation. It was noticed that it was Peter who denied Jesus three times during Jesus’ crucifixion and this may have been an act of reparation.

Father Anthony + made us all aware that the original Greek text bears a slight difference in the verses.

In the English, we see this (paraphrased):

Jesus: Peter, do you love me?

Peter: Yes, Lord, I love you.

Jesus: Peter, do you love me?

Peter: Yes, Lord, I love you.

Jesus: Peter, do you love me?

Peter: Yes, Lord, I love you.

But in the Greek, we see this (also paraphrased):

Jesus: Peter, do you agape me?

Peter: Yes, Lord, I phileo you.

Jesus: Peter, do you agape me?

Peter: Yes, Lord, I phileo you.

Jesus: Peter, do you phileo me?

Peter: Yes, Lord, I phileo you.

The Greeks used many words to describe different types of things. Just like “gnosis” means knowledge, it is a personal knowledge and intuition and is clearly distinct from “episteme” which is stuff you learn in books. Here the word love is shown as “agape” meaning “Divine Love” and “phileo” meaning “brotherly or familial love”.

There are many websites and articles about the significance of these verses and I can let all of you take the time to read them on your own without doing so here. Instead I wanted to share my take on it with you instead. Some of those sites states that the difference actually means nothing but to me that just sounds lazy and they gave up. Some of those sites say that it is Jesus meeting Peter on his level because Peter is unable to love to such an agape degree…I kind of partially agree with this but not entirely. Instead, I just don’t think that Peter had the words to truly describe how he felt about Jesus. Jesus was asking Peter if he loved him one way and Peter was responding that he also loved him in another way but yet neither word adequately described the relationship shared between them. What they had, the love that united them no words can encapsulate. It was ineffable.

And that is how I feel. To all of my Johannite family, not only do I agape you and phileo you, there is something else there (I promise that it is not “eros”), some other kind of love that is indescribable, ineffable and even though I am unable to put into words this feeling, I gnow that you gnow what I am talking about. Beyond the episteme there is an intimate gnowledge of the love that was brought together, nurtured and disbursed to the world through us. It is gnowledge of the ineffable and even though Monsignor Rassbach + is right that I don’t intellectually understand the ineffable, I do have an experience to forever remind me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

4th Sunday of Easter Readings and Reflections

The Lesson is taken from the Great Book of the Mandaeans:

From the place of light have I gone forth, from thee, bright habitation. An angel from the house of life accompanied me, who held a staff of living water in his hand which was full of leaves of an excellent kind. He offered me of its leaves, and prayers and sacraments sprang from it. Again he offered me of them, and he turned upwards mine eyes so that I beheld my Father and knew him. As I beheld and knew my Father, I addressed three requests to him. I asked him for mildness in which there is no rebellion. I asked him for a strong heart to bear both great and small. I asked him for smooth paths to ascend and behold the place of light.

The Gospel is taken from the Gospel according to St. John:

Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you into Myself, that where I am ye may be also. Now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass ye might believe. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

“From the place of light have I gone forth…[and] an angel from the house of life accompanied me.”

A student of Gnosticism will probably come across two sets of images. One is a Pleroma filled with ideas, archetypes, angels, aeons and spirits while the other is a Pleroma which is emptiness, the Void, Chaos, the One. Many are comfortable with the former, especially if they came from a spiritual background. It resonates with Pagans, Christians, Hindus, Ceremonial Magicians, etc. The latter appeals to the intellectuals of Gnostic circles: those who lean towards atheism, agnosticism, Jungian philosophy, students of states of consciousness. Where those who do not believe in a myriad of entities may celebrate them in liturgy, it is usually explained away as metaphor or symbol (which it is).

However what many intellectuals lack in their liturgical understanding is that just because something is not “real” according to one’s definition of “real”, does not mean that it is not influential. Take for example the god who gave the Ten Commandments. This is a character that I do not “believe” in; however its effects on my life are still present. Just because someone said that some god back in the Bronze Age instructed us to keep holy the Sabbath and even though I am not convinced that this event even happened, I am still affected by it. Some stores are closed on Sundays, restaurants are packed (I do love me a Sunday brunch)…even the law takes a break giving free parking in spots which usually cost money and have time restrictions. So whether or not you believe in Jehovah, he has affected your life in some way.

As much as I may wish to cater to this intellectual side of Gnosticism especially in my ministry to others, I am constantly reminded of how gnosis is based on our experiential understanding and not our intellectual understanding. Therefore personally, I know that there have been times in my life when I was fully aware that I was not alone in whatever I was doing. Unexplainable moments whenever the message was so clear to me, whenever I was being guided towards or away from a situation, whenever His “one desire then acts with ours”. All of these moments have influenced me and were very real, even though I am unable to imprison them within the confines of repeatable experimentation or evidence.

Am I telling people that they have to believe in a pantheon of entities to be Gnostic? Absolutely not. I would think that the minimum of belief for Gnosticism would be the idea of a simultaneously transcendent and immanent reality of existence that expresses itself through emanations of which we are a part. The rest is just filling in the blanks. However, I believe that in filling the blanks to the parts of the Great Mystery that we do not understand with unwavering intellectual theories is just as insufficient as filling them in with spiritual caricatures and legends. Both have their place and purpose but neither are absolute in terms of belief and truthful reality.

Greater truth is that we are all on a journey. Whether we are leaving some abode of Light or returning to it, we are walking the spiritual path, which is known to sometimes be a lonely one. Many of us benefit from others on the path with us, whether they be human or not, a student of the Great Mysteries or an Initiate, and friend or an angel (or both). Sometimes we learn from those walking with us and sometimes we learn by studying the footprints left behind by those who came before us. Church is such a community of sojourners searching for their own truth and gnosis and it is there that we can always find those willing to walk that soulful mile with us.

Then again, there are just as many times when it seems that we are walking that path alone and we tend to get lonely. There is a great difference between loneliness and aloneness. Loneliness is negative; it is missing someone else. Aloneness is positive; it is being present with yourself. Loneliness lives in the past or the future…thinking about memories or expectations. Aloneness is attention and communication with one’s self in the present…not a part of the past or the resurrection of some far off Second Coming…but instead a “Living Jesus” as referred in the Gospel of Thomas. It has been my experience when practicing aloneness that I touch something beyond. While I am purposefully not defining this something as “God” or “divine”; I do however feel that that which keeps me company when I am in a state of aloneness is something loving, beyond and unexplainable. This inner self, to me, is the “angel of the house of life” who bears forth a branch of sacrament and prayer. I simply call this angel “HIM” and I notice that when I am walking the spiritual path, that so long as I am aware of HIM, I am never truly alone.

I pray that you all find HIM whether it be in a friend, a family member, a light-angel-being-aeon-persona-idea, someone from church or simply an inner calling because I know that when you do, you will be found in good traveling company. You are never on your own as there are a myriad of individuals all around us searching for the truth, searching for themselves. And even when it seems that everyone has abandoned the mission except for you, you always have your inner self to guide you to self-realization. May an angel from the house of life lead you to the many mansions of the Father’s house where you may enjoy the company of HIM in timeless space. And let not your heart be troubled because someone has got your back.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Personal Gnostic "Ave Maria"

Hail Fair Maiden, full of life and grace and wonder,
The Logos resides within Thee.
Blessed are you, O Mother amongst all mothers,
and blessed is the fruit of your celestial womb, the Beloved Christos
Maria-Sophia, Ocean of Wisdom, awaken within us lost dreamers,
now, and through the aeons of Aeons.  Amen

Our Lady of the Cosmos - St. Eve's Chapel

Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon,
birght as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array? (Songs 6:10)