Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Kindling a Light in the Darkness


Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Within a man of light there is light and he lights the whole world. When he does not shine, there is darkness.

- Thomas

Often, too often, we resist the bringing of the light of consciousness into a neglected area. Depth psychology shows us that we all have unlit parts of ourselves, a personal unconscious content—things put so far back on the back burner that they have been forgotten, or never known. It is human nature to not simply neglect these areas, but to actively neglect them.

In neuro-psychology there is a class of disorders called “neglect.” They are the result of strokes or other forms of injury to particular areas of the brain. The result is a magnification of the “blind spot” phenomena. The blind spot is an area in your field of vision that you aren't actually getting any visual data about from moment to moment. The process of “seeing” is one in which the field of vision is constructed and the blind spot, apparently, eliminated. If we merely didn't see an area in our field of vision and didn't care, it would be neglect in the ordinary sense. However, the process of making the blind spot disappear to the point of being absurd to consider it existing—is neglect in the neurological or active sense.

In cases of neglect, not just a small spot, but an entire side of the visual field can be missing and filled in so that it seems like nothing is missing. In one case, the left side of the world faded entirely from consciousness: only food on the right side of the plate would be eaten, people approaching from the left were seen to suddenly appear, even the left side of the mirror image was lost, unnoticed to consciousness. Yet in every other respect, the left side was sensed, involuntary responses could be triggered from the left side as easily as from the right. All the while the individual would argue that there was some cause that they were consciously aware of, rather than a cause in the neglected area that they weren't aware of.

This is the way our mind-body works in something so seemingly ordinary as “seeing” and constructing our sensory world. If there can literally be a rhinoceros about to charge someone from the left side, while they are be giving a detailed analysis of why their anxiety is caused by the current economic situation—what does that say about neglect and unconsciousness in the everyday psychological realm?

To bring the light of consciousness into a new area of ourselves is most often experienced as being painful: there is both stress and anxiety, because what is unconscious has been invested with more importance and made to seem a bigger vulnerability than it is. When it is actually the tension of keeping something unconscious, of the active neglect, that is the cause of the anxiety and stress: the suffering was there, it's just that it wasn't conscious—it seemed to be a part of the situation, not a part of us. Bringing something to consciousness makes it a part of us, and both the suffering of keeping it unconscious, and the original suffering that made it unconscious are brought to awareness for the first time. The light does not inflict the suffering, it reveals it, and in time heals it.

In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says that there is light in the person of light, and it lights up the whole world; if it does not shine, the world is in darkness. The darkness isn't important, the light is. Consciousness is very precious, true light is very rare. We are the stewards of a seed of light, and of the field in which it can grow; we are also both. It is in the dark earth the seed grows, and it is in our own dark and neglected places that the seed of light grows. Focus on the light, not the darkness. Kindle the light in every dark place within yourself, that it might shine out and into the world.

Life has often been compared to a candle: it burns for a limited time, and is extinguished or burns away. The world may focus on the candle, let us focus on the light. Others may focus on what is in the darkness, let us focus on the transformation that light can bring.

The light of consciousness is not the only light, but it is the light that is ours to kindle and shine, in the darkness which is ours to shine it in. This is where the real process begins, though we cannot know now where it may ultimately lead.

Readings for the Day

Monday, January 30, 2006

In Memory of June Singer

June Singer
Gnostic, Mystic, & Guide of Souls,
1920 - Jan 29, 2004

'The Symbol is the slender thread that reaches from our world to the Infinite'

I was fortunate to encounter the works of Jung and others in the field of depth psychology in my late teens. Without experience of what Jung is describing, he is often very difficult to follow. So, I turned to the works of his students for my education, which included Boundaries of the Soul. After a few years, the notion of the integration of what is excluded in our gender identity of either the feminine or the masculine became an important concern. There are many takes on what it is really, and on how much integration is possible. At that time, I was blessed to find June Singer's classic Androgyny, and it would just be stating fact to say that her approach changed my life.

Dr. Singer's work is an immense legacy. Her book on William Blake is phenomenal. Before Dr. Singer retired to the Chicago area, she was a participant in Rt. Rev. Rosamonde Miller's Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum. And in her final works, she focused her attention on Gnosticism, giving us: Seeing Through the Visible World, and A Gnostic Book of Hours.

With deep gratitude, we remember our sister in Gnosis.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Overcoming of Sorrow

The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

There is nothing at all that is free from suffering that will rest in the end; even the very seed that is sown finds no way to live unless it dies, but through its death it lives and gives life also.


And Jesus said: Ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.


The term “Nostalgia” originated as a medical diagnosis before the turn of the Nineteenth Century. One estimate attributed twenty percent of the French army's casualties during years at the end of the Eighteenth Century to nostalgia. These soldiers were taken far from the only places that they knew, from the small domain they traveled in, and marched to distant lands. They were disconnected completely and suffered a great deal of stress from that, as well as, the stresses of military service. A twenty percent casualty figure is an enormous loss. A disease is an epidemic before it effects ten percent.

We could attribute this to a quirk of the past, except we live inundated by nostalgia, governed by nostalgia, suffering from nostalgia. In our modern world most of us have the opposite problem of Eighteenth Century French soldiers, we don't suffer from being disconnected from a particular place, and community, we suffer from never being connected in that way to begin with. Our disconnect cannot be solved by a simply moving from our current place to a prior one. We can't go home again to the way it was, and be the way we were.

Yet, people will always try. In politics there is always one party who's primary focus is on nostalgia, on promising a return to the golden age. Usually contrasted by another who seeks to go forward to the same. In myths the world over there are stories of how this is a fallen time or place, a degenerated era. That something happened to cause the disconnect from a higher/better state, causing us to find ourselves suffering from a larger nostalgia.

Even if we do not long for an aspect of the past, it can still tie us. Someone once said that forgiveness is no longer hoping for a better past. Often it is our wounds and scars that we are bound to, and they are more difficult to escape, because we identify with them, and escaping ourselves cannot be done. It is in these cases that we must heal to forgive, and then forgive to heal.

The past can also tie us with regrets, both of what has been, and also of what could have been. These can be tougher bonds even than wounds. Every significant choice is a limiting. It means that forevermore only one of the choices will be. Often it is the wrong choice, and it is hard to see that often they are all wrong choices to varying degrees. The world is a constant procrustean bed, only rarely do a few in power make themselves the measure for the world for a time, almost always the world measures us—limits us.

I read “choose your own adventure” books as a kid. You had to choose, but you could always go back and see what 'happened' when you chose another way. Video games have a similar non-linear element, you can go back and explore a different outcome: to fix a mistake, or just to see what happens differently. Fortunately, we cannot do that in life, for who would ever move forward? There would be no life as such, just endless testing of possible permutations. The path of life is direct, it is one of limitations not 'endless possibilities.' Limitations come with sorrow, for they come with loss. The potential is lost, if nothing else, and often there is much else.

The necessity of limitations doesn't eliminate sorrow. They are aspects of one another. There will always be sorrow, but it must not overwhelm us. To overcome it, we must accept it, we must grieve for what is lost. Nostalgia is a failure to grieve, a failure to accept the loss and the sorrow, a seeking to return to a time before the loss, before the limitation was imposed. And so it is an illness, one that can make us ill long after all the other effects of the limitation have faded into memory.

We can try to hold onto the past, but in doing so it is we who are held. Not able to accept the loss and grieve, and unable to journey to the past: one becomes paralyzed with nostalgia. Accepting that loss is the more painful way at first, just as healing and forgiveness are. No longer hoping for a better past, or a future past, means feeling the sorrow that is a part of life—but it also means overcoming it to be able to live that life.

As Gnostics, we seek a return to what is called the 'fullness,' or the kingdom of Light, or our true home. Yet what we seek is not a return to the past state of wholeness, but a return that is something new—a transformation beyond understanding. We have a sense of loss simply being in the cosmos, this can become nostalgic and we can seek to return to a primordial state, or it can be simply the realization, the Gnosis, of our true selves—that we are on a path of transformation, of liberation, that will take us to the only state where sorrow truly ends.

Readings for the Day

Nostalgia at Wikipedia

Saturday, January 21, 2006


The Third Sunday After Epiphany

O Indwelling Lord, who art ever opposed to injustice and hypocrisy, we pray that we may be just and true of heart in all our dealings with our brethren, that we may recognize within them Thy indwelling presence and holy light.

- Collect of the Day

Do not add day to day or cycle to cycle, hoping to come to receive the mysteries when we come to the world in another cycle.

- The Book of Sophia

For they have the value in the eyes of their Father.

- Gospel of Philip

Sincerity is an alignment of the inner to the outer, of ideals and actions, of expectations for oneself and others. This can be of a trivial or ridiculous degree, there are plenty of sincere fools and sincere criminals of all types—some of us vote for them, for example.

We normally think of sincerity as having the outer conform to the inner, but this is not always the case. My father had the disturbing ability not only to believe anything he said, but to sincerely argue that it was true in the face of any inconvenient facts. And, it has been my misfortune to be associated with others who fall into that pattern, even within our small parish. Though this seems an untenable lifestyle, psychological research shows us that the best way to tell a lie and be believed, is if you believe it yourself. So, if there is a way to hide or distract from the actual situation, this ability is actually adaptive in an evolutionary sense, though hell on everyone involved.

Clearly, being sincerely delusional is not the type of sincerity we are espousing. The highly changeable person can only be sincere for a moment at most, as the next moment they may be sincere in a contradictory way. The only way this can happen is if the personality is highly compartmentalized, so that it really is a different unconscious complex that is sincere in a contradictory manner and is unaware of the contradiction. The sincerity that is our focus for today, is both a deep and a life-long sincerity, and as such must be a conscious one.

Honesty isn't at its best as a result of a “Thou Shalt,” but rather as a means of psychological and spiritual integrity. So often we feel pressures to act in a way that is not in accord with our inner selves. In situations were others have power real or imagined, the desire to be liked, to not hurt, or to avoid conflict, leads us to be insincere in an instance. The problem is that this drives a wedge between inner and outer that leads to giving up further autonomy in the situation. It's a slippery slope, and before you know it you are faced with the difficult choice of becoming conscious of your own lack of integrity, or, keeping it out of consciousness by warping yourself around it further.

Where sincerity isn't held onto strongly, the truth has fled behind veils and curtains—it is all a game of smoke and mirrors, a matter of appearances divorced from reality. There is no way to fool yourself or others into liberation, it takes hard work, and the real situation is the material that the work uses.

Often in religious situations, people feel a lot of pressure to conform to ideals of how they 'should' be. It is common in the Mormon culture I live in to deny grief at funerals, people have been told that they should act happy for those who have departed as a sign of their faith. In a funeral talk, I pointed out that there was joy and it was real, and it would still be there after the grief that is also real has passed.

Another, is when people expect themselves or are expected to always act 'nice,' in a Ned Flanders (of The Simpsons) way. This is living in fantasy (or cartoon) land. Someone who can't show an unruly guest the door, is someone who won't have a door for long. If a parish or other group warps itself around the idea that it has to be nice and play by the rules with those who do neither, it will not exist to serve those who aren't there to merely take advantage of such credulity. If you want to accomplish anything, you can't be everyone's friend, and if you are everyone's friend, chances are you don't do much.

The only true guide in making such painful and difficult decisions is Sincerity. No, not in the sense of you sincerely want to not have to deal with them anymore—but rather if it is a choice between dealing with them and remaining sincere; of keeping the relationship or your integrity. Unless you choose the latter, obviously, you are not choosing liberation.

The only way to be sincerely on a spiritual path is to be sincere about where you are and how you are at any given moment, both with yourself and with others who are also sincerely on the path. It is not an exhibition, nor a competition, it is the most real and most important work you can do. The path will take you through many situations, including those where the path seems to disappear. Others have walked the path, and others are walking it now. There is wisdom that can be shared among travelers, but only if you sincerely share. Everyone is welcome to join us on the journey, but they must do the walking themselves. To be sincerely on the path one must walk it, do the work, be on the journey; the alignment between goal and life now, not "tomorrow."

Those who have their sincerity and integrity have themselves, and so do not need to seek their value elsewhere. As the Gospel for the day says, dropping a pearl in the mud doesn't devalue it, nor does oiling it increase its value. Anyone who wants to play 'holier than thou' has already lost, because they are looking to you for their value. For as the Gospel of Thomas reminds us, “When you make the the inner as the outer, and the outer as the inner... then shall you enter the kingdom.” That is the ultimate sincerity to which we aspire—the sincerity and integrity that includes our truest selves: the divine spark, the seed of light. The living Gnosis of the Truth that sets free.

Readings for the Day

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Brief Introduction to the EG in SLC

The following is an introductory pamphlet to answer some basic questions, and give a basic orientation. Please help me improve it.

A Brief Introduction to
The Holy Gnostic Eucharist
& The Ecclesia Gnostica
The Holy Gnosis of Thomas Chapel
Salt Lake City, Utah

This brief work is intended to serve as an orientation and introduction to the Gnostic Eucharist of the Ecclesia Gnostica of Salt Lake City. It is of necessity broad in scope and cursory. You are invited to stay after the service and ask any further questions you may have. You may also keep this copy. Online at: www.gnosis.org/saltlake

Experience the Mystery

The Eucharist is a mystery instituted by Christ and developed over a thousand years. It is not any one thing, nor any collection of things. A mystery cannot be defined, it can only be experienced. Our form of the Eucharist dates back to around the eleventh century as used in Western Christendom, while the contents are largely from ancient Gnostic scriptures. The Eucharist is timeless, touching upon the eternal, and each service has a particularity, both from the Sunday or Holy Day in the liturgical year, but also from the qualities of the participants. Its purpose is not to change from week to week so as to entertain, its purpose is to remain what it is, and to change us. Like a daily walk along the same route there are constant changes, and you change. It is a long slow process—like anything real. But rewarding, as only something real can be.

It is our hope that you experience the depth and richness we feel. It may be difficult to participate at first, it may be like learning a new language, or one that is so similar it may be confusing. It takes patience and listening: both to the service and the experience of it within you.

Liturgy as Poetry

In the Gnostic view liturgy is poetry, not theology. The same is true for scripture generally, including the scriptural passages that are read during the Eucharist service. The words are not statements of belief—they are not there as an end, but as a means. No belief is required to participate, and unexamined beliefs are actively discouraged in our tradition.

Visitors and Participation

The Eucharist is celebrated for the benefit of those interested in participating in a liturgical form of Gnosticism. Visitors are welcome, regardless of whether you are interested in Gnosticism or not. The only two things we ask of those attending are: that you maintain a respectful silence during the service, if you do not wish to join in the responsive readings, and that you stand briefly (if you are able to do so without difficulty) for the reading of the Gospel (you will be asked at the appropriate time). Otherwise, the level of your participation is left solely to your own discretion. Communion is open to all who wish to receive it.

The service begins with the lighting of the candles, and ends when they have been extinguished. At other times, we only ask that you be respectful of anyone wishing to use the chapel for prayer or meditation.

Entering and Leaving

We ask that you refrain from entering or leaving the chapel during the Consecration, and to do so as quietly as possible if necessary at other times. The least disruptive times being during the censings.

(All are welcome to stay, but if you feel you cannot remain for the Consecration, the appropriate time is at the end of the Hymn sung to the Holy Spirit, “Holy Spirit Heavenly Dove,” leaving quietly after the sung “amen.”)


All who wish to receive Communion may do so. Receiving communion is an individual matter, and is solely the choice of the individual. The Ecclesia Gnostica does not require that one receiving communion posses any set of beliefs or attitudes, nor does receiving communion imply the possession or adoption of any beliefs or attitudes.

Communion is usually given in both forms (wafer soaked in wine) and is placed by the priest on the communicant's tongue. Communion of one type (wafer only) may be requested. To receive Communion, open your mouth about half-way, and put your tongue forward onto your lower lip. Use your tongue to pull the Host into your mouth.

Validity of the Sacrament

The priests of the Ecclesia Gnostica are duly ordained in the traditional manner in the Apostolic Succession of universally recognized lineage. The form of the Gnostic Eucharist is that of the Eucharist used throughout Western Christendom since the eleventh century. The Cannon of the Mass (the Consecration) remains unaltered from a much earlier time.

Fear and Proselytizing

The Ecclesia Gnostica provides liturgical services as a service to those who may benefit from them. You will not be solicited to join a church. There isn't anything to join in that sense, anyway. We know that you cannot give someone else Gnosis, and that this particular path isn't for everyone. However, if you wish to avoid introducing yourself, sneak out as the candles are put out, we won't mind.

If you are interested: there is an email list for service announcements, a small group of people who socialize after most services, and other parish activities.

Reading the Eucharist Book

Not all of the words spoken will be found in the Eucharist book. So, don't feel lost when following along. There are both Pre-Eucharistic and Post-Eucharistic prayers that are found only in the Requiem Eucharist book. There are also readings that change depending on the week or Holy Day of the liturgical calendar: these are the Collect(s), Lesson, and Gospel. These readings, as well as, the liturgical calendar for the year may be found at www.gnosis.org. A brief Homily follows the body of the service, preceding the Post-Eucharistic prayer.

Responsive reading is encouraged but not required. Sections of text that begin with a “C:” or an “A:” signify those to be read aloud.


Though we do not solicit donations, we do accept them. We are currently raising funds to construct a permanent Gnostic chapel in Salt Lake. This is an enormous undertaking, however the land will not have to be purchased. Otherwise, our yearly reoccurring operating costs are a modest $450, approximately. Of which $300 is for candles alone, and the remainder for incense, wine, and wafers. The priests have previously paid all of the expenses, however, it has become more difficult to do so.

Kneeling and Crossing Yourself

Those who wish to participate more in the service, yet do not have a background with such things, may benefit from the following. They are not required.

Crossing oneself in our tradition is done in the manner of Western Christendom. With fingers together touch brow, navel, left shoulder, right shoulder (and optionally your heart). A “+” in the service book indicates times when it is appropriate to do so. This is often done in receiving a blessing, either before or during the blessing. One also crosses oneself before receiving communion, and just afterward when receiving the “Peace be with you” blessing.

Kneeling in the pews is optional. (Our other chapels do not have kneelers.) The most appropriate times are: during the Consecration, and during the Pre and Post-Eucharistic prayers. In general, if there are serving clergy in addition to the priest, one may wish to follow their example in kneeling.

It is traditional to kneel when receiving Communion. And to genuflect when entering or leaving the chapel, in addition to crossing oneself. A genuflection is a bending of the knee either so it touches the floor or moves as if to do so. This is done to acknowledge the presence of Christ in the tabernacle.

“All” are Welcome?

No state or condition of life has any bearing on the Gnostic path, nor is it a barrier to any level of participation in the Ecclesia Gnostica. We don't care about your ethnicity, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, or membership or participation in any ethical spiritual or transformational organization or path. Whatever your circumstances, you have the divine spark within you, and we are all in this together. 'What' you are is of no importance next to who you are.

What is Gnosis?

Gnosis is not esoteric, hidden, secret, or occult information: nor information of any kind. It is a very deep knowing, a knowledge that you are, rather than a knowledge that you have. The path of Gnosis is a transformative path in which you slowly grow and become more of who you truly are. It is a path of liberation, and shares many parallels with Buddhism. For example: Gnosis is as likely to be found in books as Enlightenment is; and Gnosticism without Gnosis is like Buddhism without Enlightenment. See Rev. Troy's blog The Path of Gnosis (http://gnoscast.blogspot.com) for more information.

Am I a Gnostic?

The experience of a Gnostic coming to Gnosticism, is best described as recognizing/realizing that there is a term for what you are—a Gnostic. It is a deep recognition of an affinity. A home-coming. A “music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all. But you are the music—while the music lasts,” to quote T.S. Eliot.

Not everyone who benefits from our tradition, or Gnosticism in general, is a Gnostic. Gnosticism accepts our experiences, it recognizes the presence of the Divine in everyone, it is poetic and symbolic while being practical. In a world that most often misuses our spiritual impulses, Gnosticism offers a means of following them to liberation.

A key difference is that someone who is not a Gnostic, but uses material from Gnosticism, tends to get stuck on the ideas. They may use them for liberation, but only to a point. For example, the Divine experienced as feminine is a continuous part of the Gnostic tradition, but it is not the point of it. If contemporary women find this aspect of the tradition useful in overcoming the limitations of society, it has served well, but if the process of liberation stops there—it is not Gnosticism.

The Ecclesia Gnostica

The EG is the oldest publicly practicing overtly Gnostic sacramental church in North America. Centered in Los Angeles, the EG is presided over by Rt. Rev. Stephan Hoeller, noted author, lecturer, professor of religion, and senior Gnostic Bishop in the Americas; and has parishes in Seattle WA, Portland OR, Sedona AZ, and here in Salt Lake City UT. More information is available here

In addition to the Eucharist, we offer: other devotional services, the sacraments of Baptism and Chrism, and a process of formation as clergy through inner focus and outer service. (Plus the usual: sick calls, weddings, funerals, etc.) The formation process is an opportunity for growth and Gnosis, not a guarantee of either, and one should never trade one's own judgement for any kind of official “seal of approval.”


Unfortunately, we have no provisions for child care. It is not recommended that you bring children who will be uncomfortable or distressed by sitting quietly; it is far more important that they get the attention and care that they need. Also, consider bringing your child to another type of service before bringing them to a Eucharist service.


The Gnostic rite of Baptism is not intended to replace or rectify any prior baptism the candidate may have received. It is a sacrament and a Mystery to be entered into consciously and knowingly. Therefore it is not a rite intended for children, though there is a blessing service available for them.

To become a candidate for baptism it is recommended that you attend services for a period of months, familiarize yourself with Gnosticism and the Ecclesia Gnostica, and read The Gnostic Catechism by Stephan Hoeller to see if it makes sense to you (online at gnosis.org). When you feel that baptism is something that you wish to pursue, speak with a priest.

Other Clergy Services

Parish priests may be available for weddings and funerals, this is done on an individual basis. The Rev. Troy Pierce is usually available for individual conversations: informational, social, or in the form of spiritual direction (also called spiritual counseling or listening).

Lectures in SLC

The Wasatch Gnostic Society sponsors occasional lecture series by Rev. Dr. Lance Owens. Usually, one or two lecture series a year, consisting of 4 to 6 lectures. These generally occur during the Winter months, and cover topics related to Gnosticism and Depth Psychology. For lists of previous topics, audio recordings, and information on future lectures go to www.gnosis.org/wgs.htm

SLC Parish Activities

Members of the parish usually meet after services to socialize and discuss. Stay after the service for information. Non-Ecclesiastical activities in the parish go in cycles, based on season and interest level. There have been discussion groups, movie nights, and social evenings. Any, all, or none of which may be occurring at any time.

The Inner Sea Sodality

The Inner Sea Sodality is the Palm Tree Garden Sodality in the greater Salt Lake region. It is a non-denominational lay organization that provides a format for local Gnostics to meet in person as an offshoot of the Palm Tree Garden Forum at www.palmtreegarden.org. For information see the thread at the Palm Tree Garden Forum, or at www.gnosis.org/saltlake/innersea.htm

How Do I Become a Priest?

Most people who are interested “in becoming a priest,” are interested for the wrong reasons—but there are always those with a true vocation. Since the formation process is not simply an outward one, there should be no expectation of ordination to any level. The formation process consists primarily of the sacraments of Eucharist, Baptism, and Chrism (confirmation), to become a full member of the laity. Service in the sanctuary then begins in the position of Lay Server, after which there is a process of ordination through five minor orders; this work is primarily formative and personal, although service in the sanctuary is vital. There is no obligation incurred in the minor orders, however the major orders are only for those dedicated to serving as clergy within the EG. Someone who has satisfactorily completed the minor orders, and is recommended to the bishop by their pastor, may then enter major orders, beginning with the probationary order of Subdeacon, after which one may move on to serve as a Deacon, and after that, possibly, to serve as a Priest. If the formation process leads to ordination into the priesthood, it will have been a journey lasting a minimum of seven years, only to begin again.

There are no paid positions within the EG, it is very rare for donations to meet expenses, and dedicated Gnostics are few and far between (half of our parishes rarely have more than a dozen attendees to any service). It is really not a place to seek ordination without a sincere vocation, and dedication not only to the path of Gnosis, but also to serving the Divine and others in this particular form. It is not a substitute for psychological work, nor an opportunity to “be somebody,” and any delusional ideas of gaining respect or authority from wearing a collar or robe are laughable. The rewards are of the same quality and frequency of any other very difficult, if not impossible task, usually few and infrequent, but real—and while not gratifying, deeply satisfying.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Desire for Liberation

The Second Sunday After Epiphany
Jesus said: Do not lie; and do not do what you hate, for all things are manifest before Heaven. For there is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed and there is nothing covered that shall remain without being uncovered.
- Thomas
There are many desires we can have, most of them arise in us unseen, unknown, unconscious. They are, perhaps, the most dangerous forces within us. To have a desire is to believe it can be satisfied. But there is always an end to satisfactions, and never an end to desires. Getting, or seeming to get, what we desire is the biggest trap on the path to liberation. We are all susceptible to the monkey trap: the piece of fruit we reach into the jar to grasp, and will not let go of—even though we cannot remove our hand if we don't. And we yearn for the comfort of the trap: of seeming to have what we think we want and not having to seek further, though all it will ever give us is bondage.

We all know people who have struggled to free themselves from one form of bondage or another, an abusive relationship say, only to return to it or to something just like it. Look around you and see souls trapped in patterns that will be repeated, in chains they will re-forge if broken, until death or until the work of bringing them to consciousness is done.

It seems like an easy choice, consciousness or slavery to unconscious patterns and desires. And it is an easy choice, but the easy choice is slavery. What is unconscious is unconscious for a reason and it will not come easily into the light. There will be anguish and anxiety to deal with before consciousness can be fully brought to bear. And it is the taste of this that usually drives it all back into the unconscious—to be repeated.

The far more difficult choice seems to be to face the harsh glare of consciousness shining on the problem that has been left to grow in the dark, and that we have invested much time, energy, and identity in keeping that way. Yet the light only seems harsh because we have spent so much of our time in the darkness, and are only now coming out into the daylight. And it is only difficult and painful because of the number of times we have chosen to remain in the darkness, chosen the trap.

Sure, we can all see it in the big negative patterns: in addiction, abuse, and the like; but what of the small things? What about something as simple as desiring attention, or to be appreciated? Or the desire for love? The nature and scope of the desire may effect the nature and scope of the trap, but never whether there is one—there always is one. An unconscious desire for attention can wrap a person's entire life around it and be just as unfulfillable as an unconscious desire to find wholeness in the arms of another. The only hope of freeing ourselves from the slavery this choir of desires leads us continually into is consciousness. For in consciousness there is the only desire that will satisfy itself—the desire for liberation.

People often think that they desire liberation, but it is not often the case that they do. Those who shout for liberty and freedom in the world are most often the ones working hardest to curtail them. So that, “freedom” usually means “my own brand of dictatorship,” or, “to remake the world in my own image;” or perhaps, the freedom to sink back into old patterns and habits—into unconsciousness.

True liberation can only come from the light of consciousness revealing all that is hidden, uncovering all that is covered—bringing the truth which sets free. Even the most lavish of cells, the most gilded of cages, cannot change it's essential nature; and we can only remain inside if we keep that nature from consciousness. The desires that arise from the unconscious, all direct us towards one seemingly wonderful cage or another. Only the desire of consciousness directs us beyond the bounds of any cage, of any container.

When the Lord was asked to give rules of behavior, he said only, “Do not lie; and do not do what you hate.” The reason given is that all is known to the divine, and all shall be revealed and uncovered. This should not be viewed in the common sense as some kind of shame being poured upon those whose faults are revealed. Rather, it is simply stating the fact that we may play tricks of mind upon ourselves, and continue splits of consciousness that helped us survive earlier crises—but we are only fooling ourselves, in the smallest sense of the word.

The most effective way to lie is to believe the lie yourself, in effect lying to yourself. And what is “doing what you hate,” except a form of lying by act and deed? We might rephrase it as, 'don't try to fool yourself, and don't try to fool others—for, ultimately, no one is fooled.' How sad it would be to live out your life only to find out that it had been so much taken up with efforts to fool yourself and others—only to still be faced with the truth.

To free ourselves from a destiny of such small tragedy we must refine our consciousness, and refuse any cage not matter how much we may desire it: seeking our true freedom in an earnest desire for liberation. For it is the only desire that leads us to the only end of desires—the glory of the fullness. It is always the most difficult path, for it is the only real path that leads to the only true destination.

Readings for the day

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Epiphany

Divine Guidance
Therefore he who is Gnostic is truly a being from above. When he is called he hears; he answers; he directs himself to Him who calls him and returns to Him; he apprehends how he is called.
There are many who would force us where they will, and many forces within us that drive us through desires and delusions. Yet, in the midst of the screaming chaos of orders and desires—there is something that would guide us.

A human guide to the deeper side of life is something rare in this world, and often mistaken. But a spiritual guide is not much different from any other guide through the wilderness. One who can truly guide, doesn't offer to go on the journey for you, doesn't promise an easy journey on a difficult trail, and listens more closely to the one's being guided than they do to the guide. It should also go without saying that they don't lead you off and rob you.

A human spiritual guide is at best a more seasoned traveler, more experienced, but just as human, and just as fallible. Even the most sincere and seasoned guide is subject to the vicissitudes of their own life, and to the same pitfalls on the path that everyone is. A guide is also just that, one who gives guidance. They do not try to take over your journey from you, or make themselves indispensable to it. As much as human guides may aid us at times, particularly through the more dangerous parts of the journey, they are not something we can have faith in.

We live in the realm of limitations: limited time, limited resources, limited by biography and geography, and countless other ways. Each of us are also limited in what we are ready to understand, and in what we are ready to become conscious of. Even the Lord was limited in what he could impart to the Disciples, with only a few actually following him in the true inner sense.

The only guide that we can have faith in is the Divine. This does not mean we need eschew human guides, but we must be always open to the true guide. The Divine leads us to human teachers and guides as part of a larger pattern we cannot yet see. Not usually for the lesson or direction we would choose—for if we would choose them unerringly, we wouldn't need the guidance. Remembering that the human guide is not the true guide—we must be open to be lead further on.

The two stories that are associated with this day reflect this. The wise men being guided by a star to the place of the Divine Babe. The wise men follow the star, which has been given to guide them, but they stop to ask directions of the worldly authority anyway: with terrible results. Herod is not a guide, he is a teacher who's lesson is that unrefined power is jealous and brutal.

In the other story, Jesus travels to the Prophet John to be baptized. In one Gnostic account, it is at the baptism that “Christ” as a higher being descended upon “Jesus” the human. However the story is told, something deeply important happened, this is symbolized by the dove descending, and the words of Divine approval. John acted as a guide, and as the conveyor of a sacrament. The role of John as an initiator of Jesus is remembered to this day, and is something of a theological pickle for many. In the Gnostic perspective it makes perfect sense. We recognize the seed of light, the divine spark, in everyone—yet it is just that, a seed, a spark. It is a long transformative journey before any of that light can shine into our lives, before the ever-present divine within is more than merely an idea.

If even our Lord benefited from wise guidance, how much more can we? The guidance we must ultimately follow is not that of any human, yet the divine guide may take us to many human guides, and many teachers of lessons positive and negative. Don't trust anyone who claims to speak for God, yet how else would God speak in words? Maybe God is speaking to us constantly, through the mouths of others, but we do not hear it. We are constantly being guided from within and without, called to follow the real and difficult path that is ours alone—though we are never alone on it. And while the path, the guide, and the traveler may all be one, it is only an idea until the journey has finished.

Readings for the day

Friday, January 06, 2006

2006 Liturgical Calendar Now Online

In spite of my being somewhat distracted producing a wall and a pocket calendar for the first time, the Official version of the 2006 Liturgical Calendar of the Ecclesia Gnostica is now up at gnosis.org. I unintentionally put Rt. Rev. Stephan Hoeller in a position where he had to edit and proof-read calendars in short order; and, he did a much appreciated job in very short order indeed.

For the first time, I'm putting up a PDF version, to make it available in a more portable and printable form.

Online version
PDF version

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Gnostic Approach to Gnosticism

I doubt I'm the only one who feels disappointed at the level of discussions on Gnostic forums, including our own participation. However, criticism isn't enough, we need an alternative. In my own work I have been trying to use a Gnostic approach to Gnosticism. Various aspects of this have been mentioned in previous posts, but I would like to elucidate them here.

What's wrong with the old patterns? They focus on our intractable differences, and they are not Gnostic except perhaps in subject matter. The pattern we are used to is that of articulating beliefs and opinions. The problem with this is that beliefs are rarely a rational matter: either they come from experience, serving as place-holders for experience, or they come from the culture or from psychological needs. In either case, there is no arguing about them, only if one is removed from the belief are arguments relevant—but knowing when this is the case is very difficult. And regardless of their origin, beliefs and opinions are inherently ego territory, they are “mine” and must be defended first and maybe looked at later.

The other big problem is related, our beliefs and opinions are not Gnosis. We can argue that we 'know' all kinds of things, but how much of that would stand up to our own scrutiny from a Gnostic perspective? We fall into patterns of stating things that we think we know, 'knowing' them from very second and third hand sources, and defending them like dogma. The very nature of a forum pulls us into this, as there are legitimate basic questions, to which this kind of 'knowledge' provides the answers. In that cultural-default mindset we begin answering questions, and stay in that mindset. All such 'knowledge' is founded upon shaky ground, belief in someone else's beliefs or opinions, in one story or another than can be told about the same facts.

So, what is the alternative? A Gnostic approach to Gnosticism would first and foremost acknowledge how much we don't really know. There is an unbridgeable difference between Gnosis and information, ultimately the latter is only useful if it can lead to the former. Being a Gnostic means having some Gnosis, and having some Gnosis means you know that you don't actually know some ninety-nine point something percent of the time. And what you do have Gnosis of cannot be fully articulated, the best we can do are symbols and stories that may lead back to the experience that was the seed of the Gnosis.

Gnostics are generally very smart, well-educated, people who have done a wide variety of studying until they finally found out that what they are is “Gnostic” and then continue from there. Many study Gnosticism for decades before finding someone else to discuss it with, giving us plenty of time to develop our own meanings for terms, associations with ideas, and unfortunately not having anyone to help us along by calling us on our biases. It will take effort, and endless amounts of humor, to pull ourselves out of those deep ruts again and again. But the path of wisdom has been described as coming to know how much you don't know, and we need to put our Gnosis into practice.

Gnosticism as an ancient historical phenomena isn't available to us, we have a few texts, and a few symbols; what has been preserved in the exoteric Church; and the thread of Hermeticism that leads through alchemy and magical systems. We can study these few remains like archaeologists or we can move in and live there. We know where taking the standard comparative religion beliefs/practices approach to Gnosticism leads—to something that doesn't make sense. We need to be like William Blake or wacky Zen monks and not get trapped in someone else's system, or misunderstanding of what it's all about. It's about Gnosis, the practice not the definition. And we'd be doing the world a favor if we point and laugh when someone tries to push us onto any procrustean bed, rather than argue about the details of the amputations.

Not only is there so much that we don't really know, the most important things we never will. We need to take to heart the unknown and the unknowable. Mysteries can be experienced, but they are outside the grasp of the mind, it can only reflect on facets or elements of them. A definition of Gnosis is less useful than a description. In definitions we run the risk of thinking that we have captured it, that it is the definition. So many real and important things aren't subject to definitions (read some early Platonic dialogs if this isn't already apparent). If we can't adequately define Love, why should we think we can do so with Gnosis? We need to be willing to live with the important questions, to give guidance but not necessarily answers.

How do we keep away from the “anything goes then” mentality? First we must recognize that the current strategy of doing that, a quazi-historic academic approach, isn't doing us much good. If its all in the past, where is the Gnosis? If it is Gnosis, then it isn't “just you,” and you should be able to find the signs of it in others however distant in time and place. This is a grounded living Gnosticism, not stuck in the past, but guided by what remains, and testing our realizations against those of others ancient and modern.

This is just a first attempt at articulating what a Gnostic approach to Gnosticism might be, but my intuition is that the only way to keep this path of Gnosis from being swallowed up again is to change our focus. Taking a Gnostic approach to Gnosticism is the only way to keep it alive.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Raise a glass to The Professor!

The Birthday of
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
Enchanting Writer, Beloved Professor &
Explorer 0f the Secondary Creation
All that is Gold does not glitter;
Not all who wander are lost.
In contrast to his friend and fellow Inkling, C. S. Lewis, Tolkien approached the imaginative as its own reality. He tried to carefully explore and describe what he termed the "secondary creation," the realm of the real imaginary, what Jung would refer to as the Collective Unconscious.

January 3rd, 1892 – 1973