Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Yet Another Cycle of Shadow Projections

People will always attack those that they are most like the most vehemently. Think about it, why would something you reject really bother you? If it was inconsequential you'd just ignore it wouldn't you? Or if it did bother you, it would at least be for some reason, and it wouldn't turn you into the ultimate misunderstanding of a Holy Warrior. Why would it do that, well, because there is a deeper connection between you and what you rail against: in some way it is you, and you are it.

This is what Carl Jung called the projection of the Shadow Complex. In any realistic view of humans, we are complex beings. The simple idea of “me” that we use in conversation and in our own thoughts is an obvious fiction. And that fiction has a price: if “me” is only this and this in my description and understanding, then where does the rest of it go? Onto “you” of course.

[For more on this, I refer you to an article I wrote some years ago.Exploring the Psyche #6 - The Shadow ]

Why bring this up? Aside from the fact that, like ego inflation, it cannot be brought up enough, being Gnostic Clergy means you get this an awful lot, in cycles. People show up, regularly, who want to try to reinforce the rejection of what is in their shadow complexes, by projecting its contents onto us, and attacking us for it. The enormous irony is: we are actually out here helping people in so many ways, one of them being by helping them actually deal with the contents on their shadow complexes—so they can be free of them.

That just describes the existential issue people have with Gnostic Clergy: that is to say, that we exist. But there is so much more. If you mention donations, people will try to excoriate you as if you where Pat Robertson, rather than just trying to have replacement candles for next week or get as much help as 10% of the church budget coming from somewhere besides your empty pocket. You'll notice that these people never actually attack those folks, like Robertson, whom most everyone can agree are unethical. Nope. It's you and your candles, and your impending homelessness that they attack, passionately, as it you were the root of all evil yourself.

Gnostic Clergy are by no means alone in this, Christians who are actually being Christian get painted with the same brush as the hate-filled demagogues who use the word as a club. Or get blamed for things that happened many centuries ago. Make sense? And that is one of the milder examples.

The big bugaboo of the Da Vinci Code is the Roman Catholic Church. But this isn't the actual Roman Catholic Church, or any of the members thereof, it is almost entirely a shadow complex projection on it. Even if the history portrayed in the novel were true, what does that have to do with Roman Catholics today? I have had the privilege to meet a number of wonderful people who have selflessly devoted their lives to serving others. If they wore saffron instead of black they'd be uniformly praised, instead they must endure a great deal of shadow projections, as well as, everything else that goes with a life devoted to service.

And if your response is, “but they really did bad things,” who are “they”? Shadow projections are not limited to the contemporary sphere. People project them onto history. The “they” who do bad things are not defined by some enormous organization of which they may be a member. This leads to the very false and very dangerous assumption that you can trust someone to do or be something because they believe some set of things. Why dangerous? Well, just South of where I live, the FBI had to set up a full-time fraud investigation office because members of the LDS church there were so trusting of others simply because they too were members. Then there is the oft heard tale of tragedy, wherein a parent trusts a co-religionist with their kids, because they are a co-religionist, and the kids are abused.

When the world is a simple black and white, it isn't the world—it's make believe. Make believe isn't liberation. So not only are those caught up in such projections not actually addressing any real issues, they often devote their energy to attacking those who are really addressing such issues. It is enough to make one reconsider being available as such a target, every time it happens. However, the service is worth it, if this where about “me,” it wouldn't happen.

Note: that I am not saying that in trusting someone it doesn't matter what someone believes. Rather you can't trust someone based on stated beliefs, though you can decide not to trust someone based on their stated beliefs. You have no reason to trust someone with your money solely on whether they profess a belief in God or not. That person may be sincere in that belief, and have others that allow him to steal your money. However, the person who professes to belief personal property is wrong, is not someone you'd want to trust with your money anyway.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Path to Maturity

“Personal maturity” is not simply a matter of knowing and being able to do certain things, and not just a question of ethical stability. It means being remade by the Absolute. People who are mature in this sense do not have more than others and cannot do more than others, but are more than people who have not attained maturity. The kind of maturity we mean leaves them free, not simply to make their own decisions on worldly matters, but also to witness to their own true nature, and to the transcendent order woven into it. They can not only do what they want (because maturity makes them wans the licit only), but can be what they fundamentally are—what God and their own true nature make them, what they themselves aspire to be and what they are meant to be. This being permitted to be what one really is—a real human being and the very specific human being that one's own true nature intends and destines one to be—is the central issue of our age.

Karkfried Graf Durckheim,
Absolute Living:
The Otherworldly in the World
and the Path to Maturity
NewYork, 1968 , (p 4-5)

The Path to Gnosis and the Path to Maturity cannot be separated.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Few 2006 Calendars are Still Available

I don't plan on producing any more 2006 calendars after the current ones are gone.

The 2007 calendar will not be a recycle of the 2006 one. Most of the dates will remain, but the content wont.

So, if it is of interest you may wish to get one of the last few. Only a couple of pocket calendars remain, and a half dozed wall calendars.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ego Inflation Revisited

“The most dangerous man in the world is the contemplative who is guided by nobody. He trusts his own visions. He obeys the attractions of an interior voice but will not listen to other men. He identifies the will of God with anything that makes him feel, within his own heart, a big, warm, sweet interior glow. The sweeter and the warmer the feeling is the more he is convinced of his own infallibility. And if the sheer force of his own self-confidence communicates itself to other people and gives them the impression that he is really a saint, such a man can wreck a whole city or a religious order or even a nation: and the world is covered with scars that have been left in its flesh by visionaries like these.”
-Thomas Merton
Seeds of Contemplation,
New York, 1949, (p 111-112)
I know I can't revisit something as important as this enough. (See Gnosis and Delusions)

Every time I'm asked by a reporter about dogma, I tell them we don't really have any but people are always trying to force theirs on us. It's just the way some people are: they see a lack of enforced authoritarian dogma as a vacuum for them to fill. All Gnostic Clergy have such stories.

It seems to be a common mistake of the grandiose to think "Gnostic" means "looking for a new prophet to follow" or some such ridiculousness. Even the sincere get ego inflated by their experiences, but some really do seem like they're trying to fill up a balloon and fly away. And some seem to succeed to the awe and amazement of many. But they are not the air, the breath, the spirit that fills the balloon--they are dead weight that is trying to contain it, thinking by doing so they are in control, when in fact they are now at the mercy of the winds.

As Merton reminds us, ego inflated people can be very sincere, very appealing, and very dangerous. Who are these people? Sometimes, we are, it is a part of the spiritual path and we must learn to recognize it. But there are also those who seem to be addicted to ego inflation, to the spiritual high it brings. They equate it with spirituality, with progress on the path. If there is no one to aid them, or if they make themselves impervious to aid, they can become lost. Just as in the balloon analogy, the inflated ego becomes a puppet for larger forces.

What could be a bigger tragedy than finding out that you have lived a life that was not your own, wrapped in patterns and sensations, that in attempting to redirect them for your benefit, only enslaved you?

[Thanks to Francis who posted most of the Merton quote at Fantastic Planet.]

Friday, May 19, 2006

Big Lies The Apologists Tell About Gnosticism #2

“The Da Vinci Code is Gnostic.”
- Apologist Meme Endlessly Repeated

In the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown does quote the Gospel of Philip to support his fictional claim that Jesus and Mary were more than just disciple and teacher. He also cites non-existent “Gnostic Gospels” that support this view. Yet, it seems that not everyone who quotes the Canonical Gospels is accorded the status of Christian. In fact the common refrain is “even the devil can quote scripture.”

So how do they support this? There are two claims that are diametrically opposed. The apologists will make both at different times, and as far as I can tell, no one has yet called them on it.

The two claims are:

“The Da Vinci Code is Gnostic because it denies the divinity of Jesus.”

This often occurs in the same speech or article in which this attack on the Gnostic Gospels is given.

“The Jesus of the Gnostic Gospels is a supernatural being, not the real human Jesus of the Canonical scriptures. That's why the Gnostic Gospels lost out in the ancient scriptural Cannon Contest.”

So, which is it, apologists? Of course, being apologists they don't care what the actual case may or may not be. But if we actually look at both sets of scriptures we see a complex of takes on Christ, both have very human portraits of Jesus and both have the superhuman portraits. Even if they conveniently forget the Gospel of John when it suits them, it is only the most developed of the superhuman Jesus narratives. In the Gnostic texts a very human Jesus laughs. So, not only is the contradiction blatant, but the underlying situation is much more complex.

The other wonderfully ironic contradiction in apologist memes concerns the purported and endlessly repeated statement: “Gnostics considered the world, the body, and all matter to be evil.” If we ignore the deliberate oversimplification, they are still left with a big problem: the arguments and conclusions of Dan Brown's novel—all centering on genetic material and human remains.

In spite of the fact that the Da Vinci Code novel is not Gnostic, there are elements that appeal to Gnostics. The creative attitude towards and the exploration of myths and symbols is an obvious one. I'll be addressing others, but you'll have to wait for the Illuminating the DaVinci Code series.

Fr. Jordan Stratford's book The Da Vinci Prayerbook is now available, for another illuminating view.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Da Vinci Code Seeker's Guide

Did the Da Vinci Code whet your interest in religion and now you want to do more than just read about it? The following guide is intended to help you match what may have struck you about the novel to paths that have a similar view. It is intended as an aid, like a Wikipedia disambiguation page, it is not intended as a criticism of the paths listed.
[Spoilers? If you haven't read the novel by now, why start?]

If you liked:

Religion outside-the-box. The freedom to open up the traditional sacred stories, to re-arrange them and look at them from different perspectives, and the understanding that brings.

But didn't care for:

The story ending up being reduced to heredity and human remains.


Gnosticism may be of interest. This path is based on gaining personal acquaintance with and understanding of spiritual reality: Gnosis.

Stories and symbols are tools to express this Gnosis, which cannot be directly communicated in prosaic language, but can only be indicated with the poetic. A continuum of ancient and modern expressions of Gnosis means that tradition can be used as a guide or aid to individual paths. Spiritual/Mystical experience is primary, understanding the reality behind such experiences is transformative, and such understanding includes ones own nature.

If you liked:

The divine embodied/valued in the form of our physical bodies, particularly associated with the wonder of procreation. Perhaps with a preference for seeing the divine as feminine.


Neo-Paganism may be of interest. This path is often described as “earth centered” and celebrates/worships the divine of or through the world (panentheism). This is actually the closest to the world-view Dan Brown develops in the novel. In the eclectic form of Neo-Paganism, the Goddess is usually seen as the reality behind the images of the ancient pagan gods, with a focus on the feminine images of the divine.

If you liked:

Following the threads of symbols and clues through obscure areas of history

But didn't care for:

The goddess-like devotion to Mary Magdalen.


Esotericism may be of interest. Concerned with rediscovering and tracing ancient hidden knowledge and wisdom and the groups and traditions believed to have possessed it, many believe that it all can be traced to one origin, or followed to one goal.

If you liked:

The idea of Jesus as a feminist and the general sentiment of the characterization of church history in the novel.

But didn't care for:

The blatantly unhistorical elements and Jesus being only another human.


Mainstream liberal Christianity may be of interest. Most liberal Christian denominations allow for discussion and debate—within limits. So, you can explore some aspects and different views of Christian origins and Jesus, while keeping most issues out of the discussion. This style is in keeping with the comfort level of most people, and their idea of what constitutes a religion or a church—shared beliefs and practices.

If you liked:

The exposé of Opus Dei and the dark history of the church, as well as, the general setting and ambiance of the novel.

But didn't care for:

The goddess elements, and all the inaccuracies and blatant heresies.


Traditional high liturgy Church may be of interest: Eastern Orthodoxy, High Church Protestantism, and yes, Roman Catholicism.

Eastern Orthodoxy has become a path for many low church protestants to reclaim a part of the rich liturgical and symbolic Christian tradition, while bypassing historical differences with Roman Catholicism and other Protestant denominations. High Church Protestantism offers a toned-down version of liturgical Christian tradition, mixed with more democratic forms of governance.

And, finally, Roman Catholicism wouldn't be such a hot button issue for no reason at all. Guilt by association is an indication of a shadow-complex at work, and since the negative view has internal rather than external associations, don't be surprised if your attitude suddenly changes. Roman Catholicism may be associated with some terrible things, but there are also many wonderful and beneficial things as well. Guilt-by-association is unrealistic and irrational, and so upon research or reflection. merit-by-association can replace it, and a convert is made.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

But it's Freedom of Our Religion

Conservative Christian School Board backs out of theocratic meme-spreading position, when someone points out that there are, in fact, other religions.

Brunswick Blinks Over Allowing Pagan Participation

Worth a Thousand Words

Of course, since it was Llewellyn, they could have just barred them on academic grounds, High Schools should have standards. ;)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Big Project in the Works

“What do Gnostics do?” an ill-formed question or a koan?

This question was tossed around a while back.

What do Artists do? If you answer, “creates Art,” all that you have done is change the question to, “what is Art?” Likewise the question, “What do Gnostics do?” is a different way to re-frame the basic definition question asked of Gnostics, “what is Gnosis?” These questions are ill-formed because they include an error of category.

Art is one of the areas where 'knowing' is of the gnosis variety. That is why it is something of a holy grail for epistemelogically minded folks, and a source of endless failure.

What does music taste like? What color are ideas? These are not meaningless questions, they make a kind of sense, but when we play across categories like this we expect indications or references, we don't expect the one to really be expressed in terms of the other. Likewise, if you ask for something in one category of knowledge, gnosis, in terms of the other category of knowledge, episteme, don't expect definitions, indications and references are all you are going to get. If it were episteme, it wouldn't be gnosis.

The general assumption of our culture is that all things that are 'real' knowledge can be put into terms of episteme. A Philosophy of Science professor of mine once pointed out with derision that there were some number of different 'definitions' of paradigm in the classic The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, not considering that they weren't definitions at all, but rather, descriptions. If I give different descriptions of Joe, is he an ill-defined concept? Well, he would be if he were a concept.

The question, “What do Gnostics do?” has two potential answers: the obvious pragmatic answer is “What Gnostics do consists of their actions,” the other answer would include a definition not only of Gnosis, but of the means of attaining it, which as we have seen is an error of category. Ah, it takes you right back to Classical Athens, doesn't it? That old gadfly Socrates pointing out the hard way that this sort of thing just doesn't work.

But let's not dismiss the question just yet. I think the reason it comes up occasionally is the koan-like quality of the unanswerable question, the question that asks its nature. The real question is: what am I, a Gnostic, to do in regards to Gnosis? The answer cannot be in episteme form. No definition is possible, living consciously means grappling with it as you go along. Let's also not dismiss the pragmatic answer, when looking for the answer in your own life, looking at what other Gnostics find to be of essential value in their lives is the best guide you will find outside of yourself.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Aren't You Just (wannabe) R. Catholics?

I've been getting slight variations on this theme for a long time. The reason seems to be that much of the interest in Gnosticism comes from a need to reject the very messed up models of religion that have grown in the West: the Archetype of which is Roman Catholicism. I think of RC as the Microsoft of Western Christendom, it isn't all that there is or was, but you might never know any different. “Looking Catholic” no more makes you catholic, than “looking Gnostic” (if there were such a thing) would grant you Gnosis.

The religious models of the West are, in general, fairly messed up if not outright harmful. But, Gnosticism was not a part of these models—they originated with the rejection of Gnosticism. I'd repeat that several more times, but you'd just skim past them anyway.

Gnosticism is not about rejecting or hating all things orthodox. The notion of orthodoxy arose from a rejection of, and attacks on, Gnostics. Gnosticism is not Protestantism, it does not have the rejection of particular religious forms as a part of its identity. It leads one deeper, beyond the field of the battle of memes—to the real.

If we were wanting to be a good consumer-oriented religion, we'd buy into the usual modern backwardness of thinking that Gnosticism is a form of Protestantism. It would cost us far less in liturgical items, people might be impressed with how “Gnostic it looked,” and who knows, maybe some of us might break-even from “love offerings.”

Instead what happens is what happened to me: after studying Gnosticism for years, I felt a direct call to Gnostic ministry. My immediate question after I received the call was, “how?” What would a Gnostic ministry look like? What would I do? Coming up with something new was something I was capable of doing, I had a background in religious studies and traditions, that itself was an outgrowth of years of study in Depth Psychology. But it just didn't seem right. It was too important. So, after running through the possibilities from my studies, I had to let the vocation abide without a form for some time.

A couple of years later, I attended my first EG service not expecting anything out of the service itself. Mainly I was interested in the Templars and it was Templar Sunday and the priest was going to speak about them. Having freshly read an account that was unfavorable to the EG as an expression of Gnosticism, I was not expecting the service to be "really Gnostic."

If Gnosticism were about Memes, about ideas and beliefs, then all of that might have made a difference—it didn't. Gnosticism isn't about fake-knowing, it is about experience, and my experience of the Gnostic Eucharist was something I wasn't expecting, and didn't know how to integrate. I can still say the same thing over a decade later. It is still a source of new and unexpected experiences, of profound insights, of Gnosis. I miss it when I can't celebrate or attend on a Sunday, and I missed it more when I lived away from a parish for a couple of years. So, it passes the Bertram Russell test. (Russell suggested that if Christianity was so beneficial, then if you give it up for a significant period you would miss it and want to return.)

Now my ideas that this seemingly Roman Catholic form couldn't be Gnostic didn't suddenly vanish. It took me a long time to grapple with my prejudice. But, I finally realized that this was not only a source of Gnosis, and therefore Gnostic, but also the solution to moving forward in the vocation I had received. There was a form for Gnostic ministry. We are not only heirs to a perennial and suppressed Gnostic Tradition, but also to the Sacramental Tradition of Christianity—but you could see that only if you took a truly Gnostic attitude towards it.

The Eucharist as we have it is not a one-time one-place creation. It developed as a living symbolic system over centuries. The Canon of the Mass is the oldest part, and the rest can be seen as surrounding or encapsulating that mystery as the original context of it receded into distant history. A way of preserving a means of getting to the experience of the mystery. Of course, the important thing is that it works. What we think about how it works matters far less.

Now this means that we don't get to be those cool wacky Gnostics that are unlike anything you've seen before—but then there never have been and never will be such, except in people's expectations. It means that we get endless crap about being catholics, as if Gnosticism were about looking different instead of being different. And we also get those who show up and are disappointed when the point of our existence isn't to be against the religious forms they are against, and don't in general revel in the prejudices they posses.

This extends, of course, beyond simply having services that “look catholic,” but to being a part of historical Apostolic Christianity, with the forms of Bishop, Priest, Deacon, etc. Is this hierarchical? Yes. But to bandy that about like the word “heretic” or “Gnostic” in some circles is silly. The extent of the power of the hierarchy, and the purpose and function of the hierarchy determine whether it is oppressive or not—not whether you are a part of it. In historical Apostolic Christianity proper conveyance of the sacraments has a number of requirements that have met the test of experience, and our Gnostic orientation requires more.

In the EG the hierarchy are servants to others and stewards of the sacramental tradition. Being a servant and a steward is quite a heavy burden, worth it, but heavy. While human failings will always occur, and there is a tendency to inflate differences in both ways, we must remember that no matter how we name it, hierarchy will also always occur. If we are conscious of its purpose and limits, then it can have its proper place as a means not an end. The differences between a shelter and a prison are not in the walls and roof, but in how much of your life they encompass. A hierarchy that is liturgical, provides the shelter of beneficial but not necessary services, not the all-encompassing hierarchy of the orthodox model.

(I have written previously about the experience of ordination, as opposed to ideas about it.)

Experienced reality is the “reason” for these things. That is the Gnostic attitude—to seek what is real, not through ideas but through experience. While that is not a cop out with which to dismiss all ideas about things Gnostic, it is the only guide in evaluating what is and is not Gnostic. In the Hymn of the Pearl the seeker knows that the contents of the letter are true because they are echoed within. With my prejudices I was primed to, and expected to, find nothing useful about the EG's Gnostic Eucharist. But I found, much to my surprise, that the service evoked a deep inner experience.

Your choice is simple: are you a “Gnostic” as an idea, or a Gnostic oriented towards experienced reality? If you are a “Gnostic” then your future of calling us (wannabe) Roman Catholics is clear—enjoy! If you are a Gnostic, then, if you don't have experience, you have to admit you don't know. And, even if you do have experience and find no Gnosis, you have to admit that your experience is just that—not the basis for a universal unverifiable assertion about the experiences of everyone.

So, no, we are not Roman Catholics of any kind, we are Gnostics grounded in two ancient traditions: the Gnostic Tradition, and the Sacramental Tradition. And they are both means, not ends.

Attendance at our services is neither required nor expected to be our friends or associates. If the Gnostic Society interests you but the idea of "church" doesn't, you will always be welcome without distinction. Our way doesn't make someone else less Gnostic, it is simply our way. But let's recognize these modern cultural prejudices for what they are—obstacles on the path of Gnosis.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Big Lies Apologists Tell About Gnosticism #1

“The word gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge, and they claimed to have secret knowledge that is needed to achieve salvation. Therefore, they were smug elitists in the worst way.”
- Apologist Meme Endlessly Repeated

There are two words for knowledge in Classical Greek: 'gnosis' and 'episteme'. Since 'gnosis' is the direct acquaintanceship that leads to being able to recognize, it isn't something you can keep secret, nor something you can disclose only to the elect.

If we both know Anthony, we both are acquainted with and can recognize him. There is nothing you can do to keep me from recognizing him, and vice-versa. If I don't and you do, there is nothing you can tell me that will ensure that I do recognize him. Mistaken recognition is a constant theme in comedy, pointing out our pragmatic understanding of this. This is not to say that there aren't things you can tell me that might help me, but you cannot tell me recognition—it doesn't even make grammatical sense.

The only way for what the apologists are saying to make sense is if we change terms, replace 'episteme' for 'gnosis.' If you do that, then it could be a type of knowledge, information, that you could tell someone—and you could then have a system where that information was required for salvation. Who has such a system? The apologists themselves. If you do not posses the information about Jesus, you would be unable to believe it, and hence are damned. This is their world-view, I trust I don't have to drag it out ad nauseum.

So, who are the smug elitists with the information required for salvation? Not the Gnostics, but rather the Meme loving orthodox-minded apologists themselves and their co-religionists.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Beyond the Da Vinci Code Discussion

"The discussion by Hays, George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School, and Ehrman, James A. Gray distinguished professor and chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was meant to address questions raised by the bestselling book, soon to be released as a film. The reliability of portrayals of Jesus in the Bible and other ancient texts was among the topics addressed."

Beyond the Da Vinci Code Discussion at Duke Divinity School

However do yourself a favor and listen to my volume edited version instead of the one offered on the Duke Divinity School Web Site. The recording was done in the midst of the audience and the applause is literally deafening. My volume edited version, originally done so I'd be able to listen to it, is not perfect but will help preserve your hearing.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

One Orthodox Critique Worth Reading?

If I had oodles of cash again, I'd probably offer rewards for intelligent critiques of Gnosticism, things Gnostic, and above all things called "Gnostic."

After months of searching for anything worth reading in the arena of orthodox responses to the DaVinci Code, I finally found one. Which is not to say that it is endorsable by any stretch, only unique in the field. He seems to be the first in the orthodox camp to figure out that the DaVinci Code is not actually Gnostic, though it seems to be because he thinks we don't exist. In any case, since the major impetus of the DaVinci Code is a Shadow Play with Roman Catholicism, I found it interesting.

Pagan Flesh, Protestant Bones

The Religious Consumer Attitude

I have been meaning to address some issues I raised in a post entitled Mature Gnosticism that pointed out some of the immature attitudes towards Gnosticism. Here is part one.

Probably what bugs me the most about the interactions that I have with people as a Gnostic Priest can be summed up as expressions of a consumer attitude towards religion. That somehow I am the producer and marketer of a product to which those who would come are merely passive consumers. And as consumers, they somehow feel that it should be exactly as they would want it to be (even if they don't know what that is), or they won't “buy it” even though it is free (for them). This will never be the ideal product they want to buy--even if you ignore the fact that Gnosticism doesn't work like that.

  • The forms that become very popular are only tangentialy Gnostic at best, and appeal to the prejudices of their "consumers." On a real spiritual path, prejudices are hindrances that need to be examined and most likely discarded.

  • Ego appeal and gratification are major components of products, along with fear of the consequences of not having it. In the Gnostic perspective the Ego is an echo of the Demiurge, it needs to be transformed by Gnosis, not butressed up in false grandiosity. Fear of not attaining liberation does not seem to be a large motivating factor in general, and if it were, our practices are beneficial not necessary.

  • The two identity apeals of products are: that they make one a part of a group, or that they set one apart from the group. Gnostics groups tend to be small. Even in large cities, they rarely get up to what a mainstream denomination would call a “small” congregation. (Of course, if everyone who left to be a part of a larger organization stayed...) The other issue, that of being set apart, is an expectation that puts the "consumer" in opposition to the group when they find that it isn't somehow an “un-group.”

  • The packaging of consumer products is designed to appeal to the consumer's expectations and assumptions while being eye-catching and standing out. Our “packaging” (liturgical style, style of vestments, etc.) brings the wrong sort of expectations and assumptions—that have to be gotten past to get to the experience where the Gnosis can be found.

In a future post I'll look at the alternative.

A Vision for the Parish

This is a first attempt to articulate this.

Contact: One on one conscious connections where experiences are taken seriously within the context of the spiritual path. Grounded spiritual listening. Chaplaincy model.

Contexts: Gnosticism. Religion. Philosophy. Psychology. Mythology. Symbolism. Multiple perspectives. Educational programs and opportunities. Formation programs. Developing and articulating a growing understanding.

Community: A church of friends where each brings themselves into community, and shares their insight and knowledge. Supportive of your journey. Honest. We are all in this together. No membership, just friendship.

Communion: A church where you do not have to leave a part of yourself at the door. Solemn Ritual. Uniting in ritual. Uniting with the divine. Becoming (better) mystics. Honoring of the divine within each of us.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Enlightenment of All

I thought this might be of interest:

Open Zen Recognizes Enlightenment of All

04/01/2006 Sutton, PA. Martin Lloyd Roshi is not what you might expect from a Zen Master. His rather nasal voice, thick retro-style glasses, New York accent, and anxious manner seem to contrast with the stereotype.

“I just saw a need for a modern American Zen to reflect our values, not transplant the social hierarchy of Japan here.” He says with enthusiasm, while sipping a cup of what I hope is decaffeinated coffee. “We need the freedom to be enlightened!”

Martin Roshi studied Buddhism for many years before founding the Open Zen School. “I tried to make progress in the old system, but the doors were closed. That's why I call it 'Open' Zen.” He makes an expansive gesture when he says “open” that is genuinely welcoming. “Not 'Closed' Zen, that exists only to maintain a hierarchy of a few, while the rest of us chop wood and carry water.”

After his last attempt to be recognized as an enlightened teacher in the Zen tradition failed in 2003, Martin Roshi was “devastated.”

“I hardly got out of bed for weeks,” he confides. “They ended up kicking me out of the monastery. It was then that I realized that this wasn't the way enlightened people acted. I mean, they're supposed to be 'enlightened,' right?”

That epiphany lead Martin Roshi to the radical idea of founding a new Zen School, one that would follow an open egalitarian model. “Not to talk about enlightenment as something you need to get, and to try to do things to get it. I wanted a place to be enlightened. And it worked! I went from hardly getting out of bed to being very happy. My level of enlightenment didn't change, only the recognition of it changed.”

“I'm offering an alternative to hierarchical Zen. That branch (hierarchical Zen) can be seen as the right arm of the second Patriarch, and Open Zen can be seen as the left.”

While membership in the Open Zen School has not grown significantly, Martin Roshi is proud of his accomplishments and optimistic about the future. “It's about empowering people to be enlightened. If they get everything they need out of my Introduction to Open Zen class with their installation as Roshi at the end, then that's great!”