heimskringla: (seafood)
This WorldNetDaily article on the Da Vinci Code is probably fairly typical conservative, literalist Christian fare, but it got me thinking.

How many times have I, or any of you, encountered the fellow who thinks like the author of this article?

"But... it has to be true, it's in the Bible!"

"The Bible is historically verifiable!"

"If Christians were better educated, they'd know their fath!"

The assertions go on, and on, and on, and they're all along the same lines. They're based in fear and a need to be right, because what happens if they're not right? Maybe they go to hell or maybe they give up and turn to atheism.

The last question usually means something like, "If you had a better religious education, you wouldn't have a different opinion about Christianity (or perhaps dog breeding) than I do." And this is, of course, absolute rubbish.

Religion is, at best, mankind's attempt to connect with the Holy Other. We use language and mythic symbols to express thoughts and ideas which are difficult at best and impossible at worst to express any other way. Our speculation about the Holy Other is rooted in experience, somewhere down the line. Maybe it's not personal experience (why not?), but somewhere down the line, someone had an experience and they attempted to describe it. Maybe several someone's had a similar experience and used similar language and symbolism to describe it.

Gnosticism, as a religion, is about personal accountability and responsibility. I am responsible for my own "salvation." The priest down the street isn't... the guy sitting next to me isn't, I am. If the Bible isn't literally true, if Jesus of Nazareth didn't exist (or maybe it was "Jesus of the Nazarim"), does it matter? Does it change the situation any? Am I somehow less responsible for myself than I was before?

It doesn't change a thing. The language and the symbolism presented by Christianity are still useful in the light of Gnosticism whether historically verifiable or literally true, and hey... it is okay to be wrong about the Holy Other. Don't have to be right... don't really even have to think about it... you've just got to experience it.
heimskringla: (Default)
The Vatican continues to miss the boat...

This will likely come as no surprise to some of you, but the Vatican is once again looking at homosexuality (and dissent from the Magisterium) in its seminaries with the subtext "this is the cause of our pedophile problem."

I have a problem with this, obviously. Firstly, as a self-respecting Gnostic, tightening the doctrinal thumbscrews isn't going to do anything about the giant hole in the hull of the boat. Secondly, gay men aren't any more likely to be pedophiles (or sexually active after avowed to celibacy) than straight men.

Stop making homosexuality in the priesthood matter and it wont. Some of the best Catholic priests I know are gay... they're neither pedophiles or hiding a boyfriend in the sacristy.

You want to fix your problems? Cut out the culture of secrecy. Stop the coverup. You might want to do something about the deplorable state of your liturgy, too. The Liberal Catholic Church made some very excellent reforms to the Tridentine Missal, and if that's too recent you're welcome to +Arnold Harris Matthew's Old Catholic Missal for ideas.

If you want to play kinky games with seminarians, cool... remember not to flog any areas with delicate bone structures, and pay plenty of attention to the naughty bits, but please start paying attention to the root causes of your problems. Your kerygma may not be irrelevant, but you are. Gay priests aren't your problem, but priests who molest children are.

I'm going to go finish coughing up the remainder of my lungs now.
heimskringla: (magdalene)

"Great is the mystery of marriage! For without it the world would not exist."

Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code (which I'll refrain from linking) has generated a lot of interest in Mary Magdalene and alternative Christianities, for which I am ever thankful to Mr Brown; I only wish Mr Brown had the integrity to admit his work was entirely fictive. Now, then. Who was Mary Magdalene really and what was her role in the fellowship of Jesus?

The Eastern church has honoured Magdalene with the accolade "Equal to the Apostles," but is always careful to note that she did not participate in the Apostolic ministry, nor did she receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost for that purpose. The Eastern church answers the question of Magdalene's identity and role by according her high stature and honour amongst the early Christian community. In the East, she was never conflated with the harlot; indeed, Magdalene was a wealthy woman who provided for Jesus and his band of disciples.

The Western church has, owing to an unfortunate Easter sermon given by Pope Gregory "the Great," often confused Mary Magdalene with the harlot mentioned earlier in the gospels, but acknowledges that she was redeemed by Jesus.

So far, we're two for two. Despite Magdalene being the first witness to the resurrection and equal to the apostles, she's still not an apostle. She doesn't have the same authority to teach, to preach, and to baptize that the bull-headed Peter enjoys.

Ah! There is another option, and it's one Dan Brown only vaguely manages to hint at in The DaVinci Code. He focuses far too much on the idea of the Holy Grail/Holy Blood[line] myth and is unable to see Magdalene not only as Christ's earthly consort, but as his spiritual consort as well. Lets take a few moments and consider some passages from the Gospel of Philip:

[The Savior] loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. They [the disciples] said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The savior answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness."

Here, Jesus likens the disciples to the blind man who cannot see and Magdalene to the sighted man whose vision is only obscured because there's a dearth of light. He is, in effect, saying "This woman can see where you cannot. Her vision is not clouded by scales. I have given her light, and she flourishes." Or, "This woman can see what you cannot. She knows me as you will not."

According to Gnostic thought (or at least the Valentinian school), we can see that Magdalene was neither a harlot or merely a wealthy woman, but she was beloved of Jesus in a way that the disciples weren't, because of her capacity for spiritual insight. This is one passage from one text favoured by one Gnostic school, but I hope it will give a modicum of insight into other possibilities for Magdalene and her role in the community.

When Eve was still in Adam death did not exist. When she was separated from him death came into being. If he enters again and attains his former self, death will be no more.

The Nymphon, or the Bridal Chamber, is how the Valentinian school conceptualized this necessary reunion between Adam and Eve, not necessarily in a physical sense (though not excluding it), but moreso in a spiritual sense.

If the woman had not separated from the man, she should not die with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this Christ came to repair the separation which was from the beginning and unite them But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated. Thus Eve separated from Adam because it was not in the bridal chamber that she united with him.

So, here we get more blathering about how the lack of unity between Adam and Eve was the cause of death and how they need to be reunited in order for death to stop, but the death alluded to isn't the death of the body, but rather the spirit.

So what, or where is the bridal chamber? The Gospel of Philip compares the bridal chamber to the "holy of holies" in the Temple at Jerusalem, which is the place only the high priest entered on certain days after observing certain rituals and precautions. It's the same for the bridal chamber. It may be achieved through earthly sexual union (or earthly sexual union may be the parallel of the bridal chamber which is the spiritual mirror of earthly sexual union), but it can only be achieved when the participants are spiritually ready and prepared.

How, precisely, does this tie in to Jesus and Magdalene? I posit, as have many before me, that Magdalene is Eve to Jesus' Adam, at least on a spiritual level. He a vessel of the Logos and she a vessel of Echamoth or Sophia. Only together were Magdalene and Jesus whole, and only with the Logos can Sophia create.

I've barely begun to scratch the surface of Jesus and Magdalene or Nymphon, for that matter, but there's a lot to dig in to. And hopefully, you get the point of the icon now.
heimskringla: (Default)

The above poster is a part of a new vocations campaign for the Roman Catholic Church. I like to call it "Lookin' Good 'n [not] Gettin' Laid."

In all seriousness, I think the poster, and its attendant campaign, do a lot to romanticize and glamourize the image of the priest and the institution of the priesthood more than is good or necessary. The priesthood is not a pretty, glamourous thing. A sobbing widdow crying into your shoulder is no more glamourous than a dying man coughing blood onto your surplice when you kneel beside him to hear his final confession.

There's joy to be found, certainly, in the long hours, the people whose lives you affect in ways large and small, but it's hardly a job for pretty boys. Don't do it 'cause it's cool, do it because you're driven to do it. If you're not driven to do it, you wont for very long.

And think, my sons, about those long, cold, lonely nights. Think about never knowing the joy or beauty to be found in holding a woman in your arms as she falls asleep with her head against your chest.

It ain't pretty. Is it still worth it?

The Dyer

Aug. 19th, 2005 09:31 pm
heimskringla: (jesus)

God is a dyer. As the good dyes which are called "true" dissolve with the things dyed in them, so it is with those whom God has dyed. Since his dyes are immortal, they become immortal by means of his colour. Now God dips what he dips in water.

The lord went into the dye works of Levi. He took seventy-two different colours and threw them into the vat. He took them out all white. And he said, "Even so has the son of man come as a dyer."

The Gospel of Philip is often categorized, by scholars, as a Gnostic sacramental catechism. These two passages from the Gospel do not appear together in the manuscript, but thematically the two passages compliment each other.

God is revealed as a dyer who uses "true" dyes which do not fade. The medium of this "true" dye is then revealed in its sacramental form as the water of baptism. Secondly, Christ is identified as taking part in his Father's work as a dyer. He cast 72 "different colours" (a reference to the band of 72 disciples) and threw them into a vat of the "true" dye and they arose from the water all white, or rather they arose from the waters having received the Holy Ghost and the resurrection of the spirit (thusly having received immortality):

Some are afraid lest they rise naked. Because of this they wish to rise in the flesh, and they do not know that it is those who wear the flesh who are naked. It is those who [...] to unclothe themselves who are not naked.
heimskringla: (haha)

God is a man-eater. For this reason, men are sacrificed to him. Before men were sacrificed, animals were being sacrificed, since those to whom they were sacrificed were not gods.

This particular aphorism in the Gospel of Philip always struck me as a little strange, not to mention abstruse. The pseudographic Philip alludes to the Levitical sacrifices of the temple cult, through which offerings were made as expiation for sin. Pseudo-Philip says that animals were sacrificed because "they" did not sacrifice to gods.

So what's it mean? Is the Big Hairy Primate (or Flying Spaghetti Monster) saying he wants him some down home human sacrifice? Nah, don't think so. You can read the passage as plainly as you like and figure that "God" was satisfied with the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross or you could take a little bit of a deeper look at the passage in light of the generally anti-hylic nature of most Gnostic schools (Philip is most often associated with the Valentinian school) and read it like this:

Stop worrying over all the pointless little animal sacrifices and the cult of the Temple. When you make a sacrifice at the Temple, you're not making a sacrifice to God anyway, because I don't really live there. If you want to give me something, give me that part of you which is "man" (e.g. your material self) so you can know the truth of the spirit.

I will admit, perhaps a draught of absinthe (or a hit of LSD) might have made this little rambling a bit more enjoyable... I mean "God is a Man-eater..." isn't that great imagery for a trip?

P.S. I have found the most amusing/"teh bestest" website ever: hit it for the glory of God.
heimskringla: (Default)
The traditional missal of Pius V and the Vatican II Missal of Paul VI have something in common with the Book of Common Prayer, and the Divine Liturgies of Chrysostom and James in that I find their theological expressions rather at odds with my own experience of gnosis, but if I were given a choice I'd prefer either of the Eastern Liturgies or the Tridentine Rite of Pius V to either the Pauline Missal or a BCP's communion service.


It's quite simple, really. There's a great deal of beauty to be found in the ritual of the traditional liturgies of the church; they provide a space where communion with the Divine is possible in more than just an allegorical sense. The vestments, the incense, the chant, the ornate fixtures and vessels, they create the illusion of a place inbetween Pleroma and Materia. The drama unfolds and you become a part of it. I've celebrated the Eucharist according to the Pauline Missal and the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, just as I've done so according to the Tridentine Rite and (once) the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and from a sacramental perspective, the eucharistic process in the same; there's still that moment when I feel my hands enveloped by a sensation of warm breath or gentle heat, but the inner experience of grace is notably absent.

There's something lacking in a lot of modern liturgy. I don't know whether it's the added attention to political correctness (the NRSV anyone?) or the idea that these sort of things really need to catch up to "the times," but it's just not as effective at facilitating communion, which means it fails the only test that matters (e.g. does it work?).
heimskringla: (haha)
It can easily be said that the Gnostic (or a spiritual seeker of any stripe, most likely) journies along a road which has several distinct stops or signposts. Gnostics understand these to be five in number, with one being necessary before the journey to the next begins; think of it rather like the Gnostic version of Maslow's heirarchy.

1. Aphoria - Aphoria is translated directly as "roadlessness" and most often results in the seeker feeling lost or trouble. There's the realization that something is not quite right; it creates an internal conflict within the seeker and serves as the genesis for further growth.

2. Ephiphany - The Epiphany is more or less translated as "shining light" or "manifestation." The veils of dokkos (illusion) are parted and the seeker begins to grasp spiritual truth. It's, more or less, a eureka! moment stemming from the earlier sense of aphoria.

3. Agon - Agon's most apt translation is "struggle." The seeker realizes that there is more to the world, more to himself, than meets the eye, but there are forces (internal or external) whose desire is to convince the seeker that the dokkos is fine, just fine. Think of the scene in The Matrix where Morpheus offers Neo a choice between the red pill and the blue pill. You can choose to remain awake or to fall back asleep.

4. Gnosis - Enlightenment or Inner Knowing. An encounter with the Divine Reality/Pleroma; the undeniable knowledge that the Other does indeed exist. Gnosis must be experienced as opposed to being read about or spoken of. There's no magic forumla to attain it, just work.

5. Charis - This word means "grace" and perhaps carries a connotation of sanctity or holiness. This is the end of the road, personified in people like Buddha, Jesus, Rumi, Mani, and others.
heimskringla: (Default)
For those of you who happen to be curious, click here to hear the consecration of the gifts in Latin, intoned by yours truly.

The file will open in iTunes.
heimskringla: (magdalene)
There's a meme going around on LJ, and it reminded me of the above text found at Nag Hammadi.

I was sent forth from the power,
and I have come to see those who reflect upon me,
and I have been found among those who seek after me.
Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,
and you hearers, hear me.
You who are waiting for me, take me to yourselves.
And do not banish me from your sight.
And do not make your voice hate me, nor your hearing.
Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time. Be on your guard.
Do not be ignorant of me.

For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one, and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great, and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom, and it is my husband who begot me.
I am the mother of my father and the sister of my husband,
and he is my offspring...
heimskringla: (O_o)
You can read about more wacky celebrity impoverishment of the Qabalah right here, folks...

You probably didn't read it here first, because this is livejournal and all.

The Qabalah is spiffy, really, I promise, but there's a lot that goes in to understanding the Qabalah in its context, both from an exoteric perspective and an esoteric perspective. Little bits of string and scanning Hebrew letters aside, it's some serious stuff with some heavy gnostic elements...

Which reminds me... Ye Tarot buffs (though maybe our dear [livejournal.com profile] ebee is the only one, but if not, more the merrier):

+ Stephan Hoeller's book The Fool's Pilgrimage might prove an interesting read. Knowing Hoeller through his work and scholarship, he's definitely not someone I'd characterize as a muppet.
heimskringla: (haha)

Those of you with an interest in pre-Christian Egyptian religion might notice something interesting in this Coptic icon of the Archangel Michael.
heimskringla: (Default)
I decided I had to share this image with you all, because well... yeah. I suspect Dan Brown at work here.

Possibly not safe for work )
heimskringla: (Default)
I don't really do a whole lot of religion/spirituality blogging on LJ at the moment, but for those of you who are interested in finding out what sort of stuff goes on in my head where that area is concerned click here. Read, comment, whatever, but the folks who usually read that blog don't know about the LJ, and I discuss some topics and interests here that not a lot of people who know me, or the "other me" are aware of, so keep that in mind.
heimskringla: (Default)
This is an excellent example of why it's so difficult to request a proper exorcism. This story first appeared on the wire three or four days ago, but I wanted to watch further developments before commenting.

In the United States and Western Europe, requesting an exorcism from a Catholic (or in this case Old Catholic and Anglican as well) priest is a touch involved.  You talk to your parish priest. He talks to the diocesan bishop. Medical and psychiatric opinions are sought to rule out things like epilepsy and schizophrenia, and only after that has been done can permission be granted and an exorcist appointed.

The Orthodox Church, unlike its Western cousin, does not have a formal rite of exorcism, at least nothing akin to that which most readers will be familiar with. The Orthodox traditionally use various prayers for deliverance, and none of them involve reenacting the crucifixion. Sadly, in some parts of the world, competent professional opinions aren't sought either due to lack of access or a lack of trust.
heimskringla: (Default)
Was Mary Magdalene the "Beloved Disciple" referenced in the Gospel of John? Ramon K. Jusino posits this to be the case, and it looks to be an interesting thesis none the less.

If you consider the Gospel of Philip for instance:

And the companion of the [Savior is] Mary Magdalene. [But Christ loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her [mouth]. The rest of [the disciples were offended] by it [and expressed disapproval]. They said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness"

There are many instances in the apocryphal literature where Christ interacts with Mary Magdalene on what might be considered a fairly intimate level, though Gnostic texts don't tend to do too well with literal interpretation; I'd say it's highly likely Mary Magdalene was the 'Beloved Disciple.'
heimskringla: (Default)
After a chat with [livejournal.com profile] ebee a few days ago wherein she wanted to see what sort of vestments non-Anglican priests wear (and the answer was: the same vestments Anglican priests wear) she commented: The cross on the back of the stole goes right over your throat chakra.

Me: Wow. You're right; I never really considered that.

So I got to thinking about chakras and the way they're erm... employed in Christian ritual. Granted, most Christians would call me a complete and utter loon for talking about an Eastern concept in conjunction with Christianity, but there's a similarity to my mind.

The 'crown' chakra is generally where the baptismal waters are poured in the Roman fashion, at least by most clerics performing the rite (Eastern Christians immerse so it's a moot point).

At confirmation/chrismation (and during the consecration of a bishop according to the Roman rite) the forehead is anointed with chrism in the shape of a cross near to the 'third eye.' In the Eastern Churches, chrism is applied liberally to the forehead, hands, feet, chest, and likely some other areas I'm forgetting.

A priest's hands are anointed with chrism when he/she is given explicit authority to offer the Mass (Anglicans generally give the priest a paten with an unconsecrated host and omit the anointing).

So while the claims that the chakras are employed in Christianity (of the orthodox variety, anyhow) is tenuous, I found it at least a little interesting to note where people were anointed during various rituals.
heimskringla: (Default)
I found this in First Things Magazine, via a link followed from Serge, who as always manages to provoke my interest.

Briefly, the article discusses Westernized "boomer Buddhism" and Eastern Buddhism.

Read it here.
heimskringla: (Default)
Interview Here.

The New Age movement looks like a mixed bag. I see much in it that seems good: It's optimistic; it's enthusiastic; it has the capacity for belief. On the debit side, I think one needs to distinguish between belief and credulity. How deep does New Age go? Has it come to terms with radical evil? More, I am not sure how much social conscience there is in New Age thinking. If we think, for example, that we are drawing closer to transcendence or God but are not drawing closer in compassion and concern for our fellow human beings, we're just fooling ourselves. Do New Age groups produce a Mother Teresa or a Dalai Lama? Not that I can see. So, at its worst, it can be a kind of private escapism to titillate oneself.

Huston Smith highlights one of my main problems with most new-age religions in this interview (not to mention his thoughts and mine are frighteningly similar in that regard), and that aside it's also food for thought. Perhaps, given the composition of my flist, at least one of you will find it a worthwhile read.
heimskringla: (Default)
An interesting article came to light while perusing Dappled Things. Columnist James Leroy Wilson asks: Are "Theocrats" really that bad? I highly commend reading the article to all of you.

A quote:

I'd rather a tax be cut for religious reasons than a tax be raised for secular reasons. Bush's wars for "democracy" and "liberty" are wars for purely secular ideals. Is a war of aggression any less just because it is to spread an ideology instead of a religion? Is it wrong to ban pornography for religious reasons, but right to ban it for secular reasons? Does it matter why the Fat Nazis, Drug Warriors, and Tobacco Fascists believe in their nutty causes?

Tyranny is tyranny, and big government is big government. It is wrong for the devoutly religious to try to "help" God by launching religious crusades, invading our privacy, and redistributing our wealth. But it is no less wrong for secularists to try to replace God with the State by exacting greater tithes and imposing more rules than any religion's scriptures dared imagine.

It's an interesting way to look at things; I don't agree entirely with the author of the quoted article, of course, but I think it important to routinely expose myself to viewpoints different from my own for growth's sake.


heimskringla: (Default)

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