Last night, my husband and I had a date night. This included watching the new movie of Dune. Being late to the game, I knew next to nothing about the Dune series, had not see a trailer for the movie, and had no idea what I was in for.
One of the first aspects of the movie that became apparent to me was the Messianic narrative. (I'm not going to spoil things for anyone; this is just an aspect the movie that appears pretty quickly.) The Messianic narrative is also featured a great deal in the Harry Potter series, Star Wars, and The Matrix series.
That got me to thinking- how often is this particular narrative used? Frequently enough to appear in several major motion pictures in the modern era, at the least, and those are just the ones that came to mind!
In the world of religion and spirituality, and especially among those on the Christian path, there's a good bit of discussion about how old the Messianic narrative is. Did the particular stories that we attribute to Jesus of Nazareth exist in other world cultures and traditions? Were those stories simply added to the life of Jesus? How old is the narrative of the Messiah, really?
This topic can easily lead into a quagmire of sorts, the kind where people accept the evidence that backs up their own positions but dismiss contrary evidence for not fitting their preconceptions.
The Messiah narrative is perhaps an extension of the Journey of the Hero, and the Journey of the Hero may in turn be a mythologizing of battles and circumstances in which one person happened to get incredibly lucky and strike the right blow or figure out the best way to help a population in need.
So from one perspective, of course the Messiah narrative is older than Christianity and Judaism, but from another perspective, the concept that it is the soul of mankind that is being delivered may be quite a new thread.
Let us reflect on these things.
Sometimes, trusting God can be difficult.
There's a lot of cliches built into the concept of "simply have faith" and "simply trust in God." There's a whole lot people who are disappointed in the long run, though perhaps in the short run such sentiments are capable of sustaining the souls of the suffering.
I can fully admit that my ability to trust God isn't nearly as strong as it should be despite the abundant evidence handed to me time and again. That's a pretty bold statement to make, yet I've seen some near miraculous (and perhaps outright miraculous) things happen.
There's an interesting point- when the miraculous does occur, does it truly feel like a miracle? Or does it feel perfectly natural?
Some people with near-death experiences have claimed that the supernatural world seemed more real than the everyday world of the living, that this world is as a dream by comparison. So it would follow that the "supernatural" experience feels perfectly normal and natural in its state.
I think God can found in the ordinary. I think things can flow wonderfully and be happy. This is what we must trust. Suffering must be put to an end. Let us find the greater trust in ourselves.
O joyful Light!
Light and Holy Glory of the Father immortal,
the heavenly, holy, the Blessed One;
O Jesus Christ!
Now that we have reached the setting of the sun,
and see the evening light,
we sing to God,
Father + Son, and Holy Spirit.
It is fitting at all times
to raise a song of praise
in measured melody to You, O Son of God,
the giver of life.
Behold! The universe sings Your glory.
"Happy are those who find wisdom,
and those who get understanding,
for her income is better than silver,
and her revenue better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called happy."
The Book of Proverbs, Chapter Three, Verses 13-18
New Revised Standard Version
From a young age, verses in the Bible discussing wisdom always drew me in. The personifications of wisdom in particular drew me in, and of course, I wasn't entirely sure why as a kid. There are numerous times where wisdom is spoken of as a person and sometimes even speaks.
Now I know what was going on. We're not merely discussing wisdom as an abstraction but rather Wisdom as a very real spiritual power/being to which we can relate. Often we use the name "Sophia" in this case. The Hebrew word is chokmah, which we then see reflected in the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism as well.
My copy of The Jewish Study Bible points out that part of these verses are read when the Torah is being returned to the ark during a Jewish service, and the Rabbis tend to read "wisdom" in these verses as specifically referring to the Torah itself.
The Jewish Study Bible also references those things which Wisdom holds in her hands as potentially referring to iconography seen in Egypt where the monarchs would hold items symbolizing things such as long life and prosperity in their hands.
The Kabbalistic symbolism also seems to stand out in referencing the Tree of Life.
The more exoteric interpretation here would be something like, "Following God's Laws leads to happiness." Any given exoteric Christian church would probably give us something like this- following God's Rules leads to God's Blessings, end of story.
However, from a more esoteric point of view, we have something very different being said: one can experience a substantial underlying reality that then causes one to be happy.
Let's also consider what the verses are telling us above: they're not suggesting that precious jewels and metals are worthless (that is, the suggestion here isn't that owning things or having beautiful possessions is a bad thing) but rather that Wisdom is superior even to those things which we typically value and find to be beautiful.
Let us pursue both wisdom and Wisdom in all things.
One of the most interesting aspects of spiritual development is that of "spiritual sight." Perhaps this may better be described as a kind of "spiritual knowing," though I think there are often visual components that appear in our minds to help us better understand the experience.
Oftentimes in Christianity, we hear of "spiritual blindness" and such, and it's interpreted in a kind of metaphorical fashion: "spiritual blindness" translates to "not acquiescing to our conceptual framework of Christianity as the Ultimate Truth."
But the spiritual blindness is something much more immediate and real- there's a very real kind of unseen realm(s) that we cannot perceive without dedication to meditation and specific kinds of training.
This is so important for mystics to understand, but in truth, this is important for virtually all Christians to understand. Christianity is mysticism. Christianity can't truly be separated from mysticism except by distortion and misunderstanding.
There are finer points that can be argued- and indeed, have been argued- about the relationship between Jesus and the Christ and so on, and I'll leave those arguments up to theologians who are competent in both reasoning and mysticism, as I've chosen to focus on the mystical path forward. Perhaps one day I'll be able to circle around to philosophy and theology and separate what's real from what's not, but I'm not there yet.
Until recently, I would've not paid attention to the concept of spiritual blindness and darkness, but meditation has definitely shown me there's more out there and more going on at any given time than most of us are aware of.
Let us continue to dedicate ourselves to Christ and to meditate on the Divine.
Here in Virginia, the weather changed drastically over the past few days.
We had been lucky to have a month or so of temperatures that hovered in the 70s and 60s, a pleasant coolness that was great for walking.
Then, last Saturday or so, the "change" happened. We had a rainstorm, and when I went to walk my dog, I could tell everything was "different." The storm had brought with it that evening "new spirits." The atmosphere outside had changed, both physically and metaphysically.
The haunting spirits of the autumn have finally arrived here. The first true coolness since the spring is here. Nature has declared a fall, and a fall it shall be.
But the change in the spiritual energy is what has my mind blown. I've watched and waited and tried to figure this out for the longest time: why haven't I connected to this energy for so long? Why wasn't I aware of it more directly, as I am now?
The answer, of course, has to do with meditation and expanding of spiritual faculties. Somewhere, I always knew these things were going on, and now, I have the developed awareness to experience them more directly.
May your awareness be expanded. May you experience the Divine and the Divine Seasons more directly.
As we near All Hallows' Eve, let us take a moment to pray for the Forgotten Dead.
O merciful God,
take pity on those souls
who have no particular friends and intercessors
to recommend them to Thee, who,
either through the negligence of those who are alive,
or through length of time are forgotten
by their friends and by all.
Spare them, O Lord,
and remember Thine own mercy,
when others forget to appeal to it.
Let not the souls which Thou hast created
be parted from thee, their Creator.
May the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
This prayer is taken from catholic.org.
Praying the entire rosary daily might be difficult for some people- even people with time on their hands.
Prayer is ultimately about directing energy. And if one's prayer isn't intentional or isn't sincere, then there's a chance that one's focus and energy will wane.
It's better to pray a little out of true devotion than to pray a great deal and become annoyed with it.
The abbreviated version of the rosary that I pray is a single decade a day. The prayer order looks something like this:
After concluding, I dedicate the graces of the rosary to someone in need. It isn't much, but it is something, and I'm much more game to pray the rosary daily by doing this.
I encourage people to do what spiritual practices they can, and never mind if you do everything perfectly all the time.
Why are there so many of us who are drawn to the various expressions of religious iconography around the world? Why do so many of us see the holy and the Divine in the differing traditions and gravitate toward, well, almost all of them? And then why are there people who cringe and shriek at the sights of such?
I tend to think of people who are drawn to various religious expressions as seeing something deeper in the tradition; we're connecting to the archetypes reflected throughout the world. There's an inner alignment, and the alignment is illuminated, whether through spiritual practices or grace and for whatever reason.
Sacraments are one means by which this alignment and illumination occurs.
Sacraments are sometimes defined thusly:
"A sacrament is an outward, visible sign of an inward, invisible grace."
The sentence can be read in multiple ways; in one way, the sentence can be understood that the sacrament is merely a ritual done externally that reflects the interior grace given by God.
From another perspective, we can understand the grace is being given through the sacrament by God.
I attempt to be practical and recognize that both perspectives are meaningful to people, and that the ultimate mechanism may be beyond description.
That being said, one interpretation could render the sentence to mean that the sacraments are extra but unnecessary, whereas the other reading emphasizes the connection of God, grace, and the sacrament.
While I take the position that God works through whatever means necessary, it would be a disservice to suggest that the sacraments aren't extremely beneficial. It's the difference between trying to cross the ocean in a small boat versus a state-of-the-art luxury cruise ship. You can technically do it, but you're in for a bumpier ride.
To return to the original point, the sacraments both align the inner archetypal world and illuminate that world. We're able to see it reflected in the external world. The interior and invisible grace becomes known to us throughout the traditions of the world's religions.
So embrace the alignment. Embrace the sacraments. Allow your soul to be illuminated, and let your light shine to the world.
O most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel,
fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven,
Blessed Mother of the Son of God,
assist me in my necessity.
O Star of the Sea, help me herein and show me here you are my Mother.
O Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
Queen of Heaven and Earth,
I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart to succor me in my necessity.*
There are none that can withstand thy power.
O Mary, conceived without sin,
pray for us who have recourse to thee.*
Holy Mary, I place this cause in your hands.*
*If making a petition, one asks after the word "necessity."
*"O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee" is repeated three times.
*"Holy Mary, I placed this cause in your hands" is repeated three times.
As we approach All Hallows' Eve, the Shadow side of the Collective Unconscious (especially in Christian cultures) begins to churn and move, and increasingly, the Shadow becomes manifest and apparent in our love of creepy and spooky things.
Watching horror movies isn't just a matter of having fun or a good time or what have you; it's also a method of relating to the personal and cultural Shadow.
My husband has been watching a lot of slasher films. These can be pretty freaky, and they affect me more now than they did when I was younger.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time watching scary movies knows that some of the older films that were meant to be scary now look incredibly cheesy. The fear factor disappears when everything is bad special effects and overacting that's incredibly obvious by today's super special-effects standards.
But the super special-effects also create their own problem, which is sometimes, it's just too much, and that creates a separate kind of cheesiness.
Some people can't handle scary films. I get it. Truly, I do. The supernatural tends to terrify me less than the more realistic but unlikely situations. The supernatural doesn't tend to mess with me too much, and for that, I'm thankful.
Let us embrace the Shadows and not chase them away. Halloween will arrive soon. Let us relate to God through Halloween.
The Last Supper, or L'Ultima Cena
by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo's painting of The Last Supper is one of the first spiritual images to captivate me, one of the first I was shown as a child.
This painting, or a replication of it, hung in the house of the woman who babysat from the time I was born until I started kindergarten. While I didn't understand it fully or didn't necessarily have the mental capacity to fully appreciate its significance to Christians, I did frequently look at the painting and contemplate it in my own child-like way- the way children do this with anything.
Of all the religious imagery I encountered in my childhood, this is the one that stuck with me. There's something truly fascinating about it, something alluring.
And this is true of religious paintings across the board. In our current world, art is often thought of as "merely decorative." Art is considered a frill, an accessory, but not a necessity. Art isn't considered essential.
This is possibly rooted in the sense of excess people sometimes encountered with various churches in which precious jewels and metals were used to construct things while people in the streets starved to death.
Reality, however, is always more complicated than this, and we can't forget that; there are enough resources in our world to both feed all the people and beautifully design and decorate our buildings. These things are not the zero-sum games some would have us believe they are.
Art, whether it be paintings or statues or what have you, influences the mood of the environment. Something non-verbal is conveyed.
There's a very different atmosphere in churches that contain statues and paintings and stained glass, for instance, than in churches that eschew these sorts of things.
Art has also been beneficial to people who were illiterate in times past. Something can be conveyed and remembered by an image when one cannot write words.
Next time you see some kind of spiritual art, or any art, pause and contemplate it, and try to find God in it, always remember that God is good.
This is a practice I highly encourage. I grew up with this practice, though I fell out of it with time due to the toxic elements of the tradition in which I was raised. The prayer I currently use is a traditional Catholic prayer.
"Bless us, O Lord,
and these, Thy gifts,
which we are about to receive from Thy bounty.
In Christ's Name,
The Sign of the Cross is made prior to and after the prayer. According to some sources, the person reciting the prayer can make the Sign of the Cross over the food itself. I encourage all these practices.
Gratitude for one's food is something that shouldn't be overlooked, but it should also be genuine. There's no point in someone saying it if they don't genuinely have gratitude. That's a completely different life lesson one might learn at a different time, I think.
Grace before meals is a way to incorporate our spirituality into ordinary life and to infuse the food with the Divine energy, or at the very least, infuse our awareness with the remembrance that the food is already infused with Divine energy.
There are many daily rituals we can do, including Morning and Night Prayers. We'll talk about these in another entry.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Saint Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 15, Verse 13
New Revised Standard Version
This is a particularly beautiful benediction from the canonical Scriptures. In fact, once again Father Sergio has influenced me by sharing this online. The internet's a truly wonderful tool when put to good ends.
There are so many other beautiful benedictions throughout the Epistles. The Epistle to the Romans ends with another beautiful one!
We can also understand the meaning from differing angles- this Benediction can be used as a standalone, for it ignites hope and reminds us that the Divine is the source of joy and peace, and we're offered the blessing and power of the Holy Spirit.
We can understand it contextually, for the people to whom Saint Paul was writing, and their plight and the need for unity among them.
There's also something mystical going on here (but of course I would say that), though I can't entire place my finger on it. Perhaps this has to do with the Benediction working to unite aspects of the fragmented self.
In any case, some verses from the Scriptures read like pure poetry.
Now, we have to keep in mind that the original Greek may have taken on a warped meaning in English. This happens frequently; the tone and mood are lost, and we're left with a lofty-sounding phrase that wouldn't have been so lofty originally. Please keep that in mind.
Still, that doesn't mean we can't derive joy from our current experience; God is ever-unfolding, ever-generating.
I am the Soul
and also love am I.
Above all else, I am
both will and fixed design.
My will is now to lift
the lower self into the Light Divine.
That Light am I.
Therefore, I must descend
To where the lower self awaits,
awaits my coming.
That which desires to lift
and that which cries for lifting
Are now at one.
Such is my will.
This is a prayer from Volume 1 of Adventure in Meditation.
Inspiration isn't difficult to find if you're an Aquarian Catholic. We can find inspiration in any source- a poem, a song, religious scriptures out of the Christian Tradition, and so on.
That's because God is in all things.
We're heirs to a particular tradition of Christian Sacramentalism- an effective, time-tested, mystically oriented system formulated through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit within the context of a particular culture milieu and passed down through the millennia.
There are no doubt antecedents to our tradition; there are perhaps parallels in other traditions; there are also diverse and entirely unique methods appearing in other cultures and tradition.
Our tradition is no less meaningful because of this. That we see God in the general but approach God in the specific does not cheapen or lessen what we do; rather, our tradition becomes all the more meaningful as something to celebrate, guard, and pass down to the next generation.
That the meaningfulness of our tradition can be seen in other traditions unlike ours is a testament to the power of God, I think.
We'll stay brief for today.
Yesterday, I had another insight.
Something I noticed many years ago is what I call "spiritual delay." I'm unsure if this has been reference in the entries so far, but to summarize: that for which we pray and on which we meditate rarely manifests immediately, and thank God for that; can you imagine the devastation that would occur in a world where anything and everything that popped into our mind suddenly came to be?
This is the warning that the 1984 movie Ghostbusters gives us using the image of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Yes, it's a bizarre reference, but that someone couldn't hold their mind clear and managed to have such a terrifying experience is exactly what we're able to avoid.
That doesn't mean that our endeavors are fruitless. On the contrary, the grace we receive from our prayers and such manifests at a later time- perhaps days later, or even weeks, but it does come to be.
So then we must consider another thing- meditation is a form of receiving the energy necessary for these things to occur. Prayer and ritual are forms of activating that energy. Both aspects work together.
To offer prayers, even traditional prayers, when one has deeply meditated is not to simply offer empty words but to activate all of the grace one has received in meditation. The prayers offer us a container through which to express the energy.
The same is true for ritual. Sometimes energy is built in ritual, and that can be sufficient.
What's more sufficient is the building up of energy prior to a ritual and then adding that to the energy built during the ritual.
This is a lot to absorb, so we'll leave this here.
"Realizations" and sudden understandings of the Nature of God or other spiritual matters often strike, like lightning, quickly, and then we're left with the imprint of it on our minds as the brightness of lightning is left on our retinas, and then we forget it somewhat.
This happened to me yesterday. I had a flash of insight, a direct knowing of something about the Holy Trinity and why Trinitarian theology has been held in Christianity for so long- only for the reflection of that knowing to be virtually unable to pass my lips.
I've been unable to clearly formulate the thought. I've been unable to clearly explain it. Oh, yes, I'm going to try, right here, but it's going to be bungled and muddy and not at all what I want to say. Being the person I am, that's not going to stop me from making the attempt, so please bear with me.
The normal issue we have when it comes to discussions about Self and Other and so on is the degree to which the Self or Other is really something like an illusion OR whether they're, in reality, unified. Is the Self illusory, and only the Objective World real? Is the Objective World a kind of illusion produced by the Self? Are they really united as One beyond all things?
And these things are kind of abstract, philosophical, and the sorts of things that high-level-achievin' meditators discuss and write treatises on.
But the Holy Trinity solves this problem by pointing out that there's always a Third Connection. Even if the Self and the Other are UNITED, there's always a "Third Observer."
In other words, the answer to the question in Buddhism about "Who watches the Watcher?", that is, what is aware when there's no Subject to be "aware of" itself, is the "Third Person of the Trinity." There's always a Third Observer, a Third Person, a Third Reality that is connected to both of the Other Realities.
The Trinity is a Mystery, but increasingly, I understand why it's to be found in Christianity.
Featured above is an incredibly soothing version of the Om Asatoma Sadhgamaya mantra.
You can find a translation and explanation of the mantra here.
Due to things like being my thirties, I threw out my back yesterday. This has happened maybe once or twice before, and I'm still functional with the help of modern medication; thank God for that.
This brought to mind the number of times I've down healing prayers and meditations for friends and family, the times I've offered the Holy Rosary for the sake of someone's healing and so forth, and then I realized, now I'm on the other side of this; now I'm the one who has to visualize the Christ healing me and asking for recovery.
It's interesting to know how very valuable these thoughts of compassion and healing are for myself in these moments. Sometimes just having someone think about you and offer prayers for you is really enough.
A brief meditation also severely began to reduce the pain, and for that, I'm glad.
I'm not under the impression that everyone has to go through every affliction in order to understand the importance of being on the receiving end of healing, but still, I can see the absolute importance of it now. This helps to then inspire me to offer more healing prayers and energy for others.
Always be sincere in your duty to help others.
Divination is one of those topics that can be touchy. I myself practice divination (predominantly in the form of card reading, though sometimes I consult the Yi Jing) and read for others and have noticed a tendency for people to sometimes begin relying far too much on readings and not on their own decision making.
From one angle, we can think of Divination as a means of clarification for complex issues: a complex obstacle stands before us, and we ask how to remedy or overcome such an obstacle. A reading can clarify that.
From another angle, we must remember that Divination is not unlike meteorological forecasts- various factors go into making the forecast, and the outcome deals with what is most probable and not what is absolutely certain.
I have to insert a joke I make sometimes about weather apps on smart devices and how I've had Tarot card readings that were "more accurate." It's a joke, but sometimes, it's described the situation all too well.
At this point, I'm having to draw a boundary and make clear for myself that I'll not do a reading for a person outside of once every two weeks. There are a few reasons for this, but most it's because two weeks is a good measure of a smaller cycle in a person's life.
All of this applies across the board- to cartomancy as well as astrology.
I think perhaps tomorrow we'll continue the discussion and speak more about cartomancy.
Our paradigms in spirituality are always that- systems, paradigms, organizations that help us to integrate and understand our spiritual experiences. They allow us to live in society and function while simultaneously having direct experiences of the Divine.
Unfortunately, all of us are prone to falling prey to the paradigm overtaking any kind of real spiritual experience. To honestly and consistently question one's self and to put a check on one's self is a great moral responsibility that all too often gets shrugged off in the more New Age-oriented perspectives. Worse still is this shrugging off of seriousness and responsibility is perhaps the major weakness of our more New Age perspectives.
This isn't true across the board, and in this world, things are rarely true across the board.
But it's true enough to find a disturbing overlap between people calling themselves things like "Light Workers" who also spend a lot of time embracing and promulgating some pretty dark (and given the right circumstances, dangerous) conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories have a huge allure for a lot of us because they seem to offer the "more" part of an explanation; when tremendous things happen, we want to assign some kind of agency to the cause. That reduces anxiety and makes us feel like we understand things better than we do.
Another force driving the allure is how so many of us know there's more going on in the world. However, merely knowing of something- intuitively understanding that there are forces beyond what's recognized in a strictly scientific-materialist worldview- doesn't mean that we necessarily are accurately perceiving such forces or what the patterns that emerge mean.
The Sufi Master Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee speaks sometimes of people being "dazzled by the bright Light of the Divine" who are need to then be grounded; in his particular school of Sufism, they use Jungian psychology to hold that ground in the manifest/physical world. I second this idea.
The reality is that much of life is a complex interaction of, for lack of better terms, Archetypal Collisions. Dynamic, unconscious forces have their own agenda and function in a way comparable to how people used to understand the Gods.
We have to remain grounded. Different ideas and perspectives might allure us or seem to offer us an interesting or exciting explanation; that something is alluring doesn't mean it's necessarily accurate, factual, or true. Moreover, the Shadow in our personal psyche ever searches for something upon which to project itself, and therein lies the most dangerous aspect.
Prudence is a virtue to strive for constantly. Let make sure we approach life with such a humanizing virtue.
October's an interesting month.
Growing up, Halloween was definitively one night of the year. Our school would decorate with Halloween decorations during October; we would eventually have a Halloween party in the earlier part of elementary school; and everything was tidily finished with the grand night itself, full of trick-or-treating.
Things change, and in the modern world, Halloween may as well be the whole month. People are hosting Halloween parties, the decorations aren't just in schools, and as adults, we can purchase massive amounts of candy any time we please. Halloween movies are playing on TV, streaming services set up specific Halloween sections...you name it.
Halloween follows a pattern that exists in many cultures around the world where something that was once borderline to downright terrifying has become, to quote a favorite Halloween movie, "...a night of frolic." (We can substitute the word "month" here instead.)
Many of us follow an interesting path where of course we indulge in the frolic aspect but ask ourselves if perhaps there' more. Is there more to this? Is there something deeper?
Our Nature traditions and modern Pagan paths bring back up what I've mentioned in previous entries- we should be working with and honoring the Dead, specifically our Ancestors and the Forgotten Dead.
Another aspect to consider is that potentially inner transformation that Halloween brings with it. No longer relegated to a mere night, Halloween brings with it an entire month's worth of Shadow Integration.
And that, I think, is the ultimate aspect of Halloween for many of us- by decorating with spooky things, by dressing up as something possibly creepy, by celebrating the World of the Dead and the Hereafter, we relate to both our inner Shadow and the Shadow of the Collective Unconscious.
As opposed to, say, Christmas (which is my personal favorite), Halloween brings with it a little more of a bite. People get a little more creative. There's a little more dynamism in many ways. Halloween feels like it offers to us more ways to celebrate.
May God guide us to properly revere our Loved Ones who've transitioned from this world to the next. May God shine Light Eternal upon them.