Conceiving of God
Our word "God" has connotations that can be off-putting to many people upon hearing it.
Typically, many people think of an independent, conscious personality with a kind of Santa Claus-complex, a kind of invisible but extra-large and extra-old human being. Perhaps the image of God as an ancient human being is reinforced by artistic depictions from the Middle Ages and other eras.
In reality, the language we use to describe God comes from a human perspective, and our perspective is limited in many ways.
Sometimes I've suggested to people in the past to use other terms and see how they feel. What happens when you speak of Reality? What happens when you speak of the Absolute? What happens when you think of the Universe? Great Spirit? Truth? Cosmic Consciousness?
We could have debates that all these terms mean different things, but we're generally aiming at the same idea- an inconceivable and absolute source of all things.
My own journey involved having a distaste for the term "God" for a long time. However, as I began to substitute other words, I realized it wasn't God causing the issue but rather the immature understanding of the Divine that had accumulated around the term.
What terms make you more comfortable talking about the Divine?
Today's entry focuses a little more on things that are happening around the website.
The purpose of our updating the website is to "modernize" it just a bit and to serve both those who are new and those who have more experienced.
Thanks to the work of Father Sergio, we have information on the Apostolic Succession for the Aquarian Catholic Spiritual Community and our clergy.
We also have a new section being built that will discuss the Independent Sacramental Movement, what it is, and resources to find people who are part of it.
Eventually, we'll expand our resources section to link to not only those things associated with Esoteric Christianity but also affiliated organizations and traditions.
We'll also have the gallery expanded and refined, and we'll possibly integrate better with social media.
We hope to have at some point an exhaustive list of recommended reading, both of titles available for free online and also titles available for purchase.
This Devotional section will eventually expand to having more posts by other authors, and we'll do things like Biblical commentary and sacramental reflections.
If you have spiritual needs that we're not addressing, please feel free to contact the Church and let us know what they are and how we can best help you.
If you're like me (or like pretty much anyone alive), you've experienced one of the worst feelings one can experience- fear.
Fear has a cousin named "anxiety," and while they overlap, they differ in some ways.
Most of us probably have gone through childhood fears- fears of monsters and supernatural beings and whatnot. Some people are afraid of the dark. Some people are afraid of certain creatures, like spiders or snakes.
One thing that has, in the past, irritated me is the notion of "facing one's fears" and the idea that by facing them, somehow the fears lessen.
I can count numerous situations where engaging directly with the thing I feared made things so much worse.
In fact, one remarkable note about my life is that anything I've ever genuinely had a fear of at one point and then later didn't fear simply disappeared as a fear of its own accord at an unknown time. I didn't do anything to overcome the fear. I didn't face it. I didn't engage with it. I simply grew out of it and left the fear behind.
We can be afraid of things that anyone would be afraid- there are awful ways to die and terrible experiences we could go through in life. I'm not sure how facing those fears would make us stronger.
In other words, I may rationally fear being physically assaulted, but I don't have to go through a physical assault to try to stop being afraid of it. That doesn't make sense.
Anxiety is a little more difficult to handle; fear can be one of its manifestations, but anxiety tends to be a broader-spread phenomenon where our nervous systems are hyper-vigilant. So, you may also have other issues related to the anxiety- things like acid reflux and insomnia, for instance.
Childhood fears that we grow out of and rational fears of terrible things that could happen aren't the real issue here. The real issue is when we develop fears and they don't go away. Irrational fears that persist are difficult to handle.
Sometimes one might get a good therapist and be able to deal with fears. Gradual introduction of something feared is one way of handling this.
Still, I wonder about fear. I wonder about the fears that I grew out of. I wonder what changed in my life that caused me to not be afraid anymore.
Some of my early fears were of being chased by our shop vac and our grill; I had nightmares about this constantly.
Given, if a shop vac began moving on its own, I would probably rightly find the situation bizarre, and a hot grill moving of its own accord coming toward me would be dangerous and something to be avoided.
But I don't have such nightmares now; something changed in me, and it didn't happen with my conscious processing of the fear.
I have other fears now, and I hope and pray I grow out of them. I hope and pray you grow out of your fears as well.
Peace Be with You
Oftentimes in the USA, we hear people speaking of "happiness." Life is centered around happiness, finding happiness, increasing happiness, preserving happiness, and so on. If a person's life isn't generally centered around happiness, then it's centered around a kind of deferred happiness- behaving in such a way that the afterlife will yield the joy they seek.
But what about peace? We rarely hear people say they're seeking peace or tranquility.
And to be sure, those of us who are caught up in the hustle and bustle of the modern-day USA could use a greater dose of peace.
This morning, I awoke with peace, a kind of peace I haven't felt in a long time. My dreams weren't particularly peaceful or fulfilling, and while I slept all right, I wouldn't say it was tremendously deep or tranquil, at least not any more than normal.
Yet the peace was unmistakable and wonderful. It didn't last, but for the small amount of time the peace hovered in the room, life seemed pretty okay and even good.
Peace, I think, goes beyond merely not having anything to do; there's a definitive quality of stillness and smoothness to it. One might very well not be afflicted by anything in the moment but still might be bored or agitated in some way. This was the opposite of that.
And I do wonder how different life would be if people were seeking to establish personal peace instead of personal happiness. There's an overlap, I think. Maybe peace and happiness are an example of a common, deeper experience that the mind encounters from different angles.
For today, tomorrow, and the next day, I wish you all peace.
When I was around age 11, the "WWJD?" paraphernalia become widely popular. "What Would Jesus Do?" was a question slapped on a number of products but too often not asked terribly sincerely by the people wearing them.
Ideally, this question would direct people to sincerely inquire in many situations how best to emulate Jesus.
I honestly don't remember asking myself the question at any point, so toss me into the bucket of people wearing the style but not necessarily living it out properly.
A better question for those of us who are more mystically-inclined might be to ask, "Would Would My Higher Self Do?"
Jesus, or more specifically, the Christ, is often deemed as a symbol of the Self in Jungian psychology. So, there's a similar and perhaps more immediate reality to that Higher Self than there is to conceiving of what Jesus would hypothetically do in a situation.
To ask what our Higher Self would do accomplishes a few things: first, we're brought into the moment. Second, we develop an "awareness of awareness" and become slightly distanced from our mental processes, which allows us to analyze them. And third, it invokes the reality of the Higher Self and our connection to God into that moment consciously.
And perhaps more importantly, by doing this again and again, we can build confidence.
We may not always do this perfectly, but it's worth a shot.
My own perspective is to improve people's lives, even if just a small amount. The goal isn't for us to cause each and every person we meet to immediately attain Nirvana but to alleviate what suffering we can in the moment.
May it be so.
Today, Father Sergio said Mass for us. The theme on which we reflected was "confidence," but not confidence in just an ordinary sense; instead, we discussed confidence that's based on the Inner Divine/Higher Self.
Father Sergio made an incredible point- much of our lack of confidence can originate in going against our Higher Self.
Another point was brought up and then hammered home by others- meditation, whether active or passive, is key in connecting us to that Higher Self.
One can also think of the Holy Eucharist and the ritual of the Mass as something of an active meditation. I've long held that the ritualism in Christianity is meant to put us in a meditative state of mind so that we can receive the Divine Presence within us and become aware of it.
Having faith can be difficult for those of us who have been burned by people of more fundamentalist stripes of religion, yet when one combines the meditation and the connection with the Higher Self, everything seems to come together quite beautifully. In my own life, I see situations work out in an astounding way- synchronicities happen, things fall into place and do better than I could've ever imagined they would.
I pray that the same happens for you.