The magic in a cup of tea

I am generally an early riser. The early morning is a holy time for me, a still time where I can do spiritual practice, read sacred writings and maybe even do some writing of my own. My beautiful partner likes to sleep in a bit but tends to wake up the same time each day, about an hour or so after I have been up.

I am a coffee drinker. Before the sleep is fully cleared from my eyes my hands are on the kettle, heating up the water, pouring aromatic grounds into my shiny French press. No morning devotionals or study begin until the first cup of hot coffee is in front of me. My fiancé does not drink coffee. It was such a strange thing to me in the beginning. I have always joked that it is hard to fully trust someone who doesn’t drink coffee…it is unpatriotic! She favors tea. Tea!

When I hear her begin to stir I add some more water to the kettle and set it to heating. I go into the bedroom and greet her, get that first morning kiss that sets the day on a good track and then I ask her, “would you like some tea?” She always answers, “yes please.”

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Now I ask her what kind she would like and she tells me and I set about fixing it for her. Over time I learn what her favorites are and which ones she likes filled all the way up and which ones she prefers with less water, more concentrated.

It is a little thing really, making a cup of tea for my partner. She is an absolute master in the kitchen and no doubt could make a better cup of tea than I ever could. Sometimes I fill the Earl Grey too high or leave the Super Green too concentrated. It is a small thing but she lets me do it. When she picks it up and drinks it she smiles and gives me a kiss and says thank you.

Relationship is made up of many things but I believe that some of the strongest magic is in the little, day to day things. The niceties, little acts of service and care, and seemingly small devotions.

“Love is the only God which cannot become an idol, for it can be had only in the giving of it.” (Jean-Yves Leloup)

The Resurrection of Christianity

I grew up vaguely Christian. I say vaguely Christian not because I didn’t grow up going to church or getting baptized or hearing Bible stories…I had all that. I say I grew up vaguely Christian to differentiate myself from the many, many people I have met over the years who were either figuratively or literally beaten over the head with the Christian religion of their families and communities.

Our house was unique in that my mother fully identified, and continues to identify as a Christian, while my father has danced throughout the years somewhere between agnostic and full blown atheist. Perhaps the only thing that really keeps my father from being fully atheist is that he has such an anger against God…for Vietnam, for the early loss of his own father, for a hard childhood…and I just can’t believe that someone could have so much anger for a being that they do not truly believe in.

So I grew up in a house in which I was never really forced to go to church. I grew up in a house that allowed questioning of authority…both temporal and spiritual. And this did not just exist in my house but stretched out across my family. Over the years my very Christian grandmother and great aunt supported me in my searchings in Hinduism and Buddhism. In fact, my Christian grandmother paid the entry fees for more than one of my Buddhist retreats and came to visit me while I was living in a Buddhist temple.

I know that this was not, and is not the case for many people. Over the past couple of years, as I have made a gnostic return to Christianity many of my friends have been astounded and more than one has turned away from me because I have embraced the religious tradition of my family and ancestors. More and more I understand this as I hear the horror stories of people who have grown up in supposedly Christian households. I have been amazed at some of the things people have been taught in the name of the religion of the Holy Logos. I have met too many people who were taught from a young age that their bodies were sinful, that women are some how less than men, that sex is dirty and that it is sinful. Too many people have been taught that they are fundamentally flawed in the eyes of God…and perhaps even worse, that God is just waiting for them to fuck up so He can punish them for eternity. 

When I explained my experience and understanding of Christianity to my lovely fiancé for the first time she said in stunned amazement, “You do know that what you are talking about is NOT what most people experience as Christianity.” Sadly she is right. But I do not think this has to be the case and it definitely has not always been the case.

If you study the history of early Christianity, before the solidification that happened through the various theological and political councils that gave rise to what the average person tends to think of when they think of Christianity, you will get the sense that early Christianity was a bit of a theological Wild West. There were many different streams of thought, many of them quite openly mystical and magical. Broadly there was a stream of Christians who defined themselves as Gnostic. The word gnostic comes from the Greek word gnosis which means something like: knowledge of the Transcendent through inner experience. In other words we could say that a Gnostic (broadly speaking) is a Christian who arrives at her understanding of the Most High through an inner revelation and a direct relationship with God and does overly rely or get caught up in legalistic, literalist interpretations and theologies.

I think we are poised for a revival of the Gnostic flavors of Christianity. I think the fundamental message of Christianity, the heart of the Mythos of Christianity, is that God became man in order for man to have a direct, unmitigated connection to God. This is a connection of Life, Liberty and Love…and it is our birth right as human beings created in the image of the Most High.

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The term Christianity is a stumbling block for so many people because of the baggage that comes with it. But this baggage is also rocket fuel for spiritual liberation. Indeed, the path of spiritual liberation is not to turn away and disengage from the things that are difficult and hard to deal with but rather, to fully engage.

I would not be exaggerating to say that I feel called to engage with Christianity and the Judeo-Christian tradition–a tradition that encompasses Qabalah, Hermeticsim, Platonism, Stoicism, and many other elements that are at the very foundations of our culture. I think that as a western person there is tremendous spiritual power in coming to terms with and moving forward the religious and philosophical traditions of our culture. I encourage you to join me on this path. I think the time is ripe for new theologies…theologies born of gnosis, from living saints. I think the time is ripe for the formation and foundation of new churches, new esoteric practices, new prayers and for breathing new life into old prayers. The beating heart at the center of Christianity is the Mystery of Resurrection. It is time for the Resurrection of this Mystical, Living Heart.

 

 

The Living God calls…

Holy art Thou Lord of the Universe

Holy art Thou whom nature has not formed

Holy art Thou the vast and the mighty One

Lord of light and of the darkness

 

The God of our fathers calls to us. From across time, from across great distances of both time and understanding. In the dead of the night the God of our mothers calls to us. Grandmothers whisper ancient hymns and psalms, forgotten words and promises, rippling reminders in the babbling creeks in hidden mountain streams. The God of our ancestors calls to us, but not from church pulpits, not from Sunday sermons. Our God does not speak dead words, His words are Living Fire and Mystic Flame. The God of our people dwells in tents, moves in columns of smoke, and speaks from burning acacia trees. The God of our tribes cannot be contained in buildings, in statues, in books or doctrines. The Living God is bigger than all concept, no theology can set a boundary around Him, no tradition can set His limits. The Lord Of Host, the great I AM looks through your eyes and hears through your ears, He is closer to you than your own jugular vein. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16-17) He thunders from the mountains and the lightening bolt is in His palm. Our tradition has been dormant but it lives in our cells, it lives in our bones and reaches out to us across time in the prayers of our ancestors. Ancient names of the Most High, El Shaddai, Elyon, Eheieh, Adonai…reverberate into your ear from thousands of years ago…they vibrate in the Holy of Holies, the inner chambers of your heart.

 

Our tradition has been stolen and buried. Stolen by blind men who never had eyes to see. Dead men who taught only shame and fear, weakness and groveling. Clever men who twisted words and convinced the world that there was no need to dig deeper. They buried the truth without knowing that the map to the buried treasure exists in the hearts of the Daughters and Sons of Man.  We won’t  attempt to see with their dead eyes. Our eyes and open and alive, our hearts reveal what they try to conceal.

 

The Living God calls…who will answer?

Seek the Mysteries

8:45am

Today is my birthday. I turn 46 today. Outside the ground is covered in at least a foot of snow and it is still falling. Doing my morning spiritual practice the house is glowing with an etherial white light from the snow. It is everywhere and I have never experienced anything like it. This morning is shinning with magick.

This time last year the threads of my life were coming unraveled. In the mythic and initiatic sense I was dying and it was miserable. A process that was years in the making was coming to a climax. It felt as if my world was ending…and I suppose it actually was. Now here I am one year later and one thousand miles from where I once lived and I am transformed, made new.

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The last two years have been a fire of transformation. My life is an alchemical laboratory. I sit in wonderment in how incredibly different my life is this year in comparison to last year. I am awe struck by the realization that one cannot fully grasp the seemingly infinite roads of possibility that branch off in unimagined directions from this exact moment …right now.

Looking through old journals I was reminded that it was at the beginning of this month, back in 2012, that I took the vow to interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my soul. The world is pregnant with meaning. It is the Work of life to seek it out. Seek the Mysteries.

The simple faith of our grandmothers

Well they buried me last Tuesday morn,
The good Lord came, He took me home,
I closed my eyes and quickly went away
But the angels let me see her everyday

Waiting on June, our mansion is so grand
Waiting on June, footprints in the sand
Waiting on June, that’s the story of my life
Cause me and Jesus are standing here ’til she walks through that light
Waiting on June
I’m still waiting on June,
I’m always waiting on June.
No more waiting on June
-Waiting on June
Holly Williams

Those lyrics come from a beautiful song by Holly Williams titled “Waiting on June”. I cannot listen to that song with out tears breaking forth from my heart. It reminds me so deeply of my maternal Grandparents who passed on years ago. I miss them daily and deeply.

My return to the spiritual tradition of Christianity was largely influenced by my grandmother…but not while she was alive. Actually, I think the best way to think about it is that my grandmother planted time bombs of faith deep in my heart throughout out all the years we shared together. She planted subtle things inside of me that burst forth in time and here I am today, years after her death, reeling in stunned awe at the transformations in my life.

I don’t often listen to “Waiting on June” because it is too hard. It rips my heart open and I am left shaking for a day or so. Yesterday it popped up on my shuffle and I just let it play as I drove to work. By the time I pulled into the parking lot my eyes were red from crying. Ancient Christian mystics described this as the Gift of Tears.

Something new showed itself to me in the song yesterday, and that is the simple faith of my grandmother. Her simple faith that even though she died before my grandfather, and knew how lonely he would be without her, she also knew, had diamond hard faith, that she would be waiting for him in heaven, that their mansion would be so grand, that Jesus would be there with them, with all of our loved ones, in eternity.

Most of my life I have thought I was too clever for such a simple faith. I, in my foolish ignorance, thought such a simple faith was foolish…my God, how different I see it today.

Today I pray for the grace of the simple faith of my grandmother. As I pray I see her smiling down upon me from her mansion in heaven, with my grandfather, with Jesus. It is the salve that heals my wounded heart. It is the power that blows my small heart open and makes room for something much bigger. I pray for the grace of my grandmother’s simple and mighty faith.

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The Path of Prayer

It has been awhile since I sat down in front of my computer to write out something coherent for my blog. I find myself taking notes, making notes, following rabbits of thought and inquiry down their various rabbit holes…but I have not really sat down and tried to write something coherent.

Now I sit here at 6:40am surrounded by various books and a hot cup of coffee determined to bang something out, to get the ball rolling perhaps, to get back to work.

Back in late May, shortly after my move to Ashville, I wrote about the rediscovery of tradition. Since that time my thoughts about the subject have deepened and expanded. More than that, I have begun to develop some sense, and a lived experience of what actually rediscovering the tradition that lies at the root of our culture may look like.

First a bit of back story. I met a woman…no, that is not totally correct. I met the woman, my woman, my partner. Of course, as a man head over heels in love, I would be quite happy to spend this blog post extolling the virtues and qualities of my lady, and some of that will occur in time no doubt, but that is not exactly why I am telling you that I have found my woman. I am telling you about my woman because I believe that she is an answer to prayer and I think that prayer is situated at the heart of the rediscovery of this tradition.

My relationship with my ex-wife had been dying for years. I tried everything I could to try and fix it, and nothing worked. Nothing that relied on my powers, on my mind, on my words, none of that worked. In the last year of the dying relationship I began to pray. At first I did not have a real clear understanding of to who or what I was praying….that came with time and practice. My early prayers were for….well they were for magic I suppose. I was praying that my relationship be saved. This obviously did not “work”…but herein lies the trick. I don’t think one can pray for magic…I am not sure that this is how it works… and I think there is something about prayer that involves the surrender of what we want, or think should happen. We have to surrender all that when we pray….at least that is what I think…but then what do I know really, because so much of this is Mystery.

As the relationship continued to deteriorate and break apart my prayer changed. My prayers truly became cries of anguish, of agony. I no longer prayed to have my relationship saved because I recognized that I no longer knew what was right for me. I no longer knew if the relationship was right for me. It seemed that my whole world was falling apart and I found myself on my knees, with tear soaked eyes, just begging for help.

Here is another thing: I did not find myself praying to God, nor Jesus for that matter. I found myself praying to Mary.

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I was not raised Catholic. I was raised vaguely Protestant and I never experienced Mary in any of the churches I was taken to as a child. Sure, I heard about Mary at Christmas time and again at Easter, but there was no tradition of prayer to Mary anywhere in my background. And yet…and yet in my time of greatest need there seemed nothing more natural…or rather, nothing else seemed feasible but to fall on my knees and call out to Mary.

I think this is important to the larger topic of rediscovering tradition. I do not have many clearly formed thoughts on the subject, and I am definitely not the first person to bring this up, but in my broken hearted prayers to the Mother of the Most High I recognized, I embodied, the loss of our connection to the feminine aspects of God. We have lost it, that is very different from thinking that it does not exist, that it isn’t there. Perhaps one of the great mistakes we make when we deride or deny the traditions of our ancestors is the mistake of thinking that the tradition is all Patriarch and no Matriarch. This is an error. The Biblical tradition, the Western tradition is full of the divine feminine…she is waiting for you just like she was waiting for me, and is waiting for all of us. But like every woman, She is a Mystery, and Mysteries must be sought after.

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But the topic of the feminine manifestation of the divine in the Western tradition is a vast topic and one that I am nowhere near ready to attempt to write about. What I do want to round this post out with are some thoughts regarding prayer and the ways in which I think prayer opens a pathway into the Mysteries of the Western tradition.

I must begin by confessing that the path of prayer is new to me. I have been a meditator for years, I have practiced magick for years. In my short experience of the path of prayer I have learned that it seems to differ quite a bit from either of these other methods. The path of prayer, or my experience of it, is the path of surrender. It is the path of crying out, it is the path of girding your loins for battle. Prayer is the path one takes when there is no longer a clear path. Prayer is the path one takes when direction is lost, when the odds seem overwhelming, when it has become absolutely evident that the power of your own will, your own desires, your own plans are no longer sufficient.

The type of surrender I am describing is not a form of giving up. It does not mean that you can quit, just throw your hands into the air, ask God to fix all your problems….this is not the path. Surrender in this sense is much more like having the courage to move forward despite the fact that you fully recognize that you do not know what the outcome will be. Prayer is a leap of faith. But faith into what? Herein lies the Mystery.

For me, surrendered prayer was a full opening of my heart and my soul to the Mystery of Christianity. Perhaps it is a strange thing that it was the very act of surrendering into prayer, the very fact of finding myself on my knees, laid low, broken and calling out to a feminine force beyond my power or even comprehension, all of this came before I had much faith in such things. I think there is deep truth in the old, familiar saying that for every step towards God that we take, God runs forward to meet us. This is an act of Faith, and Faith lies at the heart of the Mystery. What might happen if you opened yourself to Faith? What would happen if your heart were cracked open enough to let the light of Mary shine in?

My experience is this: when my heart was cracked open, and when I called out like a child to his mother, my entire life was changed in ways that I never thought possible. Seek the Mysteries!

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Rediscovering tradition

This is going to be a strange blog post. Strange to write and probably strange to read. It is strange because I am trying to explain something…or I am trying to begin to explain something…that I am only beginning to wrap my head around. A big part, the biggest part, of writing this blog post in my continuing effort to get a handle on this subject. I am also writing this to people who it might resonate with. I am writing it because I want it to inspire others.

This post is about spirituality. I am not quite sure how exactly I define spirituality in this context but I will hazard a try: spirituality is an inner longing for something greater than ourselves. I experience it and know others experience it as an inner calling, as something that must be followed, that cannot be ignored, it steers your life, it is the lens through which you view the world.

If you are one of the people this post is written for then you have likely searched through many different spiritual traditions in the course of your life. If you are one of the people this is written for you have not found any of those traditions ultimately satisfying. I don’t mean to imply that we would or even should ever feel ultimately satisfied with our spiritual tradition…or at least not in the sense of satisfaction that is something like the end of a journey satisfaction. I do not think the journey ends. But I do think it is important, if you are on the path…well, to be on the path. And for that, I think it is useful, perhaps necessary (I think this is likely the case) to have a home in a tradition. If this post is for you, then you will likely have a sense of what I am trying to say here…but what do we do?

I grew up feeling the absence of a spiritual tradition. As I began my search, I began looking in places where there seemed to be existing and ancient spiritual traditions. I looked to the East. I followed this way for almost 30 years. But something has happened that changed that direction…and it has happened rapidly over the course of the last year and a half.

I am struggling to find the correct or most accurate words to use to describe what has been happening to me. The word that strikes me as most accurate at the moment is epiphany. I have been having a series of epiphanies. I mean epiphany as both the manifestation of a divine or supernatural being and as a moment (or in this case multiple moments stretched out over time) of sudden insight or revelation.

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(The Knight of the Holy Grail by Anthony Catania)

Here are some aspects of the series of epiphanies:

We have access to a tradition, and it is actually our tradition, it is your tradition. I mean it like this: it was your mother’s tradition, and your grandmother’s tradition, and her grandmother’s tradition…for a long way back. It is your tradition in the sense that you grew up likely learning the stories, getting the broad strokes. You have visited numerous temples and shrines and perhaps even holy places that are, in a certain sense, houses for the metaphysical energies and currents of this tradition. Of course I am talking about the Judeo-Christian/Greek tradition. By this I am attempting to point at what I see as the marriage of key aspects of Hellenistic philosophy with the theistic traditions of the Abrahamic faiths.

Of course, as a modern person, you have likely rejected the tradition of your ancestors. Of course that is what I did. I sought in numerous directions, mainly Eastward, for a tradition, and I adopted many foreign ones along the way. I adopted Hinduism in one or two forms, I looked into Islam, I explored all manner of occult teaching and methods, most significantly I was a Buddhist for something like the last 15 plus years in a dedicated manner. None have have the taste and texture of what I now recognize as my tradition in a way that is beyond accepting or rejecting or adopting…because it just is the texture of reality for me. It is the texture and taste of the culture I grew up in.

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Of course I am not talking about the forms of Christianity that are so easily seen through and dismissed by people like you and I. Obviously I am not talking of the Christianity that is fundamentalist, literalist and one dimensional. Obviously.

We tend to snub our noses at “mere” Christianity…those of us who are spiritually minded and have grown up in this culture. We recognize a certain shallowness in the way the tradition has been presented to us…and of course for most of us we have only been exposed to the surface. But we encounter only the surface and think this is the whole thing.

I can remember when I first began to encounter Eastern traditions as they are practiced by people who grow up in the tradition…it is practiced at the same surface level. At the Zen temple where I first studied Buddhism the majority of people raised in that Buddhist tradition engaged with it in a way very different from the way I did, as a foreign convert. There was a laity that was not particularly mystically minded, not really looking at the Mysteries. They were not interested in mediation or Zen.  They came to the temple once a week to accumulate good karma…to do the things they were taught to do…bow to the Buddha, lite some incense, drop some money in the collection box. They interacted at a level that seems superstitious….in the same way we grow up experiencing Christianity.

Same with Hinduism. Go to a Hindu temple…most native practitioners are not aiming for oneness with Shiva…they are worshipping Shiva as a sky god. They are asking for things, wanting prayers answered, avoiding taboos, looking for blessings etc. Same with church.

Why then, do those of us who are seekers or practitioners, who have delved deeper into the esoteric side of Eastern traditions, not recognize that our Western tradition has a deeper, esoteric side too?

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I think you and I have been missing out on something so profound, and so powerful. I think it is no exaggeration to say that we have been missing out on our spiritual inheritance. We have turned our backs on the most precious thing, the thing that we have always been searching for.

Perhaps the path away is necessary…perhaps it is necessary to turn away and rediscover…at least for some…because we go away and come back as both convert and native…with a fresh, deeper look.

This tradition, the tradition of our grandmothers is all around us. We are surrounded by it and swimming in it and if we can learn to see it, to engage with it, to understand, to seek the Mysteries…so much opens up. Perhaps what opens up is the very thing we have been questing for. It is waiting for us.

When it all falls apart

Aim upwards and speak true words.

Let me tell you folks…you never know which direction life is going to take you. I am endlessly stunned, fascinated, awed by the fact that I would have never conceived a year ago that I would be sitting where I am now and doing what I am trying to do. A little back story might be in order…

This time last year I was a married man, I thought I was a happily married man. I was living with the woman that I loved in a really cool part of Dallas Texas, in a condo that I liked, with my lovely wife and our two cats. I thought my life was stable, I thought I knew the trajectory of things…not exactly of course, but generally. I thought I was with the partner that I would grow old with. I thought we would be in Dallas for the foreseeable future. We used to walk our neighborhood and look at places that were for sale and think about whether or not we should buy a place. I thought my life was settled.

Right now I am sitting in the house of friends half way across the country. I am living temporarily in their spare room, in a city I have never lived in. I am in the process of being divorced, and the woman that I loved so much doesn’t even talk to me anymore. Life can change fast, very fast.

Without going into too many details I will tell you this: my life was upended in the kind of way that forced upon me the realization that the territory that I thought I was inhabiting, that I thought I had (somewhat) mapped…well the map no longer matched that territory. My partner was no longer the person that I thought she was. My home was no longer my home. I was a stranger in a strange land.

When this kind of thing happens it doesn’t just change the present. It changes the past, present and future. Here is what I mean: everyday when I get on Facebook and it brings up the memories from previous years, and I see what my life was, and I look into my eyes in those pictures…I look in my eyes and I realize that that person thought they were moving in a certain direction, thought they knew what the broad strokes and patterns of their life would be…that person had no idea. The present can change the past.

The last year and half have been incredibly transforming for me. I abandoned my Buddhism and my marriage dissolved. I had been a Buddhist of one variation or another for nearly 20 years and I had been married for 8 years. I struggle to find the words, the true words, for what propelled me beyond Buddhism….I think it is something like this: my soul could no longer abide its denial. Further…and this only began to dawn over time…neither could God.

Ever since I was a child I heard my grandmother, my mother, my aunts saying that, “God works in mysterious ways”. I used to laugh at that. It seemed simplistic and even superstitious. What a bloody fool I was. Now I am not about to say that God dissolved my marriage or brought me out of Texas or anything like that…but, paradoxically, I am not going to say that this is not what happened.

It seems to me that when tragedy strikes there are a few options. We can become embittered and retreat. We can close the walls around us and solidify the hurt. Or we can pick up our cross and bear it. We can venture forth into the chaos and pain and attempt to create new, habitable order out of the chaos that has laid us low. From what I have observed, in myself and others, the first option absolutely leads to a place that you wouldn’t want to go. I do not think it would be inaccurate to describe this as a road to Hell.

The second path is the path of the hero.

Perhaps the oldest story that humans tell is the story of the hero who goes out to voluntarily and directly confront the dragon of chaos. And maybe the dragon eats the hero. That is a possibility, failure is a possibility…it has to be. But maybe the hero defeats the dragon. Dragons hoard treasure. If the hero defeats the dragon the hero reaps the reward and then he returns to his community to contribute something of absolute value.

There is tremendous spiritual power in actively identifying as the hero. It is the fundamental story of Christ and our call is the embodiment of the spirit of Christ., to become Christ-like.

But how do you do that?

Aim upwards and speak true words.

If you don’t know where or how to start, you can start right there. You can try, despite your pain, despite your confusion and suffering, despite your obvious flaws and weaknesses, despite all of that, you can try to aim upwards and speak true words.

Do something everyday to make your world and the world of those around you better. Give a higher percentage of effort at work, do some chore that you have been putting off, help someone…do something that aims upward, something that makes things better.

And speak true words, or at least don’t lie.

This is an act of faith…it is a faith that the kind of world you create by speaking true words is fundamentally better than the kind of world that is created by telling lies. Remember when I wrote that the first way of dealing with problems, the way of bitterness and retreat is a road to Hell? Well, in the same spirit I think it no real exaggeration to say that the path of the hero is a path to Heaven. But it is a leap of faith, and I do not know what the end will be…but I do have the faith that aiming upward and speaking true words is the best hope, the best chance.

So hear I sit in a strange city. But it is beautiful. It is full of unknown potential. And I am acting on my faith.

These thoughts are not new or original to me. Over the past year and a half I have been deeply influenced by Jordan Peterson, Israel Regardie, Jung, aspects of Pragmatism, Stoicism, Platonism, CS Lewis, Richard Smoley, Gnosticism, Valentine Tomberg, Alan Chapman and many others. This feels to me like a budding resurgence of something I am thinking of as the Western Tradition. Something like the marriage of Greece and Jerusalem.

I am endlessly fascinated by these ideas and if you are too then we should get in contact and help one another think about these things. I hope I hear from you.

Do not mock the resurrection

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Easter is upon us, it is just a few days away. Brace yourself for all the zombie Jesus jokes. Haha. How clever. And of course not many of us really celebrate Easter anymore. Or rather, I don’t know many people who do. I can honestly tell you that I cannot remember the last time I celebrated Easter in earnest. In fact I might have never done. But this year I view things differently.

The last year has been an amazing one for me. Amazingly good things have happened and amazingly bad things have happened. And actually they have kind of happened side by side or apace of one another.

So in the past year I came out of many years of eastern spirituality in general and Buddhism in particular. Over the past year I have begun to rediscover the western spiritual tradition through people like Jordan Peterson, Gordon White and Stoicism. Interestingly, in that same period of time, much of the stability that I thought existed in my life has crumbled…not all of it, thank God, but significant portions for sure.

I say this is interesting because my (current) understanding of the spiritual heritage of the West is connected to just these kinds of devastating circumstances. And it is important to recognize how this ties into Easter.

“Crucifixion aint no fiction”-Chuck D

 

 What does it mean to die? What does it mean to be destroyed? What does it mean to be crucified? There are potentially many layers to this and different angles from which one could approach an answer, but for now here is how we will proceed….what is the crucifixion of Christ? He was completely innocent and yet he was still executed. He in no way deserved the punishment meted out to him but it was meted out to him just the same. In modern times we would say that an innocent man had been executed. Leave aside the question of who or what Jesus was for the moment. For now, Jesus represents the victim of the completely unfair suffering in the world. He is the archetypical figure of the victim of injustice.

What does he do? Well at first he reacts by not wanting to experience the suffering obviously. He wants it to pass him by, leave him untouched. But that never works. Suffering will not just pass you by. It never just passes you by. Then what? Well…Jesus picks up his cross, his unjust portion of the suffering, and he faces it.

What happens next? Well, Jesus is tortured and killed. But then he is resurrected. What does that mean? Sure, it is easy to just laugh it off as a silly old story. It is easy to reject it as obvious nonsense…but think deeper. The direct confrontation of suffering, as a path to rebirth, is one of the central motifs of the western tradition. And it is a damn good one.

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If you are not currently experiencing something akin to the unjust suffering of the world, then look around you. It is a sure bet that there are people that you know who are experiencing exactly this kind of suffering. They (or you) have been betrayed by a loved one. They (or you) have suddenly lost employment. There has been tragic death or a horrible accident. There is sadness and pain, deep sadness and pain. And if you think about it, you likely know of some examples of people who have been completely crushed under the weight of the suffering. I have had friends who have committed suicide. I have friends who have been lost in years of drug addiction (I did this too) in a hopeless attempt to have the “cup pass before them” (Matthew 26:39). I know people who have just never bounced back from being laid low by the unjust suffering of the world.

Because , here is the thing, you can get crucified and just be dead. After the Spartacus rebellion the Romans crucified 6,000 slaves on the road between Rome and Capua…that road is approximately one hundred and twenty five miles…that is one crucified man every 30-40 yards for one hundred and twenty five miles. All around us we have examples of the crucified who never are reborn…they are just destroyed.

Christ was resurrected. Christ is the promise of the possibility of resurrection. Sitting at the heart of the western spiritual tradition (and this is something older than Christianity, and expressed in many ways) is the idea that if we voluntarily confront the unjust suffering of our lives and of the world, there is the chance that we can be reborn, resurrected, made new. This is tremendous.

Without the possibility of resurrection, of rebirth, then the options, when the sufferings of the world slay you, are depressions, bitterness, destruction and death. With the concept of resurrection suffering is transformed.

So this year I am not going to mock one of the most profound concepts that human beings have ever discovered, that suffering can be a path to redemption and transformation. This year I am going to celebrate Easter. This year I am going to celebrate the defeat of death.

Developing Discipline (p3)

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“No man is free who is not master of himself.”
Epictetus

March 4 2018
I woke up today in a bit of a shit mood. Over the last 3 months I have been up and down emotionally. For awhile it seemed that almost everyday I would wake up in a funk. Over time the morning moods have improved but some mornings still kick off in a funk. Today was one of those days. Today is also a day that I planned to take a 15 miles bike ride first thing in the morning after meditation.

It is probably a safe guess that most of us encounter situations like my morning today. We have set a plan of discipline (my decision to ride my bike this morning) and then some obstacle appears in our path (I woke up in a shit mood and did not want to do anything). What do we do? This is the common problem we encounter in regards to discipline. You have decided not to eat refined sugar…but then a co-worker brought in some amazing cookies. You decided you are going to the gym in the morning…but when you wake up it is pouring buckets of rain outside. The examples are plentiful and I imagine you have a few running through your head right now. What do we do? How do we use discipline in these situations?

Here is the thing…you just do it. Thats it. It is that simple. I don’t mean it is easy. I can assure you that I did not want to get dressed, get out in the cold, and bike 15 miles before work. There were other things that I could have done. I could have done some writing. I could have done some reading. I thought about taking a long hot bath because my leg muscles are sore and I could easily convince myself that I need a rest. I internally grumbled the whole time I was getting my bike out…and then I had to air up the tires! But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. And here is the thing: I grumbled, I dragged my feet a little but I kept moving and before long I was on the bike and peddling.

I’ll give you a well guarded, open secret about discipline…it feels good. In my experience, we do not regret engaging in the disciplined action. If you pay attention, the pay off is almost immediate. I wasn’t on my bike for more than 10 minutes before I was absolutely grateful that I had managed the discipline to get out for the ride. I find the same applies to avoiding sugar. Yes, the cookies might look delicious, and yes, I might even know for sure that they taste delicious…but even more delicious is recognizing that I have the ability to refuse that. The wave of satisfaction that comes with flexing the muscles of discipline tastes way better than any cookie, or unplanned off day. But you have to take a leap of faith to experience this.

The leap of faith is this: you can do it.