Saturday, April 08, 2017

A Homily for Palm Sunday






It has taken me years and years to understand that we are all here on a quest to find ourselves. All the myriad things to distract you from finding out who you really are. And believing who you are. And fanning that little flame inside of you into a bonfire of possibility. Of course this world doesn't help at all, but if you are lucky enough to pay attention, that little message inside you can turn into a wonderful concert and you are born again, "with eyes that can finally see".




A Homily for Palm Sunday
by Rev. Steven Marshall


The Temporary Triumph of the Light before its Obscuration

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. Holy Week recounts a complex and meaningful series of mythic events which lead to the Resurrection on Easter Day. Palm Sunday represents a preparation, a setting up, for the Resurrection to occur. As Gnostics we may differ from the mainstream in our interpretation of these events, as to whether they are literal history or strictly symbolic, or something in between. What is important for us to focus on is that these events recount an interior experience of archetypal dimensions. It does not matter if the events of Holy Week are historical or purely mythical; they have a deep and archetypal meaning to the Gnostic soul. The series of events in Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, describe a process of our own apotheosis and psychological transformation. Blind belief in historical events is not going to transform us; we must cultivate an experience of this archetypal reality. For this reason we celebrate Palm Sunday not as a commemoration of an historical event but as an archetypal mystery and another step in the process of psychological and spiritual transformation.
 A Homily for Palm Sunday

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Reading the Gnostics

Reading the Gnostics

 

Pistis Sophia

 

By Andrew Phillip Smith

 

Reading the Gnostics was a piece I wrote to accompany A Dictionary of Gnosticism. In a modified form it will be one of the introductory essays in Gnostic Tendencies, intended to whet your appetite for reading the Nag Hammadi Library.
Reading the Gnostics

And he [Jesus] said, “The kingdom is like a wise fisherman who cast his net into the sea; then he drew it up from the sea, full of little fish from below. Among them he found one good large fish. So he threw all of the little fish back down into the sea without regret. Whoever has ears to listen, let him listen.”

This parable, distinctively in the voice of Jesus, is found nowhere in the New Testament. It comes from the Gospel of Thomas, the best known of the ancient writings found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. The Gospel of Thomas is overwhelmingly the most famous and most read of the texts found in this cache for two reasons:- it has a good claim to contain sayings of Jesus that are as old and as authentic as those in the canonical gospels, and it is, at least superficially, easy to understand. It is one of nearly fifty different texts or tractates in the Nag Hammadi library, the bulk of which are Gnostic.

Gnosticism was a Christian-related religion that thrived in the second to fourth centuries CE, though its origins may have been a little earlier and it persisted in various forms much later. It emphasised the importance of gnosis—experiential knowledge of the divine—within a framework of myth and ritual. No two texts or Gnostic groups agreed on the details of the Gnostic myth, but it typically involves the following: the supreme, unique God emanates divine beings known as aeons. These form the Pleroma, the fullness of God. However, the youngest of these aeons, Sophia, falls from grace and in doing so creates the material world, which is ruled by her bastard offspring the demiurge, the craftsman of our world, often called Yaldabaoth. The demiurge and his minions create the soul and body of mankind but are tricked into incorporating an element of spirit in the human makeup. Thus humans contain a divine spark which may be nurtured and fanned into a flame. The subsequent history of mankind involves a struggle for the human soul, on the one side the demiurge and his archons, on the other a series of saviours or revealers who teach mankind how to attain gnosis and develop the spiritual seed within them. Abbreviated and simplified in this way, the Gnostic myth is understandable and appealing . However, the original Gnostic texts are more concerned with their individual elaborations of the myths than with clarity, and can be quite obscure.

Not all of the Nag Hammadi texts are difficult to penetrate. The Exegesis on the Soul (despite its awkward title) is a beautiful and straightforward account of the fall of the soul, personified as a young woman who drifts into prostitution and is abused by thieves and adulterers but who eventually repents and returns to her father and, in a daring use of sexual imagery, may couple with the bridegroom in the bridal chamber.

Thunder: Perfect Mind is a striking proclamation by a female voice, which includes fascinating, contrary statements —“I am the whore and the holy, I am the wife and the virgin.” Thunder has been adapted as a musical piece by David Tibet’s Current 93 band, and even into an advertisement for Prada perfume directed by Ridley and Jordan Scott.




Read more at  http://www.andrewphillipsmith.com/gnostiscism/reading-the-gnostics/

 

The Devil Problem

Elaine Pagels won popular and scholarly acclaim for her revolutionary interpretation of the early Christian Church in “The Gnostic Gospels.” Then unthinkable personal tragedy led her to the subject of a new book: What is Satan?

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1995/04/03/the-devil-problem


 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Traveling the unlikely roads that lead us back to ourselves

Luke Storms, Elliot and the Winter Window,” 2017



It seems like forever since I have taken the time to sit and write on my blog and the more I tried to find something to write about the more excuses I found to just keep silent. What can I possibly talk about now that my life has gotten so very quiet and plain. And yet I felt this quiet seed inside of me that was almost like a child growing. I guess it has ripened because here I am. 

To say that life is full of sadness for all the pain that still perpetuates in the world. Sometimes it seems truthfully that this is all the world is about is chaos. 

“Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

"... we are challenged every day to say yes to the movements of life, to see it all through, without pause, staying in relationship to the music of life and each other, adjusting as we go, not knowing what will happen next. Yet even out of tune, this messy and magnificent practice, so essentially human, will let us hear—briefly—the music of the Universe being the Universe. To hear this larger music while grinding out the small music of our lives is what sages of all traditions have called glimpsing eternity."

 Pathways, by Mark Nepo

I don’t know why I was born
with this belief in something
deeper and larger than we can
see. But it’s always called. Even as
a boy, I knew that trees and light
and sky all point to some timeless
center out of view. I have spent my
life listening to that center and filtering
it through my heart. This listening
and filtering is the music of my soul,
of all souls. After sixty years, I’ve run
out of ways to name this. Even now,
my heart won’t stand still. In a moment
of seeing, it takes the shape of
my eye. In a moment of speaking, the
shape of my tongue. In a moment of
silence, it slips back into the lake of
center. When you kiss me, it takes
the shape of your lip. When our dog
sleeps with us, it takes the shape of
her curl. When the hummingbird
feeds her baby, it takes the shape
of her beak carefully dropping
food into our throats.
From Parabola Volume 36, No. 4 “Many Paths, One Truth” Winter 2011-2012. This issue is available to purchase here. If you have enjoyed this piece, consider subscribing.

–Mark Nepo "Without Pause," poet, philosopher, and author on the lessons of life offered by Oscar Wilde and Beethoven.


Advice from a Tree

By Ilan Shamir
Dear Friend,
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and Birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet Renewal of Winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!
http://spiritoftrees.org/poetry/advice-from-a-tree




Monday, October 24, 2016

Joy

Beethoven Symphony No 9 Op 125 Third Movement Part 1 I agree with one of the comments left on this video, one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of music ever composed. the best example of a true transcendent experience concerns Beethoven.
When he wrote his ninth symphony he was completely deaf, and it would be
hard to dispute that its third movement is the most sublime passage of
music ever written; a total connection to the Divine. Just think of what
incredible power of joy and intellect he was tapping into, this
stillness of mind.


Something we all need to remember how to do.........................

Beethoven Symphony No 9 Op 125 Third Movement Part 1 

Wikipedia Link to Symphony No 9 Beethoven 


Thursday, December 03, 2015

Mockingbird Grace




It seems like forever since I have taken the time to sit and write on my blog and the more I tried to find something to write about the more excuses I found to just keep silent. What can I possibly talk about now that my life has gotten so very quiet and plain. And yet I felt this quiet seed inside of me that was almost like a child growing. I guess it has ripened and wants to “become” because here I am.
I now realize with crystal clarity that life is full of mystery and secrets. And if one is quiet and observant those secrets will be whispered to you. It is up to you to find the beauty in it. And if you do, you will never be the same.

As I have stood back and just fallen head over heels in love with all of it, I do feel this urge to tell my story in the hopes that my thoughts just might help another. That is what life is all about is it not? Sharing and helping each other find the way home.


“When her doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw “the tree with the lights in it.” It was for this tree I searched through the peach orchards of summer, in the forests of fall and down winter and spring for years. Then one day I was walking along Tinker creek and thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time able to see, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells un-flamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only very rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.”


Messenger
by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
          equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
          keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
          astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,



which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
          and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
          to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
          that we live forever.

My Work Now is Loving the World.





The only way to keep a gift alive is to pass it along. So on Thanksgiving Day this year — in a world where so many have been deprived of so much — I’ll give thanks by finding more ways to share the abundance I’ve been given.




I’ll also re-read this Mary Oliver poem. If I could embrace the idea that “My work is loving the world” — and spend my days living more fully into that job description — I’d be giving thanks not just with my words but with my life.





“The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped. His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air. Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass. I had just rounded a corner when his incouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight. The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest. The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” Annie Dillard



And for those among you who like me, absolutely adore children’s books I give you this gift –



A tender illustrated example of purpose and the Power of Working with Love. A sweet celebration of all that is alive, inside us, and in the outside world that we want to shape together.

If you sometimes, like me, feel that you are just "too little" to make any kind of difference in the world, please read this wonderful story.