The Empire Never Ended

Make no mistake, the spirit of Nero is alive and well in our world.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/armine-sahakyan/christians-worry-about-tr_b_10799414.html

You may be asking yourself why I’m worried about what’s happening in Russia or Kazakhstan.

Well, there are a number of factors:

1. Vladimir Putin and his policies have a lot of fans in the US and Europe, both among ordinary people and among politicians. Apparently, according to my father’s observations, there are some Alt Right-affiliated groups here in the US right now that have pledged their allegiance to him and have his portrait up in their meeting halls. There is a very good chance that we could soon fall under his sphere of influence if the Alt Right has their way. Even if we are not directly under their influence, if even a few countries outside the former Soviet Union follow suit, we’ll have a situation where these sorts of policies have become the norm globally, and that’s not good.

2. Fears of terror attacks are at an all-time high, so much so that people are willing to consent to all kinds of stupid laws under the guise of their own safety. Already we have extrajudicial kidnappings, espionage, and murders. How long before a major terror attack causes that to mushroom into even more problems? In a novelette I wrote last year, I predicted that some time in the 21st century, a General Religions Act would be passed in the US which would basically outlaw everything but mainline Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Jewish groups. It would be touted primarily as a means of punishing Muslims, but it would be enforced arbitrarily against groups considered inconvenient by the state.

3. The church I am involved in has services in a home chapel. Services in homes are precisely the sort of thing that is being targeted in the former Soviet republics.

4. The Gnostic tradition includes many groups that are the subject of the sort of conspiracy theories very popular among the Alt Right. Among my acquaintances are a host of esoteric types, and although I am not a member of an esoteric group (my church is exoteric, meaning we have no secret initiatory orders), I am concerned that paranoia will eventually spill over. My lot’s thrown in and I’m not going to assume that any anti-Esoteric movement is somebody else’s problem.

Let me be clear: I’m not going to cut and run. I am done running. I will take whatever consequences come my way for the path I have chosen and, in the spirit of those who came before, I will be faithful and steadfast against all threats. But I would much rather not have to worry that these sorts of policies might become the norm globally.

Training For A Different Position

It’s times like this I’m sad that our church is too small to pay its clergy; I would much rather do this for a living. On the other hand, it weeds out the gold diggers. You’re left with a few very passionate people.

I went in for training in serving during the Eucharist. Anyone familiar with a Catholic mass would probably recognize most of the elements involved (though we differ sharply in our interpretation of the rite’s significance and incorporate elements of the Eastern church as well).

I find I’m picking it up quickly and really enjoying the work far more than my day job.

It’s a strange sort of situation though. I never thought it’d be me doing this, let alone getting as into it as I am. I guess having that contemplative moment and a space where I can really embrace a part of myself that I denied for so long has helped me center a bit more, which is a welcome change.

But it’s more than that. You come out of it feeling that it’s more than the sum of its parts. Maybe that’s the emergent Ruah at the heart of the Mystery, or just an experience of ecstatic liminality tickling some lobe of the brain… but who’s to say they aren’t essentially the same thing? Who’s to say that rather than a ghost in a machine, we aren’t really a ghost through a machine, an essentially mechanical conduit through which a tiny sliver of the Divine manifests in some beautiful, elegant uplink, like connecting from a terminal to the cloud?

I find I’m less bothered by such questions with each passing day though. I love it because it’s a thing of beauty, especially the uncanny bits that aren’t simply knowing when to kneel and when to get this cruet or that censer.

By the way, a question for my readers: who would like me to spin off these posts into a separate blog chronicling my journey into the priesthood?

 

Ever Closer

As of today, I am formally recognized as a lay server in a Gnostic church. This is the entry level of minor orders and the first step on the path to priesthood.

This has been a really fascinating journey so far, and yet it’s only just beginning.  I still have many years of service before I can enter the higher orders of the church.

After I had taken communion, I had a vision of millions of candles all lit around the world; they weren’t lit for me, but for the Church Universal, which is greater than any building, denomination, even greater than Christendom.  They were the candles of every thoughtful, joyful, hopeful, and compassionate soul that was praying to something higher than its own ego.

It’s funny; for most of my life I never really felt the need to be part of something bigger than myself. But the deep and personal understanding that I already am, and have been since long before the day my thread of consciousness first differentiated itself from the Pleroma, really puts everything in a new light.

I still get upset, impatient, irritable, angry, and all these things that come with ego; but that ego seems to be less in conflict with the bigger picture, and I find that life has become objectively easier since I started paying attention to how pointless it was to be itching for a fight all the time.

And deep below it all, running like a river of light, there’s a thread of timelessness that I feel in every act, every swing of the censer, every hymn that is not laced with glibness and legalism, to the dawn-land where ancient myrtles grow in the place of cold stone war memorials.  I have seen that land beyond sight once in my present life, in a dream I have spoken of often, and now it no longer feels so painfully far away.

In me now, the myrtle grows.

Entering Orders

While it has been overshadowed by the unfortunate events of the last day (and by people trying to turn it into a sectarian conflict before the bodies were cold), I do have some happier news I want to share.

I will be made a lay server in Ecclesia Gnostica on June 26. This will mark my formal entry into the lower orders and, with luck, my eventual entry into the priesthood.

It saddens me that this comes at such a turbulent time but I see it as a challenge to remain steadfast to the plan that has been laid so easily before me; the light yoke is often harder to take because it seems too light at times.

Baptism On Sunday

On Sunday I will receive baptism into Ecclesia Gnostica. After months of attending services I have never felt pressured to believe or accept anything I wasn’t ready for. I’m convinced that they’re a safe and sincere group and they have done their apostolic succession justice.

I still feel a bit uneasy joining a church… it feels weird, after the way I quietly skulked away from the last church I belonged to back in the 2000s.

I was a conservative Evangelical back then. The churches we went to ranged from welcoming bunches of somewhat reasonable people (provided you weren’t openly queer) to megachurches that were more like a religious-themed variety show for live entertainment than a faith community, to groups that were just downright cultish. None of them were welcoming to queer folk and some of them had members of the congregation who went to extremes.

The little bible chapel in our small town in South Carolina that I attended in high school wasn’t a megachurch, wasn’t a cult per se, and it didn’t present itself in an uptight way, but many of the congregants were zealots by choice.  Many of the kids were home-schooled and came from large “quiverfull” families. The message never called for our congregants to do any of that, but it was still insidious: it was highly political and steeped in both dispensationalism and premillennialism, which I now reject as false doctrine.

I left and never looked back in 2000 when they started shilling for Bush. I knew that joker was trouble.

I briefly looked into a Buddhist group called Diamond Way more recently, but looked deeper into the group and discovered that there were some cultish things going on there as well; I attended one service, then walked away.  I felt nothing while I was there.

Ecclesia Gnostica hasn’t been that way. They seem genuinely interested in conveying, explaining, and fostering understanding about the heart and soul of Gnosticism while preserving the time-honored Christian mystery of the Eucharist. That seems to be their primary, driven concern. The organization is small and doesn’t try to grow for its own sake, but welcomes newcomers. Key texts are made available for free on the church’s website so you can read more about the texts the lesson comes from. It’s a tight-knit community where we talk about what’s well and ill with us, everyone takes part in planning the calendar, and the discussion on spiritual matters is always lively, interesting, and hungry for new ideas.  It’s also one of the few churches I’ve found that will ordain an openly transgender person.

The liturgy is based on Catholic sacraments which honestly, I’ve always had warm feelings for though I tried to deny it due to my protestant upbringing.  Not only does it bring back some of my better memories of the Angevin courts, but it also reminds me of my early childhood in Spain.  When I was a Protestant I always looked at these gorgeous statues, stained glass windows, and altar pieces and wondered, why can’t we have that instead of worshiping in sterile white boxes?  Calvinist iconoclasm, I think, is nothing less than the erasure of a living culture of art and beauty within Christendom.  Also, a mass that is sung with bells and incense by people who are serious about what they’re doing is a wonderfully transcendent experience where time seems to stand still or melt away. I’m genuinely convinced that this is exactly the sort of church I was always looking for.
And yet, I confess that so many years of bad experiences with churches are still with me as I consider the statement of commitment I’m making. Christianity has been stained by people who turn their churches into businesses or town hall meetings and I’ve been burned by both in the past.  I find that I’m still on my guard though at this point I really don’t want to be. I want to be able to say confidently that this is the place for me and throw myself fully into being an integral part of the church.

I still have more than five years before I can enter the ministry. If EG turns out to be as good over the next few years as it has over the last few months, I’m going to enter the ministry and perhaps one day, have my own bishopric. We have our own hierarchy, and we don’t have any of our churches in England yet so I imagine anyone who could start one would be Bishop of England and Wales. The title sounds grand, but given our typical congregation sizes we’d probably only have about a dozen people, which is fine by me.

Incredible

The experiences I have had both within today’s service and afterward with some church members was beyond words.

Not only did today’s mass light up something in both myself and my fiance (who was greatly moved today) but afterward, I was invited to take part in an exercise of high ritual magic at one of the priest’s homes.  While this particular church does not have any official practice to that end, there’s nothing in the church’s beliefs that says we can’t.

I have achieved a high today that I thought impossible without mind-altering substances.  In some respects, it’s better.  I am stimulated in body and mind in a way that I have never been stimulated before.  I am sober as the day I was born but I am drunk on the Logos!  Thomas 28 makes so much more sense to me now.

I understand so many things from the Bible and from the broader tradition of esoteric practice that were just words to me before.  These feelings from the more spiritual, prophetic, and non-dogmatic parts of the Word have begun to reveal themselves to me in ways that I can scarcely begin to describe.  I have come to an endless spring that bubbles over, and I have drank my fill and there is still more, overflowing and boundless!

I was unsure about my future as a Gnostic Christian but if it’s still this good in a year then I am devoting my life to this path fully.

Thinking About It…

Admittedly, I’ve agonized for a very long time about possibly going back to the UK.

And can you blame me?  The last few times I’ve left and been unable to go back it wasn’t exactly on my terms.  The thought of getting my MA at a prestigious university like Cambridge or Oxford (which I’ve visited) really made me excited.  I’ve also had a lot of trepidation about the next 10 years in my country and whether or not it will descend into total chaos.

But it seems that getting involved with this church, with an eye toward possibly getting ordained, might have answered the question for me.  It may sound dishonest for me to say that “God answered my question” because getting involved was my choice.  As a Gnostic, however, I believe that the instinct that guides us toward constructive decisions in our lives is basically our higher selves (i.e. the Indwelling Light of the Divine) taking the controls.  So in a way, if my heart takes me to explore priesthood in a Gnostic church then I suppose I did have help from a higher source.  And if that decision ends up bearing real fruit in my life, then who am I to question?

I still want to go back to England, at least to visit.  But right now I feel that a higher calling is keeping me in Portland for the time being and I no longer have any plans to relocate to the UK in the next 2 years.

For what it’s worth, Portland is a really awesome place to live right now.  This place seems to be a magnet for old souls!  I’ve often been surprised to discover just how many people here remember past lives and will talk about it openly if you get them on the subject.  You look at the people on the street and about half the people are gorgeous anachronisms of fashions from across the 20th century.  As a result, it’s become a metamodern, cosmopolitan cultural capital.  It’s like Paris during the Belle Epoque in a lot of ways.

We’ll see what happens.  Maybe I’ll decide this isn’t for me.  Maybe my romantic attachments to a past life home will draw me back against my better judgment.  I think I’m better off giving it a try though.