Christ vs. Capitalism

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The modern enemies of capitalism, those in the last 150 years, have been primarily atheist.  Said Vladimir Lenin,

“Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.

In reaction, modern Christendom has become ever more enmeshed with the capitalist worldview.  But are the teachings of our Master compatible with the system of money, property, and wealth? Can a capitalist even be a Christian?  I would say, not without severe cognitive dissonance.

First, a story:

While Yeshua was preaching to thousands of unlanded peasants, living in poverty under imperial oppression, they became hungry.

For this hunger, the disciples suggested a solution rooted in the economics of the marketplace: that the crowd should go to the town and buy food.

But the Master rejected the economy of the marketplace. Surely he understood that not everyone gathered could even afford to buy food in the market. Instead, he asked for all those who had food to give it up, to share all they had with their community.

Imagine being one of the few in this crowd who had some bread, or maybe the only one who thought to bring a couple of fish. And you, despite being as poor as the next guy, are asked to share what meager portion you have with everyone! Might some of these people have exclaimed, “Why should I have my food taken from me for my good planning?  Why should those who didn’t think ahead be rewarded with my food!?”  Perhaps they did protest this way, but when the Master asks, it seems that people will listen.  Everyone gave up their food.  And, by the grace of God, sharing made their shortage into bounty!

The economy of Christ rejects hoarding.  It rejects self-service.  It refuses to give people only as much as they “deserve”.  It rejects the marketplace and instead asks that we share in blind faith that God will multiply our resources. Even those whose foresight, wit, or hard work has afforded them a little more than their neighbors must hand over all they have to the community.  In the economy of Christ, the marketplace is irrelevant; and the capitalistic urge to hoard is a false security which keeps us from the bounty of the creator.

Elsewhere:

25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your lifee ?

28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This passage is offhandedly quoted as a mere recommendation not to stress out over the day-to-day pressures of life.  It can become difficult to really look at content so familiar, but reread that passage.  Yeshua recommends that we not sow, reap or store away resources.  He recommends that we do not bother with any material investment in the future!  This goes beyond the socialist, or communist, into the realm of anarcho-primitivism!  A society which followed these guidelines could only be hunter-gatherers, living day to day.  It is the absolute, extreme opposite of a society whose foundation is the investment of capital for the accumulation of profit.

Perhaps, this is not exactly advice for a whole society.  But, rather, for the followers of Christ alone, envisioned as a small subset of the populace.  Yeshua and his disciples lived on the outskirts of society, surviving on handouts, unplugged from the bustle of production and commerce.  Perhaps, this is impractical advice for a world where “Christendom” makes up such a huge chunk of society?

When asked about whether the general populace should pay taxes, Yeshua famously retorted “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.”  This was, of course, a clever dodge.  It does nothing to answer the essence of the question.  With Roman guards to the right of him and Jewish revolutionaries to the left, any straightforward answer was likely to put him and his followers into immediate danger.  His non-answer left it up to the listener to interpret it however they wished.  A Roman statist might be satisfied that Caesar will be granted his due.  The Zealots might nod in agreement that none of their property belongs to Caesar, and therefore none will be given up.  It is very ironic that I have heard modern Christians employ this exchange when either supporting or denouncing taxation.

OverYourHeadArtist’s rendering of the above-referenced people.

Before Christ even began his mission, John the Baptist commanded,

“Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”

And in Luke 6, the Master said,

34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.

These commands conflict with the very heart of the capitalist pursuit.  How can one run a bank if he must lend without expecting anything back?  How can one keep a business if they are morally compelled to simply give their excess stock to the needy?

The early Christians, just after the Ascension even lived in communes!  In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 4, it says,

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Simon Zealotes Jesus Christ Superstar (7)Maybe the dancing hippies from JC Superstar were more historically accurate than I had previously thought…

Yet somehow, Christianity has become thoroughly entwined with Capitalism.  Any time spent with American Protestants in particular will reveal a deep sense that “work ethic” and “prosperity” are vital Christian concepts.

Max Weber associated the development of modern capitalism with Calvinist theology.  In his book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, he said,

For, in conformity with the Old Testament and in analogy to the ethical valuation of good works, asceticism looked upon the pursuit of wealth as an end in itself as highly reprehensible; but the attainment of it as a fruit of labour in a calling was a sign of God’s blessing. And even more important: the religious valuation of restless, continuous, systematic work in a worldly calling, as the highest means to asceticism, and at the same time the surest and most evident proof of rebirth and genuine faith, must have been the most powerful conceivable lever for the expansion of that attitude toward life which we have here called the spirit of capitalism.

Thus, Weber suggested that the Calvinist impetus to work for work’s own sake, to be frugal, simple and routine, created a populace eager to be exploited by capitalists.  If their lives under these masters were miserable, they suffered to the glory of God!  At the same time, the Calvinist belief in predestination offers an open door to a “Just World” hypothesis which suggests that those who are rewarded on earth have been rewarded by God.  This, of course, is in total conflict with the teachings of Christ, that it is the poor who are “blessed” and his warning of “woe” to the rich.  Herein lies the the central cognitive dissonance.

The Psalms of David are frequently quoted by the modern peddlers of the so-called “Prosperity Gospel“.  The poet-king often pleaded for God to ruin his enemies and reward he and his friends.  He proclaimed God’s omniscience and omnipotence.  There is a sense that all which happens is part of a single, grand design by God.  Therefore those with power are granted that power by God, and those who are destroyed are destroyed by God.

I’m not going to disparage the great Hebrew book of poetry.  There is great wisdom in the Psalms; but when there is a conflict between something in the scriptures with something which Yeshua said directly, I think a “Christian” would have to err on the side of Christ.

But, here we begin to uncover the whole, twisted knot of contradicting ideas which define modern Protestantism:  The Bible is perfect, therefore it HAS no contradictions, so we mustn’t think about how we prioritize the statements within.  They are all equally inerrant.  Don’t question any of this, because salvation and eternal damnation are at stake!  The “world” is evil and the devil is everywhere, but at the same time God controls every minute detail of our lives and we must serve Him to be rewarded.  Those who are rewarded are good.  Those who suffer must deserve it.  Feed the poor, but don’t let anyone FORCE you to do it.

In previous essays, I have discussed Biblical inerrancy, fatalism, and eternal damnation.  I have discussed how a sort of “darwinism” selects certain ideas within our religion for mass acceptance.  We must look critically at who, exactly, benefits from these beliefs.  It isn’t most of us.

A servant of Christ is dangerous to all terrestrial rulers.  “A man cannot serve two masters.”  They know it as well as we do.  And so, our religion has been chained up and placed in the service of human masters.  It was made into a tool of Rome, a tool of European royalty, of imperialism, of bankers and merchants, and finally of the capitalists.

It would seem that Marx, Lenin, Weber, and their ilk were not altogether incorrect in identifying the church as an instrument of bourgeois oppression.  Perhaps, it is up to Christians to show our solidarity with the oppressed and exploited.  Perhaps, the onus is on us to loudly and publicly denounce the evils of capitalism, and to reject the economy of the marketplace, just as Christ did.  We must not allow the teachings of our Master to be perverted any longer.

There’s a reason Yeshua threw the money-lenders out of the Temple.

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Grace to you all.

Jesus is a Social Justice Warrior

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It’s a bold title.  It’s possibly a bit more click-baity than I would normally feel good about.  But, consider the words of the Master from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 6:

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
    for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
    for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
    for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

The blessings are often repeated by pastors, preachers, and pious of all stripes.  But, here in the United States of America, I’ve always noticed a tendency to gloss over the woes.

Who does Yeshua sound like in this sermon?  He tells us that those who suffer oppression are favored by God.  He tells that those who are privileged in this world are not so privileged by God.  He says we should give indiscriminately to all who ask.  What kind of people are loudly saying these same things, today?

Would it be very out of character to hear a Black Lives Matter activist say, “Blessed are people of color!  Woe to the white majority!”?  I do not think that’s off the mark at all.  Any questions?

Why, though, should we be denounced by our savior for simply having privilege?

I think it’s important to note whom the Master is addressing in this sermon.  It is not a general public audience, but his followers.  Privilege, wealth and power are not a woeful state for non-Christians.  But for us, they are an obstruction to our spiritual development.  In order to unite with God the Father and our Savior, Yeshua, we will have to undergo a painful ordeal which strips us of the luxuries of this world.

No, continuing process of my Salvation is not going to make me not-white someday, but I must be detached from that privilege, in an internal, mystical sense.

For those who suffer externally, these processes of spiritual growth are a great pleasure.  For those whose lives are comforted, there will instead be trials.

And I think this works intersectionally.  Each of the places where a person experiences hardship will make their Salvation all the greater.  But we all have a mix of privileges and oppressions which we must live through.  So each initiation into the Spirit will be an inversion of those aspects of our lives.

The SJW crowd seems to have trouble loving their enemies.

So does everyone.  But, yes, that’s true.  The corporate oligarchs, the bigots, the xenophobes, all those who treat others badly for things they cannot help are our enemies.  In secular social justice movements, the enemy is usually pretty hated.  It’s difficult not to.  Many of these people are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and yet they will judge me for my queerness, they will curse me and mistreat me.  But I am called to love them.  I am called to invite their scorn and endure it with dignity and compassion.

We cannot hold non-Christians to that same standard of absurd loving to which we are held.  Instead, I respect them for the areas where their philosophy and action intersects with that of Christ.

Give to EVERYONE who asks of me?  Like every homeless junkie?  Every deadbeat?

I have been ruminating on this verse for weeks now.  And, I think, yes.  Give to EVERYONE who asks of you.

We are not Biblical purists. We do not hold that every scripture is absolute, sacred, perfection.  All Scripture is Fallible.  But, there is a certain emphasis on those Scriptures which claim to be actual quotations of Yeshua.  The “red letters” in many Bibles carry a bit more weight, as far as I’m concerned, than the epistles or books of the prophets.

After serious meditation it seems to me that it is fundamentally unchristian to refuse help or charity to anyone at any time, assuming you are not in poverty yourself.  If you have anything to give, you must give it.  And having realized this, I’m going to have to make sure I have some cash, and preferably some extra food, on me any time I venture through the city.  But, our Master did not promise us ease.

It is clear to me that Yeshua believed we are all entitled to handouts.

But, Yeshua isn’t trying to police my words!  Do people’s feelings outweigh my Free Speech!?

Well, there is this bit in Matthew 5:22:

But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his
brother without a cause shall be in danger of the
judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca!’
shall be in danger of the council; and whoever shall say,
‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.

Yeshua says we shouldn’t say things that offend others, and that God will judge hate speech very harshly.  “Raca”, by the way, is an Aramaic insult which possibly translates to “empty headed”.  But, some scholars believe may have been pretty analogous to “faggot” in the vulgar English use.

Pretty severe punishments for just saying a nasty thing to someone.  It would seem that in a truly Christian world, we would be watching our tongues pretty closely, so as not to offend our siblings.
This would make us all a bunch of weak, over-sensitive babies!

“Blessed are the meek”, as well, remember?  Yeshua didn’t value martial strength.  He didn’t value competition, wealth, or power.  If we are to follow his advice, turning cheeks and offering shirts, we will become very much trampled upon.  We will lose our positions of privilege pretty quickly.  Some awful people might even describe us as “cucks”.  That description makes me cringe, a bit, but I suppose it’s not baseless.

Woe to you if you wish to follow Christ and already have anything to lose.  You will lose it all.  We are not to be winners in this world, but the bricks of a foundation for a new one, the Kingdom of Heaven, which we are to build here on Earth.

I can guarantee you, the Kingdom is a place where social justice reigns supreme.

 

Grace to you all.

Religious Darwinism

How is it that the worst elements of a religion seem to inevitably rise to the top of popularity and power?  As I have illustrated in my other articles, the tenets of mainstream Christianity are really not the most natural conclusions to make from either the Christian scriptures, nor from any genuine experience with the Spirit.  The mental gymnastics required for Christians to support and teach things like eternal Hell, ensouled fetuses, “Godly” warfare, racist ideology, direct fatalism, science denial, scriptural infallibility, or rigid sexual taboos can seem baffling to an outsider.  But, I tell you the truth:  It is merely a matter of natural selection.

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It’s obvious, if you think about it in this way.  The Bible has very little specific information regarding the afterlife.  Only one parable told by Yeshua seems to indicate that those on the negative part of Hades would be unable to cross over to the positive.  Nothing indicates (not Scripture, and certainly not common sense) that people’s choices in this one lifetime are set in stone forever, or that free choice suddenly ends when we leave our bodies.  And yet that is the very prevalent belief in basically every mainstream Christian church.
If one reads the early church fathers (collected in English as a 10 volume series called “The Ante-Nicene Fathers”, the whole thing can be found on WikiSource, here), there is a surfeit of differing metaphysical, cosmological and eschatological ideas floating around.  Some believed in reincarnation, some believed in purgatory, some believed in different levels of Heaven.  They all made interesting cases for their viewpoints.  But when the Council of Nicea rolled around (325 CE), the official religion of the Roman Empire needed a unified and singular theology.

This isn’t to say the Christian beliefs weren’t already coalescing in the years leading up to Nicea, and it’s not to say that there weren’t still disagreements between theologians after that point, but it did represent a turning point in bringing the Christian faith into a more unified whole.  The beliefs which were confirmed by this, and subsequent councils, largely represented the most popular beliefs throughout the Empire.  A relative uniformity allowed the faith to spread like wildfire, successfully supplanting the previous state religion.

Uniformity is much easier to pass along than a looser “well, it’s all up to the individual” kind of mentality.  For one, you have to read more, listen more and try to understand more in a system which doesn’t enforce uniformity.  In my oft-quoted Romans 14, Paul says you should hold yourself to your own moral standards; but he follows that with saying you whose faith is stronger (IE, you who have fewer hangups) should just acquiesce to the more rigid morals of the weak while around them.  In other words, “do what you feel is right, but don’t rock the boat.”  It is on that matter which I thoroughly disagree with Paul.  Maybe it’s because I don’t live in an age where my faith is under constant threat of annihilation, and thus I don’t see the value in moral compromise for the sake of “stability”.  But that’s natural selection, for you.

Just as Darwin’s theory regarding biological life, natural selection can extend to the realm of ideas and ideology.  Every time you relay a piece of information to someone, you are replicating it, just like a DNA molecule.  Some information is better suited to be passed on and replicated more than others.  In his book, The Selfish Gene (1976), evolutionary biologist (and militant atheist) Richard Dawkins wrote extensively on this very subject.  He coined the term “meme”, likened to “gene” but from the Greek “mimos” (as the English Mime or Memory).  Just as with genes, a meme is spread based on traits which encourage reproduction.  And, just as with genes, natural selection does not necessarily favor the “best” memes from any objective point of view, only those which are poised to spread fast and far.

Imagine there are two Christian sects in, say, 2nd century Egypt, and one of them believes in a combination of reincarnation and purgatory.  The other believes that everyone who doesn’t accept the Salvation of Christ during their one and only physical lifetime will suffer forever in the flames of Hell.  Who do you think is going to evangelize more passionately?  Who is going to do everything they can to reach as many people as they can with the Gospel?  The answer is obvious.  Despite falling apart under any logical scrutiny, a unique combination of compassion and fear will ensure the spread of the sect which believes in eternal Hell.  And it is exactly the live-and-let-live attitude of the other sect which will stunt their growth.  Where is the urgency if those who reject Christ will just have an infinite number of chances to turn to Him?

Sometimes, the spread of a meme is connected to how it affects genetic reproduction.  Let us look at the sexual taboos in the Abrahamic faiths:  In all of these, there are traditions of modesty, and of limiting sexual contact to the marriage bed.  Is this the will of God?  Or is it more easily explained by evolution?
Creating taboos regarding clothing will make people more sexually repressed.  The moment a person from a very modest society sees even a little more skin than they are accustomed, their body will begin putting them into a state of sexual readiness.  Strict taboos do not make a person more chaste, but instead make them easier to turn on!  One who grows up in a nudist community sees naked bodies all the time.  They are not triggered into a constant, sexual berserk.  Instead, they are desensitized to it.
Studies seem to indicate that there is a direct correlation between sexual prudery and teen pregnancy.  Is it any wonder, then, that ancient societies who embraced complex sexual taboos flourished?  Everything from patriarchal rule to the shunning of homosexuals to strictly enforced dress codes have a positive effect on population increase.  And now, as humanity is realizing that there are too many of us, one culture after another is abandoning these morals.  As the morals are discarded, birth rates go down.

Viewed in this light, it is clear why a people convinced by their religion that their race is superior, that all the land in the world is owed to them, should successfully conquer the world.  Or, at least, that they should spread until their resources run dry, and their civilization collapses.  Natural selection does not care about the “long game”.  Although the memes themselves often outlive the civilizations where they began.  As their progenitors die out, the idea is taken up by the next group of people to conquer and spread.  We even created writing and books so that ideas can reemerge after long periods of dormancy.  Our ideas have made themselves effectively immortal.

What, then, is a “good” idea?  Which is “bad”?  Is goodness only measured by the fitness to reproduce?  Can we call the ideas which bear empires and genocide “good”, because they are so fit?  Are the ideas of peace and tolerance bad memes, unfit for reproduction?  I would argue that the goodness of an idea is measurable in whether it promotes the golden rule.  The goodness of an idea can be measured in how it engenders less suffering in fewer people.  Good ideas, good memes, are the building blocks of the Kingdom of Heaven.  It seems, however, that many of the best ideas are not very fit.  They lack urgency.  They discourage ruthlessness.  They are complex and require a great deal of thought or research to understand.

It is for this reason that the Christians of today and the days to come must create their own urgency.  We need not combat pagans or heathens, or the faithful of other religions.  Our greatest enemies are the bad memes which have burrowed their way into the heart of our faith.  These are malignant cancers which we are called to cut out.  Our history has made it clear how destructive our bad memes have been.  It is our duty to exorcise judgement and replace it with tolerance.  We must burn away hate and replace it with love.  Add your own urgency as  you evangelize to every Christian you know who still accepts the poison doctrines.  Much more so than the “unsaved”, we must become proactive about preaching to those who already believe in Christ!  This is the most important calling of a Christian today.

This will be difficult.  The Truth is more complicated than the falsehood.  The good is less defined, less black-and-white, than the bad.  Compassion is harder than condemnation.  But the form which Christianity has taken these last two millennia has probably done more harm than good.  “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” said the Master.  So these monolithic doctrines which have spread across the earth cannot be the true gospel!  Only a few will find it, He said.  But if a few find it, and make it their life’s work to spread it, perhaps we can undo some of the damage which has been done in the name of our Savior.

Grace to us all.

NEXT WEEK:  JESUS IS A SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR!

Christian Practice: The Sabbath

Christian Practice: The Sabbath

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 20:8-11

 

The Sabbath is the day of rest which was mandated by God in the Jewish covenant.  Perhaps more accurately transliterated from the Hebrew as “Shabbat”, it is the fourth of the Ten Commandments; and it is considered by some Jews to be the oldest and most sacred of all the Jewish traditions.

Shabbat takes place from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday (as days in the Jewish tradition are measured from sunsets, rather than sunrises).  It is said in the creation story that the world was created by God in six days, and that He rested on the seventh.  It is thus that we honor him by resting on each seventh day.

The traditions surrounding the Shabbat are numerous and wonderfully complex.  In liturgy, the day is identified as a “bride” or “queen”.  It is closely associated with God’s “dwelling place”, or Shekhinah, thought of in Kabbalah as the feminine aspect of the Godhead.

Says the Zohar,

“One must prepare a comfortable seat with several cushions and embroidered covers, from all that is found in the house, like one who prepares a canopy for a bride. For the Shabbat is a queen and a bride. This is why the masters of the Mishna used to go out on the eve of Shabbat to receive her on the road, and used to say: ‘Come, O bride, come, O bride!’ And one must sing and rejoice at the table in her honor … one must receive the Lady with many lighted candles, many enjoyments, beautiful clothes, and a house embellished with many fine appointments …”

In his book, The Sabbath, Abraham Heschel makes the case that the Sabbath is a Holy Place in time, as the Tabernacle was in space.  He proposes that one can actually feel the difference in time as the sunset approaches each Friday.  That there is exaltation in the air, if we are only sensitive to it. He says,

“We may not know whether our understanding is correct, or whether our sentiments are noble, but the air of the day surrounds us like spring which spreads over the land without our aid or notice.”

Furthermore, Heschel posits that things exist in space, but spirit occupies only time.  Thus, the Shabbat is a spirit,

“The Sabbath is the presence of God in the world, open to the soul of man.” God is not in things of space, but in moments of time.”

The practice of remembering and keeping the Shabbat, he says, is not an act of sanctifying the day, for it bears its own holiness, independent of humans and spatial things.  Instead, it is about keeping ourselves attuned to the holiness innate in the day.  Thus, by placing the things of space subservient to the holiness of time, we can participate in holiness.

“Time and space are interrelated.  To overlook either of them is to be partially blind. What we plead against is man’s unconditional surrender to space, his enslavement to things. We must not forget that it is not a thing that lends significance to a moment; it is the moment that lends significance to things.”

Finally, the Jewish tradition holds that the Shabbat is a portent, or foretaste of the messianic age.  For one day each week, we can experience the world to come.  But what then, for those of us who believe the Messiah is already arrived?

In most Christian traditions, church services and resting have been moved to Sunday, in honor of the Resurrection of Christ. It is said in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2174 Jesus rose from the dead “on the first day of the week.”104 Because it is the “first day,” the day of Christ’s Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the “eighth day” following the sabbath,105 it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord’s Day (he kuriake hemera, dies dominica) Sunday:

We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.106

2175 Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man’s eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ:107

Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord’s Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death.108

The tradition of the Lord’s day followed into the Orthodox and most Protestant churches, as well.  However, a crop of “seventh-day sabbatarian” churches have emerged since the 19th century.  These argue that the seventh-day Shabbat was practiced by early Christians, and was corrupted in an attempt to appease the pagan population of Rome, who had weekly solar festivals on Sunday.  This is, of course, motivated by the Protestant goal to remove pagan elements from Christianity.  Even in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, there is a disturbing inability to recognize, much less celebrate, the inherently syncretic nature of our faith.

Ultimately, as with all things, your observance of holy days is between you and God.  As, Paul said in Romans 14, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike.”  However, I do have a suggestion for the union of these two traditions.

You see, I have felt the inherent holiness of the Shabbat.  I have felt creation itself breath a sigh of relief as the sun sets on Friday evening.  If you are quiet and still, you might feel it too, as “eternity breathes a day.”  But, I also recognize that we are risen with Christ!  We are builders of the Kingdom of Heaven here on the earthly plain.  And so, with the light of the morning on the first day, we have every reason to declare with God, “Fiat Lux!” or “Let there be light!”  Every first day is both the first day and the eighth day.  The first day when God began creation, and the eighth day when Christ arose to start the next age!  It is thus that the week is no longer the toil of Adam, cast out from Eden, but the work of the Lord, reenacting the creation.

Thus, each Friday I begin the Shabbat in the Jewish tradition.  Two candles, bread and wine.  The last supper was, itself a Shabbat, and so it takes little imagination to see how the breaking of bread and the Kiddush, or wine blessing, can be easily layered with the Eucharist.  As the day closes, we break the body and spill the blood of Christ, being crucified with him.  And when we sleep on Friday night, we descend with him into Hell.  This is a time for contemplation, a weekly “dark night of the soul”.

When the sun rises on Saturday morning, and we with it, we ascend with Christ from the infernal and into the supernal!  The dark domain of Saturnus is abandoned for the starry realm of Heaven.  Saturday is the time to taste paradise, and indulge in every delight.  Many Jews also recite the Kiddush with their morning meal, as well.  With this, I take the Eucharist again.  This time, I am not taking on the Crucifixion, but the spiritual journey of Christ through the nether realms.
One should try to abstain from work on this day.  Some of us will not always have a choice regarding our work-schedule, and will not have the luxury to decline a shift at their job.  That’s alright, but try to find ways to keep the observance of the day even at your work place.  Take all your allotted break time.  Deliberately find pleasure and beauty in the simple things around you.  Treat yourself to little things that you like.

Typically, the Jewish tradition ends with an evening dinner leading to sunset on Saturday.  At this point, the working week begins anew, and the Shabbat has ended.  At the appearance of the third star in the sky, the Havdalah blessing is recited over a cup of wine, the lighting of a special candle and the aroma of sweet spices.  In my practice, however, this is not totally the end of the Sabbath.  Again, I take the Eucharist.  This time, I am internalizing the Kingdom of Heaven.  From sunset until sunrise, I am carrying that with me from paradise, back to the Earth.

Thus, on Sunday morning, we are resurrected with Yehshuah!  And so, in the Christian tradition, we celebrate at daybreak (or as close to it as you can wake).  Sing songs, attend a church service, meditate in the light of the Sun.  While the Jewish Shabbat is a foretaste of the messianic age, we may use it as our own journey to heaven, that we might bring it back to our realm.  Each week, we begin the work of our Master once again, building the Kingdom on Earth.  In this we are proxies for Christ himself.  And every time we practice this, we shall further build the Kingdom internally, that we might better share it externally.

This practice I have suggested is, perhaps, a bit intensive for some or even most people to follow every week.  It should always be remembered that, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike… Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.” (from Romans 14)  It is the duty of each Christian to look into their own heart and decide what their conscience (the very voice of the Holy Spirit) compels them to do.  I might behoove one to only practice one Shabbat each month, or to practice a simplified version sometimes, and the full thing others.  However you practice, make sure you “do so to the Lord.”

Grace to you all.

Love Your Neighbor, Not Your Bible

Dear Fellow Christians,

Stop making my trans* friends cry.  If not for having experienced Christ personally, I would have abandoned this religion years ago.

The Bible is not an infallible, supernatural, magical item. It is not Holy.  It is not the “Living Word”.  It is, at best, useful.  At worst, it’s outdated social guidelines are a hindrance to spiritual development, and an excuse to alienate and hurt people of fine moral character and a vulnerable social standing.

Only God is Holy.  Only Christ is the Living Word.  To apply such titles to anything made by humans is idolatry.  If something in the Bible does not engender love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and all the rest, you should ignore it; for it is not of the Spirit.  If something in the Bible diminishes your compassion toward anyone, in even the slightest way, it is garbage.

The real Word of God, Christ Himself who speaks directly to your heart by the Holy Spirit, will never diminish your compassion.  He will never poison your heart against your siblings.  It is a life’s work to separate that Word from those which arise from our own hearts and minds, or from outside influences, both mundane and infernal.  It is the “narrow road” to embrace righteous anger while expelling fear, ignorance and hate.  Righteous anger is always a desire to stop the things which hurt others.  I am righteously furious when I see my LGBTQ siblings in pain because a person holding a Bible told them they were “an abomination”.   I am incensed, and sometimes disgusted by my own powerlessness, when I read of another trans* person literally beaten to death by ignorant savages in our “civilized” country.  For the trans* community, fear for their own lives in public places is a “first world problem”.

I struggle every day with allowing righteous fury to become hate.  I struggle with the Word who tells me I must do my part to ease suffering and free the ignorant of their hate; and against the false word which makes me want to hurt those poor, deceived fools who carry out these heinous acts.  How I’d love to hate them!  But I know that no suffering I could visit upon these wretches would bring justice to the slain or any real comfort to the tortured.  All I can do is try to bring the light of truth to those who claim to know Christ, but still wallow in ignorance.  If I can can help to change even a handful of minds, it might save a life down the road.

But I tell you the truth:  If I had the power, and I knew it would save even one trans* or queer person’s life, if I knew it would save even one of them from a life of isolation and shame, I would burn every Bible ever written.  Even the Book of Kells and the Dead Sea Scrolls, though the world would be poorer for it.  The Holy Spirit would continue to minister, and the presence of Christ would continue to dwell in our hearts even without any Bibles.

I say all this as a man who loves the Bible.  You may not have gathered this from what I’ve written here, but it’s true!  I have dedicated countless hours of my life to the study of the Scriptures.  I have read it, cover to cover, over two dozen times.  I am apt to put ten or thirty hours in meditating upon a single passage or verse.  I have read a library’s worth of other books about the Bible: commentaries, apologetics, archaeological essays, histories, linguistic texts, and crackpot theories.  I’ve read much of the Talmud and Midrash, the Deuterocanon, the Gnostic Gospels, the apocryphal revelations.  The Bible is an integral part of my life.  And yet, if I am to honor Christ I must love even one person whom I don’t personally even like more than all the Bibles that ever were.

Siblings, I am a queer man, myself.  So, this may all come off as a bit self-serving.  But, I tell you this is the Truth.  I have been living openly and unabashedly in what many would call “sin” for years, now.  Never have I felt the pull of the Holy Spirit telling me that I need to repent.  Instead, I continue to be welcomed in the Divine Presence.  When I worship, I feel the love and warmth of Christ as I ever did when I was a chaste, obedient, young, non-denominational protestant.

The Christian community where I grew up created this sort of chastity-based fantasy world in order to justify their moral stances.  I believed what they taught me about traditional gender roles being the best and most healthy way to live.  I believed them when they told me that having lots of sex would ruin my ability to form a deep, committed relationship.  I believed them when they told me that homosexual urges were the result of a trauma which created a reversed oedipal complex.  I believed all these things until my own very life proved them all to be false.  If the Spirit calls you to be chaste, or to conform closely to your assigned gender, then you do so to the glory of God.  But, if someone else is called differently, who are you to judge?  You can only judge a tree by its fruits.  And the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness… you know the rest.

Be kind to your LGBTQ siblings.  Be especially kind to the trans* ones.  They have difficult enough lives.  Yours is to show them love and understanding.  Yours is to offer them the Living Word, not the written one.
Yours in Christ.

Christian Practice: The Eucharist

This lesson is the first in our  “Christian Practice” series.  Up to this point, the thrust of these articles has been on the theory of Christianity.  While there is lots more work to be done on that subject, I think it’s safe to say that we have a solid theoretical foundation.  Christianity is, at its core, a mystery religion.  It is built solely upon the encounter of the individual with the Christ.  And, in that contact, the individual is transformed, bit by bit, into the Christ.  But, what does a Christian “do”?  How does one further their Divine communion and transformation?  How does one take up the mission given to us by the Master and “build the Kingdom of Heaven”?  In this series we will focus on the practical rites and actions of the Christian.  Many of these are as old as Christendom itself.  Some of these are things I have discovered in my personal journey.  Finally, some articles will present old ideas with a slightly new spin on them.

Today’s topic is the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. This is one of the oldest, and most central, of Christian rituals.  It is one of the few Christian traditions taught to the Apostles by the Master, himself.  For this reason, alone, it deserves some special attention.

I have read claims, mostly on the internet, that the Eucharist has its origins in older religions.  I’d like to state, first, that this would not be problematic.  I have made it clear that having precursors does not make any religion any less “authentic”, so long as it is efficacious.  For efficacy is the only true marker of authenticity.  All authentic religious tradition has its roots in the ” perennial wisdom”, which is “perennial” in the sense of plants who produce fruit at all times of the year so long as they are alive. This wisdom will be found again and again throughout the human experience. However, these claims are false.  The usual narrative is that cults ranging from the followers of Osiris to those of Mithras or Dionysus practiced a ritual “eating of their god”.  To my knowledge this is not reported in any scholarly, archaeological findings (nor even in annals of the sensationalist historians from the Roman period, and those guys made stuff up all the time!).  I’m certain the cult of Osiris certainly had no such ritual, as I have dedicated a lot of time and energy into reconstructing and practicing the worship of Osiris.  Dionysians, among other Roman and Hellenistic traditions, practiced ritual libations which required wine to be poured out in the name of the gods.  But that is of a very different character.  No one really knows what the cult of Mithras did.  They, and other mystery cults, kept their practices very secret.  Theoretically, the Holy Communion might have been transmitted to the Christians by one of the more secretive cults, but we have no evidence of this.  In the absence of evidence, I recommend we assume that this tradition begins with Christ.

It is sunset and the Master has gathered his students together for dinner.  It is a Friday Sabbath meal (perhaps a Passover Seder, depending on the Gospel).  Emotions are running high in the hearts of the Twelve.  On one hand, their Rabbi has never been more popular.  On the other hand, sectarian priests are calling him a heretic and the imperials have taken notice of their ever growing band of misfits.  Maybe he would be leading Israel to freedom?  Maybe he’d get them all killed.
Yehshuah takes the bread and breaks it, and recites the customary rites of thanksgiving.  But before he passes the plate around, he says, “This is my body.  Broken for you.  Take and eat.”  His students are shocked silent as he passes the bread.  They must be shocked!  The implications are tremendous.  Cannibalism?  The Master’s broken body?  What does he mean by this?  This is the way of the Master.  His logia, his phrases and parables of wisdom, often begin with something strange or upsetting in order to put the mind of the listener on alert.  It’s what modern psychologists call a “pattern interrupt”, and it is used to break the mind from its normal patterns in order to force it to think critically.  In this way, the Logia of Christ are the opposite of propaganda.  Advertisements and propaganda camouflage themselves in the background noise of every day life.  In this way information is injected directly into our subconscious without our even realizing it.  Our Master wants us, instead, to think deeply on his words.  We must work if we wish to extract the meaningful, direct, spiritual knowledge (or “gnosis”) from his logia.
In a surreal twist, Yehshuah does not spend any time on the strange thing he has just said.  Instead he moves on and begins pouring the wine.  He continues and recites the customary rites of thanksgiving as though nothing had happened.  Some of the disciples may have begun to settle themselves, but before they drink, he speaks again, “Drink this, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
What!?  Another reference to his death.  Another implication of cannibalism, and this time it’s blood!  While even the Roman pagans had prohibitions against eating people, the Jews had a special rule against the consumption of blood.  Any blood.  By the dietary laws of Moses, even kosher animals must be thoroughly strained of all blood before they are cooked.  Even as symbolism, this must have come off as downright offensive to the men at this table.  And to put heresy upon heresy, he calls it “the blood of the covenant”.  The blood which adorned the door frames of their ancestors in Egypt and kept them safe from God’s wrath.  This blood was a symbol of the sacred trust between all of Jewry and their Lord.  He says this is his blood.  The disciples may have been glad they were alone for this statement.  As of now it was mostly sectarians who were making accusations of heresy against them, but even the mainstream Jews would never stand for this kind of talk.
The further prophecies of betrayal would shock the disciples even further.  But, we are here to discuss the Holy Communion.  What do these mysterious statements mean?  As we “do this in remembrance” of Christ (as he says in the Gospel of Luke), what significance has the bread and wine to modern Christians?

I find it very interesting that the ritual is broken into two parts.  Yehshuah breaks the bread, says his thanksgiving and then makes his declaration that this is his body.  He takes the wine, gives thanks and then declares it his blood.  It is noteworthy that these things are separated.  The repetition is used, as is often in his logia, both for emphasis and distinction.

“This is my body.”  The body is represented by bread.  The symbol is apt, as bread has a somewhat fleshy consistency.  But, we do not eat the literal flesh of other people.  The disciples did not cut apart and eat the body of the Master after he was taken from the cross.  Instead, we infuse the bread with the idea of the body.  And what is a body?  It is the physical shell which is brought together by our soul, will or consciousness for the purpose of living in the physical world.  It is the mechanism through which our true selves go about experiencing and acting.  The soul of the human is part of the same soul which has ever existed, and which is the consciousness of the universe.  We are all a part of God.  It is realization of our inner selves, awareness of our own divinity which raises us up toward the level of Christ.  But all the experiences and actions which bring about that awareness are mechanisms of the physical body.  Thought is the mechanical working of the brain, and contemplation is the rarification of thought.  It is through the means of his body, the suffering of the physical condition, that Christ was “made perfect” (Heb 2:8-10).  Suffering is the natural state of all physical life in its fight against entropy.  To live, then, is to suffer.  But therein lies the road to perfection.
We are what we eat.  This is literal.  Nearly every molecule in your body was once a piece of food you ingested.  When we consume the body of Christ, we add to our bodies something of the physical mechanism through which Yehshuah reached perfection.  By sharing it, he makes it a little easier for us to reach his level.  He takes on some of that suffering for us, and we are able to reap the benefits of greater Divine awareness.  It is his gift to us, his very physical organism.  Additionally, because all his adherents “do this in remembrance” of him, we are also connected to one another.  All of Christendom shares, at least in part, a single body.  It draws us together in love and support.  This unity, as well, is his gift to us.

Furthermore, this is the “body of God”.  The body of God is all physical creation, including the body of Christ, and the bodies we each reside in.  The Body of God is expressed by the Name of God, the Hebrew letters YHVH, which, in turn, correspond to the four elements of creation:  Fire, Air, Water and Earth.  When we speak of Fire, we speak not of the physical combustion of carbon and oxygen, but it is a force analogous to it.  The same is true of each of the elements.  Fire is the active, positive force.  It is all that which expands and makes changes.  Air is that which communicates and moves energy from one place and form to the next.  Water is the “magnetic” or passive force which collects, grows and germinates.  Finally, earth is the reflection of Water, it is that which is solid, stable and encompasses the other three elements to hold them in place.  Thus, when we consume the Body of God, we are consuming the Tetragrammaton (the Four Letter Name) of God, and participating in the unity of all creation.

“This is my blood of the covenant.”  The Blood of the Covenant is the sacrificial blood spilled for the adjustment of the human condition.  Within the Mosaic sacrificial system, this is typically the blood of sheep or cattle.  Amongst mystical thinkers, blood is associated with “Spirit”, the fifth elemental force, the quintessence (literally “fifth essence”) which both generates and vivifies the elements of creation.  The Hindus would call it Akasha, while many Hermetics call it Ether.  When an animal is sacrificed, when its blood is spilled, this releases some of that quintessence is drawn out for use in adjusting the connection of the person with God (straightening them “vertically”, as was discussed in the previous essay, “Concerning Sin”).  Adjustment is the purpose of the covenant, and Christ offers us his own essence for more perfect adjustment.  The wine, an alcoholic “spirit”, acts as a symbol and vessel for the Spirit of Christ.  When we drink it, it suffuses itself throughout our spiritual form (our astral body) as the Body does throughout our physical form.

First we take the Body of God (YHVH).  And then we take the Spirit, which we might represent with the letter Shin, into the middle of it (YHShVH).  Thus, creating the “Pentagrammaton”, or Five Letter Name Yehshuah.  This is the meaning behind the symbol found at the top of this blog page:  A five pointed star with the letters of the Pentagrammaton at each of the points.  In the center is the cross, or the meeting between God and Man which unifies the five essences.

The Eucharist should be practiced by every person who calls themselves Christian.  This symbolic and magical act of union with Christ is the keystone of all Christian practice.  It should be done at least once a week, and perhaps more often if one feels spiritually weak at any point.  Personally, I try to practice it daily when I can.

To practice the Eucharist alone, simply get some bread and wine.  Crackers might due for the bread, as they keep longer and are easier to store.  Wine might be substituted with grape juice or any other red liquid (though I have found actual wine to be most efficacious).  Begin by placing your portions out on a table or altar and spend some time in meditation and prayer.  When you feel ready, take the bread and recite or paraphrase the words of the Gospel at the Last Supper.  “And he took the bread and gave thanks,”  At this point say a blessing over the bread. “And he said, ‘This is my body, broken for you'”  Break the bread, “take and eat.”  And then eat the bread.  As you chew and swallow concentrate on the Tetragrammaton, on the Body of God.  Feel it penetrate through your body as you are unified with creation and creator.
Next, take the cup of wine and raise it, “And he took the wine and gave thanks,”  Again, recite a blessing over the wine, infusing it with the power of Yehshuah, “And he said, ‘this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins’.”  Drink the wine, and concentrate on the letter Shin as it descends into the middle of the elemental world.  Feel the Spirit vivify and penetrate every portion of your being.  Most importantly, concentrate on how it adjusts your standing with the Divine.  Give thanks as it purges you of weakness and sin, as every undesirable trait is washed away in the blood.  Bow your head and return to prayer and meditation.  When you feel ready, spend some time in worship of God, and the ritual is done for the day.

On Sabbaths, or during other gatherings of worship or prayer, the Eucharist may also be performed in a group.  This is best done sitting around a low table, as the Disciples were on the night it was first performed, but any positioning is fine.  One person should lead the ritual, reciting the lines and performing the blessings.  When he breaks the bread he should pass it around, and each person should break off a piece for themselves.  Everyone should raise their glasses along with the performer and drink simultaneously.  Otherwise, the ritual is the same in group or personal settings.  These group Eucharists may be performed however often, but at least once a month is recommended if you have a group to perform it with.  I will sometimes go to a local Catholic or Orthodox church to participate in the rite.  It has its own certain kind of power when performed in a group.

This one ritual, the Eucharist, is all that is ultimately ‘needed’ for one to call themselves “Christian”.  Baptism, mystical exploration, healing and evangelism are recommended, but I cannot stress enough that this is the cornerstone of a Christian life.  The benefits which result as it changes your mind and body to become more Christlike are indispensable.  We shall talk more in the coming weeks and months about the other practices, but if you only read one of my essays on this website, I pray it is this one, and I pray you heed the advice.

Grace to you all.

NEXT:  REMEMBER THE SABBATH

The Necessity of Magic

Magic is a dirty word in most mainstream churches today. Protestants and Catholics alike teach that the occult is the path to Satan. But, why? Some would claim that there is a scriptural basis for this. I disagree. This was discussed briefly in the introduction; but let’s really talk for a moment about what the Jewish and Christian scriptures have to say regarding magic.

There are several admonitions against magical practices in the Tanakh (the complete collection of canonical Jewish scriptures known by most Christians as the “Old Testament”). The first is found in the book of Exodus. Most English translations read as, “witch”. However the Hebrew word translated as “witch”, is actually “kashaph”. This word means a woman who casts curses which bring harm to others or their property. And, virtually every reference to general “witchcraft” speaks specifically of curses. The sorcerers of Egypt are referred to differently, as “Hakumim”, and while they are outdone by Moses, this word is never used in a prohibitory manner. Now, that curses which harm others should be forbidden to Christians is just obvious. Throughout the Tanakh, there are additionally warnings against various, specific magical practices including soothsaying, communication with the dead and spirit animal familiars. All of these were practices native to other, competing religions of the time. There is a distinct theme within the Hebrew scripture of trying to snuff out the practices of foreign religions. But we are Christians, and we are bound by no such stricture. As discussed, the Spirit empowers us to bind those practices and beliefs which we see fit together.

In the New Testament, there are even fewer references to magic. One verse in Corinthians describes idolatry and “witchcraft” as sinful behavior. However, the word translated as “witchcraft” is the Greek “pharmaekia”, from whence we derive the English word “pharmacy”. The practice, to which Paul refers, actually has nothing to do with “witchcraft”, and was rather that of snake-oil salesmen who made their living selling bogus cures for disease as well as deliberate poisons to those who wished to buy them. The word had an equal context of meaning “pharmacist” and “poisoner”. Based on several references made by Paul and in the book of Revelation to these folks, it’s clear the early Christians were neither fond of their healing potions nor their poisons. Remember, Paul and the other Apostles were healers, as well. But unlike the “pharmacists”, their patients weren’t made sicker by the medicine.

The Jewish and Christian scriptures make no comment on “magic” as a general concept. And the reason for that should be clear. Our faiths are inherently magical in nature. The very practices are a form of magic, and so it is necessary that a Christian also be a magician. But what is magic?

Many scholars and occult geniuses have given varying definitions of magic. I would like to offer my humble definition. Magic is the deliberate, willful act of creating change through the use of analogy. These printed symbols are analogs for spoken words, which are, in turn, analogs for physical objects and abstract concepts. These objects and concepts are furthermore analogs for higher, spiritual truths. Through the use of analogs for cosmic forces, I can create change amongst them, and therefore change in the physical world, for “that which is bound on earth is bound in heaven.” Even direct, physical, action could be described as magical, for it is a spiritual will which moves your body to action, and the repercussions will echo through the spiritual plane to one degree or another. The magician, however, has a deep understanding of the connections and correspondences between things, forces and spirits. The magician knows exactly which symbols to use, which analogs to make the world conform to her will. That Yehshuah was a magician of extraordinary power should be self-evident. But, the purpose of this essay is not to discuss the practice of magic itself. I am a mediocre magician, myself, and will leave such lessons to the masters of the Art.

It is also through magical processes that one experiences mystical ecstasy. Ecstasy is “Ex Stasis”, or the state of being outside one’s self. Every magical tradition in the world teaches meditation, astral projection and other mystical disciplines meant to bring about ecstatic states. It is in this way that the magician explores the universe, makes contact with spirits, and draws closer to the Divine. A magician does not need a clergy, or metaphysicists, or apologists to tell her of the spiritual realms or their inhabitants. She can simply go there, meet them. My pastors growing up may have told me that all “pagan gods” are either completely false, or simply demons who fooled humans into worshipping them. But, I’ve met Hermes, Odin and others whom have been called gods. They are not demons. They are spirits, emanations of the Divine Source just as we are, but they are closer to the source than individual humans. They are, quite often, personifications of great cosmic forces or truths. And as such, communications with such entities can be quite fruitful.

My point is that no authority can convince me of that which contradicts my own direct experience. Neither an ancient scripture nor a priest can overrule my own senses (including the non-bodily senses by which we perceive the Astral). It is for this reason that the mystic and the magician cannot be easily dominated by those who seek power. We are not easily deceived. If I were a paranoid man, I might make a correlation between the restrictions against magic in mainstream churches and the expansion of their political power. If I were paranoid, I might suggest that powerful priests understood how occult exploration gave their flocks a degree of personal power which limited their ability to herd them. I might suggest that when translated, verses of the bible which referenced specific practices were replaced with more general words for “magic” or “sorcery” as a deliberate method to steal that personal power from the faithful who were not part of the priest class. I’m not quite that paranoid, but it’s food for thought. Rather it’s much more likely that there were many churches, some of whom practised magic and mysticism and others who did not, and the ones that did not were able to gain more numbers and political power by the very fact that the people in those churches were more easily manipulated by those with ambition. In a Darwinistic sense, mystical and magical churches had neither the desire nor the capacity for political power-mongering. And so, they largely died out or were driven underground by the spiritually blind, aggressive, predatory, more darwinistically fit churches.

This is the necessity of magic in any religion. It is through occult practice that a Christian verifies their spiritual revelations. Ecstatic mysticism takes us into the unknown where we might learn from spirits, thought-forms and astral beings. Theurgy, the magic which unites the self with the Divine, is accomplished through the Eucharist and other rituals of similar character. It is this which can make us powerful in the use of “practical magic”, which alters the exterior world, to heal the sick and build the Kingdom of Heaven, just as our Master and his disciples did. Just as in morality, the benefit of magic is measured simply by the fruit it bears. An unmagical faith is numb, blind and incapable of accomplishing what it sets out to do: to elevate the soul. Those within the mainstream Christian faith who have achieved any spiritual enlightenment or miraculous power have been magicians, whether they would call it that or not. And in the mainstream churches, these individuals have been rare, largely because of the suppression of mystical and magical exploration.

In today’s world of secular governments and the mass transmission of information, I believe that magical Christianity, Hermetic Christianity, is due for resurgence. I believe that there is room in today’s world for those of us who look to Yehshuah the magician as our model of behavior, and the initiator into the journey toward Christhood. There are already many Christian occultists in the world, but I believe that we, just like everyone else, can stand to benefit from a gathering in worship and communion with others who have also experienced Yehshuah Christ as an immediate, personal, spiritual Truth. While we may see the beauty and truth in most, if not all, other devotional faiths, we are bonded by that experience. There is no reason why we should have to hide our heretical beliefs and practices in order to participate in group worship. Let us gather, and let us find those who are hurting and needy and bring them into our ranks. This is the purpose of the Church of the Continuing Revelation.
Grace to you all.
NEXT WEEK: PRACTICE, PART 1: THE EUCHARIST