Two Hymns to Broken Gods

The other day, while sadly I wasn’t at home, P.S.V.L. stopped by along with another friend on their way to the recent Amanda Palmer show and gifted me with some beautiful statues of the Egyptian deities Maahes, Ka, Sobek and Onuris. In a personal correspondence yesterday, P.S.V.L. and I seem to have had some similar reflections on the concept of “broken gods” since, during the delivery process to eir place some seem to have been broken in some places.

While I maintain that I’m a horrible monotheist, I’ve always had a very big place in my heart for the gods of Egypt, so much so that at one point my mother caved in and we renovated my entire bedroom with amazing Egyptian-themed wallpaper and replaced all the boring wood nightstands and drawers with wicker ones to reflect the theme. In honor of the gods, whose images I repaired tonight, I offer the following hymns.
sobek

To Sobek, an offering of rush seeds

Praise to you, Sobek, who protects the might of kings,
In who’s mouth the words of Osiris bear strength.
You, whose kingdom spans from the mouth to the end of the Nile.
May your foundations stand as sure as the cedars of Lebanon,
As high as the palm that grows in Faiyum.
I have brought you healing and stability, may you too watch over mine.

Maahes

To Maahes, an offering of frankincense

O lion-headed son of Sekhmet,
You who bear the sword in one hand and the lotus in another,
Equally willing to offer peace and justice.
Flashing and thundering, Lord of Light and Darkness,
Manifesting the swift equilibrium of Ma’at.
I give you honor and praise and restore your crown.
May you guard my soul for millions of years.


Elevation of the Deceased

So, there’s a thing happening that’s kind of neat that, in spite of my agnosticism on the nature of the soul after death I kind of wanted to participate in. Naturally, not being a pagan or polytheist I rewrote the ritual as seen below, based on Galina Krasskova’s rite of the same, to do my effort in helping, even if by tokenism, the process of elevating the deceased.

While some may take some offense to the idea of a Christian or Gnostic version of the rite, I would like to remind my readers that it’s not like Christianity doesn’t already have a theological practice of doing the same thing. For specification, the intent of this rite is not necessarily to baptise the dead – a practice frought with a number of ethical concerns – but to welcome the Christian dead into the hereafter, especially those harmed by the dark aspects of religion.

As always, preface: the ritual below does not reflect the official stance of my church or any organization I have been a part of past or presently.

Rite of Elevation of the Deceased

Concerning the Service

Baptized Christians are properly buried from the church. The service should be held at a time when the congregation has opportunity to be present.

In the instance that a member of one’s family may have died without proper Committal or Burial, or if they had lapsed from the Faith, or if they have been, through human error forgotten or otherwise unattended to, it is desirable to perform the Rite of Elevation that they may be restored and reintegrated in the afterlife.

The Rite of Elevation of the Deceased may be performed over the course by any of the Faithful in the course of a nine-day process whereby the Deceased may be given due blessing, glory, and honor and engaged with according to local custom.

The Rite of Elevation of the Deceased requires, ordinarily, a multi-tiered shrine dressed in white cloth along with beeswax or white candles and a chalice or water. Images of the deceased may be utilized if they are known, otherwise a simple cross may be used to represent the whole of the family of the deceased. Flowers, if used, must be white, and other fragrances such as frankincense or other resinous gums may be burned.

Elevation of the Deceased

The First Triduum, or three-day period of service, occurs at the lowest portion of the altar or on the ground on a white cloth. On the fourth day the shrine is raised another three days, and on the sixth day it is raised to the highest level. Candles may be placed in any convenient location, though should optimally number four in total. The chalice or goblet of water may be placed in a central location during the service along with incense burning in a thurible.

All stand while the following anthems are sung or read,

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For if we live, we live unto the Lord and if we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors.

The Celebrant says the following Collects, first saying

Celebrant. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All.  Amen.

The Celebrant says to the people

Celebrant.  Dearly beloved, we have come together in the presence of Almighty God our heavenly Father, to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear this holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation. And so that we may prepare ourselves in heart and mind elevate our departed brethren, let us kneel in silence, and with penitent and obedient hearts confess our sins, that we may obtain forgiveness by his infinite goodness and mercy.

Celebrant and People together, all kneeling

Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, we have offended against thy holy laws, we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, spare thou those who confess their faults, restore thou those who are penitent, according to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord; and grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

The Celebrant alone stands and says,

Celebrant.  The Almighty and merciful Lord grant us absolution and remission of all our sins, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of his Holy Spirit. Amen.

Celebrant  O Lord, open thou our lips.

People   And our mouth shall show forth thy praise.

Celebrant and People

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: asvit was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Lord be with you.

People             And with thy spirit.

Celebrant        Let us pray.

At the Elevation of an Adult

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant (or, thy servants) N., and grant him (or, them) an entrance and elevation into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

At the Elevation of a Child

O God, whose beloved Son did take little children into his arms and bless them: Give us grace, we beseech thee, to entrust this child (or, these children) N. to thy never-failing care and love, and elevate us all to thy heavenly kingdom; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The People sit and one of the following readings are read by the Celebrant or Reader.

From the Old Testament

Isaiah 25:6-9 (He will swallow up death in victory)

Isaiah 61:1-3 (To comfort all that mourn)

Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33 (The Lord is good unto them that wait for him)

Wisdom 3:1-5,9 (The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God)

Job 19:21-27a (I know that my Redeemer liveth)

After the Old Testament Lesson, the following Psalms are sung or said following each Collect

The Celebrant stands and says,

Celebrant.       Almighty God, who hast revealed to thy Church thine eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace to continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of thee, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; for you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

All.                  Amen.

All remain for a moment of silence,

PSALM 91, Qui habitat

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *

abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the LORD,

“You are my refuge and my stronghold, *

my God in whom I put my trust.”

He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter *

and from the deadly pestilence.

He shall cover you with his pinions,

and you shall find refuge under his wings; *

his faithfulness shall be a shield and buckler.

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night, *

nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness, *

nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

A thousand shall fall at your side

and ten thousand at your right hand, *

but it shall not come near you.

Your eyes have only to behold *

to see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the LORD your refuge, *

and the Most High your habitation,

There shall no evil happen to you, *

neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

For he shall give his angels charge over you, *

to keep you in all your ways.

They shall bear you in their hands, *

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

You shall tread upon the lion and the adder; *

you shall trample the young lion and the serpent

under your feet.

Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore will I deliver him; *

I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; *

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

With long life will I satisfy him, *

and show him my salvation.

All reflect for a moment of silence.

The Celebrant stands again, saying,

Celebrant.       O God, who didst wonderfully create, and yet more wonderfully restore, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

PSALM 46, Deus noster refugium

God is our refuge and strength, *

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, *

and though the mountains be toppled into the

depths of the sea;

Though its waters rage and foam, *

and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

The LORD of hosts is with us; *

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, *

the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her;

she shall not be overthrown; *

God shall help her at the break of day.

The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are shaken; *

God has spoken, and the earth shall melt away.

The LORD of hosts is with us; *

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Come now and look upon the works of the LORD, *

what awesome things he has done on earth.

It is he who makes war to cease in all the world; *

he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,

and burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, then, and know that I am God; *

I will be exalted among the nations;

I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD of hosts is with us; *

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

All reflect for a moment of silence.

The Celebrant stands again, saying,

Celebrant.       Almighty God, we remember this day before thee thy faithful Servant(s) N.; and we pray that, having opened to them the gates of larger life, thou wilt receive them more and more into thy joyful service, that, with all who have faithfully served thee in the past, they may rise presently in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

PSALM 90, Domine refugium

Lord, you have been our refuge *

from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born, *

from age to age you are God.

You turn us back to the dust and say, *

“Go back, O child of earth.”

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday

when it is past *

and like a watch in the night.

You sweep us away like a dream; *

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green and flourishes; *

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

For we consume away in your displeasure; *

we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.

Our iniquities you have set before you, *

and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

When you are angry, all our days are gone; *

we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

The span of our life is seventy years,

perhaps in strength even eighty; *

yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,

for they pass away quickly and we are gone.

Who regards the power of your wrath? *

who rightly fears your indignation?

So teach us to number our days *

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry? *

be gracious to your servants.

Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; *

so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us *

and the years in which we suffered adversity.

Show your servants your works *

and your splendor to their children.

May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; *

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.

All reflect for a moment of silence.

From the New Testament

Romans 8:14-19, 34-35, 37-39 (The glory that shall be revealed)

1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 35-38, 42-44, 53-58 (Raised in incorruption)

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:9 (Things which are not seen are eternal)

1 John 3:1-2 (We shall be like him)

Revelation 7:9-17 (God shall wipe away all tears)

Revelation 21:2-7 (Behold, I make all things new)

Following the Lesson, all rise,

Celebrant.       Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

People             And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever.

Amen.

In place of the above, from Easter Day through the Day of Pentecost

Celebrant     Alleluia. Christ is risen.

People         The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

In Lent and on other penitential occasions

Celebrant        Bless the Lord who forgiveth all our sins;

People             His mercy endureth for ever.

The Celebrant says

Celebrant. Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then, all standing, the Celebrant or a Reader reads the Gospel, first saying

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John

People  Glory be to thee, O Lord.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

After the Gospel, the Reader says

The Gospel of the Lord

People   Praise be to thee, O Christ.

All remain standing for the canticle,

A SONG OF THE REDEEMER

All 

Proclaim the time of the Lord’s favour,

and comfort all who grieve.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, *

because he has anointed me.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,  *

to announce release from darkness for the prisoners,

To proclaim the time of the Lord’s favour,  *

and to comfort all who grieve,

To give them oil of gladness instead of mourners’ tears,  *

a garment of splendour for the heavy heart.

They will be called trees of righteousness,  *

planted by the Lord for his praise.

For God shall make his righteousness and praise  *

blossom before all the nations.

Buildings long in ruins will be rebuilt  *

and the desolate cities restored.

And you shall be called the Redeemed of the Lord,  •

a city no longer forsaken.

The Celebrant addresses those present,

Celebrant.       Dearly beloved, let us call to mind our Brother (or Sister) N. who while passed from  this life, we come together to remember, commemorate and raise up to new life. Let our prayers, offerings and thanksgiving here bring them the strength and comfort they need, though seemingly vanished from our midst, and grant them the glory and honor of all faithful departed in the Communion of Saints.

All.                  Amen.

Celebrant.       O clement and merciful God, with the Blessed Mary Ever Virgin, with holy Saint John the Baptist, Saint John the Beloved Disciple and all the Communion of Saints, hear our prayer. We offer these prayers for the soul of N., and for all good souls who wish our prayers and recognition. Please let N. know that we here on Earth is come forth to speak for him (or, her, or them).

Merciful God, and all other righteous and ancestors, who might intercede for the relief of this soul: grant him (or, her, or them) hope. Grant him (or, her, or them) the awareness that he (or, her, or them) be illuminated by the Divine Light, that he (or, she or they) is beloved of God, beloved of the Holy Saints and Angels who minister to us at all times. Let him (or, her, or them) bear witness to the actions of their life in this fallen world, those hurts and imperfections which keep him (or, her, or them) away from peaceful tenure in Paradise, from rebirth, from reintegration. Open his (or, her, or them) heart to understanding, grieving, repentance and restoration. Let him (or, her, or them) understand that by his (or, her, or them) own efforts he (or, she or they) can make the time of (or, her, or their) trial easier. Eternity unfolds always and living or dead the power to weave  it well is in our hands.

May the Holy Powers and other helpful souls give him (or, her) the strength to persevere in all good resolution, to meet the tests of his (or, her, or their) fate rightly and well. May these benevolent and loving words mitigate and sooth their pain. May they give him (or her, or them) a demonstration that those still living on Earth acknowledge, remember and takes part in his (or, her, or their) sorrows. May  NN. know that we wish him (or, her, or them) happiness, salvation and renewal.

Here, a goblet or multiple goblets of water may be offered to the deceased and further incense placed in the censer. Bread and other food offerings such as fruit and smaller candles for the deceased, according to custom.

Those present may commune with the Deceased. The following canticles may also be sung,

Canticles

The Song of Manasseh (Manasseh 1a,2,4,6,7,9a,9c,11,12,14b,15b)

A Song of the Righteous (Wisdom 3.1, 2a,3b-8)

A Song of God’s Children (Romans 8.2,14,15b-19)

A Song of Faith (1 Peter 1.3-5,18,19,21)

A Song of the Redeemed (Revelation 7.9,10,14b-17)

Once all assembled have had some time to commune with the Deceased, all sit for a moment of reflection.

After some time, the Celebrant stands saying,

Celebrant.       Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt  love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Bearing in mind the soul of our beloved brother (or, sister) N., Let us pray through God’s mercy that through our prayers and Intercessions, they may be duly and rightly purified, their sins Absolved through God’s grace, and their presence made strong and present amongst us. Therefore, with this in mind we now Pray,

All rise,

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Kyrie eleison.

Christe eleison.

Kyrie eleison.

or,

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us.

All may be seated or kneel,

Celebrant.       Again and again, let us pray to the Lord.

All.                  Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Celebrant.   Again we pray for the respose and elevation of the soul of our Brother (or, Sister)  NN, departed from this life; and that Thou, O Lord, wilt pardon his (or, her) every transgression, both voluntary and involuntary.

All.  Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Celebrant. That the Lord, Our God, will estabish his (or, her) soul elevation and just repose.

All. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Celebrant. The mercies of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, and remission of his (or, her) sins, let us ask of Christ, our Immortal King and God.

All.  Grant this, O Lord.

Celebrant.       Grant, O Lord, the peace and fellowship of thy servant, N. who we present before  you to raise up and to elevate in our midst, bearing in mind thy just mercy.

All.                  Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

All stand,

All.       Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men.We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee, we give thanks to thee for thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty. O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us. For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord; thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

All remain standing for a moment of silence,

Celebrant. Dearly beloved, the raise up and elevate, N. into thy divine light. May they be amongst us always, now and forever, and raised up continually unto the ages of ages.

All.  Amen.

Celebrant.  Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant, we beseech thee, to thy whole Church in paradise and on earth, thy light and thy peace. Amen.

Grant that all who have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection may die to sin and rise to newness of life, and  that through the grave and gate of death we may pass with him to our joyful resurrection. Amen.

Grant to us who are still in our pilgrimage, and who walk as yet by faith, that thy Holy Spirit may lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days. Amen.

Grant to thy faithful people pardon and peace, that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind. Amen.

Grant to all who are uncertain a sure confidence in thy fatherly care, that, casting all their grief on thee, they may know the consolation of thy love. Amen.

Give courage and faith to those who are bereaved, that they may have strength to meet the days ahead in the comfort of a reasonable and holy hope, in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those they love. Amen.

Help us, we pray, in the midst of things we cannot understand, to believe and trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to life everlasting. Amen.

Grant us grace to entrust N. to thy never-failing love; receive him (or, them) into the arms of thy mercy, and remember him according to the favor which thou bearest unto thy people. Amen.

Grant that, increasing in knowledge and love of thee, he may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in thy heavenly kingdom. Amen.

Grant us, with all who have died in the hope of the resurrection, to have our consummation and bliss in thy eternal and everlasting glory, and, with [blessed N. and] all thy saints, to receive the crown of life which thou dost promise to all who share in the victory of thy Son Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we elevate thy servant N. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Elevate him into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

The Celebrant says

The Lord be with you.

People              And with thy spirit.

Celebrant        Let us pray.

Celebrant and People

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Then may be said

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord:

And let light perpetual shine upon him.

May his soul, and the souls of all the departed,

through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Celebrant.       To the Mother of Our Lord, the Christ, we now pray,

All.   Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women,  and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Celebrant.       Almighty and everliving God, we yield unto thee most high praise and hearty thanks for the wonderful grace and virtue declared in all thy saints, who have been the choice vessels of thy grace, and the lights of the world in their several generations; most humbly beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow the example of their steadfastness in thy faith, and obedience to thy holy commandments, that at the day of the general resurrection, we, with all those who are of the mystical body of thy Son, may be set on his right hand, and hear that his most joyful voice: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Grant this, O Father, for the sake of the same thy Son Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

Celebrant.       Let us bless the Lord.

All.                  Thanks be to God.

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Remembering the Trans* Dead

I’m not sure if I believe in a life after death, though I’m pretty well versed in cultural beliefs. That said, if one were so inspired I would totally suggest remembering and elevating the transgender dead, after all. A little ritual never hurt anyone and memory is a powerful thing.

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Pensées sur la peur – FEAR

Last night I had an interesting exchange with a few dear friends about an article featured in the Seattle Times about the inappropriateness of wearing costumes that could be associated with the present Ebola crisis. Personally, I’m unconvinced that people should particularly worry about it. In the article, Philadelphia physician assistant Maria McKenna notes that the idea “definitely rubs me the wrong way,” and “Normally I think that irony and humor is funny, but this thing with the costumes, is it really that funny? I mean, Ebola’s not even under control yet.”

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Personally, while it may be in bad taste, contextualizing it in the phenomenon of Halloween is quite another. At its root, in America, Halloween is fundamentally a transgressive holiday. Sure, we can mass-market it and let children have fun, but it’s a lot deeper than that, it’s a time where we are allowed as a country that is no stranger to paranoia and using fear to subjugate our own population and others to willingly and knowingly inflict it on ourselves in a cathartic manner. What we wear may not be in good taste the next morning, but it’s comparable in many ways to classical Carnival practices for which we don’t have much of a cognate in America, even allowing for Mardi Gras which while historically related, is now relegated to one of those parties that we make another excuse for breasts, penis and wine.

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People on Halloween dress as things they fear, even if it’s tongue in cheek. Republicans dress up as Democrats, Democrats dress up as Republicans; the living dress as the dead; atheists dress up as the pope and so forth. Is it offensive? Sure, but deep down it’s something that we fear or other and it’s that fear to which we need – as humans and as social beings – to come face to face with.

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Is dressing as a victim of Ebola in bad taste? Perhaps. But few can deny one thing for certain. It is terrifying. News, satire, internet and other media sources have been feeding us this fear for weeks with no end in sight and we, as a country transfixed by media and limited by any direct intervention, don’t have any other way to let it out. My friend brought up, in true ironic and rhetorical fashion, “[Is] dressing up to make light of something that’s killed thousands of Africans as any more offensive than dressing as a Nazi storm trooper or wearing black-face and chains or celebrating Columbus Day?” Honestly, I would have to say yes and no, with an emphasis on the latter.

21f368ec4a929beab8dc7d976125291dOne could, similarly, ask if it would be bad taste to dress as a police officer in light of the systemic police brutality in America, a soldier in light of the many wars we’ve had and knowing consequentially (if subconsciously) our veterans might be provoked to PTSD, a Native American in light of the genocides we’ve caused, and so forth. None of these are “good” – and I emphasize, none of them – bu the next day we’ll have as many regrets about our costume choices as how many drinks we had or whom we went to bed with.

Not_what_you_may_think_-_these_are_nazarenos_(hooded_penitents)_in_the_Holy_Week_parade_in_Granada_(IMG_5519a)These things are absolutely not in good taste and don’t pander to political correctness, but transgression rarely does. It can, on the positive, create a need for dialogue and exploring these themes which plague our social consciousness, but I’m not convinced many would go that far. It is, ultimately, about expression and about achieving catharsis from these expressions, particularly the ones that we fear. If we don’t express it somehow, even playfully, it really only gets channeled into more bizarre and strange ways.

140811-ferguson-shooting-main-5a_54d5596619ee52e9d1eb20d49239939eI’m reminded of the writings of noted quantum physicist Dr. Peter J. Carroll who noted in one of his works what I’ve come to observe as true for humanity, “That which is denied gains power, and seeks strange and unexpected forms of manifestation. Deny Death and other forms of Suicide will arise. Deny Sex and bizzarre forms of its expression will torment you. Deny Love and absurd sentimentalities will disable you. Deny Aggression only to stare eventually at the bloody Knife in your shaking hand. Deny honest Fear and Desire only to create senseless neuroticism and avarice.”

terrifying_asylum_tour_of_the_past_01I think that modes of catharsis and expression, even if seemingly in poor taste, are necessary to a functioning society. Does it make the society healthy? Perhaps not. But if these fundamental realities are denied, we could find ourselves in a reality that is a lot more like the contemporary Purge films than having one night out of the year where we are allowed to playfully explore the atavistic aspects of our social consciousness.


The Divine Feminine in Johannine Scripture

This morning I finally had a moment to read my colleague Rhyd’s most recent post for the Wild Hunt titled, The Multitude and The Myriad. It’s truly an amazing text for many reasons, particularly his survey of the philosophy of thought in post-pagan civilization. I say post-pagan, largely because I don’t think the treatment of so-called monotheistic thought is entirely all that it’s cracked up to be. Naturally, writing for a pagan and polytheist audience, I can’t really take much offense to what he had to say mostly because it’s true.

What I thought most interesting in his article was the following:

A popular reading of the re-introduction of “The Goddess” into modern religious thought (not just Pagan, but also some strands of Christian ‘Theology’) is that it’s a necessary correction of two millennia of male-centered, Monotheistic thought. This is a fair reading, and one can certainly point to all sorts of social and religious tendencies which, through a belief in an a male-gendered Only-god, contributed to the systematic degradation of a full half of humanity. That there was only one god, and that this only-god was male, is certainly peculiar and suspicious, particularly considering the patriarchal succession of priesthoods of this only-(male)-god.

While some who chose a more literal interpretation of Christian texts may be content to suppose that the One is One and the various messengers (typically male) have somehow removed the feminine from religion. My tradition has something quite different to say.

In my tradition, I find it particularly interesting the role to which the feminine is emphasized, often eclipsing the male in some regards. Following the historiola of the Gospel of John, commonly considered the first chapter of John, the first person introduced who speaks is Jesus’ mother who mentions to Jesus that the wine has run out at the wedding they were attending in Cana. John, or the Beloved Disciple, recounts this episode emphasizing the deeds of Jesus starting with the miracle where Jesus has the servants or hosts fill six stone pots with water and has them deliver the pots to the head waiter who tastes the water which has miraculously become wine.

Now, some may ask what this particular scene has to do with the divine feminine implicit in Johannine thought. The wedding is said to take place in Cana on the third day (2:1), a note that connects this story with those in 1:19-51. Many see this inititial period as a seven-day cycle symbolizing the dawn of the new creation. John says the mother of Jesus was there at the wedding and when Jesus’ mother says They have no more wine (2:3) it’s only after her statement that the disciples take initiative in speaking to Jesus. While his mother’s statement doesn’t dictate what he is to do about it, in conventional translations of John, Jesus replies, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.” (ASV 2:4), noticeably in the Evangelikon as found by Bernard-Raymond Fabre-Palaprat, this verse is noticeably missing. Why is that?

The role of time in the Second Chapter is rather extensive, the detachment Jesus shows toward his mother is anything but cold, particularly when one considers the intimacy implied in the Fourth Chapter with the Samaritan woman (who by all accounts would have been considered ‘other’) and the closeness he feels toward the Mary of Bethany in John 12:1-8, and then finally the Mary who witnessed the resurrection in John 20 – a scene also noticeably missing from the Evangelikon gospel which ends with Jesus being laid in the tomb after telling his mother “Do not weep, for I return to my Father and eternal life. Behold, your son; he will take my place. “

Distinct from exoteric scripture, the Johannine scriptures – in particular the Gospel of John – focus on a sense of other-worldliness and intimacy and the dynamics between self and other. It is in the Gospel of John that we encounter a Jesus who probably has the most concrete sense of self – being part of this world, but not of it. It’s also in this text that we find him having the most positive and inclusive treatment of women. I think, perhaps, that this is intentional – calling to mind the first interaction he has in the Gospel of John and the interaction he has with Mary Magdalene in the twentieth chapter, perhaps one can say that Jesus’ entire ministry in some respect was a rite of katabasis. We see this for sure in the interactions he has with Martha and Lazarus, but the revealing aspect of the Gospel of John according to the Evangelikon is his descent into the feminine in order to attain to the supernal.

The first katabasis in the Gospel of John isn’t a journey to the underworld, as would be commonly considered, but the descent of the Spirit (Gk. Pneuma Agion, fem.) into the world of the material Jesus:

“I did not recognize him, but he who sent me to baptize in water said to me: He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.” (1:33)

In Gnostic thought, the material world, was considered to be intimately feminine. Valentinus, the great gnostic bishop, often spoke of it in highly sexualized terms as a fullness or Pleroma, in addition to entering the Bridal Chamber – perhaps a symbolic experience more than an external ritual or sacrament – of joining with the divine.

The katabasis of Lazarus was also very clearly an intimate experience that shows a very human Jesus coming to terms with the death of his friend Lazarus:

“So the sisters sent word to him, saying: Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick. But when Jesus heard this, he said: This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it. Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:3-5)… So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said: Remove the stone. Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to him: Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days. Jesus said to her: Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God? So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised his eyes, and said: Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that you sent me. When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice: Lazarus, come forth. The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them: Unbind him, and let him go. Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what he had done, believed in him.” (11:38-45)

The scene of Lazarus’ katabasis is very clearly an intimate one, yet what I find interesting is the degree of genuine love, or agape, that is the cause of Lazarus’ resurrection – something that according to some gnostic thought, happen while one is physically living and how, in each case in John’s Gospel it is urged by the feminine – you can also see a glimpse of this symbolism with the woman at the well – the well being intimately linked to the concepts of baptism or dying to the self and rising in Christ. The feminine in many of these cases could be linked symbolically to the Jewish concept of the Shekinah, a word meaning dwelling or settling, and denotes the dwelling or settling of the Divine Presence of God, especially in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Palaprat’s Evangelikon gospel is as fascinating in this regard in its additions and omissions as the conventional Gospel of John is radical in its own special way of inclusion with the Divine Feminine. I would like to propose, in this case, that the omissions of the resurrection of Jesus in the Evangelikon gospel is not an omission of a miracle, but a sign pointing us to the eternally present Divine Feminine which, as the German romantic poet Goethe wrote: the eternal feminine [that] draws us upwards.

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Anthropos

“John, John, why do you doubt, or why are you afraid? You are not unfamiliar with this image, are you? – that is, do not be timid! – I am the one who is with you (pl.) always. I am the Father, I am the Mother, I am the Son. I am the undefiled and incorruptible one. Now I have come to teach you what is and what was and what will come to pass, that you may know the things which are not revealed and those which are revealed, and to teach you concerning the unwavering progeny of the perfect Being. Now, therefore, lift up your face, that you may receive the things that I shall teach you today, and may tell them to your fellow spirits who are from the unwavering race of the perfect Being.”

Apocryphon of John.

Being (Gk. ἄνθρωπος) Scholars used to consider it to be a compound from ἀνήρ (anḗr, “man”) and ὤψ (ṓps, “face, appearance, look”) “he who looks like a man”. Beekes argues that since no convincing Indo-European etymology has been found, the word is probably of Pre-Greek origin; he connects the word with the word δρώψ (drṓps, “man”). Romain Garnier proposed another etymology in his 2007 article « Nouvelles réflexions étymologiques autour du grec ἄνθρωπος », deriving it from Proto-Indo-European *n̥dʰreh₃kʷó- (“that which is below”), hence “earthly, human”.

Now let the poet open his mouth and read the words which Rhyd has brought forth out of Silence.


Letting the Dead Bury Their Dead

So, preface, this is entirely a personal essay that’s looking at developments in my own understanding of theology. It’s not representative of the opinions of my church or members of my church nor does it necessarily represent my final opinion of the matter – it’s more of an intellectual exercise at this point and sign-post of my own understanding of things.

As frequently happens around this time of year, one begins to turn inward and ask some questions about the last things. It’s rarely comfortable because so few of us want to admit to our own mortality, particularly in a world that handles these things in a less than positive manner. Over the course of the last year I had a few friends do some divinations – I know a superstitious endeavor but one I think definitely has some merit as a form of reflection – which indicated I should be working with my ancestors. Now, it’s not that I particularly have any problem with the idea on a superficial level, but in interest of intellectual sincerity I can’t really bring myself to do it for a variety of reasons.

For a starting point about these last things, I think it might help to clarify my conception of the first things namely, “What is God?” For me, personally, God is a principle beyond all being, beyond all participation, transcendent, and completely ineffable One – all things exist because of God, though God is ultimately beyond all things. God is neither male nor female, masculine or feminine (though for convenience I’ll use the masculine pronoun when referring to God as that is part of the cultural language set and also the pronoun used in my sacred literature) but can be symbolized dyadically in the forms of the Limited and Unlimited or One and Many. Furthermore, God expresses Himself in effectively three realities or hypostases of being: “unparticipated” (Gk: amethektos), “participated” (Gk: metachomenos) and “in participation” (Gk: kata methexin), respectively or, in Christian usage, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

All things that exist emanate from God, in the symbolic and mythopoetic language of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Creation entirely comes into being as God effectively reflects on Himself causing creation to come into being through multiplicity. As such, the cosmos always subsists connected to the past, the present and the future – one may reflect here on the creedal statement found in the Gloria Patri, a doxological statement that became universal in Nicaean Christianity: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and always, and unto the ages of ages. The term used here for “ages” is the Greek term “aion” or more commonly rendered in English, “aeon” or “eon”. These “aeons”, furthermore, represent something very important in Gnostic thought, namely they are emanative personifications of reality.

Gnostic literature varies on agreeing on their number and the order in which they exist, but they are such principles of commonly expressed male/female pairs or syzygoi (lit. yokings together) as Depth and Silence, Mind and Truth, Word and Life, Man and Church, and so forth. Mythopoetically these aeons interact in a cosmic drama as personifications explaining creation and theodicy, they are not meant to be taken in any other way than as abstracts illustrating an underlying reality.

Effectively, these aeons exist in three realms reflective of that of the Trinity: the unparticipated One-Existent Ground of Being, the unparticipated intelligible Godhead, and the intelligible Godhead. From these realms we encounter further symbolic realities such as gods or simply divine thoughts and minds, eg. angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, princedoms, virtues, powers, seraphim, and cherubim or other thoughts that in other religions may term gods or divine beings. These beings do exist and have a peculiar agency of their own, however that agency can only come from the intelligible Godhead and can be seen in some ways as further extensions of the ultimate Godhead.

So, now we step into Creation itself. Creation, ultimately, is an emanation from God, Creation is not God but it participates with God through the noetic and noeric realms. Here is where I depart somewhat from historical Gnostic cosmology – while the ontology of God prohibits complete participation with Creation, because Creation is an emanation of God and is perpetual though not eternal , it is still connected though matter itself prohibits complete participation. As such matter (Gk: hulē) becomes a vehicle that encases divine thoughts and beings. It is not evil in any meaningful sense, but does limit full participation with God. In such a way we can view the hulic world as being the domain of enslavement and limitation, individual souls are more likely to err than archangels, which are much closer to their monad, the divine intelligibles.

Here a case can be made as well for “fallen” beings, that is beings that through their own volition choose not to participate in fullness with Godhead, thus we have the Watchers of Biblical myth as well as the “fallen” angels and demons. They do fulfill part of the hulic spiritual ecology, are unique, but not omnipotent as they ceased to participate in the noeric and noetic realms. This chain of perceptible though subtle beings extend from the deepest depths of the cosmos to the highest heights of the noetic realm, linking everything from God to Creation and fulfil, ultimately, the Mystery of Creation.

Establishing, very vaguely and all too simplistically the chain of creation and an outline of the hierarchy of being, we can now enter into the “sixth day” of Creation and humanity. The human being is a composite of a human soul that is descended into generation and provided a physical body. Naturally, the physical biology is much more complicated than and equally as fascinating as spiritual and theological discourse, but that’s beyond our scope for this brief subject. Effectively descended or incarnate humans can be classified into three dynamic groups: the hulic, the psychic and the pneumatic. As incarnate beings all humans do partake of these types to varying degrees with the exception of the completely purified soul or pneumatic. The first group, or hulic, are souls that are largely confused about spiritual realities and as such tend toward gross materialism; the second group is slightly better off and transfers their attention away from matter toward the intellectual realms but still participates in the material; the pneumatic ultimately is a being that has cleansed him or herself from the accretions of matter and engage in the nearly purified spiritual states.

Upon death, the majority of souls become “recycled” so to speak and return to generation. They no longer exist in any meaningful way as the individuals they once were and as such are largely of no consequence except for those they left behind as ideas of their former selves. It seems, then, that allowing for animistic and hulic beings, the cult of the ancestors came into being since these hulic beings, unable to perceive a reality greater than the material, developed cults to appease the dead. This is not a bad thing and is a development toward more sophisticated modes of worship as these souls develop, but ultimately keeps these souls attached to the material. The pneumatic souls likewise re-enter generation upon death and engage in modes of worship much like they did in their former lives or actually develop into pneumatic beings in their present state – this also is a possibility of the hulic being, but doesn’t seem to occur as often. The pneumatic souls, then through engaging in catharsis and theoria, ultimately attain theosis and cease to be in any meaningful sense as they have completely been absorbed into Godhead and lack their own individual identities.

Putting this all together, God being just and desiring not the death of the sinner, has provided the means to purify ourselves that we may join Him in Glory. Those who do not attain to the pneumatic state and ultimate reach union with Godhead, return to generation and are thus given the opportunity through subsequent lives. The role of the purified pneumatic is in this life to initiate beings into the suprasensual life before going into the Void. These souls, which in some way one could consider saints, leave behind their image and divine Names are symbols or tokens of divine reality and are not simply subjective terms for a limited human understanding of God. Thus, the Communion of Saints does not exist as an economy of isolate beings but instead are communicated with through that facet of Godhead whereby, in our non-perfected state, may be said to give them glory through the underlying knowledge that true worship can only be directed toward God.

43englis


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