Tag Archives: Meditation

Light and Dark

Last night, I celebrated the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified at my apartment and gave Eucharist to a brother in Gnosis. What struck me during the service, in light of recent happenings, were the words spoken during the introductory rites where we declare ourselves united as one sacred communion where, together with the Most High, we raise a temple of living stones from the myriad with which we have been blessed, bothe light and dark.

It may seem odd for many to consider the blessings of the negative things in our lives. Often, we don’t want to acknowledge them and more often we deny them even when they’re standing right under our noses. Yet, the more we push them away, the more sinister they become — yet they can be transformed.

In 2001 I was living in Dresden, Germany; the site of one of the most devastating events of the 20th Century. While I was there, I would frequently pass construction being done on the Frauenkirche which was utterly destroyed during the Allied Firebombings, which you can read about in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five”.

The Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, was built between 1726 and 1743 — beginning in the year that Sir Isaac Newton published his thesis on gravity and ending with the year in which Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin was born. The period of the Enlightenment represented the largely free and unchecked progress of humanity however, this progress and spirit of emancipation would similarly carry many darks events: the Battle of Nations, the Napoleanic Wars, the French Revolution and the start of the Industrial Age.

The Church stood as a symbol of beauty and pride for the people of Dresden who, like us, marveled at the beauty of their amazing city and didn’t address the darker elements of their society. Of these darker elements would be the slow and gradual rise of nationalistic pride and antisemitism; culminating in the events which would mark the rise of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party.

In 1945, two centuries after the beginning of construction of this great edifice, the Allied Forces dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city over the course of two days during which the entire city and a quarter of a million people were killed. After the end of the war, Dresden became the center of the East German Republic and all religious edifices that were destroyed lay fallow, including the Frauenkirche.

In 1989, after the reunification of Germany, a 14-member group of enthusiasts headed by Ludwig Güttler, a noted Dresden musician, formed a Citizens’ Initiative that would lead to rebuilding this symbol of the people of Dresden. This initiative would not only lead to the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche, but also the Great Synagogue of Dresden which was likewise destroyed. The foundation stone of the Frauenkirche was laid in 1994, the crypt was completed in 1996 and the inner cupola in 2000.

Sadly, I never got to see the completion and opening of the cathedral but what struck me as I walked past it regularly was how the architects incorporated the original stones – now blackened from years of acid rain as well as the original incendiary bombings in 1945 – on top of new, beautiful pink limestone.

Years later, reflecting on this, I’m led to wonder how we can come to terms with our own dark stones in the midst of our light. It’s not easy and I don’t have any answers, but when reflecting on this building, which incorporates a history of reason gone awry and turned violent alongside communal efforts out of love, I think we owe it to ourselves to consider the delicate balance and impact all our actions and words have not only for how they will impact others and ourselves now, but how they will survive us and influence others in the future.

320px-FraunkircheSouth


The Way of the Heart and the Way of the Cup

Handed down from master to disciple in an unbroken chain of succession, the prayer of the heart as a spiritual discipline was fixed in writing by the eleventh century Byzantine, hesychast monk Symeon the New Theologian who taught that humanity could and should directly experience theoria, or direct contemplation of the experience of Godhead. In the Orthodox tradition, the preparation for vision of God takes place in two stages: purification, and illumination of the mental faculties. Without this it is impossible for man’s selfish love to be transformed into selfless love and unceasing prayer, as praised by the Apostle Paul who exhorts us in Thessalonians to, “Pray without ceasing.”

Though never achieving much currency in the West, the way of the heart as an esoteric discipline would become a central principal in the writings of the French philosopher, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin who, in his Theosophic Correspondences shares with us, “The inward or centre is the principle of everything; so long as this centre is not open, the greatest external wonders may seduce without advancing us; and, if I may venture to say so, it is our inward which ought to be the true thermometer, the true touchstone, of what passes without. If our heart is in God, if it is really become divine, by love, faith, and ardent prayer, no illusion can surprise us.” In Saint-Martin’s teachings, through similar meditation on God, one may undergo a spiritual process of reintegration with the Divine.

The way of the heart, in both hesychast and esoteric doctrines, is ultimately a form of theurgy. For Neoplatonists such as Iamblichus, the goal is henosis, or unity with God; in the Orthodox East, it is theosis, or the absorption into a divine way of life. I would posit, similarly, that in the esoteric doctrine of the West and the principals of the teachings of Saint-Martin, the achievement of reintegration is a form of spiritual and evangelical salvation of the soul at home with the universal Mind which, after its descent into the innermost core of being, must spread outward in all directions in a like manner as Christ, having experienced at a pivotal point in time descended into Hades and, upon ascent, drew them likewise out of the depths and later, again, spread outward in the form of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost imbuing the Apostles with the same knowledge of doing the same.

Although penitential in tonality, the way of the heart does not contradict Iamblichean principals of theurgy, but indeed does “[enlarge] very greatly our soul’s receptivity to the gods… and accustoms [our] eyes to the brightness of divine light, and gradually brings to perfection the capacity of our faculties for contact with the gods.” (De Mysteriis 5.26.18-40) Similarly, Saint Martin writes: “I think they would do better to call it the sentiment of the presence of intermediate agents doing the will of God. I believe we always perceive this reaction of the Virtues whenever we seek the Verb, not outside of us, but within, looking with intelligence at the temple in which He dwells.” My personal preference for keeping Saint-Martin’s usage of the ‘Verb’ adequately presents the activity of the divine as opposed to the rather abstract and now poorly understood Word, or Logos.

It occurred to me recently that this process is a form of eternal liturgy resulting in the fractio of our limited selves into the chalice representing the fullness of both our hearts and minds. Joining together these two species into one sacrament and consuming it, we experience joy of heaven on earth and partake of the ecstatic ‘Verb’ or action of Godhead. Far from the melancholy, the way of the heart teaches us to live in accordance with our intellect in the very real here and now instead of trying to escape to some indeterminate eschatological future. This bliss and this ecstasy, open to all, brings us not only contemplatively closer to Godhead, but is a challenge and affirmation of our own divinity and active co-participation in the Creation of a redeemed Humanity.

Sacred Heart doves Chalice


Good Friday

Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worse kind of suffering.
– Paulo Coelho

bellini-agony-garden-NG726-fm

ILLE mi par esse deo uidetur, ille, si fas est, superare diuos,qui sedens aduersus identidem te spectat et audit dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te.
-Catullus, Carmina 51

scourging

“This is what is signified by the words Ana l-haqq, “I am God.” People imagine that it is a presumptuous claim, whereas it is really a presumptuous claim to say Ana ‘l-‘abd, “I am the slave of God”; and Ana l-haqq, “I am God” is an expression of great humility. The man who says Ana ‘l-‘abd, “I am the servant of God” affirms two existences, his own and God’s, but he that says Ana l-haqq, “I am God” has made himself non-existent and has given himself up and says “I am God”, that is, “I am naught, He is all; there is no being but God’s.” This is the extreme of humility and self-abasement.”
– Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi, commentary on Mansur Al-Hallaj

Crowning-with-Thorns-lowf

“So you see, Good and Evil have the same face; it all depends on when they cross the path of each individual human being.”
-Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prynn

carrying the cross

Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath;
We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death.
Laurel is green for a season, and love is sweet for a day;
But love grows bitter with treason, and laurel outlives not May.
– Charles Algernon Swinburne

dali_corpushypercubus1954

Cum ergo accepisset Jesus acetum, dixit: Consummatum est. Et inclinato capite tradidit spiritum.

– IOHANNES XIX: xxx


This Little Light of Mine

As I’m sure we’re all well aware, the season of Advent is quickly approaching. Last weekend, we experienced the feast day of one of my personal favorite saints, Saint Martin of Tours, whose feast in many ways represents the culmination of the octave of All Saints and All Souls day. From the late 4th Century to the Middle Ages, a period of fasting beginning on the day after St. Martin’s Day, November 11. This fast period lasted 40 days, and was, therefore, called “Quadragesima Sancti Martini”, which means in Latin “the forty days of St. Martin.” As times and history would have it, this period of fasting would later develop into the four Sundays of Advent familiar to many in the Western Churches.

Personally, around Saint Martin’s feast day, I start mentally preparing myself for the Christmas season and coming up with personal meditations and reflections as we begin to approach the darkest half of the year which, paradoxically, is also the time of year where the light of the Sun is symbolically reborn and begins to grow and wax once again. For anyone whose read Frazer or Joseph Campbell or has familiarity with contemporary neo-Paganism, the symbolism of the Christ Child being born around Winter Solstice and bringing light into the world is not a terribly novel idea, but it’s that mythic cycle that we can use to help ourselves to illuminate the depths of our own spiritual experiences in a cyclical way.

Last year I experienced a particularly deep and profound spiritual Advent season by intentionally participating in a local parish’s celebration of the season and also deepening my friendship with many at Hagia Sophia community as well as my own relationship with members of my community in the Apostolic Johannite Church. During this period, I thought about and sketched out some notes for a more family or individual based Advent celebration for members of the greater Gnostic community to follow at home since many lack regular access to churches and temples. Inspired by the idea of the Four Luminaries of the Secret Book of John as guardians of the macrocosmic Christ Consciousness, I put together this ritual that can be performed individually or as a small group for people wanting to participate meaningfully in the Advent Season.

Maybe my presentation here is a little premature, but it is my hope that those who wish to participate with me in this might also be inspired by the meditations I will be writing about this season using the readings suggested.

Emmanuel, icon written by Betsy Porter
egg tempera, shell gold, and gold leaf on shaped panel, 9.5 x 12.5 inches, 2007
photograph by Richard Anderson

Advent Wreath Service

The family or group gathers around the wreath (which is not yet lit).

Leader:

The One has brought forth the One, then One, and these Three are but One: the + Father, +the Word and +the Thought.

Lord, open my lips.

People:            And my mouth shall proclaim Your praise.

Leader:           O God, make speed to save me.

People:            O Lord, make haste to help me.

Leader:           Glory be to God, whose grace and mercy be upon us forever.

All                       Amen.

A member of the community comes to the altar or wherever the Advent wreath is placed and gives the Leader a candle or other source of fire.

Leader

I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I am guarding it until it blazes.

Leader:

“For from the light, which is the Christ, and the indestructibility, through the gift of the Spirit the four lights appeared from the divine Self-Begotten. He expected that they might attend him. And the three are Will, Thought, and Life. And the four powers are Understanding, Grace, Perception, and Prudence.

On the appropriate Sunday, the candles are lit and the following names are intoned as the candles are lit.

First Sunday

And grace belongs to the light-aeon Armozel, which is the first angel. And there are three other aeons with this aeon: Grace, Truth, and Form.

Second Sunday

And the second light is Oriel, who has been placed over the second aeon. And there are three other aeons with him: conception, perception, and memory.

Third Sunday

And the third light is Daveithai, who has been placed over the third aeon. And there are three other aeons with him: understanding, love, and idea.

Fourth Sunday

And the fourth aeon was placed over the fourth light Eleleth. And there are three other aeons with him: Perfection, Peace, and Wisdom.

After each reading, the Leader concludes with the following from the Apocryphon of John.

Leader

These are the lights which attend the divine Self-Begotten, and these are the twelve aeons which attend the son of the mighty one, the Self-Begotten, the Christ, through the will and the gift of the invisible Spirit. And the twelve aeons belong to the son of the Self-Begotten. And all things were established by the will of the Holy Spirit through the Self-Begotten Christ.”

Phos Hilaron (said together)

O gracious Light, pure brightness of the ever-living Father in heaven, O Christ, holy and blessed! Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O Giver of life, and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Scripture Reading

After the reading

Reader: The Word of the Lord

All: Thanks be to God

The Peace

Leader: The peace of the Lord be with you

All: And also with you

All may exchange the peace

Leader: The Lord be with you

All: And also with you

Leader:  Let us pray

The Lord’s Prayer

Prayer of Witness

Leader

O Lord our God, let us never be removed from the Gnosis which is our innermost nature. Fill us with strength and with the grace which you have bestowed upon us to that we may carry the light to those in ignorance, to our brothers and sisters, daughters and sons. Therefore I believe and I bear witness. I go to Life and to light.

All                   Amen.

Final Blessing

Leader:          The Lord bless us and keep us.

All                   Amen.

Leader           The Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us.

All                      Amen.

Leader            The Lord lift up his countenance upon us and give us peace. ALL                     Amen.

Leader:           Let us bless the Lord.

People:            Thanks be to God.

Put out the candle or candles

Here are suggested readings for the weeks of Advent. Alternately, one could use the vesper readings from June Singer’s A Gnostic Book of Hours.

First Week

Sunday Matthew 25:1-13

Monday Isaiah 1:16-18

Tuesday Isaiah 60:1-3

Wednesday Psalm 43: 3-5

Thursday Isaiah 58:6-9

Friday 1 John 2:8-11

Saturday 1 John 3:1-2

 

Second Week

Sunday Isaiah 40:1-5

Monday Revelation 1:7-8

Tuesday Matthew 22:41-45

Wednesday Hosea 11:3-4

Thursday Psalm 130

Friday Micah 6:6-8

Saturday Jeremiah 14:8-9

 

Third Week

Sunday Isaiah 9:6-7

Monday Isaiah 7:10-14

Tuesday Isaiah 11:1-6

Wednesday Isaiah 40:10-11

Thursday Isaiah 52:7

Friday Jeremiah 33:14-16

Saturday Malachi 3:1-2

 

Fourth Week

Sunday John 3:16-21

Monday Luke 1:1-25

Tuesday Luke 1:26-38

Wednesday Luke 1:39-56

Thursday Luke 1:57-66

Friday Luke 1:67-80

Dec. 24 Matthew 1:18-25


Lenten Journey

For many of us who grew up in mainline Christian churches, perhaps the most familiar association with the Lenten season is the aspect of “giving up” something for the symbolic forty days leading from Ash Wednesday to the feast of Pascha, or Easter, as a symbolic spiritual discipline or asceticism. In and of itself there is nothing intrinsically wrong with giving up something for Lent, especially if it is something that is normally a hindrance to one’s usual spiritual practice but, from a pneumatic perspective, it misses the point entirely.

As Father Samuel Osborne+ of Ecclesia Gnostica noted in his Ash Wednesday homily, “Chocolate must be a particularly grave hindrance to spirituality if so many people try to give it up year after year.” Having observed this phenomenon myself for many years, I’m frequently in awe at all the things people are willing to give up for Lent under the impression that it will assist them in their journey closer to God all the while forgetting to pray, read scripture, and perform small acts of charity when possible. The journey we undertake during the Lenten season must be one of intentional imitatio Christi – an imitation of Christ.

During Lent, we seek to foster the Sacred Flame within us that was sparked during Adventide and fan it into a “holy and formless Fire shining flashingly through the depths of the Universe[1]” in time for Pentecost. In order to make that fire shine accordingly, we take Lent as an opportunity to arrange our interior life optimally in order to receive that Holy Spirit in much the same way as having appropriate kindling wood, coals, and protection from external elements is essential toward building a fire when in the wilderness.

Everything about Lent is a deserted wilderness, the wilderness in which John the Forerunner recalls the words of Isaiah, “I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD[2]”; and which Jesus went into for forty days before beginning his public, earthly ministry. In a similar fashion, we must journey into the spiritual wilderness and rely entirely on the Christ within, the Sacred Flame, to preserve us from the hostilities of our more base concerns and darker cognitions that assail us on a regular basis in the forms of addictions, negative self-talk, depression, mental distractions, and everything else that prevent us from being in constant, conscious communion with God.

More esoterically, we can view Lent as a kind of philosophical month – much like that discussed in alchemical treatises – the period of time it takes to refine raw matter into its fullest potentiality. Appropriately, we begin with Ash Wednesday as calcinatio; the First Sunday of Lent as dissolutio; the Second Sunday as separatio, during which we recognize the Christ without and the Christ within and our perpetual yearning toward God; the Third Sunday as conjunctio, when we understand the inseparability between our perceptions of separateness from God; the Fourth Sunday as fermentationem; Palm Sunday as distillatio, during which our experience comes to “a head”; and, finally, Pascha as coagulation – complete identification with the Christ.

Regardless of how one would like to interpret the Lenten journey, the primary importance is that some change – no matter how small – take place and help us grow in our experience (γνῶσις) of the Sacred Flame. Although Lent is the liturgical recognition of this process, it is something that can be taken up at any point of the year or at any point in one’s life. The process of transformation is as unique to each person as their relationship is to Christ and there is no litmus test of success or failure. As the Lenten season continues, it is my simple prayer that we all change and grow in our connection to the Sacred Flame.


[1] Psell., 14; Pletho, 25. Z

[2] John 1:23


On the Feast of Saint Valentinus

While many Christians take the fourteenth of February to celebrate the Feast of Saint Valentine – or one of the saint Valentines – many contemporary Gnostics have taken this day to memorialize the great Gnostic teacher and bishop Valentinus who the best known as the most successful early Christian gnostic theologian.

Recognized as a brilliant theologian even by his contemporaries who would later repudiate his teachings as unorthodox, Valentinus attracted a large following in Rome which would later become divided into an Eastern and a Western or Italian branch.

In honor of this great teacher, here are a selection of writings from the school of this great teacher, theologian and bearer of the Sacred Flame.

“Many of the things written in publicly available books are found in the writings of God’s church. For this shared matter is the utterances that come from the heart, the law that is written in the heart. This is the people of the beloved , which is beloved and which loves him. “ – Fragment 6.

“For each one loves truth because truth is the mouth of the Father. His tongue is the Holy Spirit, who joins him to truth attaching him to the mouth of the Father by his tongue at the time he shall receive the Holy Spirit.” – The Gospel of Truth

“For this reason, God came and destroyed the division and he brought the hot Pleroma of love, so that the cold may not return, but the unity of the Perfect Thought prevail” – The Gospel of Truth

“Moreover, the first baptism is the forgiveness of sins. We are brought from those of the right, that is, into the imperishability which is the Jordan. But that place is of the world. So we have been sent out of the world into the Aeon. For the interpretation of John is the Aeon, while the interpretation of that which is the upward progression, that is, our Exodus from the world into the Aeon.” – On the Baptism A.

“It is from water and fire that the soul and the spirit came into being. It is from water and fire and light that the son of the bridal chamber came into being. The fire is the chrism, the light is the fire. I am not referring to that fire which has no form, but to the other fire whose form is white, which is bright and beautiful, and which gives beauty.” – The Gospel of Philip

Wherefore on this day, may we be reminded of the great and holy Valentinus and as successors and heirs give him due honor and praise.

O glorious teacher and protector, Holy Valentinus,
we who are but babes rushing forth from the womb
ask thee to hear our requests,
attend to our prayers,
make clear the path of righteousness,
reveal by your intercession the Truth we seek,
and obtain for us the blessing of the Unknown Father,
that we may be found worthy to join you in the Limitless Light,
: through the merits of the Christos and of our Holy Mother Sophia. Amen.

-unattributed prayer


Advice on the Mystical Life

In his essay, Hunger in the Pews, Father Benedict Auer O.S.B. observes how many people in our post-modern religious milieu continue to “file into churches throughout this country hungering for the Word of God or even an inspirational word or two… in the face of almost endless disappointment hoping beyond hope that they may get something to take back home with them to help them through their week.” Despite America being unique among the industrialized world in the emphasized role of religion in daily life, most Americans tend to be representative of  a phenomena of people who, in Auer’s words, “a whole generation of Catholic illiterates.” Sadly, this is not only true of American Catholics – it can equally apply across the board of many major and minor Christian denominations – it is also true of those who, having left their pews, have turned to the mystical path hoping to find some kind of recourse (or counter-point) to the spirituality of their youth.

Since the New Age phenomenon of the 1960’s, many millions of people have turned to mysticism as the answer to their problems with exoteric religious teachings, paying thousands of dollars sometimes for seminars on meditation, creative visualization, empowered prayer, etc. The majority of these people, unfortunately, become quickly when they realize that the mystical life is not a “feel good” pursuit as many gurus or authors (misre-) present it but is, as many have accurately noted, a path beset with many external and internal dangers and trials. The high failure, or drop-out, rate for those who pursue the mystical life comes primarily from the lack of qualified instructors or peers in one’s spiritual community as well as the unfortunate severing of the mystical in post-Enlightenment era academic and philosophical inquiry. Among those who are fortunate enough to find sound resources (mostly in the form of literature, though sometimes mentors) toward understanding the mystical experience, this often solitary path can still lead the student astray if they are unable to find an appropriate peer or group to act as a sounding board resulting in the accumulations of various aggrandizements, delusions, or misperceptions.

Amongst those in esoteric religious groups, the above dangers can be especially potent. Anyone with some experience or involvement in contemporary, alternative religious movements likely have some experience or another with individuals (or themselves) undergoing some kind of spiritual crisis. In her essay, Magusitis: A Hydra in Sheep’s Clothing, Nadine Drisseq examines the pitfalls of transcendence: “Some very common examples of archetypal intoxication are: the Wiccan who thinks he is the martyr of the goddess, or the Thelemite who thinks she is the reincarnation of Aleister Crowley. Whilst transcendental states are useful, enjoyable and provide experience of the Numinons, they too have their baggage.” She further breaks down the stages of “infection” amongst those whose mystical pursuit has gone awry:

“PRIMARY STAGE: The magician is immuno-magickally compromised since all the necessary and underlying basis for infection are present. This stage is a latency period where the magician exhibits behavior of talking big to make himself feel better, gloating at people who are magickally less experienced, and general feelings of personal insecurity. Instances of paranoia are common, and the magician feels isolated if these issues are not brought out and dealt with.

SECONDARY STAGE: The magician starts to believe that others are out to get her. She feuds with others, often curses people or groups of people (since cursing makes her feel more powerful and confident). She gloats when others have misfortune as it makes her feel more powerful compared to them (her perceived enemies). She takes the slightest comment the wrong way. She gets upset when she does not win an argument, and this can be combined with the childish mechanisms of sulking (which sometimes gets results through guilt tripping the person she is sulking at). Childish spats of anger and foot stomping are also not uncommon. These behaviors may not be quite so obvious but are translations of these childish idiosyncrasies.

TERTIARY STAGE: The magician really starts to lose it. Tertiary stage is rarely observed by the magickal culture at large because by this time the magician is so enraged / paranoid / sulky / paranoid that she withdraws from from public or community interaction. I have also heard of instances of the magician putting on a lot of weight along with this stage, although this may be a parallel and not a symptom.”

Replace “magician” with “seeker”, “student” or “practitioner”, and it can be illustrated that this problem can arise across most, if not all, spiritual boards. For those of us whose mystical experience comes through the lens of Christianity (in particular Christian Gnosticism), there are fortunately some avenues for those to “check themselves” as they progress along the inward, or mystical, path.

It is highly advisable that one attracted to Christian mysticism have at least some understanding of scriptural study and prayer practice. For Catholics, this is easily obtained through undergoing courses such as the Rite of Christian Initiation in Adults; for others joining a Bible study group may also be of some benefit as well. In addition to this, attending interfaith prayer meetings such as Taizé or even some Quaker meetings might be of some help as well – especially for those who are disaffected by conventional churchmanship. For many self-identified Gnostics, finding and attending a church may be somewhat difficult depending on what part of the country in which one lives; here, participating in online social networking sites such as Facebook may be their only connection to other Gnostics, in particular Gnostic clergy. Finding members of churches such as Ecclesia Gnostica, the Apostolic Johannite Church, Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum or the Alexandrian Gnostic Church should be fairly easy and participation on interest pages can yield some great results where one can meet new people and peers.

If possible, the potential mystic should also engage in a thorough study of classical literature on mysticism. Anthologies such as the Philokalia, the Classics of Western Spirituality through Paulist Press, and the writings of Theresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, and Meister Eckhart should provide a valuable background. These should be read slowly and ideally with a friend who is either familiar with the material or can read along with you and with whom you can exchange notes and reflections. Auditing religious studies courses, in particular medieval religion or attending monastic retreats is another possibility that should not be overlooked. Throughout the entire process, keeping a journal is also highly advisable as a way of storing and reexamining one’s comprehension of what you are studying. Setting aside regular time for prayer, study and reflection by this point should become a part of daily experience.

After about six months to a year of regular study and practice, one should by this point attempt to find a peer or member of clergy with pastoral experience with whom they can discuss their experiences and discuss their growth either by phone or in person. It’s a common misconception that the mystical life must be a solitary experience. Most Gnostic and esoteric communities are largely led by members who lead secular lives in addition to their participation in religious life and do not offer (at this point) cloistered monastic groups. How this may or may not change in the future is yet to be seen. In absence of being able to find a spiritual guide, finding a good counselor who is open to discussing spirituality is an option that should not be overlooked.

The mystical life, while often a solitary experience, does not need to be a lonely experience. After nearly fifteen years in pursuit of mystical and contemplative life and falling into some of the above pitfalls along the way, I have been fortunate enough to have support along the way by people who have been able to provide me the advice I have given and wish to share it with those who have the discipline to follow through on this very rewarding approach to understanding the divine in its manifold splendor. Keeping balance is (no pun intended) the fulcrum of any healthy spirituality – keeping things in perspective, keeping a fit body and mind, and being constantly devoted to the practice will yield many years of fulfillment. Enlightenment, however, is up to you.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 714 other followers