“Wayfinding”, by Jordan Stratford

November 8, 2009 at 4:17 am (Prodigal Valentine) (, , , )

I’ve often said the Johannite rituals and traditions aren’t my cuppa, but their blogging clergy certainly do have the undiluted Ineffable coming out of their fingertips.

Wayfinding:

Understanding Gnosticism as a literary genre does resolve a number of what appear at first glance to be contrasts: the absolute monism of Hermeticism vs. the qualified monism of Plato. The “lodge” wisdom literature of Greece vs. the “temple” wisdom literature of Judaism. This genre is at once as elastic and exclusive as Beat poetry: something either belongs or it does not, but within that restriction is a broad textual continuum. I sincerely hope that the discussion and exploration of Gnosticism as a phenomenon, both within academia and for the individual seeker, moves in this direction. Source

Read the whole post. It’s a barn-burner. And one even this nontheist can nod along to, and say, Amen, Amen, and Amen.

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Thought for the Day

September 8, 2009 at 1:54 pm (Prodigal Valentine) ()

Dogen: “To study Buddhism is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things. To be enlightened by all things is to be free from attachment to the body and mind of one’s self and of others. It means wiping out even attachment to enlightenment. Wiping out attachment to enlightenment, we must enter actual society.

Out we go.

Yep, that’s just what I needed to hear, at just the right time. Thanks, George.

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The prodigal Valentine tries again.

September 5, 2009 at 6:36 pm ("Like it says on the tin.", Media Divinia, my funny valentine, Prodigal Valentine) ()

Technological issues notwithstanding (I do not have the proper hardware to adequately run the world-simulator), I have found myself of late, attending the Second Life Meeting for Worship. It is by no means an adequate substitute for a face to face “real live” Quaker Meeting, as even the non-theist Friends agree.

Given the vagaries of geography and politics and religion, combined with how all three of those factors interact, it’s the closest I can come right now. It may provide only a dim light, casting shadows on a richer reality elsewhere, but it has given me at least a sense of what meeting face-to-face, just might be like.

Much harder work, for one thing. Sitting in meditative praxis in front of what is essentially a blank IRC chat window, is worlds and away easier than “sitting” via avatar, in a rich visual setting, with other representations of real people moving around in the environment around you. I never did have any success with the “blank your mind” meditative techniques, but I can see where being in an unfamiliar visual environment, can reinforce and even strengthen that type of praxis.

I am still using the gnostic guided meditation technique, however, although I have hit on the trick of focusing the meditations through the lends of the “centering thought” that is provided at the start of each Meeting. In today’s case, it was hospitality, along the lines of the quote (that I paraphrase badly) “go cheerfully throughout the world, seeing that of go[o]d in everyone you meet”, with several insightful queries appended.

Using the Thomasine meditations, I was struck again by how the allegories themselves, while they never change, consistently provide a shifting lens upon whatever topic I bring them to bear. Including this one. The first meditation, in all of the rosaries (indeed even the standard Roman Catholic, Buddhist and Anglican ones), are set to achieve what the Quakers refer to as “centering down”, and this I have found useful.

The second meditation, the woman with the jar of flour, was very much in line with the quote above, and I ruminated on that for some moments. Especially given that is one of my weak spots, and I more often leak darkness from the broken handle of the jar, than any kind of light. This journey is not about self-recrimination for me, however, it is merely about resolving to be more aware of my faults, before I actually engage in them.

The third meditation, the lost sheep, became more the idea of ‘bull in a china shop’ and how to meet those with whom we may not necessarily agree, or share the worldviews of. There was even some ministry regarding this, which was a pleasant coincidence.

During the fourth meditation, I became more aware of the idea that reality is entirely how I see it, and to change my reality, I need to change my perspective. The initial reaction by some to this might be “Do DRUGS!” but I’m taking a much less invasive (although no less neurochemical) approach to it, personally. I feel attuned to nature, ex., I could (and have done) sit and watch the spiders on my back porch busily spin their individual webs, and live their individual lives. Same with the blue jay that visits every year, or the ants busily making hills in the flower bed, or the moths that flicker around the lights at dusk.

My interactions with other people on the other hand, are not quite so fascinating. This is where I need to pull myself up, and it’s a key that I am only just realizing as I type it, it was not something that came up in MfW. In order for me to more easily interact with others, I have to see others (I may have to will myself to see it, but I certainly want to try) as unique, intricate, individual members of the animal kingdom, that every bug, spider, bird, and plant, that currently catches my attention is as well. Instead of automatically assuming the negative, I need to step back, and observe others as themselves. Good, bad, indifferent, I should find it all fascinating. Gaining insight into others might give me insight into myself.

It’s my crackpot theory, anyway, we’ll see how the testing phase of it goes.

The fifth meditation was very much about how little things often mean more (for good or for ill) to others, than do big, showy productions or trying too hard. I have always made at least a minimal effort to try and do little things for people, sometimes. This was also the point at which the allegory of the multiplied fishes and loaves (shared by both the christological figure and by Horus), kept popping up. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at all, not even after I read the Johannine verses on it from the RSV.

I think the point was, at the end of the allegory, they sought the christological figure again, to punish him for being generous. In standard Christian fare, this is the source of the typical persecution complex. In allegorical terms, if you read the text from the beginning of the chapter, it indicates that the central character in the story planned the “miracle” all along. So it’s very much a satirical, cautionary tale; that if you go overboard, and do too much, out of a place of working great signs and wonders, you’ll definitely get taken down a peg for it!

Those are my initial thoughts about it. I do need to do some more research, however, and look into the original legend of Horus that the christological allegory was drawn from.

The sixth meditation was very much focused on seeing that of good in others, maybe beginning to see that of good in myself. Finally, the seventh meditation was, as it is in all of them, the concluding, ‘come back to reality’ type of wind-down that is its purpose. Come back to a more grounded, less anxiety-ridden reality, that is.

A lot of rambling thoughts, to try and describe 45min I still haven’t completely sorted through myself. But that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

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NTF George Amoss on Worship, Nontheism and Convergence

August 23, 2009 at 4:15 pm (Prodigal Valentine)

Still, I understand your reaction: you are, after all, a believer in a personal God, and my approach may feel like an insult to the belief system in which you are deeply and very personally invested. I do not intend to offend, only to offer the results of a lifetime of reflection, study, and religious practice, so I can only ask believers to meet me halfway — to try not to take offense, for their own sake and for the sake of the love to which we are all committed — if they wish to meet me at all.

The above is quoted from the comments section on George’s post Worship, Nontheism and Convergence. I have read a lot of his earlier articles, at the QUF, and Quaker Quest. I look forward to following this prominent Non-Theist Friend’s blog. But do check out the give-and-take in the comments section on the post I’ve linked to. Is there hope for amicable discussion between theists and non-theists yet? Based on this, at least, there still may be.

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chaos and praxis

August 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm (Prodigal Valentine) ()

I’m finding it hard to get back into regular praxis again. A side-effect of my recent banning from QQ? I went through a similar period, after being banned from the PTG. I have been trying, though, and have been using the Thomasine meditations to do so.

I find myself drawn to the allegory of the mustard seed/tree, and I keep getting the message that it’s small actions that have large consequences; the “butterfly flaps its wings in Mexico and a hurricane hits the US” mentality.

Rationally, such an approach applied to the human condition, at least in my case is unproductive. I spent entirely too much time in my younger years obssessing over small things, and ruminating on how my small actions, had the opposite or unintended consequences. To fall into that form of self-reflection once again, will take me to a very dark and self-loathsome place, that I fail to see the benefits of existing in.

Tipping that on its head, it very much implies that Self is not the centre of the universe, however, a sentiment that grows stronger within me daily. I am far from the butterfly who causes catastrophe, although I have been in the past. Now I tend to take an apathetic approach, and try not to do anything, however. Not the wisest approach either.

The allegory of the woman with the jar of flour can be meditated upon as either positive, or negative; either you see the flour pouring out of the jar as emblematic of the idea represented by the Jewish ruach hakodesh (I just know I got that spelling wrong, I apologize to any who might be offended), or the elemental force referred to in the Hebrew Bible (rightly or wrongly) as “the holy spirit”. That elemental, ineffable force, that connects everything. Even if it is only an illusion. Or, you see the woman’s carelessness as leading to the further spread of evil in the world.

Perhaps the lesson is that this IS the illusion; that we are somehow all connected, in the manner of chaos theory, when in reality we are isolated instances of slightly-similar consciousnesses, with enough differences to make our experiences with ourselves and each other, indelibly unique.

The meditation of the “100th sheep” I have never found particularly applicable nor relative to my own understanding, but I had the insight yesterday that it might possibly be that the 100th sheep was loved, not because it was the one that was lost, and then returned to the fold (the traditional literalist Christian interpretation of the mythology), but rather the fact of the search that was necessitated.

If, as the meditation on “you will not find me in the sea or the sky” informs, the ideology of “christos” or the inward light is within us, at the core of our selves, then it is the continual striving and reaching after the brass ring, that is being exhorted by this parable, not a grasping and holding (that leads to stagnation and decay), but an ongoing process. This ties in with the Valentinian baptism of fire that I have been ruminating on.

The “little leaven, leavens the whole lump” meditation then expands on this, that if your search is imperfect or even sometimes unintentional, it can still have world-altering effects.

The sixth meditation, that we should concentrate not on dead mythologies or false idols, but rather within that living spark within us, is how to escape a neurotic obsession with the chaos theory approach to spirituality. This flows naturally into the final meditation, that the living spark of consciousness within all of us, is a mere reflection of the ocean of light of every living thing that is all around us. “Split a piece of wood, or lift a stone”, and the light is there.

I guess I got more out of it than I thought I did, because I kept getting distracted. Which is probably the moral of the story right there.

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And now for something completely different.

August 18, 2009 at 8:28 pm (Prodigal Valentine) ()

Eternal Earth-bound Pets USA

You’ve committed your life to Jesus. You know you’re saved. But when the Rapture comes what’s to become of your loving pets who are left behind? Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.

We are a group of dedicated animal lovers, and atheists. Each
Eternal Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you’ve received your reward. Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus.

We are currently active in 20 states and growing. Our representatives have been screened to ensure that they are atheists, animal lovers, are moral / ethical with no criminal background, have the ability and desire to rescue your pet and the means to retrieve them and ensure their care for your pet’s natural life.

Wonder if any of the Left Behinders have taken them up on the offer? LOL!

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Pissing off the religious is my part-time hobby.

August 15, 2009 at 5:13 pm ("Like it says on the tin.", my funny valentine, Personal Insight, Praxis, Prodigal Valentine)

I have long been attracted to the idea of becoming a Non-Theist Friend.

To that end, I have begun participating more in the online Quaker world, most notably on the QuakerQuaker site, which says it’s one thing, and has proven to be quite another, indeed.

The site is most decidedly for Christians only, and the Quakers there (the real ones) have tried their utmost to make the Christians realize their intolerance, narrow-mindedness and general bigotry, is well, maybe, not OK. (I mentioned they’re Quakers, right?)

Recently, a Pagan Quaker decided to post a section on QuakerQuaker for Liberal Quakers. Liberal Quakers include non-Christians and non-theists, or sometimes they do, apparently. Yeah I know, it’s a Quaker thing. So I decided to participate, and posted the following videos:

Comedian Dave Allen’s Introduction to Christianity. I mentioned in the description the Christian canonical scriptures of a little child leading them, and out of the mouths of babes.

Atheist Peace, by Bad Religion. Titled “My Kind of Peace Testimony!”, with a description that read, “Atheist Peace a music video that lines up nicely with the Quaker Peace Testimony.” Which it does, if you watch the video. So I decided to log in this afternoon, to see what kind of discussion had been sparked. This is what I found when I tried to access the site:

I wasn’t even logged in, so it looks like I’ve been banned by my IP address. Classic. (What are you going to do when I connect to the Internet through a different wireless connection, Martin?)

Also! An update from the NTF list, another non-Christian Quaker has disassociated himself from the site.

Silly Christians. The inner light is for everyone, and in everyone. If you can’t see that, or live that, or feel that, well, you’re not living up to the Quaker Faith and Practices very well, are you? Then again, you’re not really Quakers, you’re just trying to take over Quakerism, and make it into something it’s not.

There’s a reason your Christian ancestors tortured, jailed, and excommunicated the early Quakers. Trying to usurp Quakerism from within, and make it orthodox again, is not going to go over very well with the rest of the Quakers who aren’t Christians, who don’t believe in the inerrancy of Romanized/Anglicized Christian canon, who don’t believe we are saved by believing a man lived and died in Jerusalem a long time ago (“he” didn’t, it was an allegory).

I’ll confess, when the religious Gnostics kicked me to the curb, I went through a “fuck ’em all” phase, but I decided to keep pursuing the non-theism among Quakers angle. This minor little incident has inspired the opposite reaction in me, and it has only cemented my feeling that I should pursue association with non-theist Friends, and/or Liberal Quakers.

My praxis has been non-existent lately. This, more than anything else, is an indication I need to resume. With or without a MfW surrounding it.

Edit #2:  The Pagan Quaker I mentioned above, has disassociated from the website.

Edit #3: As with my dismissal from the holy presence of the religious Gnostics, I was given neither warning nor explanation for my banning, nor even a cursory email explaining why I was banned. What is it about Christians and their complete and utter lack of basic netiquette, I wonder? Oh, that’s right, they’re “above the law”, I keep forgetting that…..

Edit #4: Apparently there have not been any other bannings. and thanks to the cursory nature of my banning, I have no idea whether it was the videos that pushed Martin Kelley over the edge, or my response to the Dialogue with Non-Christians thread. I’m a non-Christian, why should I get banned for responding to the ghetto thread created for us on QuakerQuaker? Oh, that’s right, it’s because it was a thread for the Christians to preach us into the “correct” way of thinking.

Well, that’s my last word on the matter. Time to be moving on.

Final, final edit: Looks like both of the above non-Christian Quakers have removed their blog posts that I linked to. Probably because I linked to them. 😦 Ah well. Final word on the matter. Better things to do, other people to interact with, I guess. 😦

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I found a message in a bottle….

July 19, 2009 at 1:24 am (Prodigal Valentine) (, , )

Only Connect: Toward Being Present in Community

“In an Internet world, it has become easier to throw away people when they cause us pain, and to simply drop communities when they (inevitably) experience conflict. It has become easier and easier to stay home, stay safe, and only journey inwards to find what we want of the spirit world.

But I don’t think that’s what the gods want of us. I think the gods want us to keep it real, keep it present, get invested, get bumped and sometimes bruised among our fellows. And, in the process, to mature, both as individuals and as a people.

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.
Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
And human love will be seen at its height.
Live in fragments no longer.
Only connect…

–E.M. Forster, Howards End

Cat Chapin-Bishop blogs at Quaker Pagan Reflections.

….and the message was meant for me.

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Prodigal Valentine: Two Worlds, Two Minds, One Self

June 28, 2009 at 11:45 pm (Prodigal Valentine) (, )

A little bit of progress tonight, nothing particularly foundation-shaking. I have not had great success with getting into a focused mental space lately, even with the meditations that usually give me ready access. I did at least get a sense of why this has been so, however.

I have always known the external accusations against the gnostics (and the Gnostics), that of dualism and world-hating, were not in any way accurate. I have fallen into the trap of succumbing to such a false dichotomy however, and did not realize how fully it was entrenched, and may always be.

I come from a strongly dualistic and legalistic world-hating background, one that has instilled a mindset within me, from birth, that I will probably never be able to shake. I work around it instead, as best I can, with the limited resources I have to do so. For the most part, I am usually successful, but it is impossible to maintain such an effort thoughtlessly, and when I am tired, stressed, or ill, any such efforts are discarded in favour of fight-or-flight survival.

If there was any “message” for me tonight, it was that of balance and moderation, and acceptance of the physical, instead of rejection of it, in favour of living entirely inside my own mental sphere. This is the infinite chain of attainment that I am attached to, and that I desperately need to discard, although I haven’t quite figured out how to accomplish that. My psyche, for its part, is retreating even further into its own shell, as a result of that shell being threatened with elimination or removal.

The insight I had tonight was part of an ongoing realization, of re-framing things in a positive light. Not only mental events and dramas and other internal emotions and reactions, but physical things as well. Circumstances and physiology and relationships, etcetera. I have known that for quite some time, but it’s one thing to “know” it, and another thing entirely to put that into active practice. Maybe in that respect, the shell does not need to be discarded or eliminated, but reframed or utilized in a different manner.

Time to put up or shut up. That was my small insight for the evening.

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Quaker Pagan Reflections: Sea Glass (and video)

June 28, 2009 at 3:20 am (Prodigal Valentine) ()

And here is why I read the Quaker Pagan blogs.

“Talking to the wrong Jesus.” Here I am, a non-Christian, sometimes feeling like a poor, orphaned relative among the Christians of the world, apologizing, explaining, translating… And there’s Alan, one of the most sincere and serious Christians I know, equally dismissed, equally marginalized.

For talking to the “wrong Jesus.”

I could not decide, in that moment, whether those words were more funny or sad. But they’re both, really, aren’t they?

The wrong Jesus. The wrong Zeus, the wrong Demeter, the wrong Allah, the wrong theology, ontology, hermeneutics, philosophics, harmonics, recipe for sweet golden Hannukah latkes… Oh, dear sweet Ground of All Being, how we humans dearly love to draw our little lines around your limitlessness and fence you off and take You (and one another) hostage. There it was: the tragedy and the comedy of being human and trying to love God and one another, all sewed into one small sentence.

Sea Glass

Particularly apt words for me, having been dogpiled by literalist fundies on the ex-member boards lately, just because I don’t “talk to [the right] Jesus”.

But! According to YouTube, it’s a flamewar that has been going on for two centuries at least!

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