Monthly Archives: March 2013

Seth Godin on the Connection Economy

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin. I’d like to think that I am embracing the connection economy in the work I’m trying to do with the Church and with GnosticNYC. Building connections is very important to what we do. I’m not always great at it, but I do try. This article is thought-provoking and worth a read.

The connection economy continues to gain traction because connections scale, information begets more information, and influence accrues to those who create this abundance. As connections scale, these connections paradoxically make it easier for others to connect as well, because anyone with talent or passion can leverage the networks created by connection to increase her impact. The connection economy doesn’t create jobs where we get picked and then get paid; the connection economy builds opportunities for us to connect, and then demands that we pick ourselves.

Just as the phone network becomes more valuable when more phones are connected (scarcity is the enemy of value in a network), the connection economy becomes more valuable as we scale it.

Friends bring us more friends. A reputation brings us a chance to build a better reputation. Access to information encourages us to seek ever more information. The connections in our life multiply and increase in value. Our stuff, on the other hand,  becomes less valuable over time.

[button url=”http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/03/toward-zero-unemployment-.html” size=”small”]Read the full post on Seth’s Blog[/button]

Photo credit: Connected World by Junior Melo

Masonic Meanderings

I do a silly personal ritual whenever I go into New York City. I travel there via the George Washington Bridge. As you probably know, George Washington was a prominent Freemason, a Master of his lodge, and had a Masonic funeral. As a Mason, I have a lot of respect for America’s first president, and I like to think about the grand Masonic experiment that the founders of America attempted.

Whenever I go over the bridge I give one of the super-secret Masonic signs. It’s pointless in one way, but it also serves to put me in a different frame of mind when I go to the city. At this point I only go in to the city for GnosticNYC or Saint Martin’s parish, so having a little ritual to remind myself that I’m there to do something spiritual, something to benefit the community, is a great way to train myself to think of New York as a place of spiritual growth. I bet there aren’t very many people who want to think of it that way.

I’m outlining a new book right now about the intersection of Gnosticism and Freemasonry. I see the subject right now on two fronts: the ideology of Gnosticism as it relates to Masonry, and the history of the two movements where they overlap. There are so many interesting people and groups who flow together in this stream, I think it would be a truly interesting book.

I know I’m not the first to try to tackle this subject, but I do think I have a unique point of view on it. Have you read any books that you think would be helpful to my research? I would be very excited to hear about them.

I Am Not Forming an Open Source Order of Martinists…

…but if I were, it would be a network of Free Initiators that would be searchable via a central web hub. This list could be searchable by location, lineage, reviews, and maybe some other criteria. Potential members can message initiators to see if they will take them on as new initiates. Initiators would be able to communicate privately amongst themselves to discuss relevant things. Initiations would still take place in-person. No distance or self-initiations would be allowed. There would be certain landmarks that all Initiators in the OSOM would agree to.

The teachings would be centralized and standardized, but changes can be made by consensus. As initiations happen, the new initiates can be granted password-protected access to the teaching materials relevant to that degree. The Initiator will be responsible for the progress of the initiate, and the initiate will have a chance to review the Initiator publicly, but the Initiators would be able to appeal bad reviews to the other Initiators, who could remove bad reviews if warranted.

It would be open source, in that no Initiators would be obligated to follow any particular rules other than the landmarks. All of the teachings can be modified and updated based on new information and work by initiates. Initiates can come and go as they please, and the relationships between Initiator and initiate are not tied to the OSOM. Initiates may choose to come together in formal lodges or orders and still take part in the OSOM system. Existing lodges and orders can also make use of the system.

I am not an I::: L::: and I have no intentions of making this happen. I don’t have the time or web development skills. If you do have either or both of those and the desire to see something like this exist in the world, I wish you good luck and please keep me apprised of your efforts.

Altar Boxes

I’m thinking about putting together a few “cigar box altars” that I could offer for sale. I’ve mocked up a version of what they might look like, which is the picture below. Here’s what I’m thinking they will include:

– A wooden box, either painted or natural finish, decorated with the AJC “Triple J” logo
– 4 Archangelic tea-light candle holders (smaller than the ones pictured so they fit in the box)
– 1 Sacred Flame votive candle holder
– A linen altar cloth
– A pamphlet with the text of the Logos Service
– A copy of my book “Sanctuary of the Sacred Flame”

I’ve done some research into the prices of the components, and it looks like I would have to sell them at about $35 a piece, plus $12 shipping (in the US). I could do $30 if you don’t want a copy of the book.

My question is, would anybody be interested in this? I’d like to get at least 5 or 6 people who are really interested in it, and would be willing to pay that much for one, before I start buying any of the materials.

Do you want one? Please let me know in the comments below or email me at anthony.silvia@johannite.org. Showing interest will not be construed as a commitment of any kind, but I’d like to get a sense if there is interest before I go any further.

Review of Aeon Arcanum

This morning I woke up to a post asking me to watch the Aeon Arcanum video podcast. This will be my review of their latest episode “On the book of Revelation”

The hosts are very knowledgeable, and they demonstrate that knowledge by covering a different topic every 5 minutes. The whole show is an hour and a half. They seem to use the book of Revelation as a jumping off point to talk about all sorts of  different historical movements and modern theories.

Comparing it to Talk Gnosis, which is what I have to go on… We made a conscious decision to keep that show short (15 minutes is the goal) and highly scripted. We decided on that format for the specific reason that people don’t usually want to sit at their computers watching a long video. I guess Aeon Arcanum started as a podcast, and the format can be, in my opinion, much longer.

I’d love to hear more from these guys, and I have the luxury of having a job where I’m at a computer most of the day and I can have a video going. I don’t think most people do. My suggestion to them would be to adjust the format if they intend to commit to video. But despite all that, the content is pretty good and worth a listen.

Something I pay attention to: they have fewer subscribers but more video views than GnosticNYC’s channel, so I believe they are doing a much better job of marketing than I am. I know I could be doing better in that department, and I have no excuse.

Other than it being in desperate need of an editor, the show was entertaining and informative.  I’m looking forward to watching more episodes, and I’ve subscribed to the channel. I believe that
+Miguel Conner could probably sue them for stealing his shtick, but they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The Mysteries of the One Thing

I’ve been thinking a lot about alchemy this past week, specifically laboratory alchemy. I enjoyed a brief stint as a student of an alchemy teacher from the southern hemisphere, but I wasn’t really prepared for the work involved, so I didn’t make very much progress.

I’ve been considering taking it up again. I’m not sure how I feel about the focus on planetary attributes, since some Gnostics generally don’t have good opinion of the planetary powers. I’m envisioning an alchemy that doesn’t include any references to planetary attributions. I would be interested in experimenting along those lines.

In a theology of emanations, the Divine is present in all of creation. If we take that as a given, the symbolism of separating and purifying the component parts of a thing, such as a plant, and recombining them, one could think of that as a symbol for the process of Theosis. I’m still working on it.

This isn’t something I’m planning to do any time soon, since I’m already in the middle of another esoteric project, but I can start collecting the equipment. Last time I did alchemy I spent entirely too much money, and ended up giving the equipment away for nothing. Ebay calls!

No Answer

I dropped my mobile phone the other day. It shattered most dramatically, and it was actually kinda pretty. I wish I had taken a picture of it, but the only camera I have is my phone. It’s since been replaced, so I can go back to my Ingress and Angry Birds and my productivity tools.

I think we have a mobile phone problem today. The always-available nature of information and entertainment that these smartphones represent are a constant distraction. If I happen to find myself with a free minute or two and I don’t have my phone, the unfilled minutes can seem like an eternity.

The technology by itself isn’t bad, and neither are the information nor the entertainment. As with all things in the world, it’s how you use it that matters. There are other issues with materialism and consumerism, but those are for another post. For now I want to suggest a discipline practice that might help.

Don’t give up your phone, but see if you can avoid using some of the advanced features for a few days. You can use it to make and receive calls as necessary, but try to avoid making any calls that aren’t absolutely necessary. Spend a few days without casually texting your friends. If you have a question that you don’t know the answer to, look it up later, when you are at home, instead of looking it up right away.

Think of it as a fast from media, at least some of it. People did it for thousands of years. When you get the urge to use your phone, why not instead say a short prayer? Try this one: “Holy art Thou, Most High God.”

What It Means to Give Up

Well, I finally missed a day blogging. I knew it would happen eventually, but it’s okay. I blogged in person instead at St. Sarah’s parish in Boston. By that I mean I blathered on incessantly to anyone who would listen. Fortunately, I think I was entertaining enough that people didn’t mind.

Fr. Donald gave a lovely homily last night. I don’t remember all of the specifics, but it boiled down to something like “don’t be a dick.” (TM +Wil Wheaton) Alright, it was actually much more complex than that, but I have a bad memory. It was the parish’s commemoration of the martyrdom of the Cathars at Montsegur. The Cathars made the ultimate sacrifice for their faith, they gave up their lives instead of denying what they knew in their hearts to be true. I pray that nobody should even have to pay that price again.

So the Cathars gave up everything, and it’s Lent, and the subject of “giving things up” is usually prominent at this time of year. The spring is actually full of festivals commemorating martyrs in the Johannite liturgical calendar. Jaques de Molay and Tau Harmonius are also right around now. These are people who were forced by the religious and secular authorities to give up their lives for their beliefs. What can we do to honor their memories?

In my book I talked about these commemorations and some possible ways to honor the martyrs through your own spiritual practice. My suggestion is to fast on the days when we commemorate martyrs. I would recommend the Roman Catholic style “no meat” fast. Fasting is not done for the sake of ego, because that would defeat the purpose of it entirely. Eliminating meat and eating only simple foods is plenty to keep you in the spirit of the thing. Anything more extreme, if you haven’t sufficiently prepared for it, could become spiritually and physically dangerous*.

The point of a fast is to remind you throughout the day that there is something special happening. The Undifferentiated Ground of All Being (sometimes also called God) doesn’t care if you fast or don’t. The only thing God wants from you is for you to return to the Fullness as a fully realized being. Doing the same thing we always do day in and day out is not going to get us there. We need reminders that we are Spirit experiencing the illusion of separation. Fasting triggers this reminder in us every time we are hungry. We fast, not for God, but for our own selves.

The upcoming martyrdom commemorations are:
– Montesegur Day: March 16
– Holy Jacques de Molay: March 18
– Martyrdom of Tau Harmonius: March 22

Will you commit, with me, to honor the memories of these brave people and fast on these days? Let us give up a little so that we too may have a share and inheritance with all those saints and adepti who have gone before. If you make your commitment publicly in the comments you are much more likely to remember.

Photo credit: Meat by Phillie Casablanca

*Fasting can be bad for you. Consult your doctor if you are considering some extreme fast.

The Virtual and the Actual

My boss in the Church, Mar Thomas, did a lecture this past summer at the Church’s annual Conclave. His topic was Gnosticism: Ancient and Modern. You can watch part one of his lecture, which was just posted today, on the Church’s YouTube channel. He talks about the definition of Gnosticism, a subject that could be debated for the rest of time.

One point I’d like to tease out a bit is the difference between the “spirit vs. matter dualism” and the “actual vs. virtual” that His Grace describes in the video. I really like this distinction. It implies, or, at least I inferred, that there can be an actual/virtual split in all aspects of the Divine emanation, from the undifferentiated Fullness down to ourselves. Subject and object.

There is, however, a distinction you can point to. At some point the actual and virtual are different. Like ice and water, you won’t confuse the two. Each has its characteristics. I’ve only just started thinking about this, so I will probably have a lot more to say on the subject.

Evangelizing, using Google+

Google+ got so much prettier today, don’t you think? You can see the difference if you look at my page (+Tony Silvia) or Saint Martin’s Parish page. It wouldn’t kill you to circle those either, you know.

In the spirit of hanging my light from a lamppost, I have started a Google+ Community called “Google+ for Religion“. I hope it will become a place for people of all religions to come and share tips with each other for how to best use Google+ (and the whole Google family of products) to increase their visibility on the web and social media. I hope you will join us too, especially if you have plans to form your own local community, esoteric order, crazy fringe religion, or what have you.

For being such wonderful people who are brave enough to follow my little “plusblog” experiment (now discontinued), you get my first tip before anybody else. One thing you can do right now to improve your visibility in Google search is to link your Google+ Page with your website. If you don’t have either of those, do that first. If you do, then you need to link your site to your page using the “rel=publisher” tag.

The bottom line is, if you link your site to your page, and your page to your site, Google knows that those are the official versions of your brand or organization. This moves you up in the search rankings when someone is searching for you. It could even, possibly, give your organization a special place on the search page with Google Direct Connect, with a picture, links, and a button to add your brand to a circle, all right from the search page. I think we all can see the value of Google giving us special treatment.

The photos below will give you a little more info on how to do this and what to look for, but if you have questions or need help, head on over to the Google+ for Religion Community and we’ll be happy to help!

P.S. It takes several days for the site to be verified, and you may not show up in the Google Direct Connect program at all, at least not soon. Google is rolling these things out slowly. Here is Google’s official help page about this subject.

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