Monthly Archives: March 2013

Why Gnosticism Can Really Grow On Google+

Since the advent of Google+ it’s no secret that I’ve been pretty excited about it. At first it was simply because it wasn’t Facebook. I’ve since mellowed a bit on my dislike of Facebook, but I still know that Google+ is very valuable to the future of our religion.

First of all, do a search for “Gnostic” on Google+. You’ll see that it’s mostly me,+Thomas Langley, +Miguel Conner, and a few other folks from the AJC as well. You know who you don’t see? Anybody from the Gnostic Movement, or Sylvia Browne, or any of the various groups and individuals who use the term but have no connection whatever to the actual historical philosophical, religious, and cultural movement from the Middle East around the time of Jesus.

This is going to be essential to the growth of Gnosticism over the next several years. As people search Google looking for information about Gnosticism and groups practicing the same, we, and the people who are most philosophically related to us, are going to be the ones that they find. Google+ is Google, and we know that Google is placing more value on the social activity that people take on Google+ when serving up search results. I can’t begin to tell you how excited this makes me.

I know that some of us have differences in style, and some people feel quite strongly that one style is right while others are “evil.” I honestly and truly have no stake in any of that. I genuinely welcome any and all sincere dialogue with anybody from the Gnostic world. Let’s make Google+ a place of learning and community, just like the good old days of the Palm Tree Garden. We have an opportunity here unlike any we’ve seen for a decade. Let’s not waste it.

If I can help any of you increase your presence on Google+, please ask me. I am eager to help.

A Gnostic View of Soul and Spirit

I’m going to do some pointing at the moon for this post, so take it for what it’s worth.

There is, in my opinion, a distinction between the soul and spirit, when talking about the individual on the microcosmic scale. I don’t believe this is how most people treat the subject, however. Most people I encounter would, I suspect, use the two words to refer to the same thing: that part of us which is eternal. For me, this is only accurate when describing the Spirit, and I’ll tell you why.

St. Paul, one of the most Gnostic of the Biblical authors, refers to the three parts of a person in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 where he says: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This mirrors the tripartite division of humanity as the Valentinians would have seen it: the hylic (people of matter), psychic (people of soul), and pneumatic (people of spirit). St. Valentinus’ teachings ultimately stemmed from those of St. Paul, so this stands to reason. While, on the one hand, St. Valentinus is referring to the people (the macrocosm), and on the other St. Paul talks about the individual (the microcosm), the concepts are two sides of the same coin. Humanity and the human have three parts. [1]

What we call the Spirit, or Sacred Flame, is that Spark of the Divine that unites all people with the transcendent Godhead. It is the awareness of the true reality of this Spark that we call Gnosis, or at least an aspect of it. The Spirit is eternal, unchanging, and, in typical everyday consciousness, occluded by the other parts of us. The work of the Gnostic is to clear the debris of a life lived in the physical world so that the light of the Sacred Flame can shine through and illuminate the world.

What, then, is the soul, if not all that? I believe the soul is the animating principle, that which gives us Earthly life. It is our thoughts and emotions. For almost all of us, the soul is a collection of patterned responses developed as we grow up. Through instinct and conditioning from the moment we are born to the world we create a persona that allows us to interact with the material world and the people and things in it. If you believe in the archons in some form, you could say that they (or the forces they represent) have created the world in such a way as to encourage the individual to build psychic (in terms of psyche) structures that block the awareness of the Spirit. I like to use the metaphor of a mirror. It’s made of glass, but there is a coating of reflective metal, often silver or aluminium, on one side. The mirror is the soul, but behind it sits the Sacred Flame.

The mirror reflects the world back to itself. It is very good at doing so. However, through spiritual practice designed to develop awareness, we can erode the silver coating on the mirror, little by little, until the Sacred Flame shines through. When our soul is as transparent as glass, that is the state to which we aspire. We call that Theosis. Gnosis is the awareness that there is a Sacred Flame burning behind the mirror, Theosis is the light shining through a transparent soul.

[1] It should be pointed out that I know of no modern Gnostic groups who believe in the kind of radical determinism that the Valentinian texts imply. The three divisions of humanity are seen as states of being, and are fluid. Individuals can move between these states through spiritual work and awareness, or lack thereof.

Photo credit: Holy Spirit dove window by hickory hardscrabble

Lucid Dreaming and Awakening – Part 1

Do you have lucid dreams? Tell us about it in the comments!You’ve probably heard of lucid dreaming, but if you haven’t, it’s the act of consciously affecting your dreams. in other words, you’re aware that you are dreaming, and you can affect the dream environment. Some people treat this as nothing more than a novelty, but a lot of people who do this do so with the intent of spiritual advancement.

I’ve not had any real success with it myself, but I’ve read, in a number of diverse places, about a technique that is supposedly very effective. It involves building up a habit while you’re awake that you can trigger when in a dream. The most common method I’ve seen is what I call the “door check-in.”

To do the door check-in, you must become aware of yourself every time you walk through a door. When you walk through the door you touch the door jam and ask yourself “Am I dreaming?” Ignoring, for the moment, the Gnostic implications of that question, which can have profound contemplative value in themselves. When you ask the question, take a thorough inventory of the sensations you are experiencing and the thoughts you are having. Are you hot, cold, just right? How does the weight of your clothing feel against your body? What were you thinking about just now? Force yourself to become fully aware and conscious in that moment, and do that every time you walk through a door.

Eventually (so I’m told) you will come to a point in your dream when you walk through a door. You will, because of the habits developed, become aware of yourself, and when you ask yourself if you are dreaming, you will find the answer to be yes. At that point you will be able to take control of your dream.

What you do with that will be the subject of a future post. Let me know if you have any success with this.

Photo credit: Dream Wallpaper by ~ZokiDizajn

 

The Cause and Effects of My Procrastination

I just read a fantastic piece by David Cain entitled “Procrastination Is Not Laziness” on Though Catalog (via Wil Wheaton at http://goo.gl/XVDvh). He describes procrastination in a way that I’ve been thinking about it for some time now. I struggle with procrastination in a pretty significant way. In fact, I more-or-less lost my last job because of it. A year ago this month I started my email marketing business, and to date I only have a handful of clients, most of whom I don’t charge. What am I doing to prevent my success? More importantly, when I am successful, what am I doing to trick myself into finishing things?

At the time of this writing, I have 331 items on my to-do list. To be fair, this list contains everything from “pay X bill” to “build a Gnostic retreat center” so they aren’t all urgent and important. Many of them are longer term. However, the list doesn’t ever get any smaller. I’m constantly thinking of new ideas, tasks, and future projects, and I never seem to get around to crossing many of them off.

As Mr. Cain says in the article, procrastination stems from the belief that failure at a task, in the mind of the chronic procrastinator, equals failure as a person. As a result, it is less emotionally draining to put something off until the last minute than to do it right away and risk failure.

I would actually take this one step further, at least for me. I’ve recognized in myself that if I can put myself in a position to fail on my own terms, usually by not trying, that is far preferable to trying really hard and potentially failing anyway. This way I can say “well I never really put any effort into that in the first place, it wasn’t very important to me, of course I failed. No problem.”

There are a few recent glaring examples of my successes recently, and those would seem to negate everything I’m saying here, but there’s a reason why I was able to finish my book, and make progress on a few other large projects for the church in the last year. I was on Skype with Bishop Tim Mansfield the other day, he is the Johannite bishop who covers all of Australia and New Zealand, and he was complimenting me on all the stuff I’ve accomplished in the last year. My answer to him was that since I’ve been “under-employed” I had more time to work on church stuff. He replied that most people in my situation would sit around and play video games in my situation. I actually felt a bit of panic at that thought. I am never not busy, at least I think that I’m not, but the truth is probably that I fill up my time with stupid small things because those are easier to deal with if they fail. Don’t get me wrong, I play my share of video games on occasion. I don’t think that people should be without some leisure time.

The reason why I was able to finish my book was because I put myself in a situation where people were counting on my to finish. I made a public deadline (which I still missed) and I even asked people to donate to help me finish it. I had people who paid me money for a book by a certain date. That was what motivated me to finish it. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t done that, the book would be yet another one of my unfinished to-do items.

I have to learn to either A) use that trick more often or B) figure out a way to not have to use it and be proactive about the things I want to accomplish. I’ve been using “The Secret Weapon” as a productivity tool for this past year (http://www.thesecretweapon.org). I can credit that for a definite boost in my creativity. Since using it I have generated a ton of fantastic ideas for projects. I haven’t finished a single one of them since I started using it, so the solution isn’t in the tool I use, it’s in the way I think, and that is far harder to change. It’s a process, and I think I’m getting better.

Do you have procrastination troubles? More importantly, have you overcome procrastination troubles?

Photo credit: lazy cat by taomancer on Flickr (http://goo.gl/F63AV)