Gnosis! Gnosis! We cry out for thy gnosis, O Sige! Silent art thou, thou Void before all things, even before the aeons themselves. Thou Mother of Spirit, before whose creative Kosmos mere kaos is less than dust, we pray unto thee to receive thine supernal gnosis. Holy! Holy! Holy! Sige!
Gnosis! Gnosis! We pray thee thy gnosis, O Charis! Thou art compassionate, the Mother of Love, to whom we pray. In the inmost heart of thine aeon do we seek all miracles, in thy darkly resplendent treasure trove do we seek the true gold of Heaven. Rain down on thy children the healing which resides in the comfort of thy embracing wings, that gnosis which makes all things whole. Holy! Holy! Holy! Charis!
Gnosis! Gnosis! We ask thee thy gnosis, O Sophia! Thou tender Soul of the Fullness in whom was Life then death, and is Life once again, let us glimpse in thee the Redeemer in whose Sacred Heart we are made safe. For we know the thrust-and-stab of homelessness, the screaming desolation of matter apart from thee, even the shattered madness of psyche in which the Light shines not, and we trust in thy perfect sympathy that Incorruptibility descends to claim our incorruptibility by thy refulgent gnosis. Holy! Holy! Holy! Sophia!
1. True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true.
2. That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of the one thing.
3. And as all things were by contemplation of the One, so all things arose from this one thing by a single act of adaptation.
4. The father thereof is the sun, the mother the moon; the wind carried it in its womb; the earth is the nurse thereof.
5. It is the father of all works of wonder throughout the whole world.
6. The power thereof is perfect, if it be cast on to earth.
7. It will separate the element of earth from that of fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with great sagacity.
8. It doth ascend from earth to heaven; again it doth descend to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior. Thus thou wilt possess the glory of the brightness of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly far from thee.
9. This thing is the strongest of all powers, the force of all forces, for it overcometh every subtle thing and doth penetrate every solid substance.
10. Thus was this world created.
11. Hence there will be marvellous adaptations achieved, of which the manner is this.
12. For this reason I am called Hermes Trismegistus, because I hold three parts of the wisdom of the world.
13. That which I had to say about the operation of sol is completed.
In praise to God for giving me to understand the Arcanum of which I sought, I pray as Hermes did to the Divine Poimandres (Corpus Hermeticum 1:30-32)—
I have come, divinely inspired by the truth. Wherefore, I give praise to God the Father with my whole soul and strength:
Holy is God the Father of all.
Holy is God whose will is accomplished by his own powers.
Holy is God who wills to be known and is known by those that are his own.
Holy art thou who by the Word has united all that is.
Holy art thou of whom all Nature became an image.
Holy art thou whom Nature has not created.
Holy art thou who is stronger than all power.
Holy art thou who art higher than all pre-eiminence.
Holy art thou who suprasses praises.
Receive pure offerings of speech offered to you by inner mind and heart, thou who art unutterable, vast, beyond description, who art spoken of by silence.
I beg you that I may not fall from the knowledge that leads towards our essence, and endow me with vitality; by this grace, I shall enlighten those of the race who are in ignorance, my brothers and your sons. Wherefore, I have faith and I bear witness. I go to life and light. You are blessed, Father. He who is your man wants to share in your holiness, as you have given him all authority.
Unfortunately, it is scorn for others that often marks religion’s public face in America, leading me to suspect that one of the most popular idols around today is still the Pharisee’s prayer as recorded in the Gospel of Luke—when he prays, it’s to thank God that he is not like other people, who don’t go to church, or if they do, don’t say the right prayers. Idolatry in this sense is the original equal-opportunity employer, and anyone can play: the Protestant fundamentalist looks down on the mainstream one as not “really” Christian, the conservative Catholic despises the “cafeteria” one, the self-proclaimed spiritual seeker sneers, “You go to church? I find God in nature.” (Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, 1999 Riverhead, pg. 92)
Biblically speaking, idolatry is a pretty strong word. It doesn’t refer merely to worshiping created things (though it does refer to that), but perhaps especially to worshiping human concepts. “Idea” and “idol” share a root. Neither one is evil, of itself. Graven images and concepts are never dangerous of themselves. Always, always it is the use to which humans put them that comes to either good or ill. The created gods (Apollo, Thoth, etc.) are no more demonic than the Archangel Gabriel; studying their ways, the myths and stories about them, and the ideals for which they stood is a powerful experience, and God can speak to us through the created gods as well as (and more easily than) he can do through our fellow humans who often lack faith and put up obstacles to God’s grace.
Our human concepts are more harmful still, as they themselves are the obstacles we place between ourselves and grace. These ideas include the comparisons of which Kathleen Norris speaks. Since becoming a Christian, I have heard many times from my friends and acquaintances something along the lines of, “Church is so dead. I can find the Divine Force in the woods and flowers.” Before I was a Christian, I often heard, “God is beyond trees and rocks, not in them. Those of us who worship in a church can look past mere pantheism.” They both hate it, but they’re both right.
The religious life is not about dictating to one another where God can and can not be found, least of all telling God where he may or may not go. Instead, it is about gradually coming to the realization that God can be found anywhere if we are willing to open up to his Presence. It is best, of course, if we all begin where we most easily sense God’s Presence by temperament. For some people, it is the church in which they grew up, or at least a church or temple of the same religion or denomination. For my girlfriend (a Pagan) and I, we share a sense of the divine at our local botanical conservatory (Phipps Conservatory), the deep woods, fire spinning events, art and natural history museums, and Easter Vigil at her grandmother’s Byzantine Catholic parish. We are not limited to those places and times, but each have our own as well. We share meditation, but I also find God in the Bible, while she finds him instead in the act of creating art. Am I wrong for not finding God in drawing or painting? Perhaps I am, and maybe that will change as I try my hand more and more at those arts. Is she wrong for not finding God in the pages of the Bible? Certainly not, for reading the Bible is as much an art as writing poetry or drawing, and just like poetry and drawing it can require a lifetime from those not born with something of a knack.
Heaven and Earth are not coterminous, are not the same. They are also not separate. God’s dimension meshes with our own, combines with it, dances with it and unites with it in Love in an infinity of ways, many of which we cannot begin to guess or imagine. We must not blaspheme the Holy Spirit by trying to tame it, placing it in a box labeled “Christianity” or anything else, and claiming that God cannot minister with the Holy Spirit to those who have never heard the name of Christ or even those who have heard the Name and despise it. We will be forgiven our curses of the Son, our blasphemies against the Father, but if we live, think and speak in a way that says, “God cannot reach people of those religions,” we have set ourselves up for the fall of pride and have forgotten some of our most precious missions. The religious life is not about dictating to one another where God can and can not be found, but instead making of ourselves one of those place-time junctures wherein God dwells in our universe.
I keep being forcibly cheered-up. About two weeks ago, I was in a very bad mood as I was walking in to work. An elderly Hassidic man and wife were walking toward me on the sidewalk. I’m accustomed to the Hassidim of the area more or less ignoring gentiles like myself, at most exchanging brief nods to one another from across the cultural gap. On this occassion, though, it was not to be. The couple stopped in front of me and the gentleman looked in my eyes and pointed his curved finger at me imperiously while saying, “You have a good day. And that’s an order!” Then he and his wife gave me two of the most sincere smiles I’ve ever seen and kept on their way past me. I was not able to be grumpy for the rest of the day.
My fiancé and I were recently in a harsh conflict with one of her housemates who took it upon herself to be needlessly abusive. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that I was angrier than I have been in some years, and for several days in a row at that. On Friday night when everything was coming to a head and I was expecting a real conflict as my fiancé returned to the house to retrieve her more important belongings, I waited outside so as not to make things worse by my temper. I was vaguely aware at this point of a group of three Hassidic men walking up the street in the gloom. When they got close to me, they stopped, and out from behind the two younger men in front stepped a particular elderly man who pointed his curved finger at me and said, “And that’s an order!” He then chuckled and all three men continued on their way. I think the two younger men were quite taken aback by their elder’s mysterious gesture and words toward a strange gentile, but the old man and I shared a moment then which brought a smile to my lips, a laugh to my throat, and tears to my eyes.
On the Tree of Life, there are Holy Names, Archangels, and Angelic Choirs associated with each of the states of being known as the Holy Sephiroth. The sephirah at the bottom of the Tree, Malkuth (Kingdom), has associated to it the Angelic Choir called “Ishim” (AYShYM) which translates as “Fiery Souls”.
Who are the Ishim? Well, you are one of them. Or, at least, you can be. In Kabbalah, the Ishim are said to be the souls of humanity when we are inflamed with love for God and each other.
That Jewish gentleman improved my life, possibly forever. If I never see him again, I’ll always have the memory of his visits and I think that it’ll always make me smile. That’s what being a Fiery Soul is about. We all can be heavenly angels just by loving, and spreading the love. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to improve lives in any way you can. The argument of “grace versus works” is solved: God is most active when we let His grace flow into the world through our works.
I don’t claim to be an expert on all of the mysteries of faith; I’m just a sincere and devout seeker who does his best to listen to wisdom as God reveals it to me. I will try to share some of the insights which have come to me in hopes that I’m on the right track and they’re useful to somebody else.
Grace is truly a mystery. In the face of an unfathomably vast universe and an infinitely powerful God, it seems foolish that God should care about us collectively, let alone individually. As Brennan Manning pointed out in The Ragamuffin Gospel (2005, Multnomah Books), God’s love for me, you, and everybody else is very foolish. It makes no sense at all from a rational point of view, and were we to witness one of our friends behaving with us s much amorous fervour we would in all likelihood confront them about it and tell them that they were headed over the edge of a cliff. And yet, God continues to pursue us to the ends of the Earth.
Did Christ’s death on the cross really somehow pay for our sins? I have no idea. I can’t comprehend how that would even work, but the drama of the story, even if merely allegory, is striking. It horrifies many, and scares the living hell out of any Christian reflective enough to contemplate it. So what’s the draw? Why have so many people through history been moved by the Passion? Once again, this is a mystery, a spiritual reality beyond analysis, beyond intellect, only valid within the realm of direct personal experience.
The greatest importance of the Passion, though, is the resurrection. I will not argue over how literally we are to take this particular event, but I will say that it has become of the utmost importance within my own spiritual life. The risen Christ signifies the very fact of grace, ever-present. The Greek word used in the New Testament for Christ’s “second coming” is “parousia”, which translates not as “coming” but more accurately as “presence,” identical in sense to the Hebrew “shekinah”.
Thus, God in Christ, that is Love, is ever-present and abiding. We can access it at any time just by accepting it as true.