28 July, 2005

Tangoing with the Roman Pontiff

"Obedience characterizes Christianity. Obedience is what distinguishes Christianity, for example, from Gnosticism, a religious and philosophical doctrine stating that it is possible to obtain salvation through the sole avenue of knowledge. Today we have many Christianities that become a kind of Gnosticism, because they are satisfied with academic knowledge, and want nothing to do with obedience," the Cardinal pointed out.
-- Benedict XVI in a Zenit interview.

Your Greek is certainly better than mine, Your Holiness, and you surely must be aware that gnosis is used not to identify the factual, academic knowledge (of which you and I both appear to be quite enamored) which is the realm of textbooks and treatises, but rather an experiential kind of knowing arising from spiritual experience.

While Gnostics may want nothing to do with the obedience you praise as one of Christianity's vital characteristics, it has nothing to do with being satisfied by mere knowledge. It's the quest to know and understand that Gnostics embark upon, and slavish obedience to authoritarian rules and dogma is but a pothole in the road. It is better to walk around that pothole, or take another road entirely, than to fall in it.

In my experience as an orthodox priest, most people aren't satisfied by knowledge or obedience... they want to experience.

20 July, 2005

Soul and Spirit, a false dichotomy?

I've been thinking, lately, about the distinction many Gnostic texts draw between the soul and the spirit and between "psychic" and "pneumatic" persons. Some of our classical Gnostic sources appear to make a distinction between soul and spirit as if they were, in effect, entirely different organs (for lack of a better term).

I'm not sure I buy that, given my own experiences. I tend to look at the soul from something of an alchemical perspective; like the quest to transform lead into gold, the Gnostic seeks to transform the soul into spirit. It's rather like mining ore. You can sell the impure ore that you've mined, or you can expose that impure ore to heat and force it to shed the dross parts so that it becomes something both more malleable and more valuable than it was in its original form.

The soul is the ore and Gnosticism is the fire, if you will. Pick an allegory, see what works, eh?

30 June, 2005

Photos - Unrelated to Gnosticism or anything religious

Jordan+ and +Shaun seem to think there's more to me than a beard and a clerical collar... fortunately, they're quite right.

Firstly, the uncropped version of the image you've seen:

Taken just after my ordination by a friend who accompanied me on the trip. He thought it would be amusing to have a photo of me looking particularly cantankerous in clerical attire just after I'd awoken from a lie-in. Obviously, I've kept the photo. It's the only one I've got of me in clerical attire to boot.

Taken not too long ago. All I ever seem to acquire are headshots. Maybe it's talking head syndrome.

Wanted: Sane Ecclesiastical Gnostic Jurisdiction

I left the Independent Catholic Union (an autocephalous orthodox jurisdiction) over a year ago as of the first of June; I've tried to take this year to examine my beliefs and the way I approach the divine as well as my vocation as a priest.

I began by asking myself if my vocation was ever truly there or if I had just somehow been accidentally ordained without having a vocation to priestly ministry at all.

I can say, now, that I've never more strongly felt that vocation; I didn't know how I'd feel being out of active ministry, but after a year of not exercising regular sacramental ministry within a congregational context, I miss it. I don't just miss administering the sacraments, I miss working with people, being there as a guide and mentor, and I miss being able to make a difference (even a minor one) in people's lives through my ministry.

I've continued to say Mass for and with friends, family, and others who've asked; I've continued to minister to people as best I'm able, but it's not quite the same.

I can't say I really enjoy being a vagante priest, as it were.

I've been evaluating some of the gnostic jurisdictions with decent web presences and it seems there are a few options.

  • The Universal Gnostic Church - They don't really have any particular theology or dogma and they work more along the lines of mentorship than proper ecclessiastical oversight and jurisdiction.

  • The Thomasine Church - I've had fairly long discussions with Deacon Randy Knapp from the Thomasine Church about beginning their formation program for reception as a priest. They seem rather tight-lipped about what they teach and how they teach it, and that quite honestly gives me a reason to pause. I've still got the application in my file cabinet, just mulling over whether or not it's a good idea to get involved at this point.

  • S. Hoeller's Ecclesia Gnostica - They've been around for quite some time and they've stable. From a theological perspective, I can find myself feeling at home with them. However, they pretty much require residential formation, which is impossible at the moment.

  • The Apostolic Johannite Church - I've only recently found out about the AJC through Jordan Stratford+'s blog. The formation program looks decent and, ironically enough, it's a lot like the one I designed for the ICU. The theology as expressed in their catechism seems fairly standard apostolic gnostic fare, and I don't mean that in an insulting manner. The formation program would quite likely be a help in shoring up the inadequacies in my own formation.

Bit to think about. But, at this point I feel ready to start getting back in to things. It will require further study and oppenness on my part, I think, but that's to be expected.

25 June, 2005

Gnostic Marketing

I know reading Gnostic texts with all the lacunae and somewhat anachronistic language can be difficult at times, but I think this advertisement for a book on "The Mystic Christ" really takes the cake.

Via Alt Religion.

13 June, 2005


I'm more than content to discuss theology and/or philosophy until the cows come home or to stick my nose into a commentary or a scholarly treatise on a theological or philosophical subject, and I'm happy to stay there.

Just don't ask me to engage in prayer or meditation any too often, because it's the experiential stuff that I've got problems doing; my personal 'prayer life,' if you will, moves like molasses (and that is to say it moves slowly if at all until you bang the bottle on the counter or introduce it to another form of external stimuli like hot water).

I found solace in hesychasm and in the Jesus Prayer for a while; I'd sit down with my copy of The Way of a Pilgrim or "Selections from the Philokalia on the Prayer of the Heart," I'd read and meditate for a while (generally on selections from the latter volume) and then I'd sit with my chotki and begin "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner..." but any more I have to wonder at the appropriateness of the prayer.

Am I in need of mercy because of sin or illumination because of ignorance?

I had my moment of gnosis, my peek behind the curtain. I've awoken... the trouble is resisting the urge to fall back to sleep by sliding back into familiar comforts and familiar paradigms.

12 June, 2005

First Post

I have a journal I use for friends and family where I discuss matters not terribly germane to spirituality, gnosis, or Christianity; I've decided it's time to create a place for posts related specifically to the aforementioned topics.