Friday, December 11, 2009

The Yule Oddessy

Don’t read this if you are easily offended. I am about to offer a very pragmatic observation in regards to Neo paganism and the celebration of Yule. I’ve been walking the path of witchcraft for nearly 50 years. And about this time every year I begin to reflect on the hypocrisies of the Neo pagan movement when it comes to Yule. I don’t say this as a judgmental comment, but rather as a realistic observation. It is quite clear that Neo paganism is inundated with folks whose mindset is that of one of the Abrahamic religions in general and Christianity in particular. And that such folks through no fault of their own have been indoctrinated from birth with such views. This is not a bad thing if such folks were to continue to follow the beliefs that they were inundated with throughout their lives. The problem arises when such folks leave their former belief systems and decide to become pagans. Why would this create a problem you may ask? The problem as I see it is that such folks tend to try and align their new found pagan beliefs with that of their former belief system. And Yule is a glaring example of this paradox. This alignment is attempted even though paganism and the Abrahamic religions are diametrically opposed in beliefs. Far too much energy is expended by so many Neo pagans in an effort to validate themselves in the views of their friends and family members who often retain their beliefs in one of the Abrahamic belief systems. And when it comes to Yule this massive expenditure of energy comes to the forefront, laying bare the hypocrisies that so many, though not all, Neo Pagans engage in. Historical evidence makes it clear that the Christian Jesus was born (if at all) during the springtime. And that circa 313, it was decided to celebrate his birthday on Dec 25th in a blatant attempt to obliterate the birthday of the Babylonian God, Tammuz. In other areas and cultures he was known as Horus or Mithra. Each of these pagan deities was worshipped as a Sun God. And yet Neo pagans in many instances are content to ignore the outrageousness of superimposing an alleged God from their former Abrahamic upbringing over that of a god that has undisputed pagan connections. Earlier I mentioned that it is primarily former Christians who engage in this hypocrisy. The reason for that comment is that of the three primary religions that make up the Abrahamic religions, the Hebrew folks don’t believe that the Jesus has been born as yet and the Muslims do not celebrate Christmas. That leaves the Christians who by their own words have declared themselves as the only true religion in the world. So why in this world would someone who calls themselves a pagan want to celebrate a holiday that was created solely for the purpose of obliterating established pagan beliefs? Of course such folks will give such excuses as “it’s for the kids”. But is this really a valid reason? If one is actually going to be a pagan would you not want to teach your children the values and beliefs of paganism? And was it not the Yule celebration that originally established the concept of gift giving that the Christian holiday of Christmas has now claimed as its own? Others would say that it is to develop an acceptance of their pagan beliefs by their Christian family members and friends. And yet how realistic is this concept? Paganism was established thousands of years prior to the advent of Christianity and so why do those of pagan beliefs have to pander to such a new found belief system? And as already mentioned the Christians recognize no other belief systems as being equal to their own. So why expend so much energy on such a fruitless effort by celebrating Christmas in lieu of Yule? Yes, there will be many such folks who will claim that they celebrate both Yule and Christmas. But then again does celebrating two diametrically opposed holidays realistic? And let’s be honest with ourselves folks. As far as Yule goes, many of these same folks will gather with others who lay claim to being pagan for an hour or two, will recite a few words off of a piece of paper and then turn their real thoughts and energy to Christmas and all that it involves. Such as buying a tree, decorating, buying gifts, visiting folks and so forth. Little of this massive amount of energy directed towards Christmas is given in the same manner to the celebration of Yule. Is this hypocrisy really the way to validate the pagan community? Or does it simply continue to feed the insecurities and hypocrisy that such actions create and which are the trademark of Neo paganism as we know it today? No one is making the suggestion that one should be openly or even quietly hostile to the Christmas celebration. What I am saying is that if we are to ever validate paganism as an established belief system then we must stop seeking such validation from those who do not follow the pagan path. If such folks want to celebrate Christmas then so be it, it is their right to do so. By the same token, Neo pagans should assert their right to celebrate Yule as it was done for thousands of years before our celebration was hijacked. I realize that it is very difficult to separate ones mindset from a former immersion in a particular belief system and then to change from that mindset to one that is the completely opposite in views and understandings as they apply to the world around us. But then no one is forced to become a pagan. That is an individual choice made by the person who now proclaims them to be just that. If paganism is ever going to be seen as a valid belief system as it was prior to the advent of Christianity, then those folks who adhere to such an identity must first be true to themselves before they can be true to others. And Yule, with its established celebration of the joyous arrival of the Sun God might be a good place to start. There is a massive amount of energy expended each year by Neo pagans in connection with Christmas, perhaps we may want to re-direct such energy to a celebration that actually is connected to paganism and not so much to one that is opposed to pagan ideals. Let’s be honest, how many Neo pagans do you know that celebrates Yule within a void of silence and yet have no issue with going all out in favor of Christmas? And so one has to wonder, is such folks really desiring to follow a pagan belief and lifestyle or is it just a façade that is cool to claim to be involved with? As a lifelong witch I fully embrace my heritage and hope that others who walk under the banner of paganism do so as well. And to those folks I wish each of them a very spiritual Yule…

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Abraxas, God or Demon

When one mentions the word “Abrasax” there are oftentimes, conflicting views which arise. To some he was seen as a God, to others as a demon, and yet to others as an amalgamation of both. And so I have endeavored to present the more commonly accepted views of Abrasax. You may know of still more interpretations not noted within this article. But at any rate as a pagan, I personally believe that we should always be students of life. And as such we should always be prepared to open the next door awaiting before us.
Throughout the various beliefs associated with Abraxas, he was often described as having the head of a lion or in some cases a cock, which at times bore a royal crown, along with a dragon's tail, and serpents in lieu of legs. There are many interpretations attached to the word “Abrasax”. According to the “Basilidians”, he was the Supreme God, for the Greek letters that forms his name adds up to the number of 365 which according to their beliefs in turn corresponds to the number of days in a year. Each day of the year according to the Gnostics, represents a “circle of creation” which in turn has its own individual spirit assigned to it. Basilides was a Gnostic Christian teacher from the second century CE who taught in Alexandria Egypt. It is thought that when Carl Jung wrote his “Septem Sermones ad Mortuos (The Seven Sermons to the Dead), he was in effect, paraphrasing Basilides. His treatise is in effect a three stage development of God as understood through the eyes of humans. Very basically these three stages begin with god as a single entity who then transforms into a separation of god and devil, which then becomes a unified entity of both god and devil. The Basilidians also believe that it was Abrasax who sent Jesus Christ to do his bidding here on earth. The word Abraxas was the name used by the Gnostics to denote the unspeakable name of the Supreme Being. This is a practice found in other belief systems such as the Judaic practice of using the term “Yahweh” as a term for the unspeakable name for their god. It is established knowledge that the word Abraxas (Abrasax or Abracax) was often found engraved on certain gem stones, which were called Abraxas stones. These in turn were used as amulets or charms. Such stones contained the name “Abraxas” and/or other mystic figures and/or groups of letters. The initial spelling of the word as seen on the stones was "Abrasax" According to Gnostic cosmology, the seven letters spelling its name represent each of the seven planets, which within the Gnostic belief system are the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The word Abraxas is thought by some to be the origin of the word “abracadabra”, though this word also has other sources cited as being its origin. The name is also found in the Gnostic text, “Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians” which in turn contains the “Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit”. Throughout the centuries, Abraxas has been variously described as being be an Egyptian god, a demon, and/or to represent God and Satan in one entity and thus the dual nature of its essence.
The name Abraxas also is also found in the Greek Magical Papyri, which consists of the following sections.
Acquiring a Supernatural Assistant
Papyri graecae magicae I.54
Papyri graecae magicae III.1-59
Papyri graecae magicae IV.1-25
Papyri graecae magicae IV.1227-64
Papyri graecae magicae IV.1716-1870 ("The Sword of Dardanos")
Papyri graecae magicae VII.429-58
Ecloga Ex Papyris Magicis: Liber I
Ecloga Ex Papyris Magicis: Liber II
Ecloga Ex Papyris Magicis: Liber III
The Greek Magickal Papyri has to do in part with the summoning of demons and thus may be the root of the belief that Abraxas was a king of demons. Whether Abraxas was a god or a demon, I don’t know. But then I personally see demons as demigods whose comprehension and goals may not be on the same level of reality as perceived by humans. When the actions of such other worldly beings become at odds with that of humans, then humans tend to view such entities as evil or demons if you will. But then who commands validation in such situations? Humans who are but naïve babes in the grand scheme of things or those entities who came before us? Such a question can only be answered by each individual as pertains to their understanding or lack of such matters, beyond their immediate sense of awareness. It should be noted as part of this treatise on Abraxas, that in 1913 CE, Aleister Crowley wrote the “Gnostic Mass of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica” in which the name of Abraxas is invoked as part of this ritual. One of the interesting aspects of this OTO ritual is that it must be performed by both a HP and HPS of whom the latter is required to officiate while skyclad. You as the reader may draw your own inferences from this requirement. At any rate Abraxas is one of those entities who is shrouded in mystery as to origin and/or purpose. And as with such mysterious entities, there are certain attributes that may or may not be applicable. A lesson that may be drawn from this is that there truly is no right or wrong way, only that which works for the individual. Oftentimes, we as pagans are quick to cite such tenets, but then often as not, we are quick to make assumptions about what is right or wrong for others based upon one’s own comfort zone. If pagans are to ever create a community where those who follow a mystical path are able to coincide with others of parallel beliefs then perhaps such a lesson should be brought to the forefront of our awareness. For a problem can only be resolved if it is recognized and accepted as such, for denial only leads to more of the same.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kuan Yin

Quan Yin is considered to be one of the most universally beloved of deities not only from the Buddhist tradition, but many other traditions as well.
She is also known as Kuan Yin, Quan'Am (Vietnam), Kannon (Japan), and Kanin (Bali), She is seen as the embodiment of compassionate and loving kindness in its purest form.
One of the aspects that I personally find interesting about Quan Yin, is that she represents the Goddess and Divine Mother aspect of Buddhism. Buddhism is not considered a religion but rather a spiritual path to enlightment. Kuan Yin epitomizes the ideal of "Mahayana Buddhism" in her role as "bodhisattva" (sanskrit). Bodhisattva literally means "a being of Bodhi, or enlightenment," who is destined to become a Buddha but who has foregone the bliss of Nirvana with a vow to save all of the children of God.
And thus this description exemplifies the aspects associated with Quan Yin.
I don't agree with all of the parameters of Buddhism, but as with all beliefs religious and/or spiritual, there are certaun aspects which one can find personally appealing.
When one looks at Tibetan Buddhism it is found that Quan Yin is seen as Avalokitesvara, which is her male form of embodiment. It is thought that the current Dali Lama is an incarnation of Avalokitesvara. Buddhist mythology tells of Avalokitesvara being born from a ray of light that sprang from Amitabha Buddha's right eye. He immediately spoke the words, "Om Mane Padme Hum". This is one of the mantras by which one invokes within the Buddhist tradition. According to my research there are 357 such incantations that are attributed to Avalokitesvara. This is confirmed by the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra (Sutra of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma).
Amitabha is the principal buddha in the Pure Land sect, a branch of Buddhism found in East Asia.
It is thought that the female form of Avalokitesvara, or Quan Yin, originated in the twelfth or thirteenth century CE in both, China and Japan. It is believed that the Buddhist monk and translator Kumarajiva was the first to refer to the female form of Kuan Yin in his Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra in 406 CE. Because there were thirty-three appearances of the bodhisattva referred to in his translation, of which seven are female, the number thirty-three has come to be associated with Kuan Yin.)
An interesting parallel here is that the male aspect of Kuan Yin in the Christian religion; Jesus Christ, chose to briefly serve as a matyr before moving on to the concept of pure enlightment, whereas Kuan Yin is committed to her responsibilities until the very last human has reached enlightment before her.
Thus the christian aspect has the male form putting himself first while the Buddhist female aspect waiting to serve alll others prior to herself. An interesting parallel in self sacrifice and endurance to service.
One of her most noted positions in the celestial sphere is as a member of the board of karma.
As the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Kuan Yin is compared to or identifies with many compassionate female figures found within many divergent belief systems, including the Virgin Mary from the Christian belief system.
She is often depicted as carrying the pearls of illumination and is sometimes shown pouring a stream of healing water, the "Water of Life," from a small vase. It is said that with this water, devotees and all living things are blessed with physical and spiritual peace. She is also depicted as holding a sheaf of ripe rice or a bowl of rice seed as a metaphor for fertility and sustenance. The dragon, an ancient symbol for high spirituality, wisdom, strength, and divine powers of transformation, is a common motif found in combination with this Goddess .
Other associations or depictions include her image as a many armed figure (a depiction often found in Buddhism), with each hand either containing a different cosmic symbol or expressing a specific ritual position, or "mudra". This is intended to characterize Kuan Yin as the source and sustenance of all things. Her cupped hands often form the "Yoni Mudra", which symbolizes the womb as the door for entry to this world through the universal female principle. Many miracles have been ascribed to Kuan Yin over the ages. As a virgin Goddess she naturally protects women and will offer them a servitude in the form of religious life as opposed to marriage. She is also a patron of childbirth.
And again, unlike her male counterpart in the Christian belief system, she is the ultimate Goddess of Mercy. She demands nothing in return for such mercy other then a spoken request. She does not seek servitude as a prerequisite for such acts of mercy, but gives it freely without any constraints.
Her love for humankind is unwavering and without strings. A lesson that humankind would do well to understand and indeed to institute as a tenet of our characterization as a species.
And in fact if there are any prerequisites to following this particular deity, it is the desire to devote oneself to becoming more loving and compassionate with both the self and towards others.
Coincidentally, another name for Kuan Yin is "Kuan Shih Yin", which means literally "the one who regards, looks on, or hears the sounds of the world", for a ccording to legend, Kuan Yin was about to enter heaven but paused on the threshold as the cries of the world reached her ears.
During the twelfth-century there was a legend of the Buddhist saint "Miao Shan". She was a Chinese princess who lived circa 700 CE. and is widely believed to have been Kuan Yin, which reinforces the image of the bodhisattva as a female. During the twelfth century Buddhist monks settled on P'u-t'o Shan, the sacred island-mountain in the Chusan Archipelago off the coast of Chekiang where Miao Shan is believed to have lived for nine years, during which she performed healings and saved sailors from shipwrecks. And as a result, devotion to Kuan Yin spread throughout northern China.
In modern times Kuan Yin is embraced not only by Mahayana Buddhists, but by the Taoists as well.
I personally have nothing but the deepest respect for Kuan Yin. While I personally follow the Celtic pantheon, I cannot offer s single Goddess from that pantheon that personifies the ideals of love and merciful compassion that Kuan Yin represents. I say this because she has no other aspects associated with her that may offset such attributes. In my personal opinion she is the purest form of forgiveness, slefless compassion for others, and love in its purest un-egotistical form...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thoughts on Pagan Religion and Electicism

Thoughts on Pagan Religion and Electicism

As Neo Paganism continues to attempt to define itself, there are a number of trends that have surfaced that appear to be detrimental to the development of any true understanding of paganism and the magical arts. This article will look at two of the most obvious of these trends. I have stated numerous times that I personally believe that religion is a man-made device intended to control the hearts and minds of others. By the same token I also believe that it is the right of each person to choose the manner in which they are most comfortable when it comes to their personal beliefs. Having said this, as one who has been a pagan in general and a witch in particular, for the majority of my life, I find it to be a bit of a oxymoron to frame the magical arts within the parameters of a religion. Now before anyone starts lighting up the torches, allow me to explain my personal opinion. Religions, whether they be Abrahamic, Pagan or what have you are based upon specific tenets called dogma, which specifies how its members are to approach their beliefs within that particular religion. Such narrow parameters do not allow for freedom of exploration in regards to ones spirituality. A specific forum is set out and all members of that religion are expected to follow in step. The problem with such an approach is that the dogma that is put into place is generally the concepts of one man or small group of men (and on rare occasion’s women) that then inflict their way of thought upon the masses. However, the Craft cannot be defined in such a narrow manner. For the Craft which in large part is about discovering the Greater Mystery’s, and no one man or group of men has the answers to such discoveries. And so to take the Craft and try to define it within the parameters of religion is self-defeating. Such a narrow approach shuts the doors to self discovery and thus spiritual growth. For by its own nature, religion is very inhibiting in that it discourages the very same need to discover that is so necessary to the mystical arts. One cannot allow themselves to be defined by the constrictive thoughts of the few and still claim to follow the tenets of a spiritual path known as mysticism. Such folks are in essence deluding themselves. They want the individual freedom to follow the path of mysticism but then by defining their beliefs as a pagan religion, they are exhibiting a lack of will to do so. Thus they are in all reality engaging in an oxymoron.As far as those who call themselves eclectic, that is just a means to put up a façade. Mysticism involves spiritual discipline. And often is made up of long years of study and experimentation by those who have gone before. To be an eclectic one is simply dabbling due to a spiritual laziness and a lack of desire to put in the long years of study and understanding of the issues before them. To simply take a piece of this belief and a piece of that belief and a piece of yet another belief system and creating an amalgamation of belief systems that took years upon years to develop is in short a display of a lackadaisical mind. Such folks claim that this approach works for them. But the question remains; how do they know since they have no real understanding of the bits and pieces they have assembled and presented as their beliefs? Such a shortcut may seem very convenient, but in all reality when dealing with the mystical arts, such a lazy attitude could lead to disastrous results. Such folks seem to fail to comprehend that they are engaging in a practice that often involved energies and other-world beings which do not always conform to the human way of thought and expectation. The mystical arts are not a discipline/path to be trifled with. And to take such a lackadaisical approach such as eclecticism leaves one without the knowledge and thus the tools to effectively deal with the perils of the mystic arts. Again this is not a religion where one just mouths the words; mysticism is a hand on approach to spiritualism which engages with real energies and beings. To go at such a individual pursuit without any real knowledge of what it is one is engaging in is simply foolish. And eclecticism with its piecemeal approach is hardly the vehicle of knowledge and wisdom necessary for such a venture. One would do better to remain a member of one of the organized religions…

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Children of the Christian Satan

Once again the Catholic Church and its followers are in a very shameful limelight. The following report was filed by reporters from the esteemed AP news bureau:

Catholic Church shamed by Irish abuse reportAP – John Kelly, of the Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) group, right, and Kevin Flannagan brother of Mickey … Ireland releases report on child abuse.By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press Writer Shawn Pogatchnik, DUBLIN – After a nine-year investigation, a commission published a damning report Wednesday on decades of rapes, humiliation and beatings at Catholic Church-run reform schools for Ireland's castaway children.The 2,600-page report painted the most detailed and damning portrait yet of church-administered abuse in a country grown weary of revelations about child molestation by priests.The investigation of the tax-supported schools uncovered previously secret Vatican records that demonstrated church knowledge of pedophiles in their ranks all the way back to the 1930s.Wednesday's five-volume report on the probe — which was resisted by Catholic religious orders — concluded that church officials shielded their orders' pedophiles from arrest amid a culture of self-serving secrecy."A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from," Ireland's Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse concluded.Victims of the abuse, who are now in their 50s to 80s, lobbied long and hard for an official investigation. They say that for all its incredible detail, the report doesn't nail down what really matters — the names of their abusers."I do genuinely believe that it would have been a further step towards our healing if our abusers had been named and shamed," said Christine Buckley, 62, who spent the first 18 years of her life in a Dublin orphanage where children were forced to manufacture rosaries — and were humiliated, beaten and raped whether they achieved their quota or not.The Catholic religious orders that ran more than 50 workhouse-style reform schools from the late 19th century until the mid-1990s offered public words of apology, shame and regret Wednesday. But when questioned, their leaders indicated they would continue to protect the identities of clergy accused of abuse — men and women who were never reported to police, and were instead permitted to change jobs and keep harming children.The Christian Brothers, which ran several boys' institutions deemed to have harbored serial child molesters and sadists on their staff, insisted it had cooperated fully with the probe. The order successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report. No real names, whether of victims or perpetrators, appear in the final document.The Christian Brothers' leader in Ireland, Brother Kevin Mullan, said the organization had been right to keep names secret because "perhaps we had doubts about some of the allegations.""But on the other hand, I'd have to say that at this stage, we have no interest in protecting people who were perpetrators of abuse," Mullan said, vowing to "cooperate fully with any investigation or any civil authority seeking to explore those matters."Buckley, who said she was abused at an orphanage run by the Sisters of Mercy, which ran several refuges for girls where the report documented chronic brutality, said the religious orders for years branded the victims as money-seeking liars — and were incapable of admitting their guilt today.She criticized Mullan for suggesting that "today, having read the report, he doesn't mind if the abusers are named and shamed. Isn't that a little bit late for us?"The report found that molestation and rape were "endemic" in boys' facilities, chiefly run by the Christian Brothers order, and supervisors pursued policies that increased the danger. Girls supervised by orders of nuns, chiefly the Sisters of Mercy, suffered much less sexual abuse but frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless."In some schools a high level of ritualized beating was routine. ... Girls were struck with implements designed to maximize pain and were struck on all parts of the body," the report said. "Personal and family denigration was widespread."Ireland's myriad religious orders, much like their mother church, have been devastated by 15 years of scandals involving past cover-ups of abusers in their ranks.The Christian Brothers have withdrawn from running several schools that still bear their name and the order has had few recruits in Ireland in the past two decades. Other orders are down to a handful of members, and their bases are closer to nursing homes than active missions."Most of these orders will literally die out in Ireland within the next generation or so," said Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper in Dublin. "Many of them are already in wind-up mode. They lack the confidence even to seek new vocations (recruits), due to the stigma associated with their members' shocking, scandalous behavior." The Irish government, which in 1999 apologized for its role in permitting decades of abuse and established the commission to nail down the full truth of the matter, has tried to use money to bring closure to the victims. A government-appointed panel has paid 12,000 survivors of the schools, orphanages and other church-run residences an average of $90,000 each — on condition they surrender their right to sue either the church or state. About 2,000 more claims are pending. Irish Catholic leaders cut a controversial deal with the government in 2001 that capped the church's contribution at $175 million — a fraction of the final cost. Some victims emphasized, even as they began thumbing through the report, that nothing — not even criminal convictions of their long-ago tormentors — will ever put right their psychological wounds and make their nightmares go away. Tom Sweeney, who spent five years in two Christian Brothers-run institutions where he was placed for truancy, says he suffered sexual abuse and beatings. He also has bitter memories about more everyday humiliations — such as being forced to wrap his urine-stained sheets around his neck and parade in front of other children when he'd wet his bed. "It's something you'll never forget, the way you lived in these industrial schools," he said.

The extremely sad truth is that this disgusting behavior went on un-checked for decades in the USA before being exposed by law enforcement. With the tentacles of the Catholic Church wrapped around the entire world, one has to wonder how many more children in how many more countries are having their souls assassinated by the these self declared followers of their God?
Or are the Catholics in reality simply followers of their Satan?
Each time one sees a Catholic fingering a rosary, one should send some positive energy to the child that was most likely beaten and raped after producing that very same symbol of their faith. A symbol created at the expense of a childs soul and their physical torment...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Mandaeans

The Mandaeans

It is interesting to note that not all of those who contributed to the origins of Christianity believe in the concept of “Jesus” as he is portrayed by the organized religions of today. For instance, the Mandaeans are followers of John the Baptist. They are a people called “Mughtasilah”, which means, “Those Who Wash themselves”. They are considered to be “Children of the Books”, and as such, are to be considered “holders of the Word of God." And though they are hostile to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, (Mandaeans regard Christianity and rabbinical Judaism as false religions that, along with the negative influence of planets and stars, impede the soul's release from bondage. With the arrival of Islam in Iraq, in 636 CE, the Mandeans were considered as the third “people of the book”, and as the mysterious Sabians of the Koran. But the Mandeans still faced a difficult relationship with Islam, and Muhammad is in their writings called the demon “Bizbat”. The Mandaeans subscribe to the belief that Judas Thomas was Jesus' twin brother and that it was actually Judas Thomas who was crucified on the cross and that Jesus then lived out his life as his brother Thomas to avoid persecution for his attempted role as the alleged messiah. To support this belief, the early church father “Irenaeus” wrote around 150 CE that Jesus remained on earth as a teacher for twenty years after his crucifixion, and that John the Apostle served as a conduit for these teachings. The Mandaeans are an ancient form of Christian Gnosticism, which practices initiation, ecstasy and some rituals which have been said to resemble those of the Freemasons. They very frequently practice baptism in running water and a sort of “confirmation”, given to the dying. They repudiate idolatry and circumcision, while celibacy is absolutely forbidden. They practice a moral code of charity and goodwill." They hold to a planetary influence on the hours and have a seven day induction of priests, similar to the Sabians. Their year consists of twelve months of thirty days each, followed by five auspicious days of epact. At the New Year they keep vigil for the spirits of light to return from congratulating the Supreme Being for creation. They utter “Ask and find, speak and listen” like the Harranians, but then invoke a formal denial of the powers of the sun and moon contrary to the Sabians. Their calendar is solar while the Harranian one is luni-solar. Women may own property, divorce is not recognized, a man may have as many wives as he desires." The Mandaeans take their name from “Manda” which means secret knowledge." The Mandaean priests are called “Nasoreans”, as were the followers of Jesus. Within the Mandaean sect, a Nazarean is equated to an archbishop. During the first three centuries CE, there were certain Mandaean or Johannite sects, especially in the region of the Tigris-Euphrates basin, who honored John the Baptist, not Jesus, as their prophet. One of these sects still exists to this day in areas of Iraq. According to their thinking, John the Baptist was “the true prophet”, while Jesus was a rebel, a heretic, who led men astray and whom betrayed secret doctrines.” According to the Mandeans, John the Baptist was Hibil-Ziwa. "Hibil-Ziwa was a Savior who entered the world of darkness and destroyed the evil spirits so that the faithful could obtain liberation before the end of the world." The Mandaeans tell of the founding of Jerusalem by a powerful and evil female Goddess named Ru Ha. For Jews, Muslims and Syriac-speaking Christians, Ru Ha, signifies the Holy Spirit who is mentioned in both the Quran and the Bible. She controlled the Seven Planets and worked evil on the Earth through several chosen men. They are Abraham, Moses, David and his son Solomon. Her greatest evil however, was realized through the actions of one man. At her temple in Jerusalem, a young priestess was selected to bear a “special offspring”. The name of this priestess was “Miriam”. We call her Mary. She brought forth the “child of Ru Ha”, the “Imunel” (Immanuel) and he was in turn called, “Jesus”.
He was baptized by John and taught at length by him. In time he turned away from John's teachings and led the people astray, the Mandaeans claim. The Mandaeans say that Mary is a “Daughter of Moses” and that Moses dwelt on Mt. Sinai. One of the texts of the Mandeans tells a story about the flight of a group called “Nasoreans”, from areas that are today known as Jordan, to the Mesopotamian region, in the times of the Jewish wars following the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE. It is thought that they were driven out by Saul (Paul) himself. The story goes that Paul arrived as the first Christian missionary in Corinth and in Ephesus, only to discover to his amazement that there were already churches established there. Upon making inquiries he discovered that they were the Church of John the Baptist. Paul believed that the Ephesians and Corinthians would, therefore, be delighted to discover that he represented Jesus Christ, the one prophesied to come after John. However, contrary to his expectations, they had never heard of such a prophecy." The following reference is found in the Christian bible: "While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when [or after] you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, 'Then what baptism did you receive?' “John's baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into [or in] the name of the Lord Jesus." - Acts 19:1-5

And so though there is an ongoing and determined effort to present the three main Abrahamic religions as being the learning curve for all other beliefs in the world, there is in fact many deep divisions within such beliefs which belie the description of “organized religions”…

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Religion from A Witches perspective

Have you ever wondered why humans are so scared to face life and the spiritual lessons that are in waiting for each of us? I ask this because since the dawning of humankind we have created religions. Religion in all reality is a subterfuge and a distraction from the individual pursuit of spirituality. A state of spirituality is a journey of the individual. It does not require the presence of the many such as is found within a religion. This applies whether a religion is one of the so called organized religions, pagan, or one of the myriad other religions created by humans. A religion comes into existence by the hand of a human, generally a man or group of men. A concept of Deity and the mysteries of life are created and then transformed into a specific dogma or set of beliefs. The only problem with this approach is that it is predicated upon the narrow precepts of one or even a few select humans. This is fine, if such beliefs were confined to the originators of such beliefs. For each individual is entitled to the beliefs that define their personal existence in regards to Deity and the mysteries that comprise this existence of life. But when such personal opinions are then extended to the masses, the concept of individualism becomes mired in the tentacles of censorship which goes by the label of dogma. When this occurs, the concept of individuality is lost. Another concern with such an approach is that those opinions that form the basis for religions are based upon select human perspectives and are not the direct offering of Deity. Of course there will be those humans who will insist that their perception of Deity was the driving force that has inspired the particular religion that they themselves subscribe to. However with literally thousands of divergent concepts of deity that has been proffered since the beginning of humankind, who is actually right and just as importantly, who is wrong? Is there such delineation when it comes to spirituality and/or religion? Does one person have to be right in order for all others to be wrong? As individuals, each seeking their own definition and thus understanding of deity, this self imposed quandary goes away. For as individuals, the belief in deity and the search for a comprehensive understanding of the mysteries of life become a personal pursuit and as such, do not require the approval of any other human being on earth. Paganism was at one time a path that actually encouraged individual seeking and thus a personal sense of understanding. And in many ways it still is to this very day. However the specter of religion and the pressure of peer acceptance as defined by the few have stretched its tentacles into paganism as well. This modern attempt at conversion is commonly referred to as neo paganism. In essence, there is an attempt by some of these modern converts to turn paganism, which once defined individual spirituality, into a religion which follows the same parameters as the so called organized religions. Why is this being attempted when it is blatantly obvious that organized religions and paganism are diametrically opposed in their approach to the concepts of deity and the mysteries of life? The most obvious reason for this forced perception of dogma is the entrance of the many who formerly subscribed to an established religious pattern of acceptance in regards to their spiritual journey. However there may be a deeper reason for such an imposition of foreign values when discussing the parameters of paganism. For instance why does humankind even need the anonymity of a concept known as religion where one can comfortably become a faceless member of a pre-conceived set of beliefs (dogma)? And as already noted, said set of beliefs, which in every man-made religion on earth is defined by a select few. Could it be because there is a segment of society who is apathetic about their spiritual beliefs? Could such folks be personally insecure of what they may encounter if they were to actually seek out their own answers to spirituality? Does this observation offend you? If so, perhaps there is a gem of truth here that you may want to explore within your Inner self. When a select person or group of persons places the concept of deity and the mysteries of life into a imposition such as religious dogma, there is in effect a barricade to any real spiritual growth. The individual loses the gift of self identity because they are pressured into a specific set of beliefs (dogma) which limits any further exploration of the many possibilities that are inherent in un-fettered spirituality. Many man-made religions have mechanisms in place that are designed to ensure that their members do not stray outside of the accepted parameters of belief has dictated by the few. Where is the freedom of the individual in such a setting? And where within the tenets of paganism do such man-made impositions apply? These same man-made religions also have mechanisms in place to cast out those who dare to seek out the truths of life as they apply to their personal seeking and yet are outside of the accepted dogma of the particular religion that one is subscribing to. In my personal opinion such an approach has absolutely nothing to do with any real concept of paganism. And so the push to “convert” paganism into the parameters of organized religion is somewhat troubling and may border on hypocrisy. There is a common saying that “trying to get pagans to come together is like herding cats”. I personally hope that such an analogy retains some iota of truth as paganism wends its way into the consciousness of modern practitioners. Once those who follow the path of paganism lose the inherent right to live as individuals and once members of paganism lose the drive to seek out Inner truths which are not restrained by the masses that blindly follow the lead of the few, then it is no longer a true spiritual path. Rather it becomes nothing more than an extension of the mind numbing control of religion. And those who describe themselves as pagans, in all reality become nothing more than faceless minions of yet another man-made religion.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Paganism in a Microcosm

As a student of life, I often ponder about the external influences which affect each and every one of us. In essence I view life as a huge ocean of humanity that ebbs and flows with the times. But then one has to stop and question, what is it, which affects and thus defines such movement within our society. Just a few decades ago our society was one where folks took responsibility for their actions. Folks who sought to engage in activities which were unacceptable to the majority were held responsible. There were clear tenets as to what was right or wrong. Many of us gray hairs can remember when a neighbor would catch us doing wrong and would bust our butts and then take us home where our parents would reinforce the lesson by busting our butts again. At that time it truly took a village to raise a child. Our children were taught to respect others as they themselves would like to be respected. And interesting enough, Neo paganism was in its infancy as such. Fast forward to today's society and one finds a community that is completely self absorbed. Where everyone is a hero or a winner and no one is wrong (unless it happens to be the other person). Today's society has become extremely artificial in values and the way that we communicate with others of our community. And in all reality the pagan community is no beacon of truth and values. Granted we mouth the words of "understanding, and love and light" and so forth. But this is simply a façade we use to attempt to set values as related to paganism. The only problem is that we don't empower such words with any real effort. I know this sounds pretty harsh but then the truth usually is. And so my question at this point is what happened? We can't blame the Christians, for their form of arrogance and exclusiveness has been well known since their infancy as a religion. And the downturn in society has only taken place over the last 25 or so years. And one can't help but notice that what we have today as a pagan community was also formed during this time. But by the same token we can't blame Neo paganism because such a movement only affects a small proportion of society. And the questionable values which form our society today extend to all folks regardless of religious and/or political beliefs. And so I ask once again, what happened? It's pretty apparent (to some of us) that we are now embroiled in the same state of behavior that the ancient Romans engaged in just prior to their downfall as a society. And so now the purpose of this treatise, what if anything is our responsibility as a Neo pagan community, to the community at large? Do we just continue to be ad hoc members of a failing society? Or do we find the maturity and indeed the desire to look beyond our individual selves to attempt to set a different and perhaps a higher standard? To do so would mean that we would actually have to live up to the standards that we so readily vocalize and yet only pay lip service when it comes to any real manifestation or action. It would require those who claim to be pagan to actually look deep within oneself and to confront ones Shadow self. Only in this way can we find the balance that is necessary in relation to our individual egos. For bloated egos seems to be the trademark of the so called Neo pagan community. Wicca for instance has only been around for a few decades or so and yet there seems to be more masters then students in such a very short time. And I can't count the number of so called masters of multiple disciplines that seem to be sprouting up within the Neo pagan community. In short Neo paganism is a microcosm of the decadent society that we endure today. Is this the legacy that we want to leave to our children? Do we even care? I personally would like to think that the Neo pagan movement has more substance to it then just being an empty façade for the individual ego. Though, such a movement it has yet to take on any substantial form or definition of any real values. I realize of course that there are always individual examples to any situation. However the Neo pagan community is not judged by society as a whole by such individuals but rather by the collective actions or lack of in such a community. Just by declaring oneself a Neo pagan the very first impression taken is that such a person is simply being rebellious to the accepted norms of society as a whole. And unfortunately the Neo pagan society has done very little collectively to dispel this first impression by society as a whole. This in itself is an oxymoron, for paganism is the oldest religious/spiritual belief in existence. And yet due to our own insecurities as to who we are collectively lends credence to such misnomers on the part of society at large. And so the misconceptions about paganism are enforced through our own inability to develop a valid identity. This brings us back to the issues touched upon at the start of this treatise. And that is the inability as individuals to accept personal responsibility for our actions and the lack of cohesiveness and discipline in our micro society to change these faults within ourselves. Do we continue to be just one more member of the society that we have today with its total disregard to spiritual values and personal responsibility? Or do we take the Neo pagan movement which is a micro society in formation and use it as a vehicle to bring back and exemplify the personal values that lend themselves to a healthy and thriving community? Do Neo pagans have the inner strength and the desire to break the current mold of self absorption and artificial values? Are we capable of looking beyond ourselves and to begin caring about the community as a whole, again? In closing, is it the responsibility of the Neo pagan community to set a higher standard or are we just along for the ride to the edge of the waterfalls of humanity? The ancient Romans went over the edge, will we as well?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Shinto - The Gentle Religion

Shinto, The Gentle Religion

Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion. Starting circa 500 BCE. It was originally an amorphous mix of nature worship, fertility cults, divination techniques, hero worship, and shamanism.
Its name was derived from the Chinese words "shin tao" ("The Way of the Gods")
And what is unique about Shinto is that unlike many other religions, Shinto has no real founder, no written scriptures, no body of religious law, and only a very loosely-organized priesthood.
The Shinto creation stories tell of the history and lives of the "Kami" (deities). Among them was a divine couple, Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto, who gave birth to the Japanese islands. Their children became the deities of the various Japanese clans.
Amaterasu Omikami (Sun Goddess) who was one of their daughters is regarded as the chief deity. As such she became the ancestress of the Japanese Imperial Family.
In addition to Amaterasu Omikami, there are numerous other deities who are conceptualized in many forms: They are associated with natural objects and creatures.
They are seen as generally benign, and they sustain and protect the people.
Another interesting note is that within Shinto, the Buddha was viewed as another "Kami" while in Japanese Buddhism the Kami are seen as being manifestations of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, though both of these are seperate belief systems. Most weddings are performed by Shinto priests; while funerals are performed by Buddhist priests.
Shinto does not have its own moral code and its members generally follow the code of Confucianism.
Their religious texts discuss the "High Plain of Heaven" and the "Dark Land" which is an unclean land of the dead, but give few details of the afterlife. Ancestors are deeply revered and worshipped.
All of humanity is regarded as "Kami's child" and thus all human life and human nature is sacred to the Shinto.
Believers revere "musuhi", the Kamis' creative and harmonizing powers. They aspire to have "makoto", sincerity or true heart. This is regarded as the way or will of Kami.
Morality is based upon that which is of benefit to the group. Shinto emphasizes right practice, sensibility, and attitude.
There are "Four Affirmations" in Shinto:
Tradition and the family: The family is seen as the main mechanism by which traditions are preserved. Their main celebrations relate to birth and marriage.
Love of nature: Nature is sacred, to be in contact with nature is to be close to the Gods. Natural objects are worshipped as sacred spirits.
Physical cleanliness: Followers of Shinto take baths, wash their hands, and rinse out their mouth often.
"Matsuri": The worship and honor given to the Kami and ancestral spirits.
When entering a shrine, one passes through a "Tori" a special gateway for the Gods. It marks the demarcation between the finite world and the infinite world of the Gods.
In the past, believers practiced "misogi,", the washing of their bodies in a river near the shrine. In modern times they only wash their hands and wash out their mouths in a wash basin provided within the shrine grounds.
Shinto believers respect animals as messengers of the Gods. A pair of statues of "Koma-inu" (guard dogs) can be found facing each other within the temple grounds.
The shrine ceremonies, which include cleansing, offerings, prayers, and dances are directed to the Kami. The ritual dance called "Kaguri" is accompanied by ancient musical instruments. The dances are performed by skilled and trained dancers. They consist of young virgin girls, a group of men, or in some instances, a single man.
Mamori are charms worn as an aid in healing and protection. They come in many different forms for various purposes.
Followers of Shinto often have a altar, the "Kami-dana" (Shelf of Gods), which is located in a central place in their homes.
Adherents of Shinto are expected to visit Shinto shrines at the times of various life passages. For example, the Shichigosan Matsuri involves a blessing by the shrine Priest of girls aged three and seven and boys aged five. This ceremony is held on November 15th.
Many followers of Shinto are involved in the "offer a meal movement," in which each individual bypasses a breakfast or another meal once per month and donates the money saved to their religious organization for international relief and similar activity.
Origami ("Paper of the spirits"), which is a paper folding art form, is also associated with Shinto. Out of respect for the tree spirit that gave its life to make the paper, origami paper is never cut.
The Shinto religion exists in four main forms or traditions:
Koshitsu Shinto (The Shinto of the Imperial House): This involves rituals performed by the emperor, who the Japanese Constitution defines to be the "symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." The most important ritual is "Niinamesai", which makes an offering to the deities of the first fruits of each year's grain harvest. Male and female clergy (Shoten and Nai-Shoten) assist the emperor in the performance of these rites.
Jinja (Shrine) Shinto: This is the largest Shinto group. It was the original form of the religion with its roots dating back into pre-historical times. Until the end of World War II, it was closely aligned with State Shinto. The Emperor of Japan was worshipped as a living God. Almost all shrines in Japan are members of Jinja Honcho, the Association of Shinto Shrines. The association urges followers of Shinto
"To be grateful for the blessings of Kami and the benefits of the ancestors, and to be diligent in the observance of the Shinto rites, applying oneself to them with sincerity. brightness, and purity of heart."
"To be helpful to others and in the world at large through deeds of service without thought of rewards, and to seek the advancement of the world as one whose life mediates the will of Kami."
"To bind oneself with others in harmonious acknowledgment of the will of the emperor, praying that the country may flourish and that other peoples too may live in peace and prosperity."
Kyoha (Sectarian) Shinto (aka Shuha Shinto): This consists of 13 sects which were founded by individuals since the start of the 19th century. Each sect has its own beliefs and doctrines. Most emphasize worship of their own central deity and as such, some some follow a near-monotheistic religion.
Minzoku (Folk) Shinto This is not a separate Shinto group; it has no formal central organization or creed. It is seen in local rural practices and rituals, where small images are often seen by the side of the road, agriculture rituals are practiced by individual families. A rural community will often select a layman annually, who will be responsible for worshiping the local deity.
These four forms are closely linked. Shinto is a tolerant religion which accepts the validity of other religions. It is common for a believer to pay respects to other religions, their practices and objects of worship. A trait not often found in many of the other religions of the world.
And yet;
On the surface this would appear to be a religion that I personally could resonate with, were I to choose to belong to a religion. However no religion is altruistic as it has the hand of man involved in its creation. In this instance it is connected to the emperor of Japan. And during both "World Wars" the type of folks who are members of this religion were also members of one of the most voracious combatants of these wars.
My question is; how does one make the transition from such a peaceful and accepting religious belief to that of a vicious and unrelenting combatant and then back again?
Is religion simply followed only when it is convenient for its followers to do so? How does the Deity associated with each of the worlds many religions view such hypocrisy?
Or does religion in all reality, give sway to human ideals and goals rather then to the desires of Deity?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gardner and Wicca

As with most of the established religions, it is a male/s who institutes such a belief and then retains the highest form of authority within the said religion. The Wiccan movememnt is no exemption to such a rule. I personally do not see how witchcraft can be seen as a religion because of the parameters of discovery and ever changing form within true witchcraft. But it is what it is for such folks.
Wicca was created by Gerald Gardner circa 1953. He made an unsubstantiated claim that he had been initiated by a Traditional witchcraft coven, which Gardner called the"New Forest coven" which later led to the forming of his own concept of witchcraft into a modern religion called Wicca. Gardner claimed that he was initiated naked during this alledged rite and thus "skyclad" became one of the underlying tenets of his religion.
As a note of interest, Ronald Hutton, an accredited professor of History at the University of Bristol, where he had a keen interest in pagan religions, contends that Gerald Gardner's idea of Wicca came instead from the members of the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship which originated in Liverpool England and who then migrated to ChristChurch England. Gerald Gardner joined this group in 1939 CE and was an avid member for a number of years thereafter.
It is also thought that Gardner's interest in Freemasonry also began with the Fellowship because of the presence of Mabel Besant Scott, who was a one-time head of the British Federation of Co-Freemasonry, and a prominent member of the Fellowship.
Gerald Gardner made many un-substantiated and false claims over the course of his life.
For instance he claimed to have doctoral degrees from the universities of Singapore and Toulouse which in fact he did not obtain.
Gardner also claimed that Aleister Crowley, the ceremonial magician, had given him the rights to the "Ordo Templi Orientis" rites. Though the charter was actually written in Gardner's hand and it was later discovered that Gardner had actually paid Crowley 300 English pounds for his signature.
In 1957, a disagreement with prominent members of the general mystical society, arose over Gardner's non-stop interviews with the media. These interviews were in spite of his own established rules of secrecy. This trend for publicity continues to be a platform for the modern Wicca movement.
In order to establish Wicca as a religion, Gardner, like so many other founders of a religion before him, wrote the laws that his adherents were to follow, in short, the dogma for a mystical religion as defined by Gardner.
After the formation of Wicca, certain laws began to appear that were originally unnumbered, and used the spelling wica, rather than the spelling "Wicca or Wiccan". These Laws contained a mixture of modern and archaic phrases, suggesting a possible plagiarism from older fragments. The Laws did not appear in earlier Wiccan documents, such as Gardner's Ye bok of Ye Art Magical, Text A or B, or in any of Doreen Valiente’s books including the one commonly referred to as Text C.
And so it is quite obvious that these were written and introduced well after Gardner had established his Wiccan religion.
These addendums apparently contained sexist language such as "as a man loveth a woman by mastering her", and "cursing people and condemning them to an eternity in the Christian hell" . Other further addendums were "And if any break these Laws, even under torture, The Curse of The Goddess Shall be Upon Them, so they may never be reborn on earth and may remain where they belong, in the hell of the Christians."
And yet another one was "And the greatest virtue of a High Priestess be that she recognize that youth is necessary to the representative of the Goddess. So will she gracefully retire in favor of a younger woman, should the coven so decide in council."
Doreen Valiente, who was Gardners High Priestess at the time, and other members of Gardners coven questioned why these Laws and their patriarchal language,had not been included in the Book of Shadows if they were so important, and why Gardner had not produced them before.
The refusal of Doreen and their coven mates to accept the Laws eventually led them to leave Gardner’s coven and later that year it was established that Gardner did indeed forge the "newly discovered Laws".
In spite of the inherent fraudulence by Gardner, the Laws nevertheless became a standard part of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows.
Earlier I mentioned that Gardner claimed to have been initiated in the nude, though this was never established as fact. The fact is that in 1945 C.E., Gardner had bought a nudist club called the "Five Acres Nudist club".
In view of all of the false allegations that Gardner made over the course of his life, it is safe to assume that his alledged skyclad initiation, was yet another false allegation that grew out of his ownership of a nudist club.
And so there you have the true beginnings of Wicca.
Gerald Gardner in fact was a nudist, a man with shall we say, a vivid imagination, and a sexist.
When his original HPS became to old, Gardner sought to replace her with a younger woman.
Religions are often filled with hypocrisy and are often dominated by males. It would appear according to the facts, that Wicca like so many other "man - made" religions is no exception.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Who was Melchizedek?

Organized religions are often centered around a person or persons who are given a special status in relation to their associated deity. And then from this personage the word and/or direction of that deity is then given to everyone else. In many cases these personages are clouded in mystery so as to add to their mysterious aura or sense of hidden knowledge.
Melchizedek is one of these personages. And he is interesting in that he is associated not only with the Judaic belief system, but the Christian and Muslim belief systems which later stemmed from the Judaic religion.
To my knowledge, Melchizedek was the first priest mentioned in the Bible. (Genesis 14:18-20)
The Gnostic scriptures refer to him as Melchizedek the Supreme Paralemptor, which means "Light-Bringer or Light-Maker".
And in the Hebrew Bible Melchizedek is called the High Priest of El Elyon, YHVH, the Most High One.
We also find mention of Melchizedek in Psalms:"Your people shall be willing in the day of your power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: you have the dew of your youth. The LORD has sworn, and will not relent, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." (Ps. 110:3-4)
Melchizedek is mentioned again in the New Testament book of Hebrews as the oldest priest of a higher order, more ancient and direct from God, than the Children of Israel (Levite) priesthood. A Levite is a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi in the Jewish tradition. The Levites served as assistants to the sons and descendants of the first chief priest, Aaron, at the Tabernacle in the wilderness and later at the Temple of Jerusalem.
In the Book of Hebrews, Jesus is repeatedly referred to as a High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek. And so it would appear that there was a pre-Christian priestly order, founded by this mysterious personage. And to add to this cacophony of identifications, the name Melchizedek, according to The Urantia Book is the one and the same as the Semitic God.
And yet in Genesis 14, Melchizedek is also referred to as King of Salem, ( which is generally believed to be ancient Jerusalem) the fortress city of the Jebusites, whose people worshipped him.
He was also said to have aided Abraham in his battles with the four kings who beseiged the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
According to Numbers rabbah 4:8 Melchizedek acted as a priest and handed down Adam’s robes to Abraham. According to Rabbi Zechariah, the Semitic God intended to bring forth the priesthood through Melchizedek’s descendants, but because Melchizedek blessed Abraham before he blessed God, God brought the priesthood forth from Abraham’s descendants instead. (Leviticus Rabbah 25:6).
And so in Semitic tradition he is a holy man whose blessing resulted in great fortune for Abraham, while in Christianity his priesthood is seen as the forerunner of the Christian "new covenant," superseding that of the Levite priesthood.
But we're not done yet, he is also identified as the priest of El Elyon which translates as "most high God" in reference to the Hebrew god; Yahweh.
And as if this was not enough, some ancient rabbis identify Melchizedek with Shem son of Noah.
According to Genesis, Shem lived the age of 600 years (Gen. 11:10, 11). Therefore, his death took place 13 years after the death of Sarah and ten years after Rebecca and Isaac married. This literal interpretation of the biblical chronology leads some Christians, as well as several ancient rabbis, to believe that Shem might have been Melchizedek.
And so where does all of this lead us to?
Was Melchizedek a pseudonym for the Semitic God? Or was he in fact a religious enigma whose actions offended a jealous god? Of which said actions resulted in the alteration of the priestly lineage away from the Levites which opened the door for the Christian Jesus to become a High Priest in his own right.
In Hebrews 7:3, Paul says that Melchizedek was without father or mother, having no parents. Paul's statement suggests that Melchizedek was in fact a second male deity.
His comments were;
Every human, including Adam, has had a father (Luke 3:38). All the angels have the same father as Adam, and they are referred to many times in Scripture as sons of God. The One who became Jesus Christ is the father of all life except for one human life, His own. The Most High God is the Father of Jesus (Luke 1:32). But, God was not the father of Melchizedek. Paul is clearly saying that Melchizedek, like the Most High God, was without parents. Neither of them had beginning of days nor end of life. The two of them had always lived and there had never been a time that each of them had not lived. Melchizedek had always possessed life inherent. Life was not given to Him, He was not anyone's son.
And so can we assume that there was in fact two Gods present in the early Hebrew belief system. Could this second God have become persona non grata after the Babylon exile which in time led to the creation of the monotheist Christian and Muslim religions?
With the advent of the Babylon exile (586 BCE) the Judaic belief system became more determined to be a pure religion, could this have led to the expulsion of Melchizedek as a recognized deity within the Jewish pantheon?
Or lastly could Melchizedek (righteous King) have been a term used by a number of folks through the ages as it pertained to the religious politics of the time?
As with all religions and spiritual paths, the interpretations are in the hands of the one doing the interpreting. And on occasion such assumptions may actually border on the truth.
But far more often we make assumptions based on our personal feelings and/or comfort zone.
Do you have the answers as to who Melchizedek is?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Baha i

There are numerous religions in the world who make the claim that their chosen Deity appeared to one or more humans whom later become known as prophets. These so called prophets then extol the virtues and beliefs of their particular new found religion. One of the newest religions in the world began its existence in this very manner, they are known as the Bahá'í.
The Baha i Faith began in 1844 CE. It is a commonly held belief that the Baha i were originally members of the Muslim faith. This observation is attributed in part because a handful of students, belonging to the Shaykhi school, sprung from the Ithna-'Ashariyyih sect of Shi`ah Islam, to form what is now known as Baha i.
The first prophet of Baha i who was known as Baha'u'llah was in fact; Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad Shirází who worked as a merchant in Shiraz in the southern part of Iran.
He assumed the title of "Bab" (the Gate) and in May of 1844 he announced his "Declaration of the Bab." He explained that the purpose of his declaration, and those of his eighteen disciples whom he referred to as the "Letters of the Living," was to herald the arrival of "One greater than Himself", who would fulfill the prophetic expectations of all the great religions.
This declaration seems to be in line with prior declarations from earlier self proclaimed prophets who also declared that their personal belief system would serve to accomplish similiar goals.
I make this observation not as a form of mockery or ridicule but only as a pragmatic observation that many so called organized religions start out in a similiar fashion and with identical goals.
As it was, in 1850 CE, the powers to be in Iran, initiated the execution of Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad Shirází (Bab) who was seen as a threat to Islam.
Upon the execution of Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad Shirází, one of his followers; Mirza Husayn-'Ali-i-Nuri took on the mantle of leader of the Baha i. In 1863 CE, he reportedly confided to his followers and to his eldest son that he was the Manifestation alluded to by the Bab. He assumed the title, "Baha'u'llah" (Glory of God).
This event is now commemorated yearly during the holy days of "Ridván".
Because of this declaration, Mirza Husayn-'Ali-i-Nuri spent the last 40 years of his life either in prison or in exile where he authored a number of books about the Baha i faith. He died in May of 1892 CE and his burial place became a shrine which is regarded by Bahá i's as the holiest place on earth.
He was succeeded by his son "'Abdu'l-Baha" (1844 - 1921 CE) who was instrumental to spreading the Baha i faith around the world.
He in turn was succeeded by his eldest grandson "Shoghi Effendi" (died 1957 CE) who became known as "Guardian of the Cause of God". And to his credit he was instrumental in elevating women into various positions of power within the Baha i faith.
Since Shoghi Effendi died without naming a successor, a committee whom he had called "Hands of the Cause" was granted the authority to continue oversight of the Baha i faith.
In 1963 CE, the Universal House of Justice (a.k.a. UHJ) was established in Haifi, Israel. Provisions for such a body had been contained in the will of 'Abdu'l-Baha. Though it was stymied somewhat by the fact that the provisions called for the House of Justice to be headed by the Guardian or someone appointed by him. But the "Guardian" had died and, while he was alive, had not appointed anyone to take that position. And so even though the "House" is the highest authority in the Bahá'í faith, it has no powers to interpret or to change Baha i scripture.
As such, Mirza Husayn-'Ali-i-Nuri nor any of his predecessors interpretations can be changed.
Were I a member of this particular religion which for the most part is based upon the tenets of lineage, I personally would be concerned about the inflexibility to change with the times as it were.
For instance the Baha i faith promotes as its principles the elimination of all forms of prejudice and to uphold equal dignity and respect for all peoples, regardless of their racial, ethnic, religious or national background. Equality of men and women, the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth and economic justice for all peoples, universal education, and the dignity of the individual. These are grand goals but the reality is that sexual orientation is notably absent from their list of protected classes of humans.
Also there is the exclusion of all women from serving on its highest religious court, the Universal House of Justice. And since such issues cannot be addressed per their own self enacted rule that the "House" cannot interpret scripture as it applies to their faith, these issues will never be appended to meet the standards and/or realities of modern society.
And so the taint of hypocrisy is ever present.
I also have to wonder where the line is drawn between the word of man and the alleged word of one's chosen Deity.
But since the only right religion is the one that works for the individual, each person must and should decide for themselves which religion and/or spiritual path works for them.
By having knowlege of the realities of religions and/or spiritual beliefs we are better informed when making such a choice as it applies to our personal beliefs.
And hopefully such knowledge will lead to a greater understanding not only of ourselves but of those who travel through this world with us.
We do not have to agree with someone elses's beliefs, but we should atleast be accepting of the fact that others have the right to make choices that may not be in line with our own.
This is what makes each of us individuals and validates the words "acceptance and diversity"...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Origin of the Pentagram and related hypocrisies

The Pentagram or pentacle is thought by some occultists to trace its esoteric significance to an astronomical observance of the pattern of Venus' conjunctions with the Sun.
The pentagram (pentacle or pentalpha) is arrived at by plotting the recurrence of Venus' westward elongation from the Sun, over five consecutive synodic periods, which in time will create the points of a pentagram. This period is approximately 584 days long, each period determining a different point of the observed pentagram, taking approximately eight years, five days to complete the figure. One would get a pentagram by picking any sunrise date on which the morning star is prominent and then repeating the observation at 584 day intervals following that date.
Keep in mind though that there is a 0.0789 day slippage every 584 days, totaling a one day slippage each 12.67 synodic periods. This means that the pentagram figure is slowly revolving within an oval in a clockwise direction, alternating either one or two points ascendant roughly every 160 years. There is no observation point on Earth that would present a regular pentagram. Moving further north elongates the figure while on the equator the figure is an irregular pentagon.
The use of the pentagram dates back to Uruk IV circa 3500 BCE in ancient Mesopotamia where the general interpretation appears to be "heavenly body." By the cuneiform period circa 2600 BCE the pentagram or symbol "UB" means "region," "heavenly quarter" or "direction".
Venus is equated with the Sumarian goddess, Ishtar (Inanna) whose symbol is an eight or sixteen point star.
In association with the Hebrews, the five point symbol was ascribed to Truth and to the five books of the Pentateuch.
In Ancient Greece, it was called the Pentalpha.
Pythagorians considered it an emblem of perfection or the symbol of the human being. The Pythagoreans used it as a sign of recognition and they called the Pentagram "Hugieia" which is usually translated "Health," but can also translate as "Soundness or Wholeness", and in a more general way, any "Divine Blessing". Hugieia (Hygeia) is the Greek Goddess of Health, who is called Salus by the ancient Romans.
The pentagram was also associated with the golden ratio (which it includes), and the dodecahedron, the fifth Platonic solid, which has twelve pentagonal faces and was considered by Plato to be a symbol of the heavens.
The Pentagram has been found everywhere from Egyptian statues to Gaulish coins. In fact, the Greeks, Aryans, and Etruscans (circa 400 BCE) shared a coin bearing a pentagram and the characters "PENSU" (Etruscan for five).
It is noted that the texts of Solomon from the Mediaeval period gave great importance to the pentagram, under the name "Solomon’s Seal."
It is documented that the first English mention of a pentagram appears In the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Stanzas 27-28 (1380 CE) where Gawain, who is traditionally the Celtic sun-hero, carries a shield " shining gules, With the Pentagle in pure gold depicted thereon.

"It is a symbol which Solomon conceived once
To betoken holy truth, by its intrinsic right,
For it is a figure which has five points,
And each line overlaps and is locked with another;
And it is endless everywhere, and the English call it,
In all the land, I hear, the Endless Knot."

And yet with the exception of Eliphas Levi who was associated with Catholicism, the Pentagram has never had any established definition or translation in regards to evil or any other negative connotation.
It was Eliphas Lévi who made the claim, with no justification or established historical precedent, that the pentagram with one point upward represents the good principle and one downward, the principals of evil. Eliphas Levi had trained for the Roman Catholic priesthood and was a prolific writer on FreeMasonry magical associations. And as such his motives are somewhat questionable.
In fact the five-pointed star is also defined as a symbol of Christ, "the bright and morning star": and, inverted, one point down, it represents the descent of Christ, which represents his Incarnation. Lo and behold, there is a huge inverted five-pointed star on the steeple of the "Marktkirche", or Market Church in fourteenth century Hanover, Germany and there are the numerous inverted stars that surround a statue of Mary and the Christ Child in Chartres Cathedral circa 1150 C.E.
The early Christians attributed the pentagram to the Five Stigmata of Christ and/or the doctrine of the Trinity plus that of the two natures of Christ.
It can also be seen on gravestones in the Claustro da Lavagem in the Convento at Tomar, Portugal, the monastery of Ravna, Bulgaria and the Church of All Saints at Kilham, Humberside, Yorkshire, England, which incorporates the symbol on the columns which support the Norman doorway. It is indented on the gateposts of the churchyard of S. Peter’s, Walworth, England, built in 1824 CE.
And yet in spite of thousands of years of the Pentagram being seen as a symbol of health and many other positive aspects, the Pentagram is now held forth by a few so called organized religions as being a symbol of a dark foreboding and evil.
It is one thing to establish a religion/spiritual path which is often a mishmash of beliefs from other religious belief systems. But for such religions who were formed after the fact to engage in such blatant distortions doesn't do much to contribute to the understanding and acceptance that these same religions claim as tenets of their own beliefs. Until the members of such religions find the will and Inner strength to empower the truth, there will always be such institutional hypocrisies.
And as such these misnomers will continue to belie and disrupt any real effort at understanding and good will towards others...

Keeping in touch

Folks: Since this blog is extremely new, there will be quite a few improvements in the coming weeks. If there is something that you would like to see, please let me know. Some of the things I am working on is adding a decent music library that you control. I will also be adding links to little known religion related topics from religions around the world. And this is just the beginning. Thank you for being a part of this effort.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Cult of Kali and related thoughts

When we speak of religions we often envision concepts of moral human behavior as they are outlined within the particular belief system that one is associated with. And yet this supposition is not always what it seems, for what exactly is morality?What may represent morality for one set of people may not necessarily be the same for another group of people.In this article I would like to take a look at such an example.And her name is the Goddess, Kali. Kali first appeared in the Devi-Mahatmya, where she is said to have emanated from the brow of the Goddess Durga (slayer of demons) during one of the battles between the divine and anti-divine forces. Etymologically Durga's name means "Beyond Reach". In this context Kali is considered the “forceful” form of the great Goddess Durga.As a point of reference, the Devi Mahatmyam is a collection of 700 Slokas on Sri Durga from MarkaNDeya PuraaNa. The Markandeya Purana is one of the eighteen major Puranas, which in turn are Hindu religious texts.Kali (whose name means Black, as well as Time) is a Hindu Goddess associated with death and destruction. Scriptures like Agni Purana and Garuda Purana describe her fearsome appearance and associate her with corpses and war. Kali is thought to be a pre-Aryan goddess, belonging to the civilization of the Indus Valley. She is often depicted as having four arms. In one hand she has a sword, in another the head of the demon she has slain; with the other two she is encouraging her worshippers. For earrings she has two dead bodies and wears a necklace of skulls; her only clothing is a girdle made of dead men's hands, and her tongue protrudes from her mouth. Her eyes are usually red, and her face and breasts are besmeared with blood. She stands with one foot on the thigh, and another on the breast of her husband, Shiva.In Western media such as movies, Kali is often depicted as an evil Goddess.And over the course of history there have been those that have associated themselves with the dark aspects of Kali.One such example is the Thugees which the modern word “thug” originates from. Thugees were otherwise known as the Stranglers of Kali. Their name in fact is first found in ancient Sanskrit texts. They were murderers who were often members of the same extended family. And they were very efficient at their craft, often piercing the stomach to let out gases that may bloat the body and give away the burial location. Sometimes the eyes were gouged out, based upon the superstition that the image of the murderer was imprinted on the victim’s eyes. Each member of a Thugee gang (not always entirely family members) was a specialist at their assigned duties. Some were scouts, some were stranglers, and some were “hand-holders” who pinioned the victim. There were even specialist grave-diggers and the pick-axe, with which the graves were dug, was dedicated to Kali, the four-armed Hindu Goddess of destruction. They were also very secretive about their murderous craft. It is thought that the Thugees were responsible for approximately 2,000,000 deaths.And yet in spite of the existence of such a cult and the perceived dark aspects of Kali, does this manifest into a cultural behavior in which all Hindus are by nature of their worship of such a Deity as Kali, bloodthirsty murderers? At first glance one may arrive at such a misconception. For people from one ideology will often judge others from their own point of view and sense of standards. But if one takes time to delve beneath the surface of their comfort zone they would discover that Kali represents so much more then just the dark façade she is attributed with.For instance, Kali's blackness symbolizes her all-embracing, comprehensive nature, because black is the color in which all other colors merge. This signifies the nature of Kali as the ultimate reality. In Sanskrit this is known as “nirguna” (beyond all quality and form). Her nudity has a similar meaning in that she is described as garbed in space or sky clad. In her absolute, primordial nakedness she is free from all covering of illusion. In Sanskrit this is “Prakriti”.Her garland of fifty human heads, represent one of the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, which symbolizes the repository of knowledge and wisdom. Her girdle of severed human hands represent the principal instruments of work and so signify the action of karma.Kali's four arms represent the complete circle of creation and destruction, which is contained within her. She represents the inherent creative and destructive rhythms of the cosmos. In short, the light and dark aspects of life that create a realistic balance. To further accentuate this balance; her right hands, make the mudras of "fear not" and, represent the creative aspect of Kali, while the left hands, holding a bloodied sword and a severed head represent her destructive aspect. She is seen as the ultimate representation of reality.And so at first glance, one who is not familiar with the Goddess Kali and thus one of the Hindu religions, would wrongly assume that she is a terrible and frightening Goddess who is bent solely on death and destruction.And from this short-sightedness a pattern of prejudice is sure to follow as it so often does with humans.Far too often people assume that they understand those things of which they have no more then a superficial understanding. And as a result we have the constant and in my personal opinion, unnecessary bias and hatred that is often seen amongst divergent religious belief systems.Perhaps the prime Moral should be one of common respect. If people could embrace the concept that the right religion/spiritual path is the one that works for the individual, then maybe we could focus our attention on issues that really matter. Matters such as hunger and disease and may I dare say it, peace and genuine acceptance amongst the inhabitants of this weary world of ours...

The King James Debacle

There is a line in the King James Bible which states "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (Exodus 22:18).
However the original Latin from which this infamous alteration originated from is "Veneficos (sive) veneficas non retinebitis in vita", or "thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live".
Poisoning was a particulary common problem in those times.
And it is well known that King James was a firm believer in the occult.
The play Macbeth was written specifically for him by Shakespeare based on King James's interests.
It has been established from a number of sources that King James had consulted two Scottish witches about his on going lineage. When these two witches told him (accurately) that his line would die out with him, he became enraged. And thus he subsituted the word "witch" for "poisoner" in his written version of the Christian bible which was begun in in 1604 and first published in 1611 by the Church of England.
This rewrite was made possible because it was noted by the Puritans (a faction within the Church of England) that the earlier versions of the Christian bible contained "errors".
And thus King James instructed his translators (all 47 of whom were scholars with the Church of England) to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and would reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs.
These revised translations were translated from the Textus Receptus (Received Text) series of the Greek texts that preceded them.
And so with a stroke of a pen, a mortal man was able to change the word of his God, to empower his own selfish revenge.
And not only did this horrific alteration affect a belief system which was divergent to Christianity, but it also put women specifically into harms way.
The word "witch" appeared in Christian scriptures as maleficos, which is gender-neutral, until circa the mid-1500's.
Then along came Martin Luther and in his version of the Christian bible is the line "Die Zuberinnen soltu nicht leben lassen," which makes the word "witch" clearly feminine.

It is one thing to follow the written word of one's Deity, but it is another to blatantly contort such words in an effort to empower ones own sense of revenge and to create a prejudice against those who believe differently in general and against a particular gender, in this case women, in particular.
Is this the way to form a connection with ones chosen Deity? Must humans resort to hatred and lies when claiming to seek love and understanding?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Great Flood Myth

There is a popular misconception that the Christian bible perpetuates which relates a story of survival and by extension the extermination of the majority of the human race as well as all other inhabitants. This is the Great Flood story which has as its main character, the Patriarch known as Noah who rounds up members of his family and two of each type of animal and encapsulates them into to giant ark.
This grand tale is meant to illuminate the revengeful acts of a distant male god who is unsatisfied with the purported actions of his own creations.
This story would never have been told per se had this angry god not spared a particular family and thus given instructions on how to spare the animal kingdom who in all reality had nothing to do with the actions of the species who brought about the anger of this distant and mysterious god.
The only problem with this tale from the Christian bible is that a similar epic event was first recorded by the Sumerians who until very recently were considered the first recorded civilization in Human history.

The following writings are from circa 2300 BC and translated by Arno Poebel, Ph.D Philadelphia: Department of Archaeology, University of Pennsylvania

"After Anu, Enlil, Enki, and Ninhursag had fashioned the black-headed people,Vegetation sprang from the earth,Animals, four-legged creatures of the plain,Were brought artfully into existence[37 lines are unreadable]After the....of kingship had been lowered from heaven after the exalted crown and the throne of kingship had been lowered from heaven,He perfected the rites and exalted the divine ordinances...He founded the five cities in pure places,...Then did Nintu weep like a....The pure Inanna set up a lament for its people, Enki took council with himself, Anu, Enlil, Enki, and Ninhursag....The gods of heaven and earth uttered the name of Anu and Enlil then did Ziusudra, the king, the priest of...,Build a giant...;Humbly obedient, reverently he...Attending daily, constantly he...,Bringing forth all kinds of dreams, he...,Uttering the name of heaven and earth, he...[...]the gods a wall...,Ziusudra, standing at its side, listened."Stand by the wall at my left side...,By the wall I will say a word to you,Take my word,Give ear to my instructions:By our...a flood will sweep over the cult-centers;To destroy the seed of mankind...,Is the decision, the word of the assembly of the gods.By the word commanded by Anu and Enlil...,Its kingship, its rule will be put to an end.[about 40 lines missing]All the windstorms, exceedingly powerful,Attacked as one,At the same time, the flood sweeps over the cult-centers.After, for seven days,the flood sweeps over the cult centers.After, for seven days and seven nights,The flood had swept over the land,And the huge boat had been tossed about by the windstorms on the great waters, Utu came forth, who sheds light on heaven and earth, Ziusudra opened a window of the huge boat,The hero Utu brought his rays into the giant boat. Ziusudra, the king,Prostrated himself before Utu."

And so the Christian Great Flood story is actually a facsimile or re-telling of an event that occurred thousands of years prior to the advent of the first Christian.
While it is common for pieces of one religion/spiritual path to seep into another, it becomes a point of interest when the religion in question claims to be the only true religion in the world and yet is found to be a mish - mash of former belief systems unrelated to itself. Such elitism is the foundation for ignorance and thus does little to foster any true understanding and acceptance amongst the many divergent people of the world.