Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"What no eye has seen..."

"Descend with your attention into the heart, stand there before the Lord and admit nothing sinful to enter there. In this is the entire activity of inner warfare." 
- St. Theophan the Recluse

One way to think about the Nous is as the "eye of the soul."  Just as the physical senses connect the body (soma) with the psyche (the soul), the noetic senses connect psyche with pneuma.  This is the meaning behind the words of Christ when he says, "Let those who have ears to hear, hear..."  or "I will give you what no eye has seen, and what no ear has heard, and what no hand has touched, and what has not occurred to the human mind."  (Gospel of Thomas)

Many of the parables in the canonical New Testament are about opening or healing the nous (many of the others are about access, retention, and use of spiritual energy, but that's for another post).

There are many methods for developing the noetic faculties, but the most important ones fall into two categories:  Nepsis and Remembrance of God.

Nepsis, literally "watching", is the practice of self-observation.  The Gospels frequently refer to the idea of sleep and the necessity for watchfulness.  Metanoia, usually translated as repentance, is the change of consciousness that occurs after many years of watchfulness, in which we engage in exercises in self-observation that develop the ability to discern between hylic, psychic, and pneumatic influences, and thus helps us "tune in" the noetic faculties to the pneumatic center.

Remembrance of God is a practice found in traditional schools of spirituality worldwide.  Many Muslims practice dhikr (literally "remembrance" or "invocation"), following the instructions of the Holy Quran:  "Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction."  Hindus and Buddhists have developed a rich tradition of japa, praying with a mantra.  Many don't know esoteric Christianity also has a highly developed tradition of practicing the remembrance of God.

One method is found within the Eastern Christian practices known as the hesychast tradition, centering on the practice of the Jesus Prayer.  This short prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner," is repeated in on woolen prayer rope.  The best way to begin with this kind of prayer is to pick up a copy of "The Way of A Pilgrim" and a prayer rope and begin with a manageable number of recitations - 100 is a good start.

Another method of Remembrance is the invocation of IAO, a Gnostic name of the Ineffable Father.  Fr. Tony and I did a Talk Gnosis episode about using the name a few months ago - you can check it out here.

If we think of the Nous as a mirror, the use of  the Divine Name, whether by saying the Jesus Prayer, the IAO chant, or other method, acts to polish and clean away the grime, so that it can accurately and clearly reflect the light of the Spirit in the Pneumatic center.

Additional Reading:


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Liturgy of Divine Wisdom - the Gnostic Eucharist

Sun May 05
10:00 AM

150 W 28th St. #303, New York, NY

Join us for the celebration of the Gnostic Eucharist, the Liturgy of Divine Wisdom. Based on traditional liturgies, and drawing from Gnostic scriptures, the rite commemorates the fall, exile, and redemption of Sophia and the journey of the individual seeker moving from the Kenoma, the world of illusion and separation, to the Pleroma, the state of union and illumination.

All are welcome to participate and receive communion.

For more information regarding the Alexandrian Gnostic Church:

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Johannite Conclave

AJC Conclave 2009

I'm looking forward again to attending the Conclave of the Apostolic Johannite Church, May 22-28,  in Chicago.  The Conclave is an excellent opportunity for fellowship, discussion, learning, and worship. 

Here's just a sampling of some of the scheduled presentations:

  • Shaun McCann, Mar Iohannes IV - The Apocryphon of John and the Johannite Tradition
  • Richard Smoley: Inner Christianity
  • Dr. Juliana Eimer: The Divine Neuter
  • Dr. Jeffrey S. Kupperman: The Limits of Ontology: The Good and Evil in Pseudo-Dionysius
  • I'll also be making a presentation on The Valentinian Theurgy of Marcus the Magician.
In addition to the presentations, there will be time to meet clergy and laity from the AJC and other churches and the opportunity to participate in the Grail of Undefiled Wisdom, a unique Johannite Mass.  I'm not a member of the AJC, and have no formal connection to the Church, beyond bonds of deep friendship with several of the clergy and members, but I have been richly rewarded by my attendance at previous Conclaves - if you're in the area, or can get there for the week or for a few days, it will be time well spent.

- for information, registration, and schedule see

Saturday, March 16, 2013

On the shape shifting Jesus - Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

- Wm. Shakespeare, Hamlet

May God us keep
From Single vision & Newton’s Sleep!

- William Blake

Responding to comments about an interesting recently-translated Egyptian text (you can read about it here), Bishop William Behun of the Apostolic Johannite Church, at Miracula Rei Unius, wrote:
The desire to dismiss the miraculous with a single sweep of the hand is a misbegotten one. It is an attempt to make the universe smaller and less interesting. I don't trust people who can chalk every miracle up to "somebody lied". They want to cram the universe into a little box rather than experience it in all of its wonder and complexity. And that makes me sad.  On the other hand, I don't believe that scientific inquiry robs the miraculous of its power.  Thinking isn't the enemy of faith. Thinking is a gift. Anyone who tells you that to be right or to be good or to be a member of their club you have to not think is by definition your enemy and an enemy of everyone. There will always be things that call on us to think, to understand more, and experience what we do understand more profoundly. Miracles are just a reminder that the world is bigger and more beautiful than we understand.

So, I like my shape-shifting Jesus.  I don't have to believe that the universe's laws were suspended, but neither do I have to believe that people are lying to me from 1200 years ago.  I just have to believe that the universe is really amazing, and that it is worth witnessing and understanding, and that it's never a good idea to slam my mind closed.

I have the privilege of celebrating the Mass with our community in New York City, and I remain in awe of the transformation that happens each time.  While some seek to dissect and explain what happens with Aristotelian language about "substance" and "accidents," and others reduce it to some sort of Jungian role-playing, I think that this is one of those times where it is wise to follow the counsel of  the poet Rumi, who advises, "Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”  What happens there is bigger and more awesome than our formulas and theories.

Sometimes, the insights of Gnosis lead us to say, "I don't know."  There's a reason that Gnostics tend to discuss the Ground of Being with words like "ineffable" or "the Depth."  Or, as the Apocryphon of John says, "How am I to speak with you about him? His aeon is indestructible, at rest and existing in silence, reposing (and) being prior to everything. For he is the head of all the aeons, and it is he who gives them strength in his goodness."

This doesn't mean that we throw out reason or empirical investigation, it just means that there are times to push "pause" on that part of the psyche and to simply stand in awe of a universe that is bigger and more wonderful than the limits of our understanding.

In Reinitiating Initiation? An Open Question for Traditionalism, Lucian W. Stone, Jr. discusses the shift to a logos-centric (as opposed to mythos-centric) world view and how that shift has given rise to the modern twins of narrow fundamentalism and anemic, relativistic secularized religion.

On the role of logos and mythos, he quotes Karen Armstrong:  "We tend to assume that the people of the past were (more or less) like us, but in fact their spiritual lives were rather different. In particular, they evolved two ways of thinking, speaking, and acquiring knowledge, which scholars have called mythos and logos. Both were essential; they were regarded as complementary ways of arriving at truth, and each had its special area of competence."

King writes that mythos is "…primary; it was concerned with what was thought to be timeless and constant in our existence. Myth looked back to the origins of life, to the foundations of culture, and to the deepest levels of the human mind. Myth was not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning. Unless we find some significance in our lives, we mortal men and women fall very easily into despair. The mythos of a society provided people with a context that made sense of their day-to-day lives; it directed their attention to the eternal and the universal."

The disconnect from mythos, and the resulting modern tendency towards scientism, psychological reductionism, and relativism, yields a world where meaning is determined by quantity rather than quality, and where our understanding is often limited by our own narrow viewpoint rather than drawing from a deep comprehension of:

"...who we were,
of what we have become;
of where we were,
of wherein we have been cast;
of whereto we speed,
of wherefrom we are redeemed;
of what birth truly is,
and of what rebirth truly is."
(from the Excerpta Ex Theodoto)

I don't know if the story of the shape-shifting Jesus is literally true, but I do know that the viewpoint that dismisses it with a sneer is spiritually impoverishing and dangerously wrong.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Notes on 'Spirituality'

"Implicit in the idea that spirituality concerns both understanding and being are the parallel notions of a doctrine (an account of Reality in both its absolute and relative 'dimensions') and a path (a spiritual method, provided by religious forms, whereby one might live in accordance with the Will of Heaven).  One of the myriad problems surrounding many contemporary attitudes to 'spirituality' is that the doctrine of an Ultimate Realtiy (by whatever name - the Absolute, God, Allah, Atman-Brahman, Nirvana/Sunyata, the Tao, Wakan-Tanka) and the elaboration of a spiritual method attuned to our relationship therewith, are left out of the picture altogether!  What we are offered instead is a notion of 'spirituality' as some kind of inner subjective state, a kind of 'warm fuzzy glow', sometimes harnassed to formulations such as 'the kingdom of Heaven is within you' - as if by these words Christ meant that the kingdom of Heaven is of a psychological order!  This is all of a piece with the notion that 'spirituality' is a private affair, and taht the spiritual life can be fashioned out of the subjective resources of the individual in question."

- Harry Oldmeadow, Notes on 'Spirituality'

Gandhi - First Blood

from What Gandhi really thought about guns:

Gandhi practiced what he preached, even when violently attacked. His autobiography contains an account of such an incident that occurred during a trip to South Africa. Gandhi was traveling on a ship from India to Natal province with 800 other passengers, including his family. Racial discrimination in the province was rampant. Once white residents learned that Gandhi was aboard the ship, they became furious. They accused him of denouncing Natal whites while he was in India and bringing Indian immigrants to settle in the province as provocation.

Gandhi was innocent of both charges, but the residents attacked him when he disembarked from the ship anyway. He was hit with punches, kicks, stones and bricks, but refused to retaliate and simply kept walking (to the best of his ability). The mob was subdued only when the wife of the town’s police superintendent opened her parasol and stood between Gandhi and the mob. Later, Gandhi remembered thinking, “I hope God will give me the courage and the sense to forgive them and to refrain from bringing them to law. I have no anger against them. I am only sorry for their ignorance and their narrowness. I know that they sincerely believe that what they are doing today is right and proper. I have no reason therefore to be angry with them.” Ultimately, the press condemned the mob and the whole affair “enhanced the prestige of the Indian community in South Africa and made [Gandhi’s] work easier.”

AJC Conclave

May 22-28 - Our friends at the Apostolic Johannite Church are holding their annual Conclave in Chicago.

Speakers include Richard Smoley, Bishop Shaun McCann (Mar Iohannes IV), Dr. +William Behun, Dr. +Timothy Mansfield, Dr. Juliana Eimer, Dr. Jeffrey S. Kupperman, and others.  I'll be giving a presentation on the Valentinian Theurgy of Marcus the Magician.

If you're able to make it for the week, or even just for a few days, I highly encourage you to make the effort.   This is a great opportunity to meet people who are actively engaged in building community and interpreting Gnosticism for a contemporary audience. 

You can find the schedule, registration information, and more here.

New AGC site

The Alexandrian Gnostic Church site has been updated and relocated to a new domain at

The Gospel of Thomas I

IAO - the name of God