Uncle Jax (jax) Sun 1 Aug 04 12:22
Resurgence in Kabbalah is part and parcel of people in a luxury-ridden global empire seeking relief from their weltschmerz!
Bobby Lilly (bobbyl) Sun 1 Aug 04 13:28
Uncle Jax writes; "Resurgence in Kabbalah is part and parcel of people in a luxury-ridden global empire seeking relief from their weltschmerz." Makes sense to me. But a pervasive sadness at the condition of the world is not a bad beginning place for those of us living in a luxury-ridden global empire nor does it mean that it will absolve us from complicity in what has been done in our name to others around the world or the need to take action against the juggernaut of Empire. Perhaps some may use it as an escape but that does not invalidate the truths that it and other traditions might have for us if we looked with open minds and hearts. Yes, in the world of commodification in which we live, even the search for spiritual truth can be co-opted but that doesn't invalidate underlying truths which, if understood, could help inform us as we seek to transform what is into something better. Robert Richardson's article on the the Knights Templar and Richard Smoley's article about the origin of Freemasonry both give examples of how a "spiritual" focus can move out into and transform the world.
Bobby Lilly (bobbyl) Sun 1 Aug 04 13:30
Sorry, I need to re-read what I write better before posting ;-). Both of the articles I mentioned are in Jay's book _the Inner West_
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Sun 1 Aug 04 17:45
I couldn't have said it better myself, Bobby. Maybe we should ghost write for each other! <g>
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Sun 1 Aug 04 19:25
It is interesting to me that we have long made geographical boundaries (East & West being the broadest of these) for spiritual traditions. Today we live in a world where many of these boundaries are nearly irrelevant. Jay, what do you think is the impact of traditions not necessarily being 'grounded' in their geography? (One thing that comes to mind for me is the superfical adoption of 'traditions' by those one might consider 'new age'.) And what do you think are the challenges and benefits to the searcher who is not limited by geographic boundaries?
Uncle Jax (jax) Sun 1 Aug 04 19:36
> But a pervasive sadness at the condition of the world is not a bad > beginning place for those of us living in a luxury-ridden global > empire Quite true, that was the beginning place for a young prince named Siddharta some years back ... :-)
Bobby Lilly (bobbyl) Mon 2 Aug 04 05:58
Jay, Reading the book, I found the language very dense at times but understandable with some effort. (Mind you I was profoundly ignorance of all these subjects before I read your book ;-). And, because your authors were dealing with very complex subjects, I found myself searching Google time after time to gain a more in depth perspective throughout the book. Thank goodness I could just plug in a word and out came everything I needed to know. It's a great aid when diving into such complicated subject matter. In his article _The Quest for Spiritual Freedom: the Gnostic World View_ Stephan A. Hoeller expounds in your book _The Inner West_ on the Gnostic concept of the flawed creator, the Demiurge, who shaped the already existing divine essence of the True God into the the equally flawed material reality of our existence. Hoeller wrote; "Since he took the already existing divine essence and fashioned it into various forms, he is also called the Demiurgos or "half-maker." However, after Googling on the subject, I have one nit to pick about Hoeller's definition. According to Wikipedia; "the name Demiurge is actually derived from the ancient Greek δημιουργό` 2; (démiourgos), meaning an artisan or craftsman. (This word in turn comes from δήμιος "official" which in turn comes from δῆμος "people" and έργον meaning "creation" or "piece of work".) There is no reference to "half-maker" anywhere in their description. Can you shed any light on the apparent contradiction in the two definitions? Or, is this just the kind of differing interpretation one must expect from scholars trying to study its roots in antiquity?
gary (ggg) Mon 2 Aug 04 08:32
i'm under your spell, and just surfacing to footnote <24>, ending comment therein about Christianity. it's interesting to acknowledge that, alongside the persecution, crusades, inquisitions, of the church against the infidels, the Bogomils, the Cathars, the alchymists, and so on, the church also became a vehicle for preserving some of these traditons, albeit somewhat unwittingly, like a huge creature hosting symbiotic organisms. some excellent accounts of the gnostics can be found in the writings of such church fathers as origen. like, if he was so against them all, why did he go to such lengths to quote them so well? maybe he was just being fair, or maybe he was also somewhat of a closet gnostic himself? perhaps a better example might be the example offered by fulcanelli, in his book The Mystery of the Cathedrals, where we find definite alchemical lore being preserved and transmitted through decorations within european churches (somewhat akin to preservation of lore through playing cards; the tarot). he points out examples in notre dame. having visited the cathedral at autun, without any foreknowledge of any of this, and experiencing this for myself, my hosts were very amiable afterwards at the sheer wonder of how this sculptor ghislebertus [sic?] could have engraved so much ostensibly non-christian tradition within the christian tradition -- both in such christian iconography as the three magi, as well as in such non-christian iconography as some of the goofier images (more like out of bosch). and yes at this point it's interesting to note the confluence and interchange 'twixt 'east' and 'west, as we begin to sense actual foottraffic, trade routes, as well as the influence that's 'in the air,' -- the drafts. there's probably some family onh the border of buda and pest in whose basement the actual division between 'east' and 'west' traditionally runs, and what they got stashed down there besides, one can only wonder. when i was taught hebrew for bar mitzva, it became clear that this wasn't exactly a an anglo saxon variant, yet it's been treated as 'western.' go figure.
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Mon 2 Aug 04 12:07
chrys wondered: "Jay, what do you think is the impact of traditions not necessarily being 'grounded' in their geography? ...And what do you think are the challenges and benefits to the searcher who is not limited by geographic boundaries?" You know, it occurs to me that I should clarify something about my attitude towards traditions. At least in the spiritual arena where we're talking about heightening of awareness and compassion, I don't think that "traditions" per se are necessarily superior to nontraditional approaches. I'm enough of a pragmatist to favor "whatever works" for someone. However, I've chosen to largely champion traditions because I do think that surviving traditions tend to have built-in safe-guards or guard rails that help keep the unwary neophyte from sliding into the abyss. But back to chrys's questions. While a tradition typically develops in a certain location and cultural matrix, it often doesn't take long for it to spread to other places. That can be perfectly fine if the tradition adapts to other locations in a way that speaks to the people there and if it is able to maintain its potency. The risk, of course, is that certain of its features, removed from their original context, may become distorted or meaningless or even counterproductive. With our present ability to go nearly anywhere, the planet has shrunk to a point that the various traditions of the world are spread before us like an all-you-can-eat smorgasboard. One potential danger of that is that it makes it easy to pick and choose a tidbit from this tradition and another from that, and so on. (New Agers were notorious for that.) However, I think the most value comes from really engaging with a tradition and living it. That is easier said than done, of course. The premise behind _The Inner West_ as an anthology is that those traditions of our own background (speaking here as someone of Western ancestry who was raised in the West) *may* speak to us more effectively precisely because they utilize a vocabulary of symbols and ideas that have a certain resonance for us. For instance, I recall back in 1978 when I was visiting Munich and was in their art museum looking at Medieval art. There was a little statuette of what looked like a naked woman covered with curly pubic hair. I found that exceedingly strange. Then I looked closer and noted that it was a depiction of Mary Magdalene. And that set me off on an enquiry: why would MM be portrayed like that? There was something oddly numinous about that conjuncture of the familiar and the strange. Of course I later found out that MM was traditionally depicted as a hermitess, often contemplating a skull, with a little container of oil (referring to her legend of oiling Jesus's feet) and, in some cases, unshorn hair as would befit the legend of her traveling to Europe and going into seclusion. But that encounter in the museum got me thinking that there is plenty of intriguing strangeness right beneath our own noses. If the statuette had been of some Asian goddess or Kwan Yin I don't think it would have struck me in the same way, because I would have just credited it to another distant culture whose ways I didn't understand.
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Mon 2 Aug 04 12:22
Bobby, my own understanding of "Demiurge," off the top of my head, is that the term was originally used in ancient Greek philosophy to refer to a craftsmanlike creator god who brought the world into being but who had a lower cosmological status than the One, the pure divine Essence which is outside space and time. I believe that this idea was utilized by the Gnostics to critique the traditional Judaeo-Christian God, who they assumed must be a Demiurge mistakenly thinking that He was the ultimate God. Hoeller's rendering of this as "half-maker" is perhaps too literal. I suspect the Demi was more refering to mid-way or partial. But, like I say, I'm positing all this without going to my reference books, so I might be only demi-correct.
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Mon 2 Aug 04 12:26
gary, yes, some of the components of the esoteric traditions have been carried within the exoteric shell of the Church, etc. Indeed, some of the greatest mystics (Meister Eckhart, for instance) were monks or nuns, more or less directly answerable to Rome. So, I don't mean to set up too absolute a split between the Church and the inner traditions. Your examples are all relevant.
Bobby Lilly (bobbyl) Mon 2 Aug 04 14:32
I see the Greek alphabet didn't come in my last post, sorry for all that weird code ;-). Serendipitously, even as Jay was writing; "I think the most value comes from really engaging with a tradition and living it. That is easier said than done, of course." that I received an e-mail pointing to a new article about sufism by Peter Lamborn Wilson (he edited the journal of the Iranian Royal Academy of Philosophy in Tehran) the link was: http://nthposition.com/iranorpersia.php. Here's one fragment from it for anyone interested: "Under conditions of overwhelming oppression the dervish becomes rendi, that is to say, clever. A rend can drink wine under the very nose of the Law and get away with it. The rend is a secret agent of self-illumination, a strange combination of mystic monk and prankish surrealist. Perhaps this is where Gurdjieff found his notion of the "clever one" who avoids onerous paths of religion and yoga, and slips into heaven like a burglar, so to speak. In folklore, the rend becomes a comic figure like the famous Mulla Nasroddin, outwardly a fool but in truth a sage. Hopefully, the link to nthposition.com will come through legibly.
Uncle Jax (jax) Mon 2 Aug 04 15:06
>Under conditions of overwhelming oppression the dervish becomes >rendi, that is to say, clever. A rend can drink wine under the very >nose of the Law and get away with it. The rend is a secret agent of >self-illumination, a strange combination of mystic monk and prankish >surrealist. Yeah, that's the Abbie Hoffman - YIPPIE doctrine!
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Mon 2 Aug 04 16:48
Wilson's memoirs are great. Thanks for the pointer to that piece. If GNOSIS were still going I'd publish it in a heartbeat. It's indicative of the state of publishing that he's consigned to putting it up on a website. (Of course that makes it easily accessible and free, so who's complaining?)
Bobby Lilly (bobbyl) Tue 3 Aug 04 13:19
Jay, Reading your book has given me a great deal to ponder as well as raised some questions in my mind. Because of the way I found my connection to/understanding of the universal ;-), the need for ritual and community that seem to be so much a part of the groups in your book isn't so obvious to me. I know I feel no need for in myself for ritualistic reminders or a like minded community to support a particular belief system and, therefore, wonder at the ubiquity of both.Can you speak to the need for each and whether you see them as necessary components or not of a spiritual life?
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Tue 3 Aug 04 18:17
That depends on what one means by a "spiritual life." I'm not a big fan of a certain self-conscious kind of spirituality where one is all dressed in white or whatever and acts cloyingly sweet to everyone and so on. But I realize that's not what you mean by the phrase anyway. ;-) So, if we arbitrarily define a spiritual life as a life in which one feels connected to the greater whole and tries to live in the light of that connection, ritual or community may not be necessary for everyone. Ritual can be helpful for fostering a certain state of mind, but that doesn't always work for everyone. And if one has been lucky enough to achieve a certain consciousness (though "achieve" is not always the best word) ritual may be superfluous or even a bring-down. Community is always helpful and if one is trying to work with a specific teaching, it is important to have a teacher or guide to consult with if one hits certain bumps in the road. And it is helpful to have friends who share your values or interests. If you don't, then things can get pretty lonely.
Bobby Lilly (bobbyl) Wed 4 Aug 04 08:09
Reading your book, I was struck by the historical focus in most of the articles about the various traditions. Yet, when I re-read the the article, Explaining Wicca, what jumped out at me was the immediacy of Judy Harrow's writing and the straight forward way she explained her belief system. Reading her article I knew I was reading about a tradition that was alive in the world today. In your last post, you wrote about community and how alone it must be without friends to share with. I'll bet there are many people searching for such community who don't have any idea where to search out alternatives to the mainstream for those with such needs/interests. I expect we've all heard about the resurgence of Kabbalah these days but what else is out there where people who are searching could find that sense of community?
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Wed 4 Aug 04 12:13
Bobby, most of the articles took a historical focus because it is the nature of a tradition to come from the past into the present. So I thought that a historical approach would help explain the different traditions. You are right that Judy's article stands out as being present-based. That's how it was originally written and it was good enough that I ran it as is. I think that sense of community is there, sometimes just on a small-scale local basis, sometimes on a more international basis, with many of the traditions covered in The Inner West. A little diligent searching, online, in local holistic directories, by checking out flyers in metaphysical bookstores, can help one find such groups. But, for instance, there are numerous Sufi orders around; some Christian ministers have been trying to draw upon more esoteric and mystical material in their churches; there's no scarcity of magical orders; there are societies based on the teachings of Blavatsky, Steiner, Swedenborg, Gurdjieff, and there are numerous Masonic lodges which provide a sense of community (though the amount of interest in inner traditions can vary from lodge to lodge.) One needs to be discerning and stay in touch with what one is really looking for because as with all ad hoc groupings, some may be more cult-like than one would prefer and some may make big promises beyond what they can really deliver. Good news, by the way: I just got word that the book has gone into its 3rd printing! Not too bad for a book that's only been out for 6 weeks or so.
Bobby Lilly (bobbyl) Wed 4 Aug 04 13:35
One hears all kinds of horror stores about "cults" and I can imagine it would be difficult for seekers to discern between those groups that can help one develop spiritually and those that just want to control one's life. And, I suppose the group that might be most valuable to one may stifle the understanding of another so it makes sense for people who are searching to be thoughtful and retain a seed of scepticism even as they are being asked to believe. Congratulations on the news about the book. I think it richly deserves all the attention it can get and know that its readership will find the articles enjoyable as well as informative. As a long-term feminist, the name of Sophia, the Goddess of Wisdom, was new to me and Caitlin Matthews' article about her was eye opening. My childhood was spent in a Christian world (Methodism) in which the one God was a jealous Father and yet for the past twenty years I found myself speaking of (and to) the Goddess whenever I addressed the divine. I didn't know who she was but my feminism pushed me in her direction. Caitlin wrote; "But although the figure of the Goddess has been in eclipse until this century, she has not been inactive. She has been working away like yeast within the chewy dough of daily bread." What wonderful imagery to offer the reader. Can you address how Sophia fits into the West's hidden traditions for our readers since from the article it seems she is part of any number of traditions.
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Wed 4 Aug 04 16:16
Sophia (Greek for wisdom) occupies an interesting position. She was an ancient goddess, on the one hand, but also a feminine aspect of the divine in early Gnosticism. One can see the references to Wisdom, characterized as feminine, in the Song of Songs in the Bible as referring to Sophia. Caitlin was perhaps being a mite reductionist in saying that all manifestations of the divine feminine were (or are) manifestations of Sophia, but her underlying point still stands: those aspects of God or the divine that have commonly been labeled feminine (Mercy, all-accepting Love, Forgiveness, Comforting, Wisdom) have tended to get short shrift from institutional religion. And interestingly enough, it is precisely the hidden traditions that have often rectified this imbalance by making a place for Sophia or the feminine. It's there in Gnosticism, in Kabbalah, in Alchemy, in Sufism (which speaks of the divine as the Beloved), and so on.
Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Wed 4 Aug 04 16:40
"Sophia"? In the Song of Songs? cite, please
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Thu 5 Aug 04 08:42
It's all a matter of how one reads the text. The most obvious interpretation is that the Song of Songs is love poetry between the Shulammite and Solomon (or just between an unidentified man and woman). But another possible interpretation is of an exchange between Solomon and Wisdom. There's one verse in particular that stands out: "Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?" (There are other traditional interpretations as well, such as it being an expression of love between the Lord and Israel or between God and the Church.) However, there is no overt reference to Wisdom in the book and anyone would be justified in claiming the Wisdom interpretation is a stretch. Not having cracked the Bible in awhile, I erred above in implying overt references to Wisdom in the Song of Songs. My memory conflated the feminine voice in that book with the references to Wisdom in Proverbs, such as in Chapter 8. Sorry about that. But you may want to ponder Proverbs 8:22-31. Here we do have a "feminine" Wisdom noting that she was created by the Lord before the beginning of the Earth and that "when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always..." My feeling on working with this material is that we are not dealing with clear cut entities whose identities are always spelled out. Rather one is glimpsing recurring archetypal images and metaphors whose meanings are very much a personal subjective matter to each individual. It's very much like listening to poetry: there's what the poet may have intended to convey and then there's what each listener gets from it. They are often not the same thing, but each of them is "correct" in some sense.
Bobby Lilly (bobbyl) Thu 5 Aug 04 10:44
You wrote; "It's very much like listening to poetry: there's what the poet may have intended to convey and then there's what each listener gets from it. They are often not the same thing, but each of them is "correct" in some sense." The spiritual quest itself is much like that, isn't it? There are many truths and all paths can lead to understanding. The listener just needs to be able to listen with an open heart and mind. I know in my dark years, I clung to on-line versions of the IChing and Tarot. I'd never been one for the art of divination but found that I somehow drew a strange sense of comfort from the replies I got when I asked my questions and they were lifelines speaking to me when I could not comprehend why my life had been destroyed the way it had been. The wisdom of the Sage, speaking to me thru the IChing, helped me maintain a focus on acting and thinking rightly in difficult circumstances and the symbols of the Tarot cards spoke to me about how to understand what had happened to me and what paths I should take from then on. It's fascinating to look back and see just how often I drew certain cards. The Hermit, the Fool and Death seemed to predominate, at least early on, but I also saw the Star and the Knight of Wands enough to learn the lessons they had to teach. Whether or not these mechanisms were "really" answering the questions I had made no difference, my mind could interpret them in ways that helped me to not only survive a devastating experience but grow as well.
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Thu 5 Aug 04 11:33
Bobby, you wrote: "Whether or not these mechanisms were 'really' answering the questions I had made no difference, my mind could interpret them in ways that helped me to not only survive a devastating experience but grow as well." Exactly...and that's where I think a lot of skeptics bark up the wrong trees. Especially in cases like the I Ching or Tarot or even Astrology, one is using external "systems" to allow one to know one's own feelings or intentions or situation - all of which may be veiled from one's conscious mind. It's basically a "game" one plays with one's unconscious psyche. And that's also the case, to a certain extent, with spiritual systems or scriptures, etc. For instance, do I think that "God" literally created the universe in 6 days or that there was a historic couple named Adam and Eve in a literal Garden of Eden? No. But, I do think that those stories or others like them have a certain symbolic or metaphysical import that is worth engaging with. Creationists totally miss the point and look at them as literal history. And strict evolutionists dismiss them as unscientific malarky. It's the blind men and the elephant, over and over again. In saying all this I'm not intending to reduce spirituality down to a "game" one plays with one's psyche. Rather, I think that we are engaged in a 3-way hide and seek between our psyche, the universe, and an underlying order or intelligence or consciousness.
Bobby Lilly (bobbyl) Thu 5 Aug 04 13:37
Jay, That last paragraph really rang true for me ;-). But, I want to move away from the subline and bring it down to the personal for a minute. I've been curious about the history that led you to become who you are today. I would guess that one of the most important phases was your editorship of Gnosis. Can you talk a little about your involvement with the magazine? Why did you decide to start it in the first place, what was it that make you stick to that task for 14 long years and, last but not least, why did it all end? Any funny or enlightening stories to tell us about the whole experience? I've only just met you here on-line through this dialogue, so I'm really curious about WHO you are. What are you like in person? How would you describe yourself these days? What stirs your passions or makes you want to do something? So, here's your opportunity to expose that side of yourself to our readers. I'm sure others are as curious as me about where you started out as well as what shaped your growth and how you are "different" today...and, please, don't forget the "juicy parts" ;-).
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