Hermes' Thoughts

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Location: Boston, MA, United States

I am a clergyperson and was ordained in 1985 by the National Alliance of Pantheists. I received recognition through Our Lady and Lord of the Trinicrian Rose. I volunteer as a member of the Interfaith Clergy Council of the Boston Living Center. I live with my partner and spouse in a timy apartment in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. I like writing poetry as well an prose. I have been a Witch since 1971. I was born in Binghamton, NY and lived there until 1984 when I moved to Maine.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why Hermes?

Hermes is the second of trinity of Homoerotic gods that were worshipped whereever men gathered, such a gynasia and palaestra. He represents both the ability to rise above obstacles and also take a different point of view, but also grant eloquence. This is most typified by the his Homeric Hymn where hs is able to charm his way out of most every possible bad situation. This is his trickster aspect too, as Hermes is the characteristic archetypical of the Trickster. For me, he therefore gets you to see from another point of view, and take control of the situation and get it under control. Apollo is the mental aspect and is the law and order sort, whereas Hermes is the one that tests the boundaries as you will see. So he is the transcendent being. So whereas Eros, the first of the Trinity of gods, is the sparker of desire, Hermes gives you the potential to achieve the desire by eloquence or by taking control and guiding the situation. Of the three he has the most to speak to me, as you will see.

Why Hermes? What is his attaction to me? What does he have to offer?

Why Hermes? First you must read the Homeric Hymn to Hermes and read his story. Hermes is the son of the daughter of the Titan, Atlas, and one of the Pleiades. Her name means, by some sources 'mother'. Hermes is derived from an ancient word for a boundary marker which in Greek is called a herm. A herm is a pile of stones that marked the boundary between something. like property or two tribes and so forth. But the name may have a more ancient origin. It may predate the Greeks of the Dark Ages.

There are a few words that are hard to translate that obviously came from the era before the Greeks, the Achaeans, came to the Greek peninsula. This civilization that existed in the Cyclades and on Crete had a language that as yet unknown though speculation that it may be related to Carian of the southwestern part of modern Turkey which has a language that is as yet not related to any known lauguage.

The first civilization in Europe was in these islands. Archeologists have found sites that are dating back to the Neolithic and before the mainland, but the earliest on these islands is in the Neolithic. If you look at a map pof the Greek Islands of the Dodeconese you will see that they are like stepping stones across to Crete from Turkey. Thus the connection but as yet unproven(1)

There is strong evidence that the Minoan-Mycenaen religion survived into Classical Greek religion, as well, for place names that have un-Greek constructed roots still existed. I would speculate that Hermes and the herm came from that remote period as well. Other evidence that might indicate such a connection it that there are a number of artifacts showing a young male seemingly floating in the air above an altar (often marked with what is called Horns of Consecration, and or the double bladed axe, the labrys). Also of note is the appearance of many young women in these scenes, some are worshipers and some are goddesses, and the goddesss are usually recieving the veneration of the worshipers. On occasion, this young man, in the air, matched up with a goddess. Could this god be a god that can fliy and his mother? If it is so it could be the model which Maia's relationship to Hermes as originally depicted.

During that period after the end of the Minoan-Mycenaen period and the Archaic Period, a new group of Greek speaking peoples entered the Greek peninsula and settled in most of Greece. These were the Dorians. Warlike and divided they gradually settled down and developed into the Archaic Greeks. These Dorians were, like the earlier Achaeans (Mycenaens) patriarchal, and had more male gods than female goddesses, but the power of place and the association there was where the power of the goddess could not wholly be 0verthown, but was incorporated into myths of their leading gods marrying or seducing the older goddesses, thus legitimizing their power over the feminine deity. Such marriages and seductions, like Hera with Zeus, or in our particutlar instance, Maia being seduced by Zeus, are examples.

So the herm, which was a pile of stones. in time became a standing stone marker or plinth. Such plinths were common in Ancient Greece and their name gave thier power to Hermes, the one who could be the crosser of boundaries, but first he was the maker of boundaries. It is interesting to note that in Classical Greece these herms often took on a plallic appearance or a phallus was added to them, they became important symbols of fertility to the women of the time. Certainly they were important enough that when the herms were mutilated by vandals that implicated Alcibides, which pushed him into exile from Athens, that it was considered a major calamity for the city of Athens (2). Also Pan, who has an aspect of fertility was said to be the son of Hermes, I'll get back to that later.

Hermes is a protector of travelers as well. Again, you can look to the boundary marker f0r this. Travelers often cross some sort of boundary or another at some time in their travels. Similar to the roadside shrines in some Christian countries, these markers would also serve as a place of offering to the deity of that boundary. A more pronounced version of this is the veneration of boundaries that the Celtic peoples had. Sacred sites would be set up wherever there were boundaries. Springs mark a boundary between the world below and this one. Hilltops as well would be sacred as they marked the boundary between the earth and the sky. Likewise caves were sacred as boundaries similar to springs, between the earth and the underworld. I think that similar such shrines were set up at boundaries and since the were herms, then Hermes was awarded the role of protector of travelers. Hermes is also the God of Commerce, which is a natural extension of that of the traveler, as commerce, would be like a traveler on the road, which would cross some sort of boundary or another. By further extension, Hermes is also the conductor of the dead to the Underworld, Hermes Psychopompos.

This brings up one of the most familiar symbols associated with Hermes, the Caduceus. This was the wand, that Apollo traded with Hermes to get the reed flute. This wand is an unique symbol in that it is also a visible manifestation of Hermes and his power of transcendence. It consisted of a wand with two intertwined serpents. It belongs to a class of symbols that are universal, the so called axis mundi, or the world's axis. There are many examples of this symbol. Yggdrasil of the Norse tradition, the World Tree, is one example with its roots in the Underworld, Niflheim, and the top most branches in Heaven, Asgard. Meru, the sacred mountain of the Hindu faith is another which has its roots in the subterranean world and heights in the heavens. Odin's, Wotan's, Woden's Spear, is also an example but more subtle, for it gives this deity authority over all the world. Such a symbol is the caduceus. More interesting is the resemblance to the structure of DNA's double helix, the basic building block of all life on the Earth.

Because it connects the levels of reality together it also represents Hermes himself, a sort of icon of the power of the god. So when you see the caduceus that could stand for Hermes himself at the same time, just as the lingam of the Hindus represents Shiva. I will go into the connections with other deities later.

The caduceus is a phallic symbol, as well, as any such shaped object is. This brings in the connection with fertility. Again, go back to the incident in Athens with the herms. It is notable that the Athenian women often would pray for fertility to these herms. They often were part of a household as well as boundaries. In the Ancient World, where life was often short, fertility was important, not only for humans but for all things that humans depended on to survive. Even today on some places in the Mediterranean you can see phallic symbols, some bold and forthright like phalli, or subtle, like the cornicello worn by Italian men as a sign of their virility.

Because of the sybolism, and the awareness of the goat's viritlity, Pan is often shown with a exaggerated penis. Pan is said to be the son of Hermes by a nymph. Some of the herms have horns with refer to Pan, and clearly there is some equation between Pan and Hermes. Hermes (Kriophoros, ram-bearer, a Pelasgian god, (Pelasgian being the pre-Hellenic peoples of Greece) is a god of the shepherds and cattle-herders. This may be as a result of his theft of Apollo's cattle, or this incident, in the Hymn, may have been a later way of representing that aspect. He is the herder's god, and the flute that the herder plays, it is said, was Hermes' invention. Perhaps, Pan is the wild side of Hermes then, the wild man of the woods and fields, such as Cernunnos, Faunus, and satyrs (or fauns to the Romans) which were lesser gods of the fields and woodlands.

What is not well known is Hermaphroditos, who is said to be the son of Hermes by Aphrodite. He is the archetypical androgenous male, and may actually be both male and female, by some accounts. He gives his name to those that have both male and female gender characteristics.

All of this put together, in my opinion leads me to conclude that Hermes has a fertility aspect to him. Also the majority of images of Hermes that you see that are survived the ages, show him as being rather androgenous in appearance, such as a young man in his post puberty may look. This brings in an additonal aspect of Hermes' character, that of the eternal youth. Each time Hermes is described he is youthful, mostly in is depictions (3).

What I see now is a deity that can cross any boundary, has a wild aspect to him, a thief, but who is responsible for treaties, conmerce and trade. He is also, because of this, a god to do with the laws that are related to these areas.

The next aspect is not so evident though, the Magician and Trickster. The Trickster aspect is the most obvious in the way he gets himself out of trouble by bargaining with his inventions and getting out of being punished for stealing Apollo's cattle. As for the Magician aspect, you need to look at how that Greeks saw Hermes, in exotic gods, most notably Thoth, the Egyptian god of medicine, learning, culture, and magick. When the Greeks came to Egypt, they saw Thoth was Hermes. In post-Classical times, namely that of the Hellenistic and Roman periods, Hermes became associated with, and especially in Egypt, with Thoth. Out of this syncretistic joining came Hermes Trismagistes, Hermes thrice great. who is said to be the author of The Kybalion, or his Three Initiates. What was it that Thoth (Djehewty in Ancient Egyptian) that caused this equation? That is difficult to say now, but magic was definitely a part of Thoth's characteristics. According to the Egyptians, Thoth was the originator of their writing system. which was a major component of their culture. When the hieroglyphs were written down certain words would be wrtitten in red ink instead of black, which was mostly the color used. These words were of great importance qand often magical. One possible origin of the name for the divinitory cards, Tarot, is and epithet of Thoth, Hry-turot, "he who is over the red letters:. Thoth also recorded the result of the weighing of the heart of the dead to judge their innocence or guilt, more properly the right actions (called ma'at in Egyptian and was symboized by a feather) when the dead were judged before Osiris.

One symbolic tool stands out when it comes to magick and magicians, the wand. and the caduceus is said to be a wand. It is phallic and the power arises from that phallic power. The associations and identification of Hermes with the caduceus shows his magicakal nature, which is not always evident in what has survived to us (4).

To the Ancient Romans, he was known as Mercury, and that is his most popularly known name. The Romans borrowed the tales of the Greeks and grafted them on to their native stories of the goddesses and gods. Mercury was originally, Mercur, and can be seen in Etruscan paintings of their time, just before the rise of Rome. Not much is known of Mercur, as the Etruscan language is as yet to be translated, and seems to me a non-Indo-European language, but in the time that the Etruscan kings ruled Rome, he came into the pantheon of the Romans. Also at this time, a developemental time for Roman history, they were influenced by the Greek colonies to the south of them in Campania, such as Neopolis (Naples) and Cumae. It is likely that at that time the Greek religious stories were added on the Romans, and who were the most interested in ritual than in what beliefs lay behind them.

The Romans, as their power grew and they encountered other religious communities, ran into the welter of different gods, and tried to understand them as the Greeks, did by identifying them with there own pantheon. In the writings of some of the Roman writers that had contact with the Germanic tribes beyond the Rhine, they described a wanderinig god, who on many ways sounds like Wotan/Woden/ Odin, and called him Mercury. Something in the character of these wandering gods was like that of Mercury, therefore something like Hermes.. Some speculation has been made that the earliest form of Woden was that of a god to do with death, even a conductor of the dead, a psychopompos (5).

Alexander, the Great, said that Hermes was honored amongst the gods of the Indus River people as well. Again we are hampered by the lost knowledge of those people as we do not know for sure who he is refering to, but some speculation has been that it is Shiva, and that may be an association with some of the characteristics of Shiva, like the trident he carries that is so like the caduceus. He is also a known trickster as well, like Hermes, as well as a god that can transcend boundaries. Thus in any magician and trickster god is the essence of Hermes.

Carl Jung discovered that there are certain universal themed religious beings that appear in many disguises. He is called these archetypes, and one that is universally recognized is that of the Messenger, Trickster and Magician. Hermes combines all of these archetypes. Christopher Penczak states that this archetype is "one of the most important archetypes. The messanger is the image of the magician and shaman, the one that travels between worlds bringing messages and magick, and guiding souls... these gods of invention, magick, writing, mystery and higher consciousness...trickster and healers."(6) Christopher goes on to to account other gods that fit the archetype, just as I had years ago such as Ganesha, the spiritual remover of obstacles to the spiritual, as well as of traveling; Celtic deities like Math ap Mathowy, Gwydion, Merlin, and Taliesin, amongst the Welsh; the Gaelic Ogma, Mannanon mac Lir, Lugh (who Caesar equated to Mercury) and Diancect of the Tuatha de Dannan.

Other modern writers an Pagan mystics, such as the Radical Farie, Mitch Walker, in his book, Visionary Love: A Spirit Book of Gay Mythology and Trans-mutatioonal Fairie, see in Hermes this same being that can assist in the ability to transcend boundaries. These are the reasons that I am a devotee of Hermes, but I have taken away the epithet of Zeus and given it to his son, Eleutheron, The Liberator, for Hermes can liberate you from the bounds of this plane of reality and take you where you have never gone before.

(1)p222-3 The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and Its Survival in Greek Religion, Nilson, Martin P., Biblo & Tannen, NY, 1971

(2) p 309-10 History of the Pelopannesian War by Thucydides, translated by Richard Crawley, Everyman;s Library, new ed. 1993, reprint 1995, Charles C. Tuttle Co., Inc, Rutland, VT

(3) Another deity that may have the same cultural origins is Dionysus. There is evidence that he was a dying and reborn god, but has origins deep in the pre-Hellenic period. When the Olympians came to the fore when the Dorian "invasion" occured he fell out of favore in most of the Hellenic territories but like Hermes, was remembered wher the Dorians were not dominant, such as in Athens, and in Thrace. Considered a Thracian deity before a Greek one, he eventually became widely known. But no where wass he so honored as in Athens, where his rituals gave birth to the theater, during the Classical Period. Some statues of Hermes, by Praxiteles, found at Olympia, show hin with the baby Dionysus. I find this interesting in that they both have similar cultual origins,m but Dionysus did not receive as much prominence as Hermes until the Classical era, and he was reintroduced to the Hellenes by Thracians.

(4) Much of ancient knowledge has been irrevocably been lost. It is only by chance that any knowledge has survived. What we know often is what was preserved by the Arab Moslems which while Europe was in its most barbaric, and learning was the preserve of the Church, they found value in.

(5) p. 96, 'The Lost Gods of England, by Brian Branstonk, Thames & Hudson, Ltd., London, 1974. He quotes a poem by a 10th Century poet (in Anglo-Saxon) Kembles, in a poem "Solomon and Saturn". The whole of Chapter 6 is devoted to Woden.

(6)The Outer Temple of Witchcraft:Circles, Spells and Rituals, by Christopher Penczak, Llewellan Publications, 2004

Sunday, November 04, 2007

How We Helped Win the Battle Over the Right For Same Sex Couples to Marry

By Rev. Bro. H. Bruce Baldwin / Hermes Polyandron

June 14, 2007: In case you haven't heard, we won the right to Same Sex Marriage by defeating an Anti-Gay Amendment to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Constitution by a vote by the combined Legislature of 151 against to 45 for. An astounding victory for us. Ursus (my legal spouse for three years June 26th, and partner by Handfasting for 14 years June 15th.) and I were there from the beginning of the day to until after 2:30.
We had to get up by 4 AM to make it down to St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral. We joined with other clergy of the Religious Coalition for the Right to Marry. The Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry is a coalition of clergy of Christian, Jews and a few Pagans that support the Right of GLBT people to have the same rights at the general population. They almost all wore their clerical regalia, collars and robes, as well as their ordination stoles. I wore my green robe, cape and head-band and my stole from my Ordination in 1985. Almost as soon as I was dressed, we were interviewed by a reporter from the Boston Globe. The Globe is a more reputable paper, in my opinion, than the Herald, which has turned into a scandal sheet I won't even accept a free Herald when it is offered to me because of the editorial policies, although they did do a nice review of Eastern Massachusetts Pagan Pride a couple of years ago. Since then they have became more and more sensationalized. Anyways, she asked us what we were there for, and I explained that we were there as clergy to oppose an amendment to the Commonwealth's Constitution that would make discrimination against same sex couples a part of the law of the state. She also asked about what I was wearing which I told her that we were Pagans, and that we believed that Love knows no boundaries, and that was the reason to fight against this amendment. I, then, proudly introduced Ursus as my legal spouse. She then went on an talked to other clergy that were there.
We arrived about 7 am, and they started to get things going about 7:45. Maureen, a long time friend of ours, and priestess of Aphrodite (see the article Independent Pagans of New England at the GLBT Pride Parade) brought four flags and a banner for the Church of the Sacred Source. There were two Rainbow Flags and two American Flags.
First we were briefed on what our conduct should be. We were asked not to be confrontational as there was a gathering of those that supported the amendment that might be aggressive towards us. After that there were a series of speakers that talked about the importance of the day. Two were Christian and one Jewish. They told us each in their own way that God was with us. Of course, I mentally adjusted the phrase to say the Gods. We were had members of the Boston Gay Mens Chorus singing to us. A young rabbi was particularly poignant in that he talked about being a Gay man as well as a member of a religious minority. We could definitely identify with being that dual minority. After prayers were offered, we left the undercroft (a room under the sanctuary) and proceeded outside to the front steps of the Episcopal Cathedral where we posed for a group photo. There we were given notes of songs to sing as we crossed the Common to the State House. As we started singing, we crossed Tremont Street to the Common and across that to the State House. We came up beside the Shaw Monument of the Black Civil War Union Division that was depicted in the movie “Glory”, and crossed Beacon Street to the sidewalk and steps to the State House where later, early in that afternoon the full legislature would vote on the amendment. We were 6 votes short last January to get this amendment killed, and the opposition was feeling that they would get it on the ballot in 2008. As we came up singing a Civil Rights song, the police pushed back the backers of the amendment, so we could cross the street to join the already cheering Mass Equality people that were already there. What we didn't see, but the Mass Equality people saw, was the faces of shock and dismay at the clergy crossing to the people that opposed the amendment, standing against the pro-amendment people. Ursus, Maureen and I mounted the steps in front of the gates (which were chained and locked) of the State House, we with our Rainbow Flags, and Maureen with her banner.
Then began a verbal duel of chants and singing with the other side of the street. We were twice to three times in numbers already, and could out shout and chant the opposition, and did. Cars, tour buses and trucks honked in support for us, and we let the other side know it each time. We sang songs and slogans, and smiled at them as they stood angry and hateful across the street. This went on for several hours until some of our supporters in the legislature showed up and told us that we had a chance. They also walked the sidelines and shook hands (like good politicians) and then went into the State House. Of course, each time one of our supporters would come up to us we would chant "Thank You, thank you, thank you."
As noon approached more came to see us and they were met with same Thank yous as before. During the hours we spent in front of the State House, a red-tailed hawk flew over us. Three times it would do that. As the Red-tailed Hawk is my spirit animal, you know that I take that as a good omen.
One of the more interesting moments as we stood in front of the gates on the steps of the State House was a man from Boise, Idaho came up to me and declared that he was Pagan himself, but not open about it back home. I asked if he was with a tour group. He said yes, and that they were standing next to us. I looked and saw a group of children ranging from nine to twelve years old. I asked if they realized what was going on. He told me they did and had actually taken a vote as to sightseeing or coming and joining the demonstration and they voted that they felt that it was important to be with us. They were of course, as I was told Unitarians. It brought home to me the importance not only of what was going on in our state but that the eyes of all of America were on us, and not all of America was against us. I thanked them, and if by any chance they see this article, I again thank you for your support. You have witnessed what grass-0roots democracy can do when the rights of free people are in jeopardy.
In the last hour, before the Constitutional Convention went into session, the staffers of Mass Equality went through the crowd and told people that they could go into an audience hall to watch the proceedings. So for a while the crowd got thinner on our side as the other swelled. But as lunch time came our numbers swelled again, so that the sidewalk became crowded again. All the time the other side of the street, shouted "let the people vote." We realized that to do so would have been very divisive, as there was a great difference of opinion about the subject, and we were wondering if all the work we had done, lobbying that had been done would pay-off or not. Any further campaigning would have stressed the Commonwealth’s resources over a question that should not have been in question as it is a matter of Civil Rights.
At 1pm the Constitutional Convention convened and we waited, but not too long for by 1:15 we could hear cheering down the line near the entrance to the State House, and as the cheering went up the line we were wondering what was going on. They finally got to us and we heard the results of the vote was on our favor. Our Rights had been preserved. The Amendment was voted down. It took a minute to sink in but all of a sudden the whole crowd went into jubilation and dancing and singing. Maureen and the two of us began to sing Patriotic songs, and the whole crowd followed our lead. I started to chant "Love wins over Hate." and the crowd picked it up.
As we celebrated we had a man come up to us and ask us if we wanted to hold a banner the said "Thank You." on it. So we did, Soon after that the organizers asked us to step down and let them up on the steps. We did. As we stood there, they announced that the final tally was 151 to 45, the amendment is dead.. “Yahhhhhh... “
About this time, I looked up at the State House and saw some people out on the balcony from the Governors office, I told Ursus to turn the banner towards the State House, and as we did the Governor came out of his office and stood on the balcony with his staff. We cheered him and shouted our thanks, as he had lobbied on our behalf with the legislature, as well. I saw him talk to an aide and then he went back into his office. The speeches went on out front. Then we saw State Troopers crossing the lawn in front of the State House and came down the sidewalk, asking us to back up with our banner, and told me that someone important wanted to come out to us. We backed up and more troopers came rushing out. At that point, I saw people coming out of the west side of the State House, coming down the walkway. I felt it was the governor but was astonished to see that he was followed by others as well. Camera men and reporters began to crowd around this approaching group of men and women, some obviously security. It was Governor Duval Patrick all right, and members of the Legislature. By now the balcony was full of people as we were chanting “Thank you, thank you, thank you." to them. Ursus spoke to one of the troopers asking him to make sure that the Governor saw the banner we held. When Governor Duval Patrick got to us along with a dozen media people, he stopped just passed me, looked and started to shake hands, Ursus got to shake hands with the Governor of Massachusetts.
Duval went up on the steps and talked for a while and told us we had had a great victory today and made history. But he cautioned not to gloat, and to keep vigilant, because the opposition was not going to give up, and that they were citizens like us that would not stop now but would continue. We need to keep fighting for our rights, for they will need to be defended. Then he said that we should respect the opposition for they had rights too, and left. He was followed by the Senate President and other legislative members that wanted congratulate us on our victory and the grass roots support we raised in the last six months that turned the vote around. As they spoke, a man came over near us wearing a red shirt with "Proud to be a Pagan Fighter" on it, He tried to get in the way and the police told him to stay back and he called them Nazis for that. I thought 'Look who's talking." but kept it to myself. He wouldn’t relent and Ursus said that he was lead away but the police. Another incident that I heard was a blind supporter was being escorted across the street to the Public transportation was nearly assaulted by a woman from the opposition, and when she did she too was arrested and taken away. I can not understand why people that call themselves Christians can be so hateful. Amongst the Christian Clergy that were with us, I could see the true convictions of their beliefs.
Finally they all had their thanks and the organizers said their thanks to the supporters, like the Human Right Campaign, NOW, the unions and so on.
As we started to go Maureen gathered us together, and some of the other ministers as well, and did a libation to Hera, Aphrodite, Persephone as guardians of marriage, and Themis the goddess of Justice.
After was a celebration at Club Café, which we went to briefly after doing some work at the Living Center. They were still celebrating when we went home. It was a long day, but joyously History making. As the American Revolution began in Massachusetts with the shot heard round the world, its echoes can still be heard today. The gods were with us but now we need to be vigilante, for those that would take those right away won’t go away soon.
Love & Blessed Be, Hermes Polyandron

This was an article that was submitted to The Witches' Voice but was never given space on that site.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Deity- Static or Dynamic

The question of the nature of Deity has been a fundamental one for as long as human kind has been able to conceive of it. What is it? What is our relationship to it? Is it even an It? Empirically you can not prove that there is something that exists called Deity, by whatever name you may call it. It takes a level of mystical recognition to experience the nature of Deity and that is often in the realm of the philosopher or the cleric. It is through a mystical understanding of the universe, with a dash of scientific understanding that you can glimpse that topic. So in this essay I will use my own mystical understanding and that of the empirical world of science. I can not prove anything, just sense it. It is purely subjective.
First, I will tackle the questions that I presented at the beginning.
What is it? And its corollary, is it an It.
What Deity is, is all that is. Literally, "All that Is". You can not see it, because it is so vast that it encompasses all the Universe, and likely more than that, and is it, and It, that is the problem and limitation of language. It is more than an It. Because it is All That Is, it by definition includes all that there is, male, female, asexual, non-sexual, incomprehensible. Historically, such an idea was partially understood in the Ancient World before Christianity made it its personal business to define it in a masculine image, according to the patriarchic world-view that eliminated all possibilities of any other form, at least on the upper classes where the money and power was. To the working classes it made little difference as long they could lead a productive life. In the last Century before the start of the Current era, in Greece, there was a movement in religious philosophy that identified a Deity that was unknowable, and identified that with a highly transcendant aspect of Zeus. I say that because we have the highest cognitive ability, as far as we know, on this planet, we can begin to grasp some of the nature of Deity. But by its very transcendant nature, though it makes it hard to understand its vastness, but as you can get an idea of the earth from a globe, so can you come to know something as vast as Deity is by looking through the eyes of the telescope. But we are inside of Deity, and to understand Deity is to look on us as a mere speck of an electron, a quark, of an atom, of a molecule, in an organ as a part of the entire organism. Whew!
Now you might say we are insignificant in that veiw though. Not so, for in so realizing we do something that is akin to the very nature of Deity that of understanding. For every last quark of an electron, neutron or proton is an integral part of that whole being. It can not be separated form it. But unlike that quark we have consciousness and by that the capacity to understand that whole.
I said this is a mystical understanding, didn't I.
Now comes the good part. What do we perceive the Deity to be? Well, a philosopher, whom I don't know the name of, once said that we create God in our image, not the other way around. We can better relate to Deity that way, so we see Deity as God, or Allah, or whatever, and whatever the depiction it is not as anything else but in something recognizable. I am not saying that they do not exist, that is not true, but they all are part of the whole, and are different ways of seeing the Deity. All are equally valid points of veiw.
That is a point to recognize, our understanding of Deity must come from the realm of our perceptions in order to have seemingly the belief that Deity is something we can communicate with. In reality, we are in constant communication as we are an integral part of Deity, so it our lack of understanding that limits us in that communication while on other level of our existence we never are out of communication with Deity.
As I stated before, we create our understanding of Deity because we can bring it down into a level where we can understand it. So we create it in our own image.
That brings me to the point where I really want to go. That is the nature of Deity Static or Dynamic. Many Christian and Muslim believers think in terms of the Static Deity, or that is my perception of what is that they believe. This means that what the Deity has proclaimed through a human agent at sometime in the past is the same as the Deity is today. So therefore the Deity that they see often comes across in their sacred literature as being cruel, and hateful at one time and kind and generous at others depending on what that form likes or dislikes about the Deities followers,or non-followers.
Is this true though? No. It is a misrepresentation of the nature of the Deity, usually to make a point for that's partisan side. Why make the point? Power. The power to control people. And who exercises that power depends on the structure of the institution that is created by the Prophet, that human agent that could have received that understanding with either the idea of getting power, or of a genuinely Spiritual message. That can be a tricky area to walk for the understanding of the human receiving the Spiritual message. It depends on the time, culture and the individuals life experiences. Human comprehension can be limited. Those limits can be from the difficulty of translating the Spiritual into the limiting nature of the human symbolic system. Like a wire, there is so much voltage it can carry before it can get to the point it overloads or the signal gets distorted. Language is limiting, and since we have not been able to use the full width or our telepathic connection, where pure thought needs no translation into symbolic form, thus we limited by semantics. Another factor is that it can get miscommunicated to others even when the original receptor received the message in realtively a complete understanding, or it can be deliberately be distorted so that the message becomes a pawn in a game of control.
But is Deity really Static? Does it never change? I look out into the Cosmos and see the Universe as dynamic. Science has found that the Universe everywhere is dynamic, from the minutest particle we see, to the grandest structure of the Universe at the limits of our technological reach.
I like to use the analogy of linguistics to explain this. A living language is a language that is constantly changing, evolving, coming from the inner workings of the people that speak it. When that language no longer changes then it is said to be a dead language, like Latin. It never will change again, and the only ones that speak it are those that learn it not as a dynamic language but as an Ecclesiastical language that serves only as a means of elitist communication.
If Deity is dead then the Universe would not change and that is not what I see. And Deity is not outside of it for then how could it possibly participate in its creation, and as a mystic I understand that Deity is imminent in its creation.
Now why am I going to such lengths to discuss the dynamism of Deity. The answer is in my incomprehension of the way Deity is depicted as Static. Would the Deity create something that it would call flawed? And condemn it to the worst of all possible outcomes where there is no chance of Spiritual growth, that is a cruel Deity. and indeed is not a creator at all and is as flawed as the creation itself. No, the Creator, the nature of Deity in Dynamic action is that of a ever growing Deity that creates with the intent of learning something about itself like an artist that is creating from the heart.
So if your God is a living God then it should always produce that which it is important to the on-going evolution of the Deity itself, and all of its parts.

Who Has The Agenda?

It is a standing joke in the Gay community about the Gay Agenda. The Fundamentalists continually say "The Gay agenda" and we look at each other and ask "Did you get this morning's Gay Agenda? I didn't." And we all laugh. But the truth is that the Fundamentalists really think that we have an agenda that is a threat to the world. The real question is Who does have the Agenda.
Earlier this year I read Sam Harris' book End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and The Future of Reason (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2005) where he explores the real agenda, the agenda of the Fundamentalist. In it he talks about not only American Christian Fundamentalists but all Fundamentalists, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, even Hindu. They have one thing in common and that is that they are right and everyone else is wrong and that they will go to any length to make sure that they get their way. Now, the American Fundamentalists haven't quite in the same way as Al Qaeda set up a terrorist plot but they are not far from it when they kill doctors that perform abortions and bomb Gay nightclubs. It is not that there is any organized effort to do these things, but they do give tacit approval to those that do because the think that in the end that they are doing the work of God. That is their feeling, that they are doing the work of God, really. They really believe it. They pick and choose what they feel justifies their Biblical passages and justify their cause by it while ignoring anything that is contrary to that passage elsewhere.
Basically what they are saying is that "We have the only way, and because of that they should control the way everyone else lives". That sounds like Authoritarianism to me ,and if that is not an agenda then I don't know what is.
There two things that I, as a man of faith, believe in, and they are, the separation of Church and State, and Freedom of Religion. Both are cornerstones of American democracy, and have been placed as cornerstones because their is a history of religious abuse of power. Ever since the Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the State Religion, the Orthodox Christian Religion, of which all Christianity descends from has been in a power struggle to maintain power. First they eliminated their competition amongst their own ranks by calling heresy those that believed differently from them, such as the Gnostics. It is only in recent years that we have found that the texts of their books and see that Christianity was any difference in belief other than that of the Orthodox view point. Gnosticism was much more about what Jesus' message was of that of the spirit, the Kingdom of Heaven, than about establishing a Church, which is the mistake that Paul made.
They were also on a mission to convert anyone, and would willingly kill anyone that was in anyway opposed to them. They closed down Pagan Temple that had existed for hundreds of years. Sometimes they even killed the priesthoods of these temples (e.g. the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus the trapped the priests and priestesses in the temple and starved them to death). They were the enemies of knowledge in another way. One of their saints lead a mob and burned the greatest library of the Ancient world, the Library of Alexandria to the ground. What great ancient works were contained in that library we have on hints at from manuscripts that survived by being copied and placed, not with any more intent than to have a copy, in other library and that by shear luck we still can read today.
It didn't stop there though. Through out history, if a religion can come to power it will make itself authoritarian and suppress at any cost the competition, because they believe that they have "the one true way". Christian history is littered with the corpses of the competitors that were seeking their own way to spirituality. Even some of the members of their own religious lineage were killed if they would not convert, such as the Albigensian, then the Jews. Not a century later, it was recognized that there still existed in the lower classes those that practiced the old ways, and innocent women, men and children were tortured, made to confess to things that were true only in the vivid imaginations of the repressed clergy, because it is only human that one give in when you have the promise of the end of pain if you say what they want you to say. It is that real heroes of the Inquisition that stood up and faced the tortures and refused to say the lies that the clergy wanted to hear.
Then, the Church divided even more than it did in the early day when the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches divided, as a reformer, seeing the abuses of the Roman Church called of a Reformation of the Church, and therefore protested against these abuses, creating the Protestant Churches. Then began the bloodiest conflict yet, where wars were fought as wars had not been fought over a difference of opinion. On both sides, they had the "one true way".
Since then even when not physically killing each other, there is a constant campaign for supremacy that started with Constantine (who saw in Christianity the means merely to preserve his empire, never really realizing that it would bring to0 it the power hungry as it still does today). I came from a Protestant family and Catholics were evil and their only desire was to take over the world. Of course, I say the hypocrisy in that, and saw too that my parents believed that they were the only ones that had the true way, though both had problems with how things went on in church.
I see the irrationality, and that is what it is, IRRATIONALITY. There is no one true way. There are many paths to Spiritual enlightenment. None of them involve power over others. None of them involves suppression of differences of opinion. They are derived from a genuine connection with Deity, a personal experience of Deity. It should never involve the abuse of power. Power should be not be a part of it at all.
Power is what the Fundamentalists want. That is their agenda. They have the "ONE TRUE WAY'. and if you don't believe that then you are wrong, and if someone just might kill you for being different then we will wink and say "Now you shouldn't do that."
How do we deal with it? You might ask. Do what Sam Harris says, Stand up and say No. No More, That is Enough. There will be always people that will want power. It is a human condition, unfortunately. There are some people that need to be lead, for they are too lazy to stand up and take the initiative themselves. We are a social species and therefore work best in groups and but someone needs to take the lead at times and that person is given a trust that they will lead in a way that is respectful and rational, without the need for self-aggrandizement, thus in a Spiritual way, that is open to question and rational inquiry, without rancour or undue criticism. It's a delicate balance that must be maintained.
So Stand Up and speak your mind. Speak out against the power hungry Fundamentalists. Sure you will be threatened, but you have a mind that was given to you by the Deity and therefore is meant to be use. And don't let their threats frighten you. You out number them, andc Fear is their only weapon.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The American Revolution Still Goes On

On April 18th, 1775, at Lexington Green, in Massachusetts Colony there were farmers that stood up for what they thought was right. Though they still thought of themselves a Englishmen they felt that they did not have a voice in their government back in England, and wanted that Right to have representation and a voice. They started a revolution, though at first it was a Civil War, that would lead to a new and independent country that was separate from and more on tune to the beliefs of its constituency. Therefore the American Revolution started here in Massachusetts, and here we like to think that we were the birth place of Liberty. Even the Constitution of the United States is modeled after the Massachusetts Constitution.
The American Revolution did not stop there though, and spread through out the colonies. Nor did it stop with the end of the Revolution. Nor did it stop as a model of American government. Boston was the Athens of America (and still is).
In the early 19th Century C. E., it was in Massachusetts that the injustice of Slavery was first spoken out against. That cry went out through the country and finally ended in the end of Slavery in the United States.
Again, Massachusetts has lead the American Revolution. It was here first that the Right to Marry the one you love, whether it be the same sex or the opposite made no difference, and the same rights that heterosexual married couples have were given to those of the same sex. Now New Jersey has joined the revolution too. Bravo New Jersey.
The fight has not been won by any means. The revolution did not end with those first days in 1775 but continued for years. And there was opposition too even then. Loyalists wanted to stay loyal to the English crown and did everything to stop the movement. Likewise when the injustice of Slavery was loudly proclaimed there were voices that called loudly for it, saying there was Biblical justifications for it.
Likewise, there are those that justify the opposition of same sex marriage with Biblical justification, but they take out of context the words and use them to continue the justification of their reasons for the continuation of discrimination as they did in the South for Slavery and the oppression of the Black community in the last century. But if you read the text accurately and use the original sources not the mistranslations of the King James version, you will find that something entirely different is meant. The Old Testament prohibition that is interpreted to be against same sex love is really a prohibition against that of relations with a man that belonged to the priestly class of another religion, a Pagan religion. These men were considered as sacred in their own religion and therefore were not Jewish, in the sense of their worshipping Yahwah.
Likewise in the New Testament there is no mention of homosexuality by Jesus, but he does emphasize having a loving nature. He does condemn hypocrisy and intolerance. It is in the letters of Paul that you see that homosexuality is mentioned and that is usually quoted out of context to suit the purposes of those that are in opposition to same sex love. A closer and in context reading of the text will show he says that Jesus says nothing on the subject and that in his opinion it is wrong. In his opinion. Now it was in his opinion that he says that women are inferior to men and incapable of understanding the word of God. That is blatantly misogynistic. We know that is not true, women are as capable of thinking and understanding as are men.
Another line of irrationality is presented in the idea that giving the right of equal right of marriage will degrade the institution of Marriage. Let me take the religious aspect of that that it is a threat to freedom of Religion. First of all, Marriage is not a religious institution to begin with. It is a civil institution first. You must go to the State to get a license first before you can get married. Without that document, you are not legally married no matter what church or how many churches you are married in. It is a civil marriage first then a religious marriage second, for you can be as legally married by a Justice of the Peace as by a minister who also needs the sanction of the State of perform the service.
Secondly, how can the marriage of a same sex couple degrade your marriage. It only happens if you perceive it that way, and it is a matter of personal perception. It was similar to the argument to keep Blacks from being next door to you. It is your perception that is the matter not what is next door. If there is something wrong with you marriage it has nothing to do with what is going on outside of it but between the two of you.
Therefore I commend the State Legislature for their actions and say that the American Revolution still goes on.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Doom that can be Ignorance

One of my favorite scenes from Charles Dicken's classic Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, comes near the end of Stave Three: The Second of the Three Spirits, where the Ghost of Christmas Present reveals what is under his robe. They are "two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous and miserable." as Dickens describes them. Scrooge is appalled,
Dickens describes, and has to ask, "Spirit! Are they yours?" To which the Spirit replies that "They are Man's. And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both..., but most of all this boy, for on his brow I see that which is written which is Doom." In that one image I see something that still is present today as it was in Dicken's day. This is the danger of ignorance, and what it can breed.
In Dicken's day, it was the careless disregard for their fellow human beings. But today it raises its ugly head in a different way, but in an equally ignorant manner. This is the ignorance of Fundimentalism. The enslavement of the individual to a creed without questioning. It's not just here in these United States but everywhere that others try to supress free expression that might not agree with theirs. It knows no distinction and can be seen in any religion. It is the mentality that "I'm right and what I say is all that is right." It often arises because of the nature of the society where it can grow like a weed. It feeds on social inequities and injustices. It feeds on the blind submission to a person, or a belief, even if that individual may be obviously using them to gain something, power, prestige or influence. Often the poor fall prey to these people because of the poverty in their lives. Not having sufficient money for education and just trying to survive, they will hang on to any hope that might be given to them. They find hope in these people because of the way they present themselves to them. They often say that at such and such a time they will receive some release from the poverty they face if they will only give themselves to them. It's a diabolical bargain. A promise that at some future time they will be released from their poverty to reach a better existance. Often that is promised in the afterlife.
Some, literally, throw their lives away to kill the "others", in hopes that they will receive a reward in the next world. They then kill innocent people to gain something that if they looked at it logically is false. If they really believed in their faith they would see that their deity would condemn them for their acts instead of praise, or reward them.
Then there are those that wish to remain in power and do this by making sure that those that they wish to control never get out of the lowest levels of their society. This is an equally villanous individual, or group. They feed lies to perpetuate their power. "Such and such a group, or individual, is evil because they don't fall into line with how I think." I see it over and over again. And there are those that swallow the lies because it is easier than thinking for themselves. And what is even crueler is the ones that condemn the ones they profess to 'love' and caste them out of their society, because they realize for the first time that this individual is thinking, or feeling differently than they 'should', and is not following them exactly. And what is even sadder is that they can become an institution and perpetruate this for generations. When their followers discover their lies the institution begins to collapse. At that point every effort is made to resist the collapse, even if the collapse can be changed by simply changing with the times.
Much of the oppression of women around the world is by men that want to retain power over them. It occurs on many levels. A husband, or boy-friend that beats his wife or lover, or a group that keeps its women shut up in homes or in obscuring clothing, because that woman might attract the attention of another man and thus lose control of her. We are supposed to be civilized now, but these men act more like beasts than men. There are now inheritance laws that control the transferal of property. Women need not be shackled to men. They have a right to their own property.
Then there are those that fear change itself, for it might bring and end to their power. The Reformation and the following wars were an excellent example of this, where whole nations were ravaged because one power wished to contol all of the world. Then the protesting factions saw themselves in the same light, and their equally ignorant and bias actions ended up with millions of people dying. All out of ignorance.
What is the worst is the deliberate prepetuation of that ignorance by people that do know that what they are doing. They are the worst of all. They knowingly promulgate ignorance so as to maintain their own power.
The best defense is knowledge. Just because some one says that you must do as they do, does not mean that you must do it. Use your divinely given gift of reason. It is divinely given. We have the greatest capacity to think of all the species of this planet. Yet we are libal to be lazy and let someone else do our thinking for us. In so doing we let them control us. Don't let that happen. Just because it's written on some page, doesn't mean it's true. Feel if it is, and use your mind to reason it out.
An excellent and timely example is same sex marriage. The argument has been made that it will destroy family values. That is a bold face lie. How can someone that loves another effect your own values unless there is something wrong already with your values to begin with. Then there is some that says that such relationships are immoral, yet these same people will support an unjust war. Isn't it "Thou shalt not kill."? Besides how can your marriage be threatened unless it is on shakey ground already. That is the same as saying that because your nieghbor has a red house and yours is white, that your house is not as valuable. If your house is run down it's your fault not the red house's. It's an argument that is only out of the lack of reason, and blindly following something that was told to them as being true but is false.
In closing, I would urge you to re-evaluate your beliefs and see if you are being lead by someone else that wants to control you, or by something that someone else said is true and you took it on face value. If what you believe can stand up to your questions or can even not be questioned, then that belief is suspect. Knowledge is the most powerful weapon that ever was created.

Volunteering: A Different Way of Giving

Nearly a week ago, I and my partner, Ursus, were privilaged enough to volunteer in a very special event at the Boston Living Center, a place created as a place of refuge, education, and resources for those with HIV or AIDS. Ursus and I have done this before and have received so much from the doing of this that we did it for the second year in a row. What did we do? Ursus and I were Santa Claus and Mr. Elf, respectively, for the children of the membership.
For us it is not just dressing up and playing Santa Claus and an elf but was a genuine effort to channel the message of Love and acceptance of these children, many of whom might expect little on Christmas morning because of the facts of life facing their parents or even themselves. Santa Claus is a real person to us, not a story book, or poetic character. His nature is magickal and quite real, as real as the love that eminates from him.
It was such a joy to watch the faces of the younger children who have not lost the magic feeling of the season. Their eyes light up when the see Santa. And what of Ursus, he was Santa Claus, and had a special feeling that was only because he let that light, that spirit into him. He also remembers visiting Santa Claus in his childhood. He remembers, and in remembering greeted each child on their level. For the littlest, Santa can be frightening. This big man in a funny red suit with white fur and a funny red fur edged hat, something that is not a usual occurence for that age, and can be frightening. But a little older and they run to him with big smiles and high hopes. In some cases, they are shy. I remember one little boy that wouldn't come over to Santa, so Santa came to him. That was magick.
There even were big kids that you knew that Santa was something that was not real any more to them, but Santa would know that homeboy handshake and the kid would look at him and have a look like 'how did this guy know all about that, "Cool, yah know."' Ursus admits at that moment he knew just the right thing to do because Santa was really there. And it was at those moments that the staff working to give each child a present, would look at Ursus with a look like, "What? How did he do that? How did he know just the right thing to do." Ursus just would exclaim, "Because I am Santa Claus." He never talked down to them.
Now admittedly, Ursus looks the part. He has a belly that needs know padding and has a bushy greying beard, and wears his hair long and braided. But he has a face that is open and friendly and a genial disposition even when he's not feeling well. He often has people open up to him when they won't oppent up to anyone else. So he's half way there already. So looks wise he fits the part.
I, meanwhile, sat at his side with The Book. You know that book. The one that lists "who are naughty and who are good". That's my magick. I was the one that helped to remind Santa who was naughty and who was good. Sometimes they would look at me when they heard what the Book was and have the look like 'Uht oh! I'm in trouble now.' But Santa was forgiving too. "Well, we all have times we fight with our sisters, don't we, but we really don't mean it." He would say and that boy would look at him, and shake his head, and know that he shouldn't, but that he had the forgiveness and understanding of someone that was outside his family, that was a source of pleasure, something that they might not know because of the health of their parent or parents.
I often would watch the parents as they watched their children sitting on Santa's lap, and could see that magick was there too. And some times I could see that that package that Mrs. Claus or one of the Helper Elves would give them might be the only one they would get. At times I would see tears too, expressing emotion of gratitude that there was somelone that could be so nice to their child.
Now I am not trying to convince you that read this that Santa really exists, that's for your own heart to know. What I am trying to portray is the feeling of joy and the honor that we felt in volunteering and using our special talents, to bring joy to someone else. We got the biggest gift of all in just doing that.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Yule and the Dark

This is a time of growing darkness both in the world of Nature and in those of us in the mundane world. The message of the Yuletide, that period from the Winter Solstice to the Twelfth day following that date, as reconned on the calendar that is in common use, marks the shortest days of the year. Many of us dislike the darkness and the accompaning cold weather. Even some of those feel that this is a time that is not happy for them, a different sort of darkness.
One can not appreciate the Light without knowing the Dark, and just as a truly whole person can not be whole without recognizing that they have both a masculine and feminine side to them, so we all have our darkside as well as the light. The unfortunate thing about this is that we suppress this darker side of ourselves just as we might not to reveal that the gender opposite of our body is also present in us. But yuou need to embrass the darkness within you as much as you need to embrass the light in you. Now by this I am not saying that you necessarily need to act in acordance with you more dark impulses, but am saying that you should recognize that within you that aspect is there.
All sorts of things can creep out of our dark sides. Memories of things that you wished had not happened, or did, or even feel guilty about thinking. You are no alone in this. It would not be human for you not to have some of these. What is difficult is that at this time of year we often feel these things more freqently and/or more intensely. This time of year we are expected to be Merry, to participate with family, friends, and groups and be up and happy. But many of us have unpleasant memories mixed up with the pleasant ones and therefore sometimes feel not quite "with it" in other people's view. These are just one aspect of that internal darkness that is within you, that the darkness (shortness of daylight) can bring out, and it may not be as obvious as all that to us. "It's just the Season..." I've heard. Well, what do you say to yourself about that? Well, and I don't mean you need to say it out loud, you have a right to feel that way. By doing that you are recognizing that this is where you really are at and can learn from that. Once you know where that darkness is in you then the light of the season can come through.
Do you know what the real reason that all the lights are decorating the world at this time? The reason is found in sympathetic magic, when something is done on a smaller scale to promote something on a larger scale, and here the sympathetic magic is in the use of light to act as a stimulus to bring back the days of greater light that we all enjoy more fully. Humans, no matter is you work the third shift are creatures that love the day, have an instinctive fear of the dark. That is in the genes. Our eyes see much to weekly in the dark and because so we fear what we can not see. To our ancestors, this was a good thing, as there are predators that can see much better in the dark than we can and we can fall prey to them. We also fear the unknown for that reason, and often that "unknown" maybe something or someone that is different that we are. By accepting this Dark we can live with it as a fact of life.
We are surrounded and have made our world filled with light through our own ability to creat. We fill our lives with light, to keep out that dark, that unknown, or that known that we would rather not see. So we have become removed from the world of Nature and the cycles of the seasons, but it is still a part of us.
So as the Yuletide comes do not be afraid of that darkness, because you know that with the turning of the tide the light both within and outside in the world will return. The dark is part of the world we live in, so is the light.