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Archive for November, 2009

Doughnuts!

At the center you’re on the edge.

Yes, that’s right. Whether you fancy Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Cremes, the true doughnut ( the one with a hole in the middle), is a fitting metaphor for the spiritual life. Forrest Gump’s good and ever wise mother notwithstanding, chocolates are not the most fitting symbol. What I am talking about is the geometry of the Spirit. When you travel along an edge of the doughnut, you are also moving around the center.

Mathematicians refer to the doughnut shape as a torus, and its shape is “liminocentric”. So, what’s the meaning of this obscenely multi-syllabic word? In the case of liminocentricity, traveling along an edge, or, an outside part of the shape, is paradoxically also traveling inside of it. Many who talk about this kind of shape refer to the “chinese boxes” by way of analogy, wherein a series of smaller boxes fit inside larger ones. To be liminocentric ( limen, denoting thresholds, and centric, for center) small and large details of the shape are also the same.

The term was first used by Psychologist John Fudjack in his 1995 paper, Liminocentric Forms of Social Organization. The word has caught on in circles as diverse as physics, art, and consciousness studies. So, what’s all the fuss about?

In living spiritually, thresholds matter a lot. The moments of insight are most often threshold moments: we feel on the verge of some discovery. Perhaps we see something with fresh eyes, as if for the first time, or we are challenged in a way that seems to pull us into a new, unfamiliar space. But in opening ourselves to it, we are somehow closer to the center of reality, nearer a compelling truth.

Moses’ metaphorical encounter with the “burning bush” was liminocentric. He was at an unprecedented threshold, having stepped on holy ground where nothing was as we generally experience it. A bush burns without being consumed, and his relationship with the One embodied in the heat of the flame is at once personal, transpersonal, and Other. According to the Jewish Study Bible, the voice of Yahweh signs himself by uttering the words,” I will be what I will be.” The  burning bush was wholly and fully present, and also alive to all possible futures at the same time.

Moses stood on a mountain facing an awesome and, no doubt, terrifying visage, face to face with the ineffable, and they spoke: A Divine Q&A. He stood on a precipice, an edge, a verge of unknowing, and, at the same time, entered into the Bridal chamber, was at the center, at-onement with the Intimate Mystery.

Mathematicians and astrophysicists have gone far in exploring the geometry of liminocentricity. In fractal geometric terms, it is an apt model for the topology of the universe. The torus shape is ubiquitous: storm systems, galaxies, and black holes. There is no finer meditation than to open one’s eyes to the shapes of nature all around.

As we perceive the varieties of beautiful forms, we come to fully experience the outward topologies in deeply personal ways. Consciousness, it seems, is shaped as nature is shaped. Gazing inward, we experience our own threshold moments in which we are traveling an edge, and yet are closer to the center. We are involved in something seemingly small in finite time and space, but mindful, as a result, of the incomprehensibly vast.

  • Being present at the birth of one’s child;
  • The moment of awe standing on the perimeter of a volcanic caldera;
  • Holding the hands of a loved one as they pass away;
  • Hearing a lover’s heartbeat while feeling one’s own;
  • Being really awake in that fleeting split second in between two thoughts and listening to true silence;

As I move through this last day of the holiday weekend here, I will be taking special notice of things liminocentric, and of those moments that are both edges and centers, and where the structure of small details mirrors the large.

In any event, my next doughnut promises to be a very special treat indeed.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Among the Nag Hammadi archives is the Secret Book Of James ( SBJ). In a number of earlier meditations, I have made reference to teachings contained in other apocryphal texts such as the Gospel of Thomas and Thunder Perfect Mind. In much the same spirit as those, SBJ has a number of powerful sayings that stimulate rich contemplation. I briefly share and explore one of them here.  [ One of a vast variety of interpretations that these words may inspire.]

The Lord said:

” I tell you the truth: no one will be saved among those who fear death. For the Kingdom of death belongs to those who put themselves to death. Be superior to me! Be like the child of the Holy Spirit!”

The Teacher admonishes his disciples to embrace the Cross. What meaning can we intuit from this saying that is, once again, koan-like?

The saying has three big ideas:

  • fear of death,
  • putting oneself to death, and
  • being a child of the Holy Spirit.

To fear death is to be preoccupied with one’s own well-being as an end in itself. One of the largest and growing sections of any bookstore is the self-help section. Written by so many soothe-sayers, there is something there seemingly for every condition imaginable. While there is certainly nothing wrong with them per se, there is a fundamental narcissism that these books feed, and that is the more interesting thing. After all, those books sell for a reason. There’s a big market out there of people looking to make themselves better through some ready-made formula.

What is the alternative? Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with taking good care of yourself, right?

Surely not, the body is the temple of the soul and we should care for it. Part of that care, however, is to relate to the body as the theater on which the mind outwardly presents the inner play. Once again, body and mind struggle to be reunited. If the mind is sound, the body’s journey through life is certainly benefitted. However, what needs more attention is generosity of spirit, the charitable heart, and service to “all sentient beings.”

Fear of death or denial of the Cross is rejection of the inconvenient moments of someone else’s need. Consider the missed opportunities in all of our lives when someone needed something  and we were too pressed for time, or otherwise too preoccupied to offer a hand.

It is well established that acts of true charity, without seeking recognition of any kind, is a profound elixir for what troubles the soul. I find that when I am distressed over something, turning my gaze out to how I might make someone else’s distress a little lighter lightens the weight of my baggage. Fear of death is me-centered. Love of life and the way of the heart is other-centered. Buddha and Christ alike refer to the central importance of being for others ( man and animal), and doing so is a true reflection of being “enlightened.”

What does it mean to put “oneself” to death? We are what we have made of ourselves in thought and deed. We are a construction built up over many years of being rewarded for certain things. We attached ourselves to certain signature behaviors, values, and dispositions that were pre-potent by virtue of our unique biochemistry and psychogenic make-up. To “put oneself to death” is to rise about the allusions, illusions, and attributions of the self, and to recognize our far greater identity in Christ-Buddha.

The self is a study in complexes and contradictions, conflicts and dilemmas, that we navigate and look at in our therapies and meditations. The dance to which we are invited is one designed, like the practice of the whirling dervishes, to lose oneself in the mystery. Then, we can try on many selves realizing that we plug into a deeper ocean of identity with Mystery.

“Be like the child of the Holy Spirit” and “be superior to me”:  What is the Teacher of Righteousness saying to me here? The heart of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven is within. It is our’s to miss or rediscover. The Spirit beckons always. The still small voice is ever chanting in the dark so we can find our way.

It is our Call to Action to make our way through the inmost cave, and discover our transcendent parentage, and the voice of deep ancestral legacy.

We are called to be Christics: children of the Cross of Light. We have nothing whatsoever to fear except turning away from the path of discovery.

What do you hear in the Teacher’s homily?

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Too few churches have preserved the practice of ordaining to the minor orders prior to the diaconate & the priesthood. To my knowledge, only the Liberal Catholic Church, many Old Catholic denominations, and my Order, still do so. These are preparatory, esoteric stages that afford contemplative development as foundation for the major orders to follow. They invite a peaceful abiding and an unhurried time of discernment and a re-conditioning of Psyche.

The minor orders are sacramentals that function as scaffolding alongside the core unfolding of personal Spirit and deepening readiness for the more challenging times and responsibilities ahead.

They are the Orders of:

  • Cleric: A 1st charism that invites the postulant to enter a period of “clearing,” a time for examining motivations and practices, and an emptying that makes room for the Holy Spirit.
  • Doorkeeper/Porter: The 2nd charism refers to attending to the doorway to one’s heart, and the experiences and relics of personal history that may be blocking the way to true compassion and empathy.
  • Lector/ Reader: The 3rd sacramental that focuses on becoming opened to the Logos, the Word, and the development of prayerful scholarship and theology.
  • Exorcist/ Healer: The 4th sacramental with emphasis on tapping into the innate capacity in us all to exorcise and heal through intention, beginning with the healing of one’s own neurotic fixations, preoccupations, and egoistic motivations.
  • Acolyte: The 5th sacramental on the ladder of spiritual development invites us to experience what it is to serve, and presupposes a thoughtful and deep experience of all the earlier stages of the journey.
  • Subdeacon: Time spent experiencing the Eucharist, time in prayer, and summative retreat into the heart of contemplation before receiving te first of the major orders, the diaconate.

As in so many things, the impatience we see in all walks of post-modernity has crept into all areas, including preparation for Holy Orders. In essence, ordination has nothing to do, at least mystically and spiritually, with getting a job, a title, or an office.

In fact, I am convinced that what is really needed is the “worker priest” who is not paid for his/her priestly service, but earns a living in some other way: lawyer, psychologist, accountant, engineer, clerk, secretary, truck driver, physician, police person, teacher, etc. What the ancients had that we need to rediscover is a deep and true sense of mystery. To bring that back will restore the full grandeur of our spiritual adventure.

Preparing for the Beloved, taking great pains to be at our best, is an act of true self-offering and purification, a commitment to giving all that we are, and not holding back or merely committing intellectually or academically split-off parts of ourselves.

Preparation makes the meeting with the Beloved an authentic conversion, a time of true union.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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…. just like the ones I used to know.

Forget the Eagle or Ben Franklin’s choice for the mascot of the American Nation, the Turkey. The better symbol would be the industrious, ever applied, always hard-working bumblebee.

A few days ago, I opined about the entirely wrong-spirited and unfortunate motivations and consequences of “Black Friday.” It is the perfect symbol of a society that has grown addicted to multi-tasking, and the cult of productivity. Today, I experienced its psycho-spiritual  opposite, White Friday:  a rare and exceedingly pleasant counterforce to the shopping day that has become emblematic of this holiday season.

We slept in after an early Thanksgiving day spent in food preparation. Awakening at around 11 AM, we enjoyed a late breakfast. We had a number of good movies to catch up on that we rented from a local Redbox for $1 each. We also caught up on DVR-recorded episodes of our favorite television series: Castle, Lie To Me, V, and Flash Forward. I started re-reading Joseph Campbell’s “Myths To Live By,” Paul Davies “How to Build A Time Machine,” and puttered around a bit straightening my office.

After bagels and coffee and the movie rentals, the total cost of our day, $9.

A day at home with my wife, precious!

After eating too much on Thanksgiving, and spending a lot of time talking, spending the following day in splendid quiet, with no stress, and without a compelling agenda, was an occasion of spiritual balancing. It has been better than any medicine for postmodern angst that money can buy.

Isn’t it refreshing that the best, most important, most impactful, and most meaningful things in life, cost absolutely nothing? Imagine a world where the “slow food” movement, which began in Italy, catches on globally. Imagine a time when the theory of “Enoughism,” as articulated by John Naish in his 2008 book, “Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More,” comes to represent an emerging ethic of right balance.

This would be a world re-enchanted by the simple pleasures of time “wasted” in just hanging with friends, spending quiet time being joyfully unproductive, and pushing aside the tyranny of the clock.

I do hope you get to “waste” some time this weekend.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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This is among my favorite holidays of the year. It is the simplest overall (despite the cooking), and the one that places greatest focus on the people who are closest to us.

The sheer busyness of the rest of the year makes gathering together a challenge. So, I give thanks for one holiday that is set aside to reconvene family and extended family. Thanksgiving is one of the last strongholds, in the U.S. at least, of undistracted family celebration and, in my experience, always produces special and unforgettable moments.

This year, after recalling our many blessings as a family, and then dining on foods contributed by everyone, we talked about Thanksgivings past. The dialogue centered around some funny and absurdly memorable moments.

As we exchanged recollections, my wife said something I will now long remember. As we spoke of the cost of the gift-giving Season officially now begun, she said that ” the greatest gifts we give each other and our children are not the toys and things, but all the special memories.”

This Thanksgiving is no exception.

There were a few such moments that will now be numbered among the classics for us:

  • a moment in our kitchen when I came into it to find my wife covered head-to-toe with velvet cake mix, wild-eyed, and on the verge of  screaming, with so many dishes on all the burners needing simultaneous tending ( now, that’s an act of love);
  • my baby sister’s distress ( as cooking is not her favorite thing ) at discovering that my wife made a pasta dish ( innocently, out of habit) after being tasked at the 11th hour to make baked Ziti for the meal by her big sister. The moment in which she saw the stuffed shells produced a few remarkable facial expressions and expletives from her that will be recalled and replayed for the rest of our lives (all meant in good fun of course);
  • our nephew’s genuine excitement as we pulled up in front of the house as he announced our arrival with such unbridled exuberance ( an announcement of which royalty would be jealous);
  • my baby sister, later on, asking whether we had, “oh, by the way”, sampled her baked Ziti, ( implying we hadn’t, of course) given all the hard work she had put into making it ( a delicious dish I might add);
  • reading my niece’s short story ( a very talented college-aged young woman with a gift for fiction writing in the macabre genre of vampires and werewolves);
  • the amusingly heated debate between myself and my wife on whether pre-slicing the Turkey, before traveling from our home to my sister’s and, again, before everyone had arrived, would make it dry out more quickly (one of those small items that can stimulate disproportionately passionate debate); and,
  • our lengthy, thoughtful conversation after dinner about the Thanksgivings of history, and the most amusing, dramatic, and unforgettable moments.

On the ride home, we talked about looking forward to the ritual of hanging ornaments on our tree, many of them made as gifts by my wife’s late Aunt. There are the ones dedicated to each of our children when they were very young, and the many richly storied decorations that will soon adorn the entire house. We discussed building a gingerbread house together with my daughter when she returns from college for the holiday in a few weeks, and doing the same with our nieces and nephews.

As my wise wife counsels, it’s the memories that matter, for truly, in the years to come, it will be tougher to recall the material gifts than the joy of all those quirky memories that warm us and make us glad in the lonely times, and on the gray days.

Memory is a child walking along a seashore.  You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.  ~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal

Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.  ~Jean de Boufflers

God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.  ~J.M. Barrie, Courage, 1922

May your Holidays be makers of enduring and uplifting memory.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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It begins.

We are only one day away from the annual violent potlatch known in the States as “Black Friday.” It is a day when the zombies of consumerism rise from their resting places and crowd the malls. They come with one aim in mind: Get the deals. Beat the system. Make a killing on over-priced and generally quickly forgotten or “re-gifted” merchandise. While doing so, in full holiday spirit, they cut each other off on the highways, fight for the few remaining parking spaces in the parking lots and garages and walk around with a scowl the “Grinch” would surely recognize.

Of course, the zombies of late November and into December know intellectually that the prices are already probably inflated enough that the so-called discounts are nothing of the sort. This elaborate game is worthy of another Matrix Sequel. We need Neo to come along and deliver some shock and awe intended for our awakening.

Then, there’s the other hospitable retail practice: advertising incredible sales, and having only four of the items in stock. Once you’re in the store, you will want to leave with something, otherwise all the aggravation, and the bodies over which many have stepped along the way in, would all have been for nothing.

Sometimes I fantasize that what’s really happening is that Voldemort is behind it all. We are, after all, Muggles, and much of what goes on in the realms of magic go unnoticed by us. So, Harry is doing combat even as I type this to save the day yet again for the forces of Light and good. Surely, someone has to do it.

With the economy in such distress, the government is hopeful of spending. It is the lubricant of the economy. By the same token, resizing the economy back to taking human bites is a painful but useful spiritual exercise. The principal sign of our times happens the day after Christmas. Drive down the streets of any suburb and you will find side-walk after side-walk littered with piles of non-biodegradable plastic garbage bags full of packing materials and boxes. Within a year, the contents of those boxes may  well be on eBay or on the lawns at hastily engineered garage sales, or broken, traded,  given as a gift to someone none the wiser, or tossed into the trash because the new and improved model is out.

The greatest addiction of our times is not alcohol, drugs, or sex, it’s consumption. Just think, the Holiday commemorates a poor child who had nowhere to lay his head save in a cave. Later, as a teacher of righteousness, he delivered his Sermon on the Mount, saying nothing about opulent gifting. He did, however, take a few loaves and fishes and caused the crowd to share it so that the little there was, was more than enough.

On this Black Friday, I will keep to my sanctuary, enjoying time with family and friends, off the roads as much as possible, and at a great distance from the birds of appetite, the sound and fury of avarice, and the hypnogogic black dance of this repulsive melodrama.

May your holidays be a time of peace, love, simple demonstrations of great love, holding, and cuddling. May we, too, find the opportunity to give the one thing that we treasure the most and tend to part with very reluctantly – our patient and undivided time.

Pax Et Bonum!

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Intelligence, according to Psychologists, is what the IQ test measures: not terribly illuminating. Well, it has been this way for the longest time, at least.

But now, we see greater delineation that recognizes  “flavors” of intelligence that represent the full spectrum of the human story. In effect, contemporary thought places greater emphasis on intelligence as demonstrated in actionable terms.

Daniel Goleman’s groundbreaking research produced the idea of “emotional intelligence,” or EQ. His most recent book examines the construct of “Social intelligence.” An important  family of intelligences, however,  not yet fully explored, constellates around what I have referred to as ” Sacred Intelligence,” or “HQ” for “Heiros Quotient,” derived from the Greek word for sacred, ιερος. An assessment system remarkably helpful in sorting out this idea in very practical and enriching ways is the Enneagram. While there are a variety of Enneagram instruments around, based on what is a quite ancient idea with roots in the Middle East and South America, I am especially interested in the light it sheds on the spiritual journey.

According to the Enneagram, there are nine personality types which, more precisely, constitute nine distinct intelligences. The goal of our lifetimes is to cultivate not just some, but all nine. While we do so with disproportionate degrees of challenge given who we are, the implicit positive message of the Enneagram is that our quest is about leveraging the strengths in our “HQ”, while bolstering our acumen in the weaker areas. Doing so serves the ultimate goal of realizing spiritual ambidexterity. This is a state of mindfulness where  the spiritual virtues, celebrated in  the writings of the saints, seers, mystics, and theologians of the worlds faith and contemplative traditions, can fully flourish.

Using the Enneagram as a template by which to explore the nine dimensions of HQ, my meditations yield the following set of types, associations to types, and allusions to the archetypal roots that are manifest in each.

The nine faces of sacred intelligence are:

  1. Morality: Themis, Divine Order & Counsel, the Balance/Libra, and the quest for clear standards for living with integrity – Ask: What is the  right thing to do?
  2. Compassion: Divine Mother, Mary, Kuan Yin, the Bodhisattva, the Sacred Heart, caritas and the quest for authenticity in being attentive to the other – Ask: What is the state of  my brothers and sisters?
  3. Charity: the Good Samaritan, Tolkien’s Galadrial and Arwen of the Faerie, C.S. Lewis’s Tinidril, Queen of Perelandra, and the capacity for hospitality, and generosity of spirit – Ask: How can I extend my hospitality?
  4. Prophesy: the Magi, Elijah and the wanderer archetype, John the Baptist, and the capacity to interpret signs in service of  justice – Ask: What are the signs around me, and where do they lead?
  5. Contemplation: the Temple, Hermitage, Monk, Dreamer, and the capacity to enter deeply into silence – Ask: What do I need to look at more deeply and what does the voice in the silence teach?
  6. Devotion: the Hindu Parvati, the Immaculata, Ruth & her devotion to Naomi, Virgo, Penelope, Bacchus & Philemon, Theresa of Avila, and the capacity to be opened, vulnerable, and to give oneself- Ask: How do I draw nearer the Beloved, my G-d, the Holy Spirit, the Light of Christ?
  7. Spiritual Teaching: the Fisher King, Doctors of the Church, Hildegard of Bingen,  Dhanvantari, Socrates, Chiron, CG Jung, and the capacity to guide spiritual learning and self-discovery – Ask: What is your koan?
  8. Spiritual Leadership: Daibutsu, Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Pope John, St. Francis, St. Benedict, Amun, and the capacity  to mobilize  spiritual vision – Ask: What is it that needs doing and how can I make a difference?
  9. Healing: Asclepius, Paracelsus, the Christic, Hippocrates, Padre Pio, the Physician, Bodhisattva Metteya, and the capacity to bring harmony where there is discord – Ask: By what deed or action is harmony restored?

The Enneagram is applied in many circles with always interesting results. I use it in my leadership coaching practice in different ways. Practitioners have also used it historically as an adjunct tool in the spiritual formation process in some monastic communities. It is a deep well of possibilities for stimulating meditations that help awaken the faculties that may not have yet been fully aroused. I enthusiastically commend it to you.

“Now, after lurking on the fringes of mysticism and pop psychology for more than 20 years, the Enneagram is turning mainstream and respectable. Last year the Stanford University School of Business course called “Personality, Self-Awareness and Leadership” focused on the Enneagram for the first time; the class proved so popular that it will be expanded from 40 to 50 students next winter. The CIA now uses the Enneagram to help agents understand the behavior of  world leaders. The U.S. Postal Service recently turned to the Enneagram to help employees resolve conflicts. Clergy from the Vatican signed up for an Enneagram seminar last year. And last month the First international Enneagram Conference, with 1,400 participants who came to Palo Alto, Calif., from as far away as Japan, was cosponsored by Stanford Medical School’s department of psychiatry.”
Newsweek (Jean Seligmann, Sept.12, 1998)

“As a guide to human character, behavior and motivation, it has no equal. More practical than typologies derived from conventional psychology, the Enneagram provides a clear and easily recognizable map of nine distinct personality patterns. For most people, it simply rings true.”
Yoga Journal

“There is another high profile system today [in addition to the MBTI]. The origin of the nine-sided diagram on which it is based is mysterious…. The first to apply the Enneagram to the human personality was the Bolivian Oscar Ischazo, founder of Arica training, a pioneering method of human development that first flourished in the 1960s…. The nine types are just the beginning with the Enneagram; the heart of the system is the way the various types relate to each other, connected as they are on the nine-sided diagram.”
Utne Reader (Jon Spayde, May-June, 2004)

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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