Archive for November 6th, 2009


Scenario planning is a big part of the work I do (clinically and organizationally). While there are a variety of techniques available to engage the uncertainty of the future through scenario thinking, they can all be simply summed up in two words: What If.

In his excellent book, The Black Swan, Naseem Taleb draws our attention to a clear tendency to focus on the little we can explain and not the enormity of our ignorance. We should, he argues, spend more time on those “black swan” events that are thought unlikely that, should they occur, change everything. History is surely about “Black Swan” scenarios: 9/11, hurricane Katrina, AIDS, the black plague, fossil fuels, nuclear power, etc. What they all have in common is that, at a point, they were considered unlikely enough to be dismissed as practically insignificant and unworthy of priority attention.

There is a collection of essays entitled, What If, edited by Robert Cowley that embodies the spirit of scenaric thinking. It explores such topics as: what if WWII hadn’t occurred, if Napoleon invaded North America, if Pontius Pilate spared Jesus and instead crucified Barabbas?

Tonight, I am sitting with this collection of essays nearby and asking myself some “What Ifs.”

What If:

  • I hadn’t married when I was 20?
  • If I had pursued a more orthodox direction for expressing my Priesthood?
  • If I hadn’t been the father of two children and watched them grow into adulthood?
  • I had gone into music and theater and not psychology and theology?
  • If my parents had survived to see my children grow into adulthood?
  • If my younger sister had lived beyond her 17th year?

What if any of these happened ? Would I be a different man? Would I live a different way? What if this is my last year on Earth? Am I living fully enough now?

What are your “what ifs?” Where do they lead you?

Pax Et Bonum. Namaste.

© 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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Christ means the “Anointed One.” Throughout history and across cultures and religions, oil figures prominently, along with water, in ritual moments of sacred awakenings.

While the water of Baptism prepares and cleanses,  anointing ( from a linguistic root meaning to “smear”) is often performed using blessed oils, or chrism. In opening the Heart to the second sacramental gate, the oil, richer and heavier than water, penetrates to the inmost layers of our Being forming a foundation. It adds complexity.

The anointing with oil signifies an effulgence, an expression of one’s uniqueness, and brings the soul into more direct contact with the Christ Within. It materializes the spark of Divine Light that knows no evening, the fire that pierces the darkness. Where the waters of Baptism meet the flammable oil of  Chrismation, the flight of one’s soul toward the Omega Point, the Heart of the Infinite whence it arose, is enabled.

The Holy Spirit, the breath of the Beloved, moves through matter and psyche, like the solar wind, creating auroral-like currents announcing the presence of the Son. In this sacrament, we are confirmed in our identity as a seeker of the Grail, as a Knight commissioned by the “Most High.” We are deemed ready to step boldly into uncertainty and face the perils along a narrow road. We receive our first true commission to advance on the road that Joseph Campbell calls the “Hero’s Journey.”

Known better in Western Christendom as “confirmation,” this sacrament acts to energize the second sephirot of the Kabbalah Tree of Life, “Yesod,” or foundation. It represents “shalom” or peace. It completes what began in Baptism, when the first sephirot, “Malchut,” or the Kingdom, was spiritually opened. The second sephirot  builds on the baptismal naming of the soul, exciting the gift of self-expression or the embodiment of the Logos. “Yesod” also represents the unconscious Mind and the charism of spiritual knowledge. With the anointing, the first two gates to the Kingdom of the Beloved are opened to the soul, and the spiritual journey enters a new phase in fulfilling its telos (τέλοϛ) in the Pleroma, or the Divine fullness.

In Catholicism, Confirmation is the conscious decision to “be a soldier for Christ and defend the faith,” and is usually conferred in young adulthood.  In Eastern Orthodoxy,  Chrismation is combined with Baptism by water as a mystical conjoint act of naming and blessing. In Protestantism, confirmation is a rite viewed as a service of public declaration of membership.

For me, the Eastern tradition of Chrismation retains the fullest sense of the mystery that these moments of sacred encounter embody. The anointing with oil communicates a Christic charism to help unleash the foundations of the quest for the Pearl of Great Price. The Gates of the Cosmic Heart are swung wide as the individual soul joins the collective movement of the World Soul toward the Teilhardian “Omega Point,” the place at which the great opus of creation realizes its destiny according to the divine archetypes guiding it.

Meditative Epilogue:

In preparing greens and vegetables for a meal, we first wash them thoroughly and purify them. More often than not, we next garnish them with a favorite oil. First the cleansing by water, then the adornment with oil as the base with spices added that adhere to the oil and elevate a common collection of materials to something truly delicious; a culinary experience in the hands of a master chef.

So, too, we come into the world with a common collection of materials ( the organic stuff of what it means to be human). We are  Baptized in water, cleansed, and are then fully opened to receive the charisms that follow. Then comes the anointing with oil, that awakens us further to embrace the spices added later by the Master: the remaining five sacraments, and the experience of a lifetime in expanding upon them.

It is powerful to revisit these moments that happened in one’s youth, recalling their nature as perpetually active, not static happenings. Each day, the action of each blessing expands our spiritual universe as the universe we observe all around us accelerates its expansion.


© 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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