The Stoic Prayer of Emperor Marcus Aurelius

When faced with adversity, the Stoics prayed for the inner strength to remain unmoved and unbothered by the world outside.  You have power over your own mind but not the ever-changing fortunes of life. According to Stoic philosophy, whatever happens can be attributed to the god, and it would be unwise to insist on something contrary to the Divine will.

There is a legend that Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, prayed for rain to save a legion trapped and dying of thirst. The heavens opened and the soldiers caught the rain in their helmets and were saved. This is known as “The Rain Miracle” of Marcus Aurelius.

Elsewhere in The Meditations though, he wrote something more subtle and philosophical about prayer. Just because something is within our own power, rather than the realm of the gods, does not mean that we cannot pray for strength of purpose to neither crave the rain nor fear the drought.

If they (the gods) have power, why do you not pray to them to grant you the ability neither to fear any of these things nor to desire them, nor to be distressed by them, rather than praying that some of them should fall to you and others not? For surely, if the gods have any power to help human beings, they can help them in this. But perhaps you will object, ‘They have placed this in my own power.’ Well then, would it not be better to make use of what lies within your power as suits a free man rather than to strain for what lies beyond it in a slavish and abject fashion? In any case, who told you that the gods do not assist us even in things that lie within our power? Begin at least to pray so, and you will see.

He goes on, in the same passage, to give an example:

That man prays, ‘May I come to sleep with that woman,’ but you, ‘May I not desire to sleep with her.’ Another prays, ‘May I be rid of this man,’ but you, ‘May I no longer wish to be rid of him.’ Or another, ‘May I not lose my little child,’ but you, ‘May I not be afraid of losing him.’ In a word, turn your prayers round in such a way, and see what comes of it. 

When tormented by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune we become slaves to events beyond our control, not free individuals choosing how we will react. According to Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, the one thing which can never be taken away from you when all else is gone, is the power to choose your own state of mind.

We might pray, God send me a new motorcycle or, instead, God help me to be less materialistic; or yet again, Send me a new motorcycle if it is the best thing for me at this time (and not just a shiny object to distract).  

 A friend once told me that her divorce was the worst thing that had ever happened to her. A few months later she thought it was the best thing. What if she had prayed for the divorce to be cancelled? What if that prayer had been answered ? Would it not have been better to pray for acceptance of the divorce, allowing the Divine will to manifest?

Be careful what you pray for. It might happen.

There is a basic principle  embedded in the Lord’s prayer: Thy will be done; and elsewhere we read, Seek ye first the Kingdom of God […] and all these things shall be added unto you.

On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, O father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt.

We don’t always know what’s best and imperfect knowledge obscures the outcome. We don’t know how the story ends. Something might be judged good which is in fact bad or judged bad which is in fact good. Only one thing is assured – commit to the Divine will and life will be rendered meaningful, not random or accidental.

I believe the Stoic conception of prayer accords with an esoteric interpretation of a story appearing in the Book of Genesis

There was once a man called Joseph who dreamed prophetic dreams and for this, his father, Israel, favored him. His brothers grew jealous, attacked Joseph, threw him in a pit and then sold him to slavers who carried him off to Egypt. His brothers told their father that wild beasts had devoured him. The slavers sold Joseph to Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, where he found a modicum of peace until a false accusation landed him in jail for two years. Surely this was all bad news, but not so fast. We must see how the story ends. Through it all, however, Joseph retained his equanimity. Both the captain of the guard and the keeper of the prison entrusted Joseph with all that they had.

Eventually, Joseph’s reputation as a dreamer of dreams reached Pharaoh, who was so impressed by these prophetic abilities that he made Joseph prime minister of Egypt, charged with preparations for the predicted seven years famine. When the famine arrived, Joseph’s father and brothers came to Egypt looking for food. They met Joseph face to face expecting revenge but were instead embraced with acceptance and reassurance:

Do not be grieved nor angry with yourselves that you sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.

Events which seem random and accidental may in fact be purposeful or may be rendered purposeful by a Higher Power.

You thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save many people alive.

We don’t always know how the story ends. Something which seems bad ends up being good and pursuant to a higher purpose. We can pray for deliverance from betrayal, false accusations and imprisonment but how much better to pray for equanimity, trust, and acceptance until the higher purpose is known.

(c) Adrian Charles Smith 2022

My Interview with Camron Wiltshire

Camron Wiltshire, aka AstroMonk, is a Gnostic seeker, author, filmmaker and co-founder of an amazing website – Sacred Geometry International.

sacredgeometryinternational.com

Explore the mysteries of ancient civilizations as popularized by Graham Hancock. Learn of cosmic cycles of catastrophe and sacred geometry encoded in myth and mystical  architecture. On a virtual quest for the Holy Grail, probe ancient mysteries and uncover the secrets of the pyramids. Camron is currently embarking on a new mission to unite his various pursuits and passions into a cohesive system of knowledge. Knowledge that can help mankind break the chains that bind, and overcome the sinister forces of division and subjugation, through the illuminating path of Gnosis.

Our State of Emergency

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In a national emergency, such as war, disease or natural disaster, the executive branch of government  may temporarily suspend civil liberties to ensure the public safety. During such periods, the executive branch governs by decree but their decrees are not law and are reviewable by the courts. It is only the enabling legislation which should be considered as law. For example, the Emergency Powers Act 1920 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which allowed the Sovereign power, in certain circumstances, to declare a state of emergency by proclamation. The Act does not give the State a license to drive a coach and horses through the national constitution. A government, may not, for example, declare a state of emergency for reasons which are trivial or nonsensical, effectively imposing  a dictatorship by the back door.

Both the declaration of a state of emergency and subsequent decrees are reviewable by the courts. It must first be demonstrated that a genuine emergency exists. Secondly, it must be shown that the decrees ameliorate that emergency. Courts do not censor voices of dissent, as is common in politics or the media; but rather, hear arguments strictly on their merits with no weight assigned to denunciation or ad hominem attacks.

The Wednesbury principle, based on a UK Court of Appeal decision in 1948, allows for judicial review of administrative action, applying a “reasonableness test” to the decisions of authorities exercising power conferred by an Act of Parliament. Decrees, prohibitions, or mandates which defy logic, or which violate generally accepted moral standards, may be struck down.

The concept of “natural law” requires that law must have a foundation in morality to be deemed legitimate. Otherwise, it’s only force — the orders of the mafia boss shouting, Fetch me a beer. Under natural law, we are under no obligation to obey an immoral law or even to consider it as law at all.

By contrast, the philosophy of “legal positivism” conceives of law as the “command of the sovereign”, issuing orders backed by threats. There is a disturbing tendency to regard orders backed by threats as legitimate law, as though authority is beyond scrutiny, to be obeyed without question.

These two competing concepts define the issue — what is law? Is it morality or is it force?  The answer is found through observation of how the law operates, not what we think it ought to be, or how we wish it would be; but what is it?  

An example will serve to illustrate.

In Nazi Germany, a statute made it illegal and punishable by death, to make insulting remarks about Hitler. This was used by some Germans to dispose of unwanted spouses by reporting them to the police. After the war, informants were prosecuted, even though under Nazi law, the defendants were solid citizens performing their civic duty by snitching on offenders. In one such case, the German Court of Appeal found a woman guilty of the offence of deprivation of liberty, because — quoting from the judgment — the statutes were “contrary to the sound conscience and sense of justice of all decent human beings.” In other words, Nazi law was not law because it lacked any character as law being devoid of moral legitimacy.

The positivists objected. Hitler was sovereign and law is, “the command of the sovereign”. They also objected to the Nuremberg trials which followed because, in their view, there was no “sovereign”. Neither is international law considered law, and constitutional law is nothing more than “positive morality” (a morality which is posited or put forward).

In answering the question, clearly morality is embedded in our concept of law because in practice it is observable in the operation of the courts. The Nuremberg trials proceeded, despite the objections of the positivists, and offenders were hanged, including Nazi doctors who imposed medical experiments on people without their informed consent. The trials gave rise to Nuremberg 2, an international agreement upholding that same principle of informed consent, and this has been accepted in all civilized nations to this day.

It would take something truly extraordinary to require an abandonment of that principle. Many professionals have lost their jobs because of “mandates”, and many have succumbed to pressure in order to keep their jobs. But consent to an experimental gene therapy, pushed by companies with a history of criminal behaviour, through media outlets which they control, requires an absence of pressure; because, in law, consent given under duress is not consent.

Does a disease which has a mortality rate of less than 1% and for which the average age of death is 82 justify locking down whole populations and crashing the global economy? The lockdown response amounts to a quarantine of entire healthy populations. An alternative approach would be to quarantine only the sick and most vulnerable.

If someone in power confines you to your own home, under normal circumstances that would amount to the crime of “false imprisonment” and the persons responsible could be held liable without clear and convincing evidence that this was necessary to address an alleged emergency. It’s interesting to me that what some call “the law” may in fact be a crime, as the Nazi informer cases illustrate.

For those worried about the disease, the answer for them is clear — get the injection(s). You are now safe and protected, 92% was the claim. Those who do not take the injection(s) have voluntarily undertaken the risk and that is their business and no one else’s. The assertion that the “protected” need protection form the “unprotected” is that very kind of reasoning which the Wednesbury principle addresses — a proposition so unreasonable “that no sensible person who had applied his mind to it could have arrived at it”.

These and other related questions will now be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The victims, on behalf of whom the complaint was filed, are “the peoples of the United Kingdom.” One of the seven applicants is Dr. Michael Yeadon, a former vice president and chief scientist of allergy and respiratory research at Pfizer.

One man who understood the concept of “natural law” was Sir Thomas More, the King’s Chancellor during the reign of King  Henry VIII. A man called Ritchie Rich was about to denounce Sir Thomas. Friends and family pleaded with Sir Thomas to have him arrested, something he had within his power. But Sir Thomas refused because Rich had broken no law, although he was about to — the crime of perjury. Sir Thomas was a moral man and for him the law was rooted in morality and conscience, and this, he believed, was our only defense against tyranny. In Robert Bolt’s play, “A Man for All Seasons”, Sir Thomas rebukes his friend Roper for urging him to “cut a great road through the law to get at the devil — and when the last law was down and the devil turns round on you where will you stand, Roper, the laws all being flat”.

Do we now cut a great road through the law to get at the devil, the devil being a global sickness. In the words of Sir Thomas, “I would give the devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake”.

(C) Adrian Charles Smith 2022

My Interview with Steve Seven

“Defeating the Archons”

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I have the pleasure of being  joined in the Zoom Room by New Testament scholar Steve Seven. Steve is a prolific author, a psychotherapist, a mythologist and an expert on the psychology of both Freud and Jung. You can find out more about Steve at  https://spiritualinstinctpress.com/.

In both Part 1 and Part 2 we discuss “Defeating the Archons”.

In Part 1 we define terms. Who (what) are the archons, the Elohim, demons and daemons, gods and angels.  How does archontic influence play itself out in the physical realm? We discuss possible solutions, such as “parallel structures” and community-based governance operating within and alongside the empire of the archons.

In Part 2 we discuss deception programs, the importance of multiple sources of information, the quest for autonomy, the importance of inner work as an indirect strategy influencing the outer world.

Part 1

Part 2

(C) Adrian Charles Smith 2021

Hermes: Guardian of Natural Law

Lady Justice, or Themis (Shutterstock)

The founders of the American republic, and their forebearers across the sea, were influenced by gnostic/hermetic philosophy when they created their systems of government. For them, constitutional law, English common law, and ancient tradition served as a defense against the abuse of power by government.  

Gnostics had a similar mistrust of Church authority and ecclesiastical decree. The hermeticists placed a high value on individual expression and personal freedom, with government as guarantor of both public and private rights.  Individual gnostic opinions varied, but they were united by a philosophical approach which fostered tolerance, freedom of expression, and creativity. Church authorities sought to limit that expression by imposing a single unifying narrative.

Because divinity was seen as a light emanating from within, the “divine right of kings” shining from above was rendered obsolete.  Without popular consent and participation, government is fire, “a dangerous servant and a fearful master” (as George Washington is reputed to have said).  Government is force, not reason, and the coercive power of the state can be deployed at any time to deprive citizens of their freedom, and hence the need for safeguards – a system of checks and balances.

From earliest times, the jury system was designed to place the fate of an accused in the hands of his peers, and not some tyrant. The ancient writ of habeas corpus (let us have the body) meant no one should disappear without a trace. If arrested, the accused must be brought before a judge and not simply vanish.

Article 9 of the English Bill of Rights 1688 ensures that no one could be arrested and charged with sedition for words uttered in Parliament.

That the Freedom of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parliament.

This system was based on a balance and separation of powers. No single organ or branch of government (legislature, judiciary, executive) should be allowed to dominate the others.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

Legal philosophy asks the central question, what is law? There are two schools of thought.

One school, called legal “positivism” says it is “the command of the sovereign,” the so-called “command theory.” It is called legal “positivism” not because its adherents are positive; in fact, they are quite miserable. Positive, in this context, means, that which is posited or put forward by some authoritative body.

The second school, the one I favour, says law is morality.  This is often called natural law or the principles of natural justice. That’s not to say all laws are moral, far from it; but for law to be considered law (conceptually), there must be some minimum moral content to distinguish it from the orders of the mafia boss. The most important moral principles embedded in this concept of law are strict impartiality and equal treatment before the law.  When these things are absent, a judge might wear the robes of his office, but he has become a mere puppet, a politized surrogate for party or ideology.

In 1770, a lawyer named John Adams risked his career successfully defending British troops charged with murder after Bostonians were killed during a riot, the so called “Boston massacre.”  John Adams was an American patriot, and the colony was on the brink of rebellion. Nevertheless, he looked beyond the mob outrage, setting aside his own internal leanings and examined the facts on their merits, without reference to popular opinion or political partisanship. That’s impartiality; without it, we have no law, only force. John Adams was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence and went on to become America’s second president.  

“Lady Justice” (Themis, Titaness of divine law and justice) is seen wearing a blindfold while holding a beam balance with a sword in her hand. The blindfold is a symbol of impartiality. She is an allegorical personification of the moral force in the judicial system.

An example will serve to illustrate legal positivism and natural law. I refer to the so-called “Nazi informer cases.” In Nazi Germany, the quickest way to get rid of an unwanted spouse was to report them to the police for saying hateful things about Hitler.  That was enough to make that person disappear forever. No trial, no evidence, no right to a hearing, no habeas corpus, no innocent until proven guilty; but a conviction and death sentence based solely on the testimony of the complainant. I will return to this concept shortly.  Post-war authorities sought to prosecute the informants because their actions and intent were the moral equivalent of murder. The positivists objected. Law is the “command of the sovereign.” Hitler was sovereign and the complainants were the ultimate solid citizens, faithful servants of the state.

The law functions as a dynamic tension between these two opposing views, but natural law is the gift of Hermes and we take it for granted at our peril. “Lady Justice” is the female side of this duality, and legal positivism the male.  The reality of law, in practise, is an integration, the latter providing certainty, the former seeking justice in individual cases.

Today there is an increasingly widespread acceptance of unrepresentative, unaccountable, supranational governance and a corresponding relaxation of that ancient call for eternal vigilance; but such vigilance is needed now, more than ever.

Trojan Horse (Shutterstock)

Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of a military industrial complex acquiring unwarranted influence.  He was referring to corporate interests seeking to replace representative government as the dominant institutions in society. This condition is now well advanced. It is common to speak of corporate rule or corporatism.

Joel Bakan, Professor of Law at Queen’s University, gives a detailed account of this in his book The Corporation (see my Recommended list). Professor Bakan interviewed Canadian psychologist Robert D. Hare, who developed the now famous Hare Test of psychopathy used by mental health professionals to diagnose psychopathy. In the interview, Robert Hare diagnoses the corporation as a psychopathic entity; not employees of the corporation, but the corporation itself which, in law, is a separate legal person.

The diagnosis might help to explain why we are relaxing our much-needed vigilance. The psychopath is a master of deception. They know how to put themselves in a good light. They often rise to the top and may be seen as solid citizens or pillars of the community. This accords with descriptions of the archons (rulers) in The Secret Gospel of John – “And their triumph is in deception (apaton), leading astray, for their own structure is without divinity.”

 A handful of corporations control the major media which allows them to steer narratives to their advantage. Corporations seek to undermine the sovereignty of the nation state and associated constitutions, destroy culture, concepts of natural law, or anything else which stands in the way of absolute power. To this end they will use Trojan horse concepts, speak in terms of “sustainable development” or “equity, diversity and inclusion” which in the hands of normal people would be worthy objectives.

The Trojan horse stands outside the city gates a god-like marvel which offers protection and favour. The Trojans see no threat; the Greeks have fled. They invite it in, not knowing what lies within the belly of the beast. Who would not want to grant dictatorial powers to pious benefactors promising a utopian future – if you really believe it?  (Link to “mask of piety”)

I have written extensively about the erosion of natural law principles, but I give one more example here, one which is highly representative of a much larger trend.

Harry Miller is visited by the police, which is surprising in Britain, since recent public notices had requested that crimes like burglaries and break-ins should be reported online, owing to staff shortages. (About one third of such crimes are not investigated at all.) Harry, a retired police officer himself, wants to know the reason for this unanticipated personal attention. Harry had been engaged in an online Twitter debate over the Gender Recognition Act and someone was offended.  One of the officers tells Harry, “We are here to check your thinking.” Harry asks, “Since when has Orwell’s 1984 become an operating manual for the police force?” The officers do not know who Orwell was, neither do they understand the concept of a “thought crime.”  Harry wants to know why they refer to the complainant as “victim”? Of course that’s because his status as victim has been pre-determined in advance — no evidence needed, no trial, no innocent until proven guilty, no due process. As with the Nazi informer cases, it’s simply enough to complain. They assure Harry that his offence is not a crime, but rather a “hate incident.”

Afterward, Harry had to move heaven and earth to get a copy of the police report, but was surprised, when it arrived, to read at the top of the page, CRIME REPORT. This is the document which would show up in a background check making it impossible to get a job or a position of responsibility. Harry sued in the High Court and won. The judge compared the actions of the police to the Gestapo or the Stasi, inimical to the common law. That was good news for Harry personally, but it was raised at the trial and upheld that the police had behaved properly in accordance with the instructions of the College of Policing. Those instructions were not challenged at Harry’s trial, so thousands of people, who lack Harry’s resources to bring a High Court action, continue to be treated this way. It is now possible in Britain to be convicted of a crime, some carrying a prison sentence, based solely on the testimony of the complainant. This abuse of power has strong institutional support.

When the Titanic struck that iceberg in the cold North Atlantic sea, everything seemed OK at first, apart from a sight vibration, but the view from the promenade deck was different from the view in the engine room.  The Harry Miller case, and others like it, take us down to the engine room, beneath the surface of apparent normalcy.

Every civilization or culture, except a dying one, honours its ancestors and its traditions. Perhaps the strange death of western civilization is not a natural process but rather a controlled demolition.

“Thomas More: …And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast–and if you cut them down…d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”
― Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

Offense is in the eye of the “controller” (The Times, London)

Adrian Charles Smith (c) 2021

War in Heaven

Image: Shutterstock

I sometimes wonder what it must have been like for Jews living in Germany circa 1935. As the storm clouds gathered, some must have thought, Let’s get out while we can. Others, however, would ignore the warning signs, labelling their more prescient neighbours as paranoid. Those others, much later as prisoners, were handed soap on their way to the “showers.” Even then, they may have continued to underestimate the peril.

History is a long, sad record of human imprisonment, punctuated by a few precious interludes of relative peace, prosperity and freedom. Do we delude ourselves that such imprisonment could never happen here?

 How thin are the walls which separate a well-ordered world from lurking chaos. (Carl Jung)

Now we face a “new normal” where civil liberties, the rule of law, democracy and privacy are threatened. We see before us the spectre of big tech censorship, robotics, AI, transhumanism, the singularity, total surveillance, a digital currency linked to social credit scores, and “the great reset.” Churchill described “a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime…”, one made more sinister by the technology of his day.  Technology has grown exponentially since then and we will soon reach the singularity, a point in time when exponential growth in technology takes on an infinite value. How much greater then the need for eternal vigilance in the defence of freedom?

Imagine a dystopian future where there is no place to hide, no place to flee. America used to be a beacon for the world, a place of refuge for “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. In medieval times one could always retreat to Sherwood Forest to escape the evil barons, but not now. The technocrats of the future will have us all flagged and tagged.

Both traditional Christianity and Gnosticism proclaim we are in a war – a spiritual war. If it is a war, then it is a “wizard war”, a term used by Churchill to describe the deciding factor in WW2, intelligence and counterintelligence. The Allies won that war because they cracked the German naval code, called Enigma after the device that created the code. “Intelligence” means knowing what is true in the face of overwhelming lies and secrecy. It means discerning truth from falsehood, looking beneath the surface of accepted narratives.

The Secret Book of John describes how the demiurge enslaves humanity: “His power is in deception leading astray.” Therefore, “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” (Descartes) Doubt all the soothing words of re-assurance by those who hide behind a mask of piety. Doubt the official line.

The demiurge is the great counterfeiter, the creator of virtual realities, a liar from the beginning and the father of it, as Jesus said; but “the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

The big lie of the demiurge is that we are helpless and cannot resist. “Resistance is futile,” say the Borg. The truth, according to The Secret Book of John, is that we are more powerful than he and that his triumph depends on concealing from us the knowledge of our true identity. Gnosticism is liberation through gnosis or knowledge. Therefore, know who you truly are. The creative imaginative power of human intelligence is but an iteration of the divine creative intelligence which brings all things into being.

Holocaust survivor and author Victor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning) won his private war with the Nazis, but the weapons of his warfare were not carnal but spiritual (as the New Testament tells us). In the camp, “plum tasks” with perks and benefits were offered to inmates, in return for undisclosed assignments. Victor always refused these rewards because he knew a liar when he saw one. Beware the Nazi bearing gifts. Those who volunteered did not get what they bargained for and frequently did not return. Even at the end, as liberation approached, the Nazis said, come with us, we will take you to the Allies in return for clemency.  Victor refused to leave the camp in those final days. Those who accepted the offers were never heard of again. He survived the camp by refusing to believe the lies and by activating his divine creative intelligence in the pursuit of his own dreams; in his case, the completion of a significant academic paper.

The fight against the demiurge begins once we stop believing the official line. The demiurge and his archons depend, for their very survival, on our belief, our intention and our engagement with them. (Secret Book of John) We are no longer food for them when we turn instead to our own dreams and our own creation. This is how we win. 

The first casualties of war are the credulous.

“These are the days which try our souls”, says Thomas Paine. “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” (The American Crises)

© Adrian Charles Smith (2021)

Integrating Opposites II

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This is a revised version of an earlier post.

We often experience the world as a struggle between competing opposites: conservative vs liberal, objective vs subjective, male vs female, right brain vs left brain, the inner life vs the outer life, the active vs the passive, and so on.

In the study and practise of Tai Chi I have observed a dynamic tension between opposing forces: advance and withdraw, rise and sink. After many years of diligent practise, you can master the rise without losing the sink or you can withdraw but remain a coiled spring prepared for the advance. Mastering integration ignites explosive power (Tai Chi is a martial art).  It’s not a question of rise or sink, advance or retreat; it’s more a case of rise and sink both happening together so fast as to achieve integration. The interaction of opposites could best be described as a marriage, not a binary choice or a conflict but integration.

A simple practical example will serve to illustrate. First assume a firm stance, left foot forward right foot behind at a 45-degree angle leaving a channel in between. Allow a partner to put his/her hand in the middle of your chest, exerting gradual pressure with a view to pushing you over. Try to stop him/her from pushing you over. The immediate instinctive response is to resist, rise to meet or push back. Note how easy it is to knock you off balance. Now try a different strategy. The more your partner pushes the more you sink into the push, a very counterintuitive response. It might take some practise but you will begin to notice how immoveable you have become. You are relaxing into the push and absorbing the energy of it, ready to give it back.  This is the power which arises from the integration of opposing forces. Alternatively, try pushing on a large tree or telephone pole as hard as you can. Then try it again while sinking into the push and note the difference. The tree or the pole may not budge much, but you can feel the strength in your push; moreover, the results are achieved with much less effort or strain. This accounts for the graceful effortless appearance of Tai Chi when the principles are internalized. Tai Chi integrates non-doing with doing. The Western mind has a hard time with the non-doing part. Chi is the lifeforce energy. The principle is — “energy follows intention.” The masters can exert great power with very little muscular effort by allowing the energy to do the work.  

Practices, like Tai Chi, foster the mind, body, spirit connection. A flexible mind fosters a flexible body and a flexible body fosters a flexible mind in a continuous feedback loop. A flexible mind and body fosters a flexible, open and non-resistant spirit, one open and receptive to an expanded state of consciousness. The Tai Chi philosophy seems to be reflected in the New Testament passage, resist not one who is evil.  The Tai Chi way is nonreactive. A constricted and contracted hose will not allow much water to flow.

Integration is the key but fundamentalists invariably identify with one pole or another creating an adversarial relationship between opposites. The totalitarian strategy of divide and conquer adds fuel to the fire.

From my office window, when spring arrives, I will survey a pleasant scene of forested hills, pastures slowly turning green, and below them, a vast expanse of wetland where ducks and geese are returning from their winter refuge. Soon our farm pond will come alive with tiny goslings and ducklings eagerly following their mothers. It’s a scene of perfect harmony which could not exist without a balance and reconciliation of opposites: death and decay vs renewal and rebirth. Neither should prevail over the other. Both work together for good and what we observe with pleasure is the outcome of integration. Likewise, the most beautiful paintings are a combination of light and dark.

In the latter part of my book, A Prison for the Mind, I identify postmodernism as a fundamentalist belief system, one which has become the prevailing orthodoxy of our time. One of the doctrines of this new religion is that there is no such thing as objective reality. This sets the philosophy on a collision course with Enlightenment principles – a worldview which asserts that there is an objective reality discoverable through reason and the scientific method. Enlightenment principles are summarily dismissed (by the extremists) as the product of a white male patriarchy, a view itself that’s overcome with bias. Here we see the battleground of the subjective (postmodernism) vs the objective (rationality). How can they be reconciled?

I didn’t get too far in my expose of postmodernism before I realized, yes, I too am a postmodernist; I only reject the counterfeit version, used wrongly for political purposes—to foster totalitarianism, censorship and societal subordination to a global technocracy. Nevertheless, we do not understand the world through reason alone and in this sense, I am a postmodernist. We have a left brain which is rational and a right brain which is artistic — the realm of the poet, the mystic, the musician and the painter. A whole person must function with both hemispheres without one dominating the other.

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In the early part of my book, I identify personal experience (subjective) as the only thing we can know for sure and the inner journey as an avenue to certainty (very postmodern). Finding truth in the outer world is difficult because it’s like a carnival funhouse Hall of Mirrors. It’s hard to tell what is real and what is illusion. Observing the outer world, we are confused and unsure, and thus vulnerable to counterfeit offers of comforting certitude.

Here’s where I think the counterfeit version of postmodernism gets it wrong. I refer to a teaching story about a village of blind people trying to figure out what an elephant is. One holds the tail and says it’s a snake. Another holds the leg and says it’s a pillar, another holds the trunk and says it’s a hollow tube; but no one has the vantage point to see the whole elephant even with the use of scientific instruments. The extremists say there is no elephant. I say there is one but difficult to discover (difficult but not impossible). If there was no elephant, then nothing would be objective and therefore nothing in the outer world could be described as true or false. If nothing is true, then science has no place, there would be no such thing as a lie and research would be pointless (i.e., no truth to be found).

You can have your own subjective insights without imposing them on others or using them to ignore verifiable facts or lobbying to have your subjective perceptions enshrined in law. All these things the faux postmodernists attempt. Subjective and objective must walk hand in hand, recognizing their respective spheres of influence. A police officer might follow a hunch or rely on intuition (subjective) to solve a murder but a conviction can only be upheld by evidence gathered and proven in court. Many scientific breakthroughs began as dreams or flashes of insight but these must also be subjected to the rigours of the scientific method.

The great mathematician Ramanujan, from Madras India circa 1915, with almost no formal education, claimed that the Hindu goddess Namagiri would appear in his dreams, delivering mathematical insights, which he would write down when he awoke. He described one of them as follows:

While asleep, I had an unusual experience. There was a red screen formed by flowing blood, as it were. I was observing it. Suddenly a hand began to write on the screen. I became all attention. That hand wrote a number of elliptic integrals. They stuck to my mind. As soon as I woke up, I committed them to writing.”

The Cambridge University mathematician Godfrey H. Hardy, who worked with Ramanujan,  said that if mathematicians were rated on the basis of pure talent on a scale from 0 to 100, he himself would be worth 25, J.E. Littlewood 30, David Hilbert 80, and Srinivasa Ramanujan 100.

When Ramanujan first arrived at Cambridge he insisted that his mathematical insights just came to him or were dictated by God (subjective) but professor Hardy, recognizing his genius, worked with him to provide objective verification based on principles acceptable to the scientific community. This was a very fruitful partnership. The word genius comes from the Latin word of the same name, meaning, “guardian deity or spirit which watches over each person from birth” or “innate ability.”

We become much more effective as a result of integration and the world is more peaceful place without the either-or mindset of fundamentalism.

The amazing life of Ramanujan was made into a feature film, The Man Who Knew Infinity, which I highly recommend. (See Recommended Viewing section for movie trailer.) It is so inspiring to watch the two camps, the logical and the intuitive begin at odds but end in harmony.  Reconciliation of opposites is needed now, more than ever.

(C) Adrian Charles Smith, 2021

Gnosticism & the Divine Feminine

In the early centuries of the Christian era, different attitudes towards sexuality emerged in gnostic and orthodox circles, opening a great gulf between them over what it meant to be a Christian. The orthodox community began to accept the domination of men over women as divinely ordained in social life, family life and in the churches. Orthodox churches accepted as genuine the pseudo-Pauline letters of Timothy, Colossians and Ephesians, where “Paul” insists women are to keep silent in the churches and to remain obedient and submissive to their husbands. In the orthodox gospels, the Saviour ordains Peter to commence an unbroken line of apostolic succession. Jesus says,  “upon this rock (Peter) I will build my church”; but in the gnostic gospels of Phillip and Mary Magdelene, any successor would surely  have  been Mary Magdelene and not Peter; for it was Mary Magdelene who was Jesus’ most intimate companion, one who received from him special teachings. The rest of the disciples, especially Peter, were deeply offended. The Gospel of Phillip reveals the rivalry between the male disciples and Mary Magdelene.

“— the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdelene. But Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth” ; and herein lies, in symbolic terms, the basis of gnostic spirituality, arising as it does from joy, passion, romance, ecstasy, celebration, love and intimacy – the lifeforce itself. In such a setting, doctrinal correctness and obedience to authority cannot inspire or command loyalty. This is why authoritarian structures go to such great lengths to suppress the divine feminine.

For the early orthodox Christian Church, true believers were identified by external criteria, first and foremost – acceptance of Church authority and doctrine. For gnostics, however, Christians were identified by an ecstatic union with the Divine, for which romantic love is but a metaphor. By embarking on the inner journey in solitude, we are introduced to all the world in an amazing correspondence of experience as though each individual, on his own, has tapped the same vast reservoir of gnosis.

George Orwell’s classic work, 1984, reveals the antipathy of all authoritarian structures to the notion of romantic love, which was outlawed in the fictional Oceania where Winston and Julia must conceal their romance, meeting only in secret.

But they were caught and found guilty of “sexcrimes”, which in Newspeak meant the sex act performed with love and passion. The only authorized version was “goodsex”, which meant sex for reproduction only, with no pleasure. After their torture, the lovers could meet openly because they no longer had feelings for each other. They freely discuss their “sexcrimes”, “thought crimes”, and other “treacheries.” No need for the Party to keep them apart any longer. As for Winston, the war with Eurasia was now his main concern. No place at all for his own dreams, like falling in love or fleeing to the country.

This ecstatic union of souls is depicted in the music and poetry of the medieval troubadours. These worshippers of love touched the depths of the collective psyche. The word “troubadour” was derived from the French trovere which meant “to compose” but also “to invent” or “find.” Any instructor of art would want his student, as soon as possible, to sing his own song or write his own poem. The empire, however, does not react well to individual expression.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell writes, “Love was a divine visitation, and that’s why it was superior to marriage. That was the troubadour idea.” Society seeks to manage passion within certain bounds to serve societal purposes, a stabilizing influence with the man as head of the household, his wife and children under control, a microcosm of the empire itself. But true romantic love cannot be managed or contained.

To further emphasize the schism, Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, is central to gnostic mythology, but in the orthodox community, the divine feminine existed only as a weak and watered-down version of both gnostic and pagan mythologies.

According to gnostic myth, Sophia, goddess of wisdom, strays far from the Pleroma (the fullness of God), but without Divine sanction and in the absence of her male consort, the Christ. Sophia cannot help but create, so in her great distress, she gives birth to a flawed, lesser deity, called Yaldabaoth (demiurge), who with the divine light received from his mother, creates material reality, an imperfect refection of the higher realms.  Both Sophia and human beings are now trapped in the false reality of the demiurge and his Archons (rulers).  Sophia herself is embodied in the living earth but the flawed nature of the demiurge is also woven into the fabric of creation. Sophia repents and God takes pity on her by tricking the demiurge to breathing Sophia’s light into the human creation. 

His mother’s divine power left Yaldabaoth. It entered the psychic human body. Yaldabaoth’s demonic forces envied the man. They had given their power to him. His understanding was far greater than that of those who had created him. And greater than that of the chief ruler himself.

(The Secret Book of John, Stevan Davies translation, pages 105-107)

Human beings now have the pivotal role in Sophia’s restoration.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Gnostic scholar, Dr Joanna Kujawa (visit Recommended Viewing/Reading) encourages restoration of the divine feminine as essential to escaping the false reality of the demiurge. Mary Magdelene is yet another version of Sophia, as are the ancient goddesses, Inanna, Isis, Ishtar and Persephone. According to Dr Kujawa, all these goddesses are portals between life and death, ignorance and gnosis. We see, for example, Mary Magdelene present at the tomb of Jesus, co-incident with his resurrection. The feminine is our portal into this world and our portal between this world and the next. Sophia is the goddess of resurrection which, metaphorically, includes the transformation of consciousness while we are alive. That transformation takes place through an expansion of consciousness, not possible when operating with the left-brained, male-dominated, linear mind alone. The linear mind is perfect at organizing life on the material plane – building hierarchies, empires, bridges, spaceships; crucial to the work of police detectives, paramedics, plane crash investigators and when arguing in court. But it can be inflexible, fear-based, contracted, limited in vision, clinging to the status quo; and preferring the hard nosed “desert of the real” to the fluidity and uncertainty of the transcendent. The divine feminine, by contrast, is based on love, intuition, comfort, joy and when “perfect love casts out fear”, we are free at last from the confines of our mental prison.

A contracted fear-based consciousness perceives a world which really is not there. An expanded open consciousness will see “a new heavens and a new earth” which was always there but not perceived.  It is the goddess which will cleanse the doors of our perception.

This is confirmed in the gnostic texts and reiterated by the romantic poets.

The kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, but you do not see it (Gospel of Thomas)

According to the Secret Book of John, “human beings erroneously believe they are embedded in a material world when in fact they are spiritual beings, and the material world is not really there at all.”

 (Stephan Davies Annotation page 106)

Likewise, the poet Wordsworth, recalls his early childhood bliss but laments the gradual loss of an elevated level of perception.

There was a time when meadow, grove and stream the earth, and every common sight, to me did seem apparelled in celestial light, the glory and freshness of a dream”

These early childhood memories of the celestial realms are soon crowded out by the cares of this world.

“Heaven lies about us in our infancy! Shades of the prison-house begin to close upon the growing boy.”

(Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood By William Wordsworth)

By contrast, another of the romantics, William Blake, sees the work of the demiurge in nature.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 
In the forests of the night; 
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

What the hammer? what the chain, 
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp, 
Dare its deadly terrors clasp! 

When the stars threw down their spears 
And water’d heaven with their tears: 
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
(The Tyger by William Blake)

Nevertheless, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he also emphasizes our perceptual limitations.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

(William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)      

This is reminiscent of Plato’s cave dwellers, sitting with their backs to the cave entrance, seeing only shadows on the wall and mistaking this for reality.

A few years ago, I had a powerful dream more significant to me now than it was then. It was one of those dreams, more real than real with an enduring impact. I am paddling my kayak along canals in what appears to be an ancient city. The water is still and calm, the canals are straight, meeting at right angles. The buildings are imposing, made of large granite blocks and tall Corinthian columns. But there are no people around and the environment feels sterile. I make a turn into one canal where the water is flowing, albeit slowly. Soon the scene changes dramatically, as I battle a raging torrent in a breathtaking natural environment. Everything around me is now alive, wild water and towering waves, forest, fields and mountains; but I am very afraid.  Soon, however, I feel a strong reassurance that I cannot die, and this allows me to go with the flow. Fear turns into exhilaration as the waters form a luminous blue and white tunnel all around me. At the end of the tunnel is a bright light.

Could this have been the goddess opening a portal and providing the comfort and re-assurance to enter it?  In retrospect, I think so, and this was her message – trust, allow and surrender.

(C) Adrian C. Smith 2020

What is Gnosticism (to me)?

Codex-VII
Gnostic Gospels

The standard definition of fundamentalism includes strict adherence to inflexible doctrines, either religious or secular. Such doctrines are variable and transitory, being in the nature of opinions, theories, or  propositions, improperly elevated to the status of absolute truth by a priestly caste which benefits in status and power.  Where there is knowledge (of the propositional kind), it will pass away. All truth claims eventually fail.  In my book I often refer to the Wizard, the founder of our church/cult, who had his own definite ideas about what constituted “wholesome entertainment”, and this was taken as absolute truth by we impressionable students. No one dared say, “I disagree with him about that” or, “that’s just his opinion”. In Sedona Arizona, I discovered a psychiatrist with a huge following, highly regarded by various New Age authors, who claimed to have discovered an avenue to the absolute truth on any subject using a technique called muscle testing. But all his “discoveries” sounded more like his own generational worldview. This seemed to be an updated, re-packaged and highly innovative repetition of the same old story.

 The fundamentalist insists – I know! But so does the Gnostic, so what’s  the difference? The Greek word Gnosis means knowledge but when Gnostics confidently say they know, they speak about a specific kind of knowledge – that of their own experience. Fundamentalism, can be seen as the slavish adherence to the thoughts and opinions of others. It is a false claim to Gnosis, destined to fail, and therefore a counterfeit of the real thing. Fundamentalists are also prone to accept the revelations of others as absolute truth, but for the Gnostic, there’s no such thing as a second-hand revelation (Thomas Paine).   All revelations can only be in the first person. The Wizard, for example, claimed to be a modern-day apostle and this personal revelation was accepted without question.  I see Gnosticism as anti-fundamentalist, representing a complete u-turn from my former life, but I also tried to salvage whatever remained relevant and meaningful from the past. This meant continuing to be a Christian but in a very  different way.

A critic once described clinging to Christianity and embracing Gnosticism as “rolling the same old turd up a different hill” but I disagree with that interpretation. For a fundamentalist, to embrace Gnosticism is a revolutionary act, but there are two kinds of revolution.  One kind sweeps away all that went before creating a blank slate. I would put Mao’s Cultural Revolution in that category or the French Revolution of Robespierre, otherwise known as “the reign of terror”.  These revolutions created an outcome even worse than the old regime. Another kind of revolution seeks to preserve the best of that which went before, recognizing that nothing is all good or all bad, black or white, all true or all false, but rather some combination of the two. These latter revolutions tend to stick because they are anchored more in reality. Moreover, psychologist Carl Jung, a self-avowed Gnostic, having studied the spiritual traditions of many cultures, concluded, in the end, that it’s best to frame your understandings in terms of your own cultural heritage, as this is more understandable to you.

For some years after I left fundamentalism (or thought I had), I would read a favorite author or listen a lecture but If I heard something that didn’t seem right to me, I would unconsciously adopt that idea as my own, even though I didn’t believe it. I think I did so in order to resolve an internal discomfort, as though that person had let me down in some way and I wanted to resolve the cognitive dissonance. Without realizing it, I was elevating that person’s opinion and depreciating my own. It seemed to resolve itself into a binary choice, reject that person entirely or embrace all that he/she had to say. Now that I am more aware, I can make a conscious effort to reframe the experience by saying to myself, I agree with this person on many things but disagree on others. I really appreciate his book/lecture even though I have a different view in some areas.  Giving away your responsibility is the fatal flaw of the fundamentalist. The most important lesson of my  life could be expressed in this way: Do Not Defer To Others.  Fortunately, Gnosticism is a philosophy which supports that approach.

Carl Jung compared Gnosticism to the psychological process he called “individuation.” Full personhood requires access to our own subconscious and, ultimately, the collective unconscious. In so doing we  bring forth our true, authentic selves.  Authenticity requires expelling “the foreign installation” (Carlos Castaneda).  The foreign installation is an idea planted in your head which is incompatible with your true self. It is often planted there by some parasite which wants to control you and program your mind to benefit itself.

Having once escaped the grip of fundamentalism, I came to embrace Gnosticism, which I consider more of a philosophical approach than a replacement  religion. To the philosopher, the universe is a mystery to be continuously explored but exploration is only possible once you get out of prison. For the literalist, life holds no mysteries because the answers are already known. Gnostics make no truth claims, but only speak of personal revelations and insights which are true and meaningful for them.

“We run with those who search for the truth but avoid those who have found it.” Miguel Conner

Gnosticism is philosophy combined with mythology. Listening to a Gnostic, you never really know if they speak literally or figuratively.  A Gnostic might speak as though certain things are literally true but symbolism is the only thing that matters. For the Gnostic, the exodus myth is about the transition from slavery to freedom and as such, not only true but profoundly true. Viewed in this way, why would it matter if the Red Sea actually  parted? Devoid of meaning, it would be reduced to nothing more than an impressive  magic trick.  I remain agnostic about those  things which I have neither seen nor heard myself. I wasn’t there, so I can’t  know for sure, but why close the door on anything?  Miracles are possible. To insist too much, one way or another, is to be fundamentalist. Religion insists you must accept implausible things on faith or face damnation.  The Gnostic says,  “bring forth what is within you” and what is within you will save you.  We already have all the internal resources we need to save ourselves. The challenge of this particular saying, from the Gospel of Thomas, is that it does not tell us what to believe but to find the truth for ourselves and from within ourselves.

thomas gospel
Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas was a lost gospel discovered in 1945, together with other such gospels, hidden in earthen pots inside a cave in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. The Gospel of Thomas was at variance with The New Testament Gospel of John which required the hearer to believe the testimony of others – believe it or else. The mere fact that the Gnostic gospels, known collectively as The Nag Hammadi library, were hidden, reveals that they were considered heretical.

If the divine light is hidden in everyone, then salvation is universally available to all, regardless of time and place. This was at variance with the orthodox view that only by accepting the testimony of  a particular  few at a particular time, those who witnessed Jesus ascend into heaven, could we then be saved. The literal resurrection of Jesus, therefore had a political dimension, to fix authority on those who had witnessed it.

It’s hard to define Gnosticism with precision because there is no uniform set of doctrines to sign up to or identify. There’s an old saying: put two Gnostics in a room alone and if they both agree, one of them is not a Gnostic. Yet there was much greater unity amongst Gnostics than in the structured, ordered  world of the fundamentalist. Theirs was a unity of the Spirit.

Gnostic teachers encouraged their followers to paint their own portrait, write their own gospel and live their own myth. This annoyed the orthodox Church to no end because it denied their authority. Such an approach would be administratively unworkable. Sound administration required uniformity – one Church, one faith, one doctrine. Of utmost importance to them was, you could say, bums on seats. Ever increasing attendance figures was the measure of success. Success required spreading the word. Gnostics, on the other hand, were not interested in spreading the word or in playing a numbers game. In fact, they preferred to keep their Gnosis secret except amongst those who were receptive to it.  No need to spread the word indiscriminately and no need to become a martyr in the coliseum to demonstrate solidarity with the Saviour.  Gnostics were not interested in quantitative measurements, only qualitative ones, the quality of their interactions.

The orthodox Bishop Irenaeus complained bitterly that the Gnostics had nothing to rely on but their own intuition. The implication is clear: don’t  trust your own intuition, trust ours instead. Trust and obey.

“Create your own system or be enslaved by another man’s.” William Blake

The Gnostics had a unique mythology centred on the divine feminine, which I will address in future posts; for now, I will summarize what Gnosticism means, not in terms of doctrine or mythology but by briefly describing who Gnostics are. Gnostics are first and foremost heretics, always rebelling against an ossified status quo. Gnostics are also mystics, individualists, philosophers, artists, shamans, mythologists and visionaries.

(c) Adrian Charles Smith, 2020