And I said, “Is truth, therefore nothing, because it is not diffused through space–neither finite nor infinite?”
And you cried to me from afar, “I am that I am.”
-Augustine, Confessions 7.10.16
Posted in Religion, tagged Augustine, Christianity, Confessions, Divinity, Existence, God, I Am, Infinity, Literature, Mysticism, Personal Revelation, Religion, Revelation, Saint Augustine, Spirituality, Truth on April 23, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
And I said, “Is truth, therefore nothing, because it is not diffused through space–neither finite nor infinite?”
And you cried to me from afar, “I am that I am.”
-Augustine, Confessions 7.10.16
Posted in Book Reviews, Parenting, Spirituality, Western Fiction, tagged Adulthood, Ambition, Arthurian Legend, Bible, Books, C. S. Lewis, Cattle, Childhood, Christian Fiction, Christianity, Commitment, Cupid, Darkness, Death, Divine, Divinity, Eros, Evil, Family, Fantasy, Fiction, Friendship, God, Good, Horror, Illinois, Jack Schaefer, Judgment, Kingship, Larry McMurtry, Latin, Literature, Lonesome Dove, Love, Mississippi, Monarchy, Montana, Morality, Motto, Myth, Mythology, Obligation, October, Parenthood, Place, Psyche, Ray Bradbury, Royalty, Science Fiction, Self, Shane, Sin, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Southern Literature, Strength, T. H. White, Texas, Texas Ranger, The Once And Future King, The South, Theme, Thomas Sutpen, Till We have Faces, War, Waukegan, Western Fiction, William Faulkner, Women on June 8, 2011 | 6 Comments »
My top five favorite books of all time, in alphabetical order by author:
1. Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes: A dark carnival comes to a fictionalized Waukegan in a timeless October, bringing nightmares. It is a story about childhood and growing up, fathers and sons, friendship, and the good and evil in every one of us.
2. William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!: Unimaginably rich and mythic, a magnum opus about the South, chronicling Thomas Sutpen’s obsessive but doomed struggle to found–“tore violently a plantation”–an aristocratic dynasty in Mississippi before, during and after the Civil War, and about the destruction brought down on his bloodline and the land they inhabit as judgment that ripples through place and generations as a result. In the end, it is relentlessly a book about the dark places we should not go but that we ultimately cannot resist.
3. C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: Lewis’s re-telling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche is the most true book about God that I have ever read. It is the story of an ugly queen whose beautiful sister is taken from her by a god, and who unintentionally enacts her revenge on everyone around her by taking just as ruthlessly, until at last she is finally forced to come to terms with the true nature of herself and the Divine.
4. Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove: An epic, episodic novel about a pair of grizzled ex-Texas Rangers and the men and boys they lead on a cattle drive from Texas to Montana, for no reason at all, more or less, other than to be the first to be there. It is a powerful and poignant story about manhood, friendship, obligation, women, cattle and death. Uva uvam vivendo varia fit.
5. Jack Schaefer, Shane: A short but intense novel from a young boy’s perspective about a dark gunfighter who drifts into a Wyoming range war between farmers and an unscrupulous cattle baron. Shane is a cracking, fast-paced novel about courage, love, commitment, manhood and true strength.
6. T. H. White, The Once And Future King: A lush and quirky but immensely powerful retelling of the entire Arthurian legend. In a sense, there is nothing that this book is not about. If I had to give a boy only one book to live their life after, it would not be the Bible. It would be this book.
I had a dream when I was in high school, I guess fourteen or fifteen years ago, that I still remember more clearly than almost any other dream from that long ago.
I was walking home in the Knoxville neighborhood I grew up in–if you’ve ever been in a slightly run-down lower-middle/working class neighborhood in the South, you know exactly what it looks like. I was with my best friend at the time, and maybe with a few other people (my brother?), and we were walking around to the back of the house. I was aware that there was warning of an imminent nuclear attack. There might have been an audible siren, or it might have just been the impression of an audible siren.
But we walked around to the backyard, and there, laying in the back yard, just outside the window to my father’s studio, was an atomic bomb.
The bomb was made of wood, some light kind of wood like balsa or just a rotten log, and it looked like it had been roughly carved. It was about 15-20 feet long and 3-4 feet wide, roughly missile-shaped. A panel was open on the body of the bomb, with sort of a generic instrument array inside. Maybe flashing lights.
I remember the dread in the pit of my stomach–the world-shatteriing terror of coming dface to face with an armed atomic weapon. We all dove to the ground, aware for some reason that the only way we would survive this thing was to not look at the bomb, under any circumstances It was not clear or even important in the dream whether not looking at the bomb would actually prevent it from detonating, or if we would just survive the explosion. It was only crucuially important that we did not look.
Of course, I looked. I couldn’t help it. I looked, I peeked, I watched.
The whole world had gone still, but what I saw was a dog. A black dog. In fact, I saw a talking black dog, in the middle of a conversation, standing next to or maybe even on top of the armed atomic bomb. And I could not hear the conversation, but I knew the dog was talking about me.
Although I could not see dog’s conversation partner, I was also deeply andf unquestionably aware that the dog was talking to God.
Like I said, I couldn’t make out the conversation, and I could not hear God’s voice talking back to the dog. The only thing I caught was the dog saying, referring to me, “this one has his eyes open. This one can see.” It was not angry. The sense of it was more like a discussion about what should be done about me, because I was looking at the bomb when I was not supposed to, and I was seeing things that I was not supposed to see.
It was the kind of dream that you wake up from and feel changed by it, like it was profound and meaningful, even if you are not entirely sure what the dream meant. And I had the dream a long time ago, but I remember it as clearly as if I had it last night.
The question of “hard” versus “soft” polytheism is simply put, a question of to what degree the gods are individual beings. Properly fleshed out, the question opens up into a fascinating and complex theological inquiry that can potentially have major impact on how polytheists believe and worship.
However, reducing the question to a yes/no two-category designation obscures the nuances and falsely forces how we conceptualize the gods into one of two rigid schemas, and how “everyone else” thinks of the gods into the other. Forcing the question into the hard/soft dichotomy puts an artificial end to the discussion and transforms the conversation from a theological inquiry into a question of personal identity. Instead of a conversation about the gods, we’re having a conversation about how we self-identify in relation to the gods, and it invariably slips into shades of “us versus them.”
In reality, there is a huge spectrum of possibility–at the very least there is a question of degree–with plenty of room for an evolving understanding. Especially since, when push comes to shove, the nature of the gods is something we can never really know.
Posted in Spirituality, tagged Beauty, Brotherhood, Courage, Death, Divinity, Fate, Fatherhood, Fear, Forever, Friendship, God, Goddess, Gods, Greek Mythology, Hellenic Polytheism, Hellenic Reconstructionism, Honesty, Identity, Immortality, Joy, Kosmos, Life, Love, Loyalty, Manhood, Military, Mortality, Motherhood, Mysticism, Passion, Polytheism, Prayer, Reconstructionism, Relationship, Reputation, Sadness, Spirituality, Temperance, Terror, Universe, Values, Virtue, Virtue Ethics, Virtues, Works on December 19, 2009 | 3 Comments »
I am a Hellenic polytheist actively working out my spiritually while keeping a balance between reconstructing the ancient ways and moving forward boldly in living faith.
I believe that the gods are alive, that they take interest in the affairs of mortals, that they are approachable, personal–they hear our prayers and are capable of responding with infinite might and ultimate softness. I believe that by entering into relationships with them we can let their divine passion into our lives and be changed forever. I believe that we live in a world full of gods, and that when we wake up and see it for what it is, then only can we begin to fully understand and experience its beauty and terror.
I believe that virtue is eternal. I believe in honesty, loyalty, courage, and temperance. I believe in the the significance of fatherhood, motherhood, sisterhood, and brotherhood. I believe in friendship that transcends affinity. I believe that what we do, what we accomplish, our reputation, our deeds–these things matter; these things can live forever.
I believe in meeting my fate boldly and unafraid, in walking the path that the Kosmos has laid out for me without reservation or trepidation. I am not afraid to love, to fear, to feel joy and sadness, and I am not afraid to hate. I am unafraid to live life to the fullest, and to meet death when it comes.
I am a father, a husband, a son, a friend, and a brother. I am a soldier. I am a mystic. I am a man.
Posted in Spirituality, tagged Aphrodite, Children, Demeter, Divinity, Family, God, Goddess, Godhood, Greek Myth, Greek Mythology, Hellenic Polytheism, Hera, Juno, Lightning, Love, Marriage, Motherhood, Myth, Mythology, Neopaganism, Paganism, Polytheism, Prayer, Relationship, Religion, Ritual, Sacrifice, Sex, Spirituality, Venus, Worship on September 6, 2009 | 3 Comments »
I have thought a great deal about Hera over the past few months, and I must say that I am developing some fairly intense spiritual feelings about her. So intense that it’s like my heart can’t really pin them down. They’re too overwhelming for me to really be able to contain, so it’s like they slip out of my emotional fingers all of the time.
I haven’t spent much time in prayer or worship to Hera, and I have not made many sacrifices or libations to her. I think I need to change that, because I feel like Hera exerts a powerful influence on my family.
This is a spiritual experience that is different from what I have encountered with other gods and goddesses, because it relates to my whole family. Thus, I as an individual soul I am only tangental to Her presence, as opposed to the deeply personal way I have experienced Aphrodite and Dionysus.
On the other hand, I have the distinct impression that Hera is deeply and much more personally involved with my beautiful and sexy wife. When I see her in her gently soft but powerfully strong role as a wife and a mother, I feel Hera’s power crackle around her like some kind of divine lightning (a deliberately-chosen simile).
One odd thing is the extent to which I feel that Hera is a mother-goddess as much or more than (or perhaps as an inseparable part of) she is a goddess of marriage and of wives. This isn’t really a particularly significant aspect of Hera in classical sources, which is why it’s odd. Usually Demeter is the goddess most closely associated with motherhood.
I ran across one possible explanation on one of the Hellenic Polytheist fora I frequent (I’d love to give credit where credit is due,but for the life of me I can not remember where it was): someone explained that Aphrodite, Demeter, and Hera are all goddesses of Sex, Motherhood, and Marriage (the three are intimately connected, after all), but with each of the three goddesses, one of those aspects is primary and the others are tertiary.
If that is so, then perhaps my impression of Hera is not so odd (or heretical… a “Hera-sy?”) after all. It is possible that my wife and family have a specific connection to Hera that transcends her most typical godly attributes. I’m not necessarily claiming that we are special to Hera or chosen by her for favor (although given our stable family life and happy marriage it does seem like she has blessed us richly), but just that our relationship with her is particular and unique, in the way that all meaningful relationships are.
In any case, I find myself wanting to honor and worship Hera much more than ever before, and ideally to do so as a family, in response to the incredible blessings she has given us.
Posted in Spirituality, tagged Belief, Divinity, Earth, Faith, Flowers, Ford Mustang, God, Knowledge, Love, Monism, Music, Mysticism, Panentheism, Pantheism, Polytheism, Relationship, Spirituality, Unity, Universe, Vedanta, Weather on July 30, 2009 | 3 Comments »
I believe in an ultimate divine unity that encompasses all things–humans, gods, the universe–and is also beyond all things. Because it is everything and more, it is at once like all things individually and like nothing else in the universe. It can be intimately known in the smallest, simplest facet of the world at the same time as it can never be known because it is utterly unknowable: to know a flower, a song, a human touch, a thunderstorm, or a Ford Mustang is both to know it completely and to not know it at all. To touch the smallest thing is to touch the face of God. We cannot work to grow closer to God because being close to God is meaningless: we are always close to God because we are God.
Posted in Spirituality, tagged Actaeon, Aktaion, Anxiety, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Children, Deer, Destruction, Diana, Divinity, Euphoria, Fear, Female, First Slayer, Forgiveness, Full Moon, Gnosis, God, Goddess, Hunt, Huntress, Luna, Malevolence, Meditation, Moon, Mysticism, Neo-Paganism, Neopaganism, Paganism, Prayer, Primal, Primordial, Revelation, Sacrifice, Savage, Sexuality, Sineya, Slayer, Spirituality, Stag, Unverified Personal Gnosis, UPG on June 5, 2009 | 6 Comments »
So the following experience seems entirely appropriate given that the moon is basically full right now. Also it just occurred to me that the last time I went on a kind of pilgrimage to the wilderness, I kept encountering deer: they kept suddenly jumping up from nearby and running away, scaring the shit out of me.
I have been thinking about Artemis and Apollo a bit lately, and I have been wrestling with Artemis quite a bit. For some reason, I find her terrifying: there is something primal about her, sexual but untouchable and untouched, something about her as a goddess of the hunt but also the protectress of babies and children that just puts her close to the jugular vein of human existence, frighteningly close to our primordial origins. Maybe it’s the story of Aktaion, but to me, Artemis is fearsome and panic-inducing. She reminds me of the First Slayer, from a particularly weird episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: primal, destructive, female, savage, and above all a huntress.
I prayed to Artemis as I was putting my children to bed two nights ago–the night before I had my forgotten revelation from Artemis and her brother–and I felt a brief presence, malevolent and disapproving. It made me feel tight inside and frightened.
Last night, I was thinking about the experience, and feeling a bit anxious about it–I prayed to Artemis to ask for her forgiveness if I had done something to wrong or slight her, but the panic I felt became almost a tangible thing. I didn’t really know what to do. I will admit that I am no stranger to anxiety, and the dark and twisty fear I was feeling was not unlike other times I have felt varieties of anxiety attack, so I decided to use a meditative trick I have learned, and try to embrace the panic and feel its roots instead of trying to run away from it. Only I visualized it in terms of the goddess: instead of trying to run away from Artemis, in fear for my life, I decided to turn and face her, to be present to the goddess not in spite of my fear, but fully embracing my fear.
The panic went away immediately, and I was overcome by a powerful kind of euphoria–of the same general category of experience as I felt when I first experienced the divinity of Aphrodite, but of a different flavor. It was milder, lasted shorter, kind of a mini-mysticism. It was brief, more like a mini-contact than a full-blown spiritual euphoria, but it was warm, and it was good. Like for just a moment I was being touched by some incredibly powerful spiritual conduit–just a taste, nothing more. And the fear was completely gone.
I am resolved to make a sacrifice to Artemis, to thank her for her presence and to acknowledge her power.
Posted in Spirituality, tagged Alcohol, Aphrodite, Apollo, Apollon, Ares, Bacchus, Battle, Beer, Book of Common Prayer, Brewing, C. S. Lewis, Candle, Ceisiwr Serith, Children, Christianity, Courage, Cronos, Dionysus, Divinity, Ecstasy, Endurance, Family, Giants, Gigantes, Gigantomachy, God, Goddess, Goddesses, Gods, Greek Mythology, Happiness, Heartache, Heartbreak, Heavenly Father, Hellenic Polytheism, Hera, Incense, Inspiration, Joy, Juno, Love, Lovemaking, Loyalty, Lust, Marksmanship, Mars, Mormonism, Motherhood, Neo-Paganism, Neopaganism, Paganism, Pantheon, Passion, Polytheism, Power, Prayer, Religion, Saturn, Sex, Soldiers, Spirit, Spirituality, Strength, Titanomachy, Titans, Uranus, Venus, Victory, War, Will, Willpower, Wine, Worship, Zeus on June 3, 2009 | 3 Comments »
One of the books I have been perusing lately is Ceisiwr Serith’s A Book Of Pagan Prayer. While I admit that the prayers themselves don’t really light my candle, the book is absolutely fantastic as a book about prayer: why we pray, to whom we should pray, how we pray, and so on. If you are a pagan and you don’t have this book, you are wrong.
But like I said, the Serith’s prayers don’t really set my incense a-smoldering, so I have taken some humble stabs at writing my own, with the idea being ultimately to construct a personal prayer-book along the lines of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (which just may be my single favorite thing about Christianity, to be perfectly honest with you–or at least it’s my second favorite thing after C. S. Lewis), but with prayers about subjects which are meaningful to me and directed towards the gods that are meaningful to me.
One of my biggest concerns with these prayers so far is that they seem kind of formulaic. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, but I don’t really feel like these prayers are great poetry or anything. My other big concern is that they sound sort of… too Christian, I guess. I mean, I’ve spent most of my life praying Christian prayers, so it’s the way I know how to pray. There’s nothing wrong with Christian prayer–see my comment about the BCP above–but I don’t know how satisfied I am about just switching out the name of Deity and calling the prayers pagan. And I’m also worried that these prayers not only sound very Christian, but that they sound Mormon. Again, Mormon prayers are the only prayers I really know how to say.
Anyway, here’s what I’ve written:
For Brewing Beer:
O great Dionysus, giver of good gifts to mankind, inventor of wine and lord of passionate intoxication, bless this beer that I brew that it will bring happiness, joy, and release from the mundane world. I brew it as a sacred embodiment of your gift to humanity; I will share it in your spirit, I will revel in the delicious madness that it brings, and I will offer it to you in holy libation.
Aphrodite, goddess of love, queen of passion and the night who rose from the union of Uranus and the sea, be among us and dwell and dance within us as we make love in your name. Grant us passion and ecstasy, make our bonds strong and powerful, and let us drink deeply from the cup of your divinity. We worship you with our love; be present, O Aphrodite!
Mighty Dionysus, god of spirit and passion, dwell with me and grant me divine inspiration so that I can live a life more full and whole. Enter into me, Lord Dionysus and fill me with passionate divinity such that my whole life is an act of worship and that my every act is one charged with divine power: a living, breathing testament to the reality and power of the gods.
Queen Hera, mother of the gods, bless and protect my children as you protect your own; grant them your favor and guidance so they will grow up strong, healthy, and wise. Be present in their lives, O great mother; nurture them and hold them close in divine love.
For Courage In Adversity:
Terrible Ares, lord of war, god of battle and destruction, grant me courage in the face of danger, strength to overpower my enemies, and the will to continue fighting though the battle rages long and fierce and I grow weary. In return, O Ares, I dedicate my victories to you and I offer you my worship and loyalty.
Well-armed Aphrodite, lover of Ares, bringer of victory, guide me and give me strength and passion to emerge triumphant from this battle. Fill my heart with lust for victory and a love of conflict. Most beautiful and terrible of goddesses, be my ally and I will worship you and make sacrifices to you on the day of my victory.
O Heavenly Father, protect me with your divine might, watch over me and guard me from harm. Defeat my enemies, O son of Saturn, as you defeated the Titans and the Giants, and I shall fight alongside with you as the mortal heroes of old.
Bountiful, laughter-loving Aphrodite, smile down on me with your lovely face and fill my heart with happiness. Lift my spirit with cheer and I will sing praises and worship you.
For Good Marksmanship:
Keen-eyed Sun God, shooter from afar, guide my aim so that I will strike my target, and I will give praise and honor to you before my fellow-soldiers.
For the Heartbroken:
Kind Aphrodite, I come to you unlucky in love and with a heart that is broken and sad. Lift me up and wash away my heartache like sand washed away by the sea-foam that gave you birth. Help me through these crushing depths, that my sadness might be replaced with joy, and that I might once again know the brilliant passion of requited love.