Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Easter That Wasn't

You can really tell a lot about a society by what it considers "essential." Like how liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries are considered essential businesses and are allowed to remain open -- while churches are shut down as tight as a drum. Heck, even abortion clinics remain open. But your local church? Forget about it.

One good thing about our current global psychosis is that it's really showing what people and institutions are made of. When bishops were shutting down churches before the lockdowns even came into place, they were telling their flocks loud and clear, "We don't need you." Oh, sure, you can watch the priests and their servers give each other communion every day on some webcast, but you can't come to church and have it yourself.

You can go buy vodka and weed, but you can't have the Body and Blood of Christ.

You can crowd into a supermarket, where everybody has touched everything, but you can't go into a church that almost by definition is going to be more sanitary than the local Walmart.

Nor can you go to confession because of the magical six-foot barrier.

Some bishops are even denying priests the ability to give dying people last rites. And when local and state governments ban priests from doing so, the bishops never push back.

The bishops haven't pushed back against anything. They could argue that church is essential for the salvation of souls, or even just for offering people comfort and hope in a time of crisis. They could do all that. Instead, they lock down their churches, deny the sacraments, and tell their priests to avoid meeting with anyone.

It's like they never believed anything they said, in countless sermons and books and talks over the centuries. Because if they did, they would have fought tooth and nail to keep themselves available to the people they serve. They didn't. They folded like a house of cards as they told people to stay away. And now, practically every Catholic church in the world will be shut down and empty during Easter, the most important celebration on the Christian calendar.

One of the most unfortunately humorous things I've seen during this mess is a YouTube video with a Catholic priest responding to people despondent that they can't get to confession. His reply was that you can go directly to God with your confession and receive forgiveness. This is exactly what Protestants have been saying for 500 years. He admitted that priests, and by extension the church, aren't necessary.

Well, plenty of us will remember that. We'll remember how easily we were locked out and abandoned by our "shepherds," with no attempt to even try to welcome the faithful in for Easter celebrations.

No one anywhere in the church is pushing back against the police roadblocks that were already being set up last week so people wouldn't dare go to an Easter celebration. No one anywhere in the church is saying it's wrong to tell people who want to celebrate Easter that you need to stay home or be arrested. No one. Instead, our "shepherds" meekly go along with whatever the political tyrants in charge tell them to do -- even in the face of authoritarian fascists like Kentucky's Democratic governor, who, being so drunk on power that he mandated ankle bracelets for noncompliant people infected with the virus, is now ordering the police to photograph the license plates of any cars gathered for Easter services -- and then serve them with a 14-day house arrest at their homes.

The planet has been turned into a prison ostensibly for our physical well-being. Well, what about our spiritual well-being? That's what our priests and bishops are supposed to be concerned with, not with following what our secular leaders do. They're supposed to be in this world but not of this world. They're supposed to be the front-line medics in the field hospitals for our souls. Instead, they just parrot secular blather about social distancing and "flattening the curve."

So why even bother being a clergyman if you sound and act no differently from an elected bureaucrat? Why bother even having a church if you shut people out when they want and need you the most?

One thing's for sure: We now know that when the going gets tough, the church will abandon you faster than the disciples abandoned Christ after his arrest. Then as now, saving their own hides and cowering in fear won out over remaining faithful to the end.

I almost left the church after the last round of abuse stories made headlines. I gave the church the benefit of the doubt. No more. I will never darken the doorstep of a church again. Fool me once, and all that.

At first, realizing my return to the church was over made me sad. After all, my family was going to church with me, I enjoyed the ritual and familiarity of the Mass, and my daughter was on track to be baptized and receive her first communion. Her baptism, in fact, would have been this weekend.

But now I can also see how I let the allure of the familiar draw me in. The Mass was a mainstay of my life growing up. Coming back to it was like finding an old security blanket.

Eventually, though, you have to give up the security blanket and grow up. You have to put away childish things, to use Paul's words against him.

So for me, all this has been something of a blessing in disguise. I tried to believe. I tried to rationalize the dogmas and doctrines. But I just can't fake it, and I don't think I was ever very good at faking it.

That has allowed me to reflect on what I really wanted out of my spiritual life. I was focused on the Sermon on the Mount and the Sacred Feminine, and I think my focus on the former just left me angry that so much of the world -- and in particular Christians who should know better -- couldn't see the wisdom in the teachings. My focus on the latter, meanwhile, had waned.

I was prepared to chuck it all in the trash. But I'm not an atheist. I've been down that road, and it never felt right. I've always believed in some kind of higher creative power. In particular, uniting the creation of the world with the feminine has always been simple for me. The Tao, after all, is the Great Mother, the grand cosmic womb from which all life arises. And we see that same creating, nurturing, and sustaining power manifested in every woman. For life to begin, the male has to enter her and give her a seed to plant. For new life to be born, it must emerge from her nourishing womb. The feminine is the gateway for all life. How could we not revere it?

Thinking about all that led me back to where I'd left off with my focus on the Goddess, before I found my way back to the institutional church. So I resumed my former journey by going back to the East, where I began by examining Shaktism and the possibility of yoni worship and tantra. That, in turn, led to a rediscovery of esoteric spiritual paths, such as Gnosticism, and into previously unexplored areas, such as spiritual alchemy. The deeper I went, the more I saw the dots connecting between things like astrology, tarot, Freemasonry, Hermeticism, Grail lore, the Rosicrucians, Gurdjieff's Fourth Way, druidry, Kabbalah, and more.

And all of that ended up revealing a path back toward esoteric Christianity, especially with regard to how the alchemists weaved Christian symbolism into their complex writings and illustrations, while overlaying them with concepts of the union of male and female, in the form of sun and moon -- shades of pagan imagery and the yin-yang of Taoism -- to promote an inner change and a union of the human and the divine that's not all that dissimilar from the Orthodox concept of theosis and the musings of the Christian mystics, like Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Hildegard of Bingen.

I have lots of reading to do now, as I delve deeper and try to synthesize these views into something workable. Happily, they all leave room for the Sacred Feminine, and for me, the image of Mary as the feminine archetype, the nurturing and protective mother, still has room to exist there.

However, the image of the Black Madonna now holds some intrigue as well, in terms of how she reflects the darkness of the primordial universe, the black soil of the earth, and the darkness within ourselves that she can help us root out. The church's sanitized Mary has her place, but so does the dark Mary, the one who was present as Tao or Sophia at the creation, the one who roots us in Mother Earth, and the one who, like Hecate and the other dark forms of the Goddess, sometimes gives us tough love to help us wade through our own crap so we can heal.

And I think that's the major difference so far. Instead of being focused on ethical teachings that I expect everyone else to live by, this path focuses on getting my own house in order first. Which, in the end, ought to be far more healthy. After all, our current global psychosis only serves to remind me of my contempt for 99% of human beings and their utter stupidity. Why would I ever expect them to follow a way that would better the world in the first place? That's just setting myself up for disappointment and failure.

There's no reward -- secular or spiritual -- for being a good boy anyway, nor is there any deity that's going to act like a genie and wipe away our messes for us. Any deity worth her salt will make us clean our messes up ourselves. The deities may offer us moral support and guide us, but they're going to leave the dirty work to us. That's their job.

One might argue that a loving god wouldn't do that to us, letting us twist in the wind in times of need. But that's really just a corner that Judeo-Christian theologians have painted themselves into as they try to reconcile "God is love" with human suffering and the tyrannical God of the Old Testament. Other deities carry around no such weight. They could help, but no one expects them to, because everyone knows they're just as capricious as most humans. They might guide us if they feel like it or we flatter them enough, but in the end they're not to be relied on.

And there's something comforting about that. It's certainly less disappointing than pinning your hopes on a supposedly benevolent "ask and you shall receive" God who then ignores you in your time of need. Hmmm, just like the priests and bishops of today's church.

And so this is the path I'll embark on. Call it mysticism. Call it the occult. I just call it a path toward personal healing and transformation, so that I can ultimately be a better person for those in my orbit. The rest of the world can take a flying leap.

On this holiday when we celebrate rebirth, new life, and new beginnings, I say farewell to the institutional church, and hello to this new/old path. May it be a fruitful adventure. 

No comments:

Post a Comment