If I was crazy, would I truly know it?
Is the fact that I question it often a sign of sanity? Or is it instead, just an awareness of INsanity?
I grew up religion-less. Not only did we have no real religious upbringing, but there was no spirituality either. Not that rare in Western Canada.
My mother was a youngster when she had me. Her and my birth father did not stay together. When I was two, my mom married a Jewish man. He adopted me as his daughter. Before the wedding, my mother converted to Judaism. A few short years later, I had a Mikveh and was given the Jewish name Adina. However, other than the most commonly celebrated Jewish Holy Days, such as Chanukah and Passover, there really was no proof that we were a Jewish family. I had no idea what the celebrations were about.
When I was 16, I became pregnant and wanted to marry my Roman Catholic boyfriend. So, of course, I was baptised Roman Catholic (on my due date. My first born son however, was a bit stubborn luckily and was not born until 12 days later).
I went along with Catholicism for awhile. It was beautiful. Magical almost. When I decided to leave my husband two years later, I left the church as well. I had become a bit bitter toward the Church. I felt that they condoned bad behaviour (my husband was from a family of abusive alcoholics and he was no different unfortunately) by simply allowing them to confess their repeated ill treatment of themselves and others with no encouragement really to right their wrongs. I of course was viewing it all through the eyes of an angry, hurt 18 year old with a small child.
So, for many years after that, a decade or so, I was pretty darn atheist. Then I came across something called Wicca. It had the fancy ritual stuff that I had come to love from the church, yet a whole new world of ideas and beliefs and freedom of expression. It was beautiful.
I wanted to incorporate these new traditions and ideas into my family life and into my own life , and I was very successful at doing so. For the next few years I was a practicing Gardnerian Witch with a little coven, along with my best friend and my new husband (who had been a dear friend of many years. Friend turned lover, turned husband) .
Anyone in the Craft, fortunate enough to be close to a big pagan community, as I was in Vancouver knows that pagans know how to throw one heck of a party!!! Every 6 weeks, some new change in the earth’s life cycle is happening and it is celebrated whole heartedly.
My husband and I decided to have a child together. I had three much older children from a previous life, but my husband had none of his own. This resulted in many life changes. The parties stopped, no drinking or smoking or being in places where indoor smoking was going to be taking place. I stepped back from the pagan way of life and sort of cocooned during my pregnancy.
We then moved about an hour out of town two months before our son was born. Total relocation for me and my kids. We had been in the same neighbourhood for more than a decade. The move was weird for me, but I wasn’t sad or homesick. It was like shedding a layer and emerging. Our son was born. And then about 9 months later I was pregnant again with our second son (my fifth child and fourth boy)
During this time, my Wiccan ways were quite neglected. Nursing non stop, awake all night with crying babies, diapers, hormonal imbalances etc etc…. the days of dancing about in circles with wreathes in my hair felt like light years away. Anything that we did try to put together for some reason never really worked out. And the amount of work it took to put together seemed odd. Why wasn’t it fun? Why wasn’t I looking forward to these celebrations anymore? I realized that it was starting to lacking something to me. I was noticing an absence of substance.
I had never been able to really jump on board with the God and Goddess as anything more than made up personifications. Female and Male aspects of the one Divine personified so that we could more easily send and direct energy toward them which in turn sends energy and love to ourselves because the Divine resides within (etc etc) I saw them as abstract archetypal figures. And it occurred to me that they were no more real than I had felt God was. So why had I been so quick to toss Him out?
About this time I stumbled across a blog by Fr.Jordan Stratford of the Apostolic Johannite Church. I had been googling ‘Witchcraft and Gnosticism’ to see if there were links. I found his blog to be a wonderful read and began looking more deeply into Gnosticism.
Of course, my Wiccan mind still was personifying, and Gnosticism in the sense I was beginning to learn of was quite perfect. Logos and Sophia. Male and Female aspects of the One. The Divine.
So now, I had the beauty of the ritual, plus alot of liberal freedom, because the Gnostic Churches I have been acquainted with are very open to everyone, regardless of your denomination, gender, or sexual orientation. There is all sorts of room for study, contemplating, analyzing etc. I looked online for good forums where I could ask my zillion dumb (to me) questions. I came across a forum that I posted at a few times, but for the most part I was afraid to post because I was pretty sure I would be smacked with the ‘stupid stick’ which some members seemed to carry about quite proudly.
So, I started a website called Spiral Inward, with a forum attached called The Gnostic Cafe. We just celebrated our one year birthday 🙂 During that year I have joined and then dropped out of, a Gnostic Seminary, as well as a Gnostic-ish lay monastery. My views and opinions constantly changing as they grow. Wanting SO much to run a Gnostic church one day, with grace and beauty. Day and night, my mind filled with thoughts about the Nag Hammadi scriptures, the different myths and systems. But one day, my brain just called out “STOP”
I listened. No more studying, just experiencing. Just sitting… cocooning again it seemed.
I started attending an Anglican church. I needed a real, physical sense of community. Something I could experience on a regular basis with other people. Even with Gnostic tendencies, it’s quite enjoyable. One just sorts of views things as a Valentinian… looking for the deeper or alternate meaning within everything. Reciting the creed, and the Lord’s Prayer… then I started some studying again.
Working this time within the Universal Church of Autogenes, a very liberal Church with many Schools of Thought. I originally joined the Valentinian school of thought because it seemed like I was living that sort of life. I read a few Gnostic texts, as well as the New Testament, as well as books regarding the compilation of the New Testament, Early Christianity etc.
Then the next bit hit me. My realization that if I want to follow the teachings of Christ, that I wanted to study his teachings and that was it. I didn’t want everyone’s story and myth about the supposed virgin birth, and his death (the only two things about Christian teachings that seem to leap out at me) . I didn’t want to read all the letters from supposed leaders of the early church to the supposed followers. It would be different if these stories were presented as Myth, (as much of the Old Testament is) but they aren’t. In the Christian community they are presented in a way that is supposed to show us that Jesus was born , and somewhere along the way (or BEFORE, as in John) he became Divine. Whether it be the New Testament, or whether it be the Gnostic Cospels, it was all a bunch of writings about different
people’s understandings of Jesus’s life , and their understanding of God’s real agenda (while promoting the belief of their particular community.
So, enter The Gospel of Thomas. No Narrative. No Opinion. Just a bunch of sayings. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.
Good ol Thomas. Is it genuine? Well, is ANY of our writings anywhere genuine?
For me it’s about as genuine as it’s going to get. And there is a whole lot of room in there to figure out who we are. It’s all about knowing ourselves. I am currently in a Thomasine order within the Holy Monastic Order En Deus. It’s a comforting good place for my heart.
I find myself wondering lately…. Jesus was a Jew. He taught Jewish stuff, but with his own interpretation. If he existed (and I am going with the opinion that he did) then to me he seems more like one of today’s Reform Judaism or Progressive Judaism Rabbi’s. An enlightened teacher. With sayings of wisdom. He followed Jewish customs. But he taught it all with a modern twist. Although Jewish Mysticism wasn’t to make it’s public debut for quite some time after Jesus’ death, one can’t help to wonder what sort of pre-Mysticism might have been going on behind the curtains.
So, that leads me to this turn.
I attend an Anglican church, but I do not believe Jesus was God. I do not believe he was Divine, well not any more than you and I were.
I believe he had a message. He wasn’t the only man from his day with a message, but was the most charismatic perhaps, and left the biggest impression and therfore had followers that resurrected him after his death. Not resurrected as we read in the New Testament, but resurrected in Myth. Although I can’t imagine what Jesus would think if he were here today. Rather than kicking off a movement of liberal thinkers of Judaism, (much like the Reformed/Progressive/Reconstructionist branches of Judaism today) a religion rose up that was based on the death of him. Based on Jesus as a sacrificial lamb. Sure, there are still threads of his actual Jewish teachings here and there, but they are heavily shadowed by the Myth of his Life and Death.
Lately, beginning some light study on Jewish Mysticism, and Kaballah, as well as these nagging ideas of Jesus’ non-divinity, I feel myself drawn back to that pool. The pool I was terrified to go in at my Mikveh. Being welcomed into the Jewish community, as a young child, but with no idea of what or why. Now, 30+ years later I am wanting to get back to the root of it.
I did not realize how beautiful Judaism was. I am not naive and I realize that I would only ever be accepted into a progressive branch of Judaism, but that’s okay. The rituals, the observances, the mindfulness. There is a deep rich culture.
Just after the festival of Sukkot began (unbeknown to me – I had never heard of it) , I had some correspondence with a Rabbi from a local-ish progressive Synagogue. He encouraged me warmly to delve into this current holiday, to read up on it and learn more. I did this, and then of course kept reading. Not only about Sukkot and the Sukkah , the waving of the branches and the seven Guests but about much more… the Shabbat, lighting of the candles on the eve, before sunset, all those things I never realized while I was younger and a newly made Jew and I thought. Wow. Pretty deep. Yes, it is Myth , but it is recognized as Myth (as much of Christian customs) . But more than Myth it is the replaying of the Jewish culture from thousands of years ago, adapted now for a more modern world (in more liberal branches) , a work and celebration of the preservation of a whole culture.
Not just based around the birth and death of a Jewish teacher, not just a constant reminder that someone ‘died for your sins’.
Christianity stems from Judaism, and yet so much about Judaism is left untaught and unrecognized. Too much hang up still from some Bible Thumping type Christians that still think ‘Jews Killed God’.
So, yeah. Still wandering. Still learning. Still trying to find my way home.
A trip back to Judaism might be called for. Maybe it was a turn off I missed awhile back when following this map to God.
Blessings for a joyful Sukkot