Archive for Catholic

A Brief History of Yule

Posted in All, Humor, Miscellaneous, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2010 by marushiadark

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, Yuletide carols being sung by a choir and folks dressed up like eskimos.” ~ The Christmas Song

Today is Yule, a day that celebrates the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year and the official start of the winter season.  It’s an ancient pagan holiday dating back some ten thousand years at least.  It is even known to have been practiced during the early days of Stonehenge.  In fact, it is now believed that the site itself was used as a temple for that very purpose.

In my junior year of high school, we read Beowulf around December.  My literature teacher at the time gave our class a history lesson on ancient Norse pagans and how monks later wrote down many of the oral tales, inserting Christian concepts in place of the pagan ones.  We were told this was done for various reasons.  One was because the monks found the tales exciting and interesting, but had to transpose religious ideologies to avoid being prosecuted as heretics.  Another was because the church wanted to convert the pagan population altogether.

The concept of Christianity supplanting its beliefs onto those of other cultures should not be news to anyone in this day and age.  Since the formation of the Catholic Church in the 4th Century, the Church has been systematically acquiring and assimilating rites and holidays from cultures all over the world; one of the earliest being to convert the image of Sol Invictus, the unconquerable sun, into the image of Jesus Christ.

Many Roman sites, such as Trajan’s Column and the Pantheon, were also converted into Christian monuments.  And when the Conquistadors sailed to the New World, they built Churches on top of the Mesoamerican temples.  Christmas is another one of those things that the Church stole from other pagan religions to make their particular version seem more palatable to the locals.

Just before Christmas time that same year, my literature teacher explained to us the history of the yule log and where that tradition comes from.  Since then, I’ve acquired a bit more information to fill out the rest of the details of the story.

In my posts on the Circumpunct and the Solar Cross, I explained briefly that the ancients worshiped the sun as the source of all light and truth, and that they held December 21 as the death of the sun with the 25th being its rebirth.

The Winter Solstice is also the time of year when feminine, yin energy is at its maximum.  As we know from looking at a taijitu, the universe will often create its opposite as the direct result of something being in its maximum state.  In ancient paganism, the height of feminine energy demanded a ritual to be performed that would invoke the opposite and continue the cycle to the opposite extreme.  Towards that end, the festival of the Yule Log was created.

The feast of Yule actually gives us two notable icons in modern day Christmas celebrations: the Yule Log and the Christmas Tree.

The Yule Log was originally cut from a large pine tree, usually the biggest one that could be found.  The pine tree was actually a phallic symbol in this ceremony and represented tremendous strength, size, power, and masculine energy.  To this day, we still refer to a man having as erection as him “having wood.”

Once the tree was chosen, it was covered in tar and pitched and set up vertically (i.e. “erect”).  The celebrants would then light the tree on fire – fire being an earthly reflection of the sun, in whose honor the ceremony was performed.  The people would then dance and eat and fuck around this burning symbol of solar masculinity as part of their Yuletide festivities.

In modern times, we still “light our trees,” only we do so with LEDs instead of embers.  If we light a piece of wood on fire, it’s usually in the confines of a fireplace or outdoor fire pit instead of the middle of the village.

I think we all know well the Catholic Church’s position when it comes to sex (and I’m not talking about missionary style).  It’s obvious that such sexually charged rituals as these would not fly in the midst of those that wanted to manipulate pagan persons into believing that their salvation could only come from the one true savior JC.  But the people would be hard-pressed to convert if they had to give up all their rituals.  I mean, let’s face it, if the choice was between partying and mass, between wild orgies and abstinence, and there were really no spiritual distinctions between the two, which would you choose?

So the church performed a triage and allowed the local peoples to keep their trees and their feasts and their songs and some of the yuletide benefits (so long as they were married), and in exchange, the people would celebrate a new version of the holiday with Christ as the central figure in place of the sun.

That’s somewhat ironic, since Christ was originally a sun god himself, but with enough history having gone buy, it evolved into something much different, and the holiday is evolving still.

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Two Parables

Posted in All, Economics, Humor, Politics, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2010 by marushiadark

“Did universal charity prevail, earth would be a heaven, and hell a fable.” ~ Charles Colton, cleric

When I was in grammar school, because I went to a Catholic school, we had to take religion as a class.  My eighth grade teacher was incredibly strict, but I learned a great deal thanks to her.  Among other things, she taught us this parable about the nature of heaven and hell that I retain and use to this day.

Imagine that you are in a great hall filled with all the people that you’ve ever encountered in your life.  In this hall, you are all seated at an enormous table.  Before you is a banquet of any and all the types of food that you and all the other guests could ever want to eat, and this food continues to replenish whenever more is needed.  Truly, it is a feast unlike any other.  However, there is a catch.  Instead of hands, every guest at the banquet has six-foot long chopsticks attached to their arms.  No one is capable of eating any of this food because no one can reach their mouths due to the chopsticks.  So the food just sits there, tormenting the guests, until both it and the guests waste away to nothing.  In this hall, everyone is greedy and self-serving and gets nothing but misery and pain as a result.

Now imagine that you have an identical hall with the exact same set-up, only in this hall, everyone works to feed each other instead of their own selves.  Everyone gets what they want and there is more than enough to go around.  Everyone is both a giver and a receiver, satisfying their own needs and the needs of those around them.  All the guests receive nourishment from the food and the enjoyment from the company.  There is no pain or suffering, but instead genuine love and happiness.

I don’t think I need to explain that the first hall represents hell, while the second one represents heaven.

Such a metaphor is so simple that even a naive child can understand.  I should know, since I was a naive child when I first learned it, myself.

Now imagine if the whole world acted that way.  If everyone was selfless enough to contribute to the benefit of others, while still occasionally taking time out to let others return the favor.  Each person doing what they can for a person within their range of ability to help until everyone is eventually satisfied.  From each according to his means, to each according to his needs, until everyone has everything that they want and need.

Because of the complex nature of life, it’s impossible for anyone to ever be completely self-sufficient.  We all need other people, whether for emotional support, or to make or do something that we can’t in order to improve our quality of life.  When we consider the potential gains to ourselves and others from what amounts to a modicum of service, the world becomes a much better place.

“Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system.” ~ Thomas Paine

Another parable, this time of my own making, along the same lines is as follows.

A Zen Master had two young sons that would not stop fighting with one another.  So one day, he called the boys together and the three of them sat down at their father’s table.  The Zen Master set a box of building blocks on the table.  To the first son, he gave seven blocks and to the second, he gave five.  He then commanded his sons to construct the tallest tower they possibly could with what they had been given.

The two brothers took their blocks and each built a tower out of the blocks he had in front of him, stacking them one atop the other.  The second son noticed that the first son’s tower was much larger.

“No fair,” he said, “He got more blocks than me.”  And in a fit of jealousy, he knocked the first son’s tower down.  “Now my tower’s bigger,” he said.  Out of anger, the first son retaliated and knocked over the second son’s tower.  Now neither of them had a tower and the two sons began to argue and fight over what had happened.

The Zen Master then separated the two boys and stopped their fighting.  “Look at the mess you two have made,” he said, “I commanded you to build the biggest tower you could, but instead you have created nothing but ruin and hatred between yourselves.”

“But he knocked down my tower,” said the first.

“But you gave him more blocks,” said the second.

The Zen Master shook his head in disappointment.  “I said build the biggest tower you could with the blocks you had.  You chose to hoard your lots and build separate towers, when you could have come together to build a tower twice as tall as what either of you could have built alone.”

The two brothers then felt ashamed for misunderstanding their father’s commandment after realizing what they had done.  The Zen Master then poured the rest of the building blocks out of the box.  “Now, let the three of us together build an enormous tower that stretches towards the ceiling.”  And so the Zen Master and his two sons worked together and used up all the blocks in building an enormous block tower.  Between the three of them, there were enough blocks to build out laterally as well so that the tower was better supported and able to rise that much higher.

The two sons were so proud of their accomplishment that they went and told their mother and their sisters and their friends and brought them all to see the magnificent tower that had been built and everyone was in awe at what they had done.

Yet another story that even a child can understand.  The moral of which is that we all are given different gifts, different skills, different resources, different connections in our lives, and different experiences.  We all have our own paths unique to us.  But rather than keeping these all to ourselves, we can accomplish much greater things if we shared all that with others in cooperative union.  To build each other up instead of tearing each other down.  To see ourselves as partners, rather than rivals or enemies.  In a world where we see nothing but lines of division and differences and separation, there is no rule that says we cannot come together to make the world a better place for all.  The world is fundamentally an interconnected system, and what affects one affects the whole.  So why not work with each other, rather than at cross purposes in pursuit of what is common to us all?

The Spirit Within

Posted in All, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2010 by marushiadark

“Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but he whom blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation – because they said, ‘He hath an unclean spirit.’ ” ~ Mark 3:28-30

What exactly is the Holy Spirit?

So far as we know, this is the only unforgiveable sin, so that should make it vitally important than we know what the Holy Spirit is and what blasphemy against it means and why Jesus would tells us that to do so would be the most fatal mistake we could ever make.

Let’s start with the easier of the three and first figure out what is blasphemy.

“That God is a distinct, separate being from us to whom I must offer worship, whom I must cultivate, humor, please, and hope to attain a reward from at the very end of my life … that is not what God is, that is a blasphemy.” ~ Miceal Ledwith, Professor of Theology

Most Christians believe that God is a separate entity from them – an invisible man in the sky that controls everything, who determines which among us gets a mansion and free ice cream after we die.  As Miceal Ledwith says, that’s not what God is.  That is the image that men and women of a much more primitive mindset needed in order to survive and function without raping and murdering one another all the time.

The dictionary defines blasphemy as anything said or done to revile or abuse God.

Many people think that blasphemy is just when you say “God damn it!” or “Fuck you, God!” or the like.  In actual fact, there’s nothing you can say to or about God that would ever offend him.  God does not speak English or any human language for that matter.  And even if he did, God is not so petty as to hold imperfect creatures to perfect standards.  He knows all and so I think it’s reasonable to assume that he knows we suffer as a result of mental aberrations and conditioned behaviors and are subject to poverty and other forces that make us choose between our ethics and our more basic needs.  He knows that intention is more important than what you actually say or do.  He knows that shit happens, but he loves it most when we do our best to help our fellow man and to help ourselves to fulfill those things we really need.

To blaspheme against God is to do something utterly contemptible from his point of view, not ours.  We cannot blaspheme against the Father because God understands that we are logical beings that rely on empiricism and so it’s not our fault if we don’t believe in God because we can’t see him.  We cannot blaspheme against the Son because it’s not our fault that there isn’t sufficient proof to show that Jesus really existed, or that the recordings of human witnesses are in themselves rather fallible.  If something doesn’t exist, how can you blaspheme against it, right?

But can we blaspheme against the Spirit and what is that, exactly?

“Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” ~ Acts 2:3-4

When I was very young, my parents enrolled me in Catholic grammar school, and for nine years I was the most pious and innocent child you could imagine.  I remember I would spend a period of my recesses in a small chapel praying to a statue of Padre Pio and saying the Rosary and I always listened intently to the priest during church and I thought it disrespectful to receive the body of Christ and not the wine as well.

When I entered fifth grade, I became an alter boy, and by seventh grade, my best friend at the time and I made plans for building our own church by hand and living out the rest of our lives as paupers monks.  In church, I used to pray silently to God and I would hear him talking back to me in my head.  Even as a child, I knew that God didn’t answer prayers aloud, but spoke through us in our minds and in our hearts.

Eventually, I reached the eighth grade and was preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation – the ceremony that was supposed to solidify my commitment to the Catholic way of life with the receipt of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  When I got to the alter, the bishop blessed my forehead with oil and I felt as though I had, indeed, been filled with some sort of otherworldly presence.  To this day, I still believe I actually did receive the Holy Spirit in that ceremony.

However, when I got back to my seat, something inside me had changed.  I didn’t know what it was in that moment, but somehow I felt different.  A few weeks later, when I was sitting in church, I looked around and had a revelation.  A voice inside my head told me that what I was looking at – all the pomp and circumstance of the church – was a blasphemy against God.  If God’s commandment was to not carve graven images and worship false idols, then the church itself was the most blasphemous, sinful thing there was, because it coerced people into doing just the opposite of that.

Soon after that time, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I was guided away from the church, then from Catholicism, and finally from Christianity altogether.  I went on to study many different faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Wicca, Buddhism, Hinuism, Scientology, Atheism, Agnosticism, Panentheism, Zoroastrianism, Hermeticism, and a host of various other “isms” until I finally came to where I am today.

How ironic that the very ceremony that was supposed to confirm my position in the church was the very one that had driven me away from it all.  And even more ironically, though I remain unsure about the existence of Christ, I feel as though I am closer to him than ever before because of my commitment to understanding what his point of view on the world was and why he believed all the things he believed and said all the things that he said.

“… for indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” ~ Luke 17:21

God is too big for one religion, but all religions emphasize the importance of oneness.  The Spirit is that part of God that is in all human beings and in all living things.  To blaspheme against the Spirit is to willingly ignore this fact and to put limitations on yourself and on God.  When you ignore this, you fail to live and grow as God wanted and you will continue to suffer as a result until you change that point of view.

Blasphemy against the Father or the Son, along with all other forms of sin, are simply the result of outside forces that shape our behavior. We can’t abuse God in the traditional sense because he made us and is at a level far above us.

But since the Spirit lives inside all of us, our knowledge of it comes from within, not without.  It’s the difference between being put in prison by someone else who holds the key and putting ourselves in prison when we hold the key.  In the former, forgiveness can come from without (from God or our fellow man), but in the latter, forgiveness can only come from within in the form of realigning ourselves with the Spirit, which is the part of us that makes us one with God and our fellow man.