Archive for Church

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.

The Power of Christ Compels You

Posted in All, Health, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2010 by marushiadark

“Healing is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature.” ~ W.H. Audin, poet

In my last post, I talked about the basic points of health and healing, stating that the human body is a self-correcting machine and that medicine is only as good as its ability to help the body return to homeostasis.  Most drugs are ineffective in the prevention and curing of disease because they do not address the underlying cause of the problem.  However, there is a field of medicine that I have yet to address and it is perhaps the most powerful form of healing known to man.  It is also the most overlooked and under-appreciated “drug” man has ever created.  I’m talking of course of the Placebo.

A placebo is essentially a form of medicine that has no actual measurable effect on the human body.  The most common form of this is a simple capsule filled with a small amount of sugar.  Its purpose in modern medicine is largely as a control metric in experiments that test the efficacy of drugs.  Patients are given placebos but told they are actually medicine and then the results are compared between the drug being tested and the body’s own ability to heal itself.

I admit, I can’t think of any better way to test the efficacy of drugs than that, but what these tests fail to determine and what modern medicine seems to have completely brushed over, is the actual power of the placebo itself.

A placebo itself has no effect on the body, but the patient believes it does and so their mind registers the belief that it is being healed.  Since the mind controls the body, the state of the mind can affect the health of the body for better or worse.  If the mind is convinced that it is healed or is in the process of being healed, then it will tell the body that everything is okay and so the body will release chemicals and hormones and endorphins to correct whatever issues are there.

Conversely, if the mind believes it is sick or hurt or in pain, then the body will align itself with that belief and act accordingly.  This is the mechanism that creates psychosomatic illness and is a chronic problem in many hypochondriacs.  Very often times, a hypochondriac can become seriously ill from nothing more than the fact that their mind told the body to be sick and it obeyed.

We know that disease is the result of either some overt toxin being present in the body or the lack of sufficient raw materials (water, minerals, etc.) to carry out the bodily functions.  But for all instances where this is not the case, the result is psychosomatic.  It’s all in the mind, meaning that the issue is not with the car, but with its driver.  Correct the driver’s error and the car will stop crashing into trees.

Consequently, this is the mechanism by which all medicine works.  Whatever will convince you that you are better is what will help you heal your body.  This is why drugs can sometimes appear to be helping, even though they are in fact introducing toxic substances into the body.  What’s actually helping is the mind’s orders to release healing chemicals, coupled with the presence of life-enhancing raw materials and energies.  As I said before, the human body is a self-correcting machine.  All you have to do is give it what it needs to do its job and then get out of its way while it does its thing.

“All healing is first a healing of the heart.” ~ Carl Townsend, futurist

The spirit controls the mind, which controls the body.  Everything in the universe is made up of energy, so it would make sense that any and all issues within the higher levels of the body and mind stem from issues on an energy level.  Our conscious minds may not know how all this works, but our subconscious minds and our spirits are working diligently behind the scenes to make sure everything comes alive for us on stage.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a diagnosis begins with an assessment of a person’s energy.  In such fields, it is common to hear about things like energy meridians, chakras, yin and yang, feng shui, or the concept of hot-cold-wet-dry.  Such practitioners of TCM have a very acute awareness of the factors that contribute to the health of the energy body – as do a great many faith healers, reikiists, reflexologists, acupuncturists, and psychics – and it is from this assessment of the energy body that they are able to catch and correct most diseases way in advance of western medicine, which still relies mostly on drugs and surgery.

Now, to be fair, there are a great many hacks as well within the alternative community, but the underlying principles are both accurate and applicable, and this is how all of the legitimate ones operate.  And by knowing this, you can begin to heal yourself without help from anyone.

“Then he asked him, ‘What is your name?’ and he answered, saying, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many’.” ~ Mark 5:9

Perhaps the most well-known healer in history is Jesus of Nazareth.  The Gospel of Mark, chapter five, recounts three of Jesus’ more famous healing sessions.

In the Gospel, Jesus is traveling with his disciples by boat when he comes to a small village.  A man from the village is being bound by chains and it is said that even the chains could not hold him for very long.  When Jesus arrives, the man is raving with madness, cutting himself with stones, but falls to his knees at the sight of Jesus and asks that Jesus not torment him.  The man says that he is possessed by a demon that is actually many demons.

In ancient times, people were far more superstitious and didn’t have the modern understanding of psychology that we do today.  So was this a demon or was the man just merely schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder and sadomasochistic tendencies?  Regardless of the actual facts, the man believed he had a demon living inside him and that demon quickly went away when Jesus commanded it to enter into a herd of pigs.  Did Christ really cast out a horde of demons, or did the man simply heal himself with the power of his own mind, for which Jesus was merely a catalyst?

The Gospel states that the demon was known as “the legion” and it affected the man’s “right mind.”  Was this really a demon or was it simply an aberration?  Or perhaps it was even a lesion in the right hemisphere of his brain, which Jesus healed using nothing more than a placebo effect and a transfer of energy.

Regardless of the actual details, the Bible says that when Christ healed the man, the people of the village were very afraid and they made it clear that they didn’t want Jesus hanging around there anymore.  So much for gratitude, eh?  So Jesus got in the boat and sailed back the way he came, but not before the man he healed came up to him and thanked him.  He wanted to go with Jesus, but Christ instead said that he should go and tell the people what he’d done for him.

“And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace and be healed of your affliction’.” ~ Mark 5:34

By the time Christ reaches shore again, news of his “miraculous” healing powers had reached the people there and he started to gain more attention.  A man named Jarlus came up to him and told him his daughter was sick and near death and he wanted Jesus to come and see her.

Along the way, a crowd begins to follow Jesus.  Among them is a woman with a severe blood disorder.  The Bible says that, for twelve years, she “had suffered many things from many physicians … and was no better, but rather grew worse.”  She hears about Jesus and comes up and touches his cloak because she believes that Jesus has some sort of special healing powers that can save her.

Jesus turns and asks what she thinks she’s doing.  The woman becomes terribly afraid and confesses all, but Jesus tells her not to worry and that she is healed.  Moreover, Jesus emphasizes that it is the woman’s faith that has healed her, not him.

Many Christians today attribute this event as being proof that belief in Christ is what will heal them.  However, it’s less about their faith in Christ and more about the power of the placebo effect and the ability of the mind to heal the body.  What you believe in specifically is of little importance to anyone but yourself.

Many churches, especially televangelist and evangelical churches, are known for their priests and pastors that lay their hands on worshipers and the people feel an overwhelming sensation come over them and they feel much better afterwards.  Scientists can’t explain it or apply it to non-believers and so there is a schism between the scientists who say it’s all bunk and the believers who are exploited into further belief and in subjugating themselves to God and the church.  In actuality, these people are healed because of the power of their own minds over their bodies with the priest or God or whatever merely being a metric that will only work for them and no one else because the minds of others are not geared to believing in that stuff, which is all that matters.

Faith in Christ is just a catalyst for getting the mind to be in a mode of healing and is fundamentally no different than if you were healed through belief in Buddha, Mohammad, or Tom Cruise.  It’s all about you and there’s no subjugation or worship required.

“When he came in, he said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and weep?  The child is not dead, but sleeping’.” ~ Mark 5:39

At the end of Mark 5, a servant comes up to the group and tells Jarlus that his daughter is dead.  Jesus commanded Jarlus not to worry, but to have faith that everything would be alright.  He then went alone with some of his disciples to the house.  Before he even went inside, Jesus told the people there that the child was not dead, but only sleeping.  The people rebuked him for this and so he made them wait outside.

Many Christians believe this to be an example of Jesus bringing someone back from the dead, but is it really?  Why did Jesus say she was only sleeping?

The passage seems to contradict itself here because it says that only Peter, James, and John went with Christ; yet Jarlus, the girl’s father, was present at the house when Jesus got there.  So if Jarlus went, is it possible the servant went as well?  Who really went with him?

If Jarlus and/or the servant went with Christ to the house, they could have told Jesus about her illness and Jesus, being a healer, would have known what the problem was and so he might have known just from that information that it wasn’t anything lethal.  People that aren’t knowledgeable in disease and healing often overreact to what are otherwise relatively simple problems to solve.  Is that what happened here?  I don’t know, but it’s possible.

Or if Jesus went alone with his disciples, he could have relied on his intuition to tell him that the situation wasn’t as bad as it seemed.  I know many times I, myself, have been in what appeared to be very bad situations; but my intuition coached me through it, telling me everything would be alright, and, more often than not, it was.  Is that what happened here?  Again, I don’t know, but it’s possible.

When Jesus got to the house, he made everyone wait outside.  He then took the mother and father and went inside the house to the little girl.  Undoubtedly, they believed that Jesus knew what he was doing and had faith that the little girl would be alright.  Jesus told her to wake up and she did.  Jesus told them to give her something to eat and she was fine from that point on.  Was she really dead or did the servant just mistake her being asleep for actual death?

I remember a very particular scene from the movie Doc Hollywood where Michael J. Fox is about to cut open a kid’s stomach because he believes the boy has a terrible stomach virus; but the local doctor comes by with a cola and gives it to the kid and rebukes Michael J. Fox’s character for nearly putting the boy through an unnecessary and risky procedure.  As it turns out, the boy simply had a case of gas, not a virus at all.  How did the town doctor know?  Because he had treated these people before and knew what they were like and knew their habits and the sorts of things that might cause diseases in that town.  He had knowledge and experience and an understanding that neither the family nor Michael J. Fox’s character had.

Perhaps this twelve-year old girl simply fainted from not having anything to eat.  But let’s consider the possibility that maybe that wasn’t the case, and that maybe there really was something wrong with this girl.  Maybe she wasn’t dead, but instead she just fell into a coma.  How would someone like Jesus have handled that?

Recall that the mother and father probably had a great deal of faith in Christ’s abilities.  They heard stories of how he cured a man of demons and saw how he healed a woman’s illness by the touch of his cloak.  Likely, they and their servants believed him to be some sort of magic man and spiritual healer.  So their minds were aligned with a spirit of healing and so it’s possible they transferred some of that positive energy to the girl and this reached her subconscious and caused her to awake and become healthy again.  After all, everything in the universe is just the interaction of energy waves in space.  All matter and medicine is subject to these laws.

“So based on your time spent with … these bizarre individuals, you’ve concluded that possession is a basic, typical human experience?”

“I must say, counselor, that’s quite a laundry list of disdain and one that thoroughly mischaracterizes my work.” ~ The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The very last line of Mark 5 says that Jesus commanded that no one be told what had happened.  To me, this is more indicative that the actual metric of healing used in this case was the power of faith in the minds of those around him.  If Jesus told them what really happened, perhaps they would lose faith and so then they might also lose the power to heal themselves, having nothing else to believe in and no skills in diagnosing or treating diseases.  And so Jesus would have to be called back to them, which I’m sure he would have preferred not to do if he didn’t have to.

How often have we heard doctors, as we’re leaving their offices and hospitals, tell us, “I don’t ever wanna see you here again” or something comparable?  Of course, that doesn’t mean that they are inherently grouchy and anti-social individuals.  What they mean is that we should take better care of ourselves so that they don’t have to treat us again, because the power to prevent and cure our own maladies and diseases lies in our own hands.

I’m sure some of you reading this article aren’t willing to believe this.  Maybe for you, the catalyst is something else more in line with your empirical beliefs and the scientific method.  Maybe the healer you trust is a medical doctor and because you believe that his remedies work, you become in-tune with the spirit of healing and that helps you get better.

Likewise, I’m sure there are some of you reading this article who are already well-versed in spiritual healing and so I’m just preaching to the choir.

Then there are probably a third class of people that are somewhere in between.  You’re not sure if you believe this works or not.  For those people, if you haven’t read it already, I would recommend the book Clairvoyance and Occult Powers, by Swami Panchadasi.  It’s out of print, but you can find an e-book of it on Google Books.  It was written almost a hundred years ago, and yet it reads as though it were written more recently than that.  I like it because it explains everything in rather layman’s terms from the very beginning and the most basic assumptions that require very little stretching of the imagination.  Another one you may enjoy is simply called Psychic Healing, by Yogi Ramacharaka.  It was written in 1934 and can also be found freely on Google Books.

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.