Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reflection: Ask, Seek, Knock.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

Matthew 7:7-8

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Take these things away!

I attended a Christmas eve Mass last night in a Catholic Church. The congregation was a lot younger than last time I attended church and the service was incredibly vibrant.

However, I did find a few elements disturbing.

The most disturbing element of the service was the collection. The tinkering of change and the hustle of people twice during a worship reaching for their wallets I found particularly irreverent.

Jesus Christ made a whip of small ropes and drove all the traders with their cattle out of the Temple. He overthrew the tables of the money changers and poured out their money. He said to them that sold doves, "Take these things away; make not My Father’s house a house of merchandise." No one dared to disobey Jesus.
John 2:15-16

The other major issue I had follows the same theme - a place of worship should be full of people wanting to be there. The feeling I had from most of those around me was that they were only there out of some form of "duty" or for their own "salvation". This I feel detracts from the worship of those who do want to be there.

In all though; a younger congregation and a service conducted by a Papua Niuginian preist who brings a whole different feeling to the service along with the fantastic music and singing of the band made for a fantastic celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Everybody's Free (to wear Sunscreen)

There's a fantastic message in this that I wanted to share with you all:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy חנוכה‎ (Hanukkah)!

Tonight, due to time constraints our family is celebrating an early Christmas. I'll still leave my Christmas posts for the next few days. I'm writing this article a few days early so that it can get to you for Hanukkah amongst all my Christmas hustle - speaking of which Pastor Darren Chapman recently blogged "Slow Down" - something I think is a very important message for this time of year.


The eight day Jewish festival of Lights celebrating the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem is celebrated on the 25th of Kislev each year, which varies on the Gregorian calender, and this year falls on the 22nd December.

The בית המקדש (Beit HaMikdash or Holy Place) was destroyed around 587 BCE by the Babylonians after standing for around four hundred years, but was rebuilt, with the re-dedication occurring in 515 BCE.

The Second Temple was torn down and rebuilt by Herod the Great in around 19 BCE, however the resulting structure is also referred to as the Second Temple as the sacrificial rituals continued throughout it's reconstruction.

The festival commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil", it is said that after period of turmoil there was only enough sanctified olive oil left to fuel the eternal flame of the Temple for one day. Miraculously the oil continued to burn until they were able to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil, a whole eight days.

The Talmud presents three options for celebrating Hanukkah, they are:

  1. The law requires only one light each night per household,
  2. A better practice is to light one light each night for each member of the household
  3. The most preferred practice is to vary the number of lights each night.
However, according to Wikipedia there is some Rabbionic dispute over how the last option is to actually be performed.

Other Hanukkah rituals include special additions to the daily prayer service and a section added to the post-meal blessing. Hanukkah is not like the Sabbaths where abstinence is required, people go about their life uninterrupted, with the exception of being home beore dusk to kindle the lights.

There is other significance here to the number eight. The first book of the תּוֹרָה (Torah), בראשית (lit: "in the beginning" or Genesis) describes in detail the seven days of creation, taking another past the point of creation you look towards אין סוף (Ein Soph, lit: "Without End") which in itself emanates all ten divine aspects represented by the sefirot. Eight therefore represents transcendence.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Rabbi's Gift

I first found this story in the prologue to Scott M. Peck's The Different Drum - a highly recommended read for anyone who wishes to build communities of any type, and I believe that better communities are needed for humanity to strive.

Scott M. Peck shares with the reader that he cannot remember where he first came across the story; nor can he remember if he has modified it in anyway himself. I personally like his version of the story, and I am sure in the spirit of the way that he published it in his prologue and his acknowledgment that it was not is work that he would not at all mind me sharing it...

The story concerns a monastery that had fallen upon hard times. Once a great order, as a result of waves of antimonastic persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the rise of secularism in the nineteenth, all its branch houses were lost and it had become decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the decaying mother house: the abbot and four others, all over seventy in age. Clearly it was a dying order.

In the deep woods surrounding the monastery there was a little hut that a rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. Through their many years of prayer and contemplation the old monks had become a bit psychic, so they could always sense when the rabbi was in his hermitage. "The rabbi is in the woods, the rabbi is in the woods again " they would whisper to each other. As he agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to the abbot at one such time to visit the hermitage and ask the rabbi if by some possible chance he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.

The rabbi welcomed the abbot at his hut. But when the abbot explained the purpose of his visit, the rabbi could only commiserate with him. "I know how it is," he exclaimed. "The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore." So the old abbot and the old rabbi wept together. Then they read parts of the Torah and quietly spoke of deep things. The time came when the abbot had to leave. They embraced each other. "It has been a wonderful thing that we should meet after all these years, "the abbot said, "but I have still failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me, no piece of advice you can give me that would help me save my dying order?"

"No, I am sorry," the rabbi responded. "I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you."

When the abbot returned to the monastery his fellow monks gathered around him to ask, "Well what did the rabbi say?" "He couldn't help," the abbot answered. "We just wept and read the Torah together. The only thing he did say, just as I was leaving --it was something cryptic-- was that the Messiah is one of us. I don't know what he meant."

In the days and weeks and months that followed, the old monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the rabbi's words. The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks here at the monastery? If that's the case, which one? Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light. Certainly he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even though he is a thorn in people's sides, when you look back on it, Elred is virtually always right. Often very right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Elred. But surely not Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for somehow always being there when you need him. He just magically appears by your side. Maybe Phillip is the Messiah. Of course the rabbi didn't mean me. He couldn't possibly have meant me. I'm just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? O God, not me. I couldn't be that much for You, could I?

As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

Because the forest in which it was situated was beautiful, it so happened that people still occasionally came to visit the monastery to picnic on its tiny lawn, to wander along some of its paths, even now and then to go into the dilapidated chapel to meditate. As they did so, without even being conscious of it, they sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that now began to surround the five old monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely attractive, even compelling, about it. Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery more frequently to picnic, to play, to pray. They began to bring their friends to show them this special place. And their friends brought their friends.

Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them. Then another. And another. So within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving order and, thanks to the rabbi's gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm.

In peace and love.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Summer Solstice

The ancient Egyptians celebrated the summer solstice as one of the most important days of the year. The sun reaching it's peak meant that the Nile waters were coming and abundance was around the corner - something to reflect upon in this current time of economic uncertainty.

It was at this time of year that Set was defeated by Horus, the solar deity. The victory of the Sun over the darkness bought a prosperous time, a time of divine illumination; the flood waters returned to the Nile and life returned and flourished.

One of the most common Summer Solstice occurrences across Europe was the bonfire. Accompanying the bonfire fertility was celebrated; often with ritual or symbolic marriages, unions and dancing. This is most evident in Sweden where each village would select a Midsummer Bride who would then in turn select a mock brides groom for a symbolic marriage.

These rituals however were not just about unions - they are early forms of sexual magick as Crowley would call it. These ancient cultures believed that the power of sexual union was able to harmonize nature and increase the fertility of crops, essentially harnessing the same power of sexual union that Aleister Crowley was famous for practicing. Crowley certainly understood the power of intention and ritual; coupled with an understanding of the potential energy released in sexual activity.

The most magical event of all is possible through sexual union and that my brothers and sisters is creation itself.

May the fires be lit!

Wishing each of you a peaceful solstice full of love.

Good, Evil and Intention.

"for there is nothing either good or
bad, but thinking makes it so."

Hamlet (Act 2) - William Shakespeare

Many recent conversations I've had with friends have resulted in them making the determination that something was either good or evil. Each time I've heard this I've made a point of questioning them on it.

Why is it evil? What makes something evil? What makes something good?

I believe that people are ultimately good... people tend to do the very best they can with the resources and tools that they have available to them. When people feel backed into a corner, feel they have something to protect they tend to re-act - and often these reactions have consequences that may be considered regrettable.

There are people out there that honestly believe that love is evil - It disturbs me to think about the experiences one must have to have gone through to have feel that - personally I think it's simply a definition of love and a pre-constructed concept of what love should be, what a lover should be and how they should behave that they have adopted that may not necessarily be the whole picture.

A dictator can firmly believe that they are doing the right thing when they silence objectors to their rule. I'm certainly not condoning the activities that are conducted, merely suggestion that the people who order these things to happen are doing it to protect themselves, their people or whatever motive it is that they wish to hold onto their power for.

When the intention of anyone differs from something that I consider to be right behaviour or judgement I am left pondering what events and experiences built the world view they hold that promotes the will to cause harm, suffering or enslavery.

May the God of my heart grant me the strength and wisdom to make each decision today with clarity from a place of peace and love. May I be a beacon of the divine light to all I can shine upon. So mote it be.

Wishes of Peace Profound.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Man Made Systems

I've been spending a considerable amount of time thinking about the self-imposed structures that society has placed upon itself - the self-imposed, arbitrary, man made systems that we allow to govern and control us.

These systems have a weakness - we created them.

The Australian Constitution clearly states that the people of the original states are creating this Commonwealth of ours.

The "economy" is not some system of external influence. It is a complex system around the very basic concept of an exchange of goods or services. It doesn't need to be any more complicated than 'I have excess food, have some.', we chose to complicate it, be governed by it and allow it to affect our lives.

"Democracy" means government by the people for the people.

In Australia it is your right to have the person you elected to represent your area present anything you wish to the parliament of Australia. They are not entitled to only present those ideas, bills and thoughts that they personally agree with or have some party-line on.

Instead of standing up for ourselves, we as a society continue to create these arbitrary systems. Democracy is not about government by the people for the corporations. Governments continue to give corporations more and more rights, and sometimes it appears they have more rights than flesh and blood, divinely illuminated people.

Wishing you peace and happiness.