Category Archives: religiousity

The Esoteric Landscape—a Difficult Journey

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Let us consider the world of the “esoteric” or “spiritual science”—these suggests a wide diversity of things such as psychic phenomena, the supernatural, mysticism, meditation, tarot card reading, kabalistic obscurity, crystal balls, reincarnation, astral bodies, auras and chakaras, Eastern thought, metaphysics, and the occult. For some, the language may also call to mind witches and wizards, seances, a yogi in a mountain cave, magical charms, mysterious rites, and perhaps even some UFOs thrown in. And for some, the esoteric terms even associate with cults, satanic worship, or some TV show on the latest strange, weird, or bizarre phenomena. We might say that, the human scene, being what it is, people inevitably acquire a superficial picture; a caricature of whatever realities esoteric language is intended to point to. And among many people, a term like “esoteric” or “occult” conjures emotions most strange, while in this maze of language and concepts–usually but vaguely and poorly defined–wander the metaphysically oriented people of the world.

All this is not to belittle the truth underlying the language, but rather to help us realize more clearly the difficulties of discerning that truth. It helps to realize that excellent things are rare, and that for every true teacher, there are a thousand pretentious gurus. For every true psychic, there are a thousand pseudopsychics. For every prophetic visionary, thousands of false prophets walk the earth. And for every truly enlightened individual, there are thousands spiritual charlatans. And the matter is further complicated by the fact that we rarely have just obviously “false” communications but a cryptic blend of the true, and half-true, of false, and a partly false. There are a thousands of shades of partly true offered us from every direction.

And everywhere we find systems, gimmicks, offerings of pretty packages, of effortless cures and quick enlightenments, and even metaphysical versions of get-rich-quick schemes. And for every purely wrought axiom of wisdom, there are a thousand clichés and inferior versions.

It may also help us to realize that, at one extreme, everything becomes counterfeited and debased. Everything has false and glamorous versions. Everything has illusory and shadowy counterparts. So, on the surface, everywhere is scattered fool’s gold.

At the other extreme, in deeper spaces, is the clear gold light of wisdom. But between the extremes is a world of grays where things gradually shade toward the light. This is the world where our discrimination and insight are constantly tested. This is the world where we must learn to think and see ever more clearly. We live along a twilight path of human understanding, a world mixed of dark and light. Yet, along the way, we may more optimistically recall that shadows suggest the light that cast them.

Take heart then that the Powers that be thought so well of us as to lay upon our path such difficult circumstances. Our own powers are equal to the challenge, if not today, then surely tomorrow, and we have an infinity of tomorrows.

Let us bring out of the dense fabric of human thought some clear ideas, set them upon a pedestal, elevated, striking, luminous—suitable objects for reflection. The light of them is beautiful and, in one way, simple, yielding to us by interior radiance that vision of clarity we so deeply need for the difficult journey.

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The Saint Makers

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Saints of actual virtue, without bureaucracy or churches, shine bright in life and death. But people like to roundup numerous human intercessors and are fond of titles and royal attire. It’s advantageous for church leaders to create saints, the better to awe followers, the better to consolidate power, the better to give each one the desired personal object of devotion. But why must objects of devotion be the province churches and conventional religions? Do not objects of devotion surround us at every turn of life? And why should the modes of reverence be prescribed by ancient scribes and conclaves of old men? Saint makers, power brokers, strategists, bureaucrats—how will pure devotion flourish under the weight of such medieval inheritance?

The memory of some glows unrealistically white in death. Well good for reverence and good for optimism, but especially good if we could simply love the good without so much devoted whiteness of perception, and without intercession of plastic priesthoods. Let all good works be approved without layers of ceremony and the collective judgments of old men.

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Whatever is good beneath robes is nourished from within. I bow before it. But how many royal layers does it take to suffocate a good man? We can survive the surround of old stones, but heavy walls of thought and emotions shut out most of the light.

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We love the beautiful, but remnants of the beautiful are overlaid with ages of human error, and worldly saint makers compete with sanity and simplicity. The half-deceptions, the old dirges, the crazy human mix suffocates slowly–we learn sleepwalking with just enough real magic to keep us circling. Churches bind with nets of ancient magic, and the sins of the devoted are washed imaginatively white– for a price. The magic is neither black nor white, which suits the lazy, sleepy median. Ugliness woven with threads of truth serves millions, and remains a distinctly human concoction.

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And to those who have subjugated women for ages, to those whose minds run in stagnant theological rivulets, to medieval theologians and politicians—to these I say the church of stone and worldly power is dead. Service lives, and virtue lives, but its needs are simple and unconfined. But the spider web of theology does not serve and is dead; control by fear is dead; materialism and stones and worldly power is dead; half-truth is dead. Let the last clamors of prejudice depart into silence.

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I expect in death that saints have a ceiling of stars and sky yet I cannot but think that love of old stones dies. Certainly it pales next to the grand canyons of earth or any of the billion lights in the deep sky. It surely pales next to the greater canyons cut by curving walls of stars. I think stardom and the star-dome takes on new perspective in the light of death, and I cannot think a single great soul approves being named a saint.

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