Dr Hyatt spoke often about surrender. I wonder if this is where a lot of the magical resistance to Jesus comes? We don’t like it. A magical worldview leans more toward taking charge and doing things yourself.
He was adamant we were missing out, however, and that surrender was a key part of spiritual growth.
I never did more magic than when I was in high school. Which makes sense. I wanted more and had less control over my own life then so I didn’t have the means to acquire the things/boys/girls I coveted.
Once at an underage drinking party in high school I was greening out in a very serious way. I had failed to abide by the strict Australian Law: “Grass and beer, nothing to fear. Beer and grass, on your ass.” (I insisted it didn’t apply to tequila.)
So there I sat with my arms wrapped around the toilet bowl for about the ninetieth minute while the host debated whether or not he needed to call an ambulance. It was one of those classic cases of a party in a house while the parents were away. An ambulance would mean everyone would get caught. So that was definitely out.
Having just thrown up my stomach lining and run out of little magical/Wiccan health chants (which was my thing in high school), I did something I had never done before. I utterly surrendered. To Jesus. I wasn’t even sure I had prayed before. (I went from disinterested-in-everything straight to fully-fledged magic user, skipping the Christian upbringing everyone else seems to have had. Closets have never suited me.)
And I physically felt it work. Instantly. Like a reverse-corkscrew of nausea lifting out of my body and up through the ceiling. Suddenly I could hold down water. So I stood up, walked into the host’s little brother’s room and slept till morning. (The whole rest of the family was out in case you thought I’d suddenly become a Catholic priest.)
Granted it’s not going to rank high on Jesus’s list of miracles -I’m not even sure the Vatican is aware of it yet- but I was sure thankful.
I know what you’re thinking.
Dear God why are you telling this horrible, horrible anecdote? You’re hanging on by a thread as it is, Gordon.
Well, because my spontaneous, heartfelt words looked freakishly like what Jason has shared at the end of his post. Obviously his are more poetic but they’re even the right length. It reminded me of an incident -this incident- that hadn’t occurred to me in a decade. It clicked on a light switch in the corner of my memory shack. This is something familiar in some way.
So it seemed a good place to start sharing a list of recent Jesus-related anecdotes. And then it will be your turn to do the same if you like. I’ve developed a taste for them now.
You can’t avoid him
I suspect Jason of being a bit sneaky here (in the best possible way) with his triple assessment of Jesus juice because he knows personally where that power comes from but he’s trying to entice those of us hanging around the edge of the pool that the water is actually really nice and we should all jump in.
Which isn’t to say I don’t agree with the triple assessment because I most definitely do. As Bob Wilson pointed out in one of his books, we’ve known the world wasn’t flat for hundreds of years and it still hasn’t filtered down to our daily worldview. We see the sun ‘setting’ at the edge of a disk.
Now, Jesus has defined how we as a race live in the world for longer and on more significant daily levels. There is just no getting away from how huge he is inside your mind. Every Christian on earth could vanish in Rapture this very second and it would be five thousand years before he’s washed out of our brains.
Sooner or later you have to square with him.
A bookish reboot
The Bible is a ludicrous document. Which isn’t to say I don’t like it.
But it’s a collection of poorly translated, third hand account, newspaper-style clippings collated by men in dresses… Some of whom weren’t quite sure if women had souls.
It’s a wall. It was constructed to -very successfully- consolidate an imperial powerbase in the face of competing doctrines and leaders (Gnosticism, etc). After all, even empires need brand guidelines.
Incidentally, as Shepherd Book points out in Firefly, a ludicrous document makes a good guidebook because life itself is ludicrous and contradictory. I get that. You know I like my mythic thinking.
But I would prefer it -have more faith in it, if you will- if it were a direct, automatic ‘download’ a la the Book of the Law. Because you also know I like my box sets and I could really go for a Definitive Edition.
If only there were some kind of mostly-internally-consistent, ‘miraculous’ narrative like that for Jesus. One that emerged fully formed to a single author who physically could not have created that work if they had all the time and brains in the world… You know… The kind of thing someone of a magical bent could get behind.
Oh, but there is.
It’s called Poem of The Man God. It was received by a woman who never left her native Tuscany, could barely read let alone write 15 000 pages in multiple different voices and styles, describes parts of Bronze Age Palestine that were unknown at the time of ‘writing’ but were subsequently discovered to be right where she said they would be by archaeologists. Read the wikipedia entry. It’s fascinating.
She got some things wrong, sure, but automatic transdimensional dictation is fraught with signal errors as you might expect. Because I’m a freak, I am in some ways more comfortable with errors of this nature than human translation mistakes.
So I like Maria Valtorta. And she lived in Tuscany. She was on my mind the other week.
Have you even tried it?
I have eaten bugs, snails and crocodiles, I have dived with sharks, I have moved countries due to a drunken bet with a lesbian. I’ll fucking try anything, me.
Well, I say ‘anything’ but…
Why is it I have read Dawkins but I haven’t read St Augustine of Hippo? There’s seriously a picture of him on my bedroom wall. What’s the block here? I’ve read the Bhagavad Gita. I’ve read the Koran. (Don’t tell me how it ends. It’s…ah… it’s one of my ‘long term’ reading projects, shall we say?)
So there I was in a second hand bookstore a few blocks back from the Duomo in Florence. And I saw this book. It was my last day of a week looking at -without peer- the most transcendent art in Christendom. I saw Fra Angelico’s Annunciation in the cell of the monastery he painted it in.
This is a painting (technically a fresco) I have wanted to see it my whole life. I defy you to find a more amazing piece of personal religious devotion expressed through art. It was the first thing I booked when planning the trip. A print was also hanging in my room in the apartment when we got there. In itself this means nothing because it is also on a million postcards all over town. But it meant something in that Black Swan way where you know it meant something and everyone else can shut up. The painting is extremely synchronistic for me. Mother and I were both having strange moments of psychic recall in the monastery. It’s worth looking into. (Mom, would you get on that please? You’re better at that sort of thing.)
So I had spent the week going back and forward about where to place all this in my personal cosmology. You see, I have no problem with the God of Abraham. De-anthropomorphise Him a bit and he sits quite well in my scientific pantheism way seeing of the world. I have never much cared for what the theologian Herbert McCabe calls “the idolatrous notion of God as a very large and powerful creature.”
But my historic relationship with him has always been a bit more Jewy. I’m part Jewish but not a big enough part for it to have had a cultural influence on me. Instead it remained as this tantalising corner of myself I had always wanted to know more about. So I tend to seek in that direction whenever I possibly can. (Kabbalah, etc.)
Seeing the Renaissance Masters’ view of this man however -and even ignoring two thousands years of miracles and just basing my thinking on Valtorta’s automatic writing- I could not escape the magically sound conclusion that something had happened in Palestine back then.
So I picked up this book and bought it. It was second hand and in English. Someone else had obviously come to Florence and wrestled with the same thing I was wrestling with. I hope he or she found what they are looking for. Because it certainly helped me. I’m not going to keep the book. It’s one of the rare instances where I can sense that this document is on a mission. I’m going to give it to a friend who completely abandoned his Catholic faith last year when he found out that his family priest is -wait for it- a great big pedophile. (I’ve tried to get him around to the idea that there are myriad ways to approach Spirit but I just sound like Oprah and he gets really suspicious because I have spent almost twenty years telling him exactly why Catholicism was shit. How was I supposed to know he’d actually quit it??)
I like him better as a man
Here are my two cents as to why Saints are more approachable. It’s a Buffy The Vampire Slayer conundrum. Saints start off like us and have Grace flow through them. Jesus is -at least exoterically- God.
But you see, I like him better as a man. In Agora, when the Christians are converting one of the lead characters, he mentions that -unlike the showy miracles of the Pagan Gods- Jesus’s miracle was in the handing out of bread to the city’s poor and hungry. And I like that. I like Jesus the man because he was -leaving everything else aside- a political radical. He cared nothing for class or tradition if either of them got in the way. He hung out with the downtrodden and dispossessed. He was a Lefty change maker. Actually, he was probably redder than Karl Marx. (Which is why it fascinates me endlessly that the American Far Right have claimed him so. It strikes me that he would probably be less interested in whether you can pray in schools and more interested in the fact that the elderly die on hospital waiting lists and children live in cardboard boxes at the train station.)
So that is where Jesus sat for me for most of my life. A genuinely inspirational political figure. He didn’t really make it into magic beyond a few bits of Hoodoo.
And then something happened the other day that connected Jesus the man with something more esoteric. It was on the tube coming home from work on the night I read Balthazar’s post. You see, I’m reading Ray Sherwin’s fantastic new book, The Strange Smell In The Car. (Finished it. Review imminent.)
It turns out Gethsemane is an old word for jasmine and this is possibly because grew on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives near where the olives were pressed.
Fireworks go off in my brain.
It would have smelled of jasmine blossoms that night in the garden so long ago.
I don’t know why but I find this very moving. Perhaps it’s the combination of a concrete ‘fact’ (the jasmine) with what is for me the most moving part of the crucifixion story. Even if this is a ‘mythic’ fact, I realise I have missed a trick somewhere and resolve to correct this.
It was St Peter himself who was responsible for firing back up my magical career. So all these Jesusy things have been buzzing around me for a while now. Maybe it’s just part of the journey? Maybe it’s something else. And I don’t mind saying I am -frankly- terrified that I am going to come out of whatever process this is with a new C-word to call myself.
Is terrified too strong a word? No.
Because it’s that surrender thing again, isn’t it?