The Biology of Gender

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by Michael Maciel

Authority is a masculine trait, whether it manifests in a man or a woman. And obedience is a feminine trait, whether it manifests in a woman or a man. It is the TRAIT, not the body, that defines us. Some of the most humbly obedient people who ever lived were men, and some of the smartest, most courageous leaders among us have been women.

But obedience shouts loudest in a woman during childbirth. And she is strongest when she lets go to the process but endangers herself when she rebels against it. Her mind naturally accepts subordination to the law of her body, because when the baby starts to come, it cannot be stopped. It’s as though her body has been invaded and occupied by another, and she has nothing to do but surrender to it. But when it is born, the foreigner captures her heart and becomes her entire focus. She then lives as two, not as one. The world fills up with child — HER child. And she would die, if necessary, to protect it.

ramA man, on the other hand, cannot duplicate himself except by impregnating a woman. His mind, therefore, is not prone to submit to his body but to hunt for someone who will. And in order to be the first to find her, he must learn to plan and to strengthen his will so that he can execute his plan. He learns to present himself so that he will be more desirable to her than all the other males who are also seeking her. He learns to strategize. He learns to fight off contenders. And like any good hunter, he perfects his aim. He learns to narrow his focus and to stay on target. He doesn’t know this consciously, but his body does. His body needs to procreate as much as it needs to breathe—only the tempo differs. And he is willing to die to achieve his goal.

The limbic system didn’t atrophy when the prefrontal cortex started to bloom. We carry these primitive instincts within us. They are the platform upon which our body and mind are built. Just as we keep everything we learned in elementary school, middle school, and high school, so do we keep all of the evolutionary stages we have gone through over the past several million years. And in the same way that what we learned in those early years of our schooling was “how to learn,” that foundation is more sophisticated than the facts we learned as we went along.

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The lower brain is in many ways far more intelligent than our conscious mind. The cerebellum even has more neurons than the cortex. After all, it runs our body. It regulates the heart. It takes care of our liver. It knows everything about us and how to keep us alive. Just imagine if we had to do all those things consciously!

The body knows far more than we do, and it has a built-in, primary agenda, just like every other life form on this planet. And that primary agenda is PROCREATION. That is what forms the basis of our instinctual self, the one that resides in the lower brain, the one that runs our body. The entire biosphere vibrates with this primary agenda. It’s even more powerful than our fear of danger. How many people are willing to risk their lives for sex?

The background of the procreative intelligence is inescapable. Why? Because if it weren’t the most powerful instinct, the one that absolutely cannot be ignored, no life would have evolved. It would have simply gotten distracted by something more interesting and died off without progeny. Procreation is nature’s life insurance policy. It’s what got us here, and it’s what will keep us here.

But now we have the cortical cap, the higher brain with all of its marvelous functions, including self-awareness. It grew out of the lower brain like cauliflower grows out of its stem. With it, we have learned to reflect on our actions, to ask why this and why that. We can abstract commonalities from an array of seemingly separate objects and events, and with those abstractions, we can surmise nature’s underlying principles, rhythms, and seasons. Hence the modern age.

But the lower brain is still there. It is much older and wiser than we are. It knows how to keep the species running. And even though we think we can outrun it, everywhere we think we get to, we find it already there waiting for us. Smiling. No matter how hard we try, we simply cannot build a civilization that is hermetically sealed from nature. There is always a snake in the Garden.

Humans are binary beings. We have two sexes. It is that way for a reason, and that reason is procreation. If it wasn’t a good mechanism, it would never have evolved as far as it has. And just as childbirth forms the brain and sensibilities of women, so does the procreative urge form the brain and sensibilities of men. We think differently, we feel differently, and we have different reasons for being. This doesn’t mean that one of us is smarter than the other or that one of us is more valuable, existentially speaking. How could that be? That would be like saying that inhaling is more valuable than exhaling, or that the day is more valuable than the night.

What it does mean is that we have fundamentally different ways of looking at the world. And as long as we ignore that fact, we will never be able to communicate with each other. Nor will we be able to fully appreciate the unique gifts we each have. We might be able to venture into the other’s territory from time to time and explore what it’s like to live there, but our body will eventually call us back. We will always be tethered to it, as long as we are alive. The best we can hope for is a symbiosis, a melding of consciousness, to live so completely in tune with the other that we function as one, each one giving the other what the other lacks. And as we do, we find that instead of becoming a unisex, androgynous creature, we become more comfortable in the gender of our sex, because we each have the other’s back. It is then that trust becomes the highest moral virtue.

Now I know that monogamous, heterosexual relationships aren’t necessarily the gold standard in our culture anymore. But while they aren’t considered the ONLY way, they are still the foundation of a viable society. Most people agree that a two-parent family, one man and one woman, are necessary to fulfill the needs of little boys and little girls. This doesn’t mean that gay families can’t be happy and healthy or that communal, extended families aren’t better than the so-called “nuclear” families. It just means that without the biologically determined baseline of the family formed by the need for procreation, no social system can long survive. It is the core pattern for human life—all life, really. It is the “Holy Family.”

So the important thing to remember is that men and women think differently, because the unconscious, biological underpinnings of our psyches have different orientations based on the respective roles that each plays in the reproductive process. That process is hardwired into the oldest parts of the human brain. It is our “operating system, 1.0.” This doesn’t mean that it controls everything that we think or are capable of experiencing. But no matter how high we fly, we will always be pulled back to earth, at least as long as we inhabit this mortal flesh. Our most noble agendas and exalted philosophies will always speak to us in its language, the language of gender and procreation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Understand Your Symbols

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by Michael Maciel

According to Joseph Campbell, proper symbols activate subconscious powers that directly affect our consciousness. We might not be able to articulate what they mean, but we can definitely feel the energies they unleash.

There are two types of symbols (there might be more, but let’s start with these two):

1) pictorial symbols, such as Christ on the Cross or the Blessed Mother with the baby Jesus

2) diagrammatic symbols, such as the circle, triangle, and square

(There is a subclass of diagrammatic symbols used in astrology, but this is more of a shorthand notation that combines basic elements to describe the relationships of powers.)

Pictorial symbols tell stories. Christ on the Cross is the iconic description of Buddha’s proclamation that “all life is suffering.” In the Judeo-Christian interpretation, it is the culmination of the story of Abraham and Isaac, where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son. This story has deep psychological and evolutionary significance. It describes the very nature of sacrifice itself, how it emerged as a result of self-awareness and the knowledge that each of us will someday die, a realization that separates us from the rest of the Animal Kingdom. We are the only animals who can bargain with the future by denying ourselves immediate gains in order to secure long-term benefits. In this way, we sort of invented the future, something no other species seems to have done. (Peterson)

The Mother and Child symbol is profoundly archetypal. More than simply extolling the sanctity of motherhood, this icon posits an orientation towards human life that has led to everything we have come to know of as civilization. Whereas animals are limited to a world of pre-existing conditions, we humans have the ability to see the world as infinite possibility, and we continually live into it. We are not content to merely exist – we must transcend! Everywhere we look, we see what might be, not simply what is. Out of the chaos of the womb of nature, we have called forth our highest ideals – cities, ships, beauty, and adventure. Each new generation enters the world with hope and the expectation of a better life. This is not a philosophy but an orientation – our True North. We subvert it to our very great peril.

Diagrammatic symbols do not tell stories. Instead, they evoke the movement of psychic energies – the powers of mind – the same forces that SPEAK stories into being. They represent the forces of nature as they manifest within the human psyche, not just the Laws of Thermodynamics but the Laws of Creation as well. They are the mechanics of volition, the very proof of sentient life.

The foundational diagrammatic symbols are three in number: the circle, the triangle, and the square. Not only are they the basic building blocks of all other symbols, they describe the nature of reality itself, from the microcosm to the macrocosm. They are visual depictions of universal laws. Let’s briefly touch on each one:

1) the circle: The easiest way to connect with a symbol is on the gut level. The circle reveals itself in the way it makes us feel. Simply standing in the middle of one can make us feel centered, focused, and empowered. Standing under one, such as a rotunda, feels like it draws us upwards into the infinite. The sky itself, bounded by a circular horizon, IS the cosmos, the dome of heaven. When we expand our circle, we feel exaltation. When we condense it, we discover the spiritual nature of Fire. And everywhere we live in the midst of invisible circles – sound waves, heat waves, electromagnetic waves. Circles are the generators of Life.

2) the triangle: It’s easy to feel the energy of a circle when we stand in one or see one above us. But there are few tangible representations of the triangle in the world of nature, except at the microscopic level. The best way to visualize triangularity is to stand with two other people. As sentient beings, we are the agents of creation. We live into the possibility that surrounds us, both physically and psychically. When we stand in a triangle with two other people, we are simultaneously all three stages of the creative act – we are cause, we are medium, and we are effect. We are both creator and created. We are the Holy Family (in its geometric interpretation) – Father, Mother, Child. As such, the triangle symbolizes relationship in its universal creative activity. It is the abstract, invisible pattern through which we live our lives.

3) the square: The circle and the triangle seem wild in their never-ending movements – revolutions, evolutions, and relational flows. But the square feels like what happens when these energies come in for a landing. The mind, having drawn all the lines and connected all of the dots, fixes itself on the outcome and anchors itself to it. The square is the energy of tethering, of stability, and consolidation, without which nothing can advance, either in the world of solidity or the world of ideas. We need a starting point and a destination, a launching pad and a landing field. Nothing can begin unless it has first ended – Alpha and Omega and the Cross of Christ. Stability constitutes the foundation of our lives. We must rally our energies to a fixed platform before we can establish a firm foothold from which we can further expand our base of operations. Our growth is both iterative and cyclical – the upward trajectory of our lives is punctuated by periods of rest and consolidation. Inner and outer structures are constructed layer by layer, piece by piece. And firm foundations provide strong dwellings. This principle is true for individuals, cultures, and civilizations. Violating it will inevitably lead to disaster.

Much more can be said about both kinds of symbols, the pictorial and the diagrammatic. This article is merely a synopsis and an incomplete one at that. You can find more in my book, World Priest, Bringing Heaven to Earth, available through Amazon. Thanks for reading!

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Whose Truth Is True?

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by Michael Maciel

We live in an age of relativism. Once it was discovered that any experience can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways, all beliefs in “universal truths” were dismissed as irrelevant. Context became the sole determinator of meaning. What’s more, any attempt to assert a universal truth became merely a way to dominate others. Truth systems began to be seen as tools of the oppressor. Religion became the “opiate of the masses” designed to make them more controllable. The old value systems were thrown out and people were left to formulate their own. Welcome to the 20th Century.

One of the most misinterpreted quotes in history is Nietzsche’s “God is dead.” This wasn’t a victory cry; it was a warning. He predicted almost fifty years in advance that relativistic thinking would dominate Western philosophy, and he was right. He also predicted that the result of such thinking would result in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. In this, he was also right, because Marxist Ideology (and its offspring, Postmodernism) would decimate the world with two global wars, the Maoist Revolution, and Stalin’s genocidal purge of Soviet Russia. Millions of people—hundreds of millions—died!

Nietzsche’s prediction prompted the poet, Yeats, to proclaim:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

And to Yeats’ question, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” the answer is clear: postmodern, relativistic, “truthless” thinking.

The Postmodernist’s rationale seems to suggest that there are an infinite number of word combinations, therefore none of them can be privileged over any others. But not all combinations have meaning, and of those that do have meaning, not all of them are meaning-ful.

So, when I hear otherwise spiritually intelligent people try to equate various spiritual philosophies in the name of “fairness” or egalitarianism, I have to say something, because I know that they have come under the sway of relativistic, postmodern thinking. And what I have to say is this:

In the science of spiritual development, there are certain rules and methods that have been proven—over vast periods of time—to work. These rules and methods are used in every spiritual discipline, regardless of religion or locale:

Attention
Concentration
Meditation
Contemplation
Realization

These DO NOT vary and they are always taught in the order listed here. They are so fundamental that they can easily apply to almost any other discipline as well, such as archery or music.

During the process of learning these skills, certain experiences will inevitably occur. These, too, are universal and come in a definite order. They are referred to as “initiations.” But they’re not the type of initiations commonly used in fraternities or Masonic Lodges. They are not “rites of passage.”

The initiations I’m talking about are transition points from one stage of consciousness to another.

They are as solid and predictable as the bodily changes we go through—losing our baby teeth, going through puberty, reaching the age of majority, becoming an adult, etc. Just as every human being goes through these stages of development, so does every person on the spiritual path go through a definite series of initiations, known to many as “The Hero’s Journey.”

These transition events can only occur when a person is ready, but the skills listed above hasten the process of development (along with learning to overcome challenges, studying sacred symbols and texts, and developing a sensitivity to the sacred and to the arts).

As an example of what these transitions look like, the first is when a person suddenly feels that the world he is accustomed to living in is somehow false, that there is something “behind” it, that what is perceived by the five senses is but the veneer of a deeper reality. This is the experience that sets people on the spiritual path.

Anyone who has had enough interest to read my description of these things thus far has almost certainly experienced this first initiation. However, it’s not too difficult to find people in your life who have not. Many people are strict materialists and regard this kind of discussion as meaningless.

Other transition events follow. The next is traditionally called “The First Threshold” where the seeker begins to venture into the world beyond the senses. This world “calls” to him. There, he or she will experience phenomena that will attest to the reality of this strange new world. In mystic circles, these phenomena are called the “illumination” and “Self-realization.” They are the direct encounter with the light of life and the underlying oneness of all Creation.

But before the aspirant crosses this threshold, there is a point of resistance—a dweller—which is the mundane part of his consciousness that tries to persuade him not to go any further. In mythology, this dweller is depicted in many forms, but always as a demon of some sort, or a dragon, which must be overcome. It’s a universal archetype. In reality, the dweller is not a being but our own mind that resists losing itself to something greater than itself.

After this comes the Second Threshold. The aspirant has seen the true nature of her being but has not yet integrated it into her personality. Therefore, she feels like two people—a rather schizophrenic condition. There is “me” and then there is the “real me.” Since she still has the worldly patterns of thought within her, she will then enter into a period of purification, a trial by fire whereby the new consciousness will emerge out of the old (the Phoenix motif). But in the meantime, she will suffer greatly. Many who enter this stage will experience a terrible depression called the “dark night of the soul.” It is the great darkness before the dawn that always comes at this point in the process of spiritual awakening.

This process is as old as humanity itself. It has left its footprints in the symbolism and mythologies of the most ancient civilizations. From the Sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid to the caves of the Greek Mystery Schools, the theme of death and rebirth repeats itself, echoing the Mystery of the Sun and its diurnal cycle of death and renewal and its rebirth out of the three days of darkness at the Winter Solstice. Everywhere the cycle is repeated, from a seed dying seed so that new life can emerge from the chaos of the soil to the mysteries of gestation and birth. All undergo the same archetype, beginning with the call to venture into the unknown, having to endure trials and ultimate death, culminating in the victory of resurrection into the light. It has always been and will always be the same path—the Path of Initiation, the Hero’s Journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Wise Approach to Politics

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by Michael Maciel

It’s a challenge these days not to get sucked up into the negativity that dominates the current political news stream, especially for those of us trying to live a spiritual life and to keep our consciousness out of the fray. Nothing drags us down faster than a steady diet of anger and despair.

In looking for a way to cope with this seemingly crazy and getting crazier by the minute world, we tend to withdraw from it and take refuge in a carefully cultivated garden of positive thinking, a place where we can envision nothing but good, a place where we don’t have to judge people, even when they are hellbent on destroying the planet. We are still in the world, but we don’t want to add more negativity, so we carefully avoid taking a stand against anyone or anything. Instead, we concentrate on what we are for, not what we are against.

This is a logical and laudable approach. It’s logical because you can’t purify dirty water by pouring more dirty water into it, and it’s laudable because it takes tenacity and dedication to maintain a healthy frame of mind when everyone else is coming unhinged before our very eyes.

There is, however, a missing piece to this puzzle.

Our job as spiritual servants is akin to what doctors do. We treat people for various ailments and we work for the general good by promoting public health. I remember the story of Dr. John Snow, the physician who in mid-19th Century London set out to discover the cause of cholera. He started by mapping the locations of the homes of those stricken and then looked to see if there were any commonalities. He quickly saw that most of the homes were clustered around the Broad Street water pump. There was no indoor plumbing in those days, so everyone got their water from public wells such as the one on Broad Street, and this particular well was contaminated with human waste.

All doctors have patients, but Snow’s patient was the entire city of London. His discovery led to a more scientific approach to public health, and it began with identifying the source of the problem, which made it clear what had to be done. Subsequently, the wells of London were overhauled and water treatment came into being. Cholera is now a thing of the past, at least in the industrialized world.

As spiritual people, we are loathe to look for faults in others. We have been told not to judge, to keep ourselves blameless, so that the rest of the world will benefit by our energy and our example. Good plan. But if we regard ourselves as spiritual physicians, which is what I’m asking you to consider now, then we have to take a more scientific approach. We have to be able to diagnose a disease before we can treat it properly.

Diagnosis is different from finding blame. And it’s quite possible that this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Because how often do we avoid taking responsibility for the problems in our world by blaming them on others? It’s a common ploy, is it not? It’s much more likely that Jesus was simply saying that we have to look at how we ourselves are contributing to the problem and not just look for others to blame.

In Dr. Snow’s situation, he too was part of the problem, if only by virtue of his ignorance of how cholera was spread. But once he found out, he was able to instigate wholesale changes in the civic infrastructure of a major metropolitan area. He judged the source of the problem, and he judged rightly. He mapped out what was actually happening and then drew his deductions from the data.

How might we do the same? Well, first of all, we must not be reluctant to identify problems. The diseases we deal with are spiritual diseases, things like fear, greed, lust, selfishness, and apathy. We look for telltale signs, such as weakness, lack of energy, fuzzy thinking, and hardness of heart, all of which are symptoms of a troubled soul. And whether we’re dealing with an individual, a family, or an entire nation, our method is the same: diagnosis, treatment, recovery. Just like a physician.

It’s true that all people are God Beings. But it’s also true that many of them have given up. They have become weary of life and distrustful of the world. It has made them cynical and all-too-willing to bring the whole thing to a halt. Maybe it’s because they endured some unimaginable trauma, or maybe they have just become resentful whenever they see others doing better than they are. Who knows. But such people cannot be allowed to destroy everything the rest of us have worked so hard to establish, such as the freedom to speak the truth as we see it, the right to live wherever we want as long as it’s within our means, and the right to worship how we see fit. These are important achievements that we do not want to abandon. We have to bring everything we know to the table and use the tools God gave us for the good of all.

Identifying a problem doesn’t have to give life to it. As long as you remain detached, you can make an accurate diagnosis. Then, you can develop a reasonable course of action. Remember, when Jesus prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, he said, “I pray not that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil.” He wants us here. He wants us to engage. He wants us to BE physicians. Diagnosis is a vital part of our work, though it’s usually called “discernment.” We have to be able to make an accurate assessment of the problems of the world before we can treat them effectively. Our spiritual efforts work the same as any other form of energy: specify where you want the energy to go, focus the energy, apply the energy. It’s the same good ‘ole fashioned occultism that grandma used to use. Let’s not be shy about it.

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Male-Female Symbolism

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by Michael Maciel

In mythic stories, such as the ones we find in the Bible, different characters symbolize different aspects of ourselves. When we read about Jesus, for example, every character in the story represents aspects of our personality, both conscious and unconscious. The relative importance of the characters in the story, the actions they carry out, and the relationships they have with the other characters, all describe our inner strengths and weaknesses, the places where our inner aspects work together well and where they are at war with each other.

tarot-cardsWithin this symbolic method of storytelling, male characters represent the conscious mind, whereas female characters represent the subconscious mind. This is part of the basic framework of Tarot symbology, as we are all well aware of. Nothing new here. What isn’t so obvious is the WHY part—why are male characters used to symbolize the conscious mind, and why are female characters used to symbolize the subconscious mind?

This is a complicated subject, so I’m going to give the outline version, so to speak, for the sake of brevity.

Basic premise: we ALL have both male and female aspects, so this is NOT about literal men and women, except in those cases where people are spiritually asleep and need to live out the drama of the mysteries in their daily lives. They are compelled to do this so they can learn the lesson by acting it out physically. The more we deny the opposite gender within ourselves, the more we are obligated to play out the game in physical terms.

Point of Inquiry: what is women’s role in society and their hierarchical relationship to men. HOW does the symbolic drama play out in real life? Is there anything generic about human psychology that reflects this forced subjugation of women in the social hierarchy, given their role as the subconscious mind in the larger narrative?

OsirisReasonable assumption: this framework, this grand symbolic narrative, describes an aspect of psychology that is SUBTLE, meaning that it’s not obvious, nor is it understood to the extent that we can adequately articulate what we know about it.

Simple version: we know that we are either spiritually awake or asleep. Being spiritually awake implies that we have at least some UNDERSTANDING of our purpose in this life, that there are soul-development issues at work, and that we need to approach our living with these in mind. We have to have some kind of PLAN, a cognitive schematic that points the way towards the realization of our highest potential.

This usually includes a set of IDEALS that not only benefit us as individuals but benefits our society as well. Another way to put it—the Rule of Law, moral and ethical codes, and clearly defined roles in the social hierarchy. This last point—clearly defined roles—is the leading edge of the current evolutionary advance and is, therefore, the most contested.

These ideals come from the subconscious. They are as yet unarticulated “dreams” of a higher, more harmonious life that exists only as a potential, just as a woman’s womb is the possibility for the realization of the potential of the entire human race. Everything that is good and perfect WILL COME FROM HER.

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Understanding Patriarchy involves the following:

  1. our lives must be guided by our connection to the past.
  2. we must be fully awake to our current conditions (conscious mind, science, logic).
  3. everything we say (logos) and do (policy) must support our vision for the future.

Roughly speaking, these are Tradition, Civil Law, and the Arts. Together, they form an overall PLAN, a Grand Narrative—the New Jerusalem, the Body of Christ, the Church.

The vision comes from DREAM, the domain of the subconscious. Dreams take everything we have learned and extract the value out of the “big data” collected by the conscious mind. The subconscious is fundamentally GOOD, meaning that it is always projecting itself into the MOST optimal future for the race. It is not trying to orchestrate its own demise. Nothing in Nature suggests that it is self-destructive.

BUT HERE’S THE RUB: While the subconscious is the domain of the Great Unknown out of which comes both visions and nightmares, it does not function well in the light of day. Conscious intrusion only interferes with its processes. The subconscious, while superb at synthesizing, is not so good at taking the initiative. It gathers—it does not hunt. As Ernest Holmes put it, “It knows HOW to do; it does not know WHAT to do.”

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Artists are the portal in a civilization through which the Dream emerges. But, practically speaking, artists don’t make good leaders. Neither are they good at enforcing public policy or drafting laws. Laws get in the way of the creative process, which is always venturing out into the unknown, into lands that have no laws or have laws that are different. The subconscious (creative expression) MUST NOT BE CONTROLLED. Its hair must be allowed to grow uncut, as Saint Paul put it.

Laws (and the visions they are designed to support, inasmuch as those visions can be articulated) must be continually adapted to changing conditions in the physical world. Laws have the tendency, however, to spiral out of control. They get burdensome if they are allowed to expand too far into their logical ramifications. In Paul’s analysis, “men [the conscious mind] must cut their hair” if they are to be responsible leaders (administrators) of the Church (organized humanity).

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THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE: It is very likely that the next avatar for the human race will be female. From what we know, the Egyptian goddess, Isis, preceded Jesus, and so the next Lord of Earth will probably be a woman.

I have been attending a local church, The Gnostic Sanctuary, that worships the Divine Feminine. It is run by a woman, Rosamonde Miller, and the altar is adorned with Feminine iconography, including the Black Madonna. But the liturgy doesn’t focus so much on the Feminine as it does on RELATIONSHIP. Heading into an era where the Feminine is coming back into the foreground does not mean an abandonment of the male or the sole supremacy of the female. It means that a workable solution to the male/female dyad must now be sought in earnest.

Frank Forest and Lief Meadows have a blue AND a red eternal flame on their altar. When I first saw it, I resisted, thinking it was a violation of the “norm.” But now I see the wisdom in it. And in a silly, overly practical way, I also thought, “These full-sized votives are expensive, so now we’re going to have to buy TWO of them???” But this just shows that we will, in fact, have to double up on our investment in our pursuit of the Sacred Marriage. It can no longer be business as usual. The subconscious is being flooded with light, and like it or not, “that which was hidden will be SHOUTED from the rooftops.” And isn’t that what’s happening now in the domain of male and female relationship?

 

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Symbols—derive the abstract from the concrete

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by Michael Maciel

The circle with a dot in the center is one of the oldest symbols for God. It dates back thousands of years and maybe longer. No one really knows. And since our best understanding of what this symbol means comes from our scientific knowledge that has only been known for about three hundred years, the very fact that the Ancients used it at all is nothing less than extraordinary.

Some interpreters claim that it symbolizes the Sun, which the ancient Egyptians regarded as God. But the Sun has no dot, not any that are visible to the naked eye. Others have said that the Sun represents waking consciousness, but the Eye of Horus does a much better job of depicting this idea. The best interpretations, however, are those that see this symbol an archetypal form, one that is universal and scalable to an almost infinite degree. These interpretations have only become obvious during our current scientific age.

dotWe now know that nearly everything in the universe shares this basic architecture – a central point around which rotates a coherent structure. Galaxies, solar systems, cyclonic storms, vortex streets, cells, atoms – all of these are essentially identical in their appearance. And it’s not as though the form itself is the most real aspect but rather that it reveals the forces that cause the form to show itself. It’s as though whenever anything moves in this universe, it starts to spin.

So the circle with a dot in the center turns out to be more of a snapshot of an activity than a static form. Buried within its image is the knowledge that those things that appear are not what’s real but only footprints left in the sand indicating that something more real has passed this way. After all, which is more real – the form or the energies that shape the form?

socratesThen there’s the ancient maxim “Man, Know Thyself.” This little bit of instruction didn’t spring unbidden out of thin air. It was the answer to more fundamental questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? In other words, what is God? What is the nature of reality? What is human being? The answers to all of these questions were contained within this one symbol. The implication of it was pointed at in yet another saying: As Above, So Below. This was the idea of the scalability of Being. No matter how small or how large the scale, reality is the same. And this remains true for us as human beings, as well. Whether we see ourselves as individuals or as social beings, our lives follow certain patterns, and these patterns are true in the moment, the day, the year, and an entire lifetime. In other words, our lives are cyclical, and the cycles seem to repeat themselves over time.

Now, there’s another interpretation of the symbol of the circle with a dot in the center. This one is more psychological. It has to do with the way we interact with reality. It’s less about what we are and more about how we are being. In this interpretation, we can look at this in terms of consciousness. The point in the middle of the circle is what we know. It’s not just those things, ideas, and experiences of which we are conscious, it’s also what we can articulate. This is the world, both internal and external, that we can name. If we lay out in the sun and our skin gets hot and starts to turn red, we know exactly what’s happening and why it’s happening. We not only understand the experience, we can explain it in terms that anyone can grasp.

But then there are those things that we can all experience but that we have a lot more trouble articulating. Color is one example. When we say the word “blue,” we know what we mean by it, but we can only assume that others are experiencing it the way we are. Art is like this, too. We can look at a painting in the Louvre, for instance, and be deeply moved by it along with untold thousands of other people who have been similarly moved throughout history by the very same painting. But can we say why in such a way that will match what anyone else has to say about it? Not likely. Therefore, the space in between the dot and the circumference of the circle represents that which we know but cannot articulate.

Then there’s the circumference. This is the border between what we know and the unknowable. Outside of the circle, whatever exists is beyond our reach. It is the unknown. We have no way to relate to it. And yet, even though we are separated from it by our inability to conceive of it, this doesn’t mean that we aren’t still affected by it. We can be totally oblivious of a radioactive substance and still suffer its effects. Someone close to us may have plans that we are not yet aware of but that will affect our lives profoundly. So much in life is this way. So much of reality is this way. We are subject to unknown causes whose effects are every bit as real as those we can see.

This symbol of the circle with a dot in the center is a rather complete map of our being. It includes everything that we as conscious beings experience, whether we know it or not. As a symbol, it doesn’t try to explain God as a thing but rather as a be-ing. God, you might say, is what’s happening, not what’s happened. God is the potential for everything that can happen, not a historical figure who created the universe and then left on vacation. We might not know what lies on the outside of our perimeter, but we can sense that it is there. We don’t have to know what the potential is in order to feel in awe of its presence. It might be wonderful; it might be terrible. Who knows? But it’s as real as everything we can lay our hands on, either physically or intellectually.

 

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Oh, Hell…

hell

by Michael Maciel

I think that much of our religious imagery comes from the very deepest parts of our biology.

What is the one thing that we share with all forms of life? Isn’t it survival? That’s as rudimentary as it gets, wouldn’t you say? It’s so deep that even our cells know it.

Living in an advanced, industrialized civilization, it’s easy to forget just how well we have mastered the survival game. We have heat in cold climates, plumbing to stave off diseases, clean water, law and order, education, healthcare…the list goes on and on.

What we don’t have is chaos, not very much of it, at least. Chaos is inimical to survival. The more chaos, the greater the chances that we will die. It stands to reason that some kind of basic order is equivalent to a virtuous (sinless) life.

I like the translation of hell as “Gehenna,” the landfill outside the walls of Jerusalem. Dumps are filled with items that are no longer useful. They no longer contribute to the common good. They are the antithesis of organization, everything piled haphazardly, destined to be burned.

Hell, in other words, is chaos—the lack of order, the lack of organization, sustainability, and viable environment. In every way, chaos undoes life.

As such, hell is more of a principle than a literal place. As a principle, it helps us to organize our lives in ways that support not only our survival but our ability to thrive. It’s a constant warning, not that we will be punished by a dictatorial deity, but that we must take seriously the precarious situation that life is, that we must always be mindful of and appreciate the good that we, as a species, have developed over time. Not that it’s all good, by any means, but it sure beats the hell out of freezing in the dark or living in a jungle without laws or agreed upon societal norms.

Wouldn’t you agree?

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The Ineffable Name of God

tetragrammaton

by Michael Maciel

The Unmanifest (the formless “no-thing”) is enormous untapped energy. The prohibition against giving it a name is equivalent to today’s saying, “Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it!”

Naming the Unmanifest gives it form. In Genesis, God gives Adam the task of naming everything—an allusion to this process of bringing the creation into manifestation. Male figures in sacred texts symbolize the conscious mind, so we have to be careful of which thoughts we allow to slip over into the subconscious.

Our innate potential (the Unmanifest’s expression of Itself within us) is a wide spectrum. What we focus our attention on narrows the spectrum to a single point. As such, it is how we shape our reality and is therefore not a thing to be taken lightly.

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Reassess your understanding of sin as “missing the mark”

cain

by Michael Maciel

As an archery term, “sin” means not hitting your target. This implies that you’re aiming at something. But it also implies that you might be aiming at the wrong thing, that your goals in life are misdirected, or that you aren’t even trying.

So instead of being an indictment of your inability to shoot accurately, sin might be more about not shooting at all. Maybe you’ve given up. Maybe life has been hard and you have grown resentful and cynical. Maybe you have come to believe that there is no higher meaning to life and that nothing you do makes any difference.

Such a mindset is dangerous. It leads to cruelty and wanton destruction. This is what makes sin the source of evil in the world, not just the tendency to make mistakes.

Shakespeare said that there is nothing good or bad but that thinking makes it so. It’s our interpretation of the hardships in life that make them good or evil. Of themselves, hardships are neither. Life is simply difficult. There’s no getting around it. The secret to happiness is being okay with that, not thinking that the universe is out to get you personally.

If you have accepted the fact that you are going to die, then you can structure your life in such a way that maximizes the benefits that life has to offer. But if you are in denial about death, then you’re going to be constantly running away from it, and the likelihood of your life being meaningful diminishes. Because meaning is the product of building something good, whereas running away is the product of fear. And fear is nothing on which to base your life.

So you see, sin is not simply making minor errors as you go about pursuing your goals. It’s more about your overall orientation. Are you for life or have you given up? Have you grown cynical? And as a result, would you rather that the world come to an end because the suffering is just too much? And if that seems extreme to you, you might do well to realize that the most murderous thugs in history had this exact same mindset.

Sin is a mindset. It is the mindset that pits you against everything good in the world. When Cain killed Abel, he did it because he felt that God was being unfair. Abel’s sacrifices found favor with God, whereas Cain’s did not. Are you resentful because all of your “best” efforts fail to give you the life you want? If your resentment grows, it can lead you to become cynical and eventually nihilistic, where life ceases to have any meaning, where life is a cruel joke perpetrated by an uncaring, dictatorial deity or, worse yet, no deity at all. When you see the world through such a dark lens, everything becomes evil, and you get to assume the all-important role of becoming its savior where your sole purpose is to destroy it all.

This is sin.

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Love Isn’t Everything

loves ladder

by Michael Maciel

Well, you know………..there’s another way to look at this. It’s not that love isn’t the most important thing. All the great ones throughout history have said that it is. But I think it’s important to remember that it’s not the only thing.

Granted, love is the one thing without which nothing can have real value. Saint Paul said it best:

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

But notice that love doesn’t supplant these things. Instead, love gives life to knowledge. It doesn’t replace knowledge, it makes knowledge meaningful.

What other word might we use in place of love? What, for instance, gives action meaning? What makes action good? Intention, right? Doesn’t the intention we bring to action determine the long-term effects of our choices? You could almost equate intention with love in this formula, could you not?

You see, love is not a thing in itself. Love is a way in which we conduct our lives. Love isn’t even a feeling. The love that changes the world isn’t the kind of love we feel when we “fall in love.” That’s just a symphony of hormones orchestrated by two people hoping to fulfill each other’s highest dreams. And it’s great! But that kind of love usually doesn’t last. It’s not the kind of love that sustains the world. The kind of love that keeps the planet turning is more like intention. And let’s face it, the best relationships are those dedicated to a healthy intention, not the ones that are forever trying to recapture a special moment. Special moments fade, but true intentions only grow stronger with time.

To paraphrase one of Einstein’s famous sayings:

Knowledge without love is lame; love without knowledge is blind.

So when you sing the praises of love, know that love finds its greatest expression in the activities of our lives. Love is fulfilled in the way we live in the world. It in-forms what we do. Our love is only great when we let it fill great deeds. Without action, love cannot grow. It cannot move in the world. It is lame. Therefore, it’s every bit as important to tend to our thoughts as it is to mind our feelings. The two cannot be torn asunder. The Sacred Marriage isn’t all love; it is also intention. And intention requires careful thought.

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