Reflections on B.O.T.A.

Recently, we had a Narthex Field Trip where we went to a B.O.T.A. meeting (Builder’s of the Adytum) and it was an interesting and edifying experience. One thing in particular stuck with me and I wanted to comment on it here.

I will not quote it properly, but in essence, the coordinator for the meeting said that they welcome new people of all types and greatly value their input. They clarified that they do not have some special knowledge that they are hording but rather everyone arrives already containing all the knowledge they ever need within. The techniques of Paul Foster Case and Anne Davies are there to draw this out and refine it, not replace it.

Indeed, I personally noticed this come out in the meeting. For those who don’t know, Case’s system draws heavily upon Tarot and its symbolism as the primary teaching tool. There were people in attendance that were Golden Dawn Adepts and there were people who had their fortune read one time and just arrived through serendipity. The visitors who knew a lot of the “standard” symbolism of Tarot, the elements, and astrological correspondence tended to follow these common tropes together. While their input was always unique to them, it definately contained a number of shared presuppositions. In contrast, the “newbies” had a perspective that was in a sense “cleaner” or more “pure.” Since they did not have a memorized correspondence table rattling around in the back of their brains, their input was frank and childlike. Believe me, I mean that in a very positive way. Untainted by various versions of “the right answer” they just gave their own answers and they guided the discussion in immensely edifying ways. That isn’t to say that their answers were perfect. There is no “right” answer after all, and theirs were certainly lacking in nuance. That said, they filled an important gap that the answers from the “old guard” seemed to leave behind.

This is the most important thing I took away from the meeting from the perspective of a Gnostic Christian Church. We don’t have some secret that we are holding back. There isn’t some amazing doctrine that only the fully realized Adepti among us can fathom. We are little worlds, microcosms of the universe in toto, and we already have so much within us. We are Divine Sparks. We are the Sacred Flame. We don’t need membership in some special club to access that, nor is what we already hold within ourselves somehow inferior to the gurus and learned masters. That isn’t to say that time and effort, practice and study don’t yield significant results. But rather, the innocent perspective of new eyes should never be discounted. We should seek to always make room keep such perspectives near to our hearts and minds.

It is this final ambition that I feel that a Gnostic Christian Church is particularly good at. There is always a new person on the block. There is a field white for the harvest. By engaging our newer members as equals we help stave off the calcification caused by pat answers and rote responses.

 

God Bless You All,

Bro. Joe

March 11th – Cup of Joe – Montesegur Day

We will be meeting for our monthly Cup of Joe at the Dunkin Donuts in Calhoun, GA at 6:00p. For March, the discussion will be on the Remembrance of the Cathar Martyrs (Montesegur Day), a discussion of Lent and the Easter season, and spiritual practices that we can incorporate that involve the concept of sacrifice.

February 28th – Field Trip – Soto Zen Center

On February 28th at 7:30pm, we will be meeting at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center located at  1167 Zonolite Pl NE, Atlanta, GA 30306. This is near the Druid Hills community and the roads in the area are a bit convoluted so please give yourself extra time to arrive. Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing.

Wednesday night meetings like these are set aside for a beginner’s class in Zen style meditation. Zen is a very portable practice and fits in well with any form of contemplative spiritual lifestyle. This is an excellent introduction to meditation for those who are new to the practice.

Conclave 2018 Registration

Registration for Conclave 2018 has opened!

All the details are available on the Conclave 2018 tab on the main church page at johannite.org as well as an events schedule and how to register.

As always, I encourage everyone to attend, especially clergy and seminarians, as this is a wonderful learning experience, a great opportunity to meet clergy from far flung areas, and a chance to enjoy the sacraments and rituals of the church for those of us who live far away from a parish.

Bro. Joe

February 11th – Cup of Joe – Saint Valentinus

The first meeting of every month will be our Cup of Joe coffee shop meet ups.

This month we will be honoring the Gnostic Saint Valentinus and his contributions to the canon of Gnostic Scripture: The Gospel of Truth, The Gospel of Philip, and The Treatise on the Resurrection.

Venue: Dunkin Donuts in Calhoun, GA

Time: 6pm-8:30 pm

January 28th – Field Trip – BOTA in Atlanta

Our first “Field Trip” will be to the Phoenix and Dragon Bookstore in Atlanta, GA on January 28th at 12:30pm. This will be a regular meeting of The Builders of the Adytum, an esoteric study group established upon the work of the late Paul Foster Case, a giant in the study of Tarot and the Western Mystery Tradition. The meeting proper begins at 12:30pm but please arrive early to orient yourself and meet up with other members of the Narthex.

After the meeting we will do a little shopping and then meet at a local restaurant to discuss the Builders of the Adytum and how their Work can inform our own.

January 14th – Cup of Joe – Gospel of Thomas

“Cup of Joe” is the name of a Narthex meeting at a coffee shop to discuss the various sacred texts of our tradition over a cup of coffee and lead by Brother Joe Revels. These will be very informal meetings where anyone can show up, join in, and stay for as long or as little as you like. The books to be discussed will be mentioned ahead of time but you do not have to do the reading ahead of time as we will be reading the texts at the meeting (although familiarity with the source text is suggested).

Our first Cup of Joe meeting in 2018 will be held at the Dunkin Donuts in Calhoun, GA on January 14th starting at 6pm. Unless otherwise noted, most Cup of Joe meetings will be held at this venue and at this time.  Our topics will include the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip, both available for free from gnosis.org.

We hope to see you there!

The Yazidis and Me

In recent months we have heard a number of disastrous reports of the Yazidi people being specifically targeted by members of ISIL for rape, torture, enslavement, and murder. The terrorists seem to take special glee in butchering Yazidi men and forcing Yazidi girls (some as young as six) into sexual slavery. In part, I believe this is because the Yazidi people have long been a persecuted minority in the Muslim dominate countries and called “Devil Worshipers.”

The Yazidi are a small community nestled amongst the Kurdish communities in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey that have religious beliefs that predate Islam by hundreds, possibly even thousands of years. As is any living religious system, the details and nuance of this belief system are far too vast to handle here with even the most cursory treatment but I will say that many of their beliefs appear to be strangely Gnostic.

The Yazidis themselves would balk at such a categorization, I’m sure, and even modern scholarship would disagree but I can’t help but think about Classical Gnosticism when I hear of their worship of “The Peacock Angel.” They seem to have a concept of a “god above God” and on first blush worship al-Shaitan, the Satan of the Muslim world.  This parallels greatly to the Gnostic idea of the Demiurge being an inferior world creator and there being a greater Being behind him. This also parallels the labeling of Gnostics as “Satan Worshipers” because some Gnostic systems glorify beings that are traditionally portrayed as pure evil, such as the Serpent in the Garden.

While ISIL is not in any way representative of actual Muslim beliefs, most of the members have grown up in a Muslim world and from childhood have been inculcated with doctrines that include the Divine Inspiration and lifelong focus on the Koran and its teachings. The Yazidis have often offended even the religious moderates with their divergent beliefs and practices and so the normal mercy shown by a sensible and devout Muslim even for so called “Devil Worshipers” will be utterly compromised by a terrorist zealot that appeals to the most deranged interpretations of Scripture. In short, whatever basic decency that society has taught these villains is regularly thrown out in the pursuit of their political aims but even more so among the Yazidi in whom even the most compassionate Muslim could find cause for great disagreement.

The human tragedy of all this is painful for me to bear, sheltered and safe, thousands of miles away, how much more so is this agony endured by these victims? In no way do I wish to appropriate this sorrow but I do feel a certain kinship to it, distant as it may be. As Gnostics, we are the radical group nestled amongst the Evangelicals and the Catholics and all the others that make up the Christian majority of our home. While it would be ignorant to the point of evil to say that we have it anywhere near as bad as the Yazidi people, I do believe we share the kinship of having to be a bit more circumspect in our religious discussions in the public forum. We can and do face minor aggression and are targeted for social attacks or shaming. In the same way the “Muslims” (and I use the word very loosely) of ISIL feel extra free in targeting the Yazidis, I know that many of my Christian brethren feel extra free in showing the poorest parts of their character to the oddball religious minority we are a part of.

It’s strange how bigotry works. As a lifelong resident of the South, racial tension has been part and parcel of my life here and in that context, “half-breeds,” those who have both a white and a black parent, are hated by the lunatic supremacists even more than a full-blooded black African. It is somehow more vile to them that you are somehow corrupting the white blood with black blood rather than just stay a seperate, “inferior” black. I bring this up because this same schema plays out among Christian Gnostics who are seen as worse than actual atheists or possibly even cult members because we “corrupt” Christianity and deceive ourselves in our take on the Christian faith. We are the “half-breeds” of Christianity and have a large target on our back.

I’m very glad to have the freedoms that I have and any micro-aggressions I receive from the angry or ignorant are a far cry from rape, torture, and forced servitude. But with the Yazidi in mind, we should always work to insure the religious freedom of all people and despite being under the Christian banner, we should always take care to never let the assumption of Christian faith and values blunt our ability to relate to marginalized groups, even if they were our personal enemies. We have to love our enemy, after all; a very difficult command indeed.

Let us pray that the Yazidi people find peace and freedom from their torment and let us do all we can to protect the religious minorities in our country from persecution even if that persecution is often more annoying than lethal.

 

Hold up the Light of Christ in All Things,

Bro. Joe

Looking Ahead to 2018

After a rather chaotic start that consisted of trying a variety of meeting types, I hope to settle into a relatively predictable pattern in the new year. The largest change is going to be an increase in meeting times from once a month to twice a month.

The first meeting of every month will focus on Theory. It will usually be a coffee shop style meeting to discuss the Johannite church, specific theological topics or study Scripture, whether Gnostic, Canonical, Hermetic, or otherwise. The other meeting will be of a “rotating” type focusing on Practice. This will include Logos Services, Agape Meals, Nature Hikes, Esoteric Workshops, Meditation Seminars, and whatever else we can dig up to do.

As far as our studies in the coming year, we are going to start with the Gospel of Thomas, reading through it together as a group, and discussing any insights gained. We will supplement this with working through the new Johannite school of instruction as the various lessons come available. This school will cover basics of what makes the Apostolic Johannite Church different from other churches and our unique approach to the Great Mystery. Other study items on the table include the Gospel of Philip and Valentinian Gnosticism as well as a discussion on Heresy. This will be expanded as the year goes on.

Finally, we have a big blowout planned for the feast day of our patron saint, St. John the Baptist. This falls at the end of June and will be one part philosophical discussion and one part block party. More details to come.

I’ll be posting the schedule for the rest of the Winter months soon.

God bless you all and seek the Light in all things.

Bro. Joe

 

Feast of St. John the Beloved Disciple (Updated)

The Narthex Leader will be hosting an Agape Meal in his home in honor of the feast day of St. John the Beloved Disciple. The meal will be at Brother Joe’s house on December 30th, starting at 7pm.  Given the small and private venue, it is important for guests to communicate directly with Brother Joe ahead of time if they are planning to attend. This can be done via the St. John’s Facebook group or via email at baptist@johannite.org.

For those who have never experienced an Agape Meal, it is a lovely ritual experience. It is based upon some of the earliest traditions of the church that nevertheless fell out of common use over a thousand years ago. The AJC proudly resurrected this practice and it is a real treat. It exists in this pleasant space somewhere between formal and casual, religious and social, ritualistic and hedonistic.

There will be no formal dress code for this event.