21 December, 2012

A Solstice Hymn

To Helios
Incense: Pounded Frankincense and Heliotrope.

Hail and harken O glorious
   Sun, Lord of noeric fire
and image of Eternity.
   Hail, great king who does inspire
us towards truth and wisdom, you
    who are the creative mind
of the cosmos, and leader of
   celestial gods entwined.

Harken intellect who thinks
   himself into being. Great
lord who sews all souls into their
   proper place. You who does sate
celestial spheres and mortal
   reason alike. Unto whom
the divine chariot belongs
   and the fates of nature bloom.

Illuminating Sun, grant to
   us eternal noetic
life, the blessings of your sacred
   Forms, and the energetic
noesis of your essence. Let
   us regain our wings of light
that we may ascend once more to
   the heavens by your holy rite.

Protector of truth and wisdom,
   nourisher of life, all-seeing
god, hear this lyric song in your
   praise, lift us to your Being.
Savior of souls we sing to you:
   purify us, illume our
souls, lift us to your holy realm,
   and bloom our souls’ bright flower.

16 December, 2012

A Hymn to Hermes

To Hermes
Incense: Frankincense

Harken, messenger of gods and
   leader of souls and songs.
Harken, you strong son of Zeus, to
   whom the gold staff belongs.

Wing-booted son of Maia, you
   harmonizer of tones.
Harken, close friend of Apollon,
   oh thrower of the stones.

Harken, Lord of the second sphere
   moving at equal pace,
Who through instantaneous thought,
   word and deed both take place.

Unequaled in heavenly wit,
   your silver tongue does charm
all foes of noeric ascent
   so fools will suffer harm.

You throw the far-seeing pebbles
   so the Moirai cannot
hold you to the question of what
   your father does allot.

Great Zeus, making you messenger,
   sends you to Aidês deep
abode. With kerykeion you
   awaken those who sleep.

So you, fleetest of gods, beloved
   by mortals and divine,
Make clean my soul and my thoughts that
   Gnosis may come to shine.

Lift my words, oh sweet, youthful Lord,
   that they be in accord
with the Mind of your father and
   place me within your ward.

02 September, 2012

Aion and Neoplatonic Psychology, Part II

In the last post we talked a little about the concept of Eternity in Iamblichus.1 In this post we will look at the relationship between the soul and moments of Eternity.

As we talked about in the previous post, the nature of the human soul is divided; it inclines simultaneously towards the divine realm and the realm of generation, belonging in both at once. The divided essence of the human soul is both a problem and not a problem. It is a problem in that it leads to a disassociation of one part or power of the soul with the other. This, in turn, limits, and potentially perverts, the activity of the soul while incarnate. It is not a problem in that the division cannot, and is not meant to be, fixed. To be a mean between the divine realm and the realm of generation is part of the human soul's very essence and nature. Changing this would make the soul no longer human. In the ontological hierarchy of Neoplatonism, this is impossible: a thing is always that which it is, even if it doesn't always remember what its nature.

It is this forgetting of the nature of the human soul, as described in the allegory of the Chariot in Plato's Phaedrus (246a - 254e), that is the real problem. Because the human soul, almost uniquely of all divine beings, forgets itself, looses track of it's essence as it were, a solution to this problem, not that of a divided essence, is necessary  From the perspective of Iamblichus and the later Neoplatonists, the solution to this problem is the engagement of philosophy and theurgy. But what we am interested in here is the underlying process that these practices set in motion, and that is what will lead to the three moments of Aionic time.

Briefly, the three Aionic moments are the "unparticipated," the "participated" and the "in participation." Sets of three are very common in Platonism, and especially in Neoplatonism. For instance, Iamblichus said there were three kinds of human souls, those who entered generation for the sake of saving other souls, those that are dragged into generation by their daimons for punishment and purification, and a mean that is somewhat purified but still is forced into generation rather than going entirely on their own. Of these three, is it only the first, represented by the theurgic sage, that has mastery over all three moments of its soul. The theurgic sage knows him or herself as they really are in the unparticipated moment of their soul. The rest of us are not so fortunate.

In a manner of speaking, we may say that our own soul exists to us through the three moments. This is because, having forgotten ourselves, our soul is, in effect, an external being. This is why we can speak of the three moments in relation to our own soul. For the theurgic sage this is irrelevant, the soul and incarnated personality are one,2 the soul does not appear external to the sage and the idea of participating in one's own soul is effectively as ridiculous to the sage as it seems like it should be. But for those of us who are not one with our souls, things seem very different. Being divided, and unaware of our other half, we, in effect, must participate in our own souls.

At best, however, many people, perhaps the majority of people, do not participate in their souls at all but are instead completely ignorant of them. Know thyself! However, we can, through a philosophical life, and theurgic practice, change this. Through this kind of practice we can begin to know our souls, and this is how we can move from ignorance of our own true natures to begin to participate in our own souls.

The beginning of this is to know our souls at the level of "in participation." At this moment the soul begins to manifest itself through us. There are degrees to us, dependent upon how much we have assimilated ourselves to what we really our, i.e. our soul. At this moment, however, our knowledge of our soul comes through its activity as we experience it in the world. It is a kind of second-hand knowledge, requiring discursive reasoning to understand, which is to say we there is no gnosis of the soul in this moment.

The second moment is that of the participated soul. Here we begin to experience our souls not as they are in and of themselves but as they may be known by ontologically posterior entities. This moment is not an experience of the soul qua the soul. Instead it is as though we have come to know the soul as we may come to know other people. We have a relationship with the soul, and knowledge of the soul, that is more than experiencing its activity in the world. But just as any knowledge we have of another person is always limited and distorted, so too is our knowledge of our souls at this moment. We have an image of the soul, but not the soul itself.

The final moment is that of the unparticipated soul. At this moment we have assimilated ourselves to our true natures to such an extent that real gnosis of the soul occurs. Gnosis is not discursive reasoning; one does not need to think and put together information. Gnosis is the intuitive knowledge of the subject. The theurgic sage at the unparticipated moment of their soul is their soul. At this point the language of division, of speaking of the sage and the soul, is for our convenience. The sage has no need of it for the sage is the fullness of their soul and from this perspective the other moments collapse upon themselves and are gone. The second and third moment are for ontologically prior entities, beings that must participate in a superior being for what it lacks. The theurgic sage, as rare as they are, lacks nothing of their own soul.

1] The corollary of Transcendent Time found in the psychic realm, which orders mundane time in the realm of generation, is quite interesting, and worth exploring, but will not be an important part of this post.

2] Maybe. It is possible that the soul forgets itself to a certain extent with each incarnation. However, due to the purity of the soul, and guidance from its daimon, the soul of a theurgic sage may easily remember itself during each incarnation.

01 September, 2012

Aion and Neoplatonic Psychology Pt I.

The later Neoplatonists began discussing time in a fairly unique and important way. In his commentary on Plato's Timaeus, Iamblichus connects the intellectual triad of Being, Life, and Mind with three "moments" connected to Aion, Eternity, the pre-essential Demiurgos. These moments have nothing to do with temporal time as Aristotle understands it in the Physics, i.e. "movement in respect of the before and after: (Physics, IV.11s), or movement in time. While this may hold true for the realm of generation, neither the noetic/noeric (intelligible/intellective) nor psychic (soul) levels of reality function this way. Common time, which relies on both physical space and movement, is not at all present above the physical realm.

The three moments of the noetic realm deals not with chronological order, but ontological order. For example, the noetic realm, or a being of the noetic realm, such as one of the gods, exists in and of itself. This is the entity's "unparticipated" aspect. The second moment is the "participated" aspect, or how an entity is engaged in by an ontologically posterior entity. In other words, how we might encounter and interact with a god or archangel. Finally, there is the aspect that is "in participation." This is how a ontologically prior reality or entity is manifested in or through an ontologically inferior entity. That is to say, this is a god, angel, daimon, etc. as we participate in it and bring it through into the world. Importantly, it appears that these three moments can be extended, after a fashion, to the realm of the One or God and to the psychic realm.

The idea of participation is very important. Either an entity, such as a human soul, has some quality in full or it lacks it. A quality in full is completely known and understood. One does not have to think about this quality or element of knowledge, it is simply there. To the degree that a quality is lacking, an entity must participate in a superior being that embodies that quality. For instance, according to the later Neoplatonists, the human soul comes, ultimately, from the Whole Soul, which is below the level of the Divine Mind. This means human souls do not have the divine mind in full and must instead participate in it.

So, what does this have to do with psychology? You may recall the famous inscription over the entrance to the Oracle at Delphi: Know Thyself. The seemingly simple command is deceptive in its simplicity. For a god or angel this is a simple matter, for the essence of a god or angle is single. However, according to the later Neoplatonists, this is not true of humanity for we alone of all the entities in the great Chain of Being, have a dual essence: one inclining towards our divine nature, one inclining towards generation. This division, which leads us to incarnation over and over again, makes knowing ourselves extraordinarily difficult.

In part II, we will look at how the three moments of Aion are related to this divine command.

20 June, 2012

Tikkun Olam

Recently, a brief discussion of tikkun olam occurred on an online Gnostic group that I frequently read but rarely reply to. As I was not part of the original conversation I refrained from discussing specific questions that were addressed to someone else. That's only polite, right? I do have some thoughts on the subject however, and as I haven't blathered on about kabbalah for a while it might be time for a change of topic.

Tikkun olam is usually translated as the World of Rectification. Olam is an interested word. It certainly can mean world, but can also mean eternity and may be definitionally, though not etymologically, related to the Greek word "kosmos" in its Neoplatonic sense. Tikkun means rectification, which is to say to restore something to its proper condition. To fix it so it was the way it used to be.

The idea pre-dates kabbalah and is directly related to Jewish messianic thought. While pre-kabbalah in nature, it is still a part of kabbalistic tradition, found in the Zohar and heavily developed by both R. Moshe Cordovero (the Ramak) and R. Titzchak Luria (the Ari) and has so become an exceedingly important element of kabbalistic thought and practice.

Generally speaking, we may talk about tikkun olam as a goal and tikkun a the process for achieving that goal. But what is tikkun olam, the rectified world? That is a difficult question to answer, and Jewish thought varies, typically along two lines, either physical or spiritual, or, of course, both. In either case, tikkun olam might be thought of as an equivalent to the Christian idea(s) of the Kingdom of Heaven/God as well as the kabbalistic idea of the World to Come.

So, some kabbalistic background: The Zohar introduces an idea, a myth, about the creation of the world (olam) through a process involving too much Gevurah. The problem isn't that creation occurred through Gevurah, almost all creation in the Zohar comes through the Gevuric process. The problem was the amount of Gevurah involved. The great and terrible force of Pachad shattered the vessels made to contain the divine light and everything below a certain level fell, resulting in the development of the physical realm, which wasn't necessarily supposed to happen. (This is a difficult issue in and of itself. God, being perfect and all knowing, would have known this would be the result of the action, so presumably the physical realm was intended, but it could not, should not, have been part of the process of emanation, it had to be created instead).

Tikkun is the process of picking up the shattered pieces, the kellipot or shells, and putting their contents, bits of divine light, back where they belong. In the Zohar the kellipot are demonic beings, or even beings at all, but appear as coverings for the bits of divine light in the physical and sub-physical realms, distorting the perfect light in a way not dissimilar to the later Neoplatonic idea of hyle and its affect on the vehicle of the soul.

The personified evil forces in Zoharic thought are not described or called kellipot but are instead the forces of the "Left-Hand Side," Samael and the Evil Inclination and their ilk. Even they are not evil in the classical, opposite of good, way. When properly directed the Evil Inclination is the source of artistic creativity and the drive towards procreation and Samael punctures the over-inflated egos of the faux-righteous. In kabbalistic thought evil is as complex and necessary as good. It is only when evil, or good for that matter, is improperly directed that problems occur. (Compare this with Pseudo-Dionysius' writings on the subject of Evil, which are derived from Proclus and Plotinus).

So, how do we go about practicing tikkun, the ultimate form of kabbalistic theurgy? That is, of course, complicated. One method is largely mundane: be a good person and do good things. An orthodox Jewish conception of this is to follow the commandants of Torah. Kabbalistically, the answer is essentially the same, except the mitzvot, commandants, are understood to have not only earthly ramifications, but entirely metaphysical ones as well, ones that affect not only soul, something found in less mystical interpretations of Rabbinic law, but also the entire spiritual structure of creation.

Beyond this, Jewish mysticism has a long-standing form of meditation known as hitbodedut (see, for example,, see especially the section on hitbodedut and tikkun!), which appears to have its roots in merkavah mysticism, but was also influenced by Sufism. Hitbodedut involves the mental, and presumably spiritual, manipulation of the letters of the Hebrew alefbet. The alefbet is considered to not simply represent, but to spiritually BE the divine forces God used to create. By manipulating the letters, reality can also be altered. Hitbodedut is a theurgic process, perhaps similar to the Neoplatonist Iamblichus' idea of hieratic prayer, which involves the use of "nonsense" sounds that have meaning not to us but to the gods.

I'm not really going anywhere with this, mostly thinking aloud. That being said, the ideological connections between Neoplatonic theurgy and kabbalistic tikkun should be clear. Both are an engagement with the spiritual realm for the purpose of moving the physical realm towards its divine purpose. In doing this not only is the physical realm rectified to the divine plan (or whatever), but so is the individual soul, which is, after all, a microcosm of the macrocosm.

As I am involved in the development of an ecumenical, Neoplatonic gathering (Ekkelsia) that, amongst other things, will focus on a kind of liturgical theurgy, there might be more to say on the subject. But that will have to wait.

30 January, 2012

On the Mystical Expeirence

Iamblichus, in his discussion of theurgy in De Mysteriis, talks about three different kinds of theurgic practice, each fitting for different kinds of people. The first level is the physical theurgy, or theurgic rituals using physical symbols for an anagogic purpose. The third level is non-physical theurgy, the theuryg of silence, that uses nothing physical as its purpose to contact the hypercosmic gods or divine thoughts. There is, of course, a median, one that combines, in varying ways, material and non-material theurgy and works as a transition from the lowest level to the highest. There is, I think, a direct connection between these modes of theurgic praxis and mysticism.

Typically, when one thinks of a "mystical experience," we think of the epiphanal moment. The blinding flash of light that changes everything. A review of the lives of various mystics demonstrates that such things do happen, but that they are also not what defines their lives or experiences as mystics. I suggest that, much as there are three modes of theurgic practice, there are three modes of mystical experience. Further, just as each mode has its proper time and place, so do the varieties of mystical experience. Finally, I suggest that each mode/experience is of equal importance within the context they occur.

One of the difficulties of discussing mystical experiences is the language which we use. English, for example, is an excellent quantitative language. It is somewhat horrific when it comes to the qualitative. The use of the word "experience" is an example. Part of what I will discuss as a "mystical experience" will bare almost no relation to what is commonly understood by an "experience." It is simply the only word I have to use.

The first kind of mystical experience correlates well to material theurgy. We might even call it "material mysticism," but that sounds less than poetic, so how about everyday mysticism? Or, if we want to engage a little more in a mystical style of language, "mundane mysticism," which is nicely contradictory. In De Mysteriis, Iamblichus discusses what are called symbolon (symbols), sunthemata (tokens or signatures), and a host of other things. These signatures are imprinted directly into physical reality by the gods and Demiurgos so that we may use them to go back to the gods and, ultimately, the One. The tokens are the means through which theurgy work because the tokens are objective divine symbols, not subjective human symbols. And they are everywhere and we can learn to see them and understand them for what they are. Through this way of thinking about the cosmos we can bring ourselves closer to the purposes of creation and the forces that are behind it, which is, ultimately, God. It is the beginning of the theurgy and demiurgy. But it is physical and so, though based on non-physical, divine and objective reality, subject to our subjective experiences and discursive reasoning. So, mundane mysticism is both objective and subjective, just as material theurgy is, as it a human performance of divine rites.

What is most interesting about mundane mysticism is that, first, it is learnable. We can learn to see the divine signatures and engage in them as diving signatures, not simply natural or scriptural phenomena. Second, an ephiphanal experience is not necessary to do this. Finally, reading the autobiographies of mystics suggests they spend most of their time in this objective/subjective mode. This mode is spiral in form. It is circular in that the mundane mystical experience informs the everyday life of the mystic, but is also informed by that everyday life. They are dependent upon one another. But this mode is not simply circular. The continued mundane mystical experience moves our interpretation and lives not so much forward as upward, closer to the divine. Our interpretations refine the experience and the experience enriches the interpretation and the spirit is moved.

The third mode (I'll keep to traditional Iamblichean writing style here and discuss the extremes before the median) is more difficult. It does not consist of an experience, per se, because experiences require bodies and minds and thoughts and this mode goes beyond that. It is henosis, union with the divine. The divine, however, at least within Neoplatonism, and within classical Gnosticism, exists beyond the level of Nous, Intellect (please insert here a lengthy discussion on the intelligible triad of Being/Life/Intellect common to Neoplatonism and at least Sethian Gnosticism that is otherwise off topic). By Nous I mean the divine mind or intellect, which is the lowest part of the mental world. Above it are the Platonic forms, the gods (or Aeons in Gnostic terminology), the pre-essential Demiurgos (in the Neoplatonic sense) and then the Good/One (i.e., God).

Henosis is a hyper-intellectual "experience." Yes, there's that word, "experience." Henosis isn't experience, per se, as it exists beyond the thing we usually mean when we talk about having those experiences. Henosis occurs beyond the soul (which is a product of Nous) and beyond even the divine intellect, occurring at the level of divine ideas . . . which is a little strange. How do ideas exist prior to the mind? Plato held that the contents of the mind pre-exist the thinking of them: our minds are not blank slates and learning is in fact remembering (this took me some time to understand, as Plato says the second part but doesn't really directly say the first). This level of the noetic realm reflects that ideology. The divine thoughts, the gods or Aeons, exist before the mind that experiences them. When henosis occurs it does so outside of time and space and material reality and, ultimately, we, the subjective human creature, may be entirely unaware of it occurring.*

The second kind of mystical experience is perhaps closer to what we generally think of when we hear the word "mysticism." This is the ecstatic moment, the ephiphany, the ah ha! But remember, this is a median mode. This is what we might call theosis, becoming god-like. Neoplatonically, we might say this level corresponds to a kind of union with the material gods, symbolized by the seven classical planets, but existing far beyond them. It can even include the soul's union with its source, Nous and a glimpsing of the the noetic realm or pleroma. It is a combination of gnosis on the one hand, and an dealing with that gnosis in the phsycial realm on the other. Gnosis might be liked to a complete, intuitive knowing. Gnosis, like henosis has its origins beyond the intellect. It does not require thought or discursive reasoning. It is simply knowing. But because it is experiential, because the conscious human being in a material body can have gnosis, maybe we should think of gnosis as a byproduct of henosis or its experiential component that falls to the level of Intellect, if not intellect.

But gnosis must be put into context. By "must" I mean we, as discursive creatures, do this, do it automatically and without necessarily realizing we are doing so (which, admittedly, is a poor use of one's discursive ability, a give from the Demiurgos, but that's a different post). We employ our moments of gnosis in practical and material ways. Our life experiences put help us put it in context and so make it "useful." When we read the writings of a mystic, even something like the difficult poetry of Rumi, this is what we're reading. It is an attempt to keep the gnosis as gnosis-like as possible while simultaneously attempting to come to terms with that gnosis in a way that makes sense. It is an attempt to understand the Universal in the mode of the particular.

Though the highest* form of mystical experience or mode of theurgy is the rarest, in some ways the median level is the most difficult. The highest mode is utterly ineffable. Not only is there no need to discuss it, there is no way to discuss it. But the median mode is with us, it is extreme, ecstatic and not only can be dealt with, it must be. This experience changes our lives even while being informed by our lives. By placing it in the genre of the particular the universal becomes understandable. But how the Universal comes to be understood is at least somewhat dependent upon who we are, where we live, how we grew up, i.e. our personal background. In order to mitigate this some mystical schools develop teachings to make sure everything moves in, what is for them, the right direction. Sufism created the doctrine of makamat, "spiritual stations," for this reason.

The key to surviving this, in my own humble estimation, is recourse to mundane mysticism, the most basic form of mystical endeavor, and so the foundation of an overall mystical praxis. And this is precisely what mystics in the past appear to have done.

*I fully understand that I am presenting mysticism and mystical modes in a very particular, largely Western, chronology, suggesting an ontological superiority of henosis over gnosis over mundane mysticism. I also fully understand that this reflect my personal experiences and Western, Neoplatonic and Kabbalistic background and is not meant to reflect a Truth or a Zaehnerian approach to mysticism.

27 January, 2012

The Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition Conference 2012 - Call for Abstracts

The Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition Conference 2012

July 14-15, Milwaukee, WI

Call for Abstracts:

Since 2001, the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition (JWMT) has worked to publish diverse perspectives on the occultisms, magical practices, mysticisms and esotericisms commonly known as the “Western Mystery Tradition.” The JWMT is expanding the work of the web journal through its first conference.

The JWMT conference is a two-day event open to scholars, students, practitioners, and the public. The keynote speaker is the Journal’s founder and publisher, Dr. Jeffrey S. Kupperman.

The study of western esoteric practices has risen greatly over the last decade, focusing on Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Modern magical practices and beliefs, outside of the realm of modern Paganisms and the New Age, have received little attention. Further, practitioners have had little opportunity to present their work, either as papers or in the form of ritual practice, outside of the internet or small groups. The focus of this conference is the movement of contemporary western esotericisms, loosely construed as the “western mysteries,” and their transition from the 20th to the 21st century. The Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition Conference 2012 is seeking abstracts for presentations, panels and practices centered on this broad subject.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:
Esoteric traditions such as Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Martinism and chivalric organizations,

Ritual magical practices from organizations such as the Golden Dawn and the Aurum Solis and modern initiatory Paganisms,

Esotericisms from earlier periods, such as alchemy, Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, the magical work of John Dee or the medieval grimoire traditions, and their re-emergence and relevancy to modern praxes,

Theoretical, paedogogical, and methodological approaches to the study of the western mysteries,

The relation of the esotericisms to orthodox and mainstream practices and society at large.
We welcome presentations, panels and practices focusing on methodological and theoretical issues in relation to the contemporary study and practice of the various western esoteric currents. The conference encourages an interdisciplinary approach and welcomes perspectives from the disciplines of religious studies, theology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, history, political science, as well as active practitioners. Papers should last 20 minutes, with time for questions and answers. Panels and practices will be scheduled for up to an hour, with time for questions and answers afterwards as necessary.

Please submit abstracts (approx. 200 words), proposals for a themed panel (with three presenters, moderator as necessary, and short description) or proposals for a ritual practice and discussion to Deadline for submissions is April 15, 2012.

No attachments please; copy and paste your abstract or proposal in plain text into the body of the e-mail. Submissions are not limited to academics or professional scholars. Include a brief (no more than one page) CV listing any qualifications, academic or otherwise, relevant to your proposal.

The conference will be held at the Best Western Plus Milwaukee Airport Hotel and Conference Center. More information on the conference, registration, fees, accommodation, etc. is available at

02 January, 2012

A Feast of Light

(Yes, I know, I'm a little late with this.)

"The sun ... not only furnishes to those that see the power of visibility but it also provides for their generation and growth and nurture though it is not itself generation. ... In like manner, then ... the objects of knowledge not only receive from the presence of the Good their being known, but their very existence and essence is derived to them from it, though the Good itself is not essence but still transcends essence in dignity and surpassing power." (The Republic, 509b, trans. Paul Shorey)

With the rapid approach of the winter solstice, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere we are approaching with equal rapidity a grand Feast of Lights. Whether this is Christmas or Chanukah, Kwanza, Yule or some other variation on the theme is not, for just this moment, the point. The point is the return or birth of the Light into the world. It is perhaps tempting to put scare quotes around return and birth. We all know the sun is in no way born at this time of the year and in fact the earth begins to move away from the sun in its elliptical orbit. So it is in no way returning to us, either. We are all aware that these words are metaphors for something else. But let us resist the urge, again for just this moment. Instead let us understand that the sun is indeed once again born to the world. That it has returned to us.

Or, rather, that at this time of the year we return to it. Let’s come back to that in a moment.

In The Republic, in the portion just before what is known as the allegory of the cave, as well as in that allegory, Plato connects the sun to the Form or Idea of the Good, which is understood by the Neoplatonists as an aspect of the One, God. The sun is described as a symbol for the Good. As the above quotation tells us, both the sun and the Good give to that which is beneath them life and existence. At the same time, the sun and the Good are beyond that which they give. When we talk about the return of the sun, or Son, this is what we are talking about.

The Good is a selfless giver. It asks for nothing in return for what it gifts to us. The Good, the One, God, whatever you’d like to call this, needs nothing from us. We, however, need it and need it entirely, for the Good is the source of being and essence. Without the Good there is nothing at all.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being." – John 1:1-3

The quotation from John, which perhaps not coincidentally is my favorite quotation from the Gospels, describes this well enough. Everything that exists has existence because of the Good. Because that spiritual Sun shines upon us, loosing nothing of itself while granting everything to us. That we give gifts at this time of the year is then not at all surprising as the impulse to life in imitation of the Good is perhaps strengthened at this time.

If that is true, that especially at this time of the year we have a renewed desire to participate in the Good through our various religious and spiritual traditions then we have also come back to the beginning of this little missive. If this is true, then the sun, or the Sun, really is returning to us. Or we are really returning to it. God is always there, of course. Not just “out there” but “in here” as well. Always has been. Must be. For without the Good, without the Logos, we are nothing, without being or essence. So God hasn’t gone anywhere. This leaves us with the uncomfortable idea that we’re the ones who left. Probably without so much as a “be seeing you.” We likely didn’t realize we were drifting apart. And once we’ve spent time in the darkness, our eyes adjust and we think we’re seeing things clearly.

In the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite this is the very definition of “sin.” Sin is not some act of petty, let alone horrific evil. It is missing the mark due to our varying degrees of ignorance of the Good. Yes, we all want to do good, to be good, to participate in the Good. We all act with some good in mind. Even the worst demons, Dionysius tells us, act with a good in mind. But if we have hidden ourselves from the Light, our blinded vision is of no help to us, and so we wonder off the path, sometimes a little, sometimes more than a little.

The Good does not condemn us for this. God knows who and what we are, after all. According to Iamblichus we incarnate the first time because, though pure of sole, we cannot control our passions. God knows this already. It’s part of who we are and it’s part of why we’re here. There is no need for condemnation, just correction. That correction may take a long time to achieve, but it is never impossible. Because even though we may no longer see the Light, even though we may have hidden ourselves inside a cave to watch the flickering shadows, that cave and those shadows are also filled with God. Just as we are.

The truth is that the Light never ceases to shine upon us or in us. Our awareness of this fact, or lack thereof, doesn’t change this. It changes us. And so, once a year, we give ourselves a reminder. We light lights to remind ourselves that the Good loves us and is with us and that we can live in participation of that love and share it with others, which is also in imitation of that ceaseless love. And when we do that, when we once again become aware of that Light, it is born within us. It is a birth that has nothing to do with time and history as we commonly understand it, but a birth that exists within an eternal NOW. It is the Word being spoken for the first time and forever, not echoing throughout eternity but having full voice in a constant creative speech.

At this time of the beginning of the eternal Feast of Light I offer to you, my friends, my brothers and sisters, whatever blessings you would wish for yourselves, not just for the coming year but for now and eternity. For a Word spoken, just like the eternal Light and Love of God, never diminishes.

Peace to you.