Languages of Faith

sweden

photo by V Budayr

When I was twelve I remember very clearly the minister of my childhood church telling the congregation that “This is the one true church.” I remember asking my mother how he could possibly know this. It was many more years before I could form better questions but looking back on that moment, it was the beginning of my quest. I couldn’t figure out why God could make 6 billion people wrong and just a handful right; it didn’t seem fair.

Through the years I have explored all the world’s major religions. I figure I could just cover all the bases in case one has the true answer to eternal life and I wanted to make sure I was good. I’ve always had Christianity as my base for that is the religion of my ancestors, my culture and my language and I am baptized as a Christian. But, over time, I have branched out and found that learning about other religions has helped me be more comfortable with Christianity despite my shaky beginnings.

My fundamentalist Christian friends would take great offense at my version of Christianity but I keep that to myself, I know the greatness of the Christ and know he doesn’t care about how some governing body defines him. What I know of the Christ is that he is our story of the enlightenment journey, he is the example of divine love and compassion.

I’ve been drawn to Buddhism for many years and have read a lot of the wisdom of modern Buddhist leaders. I find the words of the Buddha comforting and add a dimension to my experience of life. A few years ago a Rinpoche, the abbot of the monastery, established a small monastery in my county and on one of his visits I took the Vows of Refuge, something I had always wanted to do. I take refuge and comfort in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sanga.

As a child, I kept the Sabbath like the Jews and didn’t eat any unclean meat. The tradition of the Sabbath as a day to keep holy is something that our modern world could use a little more of. A day of quiet and family and to take a respite from our technology has made a come back in some circles. As a child I didn’t like the rules but as an adult I remember the Sabbath with nostalgia as a cozy loving time. I’m also told by my Jewish friends that I make very good Latkes.

One of the defining moments of my spiritual quest was Darshan, a meeting with the Hindu saint Mother Meera. In total silence Mother Meera blesses each individual that comes forward to kneel at her feet. She touched my head and looked into my eyes and my world changed. She put me in a place I had never been before but can get back to when needed. Some of my favorite music is an obscure opera about Gandhi using the words of the Bhagava Gita sung in Sanskrit. It is magnificent. Oh and I want a harmonium, the little organ used in chanting. I need one if I ever want to moonlight as an ashram. Got it on my Christmas list.

When I was in Egypt I visited the Citadel, the magnificent Mosque made of alabaster, that overlooks all of Cairo. My fellow travelers and I sat in a circle and listened to the teachings of Islam. Everyday I was there I heard the 5 prayers a day sung from the Minarets, calling the people to prayer. Those haunting melodies in a very mysterious language were healing, reminding me of the power of prayer.

The beating of the shaman’s drum, the gentle melodies on the wooden flute, the prayers to Mother Earth, bring the healing power of our Earth into my body. As I pray to the four directions for wisdom and guidance, I connect with the natural world, the sacred energy of the Earth where I live.

My daughter is a scientist and mathematician where the quest for the divine takes yet another language. Scientists see the world through the beauty of the stars overhead, the quantum particles too small to see and the elegant and universal language of math.

I’m no expert in the world’s religions but I’m an expert of my own heart and I know that honoring the world’s religions has brought great beauty to my life. Because in reality it is all semantics. We use different words and stories but at the core of our human experience is the same desire to know the Divine, the part of us and the Universe that us unknowable to our finite minds.

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10 Books and a Bonus

11 books

The Christmas decorations are back in the basement, the house is cleaned up, and the extra chocolate hidden away. Alexandra is back in California and Caroline is getting ready for her final semester and I’m left with the happy memories of a beautiful Christmas with 27 dear relatives and many friends. It is hard to go back to a quiet house in these cold days of winter so I’ve turned to some of my dearest old friends to keep me company by the fire. I want to share with you some of my favorite books from my library. Some may be familiar to you too or some might start a new thread in your life. This is the time to plant new seeds for the year.

2 Old Friends

One of my best gifts from my teachers is an introduction to the classic spiritual writers. These older book aren’t well known but hold beautiful teachings that stand the test of time.

The Path of the Soul: The Great Initiations by White Eagle. A channeled book first published in 1959 this book describes the four initiations all seekers must take along the path, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. In my last post on the Magic Flute, our hero takes two of these initiations on his path of love.

The Thunder of Silence by Joel Goldsmith.  Joel Goldsmith was the founder and teacher of The Infinite Way, a path of practical mysticism. His style is a bit dated but the truth his speaks is timeless. All of his books are gems.

2 Great Stories

We can all use a compelling story in the middle of winter to inspire us. These are both true stories.

The Mystery of the White Lions by Linda Tucker.   I wrote about this book on my post The Ultimate Grand Supreme. This book has some twists and turns that help unravel a deep connection to our ancient past and our closest star Sirius.

Omm Sety’s Egypt by Hay el Zeini and Catherine Dees.  I bet you can’t put it down. Omm Sety was a very mysterious English woman who lived simultaneously in modern and ancient Egypt.

2 Guide Books

Everyone’s path is unique but the road signs and obstacles are the same so here is some help.

Barefoot on Holy Ground; Twelve Lessons in Spiritual Craftsmanship by Gloria Karpinski.  A well written book by a great spiritual teacher. Honest and useful tools for the road ahead.

Entering the Castle; An Inner Path of God and Your Soul by Caroline Myss. My favorite book by a favorite author about my favorite Saint, Teresa of Avila. My favorite quote “Enlightenment is the only authentic path…everything else is a detour.”

2 Stern Teachers

Sometimes we need to do something besides play on rainbows with unicorns so here are some books to make sure we get our work done and keep moving forward up the mountain. If you want a game changer check these out.

Truth Vs Falsehood; How to Tell the Difference by David Hawkins.  A must read for all spiritual seekers because discernment is as vital as water and air on the path. Then read his other books, not easy but important.

Halfway Up The Mountain; The Error of Premature Claims of Enlightenment by Mariana Caplan.  It is so easy to get too eager and run up the easy slopes and then there is no energy for the hard climb. This book must go in your backpack along with your pick ax and oxygen tank for the snowfields.

2 Study Guides for Graduate School

Spiritual Power; How it Works by Llewellyn Vaughan Lee. After you have gone through some initiations and realize you know absolutely nothing then you are ready for the GRE into graduate school. You will never make it if you don’t understand spiritual power so get studying.

The Emerald Tablet; Alchemy for Personal Transformation by Dennis William Hauck. My poor copy is warped, marked and worn from reading by the pool, in the car, on a train, in a plane. No seriously, one of the best books on Alchemy and even readable. You know how I love Thoth and the Emerald Tablets.

Bonus Book. 11 is a master number so I had to add an extra.

The Spiritual Reawakening of the Great Smoky Mountains by Page Bryant. This book is by my dear friend and teacher and about the magical place on earth I’m lucky enough to call home. Page is a master of earth and star energy and she has written the guide book to the wisdom of these ancient mountains.

 

 

 

The Magic Flute

 

It was time for a change. For many years my holiday celebrations always included Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol. I’ve seen them both many times. When I hear the Nutcracker music I can practically dance the choreography. I can now quote whole passages from A Christmas Carol. So instead of The Nutcracker I spent a delightful afternoon watching a very fanciful version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute thanks to the Metropolitan Opera in HD broadcast. Next week I’m going to see The Sound of Music performed by a touring Broadway company. Neither of these productions you would call Christmasy but I like them and they are joyful and fun.

I’ve loved opera for many years now and I go to the Metropolitan Opera HD live broadcasts regularly. http://www.metopera.org/Season/In-Cinemas/ It is kind of a hobby that doesn’t take up room in my house. I also get to see operas that aren’t possible for our local opera to stage. Opera takes all of the arts and combines them into one amazing expression of the human condition. The talent and dedication it takes to stage an opera combine with the genius of the composer, making it a brilliant presentation of our highest potential. OK, I know in grand opera the heroine must die in the end. That is the rule but fortunately there are happy of operas like The Magic Flute. No Kleenex needed for the final scene.

The music of The Magic Flute is spectacular, the sets and staging in the Met’s current production are phantasmagorical. There are some of the most famous arias in all of opera. But here is what makes it so fun for us pilgrims: it is an Egyptian initiation opera, I bet you didn’t see that coming. I was so shocked the first time I found out many years ago. Mozart was a Freemason and he put many of the ideals and symbolism of Masonry into his work.

First there is the clash between light and dark, the Queen of the Night and the High Priest Sarastro represent this polarity. It is hard for the hero and heroine, Tamino and Pamina to even find out who is telling the truth. Ultimately they end up in the Temple of the High Priest where he prays to Isis and Osiris to protect them on their journey through fire (courage) and water (endurance) initiations to make them worthy of love. Three spirits guide them on this journey advising them to be patient and courageous in the quest for truth and love. The magic flute that Tamino is gifted by Sarastro helps guide him and keeps him in harmony with his quest. In the end truth and love prevail and the Queen of the Night is conquered.

The delightful bird catcher Papagano is Tamino’s sidekick through the story and represents our more sensual nature. Papagano is not so interested in Truth and Virtue, in fact he has a bit of trouble with embellishing his story. He is preoccupied with food and finding a cute lady bird catcher. Sarastro gifts him magic bells to help harmonize him with his more earthly destiny. Papagano finds his ideal partner in Papagana and they plan their life together which includes lots of little chicks.

Truth, love, virtue and perseverance are all essential tools our magical characters need for their journey, the same essential tools for our initiation to a life dedicated to our sacred path. The magic flute and bells reminds us that we need to harmonize yourself with these ideals and that will keep us on the path that is taking us to our more enlightened selves.

 

 

The Great Serpent Mound

the great serpent

Although I have traveled quite a bit this year I haven’t gone to any traditional sacred sites. Obligations and finances aren’t allowing for an extended pilgrimage this year but that doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t long to step on ancient sacred land. Fortunately for me one of the greatest sacred sites in North America is just a half a day drive from my home. So my friend Val and I came up with a plan for an equinox pilgrimage to southern Ohio where the mighty Serpent Mound holds the light between heaven and earth. We have dear friends who were in the holy land of Peru for equinox and we wanted to connect the sacred lands with our presence.

We headed out early, I waved goodbye to the luminous field full of round bales of hay, braved the early morning traffic and finally came to the open road through the lush mountains and rolling hills of Kentucky. My mother-in-law is a coal miners daughter from Hazard and her connection to this land is strong, her memory has faded but she still wants to go home to Kentucky. I can see why, it is beautiful, peaceful land and the journey is as joyful as the destination. The strong sun of the summer is starting to fade and the magic that is Autumn makes the sky a deep blue and the fading leaves glow.

Just past Lexington we head down a rural road to Adams County Ohio, past tobacco barns full of the harvest, open to let the air dry the hanging leaves. The old stack stoned fences, along side the black board fences, define the land, keeping the horses safe and the past alive. Old homes that have seen much stand next to new metal homes. The charming town of Paris is like stepping back 50 years in time.

 sept3

 

After crossing the Ohio river we are in Amish country. We stopped by an Amish market and picked up food and baked goods as well as sandwiches on fresh baked bread. A quick look in the rock shop full of fossils from the area completes the journey for the Serpent is waiting for us just over the hill. I have been here several times in the last 15 years so it is like visiting an old friend.

The Great Serpent is an ancient effigy mound around 5000 years old. Its mouth is open ready to swallow the cosmic egg and its body is 1300 feet of coils ending in the spiral tail almost like a labyrinth. The body is a few feet high of perfectly molded earth covered with a skin of grass. The curving body lays on gently rolling land giving a look of living velvet. Each of the seven coils points to a different place in the heavens. It is a living observatory of the equinoxes and solstices, moon phases and constellations.

Perfectly aligned with the constellation Draco, The Dragon, the Serpent mirrors the universe on earth pointing to the former pole star Thuban. The sacred geometry of this giant creature makes it aligned to other great sacred observatories, Stonehenge, the Inti stone at Machu Picchu and the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Like the Mayan god Quetzalcoatl, another winged serpent of wisdom, it is believed to have had wings in the past. I also am reminded of the Egyptian god Thoth, god of Wisdom, who holds the entwined snakes of the caduceus. Wisdom in the message of this Serpent, knowledge of the Universe, understanding of what is timeless in our world.

I walk around the serpent, climb the near-by tower to get a birds-eye view, lay on a bench and feel the cool breeze come off of its body, look over the cliff to the meteor crater below and connect to the heavens in my mind. I thank the Serpent and leave a small offering to further connect the sacred lands of Peru and Egypt. I know I will be back again to ask for more wisdom and healing.

sept11

 

http://www.greatserpentmound.com

The Mystery of the Serpent Mound by Ross Hamilton

Sir Walter Scott

Authors Card Game

Two years ago today, what started out as an innocent cup of coffee with a friend in my library ended up a new epic quest. Toward the end of our visit she mentioned a dream she had the night before about Sir Walter Scott. Although we had both heard of him, all I knew was he had written Ivanhoe, thanks to my card game “Authors” I played as a child. I did vaguely remembered the shrine to him in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Well when the next step in your life is trying to get your attention you start noticing it everywhere. We did a little research into Sir Walter’s life and put a few more pieces together but then the epic quest began. First a copy of Rob Roy unexpectedly showed up in a waiting room. Then I was researching Thomas Becket and there he was referenced in Ivanhoe. I was doing some final cleaning in the basement and a beautiful old copy of Lady of the Lake was in a small stack of books. The Metropolitan Opera was doing an HD broadcast of Lady of the Lake—not performed in decades. A brochure about his home Abbotsford was uncovered in a box of magazines untouched in 14 years.

I was sitting on a wall at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain and my friends and I were discussing the author Washington Irving of Sleepy Hollow fame, who lived on the grounds of the Alhambra. So we googled him and Sir Walter showed up again. He was the great mentor of Washington Irving. Later I was going through my father’s office and there were beautiful old copies of Scott’s Poems and Irving’s Alhambra right next to each other on the self.

books

So what is going on with Sir Walter? Let’s look a little closer at his life and see why he is still so important. Born in 1771, he survived polio as a toddler which left him with a limp and he used a cane the rest of his life. He was the first author to have international fame in his lifetime and is credited with inventing the historical novel. He used the great storytelling tradition of the Highlands to help bring back the Scottish identity that had been cruelly crushed by the British. His Waverly novels were very popular in Europe and America starting Romanticism and influencing American writers such as Thoreau and Twain. He was also a poet and playwright and his works started the great Romantic era of opera with 25 operas based on his works including Lucia di Lammermoor, one of my favorites.

For me the big “aha moment” came when I heard the most important but little know fact about our friend Sir Walter, he translated the Hermetica, the Great Work from Thoth, the Egyptian god of writing and magic.  Like so many great authors and scientists, Sir Walter was connected to the deep, underground stream of ancient knowledge that is unknown to the general public. Sir Walter was tapped into the “great wisdom of the ages”. No wonder he was such a game changer.

I’m definitely not done with Sir Walter and we will be discussing him again in more detail. I just wanted you to start looking around and see the world beneath superficial life, there are enormous treasures and lots of fun adventures there. Now I’d like to hear if you’ve had Sir Walter show up in your life or some other similar encounter with a great author.

–——Today on the 2nd anniversary of the dream, my friend just happens to be at Abbotsford visiting Sir Walter’s library. Hmmmmm, the plot thickens.

 

Justice

justice

During our visit to Manhattan last December, Hamilton and I enjoyed authentic New York bagels for breakfast every morning at a shop just around the corner from my sister’s apartment. The final morning I heard one of the workers snicker under his breath about “the Hatfields and the McCoys”. I told Hamilton about it and he thought it was funny since his kinfolk from Eastern Kentucky had dealings with these infamous feuding clans. I on the other hand was incensed that just because I was a Southerner that I would be stereotyped as a lawless criminal willing to kill over a pig.

The Justice card isn’t about such vengeful personal justice or even the blind justice of our earthly courts. This is divine justice to balance karma so we can come into harmony with Universal Law. Justice is depicted as a woman without a blindfold because she can see through illusion. She holds a scale in her left hand to weigh and measure the facts correctly. In her right hand she has a sword ready to enforce the decision. The sword cuts away that in us that restricts our freedom and interferes with the harmony of the Universe. Her foot is forward, ready to take action on her decision.

This card is about taking responsibility, make adjustments and regaining equilibrium when your life has become out of balance, thrown off course by the Wheel of Fortune and the whims of ego. Sometimes our first reaction is to over-compensate and swing too far the other way but that just puts us more out of balance and causes new problems.

How can we find this balance? Maintain calm and compassion and look for an expanded view of the problem. Wait to form an opinion and judgment until you weigh the pros and cons of a situation. Remember: there are three sides to every story—mine, yours and the truth.

If there are painful memories, we need to look for the helpful lessons to balance the wound. How did this wound act as a teacher and help you grow spiritually? Enemies illuminate places needing balance more often than our supportive friends. Conflicts have helped me find my strength to stand up for myself. This is about living in balance not just wishing for it. So shed the victim role and take responsibility for the next step of your life. Our immature justice says everything is unfair, but as we grow we face our shortcomings and ultimate accept responsibility for our mistakes and choices.

A beautiful lesson in the Egyptian Book of the Dead is the “Weighing of the Heart Ceremony”. The deceased’s heart is place on one side of the scale and a feather of the goddess of Truth, Ma’at is place on the other side. If the departed has lived a good, honest and kind life his heart will be light as a feather. This will then be recorded by the powerful Thoth and the soul will be allowed to return to the stars. If the heart is heavier than a feather than the heart will be consumed by a waiting beast to be recycled back to Earth until the soul learns the lessons of LOVE.

weighing2

 

 

Thoth

Thoth Karnak Temple

Thoth in Karnak Temple, Luxor Egypt

Last Monday morning I woke up early and looked at my e-mail.  A friend sent this “Do you want to talk about Thoth?”   That is an interesting way to start the day.   I just posted about Sekhmet the day before.   What was this, ancient Egyptian god week?   But then again in my world every week is Egyptian god week and not a day goes by when I don’t think of Egypt.  So let’s talk about Thoth.

In Egyptian mythology Thoth is the god of writing, law, medicine, math and geometry, scribe of the gods and recorder of time.  His is depicted as a man with the head of an ibis and he has a stylus and tablet in his hands ready to write.   He is very busy keeping things in order and attends the judgment of souls that die in the “weighing of the heart” ceremony.  His symbol is the caduceus, which is now the symbol for doctors and hospitals.   He has so much to do that he has other names and incarnations.   We also know him as Hermes Trismegistus, the great alchemist, and Mercury, messenger of the gods.

Thoth came before written history, bringing humans the skills to write and communicate using the power of words.   He is the counterpart to Ma’at, the goddess of truth and justice and his consort is Seshat, also the goddess of writing and knowledge.

After my first trip to Egypt I become more aware of Thoth and tapped into his energy of learning and wisdom.   On the second trip I bought a tall statue of Thoth at Karnak temple which I placed by my couch where I spend all my time reading.   When I moved last year Thoth was one of the first things I brought with me and he took up residence in the library.

Thoth

Like Quan Yin  in my garden waiting for me to find her, Thoth had long been in my new home waiting for me.      I was cleaning the home office of my late father-in-law John and came across a giant and very heavy caduceus that hung on his office building many years ago.    John never threw anything away so this memento of his long and distinguished career lay hidden out of sight.    I thought it was very interesting but I just put it in the basement with the other cool old stuff I had no idea what to do with.

caduseus Thoth with caduseus at Abydos

Caduseus in my Library                            Thoth with Caduseus at Abydos

A few months later I realized what a powerful symbol this was for me; short of a neon sign could anything be more obvious.   I brought the caduceus up to the library and it was in a corner for several more months until I was ready to accept its meaning.   It may originally have been a symbol for the medical profession but now it was my personal sign for the direction my life is taking.   With my dear Egypt friends by my side I hung my caduceus and started calling it the Thoth library, a place for learning the Wisdom of the Ages.

So tomorrow I am going to be talking about Thoth.  I want to let people know that the wisdom of ancient Egypt needs to be remembered and Thoth is here to guide us.   You can hear this interview at http://psychicaccesstalkradio.com/showarchives.html  Feb 6, Thoth, god of wisdom.

Recommended books:

The Secret Teachings of All Ages    Manly P. Hall

The Emerald Tablet; Alchemy for Personal Transformation    Dennis Hauck