Aion – Boundless Time

aion

I like jigsaw puzzles.  Sometimes in working a jigsaw, one little piece opens up a whole area and a myriad of other pieces fall into place.  This is what happened to me recently:  I was reading Alexander Cummins’  A Book of the Magi: Lore, Prayers, and Spellcraft of the Three Holy Kings (Folk Necromancy in Transmission) which contained a reference to the god Aion being worshipped on 6 January (Christianity’s Festival of Epiphany) by followers of Dionysius, where the Nile was said to turn into wine.  This set off all sorts of bells in my head and I went in search of Aion.

Aion is a deity that ties together the mysteries of Orpheus, Dionysius, Eleusis, and Mithras with that of Gnosticism, specifically the gnostic teachings found in the Pistis Sophia, Book V.  He was later incorporated into the deity Serapsis.  In the Eleusinian mysteries, he was the daughter of Kore.  (Levi, 1944)   Aion is boundless time.

We usually think of Chronos/Saturn as being time. But time can have many meanings. (For more on this I’d recommend Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time.) Saturn is “relative time”, that how long has this village existed.  It is time bounded.  Esoterically, we think of Saturn as being a binder.  Saturn is structure.  It holds things together.  And by binding, it also limits and confines.   Astrologically, Saturn is represented by the sign Capricorn in the zodiac.  The sun enters Capricorn on 21 December, the winter solstice when the sun is at its lowest strength and begins to wax. This coincides with the Saturnalia (and also the birth of Dionysius, Mithras, and Jesus) which calls for the casting aside of the bonds that bind.  January 1st, New Year’s Day, is the birth of two-faced Janus, god of the new year, who looks to the past and to the future.  January 6th is the birth of Aion, eternal time.  So these three festivals together represent the present, the past, the future, and eternity.  In Christianity, January 6th is the celebration of three events:  1) the visit of the three kings to baby Jesus, 2) the baptism of Jesus, and 3) the Marriage at Cana where Jesus turns water to wine.  The first two of these events were marks of new beginnings, hence time.  It does seem more than coincidence that the celebration of the Marriage at Cana is assigned the same date as the Dionysian water-to-wine celebration.  David Fideler points out that not only this coincidence of date but also the reference to Jesus as “the true vine”, suggests an incorporation of attributes of Dionysius into the Christian Jesus.

The Eighth Reveals the Ninth

“Lord, grant us a wisdom from your power that reaches us, so that we may describe to ourselves the vision of the eighth and the ninth. We have already advanced to the seventh, since we are pious and walk in your law.”  The Discourse of the Eighth Reveals the Ninth

spheres

The Nag Hammadi scripture of “The Discourse on the Eighth Reveals the Ninth” has always fascinated me. The Ascent through the Spheres is one of the pervading themes in Western Esotericism.  Each sphere, as represented by its archetypic planet, corresponds to a mastery over a dimension of the psyche.  Here Saturn also represents the limits of the material mundane world. So for the ancients, beyond Saturn lie the realms of spirit.  The 8th sphere represented the fixed stars.  However by the 2nd century, it was known that the “fixed stars” are not truly “fixed”.  This is due to a phenomenon we now know as the precession of the equinox, a full cycle through the zodiac being known as a platonic year.  While the 25,722 years in a platonic year isn’t eternal, it is still a very long time.  So when the teacher/father in “The Eighth Reveals the Ninth” hints that a clue to the 9th sphere is given by the 8th sphere, could he be hinting at experiences to eternity and Aion as ruler of the 9th sphere?  At the 9th sphere we do read the familiar vowel chants that contain the name Aion.

A O EE O EEE

ooo iii oooo

ooooo

ooooo uuuuuu oo

ooooooooo

ooooooooo

oo.

Pistis Sophia

I’ve attended modern Gnostic churches that use an adaptation of the 5th book of the Pistis Sophia for a special Epiphany mass.  There is a lot happening in the 5th book.  There are descriptions of ceremonies/eucharists, guided journeys through the celestial realms, intonations, astrology, and explanations to after-death experiences and judgements.  There are definite Sethian references.  At present, I want to restrict this discussion to Aion related matters.

The beginning of the 5th book starts with Jesus arranging the male and female disciples in preparation for celestial travel.  Careful description is given for the arrangement of the disciples to the four directions.   This is the first Aion reference as the wings four wings of Aion represent the winds of the four directions (Levi, 1944).  Jesus then begins the invocation ‘IAO, IAO, IAO’ which is interpreted as ‘iota, because the universe hath gone forth; alpha, because it will turn itself back again; omega because the completion of all completeness will take place.’ (Mead, 1921)  The mantra of IAO, with its various forms (IAO, IOA, AIO, AOI, OIA, OAI) appear throughout Gnostic and early Hermetic literature.  Elsewhere AIO is explained by Jesus as ‘alpha because I am the beginning; omega because I am the end; and iota because I am the stuff in between’.  While slightly different, both mantras relate to time and to the seeing oneself in time and outside time.  When AIO, it contains the name of boundless time or eternity (Aion). [1]

We then see Jesus referenced as Aberamentho.  Saunders argues that Aberamento is a conjugation of the Hebrew ‘abyr mym’ (power of waters) with the Egyptian god Thoth. (Saunders, 2007).  This definition is interesting as it relates to the conflagration of Jesus with Dionysius and possible Osiris.  In the 5th Book of the Pistis Sophia, the ritual begins with Jesus and his disciples on the waters of the Ocean.  Later, in the described Eucharist rite, Jesus sets out water in addition to the wine.   The water, being the ‘living water’ as described in the gospel story of the Woman at the Well.

I want to post this blog prior to Epiphany 2019 so need to cut things short.  I hope this short piece has sparked interest in Aion, Epiphany, and the treasury which is the Pistis Sophia.

 

1] This is similar to the vowel name for the boundless father, IEOU, which  Mead translates as Yew or  Carl Schmidt as Jeu.  The use of vowel names is a topic all to itself.  I recommend Joscelyn Godwin’s book The Mystery of the Seven Vowels for more detail on these names.

 Bibliography

Cummins, Alexander (2018). A Book of the Magi: Lore, Prayers, and Spellcraft of the Three Holy Kings (Folk Necromancy in Transmission). Revelore Press.

Fideler, David (1993). Jesus Christ, Sun of God. Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism. Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books.

Godwin, Josceplyn (1991). The Mystery of the Seven Vowels in Theory and Practice. Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.: Phanes Press.

Levi, Doro (1944, Oct. – Dec.). Aion. Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 13(4), pp. 269-314. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/146699

Mead, G.R.S. (1921). Pistis Sophia, A Gnostic Gospel. Blauvelt, New York, U.S.A.: Spiritual Science Library.

Rovelli, Carlo (2018). The Order of Time. Allen Lane.

Saunders, Tom (2007, February 27). Gnostic word of the day: Aberamentho. Retrieved January 5, 2019, from theurgical.com: https://magdelene.wordpress.com/2007/02/27/gnostic-word-of-the-day-aberamentho/

The Discourse of the Eighth Reveals the Ninth. Retrieved from Gnosis.org: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/discorse.html

The Mysteries of Mithra.   Echoes from the Gnosis.   G.R.S. Mead, 1907.  Retrieved from Gnosis.org: http://www.gnosis.org/library/grs-mead/grsm_mythra.htm

 

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The Woman at the Well

woman_at_wellOver the past few weeks, I have often found myself thinking of one of my favorite Gospel tales, the story of the Woman at the Well (John 4:4-42). Before wading into deep waters, allow me to retell the story in modern English.

The scene: Jacob’s well. The disciples have left to get food, leaving Jesus alone at the well when a Samaritan woman arrives.

Jesus: Get me a drink of water

Woman: How is it that you’re asking me for water? You’re a Jew. I’m a Samaritan. You’re not even supposed to be talking to me.

Jesus: You should really be asking me for Living Water.

Woman: You don’t even have a bucket. How would you get water up from the depths? Are you greater than our mutual father Jacob and able to raise up the water?

Jesus: I could give you some of the Living Water, so that you would never thirst again. Instead, you will become as a fountain of living water, ever refreshed.

Woman: I’ll have some of that water!

Jesus: Go and bring your husband.

Woman: I don’t have a husband.

Jesus: That’s right. The man you have now is not your husband. But you’ve had five husbands before.

Woman: Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. My people worship God on top of that mountain over there. The Jews tell us that God must be worshipped in their temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus: There will come a time when God is not worshipped neither on the mountains nor within a temple. For God is Spirit and his followers will worship in Spirit and Truth.

Woman: You know, they say that the Messiah will come.

Jesus: I am he. . Go to the village and tell your people.

Then the disciples arrive and are shocked to see Jesus having discourse with a Samaritan woman, but they say nothing. The woman leaves her water pot and returns to the village where she tells everyone of the Messiah.

This is one of stories that appear in the gospel John and not in any of the other gospels. On one hand, so theologians have questioned its authenticity because it’s not found elsewhere and for its lengthy conversation. However, for the same reason it represents some of the more mystical and Gnostic elements of the Johannite tradition. It is also one of the examples of Jesus ministering to non-Jewish women (see Matthew 15: 21-28).

Probably, the thing that appeals to me most in this story is that the Woman, though she is a “second-class” citizen (being a Samaritan) she is obviously “tuned-in”. She quickly realizes what Jesus is teaching and sees him as the possible Messiah. In contrast to the disciples who, at the end of the story, offer food to Jesus who replies “I have food to eat that you do not know about”. To which the disciples assume that someone has fed him while they were gone and Jesus is then forced to elaborate the “food” to which he was referring (John 4: 31-38).

I think that there are also clues to the Woman’s awareness in the exchange about her husband. She has no husband, yet she has had 5 husbands. Superficially, this sounds like a comment on her promiscuity, but should be taken at another level. One interpretation would be that she had been wed to the 5 physical senses but now is looking for an attachment beyond them (spiritual bridegroom). This fits with the concept of the “Living Water” versus physical water; as well as Jesus’ comment to the disciples of “Food they do not know of” when they offered physical food. This analogy again appears in the home of God and his place of worship –no longer mountains or temples, but that God is Spirit and worship is also through Spirit and Truth.

The concept of God as Spirit, worshipped through Spirit and Truth is a fundamental Johannite tenet and also reveals the Gnostic component of the Gospel of John. It also harkens to the Hellenistic emphasis in John and also later in Plotinus and Gospel of Thomas:
77 Jesus said, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”
Another piece of evidence of the Hellenistic nature is the appeal toward the potential gentile converts. The woman at the well is Samaritan, a gentile. Also the well is Jacob’s Well. Jesus makes the point that his “Living Water” is superior to that of Jacob’s (the Judaic tradition). It reminds me of Matthew 22:36-40 where Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment. Rather than cite one of the Ten Commandments, he gives new ones. These verses are among those that give evidence that the Father or Abba of Jesus was not the demiurge Jehovah…but that’s another topic.
There is also a parallel between the Samaritan woman at the well and the story of Elijah and the Widow and the endless flour and oil (1 Kings 17:10-16). In that story Elijah meets a widow and asks for water and bread. She has no bread but Elijah miraculously creates an endless supply of flour and oil for bread while he is with her. Now in some traditions, the pair Jesus and John the Baptist represent the reincarnation of Elijah and Elisha. That the story in John can be seen as a higher octave of the story in 1 King would fit with these traditions. While Elijah provided physical bread, Jesus talks of the spiritual food/drink. Needs and offering are thus elevated beyond the physical plane.
So what is the Gnostic “take away” from this story?
Gnosticism is not about belief; it is about knowledge and experience. To coin Joseph Campbell’s wonder for book Gnostic stories are “myths to live by” – there needs to be a lesson, an application, a meditation, drama or ritual that can be used to enhance the pursuit toward spiritual knowledge. I tell the story above in my own words, because, memorizing, and repeating the story again and again is when it becomes internalized and the most alive. For me, the key words are when the woman replies “I’ll have some of that water!” It is a Gnostic vow, an affirmation of the pursuit toward the Living Water as available through Christ.
The picture in this blog is from my secular office. It is hung across from my desk. On days when I feel lost or weighed down, I look at the image and am reminded of the offer of Living Water and say “Yes, I’ll have some of that”.

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The Fall: modern channeling meets ancient Wisdom

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I’ve recently read The Fall by Michael Reccia. The book transcribes a series of channeling sessions dictated by the spiritual entity Joseph. What I find interesting is how closely the cosmology (and the remedy!) described in The Fall corresponds to … Continue reading

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The Child Within

    

I recently made my first trip to Prague.   Out of curiosity, I visit the Church of our Lady Victorious, home to the Infant of Prague.  What I found there was quite unexpected.

The church that houses the Infant of Prague is run by the Discalced Carmelite order and it was only after the installment of the statue in the church that its history of miracles occurs.  The interior of the church is one of the first inPraguedone in the Rococo style.  While there’s a certain irony of a discalced order in a Rococo church, it’s best to leave the jabber of the monkey mind at the door and experience the place instead, with the heart.

“I came into the unknown

And stayed there unknowing,

Rising beyond all science.”

                                    St. Johnof the Cross[i]

The Church of our Lady Victorious, is not a large church (by Prague standards) but is arraigned with massive paintings of Carmelite saints.  The pilgrim is literally flanked by larger-than-life size paintings ofSt. John of the Cross, St. Teresa ofAvila, and other Carmelite mystics.  The effect is cocooning.  The statue of the Infant is not behind the altar, but rather in the center, along the transept.

The Infant is in the center of the church, along the transept, midway between the entrance and the altar.  This is symbolic location shows his role as mediator between heaven and earth.  This is the role of the Christ child –to bring mankind to the kingdom of heaven.  The Infant returns us to that paradisiacal state of innocence of a child- a world full of love, wonder, and awe. Love, being that unconditional love of a parent for the child and the child for the parent.  It is truly marvelous to be in this sacred space, in silence, surrounded by pilgrims, opening hearts in prayer.

“I will unite myself with the soul of the Blessed Virgin

when the Father overshadowed her,

the Son took flesh in her,

and the Holy Spirit descended to work the great mystery.”

The Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity[ii]

The concept of the indwelling Christ as a child is a way of the heart. It’s not an intellectual exercise but a concept that communicates at the basic needs of our being –to nurture and to be nurtured, to love and be loved.  It is a mystical path because the intellect is cast aside and what remains is a certain baring, a one pointedness of the primal soul.  What is so simple as unconditional love? 

“I tell you this: unless you turn round and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

Matthew 18:3

In popular psychology there is the notion of the “inner child”.  The theory is that a emotionally healthy adult had their basic needs of  security, nurturing, love, and play fulfilled as a child and that this provided a firm foundation for future maturation.  If these needs were not met, the adult may be incomplete and techniques/therapies are designed to re-discover and heal this inner child.  A Christian may add that “nurturing” the child includes spiritual instruction: the child who loves Jesus and who knows they are loved by Jesus, is never alone.  The childlike love and wonder remains and the Christian need only to return to that earlier state.  In a world that sometimes seems complex and overwhelming, the Infant is a reminder of this simplicity of love which continues to be available.

As I write this, we are less than two weeks from the beginning of Advent –the season of preparation for the birth of the Christ Child.  The festival urges us to prepare a place in our hearts for the coming of Christ.  Let us also embrace the child within and through the simplicity of love allow our light to shine on all we meet.

“Pregnant with the Holy Word

 will come the Virgin

 walking down the road

if you will take her in.”

St. Johnof the Cross.[iii]


[i] “I came into the Unknown”  from The Poems of St. John of the Cross.  Edited and translated by Willis Barnstone.  1972.

[ii] Mary and the Eucharist.  Fr. Richard Foley, S.J. 1997, p. 92

[iii] “The Divine Word” ”  from The Poems of St. John of the Cross.  Edited and translated by Willis Barnstone.  1972.

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Feast of St. Mary Magdalene – July 22

Mary Magdalene in fieldsToday is the feast day of Mary Magdalene.  Where do I start? 

 Mary Magdalene is listed first among the female followers of Christ.  Per some Gnostic texts, such as the Pistis Sophia, Gospel of Mary, Gospel of Philip and Dialogue of the Savior she is the leading disciple in terms of wisdom, understanding, and compassion.  For many modern Gnostics, she is the Black Madonna –Wisdom, Sophia incarnate –come to earth with her partner the Logos, to open a new pathway back to the Father.

Books like the DaVinci Code have sensationalized Mary Magdalene.  Speculation that she was married to Jesus, and may have had a child, has brought many people closer to her and closer to Jesus.  It makes Mary Magdalene and Jesus more “approachable”, more “real”, more human.  This has always been role of Mary Magdalene in the adoration of the saints.   She is portrayed as one who has overcome multiple sins/demons to become a special beloved of Jesus.  The message is that love conquers all –that no matter what one has done, if you turn and open yourself to the love of Christ you are welcome in His arms.

May the wisdom, love, and compassion of Mary Magdalene open your heart and guide you to Christ.

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More on St. Dunstan

I’ve been thinking about a liturgy for St. Dunstan –in a Gnostic/Hermetic venue, of course.   The following is a prayer from the alchemical treatise “The Testament of Cremer”.  The full treatise is available at : http://www.levity.com/alchemy/cremer.html and in print in A.E. Waite’s Hermetic Museum.

Preamble from the Testament of Cremer

All wisdom is derived from God, and ever ends in Him. Any one who desires knowledge should ask it of Him, for he gives liberally, and without upbraiding. The height and the depth of all knowledge, and the whole treasure of wisdom are given unto men of God, because in Him, and to Him, and through Him are all things, and nothing can happen without His will. In beginning my discourse I invoke the help of Him Who is the source and origin of all good things. May the bright light of His Spirit shine in my heart, and guide me into all truth; also enabling me to point out to others the true path of Knowledge! May this prayer be granted by Him who is enthroned on High, and rules and governs all things, world without end! Amen.

“In the Beginning was the Word – full of grace and truth.”
Prayer

Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God, deign to bless and sanctify the fire which we unworthy men, by invocation of Thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, presume to bless. Hallow it, most gracious God, with Thy benediction, and let it tend to the good of the human race, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Good Lord, Creator of the Red Light
Who dividest the times by certain seasons,
When the Sun vanishes, fearful Chaos comes again:
Oh Christ, restore the light to Thy faithful people!

Though Thou hast studded heaven’s floor with stars,
And inlaid it with the bright lamp of the Moon,
Yet Thou dost teach us also to strike light out of flints,
And to fan it into life out of the stone-born spark.

Thou art the true light of the eyes, and the light of the senses;
A mirror Thou art of things without and of things within.
Accept this light which I bear, ministering,
Tinged with the unction issued from the peace-bearing virgin.

To Thee we come, great Father, thro’ Thine only Son,
In whom Thy glory visibly shines forth,
And through Him, the Blessed Comforter,
Whom Thou didst send forth from Thy great heart.

In whom Thy Brightness, Honour, Light, and Wisdom,
Majesty, Goodness, and Mercy
Dwell with us throughout the Ages,
And draw us up to the Fountain of Light. Amen.

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St. Dunstan: Patron Saint of Alchemy

magician_tarotMay 19 is the traditional feast day of St. Dunstan.  Revered by the Hermeticists of the court of Rudolf II as the patron of Alchemy, he was a renowned craftsman and goldsmith fromGlastonbury.  While serving under King Aethelstan he was accused of sorcery and studying heathen magic.  Later, he became a monk, and eventually Archbishop ofCanterbury.

 St. Dunstan lived in a transitional time in Britain’s 10th century –a time when the kingship was rapidly changing hands and rulers were transitioning from pagan conquering Vikings to becoming “English” and Christian.   It was a time of movement of people and ideas.   It was the time when the alchemist Gerbert (who later became pope Sylvester II) was tutoring the future Otto II.  It was the Golden Age of Toledo, the resurgence of monastic life, and the beginnings of Catharism.

 The wisdom of St. Dunstan was said to be alchemy.  Edward Kelly (partner of John Dee) claimed to have discovered a book by St. Dunstan describing how to make the Philosopher’s Stone, as well as red powder/elixir in the ruins at Glastonbury.   Modern hagiography tells of how St, Dunstan was busy working on his craft when the devil appeared and tempted him.  (Faust, anyone?)  St.Dunstan was said to have subdued him by clamping the devil’s nose in his tongs.  The antiquarian collection of English legends, ­Ingoldsby Legends(1842), contains a poem “The Lay of St. Dunstan”.  Here, in addition to the confrontation with the devil, it tells of  walking broomsticks that respond to this pentacle:

 Abacadabra pentacle

 

  An Alchemical Saint fromGlastonbury

 I’m always looking for an excuse to go to Glastonbury.  View from Glastonbury TorThat St.Dunstan’s roots are there is yet another reason for the pilgrimage to this New Age Mecca.  But there is more.  Whether it’s traditional or spiritual alchemy, the art of alchemy is a path of gnosis.  Seeing one’s self as a substance striving to be made golden, free of dross and slag, is the true Stone of perfection.  It recognizes not only the process of transformation but that we are the subject, the work of transformation.

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