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The Nested Storyverse

Based on a few ideas coming out of conversations on the advent of evolutionary christianity, I thought it would be good to articulate a schema of our stories, especially in the light of the  evolutionary/emergent paradigm, and compare it with the orthodox/evangelical construct.

As I grow towards an understanding of the universe as a divinely imbued processes (emergent spirituality), rather than a predetermined machine (deist/theist orthodoxy), I have come to appreciate the centrality of story in life.  Indeed, I did an album a year back entitled “Story” (The Sout Project) and have just done another quite different offering, entitled “Space and Story: Soundtracks for mythmaking“. So the understanding of us being involved in a “Storyverse” is resonating.

Our stories help articulate our realities, far better than other “objective” modes such as sermon, text book, news report, bullet-point summary, or twitter snippet. (Story can however exist in these spaces, but they are not necessarily the best media).

The subjective, experiential or imaginative nature of a story enhances the opportunity for connection between us and our world at a deep level. Stories exist at different levels simultaneously, and that is why we can say we live in a Storyverse. In fact we could say that our stories are “nested” in one another. More local stories belong inside larger, more universal ones.

Having said this, indulge my analytical bent as I present a few ideas about these nested levels of Story.

  1. My story – The core of it is my life, history and particular sensibility having a unique shape which can be shared in telling, writing, or any other form of creative expression.
  2. Our story – As an individual I have a communal context, made up of the confluence of many stories, all told within this community.
  3. Our tradition – Our community usually centres around shared interests which have history in themselves, such as a faith community like a denomination, sect or philosophy, or other interest group to which we belong.
  4. (At this point I will get more particular regards my own christian tradition).

  5. The “christian church” – the tradition/s I have been part of have all existed in the context of 2000 years of christianity.
  6. The Abrahamic promise – In turn, christianity grew from Judaism, whose roots are in God’s promise to Abraham “In you I will bless the nations of the Earth”.
  7. The Wisdom traditions – alongside Jewish history, we need to include other wisdom traditions, both those emerging from the middle East as well as from the Far East – (Vedic, Taoist etc.), and importantly, the natural primal spiritualities existing globally outside of “civilised” urban cultures.
  8. The history of man – homo sapiens consciously (“knowingly”) develops and lives within a religious frame of reference (to a greater and lesser degree) as part of life.
  9. Life on Earth – man emerges from the process of life as a unique and highly complex species, and relatively recently in Earths 4.3 billion years. However, some of us draw too exclusive a line between man and the rest of life, forming the basis for many of the crises we experience today – a lack of appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things.
  10. The Great Story – The Epic of the Universe, the 14 billion-year journey of light and dust, humanity’s common creation story. To me, this makes sense in the context of a Creator who spoke this into existence. However, this cannot be proved – scientific knowledge seems to stop at 10-43 seconds after the Big Bang, and so a barrier exists beyond which no evidence appears to be currently accessible. So it is by faith that we can say with the writer of Hebrews that “the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” [1:3]
  11. The transcendent Creator – the first cause, ultimately much larger than any category we might hold, mysterious at heart, who can only be accessed through the mystery of faith. Here, all categories – time, matter, mind, and even “story” itself – break down.

It might be best to allow the perennial texts to speak:

A way that can be walked is not The Way
A name that can be named is not The Name
Tao is both named and nameless
As Nameless, it is the origin of all things
As Named, it is the mother of all things

Tao Te Ching 1 (trans. Jonathan Star)

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

Paul’s letter to the Romans (11:33)

Eye cannot see It, tongue cannot utter It, mind cannot grasp It. There is no way to learn or to teach It. It is different from the known, beyond the unknown. In this all the ancient Masters agree.

The Upanishads

I began by suggesting a contrast of 2 Storyverses I have inhabited. This involves my journey from modernist deist-theist orthodoxy to the emergent/evolving wisdom consciousness.

Typically, the orthodoxy misunderstands, ignores or rejects 6 – 9, in which the Abrahamic promise is hardwired to “God”, with no cultural or physical context or consideration. This eliminates the arena championed by the natural sciences, and creates the quite unnecessary conflicts of worldview typical of the young earth creationalist vs. materialist evolutionist stand-off.

If we consider the materialist side of the debate, including evolutionary atheists, their story will include points 1-3 and 7-9, rejecting both historical expressions of religion (4-6ish) as well as a theistic first cause (10).

The more we accommodate these nested stories, the more credibility and integrity our spirituality will have, not just as presented to the world, but as lived and experienced within our own lives.

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Pattern-based Worship: The loop vs. the line.

One of the major features of the modern era, from which we are currently emerging, is linearity.  This is propped up by the “myth of progress” wherein all history moves towards the future through Greek conceptions of time – telos (purpose) and chronos (linear time) – expressed though our systemising of natural time via clocks. In this idea, accuracy and efficiency have become of utmost importance, because of our capitalist belief that “time is money”.

And these manifestations of modernity are not limited to the dominant economic model either, communism (especially the Soviet type) had an implicit faith in the ability of this “progress” to transform society, based in scientific materialism, atheistic humanism and Hegelian philosophical optimism. Continue reading “Pattern-based Worship: The loop vs. the line.”

My agricultural revolution.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. [Henry David Thoreau]

second-patchI have had the good fortune to be a homeowner since 1999. “Owning” (I use the term advisedly) a piece of land has provided the impetus for reconnecting with the Earth. One of the things I set out to do was to “grow my own”, and to start a gradual return from the industrialised insanity of consumerism.

By this I mean, I wanted to set an achievable target of the amount of food I consumed off my own land and by my own hand, rather than merely bought via a corporate supply chain. I set the goal at 1% for the first year. It’s now nearly 10 years later and I am nowhere near that. Continue reading “My agricultural revolution.”

Shamanism, interview 2: Gavin Marshall

Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall looks a bit like ‘The Dude’ in the Big Lebowsky. He is a musician, a magician and a bit of an explorer when it comes to the mind and spirituality. A former evangelical pastor, he recently attended a guided retreat under the auspices of a Peruvian Shaman.

Tell us about how you moved from being an evangelical pastor to becoming interested in shamanism?
It was a long journey. I grew disillusioned with the church and decided to take a break. The break then became a bit more permanent and I found that I now had the freedom to explore what I really believed. The exploration involved studying different religions, magic, guys like Jung and Joseph Campbell and so-on.

Continue reading “Shamanism, interview 2: Gavin Marshall”

The shamanic shadow

Ah conquistador is it only gold you’re looking for
Or may you still yet see the treasure long concealed within thee?
Ah conquistador campaigns you waged to win the war
To gain the world and lose your soul
What were you fighting for? – The Shamen, “Conquistador”

The shaman as visionary, prophet, healer, ceremonialist, psychotherapist & often herbal doctor is the ‘doctor of the soul’ for both the community and individuals.
– Leo Rutherford “Contemporary Shamanism”

Unknown artist's replication of ancient pictograph found in the Tien Shan Mountains of Central AsiaI have been broadly exploring new approaches to spirituality in posts such as
Ecclesia as Sacred Tribe and A Pagan conversation. Once one opens the imagination to ideas outside of the western modern norm, (such as “Tribe”), we inevitably meet, in premodern and ancient cultures, the shaman .

The shaman is a shadowy figure, dimly understood, and widely viewed by moderns as a purveyor of superstition, a dangerous magician or a charlatan praying on the fears of simple people. But in fact, in most accounts I have read, shamans are tough  mystics who has overcome their fear of death and so earned a reputation as powerful guides, seers and healers.

Continue reading “The shamanic shadow”

AfterBurn – a Karoo flowering, upcoming synchroblog.

triple bypass photo by Rob MillsA group of 5 intrepid journeymen headed for the desert heartland and the Afrika Burns festival at Stonehenge farm, near the Tankwa Karoo National Park this last weekend. About 6-800 others from well organised families to student slackers to trance party vets to die hard hippies to spiritual seekers to hedonists to Gaian survivalists, all thrown together for a few days of celebration of life, diversity, and giving.

It was dustily comforting, scintillatingly bleak, hilariously shocking, gloriously inventive, primally experimental, unconditionally festive, profoundly challenging. More than that, much more. In short, we felt like we have been through a transformation, an affirmation, a validation, a rite of passage. This is what some of us have been seeking in 25 years of (largely church based) conferences/camps/festivals.

upsetters turbine photo by Rob MillsThat’s enough for now; we are going to synchroblog the experience and/or for those who didn’t make it, just the ideas, on Thursday 29th. So if you didn’t make it but would like to contribute to the debate, or even just ask questions about what it might be, you are invited.

Each synchroblog will contain your main thoughts followed by the list of synchrobloggers. The cut-off is Wednesday 28th; send your article URL in a comment here. I will publish Wednesday evening and you can cut and paste the list bit for your articles from me.

camp vuvuzela photo by Rob Mills

Ecclesia as Sacred Tribe.

Ecclesia – (lat. from Greek ekklesia [εκκλησία]): a “gathering” of citizens, in an ancient Greek city-state; a “gathering of the called out ones”, gathering of those summoned”.  [britannica.com]

Tribe – A socially, ethnically, and politically cohesive group of people. [wiktionary]

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. [1 Peter 2:9]

Written with a view towards “Afrika Burns” with the theme “tribe” (November 2007), the South African version of Burning Man.

I have no real training in social theory, anthropology or ecclesiology, but I’m not going to let that get in the way: I’d like to take a non-expert, common sense, imaginative foray into the idea that G-ds people, the ecclesia (more commonly but more problematically known as “the church”), might be imagined as a Sacred Tribe.

Firstly, I like to explore my own myths (as at least somewhat representative of my culture), to unpack the key terms. What do I mean, and not mean, by “ecclesia”, and by “tribe”?

Ecclesia is not

  • a building or place where Christians meet.
  • any organisation based on certain doctrines.
  • the moral authority.
  • a time of the week.

Rather, the ecclesia is the community of believers who seek to follow Jesus, the mystical “Body of Christ”. It includes people of all cultures, ages, subcultural affiliations, denominations, and doctrinal persuasions. It has a time dimension, and exists through history, as well as into the future. As to who is actually included, only G-d ultimately knows.

What about “Tribe”, or “Tribal”? Here are some of the thoughts that come to mind:

  • non-Western – e.g. “The social structure of African Tribes”.
  • non-Urban or Pagan – “The Tribal customs of the countryside”.
  • primitive – “In earlier, tribal days”.
  • an ironic anachronism: (re-using an ancient term to describe contemporary subcultures), as in “The Modern Tribes of Britain”.
  • having a similar ethos : “We have like this rapport, y’know, we’re the same tribe”.

So why would one bring the concept “ecclesia” together with the term “tribe”?

As we see in the above definition, the ecclesia are “called out”, and there is a sense in which they need to forge an identity different to the default identity of their culture. Generalising, the “Western” culture which I for one find myself in, is essentially individualist, materialist consumerism.

Inside this culture, people identify with brands or economic classes before other things – ethnicity, culture or nationality. Globalisation is about the homogenisation of world culture around consumer values and technology. Whereas the Catholic Church may have been the overarching authority for a millennium and a half, and nationality thereafter, it is now the superbrands who call the shots. I wear Nike, I use a Mac, I drink Coke.

In my western, 21st century context, this global consumer culture is what is rejected by Jesus when he says, “My kingdom is not of this world”. [John 18:36]. This culture stands diametrically opposed to the “Kingdom of God”. To my ears there are more than a few echoes of the Roman Empire, the dominant political power of his milieu, in the current consumerist age.

One of the key features of Empire is its veneration of the City as the seat of authority. Empire is essentially urban rather than rural. As such, many fundamental values of life – connectedness to the soil, closeness with nature, and simplicity, are superseded by market economies, abstraction from nature, artifice, and increasing sophistication.

As an aside, I am not dispensing entirely with the hope that “City” might represent more than this negative picture, note its uses in Augustine (“The City of God against the Pagans”) and the book of Revelation (The New Jerusalem). Additionally most of the apostolic writings are letters to churches in urban centres, and there is no direct suggestion that living in an urban setting was of itself unethical.

Also, it is important to realise that the “pagan”, so often demonised by christian theology, means both “rustic” as well as (in the Roman context, according to Steve Hayes) “civilian, not in the imperial army”. I have been discussing the prophetic nature of the pagan in recent posts.

But I feel that it is now appropriate to re-examine our assumptions about the urban, especially insofar as we are living in an advanced state of spiritual dis-ease. The unchecked trend towards urbanisation has a cost, and we need to count this.

To the extent that it represents the Kingdom of G-d, the ecclesia will find itself at odds with the Empire of Materialist Consumerism. The called out ones are “called out” precisely to live a life different to this, where the values of G-d are both respected and enacted: community rather than individualism, spiritual rather than materialist progress, serventhood rather than mastery, obedience rather than autonomy, creating rather than consuming, nature rather than artifice.

As far as I understand, before Cities and City-States, community took place in a different way: The Way of the Tribe. I need to acknowledge that any elevation of Tribe (even using a capital “T”) is open to the romantic. But since this is not social science, but rather an exercise in re-envisioning, I am not going to be afraid of skirting ideal and dream. Obviously if we go too far we end up with something no-one can practice, and I am interested in changing the way I live rather than simply playing with ideas.

Clearly, the tribal is not without problems. Warfare between Iraqi tribal groups has derailed the nation; intertribal fighting almost derailed the South African transformation process. And as David Ronfeldt points out : “Continuing to view Al Qaeda mainly as a cutting–edge, post–modern phenomenon of the information age misses a crucial point: Al Qaeda is using the information age to revitalize and project ancient patterns of tribalism on a global scale.”

Obviously we need to radically rework any concept of the tribal with a view to values such as peace, compassion and inclusion. Despite notions of hospitality and care of the stranger in many bona fide tribal cultures, most models of tribe seem to have had strong delineators defining who was in and who was out. If we have a view of the world informed by G-d’s Kingdom, then we cannot define belonging based on hard borders and bounded sets.

I have increasingly found that looking backwards is a good way to move forward. We are not trying to romanticise the past, or become something archaic or premodern, but rather to understand and distil principles we see having merit and reapplying them in our context.

The Way of the Tribe seems to me to represent a viable alternative to the domination of the urban, as well as offering a worthy expression of the ecclesia and the Kingdom of G-d.

So we can not accept the idea of the tribe uncritically. But neither can we reject it without proper understanding; we need to recognise that modernity has not in fact superseded tribalism, but rather sublimated it. Many aspects of the tribal have simply been repressed; as such they are still present but unacknowledged. This repression results in, for example:

  • gang mentality – banding together to survive, especially in a ghettoised situation.
  • an unearthed spirituality – spirit-matter dualism, whereby the shamanic or nature based aspects of religion are demonised. We are left with spirituality unconnected with creation.
  • unnatural and impotent social alignments – birds of a feather still flock together, but over things like economic status/aspiration, branding, racial identity, nationalism leading to xenophobia, sporting allegiances, hobbies, and a variety of other factors which do not have the power to build true community.

I would like to present a few ways in which I find a tribal paradigm helpful, especially as a metaphor for the ecclesia:

  • Common Good: In a tribal ethic, the common good comes before the individual good. Acts 4:34 records that “there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”. And 2 Cor 8:15, “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”
  • Honour Motivation: As opposed to the profit motivation of the City, Tribes according to David Ronfeldt “… behave more like balance–of–honor than balance–of–power systems.” If we remind ourselves of the purpose of the ecclesia, which according to N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, are to “be Gods agents in the putting the world to rights”. The means of this are the placing of the creator on the throne, in worship. An honour motivation, in honouring G-d the creator as the central presence within the tribe, appears to be a credible alternative to the profit motivation of this current age.
  • Connected to the earth: “Treat the earth well, it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children”, says an American Native proverb. The tribe lives close to the earth, lives off the soil, is deeply aware of season, climate and its place in things. Rather than the land belonging to us, we belong to the land. One of the most devastating effects of western colonial expansion was the annihilation of native and tribal peoples in their deeply misguided belief that they could “own” what ever land or resources they wanted to. In so doing, the real custodians of the creation were systematically wiped out, their millennia-old wisdom disappearing in the process. Not only are the effects of this western attitude are now being felt, but the genocide and ecocide of the last 2 centuries has been a corporate sin of immense proportions.
  • Bound in Ritual: The rituals and icons commonplace in tribal culture are, like the tribal itself, sublimated in western urbanism. This sublimation creates lifeless habits from healthy ritual, and idols from icons. The empty informalism and lack of imagination of our way of life robs us of a sense of the sacred, the creative and the communal. Many westerners are starting to acknowledge that the rites of passage practiced in earlier times – coming of age, birth, death – have gone missing at great cost.

The 21st Century Tribe

What might this new Tribe look like in practice?

  • New or creatively reappropriated Rituals and Liturgy appropriate to our situation.
  • More dance and rhythm : “I praise the dance, for it frees people from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community.” [St Augustine]
  • Eldership over Celebrity. We need to acknowledge the wisdom of the wise and root out our need for gossip and celebrity as sources of affirmation.
  • An ethic of gifting and servanthood over acquiring and self-preservation.
  • An economic of sharing over profiteering.
  • An economic of barter, wherein we exchange things and skills based on what we do, make or already own, rather than buy into the cult of the new, the cool or the industrially manufactured.
  • The decommodifying of our exchanges. Friendship and kinship over sales and “client” interaction.
  • An active ecology: care of the earth, and efforts to live more in tune with it, political action with existing efforts. More time spent in the open, walking, camping, gardening.
  • A new agriculture: Growing our own, or supporting organic farmers, and going directly to the source rather than via the repackaging supply chain of the market process.
  • A vibrant spirituality which acknowledges the untamed, rediscovering the shamanic arts. Aligning to nature based approaches such as the Wheel of the Year, over more artificial or “scientific” calendars; rediscovering the totemic.
  • A living mythology which feeds the imagination, in which narratives are told and retold, directly and intimately rather than via the products of industrial mythmakers like Disney.
  • Technology in its right place. Always question the increasing ubiquity of computers, entertainment devices and impersonal systems instead of passively accepting it. Says Adbusters Kalle Lasn: “When the TV malfunctions, don’t fix it; decide to suffer through the withdrawal. Fight your way out of the consumerist cage.”
  • Creativity in all things, to combat our industrial alienation from the processes of production. Buying less, making more.
  • Holding our place in the created order, and holding the Creator as the “Honour Centrepiece” of all that the Ecclesial Tribe does.

making space for Halloween

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
” [Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi]

Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders…” [Heb 12:1]

(Part of the Samhain Synchroblog “A Christian response to Halloween“.)

“Halloween”, hmm … that rings a bell or three:
dong: Isn’t it a commercial American kiddy candyfest?
Dong: Isn’t that when they show horror movies on TV?
DONG: Doesn’t it have its roots in satanism and witchcraft?

I am writing from Cape Town, South Africa. While relishing the opportunity to address questions once off limits, like the taboo of Halloween, it has to be said that I am in rather a quandary. I have been told by our local neopagans that we are actually celebrating Beltane (start of summer), not Samhain (end of summer, or Halloween), as the southern calendar is 6 months out of phase to the northern.

Anyway, I have already been wondering about calendars for the sacred  and paganism in general so this is a continuation of the thoughts presented there. As the theme here is to do with a Christian response, I would like to create some mental space in which we can consider the question of a festival all but owned by Paganism.

I pointed out in the second post Julie Clawson’s useful framework for interfacing with other faiths – Reject, Redeem or Root. The first 2 are common Christian  responses:

  • Reject Halloween as pagan and therefore evil … simple, or in South African parlance, “finish and klaar”.
  • Redeem Halloween (31 Oct), as we see in the adjacent traditional celebrations All Saints day (1 Nov) and All Souls Day (2 Nov). In this sense then “Hallow” means holy and “een”, the evening before. As to the question of which came first – the pagan or the christian, see Steve Hayes’ contribution.

But I’d like to consider the third way here – Rooting. Is it possible for a Christian to find a cultural rooting in what is seen as a pagan celebration? But to do so, we will need to take a step back and reconsider the role of nature in the christian tradition, and start to answer some of the questions raised by what is for many a real conceptual disjunct: can we serve and worship Christ via the tools and traditions of the “pagan”?

A big problem

By now most people in the west are aware that we have a very big problem, the size of Planet Earth, on our hands. Al Gore, president elect of Gaia, might be a chief proponent of political action on global warming, but the problem in my view goes deeper than this one specific issue.

For me, this is an issue of “righteousness”. To be righteous is not so much to do with being religious, pious or even sanctified. It is to do with right relationship. This includes relationship with our past, with one another, with our Maker, and with the Earth.

Now, the triune god Progress-Profit-Technology has blessed us with

  • the illusion of being better evolved than ever before such that we are losing our sense of where we come from, with the tacit assumption that latest = greatest.
  • an affluence which has removed us from the process of production, paying for the services required for survival and losing touch with the flow of life itself.
  • an abstraction from each other and the world via technology – houses, cars, urbanisation, privatisation, celebrity, entertainment and the ubiquitous distractions of commodification.

We are in what I call an advanced state of “Artifice”. Our lives are artificial, abstract and anesthetized. We need to eat, but we pay someone else to harvest, kill or manufacture our food. Fewer and fewer people use their hands; those that do are often in production lines doing mind numbingly repetitive tasks.

Our feet are perpetually shod, out of contact with the good earth. Our imaginations no longer see constellations in the sky, we have lost the subtle meanings of the world and all that it contains. We have been made to fear that which is wild and untamed. And our theology merely reinforces this prejudice, fear and chauvinism.

The dual to the death

The Paved over Paradise of the Artifice not only weakens our survival skills dramatically, but weakens our spirits even more. The Incarnational G-d as demonstrated in Jesus has chosen that we know and serve Him via the creation, not despite it. Of course, being G-d means you can circumnavigate natural law in the miraculous, but it is very clear that he who is G-d formed himself into matter, placed himself amongst people in a specific time and place, and communed deeply with the natural world. This is (for me) the core message of Christ. To respond to anything from “Christian” point of view, needs to have this Incarnational G-d at its centre.

Neo-Platonic and Hellenistic thought was very present in the writings of many over the ages but it was Augustine, arguably the most influential post-Pauline theologian of the Church, who embedded its dualism into this inherited culture we know as Christendom.

When combined with the Enlightenment’s emphasis in the mind (individualism), its belief in a rationally defined framework for understanding the cosmos (scientism), and an attitude of conquest and dominion (colonialism and capitalism) we end up almost totally losing touch with and respect for the Earth and by strong implication, G-d.

There are but faint echoes of the sort of wisdom required for this righteousness in non-westernized cultures, but their voice has been so brutally and systematically marginalized, mostly in the name of Christendom and its “civilization”, (although not forgetting communism, and other destructive fundamentalisms as well), it is no wonder we cannot hear the wisdom of Australian Aboriginals, Kalahari Bushmen, North American Natives, European Pagans, or Shamanic voices from around the world.

To be fair, however, I don’t want to idealize these minorities, and nor do I want to exclude many other peoples whose respect for their/our world puts us westerners to utter shame.

But once we acknowledge this shame, we need to find a way of redeeming ourselves. This will involve questioning many if not most of our deep held cultural assumptions; it will involve hard work, pain and humbling. I for one think it is worth it. Wisdom University’s Paul Ray has presented a fascinating case for this type of integrated spirituality in his presentation “Creating a Wisdom Culture“.

Any spirituality that hopes to find a true and appreciable union with its creator needs to hold nature in high regard. Christendom has failed almost completely to do so. The church has too often sided with and bought into individualism, colonialism, capitalism and colluded with progress, profit and technology. The dualisms of Spirit-Matter and Secular-Sacred have rendered the mission of Christ to “Love the world” almost powerless.

Prophetically pagan

If we are to serve G-d truly and fully, we need another way. One such way is hinted at via many of the teachings of the so-called pagans or neo-pagans. Note that in considering this, I am not suggesting taking on a philosophy wholesale or unquestioningly – I do not include the “ism”, only the “pagan”. The Wheel of the Year, based as it is on the seasons, makes a start at reconciling us with the world in which we live, with its seasons and its honoring of the importance of the Sun and Moon.

In the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made, And first my lord Brother Sun, Who brings the day; and light you give to us through him. How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness. All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars; In the heavens you have made them, bright And precious and fair. [The Canticle of Brother Sun]

And Teilhard de Chardin:

For me, my God, all joy and all achievement, the very purpose of my being and all my love of life, all depend on this one basic vision of the union between yourself and the universe … I have no desire, I have no ability, to proclaim anything except the innumerable prolongations of your incarnate Being in the world of matter; I can preach only the mystery of your flesh, you the Soul shining forth through all that surrounds us. [The mass on the world]

I imagine that some people will now be asking question such as these:

  • Is this not “syncretism”, did Christ not say “I have chosen you out of the world”, are you not diluting the Faith, you heretic?
  • Is it not pantheism, the worship of the earth, you idolater?
  • Are you not walking directly into satan’s trap by flirting with witchcraft, you heathen, you wolf in sheep’s clothing?
  • Shouldn’t you be celebrating Beltane not Samhain in the Southern Hemisphere, you poor confused downunder fool?

These are all good questions, and I am prepared to answer them. But for now, I have just wanted to lay a foundation, create a mental space, for approaching the issue of Samhain/Halloween.

Praxis, anyone?

Further to all this mental wrestling, I am involved with a small local group who will be exploring “Halloween – All Saints – All Souls” on Friday 2nd November.

Here, we will be exploring what is in common between Halloween, All Saints and All Souls. We will examine the Celtic idea of the “Thin place” where the world of the dead comes close to the world of the living, the litany of the “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 11, and a few words on African Ancestral traditions from a Xhosa perspective.

I am asking participants to

  • Remember a person who has influenced you. To re-member is to “gather” ones thoughts and memories. This person might be alive, but a dearly departed would more in keeping with the theme. They may be a family member, a writer, a spiritual mentor, a friend, an artist, or any iconic person whose life has passed into yours.
  • How do you hope to be remembered? Here you can express both your actual achievements and your vision for you as-yet-unlived life.

So from me, and in the name of Jesus, Happy Samhain!

Other synchrobloggers are :

  • The Christians and the Pagans Meet for Samhain at Phil Wyman’s Square No More
  • Our Own Private Zombie: Death and the Spirit of Fear by Lainie Petersen
  • Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping
  • John Morehead at John Morehead’s Musings
  • Vampire Protection by Sonja Andrews
  • What’s So Bad About Halloween? at Igneous Quill
  • H-A-double-L-O-double-U-double-E-N Erin Word
  • Halloween….why all the madness? by Reba Baskett
  • Steve Hayes at Who stole Halloween
  • KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent
  • Hallmark Halloween by John Smulo
  • Mike Bursell at Mike’s Musings
  • Sam Norton at Elizaphanian
  • Removing Christendom from Halloween at On Earth as in Heaven
  • Vampires or Leeches: A conversation about making the Day of the Dead meaningful by David Fisher
  • Encountering hallow-tide creatively by Sally Coleman
  • Kay at Chaotic Spirit
  • Apples and Razorblades at Johnny Beloved
  • Fall Festivals and Scary Masks at The Assembling of the Church
  • Why Christians don’t like Zombies at Hollow Again
  • Peering through the negatives of mission Paul Walker
  • Sea Raven at Gaia Rising
  • Timothy Victor at Tim Victor’s Musings
  • Halloween: My experiences by Lew A
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