Faith and Study

The funny thing about spiritual work is that, generally, if you are working within an established current of practice, you tend to acquire spiritual benefits regardless of changes in your awareness. This is one of the values of simple faith and devotion. It is a little bit like having work done on your car–you don’t always know exactly what gets done under the hood, but the car runs better afterward.

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Gnostic Canon?

Every once in a blue moon, because I am a nerd, I get the bug to think about putting together a reading list of books for would-be gnostics, a canon if you will. The few times I have actually started to pull that together, it’s not long before I shelve the whole mess in disgust. I am never satisfied with the list and I am never satisfied with my reasons for including material on it. I have tried to figure out why and I finally put it together when I was reading that interview with Allen Ginsberg:

Very oddly a lady saint Shri Matakrishnaji in Brindaban, whom I consulted about my spiritual problems, told me to take Blake for my guru. There’s all kinds of different gurus, there can be living and nonliving gurus—apparently whoever initiates you, and I apparently was initiated by Blake in terms of at least having an ecstatic experience from him. So that when I got here to Cambridge I had to rush over to the Fitzwilliam Museum to find his misspellings in Songs of Innocence.

I could put together a list of books that meant something to me, that had effects on me along the scale that Ginsberg is talking about in regards to Blake (just skip through that interview using find to locate Blake references–you won’t regret it), but it wouldn’t be anything more than anemic autobiography.

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Gnostic traditions have a habit of forming lineages, lines of succession, through which the spiritual charge and secret knowledge are passed. Those are good things. They preserve methods for intensifying the spark’s activity within its coil and, when things go really well, provide connections to spirits who have been doing this sort of work for a while. Some of those operate in plain sight while others operate in a more sub rosa fashion. Some of these traditions are well aware of the gnostic nature of their work while others have had it comingled and confused with other things. And so it goes. As these gnostic traditions form the more stable vehicles of gnosis, they have also played a large role in shaping our ideas about how gnostic work should operate.

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