My writing

EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Mystic Goes to Church

January 24, 2012

In her book, The Life of the Spirit and the Life of Today, in a chapter entitled, “Institutional Religion and the Life of the Spirit,” Evelyn Underhill approaches a very tender subject: how well does a mystic do in a church environment? For me, this has been a very painful, sometimes tortuous conflict — wanting, needing to go to church, but finding there what one finds in church: seemingly tireless church ladies, jovial fellows discussing the replanting of the tulip beds, frazzled choir masters chasing after their brood, et al. This question, often put in the crucial form, “Did Jesus Christ intend to form a church?” is well worth asking.  Indeed, it is of great and pressing importance to those who now have [...]

GOD 101: On The Nature Of Obedience

January 23, 2012

To no small degree, it amazed me when, in my early twenties, I began to study God from five perspectives.  These were (1) obedience; (2) surrender; (3) discipline; (4) acceptance; and (5) grace. To illustrate how complex these subjects are, it took me the next forty years to get through the first three.  But, because of my proclivity toward this behavior, studying obedience was not as arduous for me as, say, discipline, for which I appeared to have no clue whatsoever.  (Remember, this is the concept of discipline from God’s point-of-view, not the world’s.  But that is a whole other subject.) Defining obedience is fairly strait forward: obedience is the act of doing what you are told.  One must never forget, however, that [...]

TALES FROM BEYOND THE HORIZON: The Chapel By The Lake

January 20, 2012

When I was a teenager, I was sent to Episcopal church camp.  It wasn’t my choice, really.  My grandmother and the church I attended decided it would be good for me.  Otherwise, I would just keep working at my summer job: scooping ice cream for laughing townsfolk and for vacationers thrilled with being on the coast of Maine. Doing anything as a child in Maine was very understated.  I remember reading accounts of how children from other states would go to exotic places for vacation and do inscrutable things, like study rocketry or cheerleading.  Were I to be sent on “vacation,” I would be driven a few minutes away from my home and dropped at the dock belonging to my great-aunt to be shuttled out to her summer island. [...]

HEALING: The Confusion That Is Pain

January 19, 2012

Hebrews 5:7-8: Christ, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared, though he were a son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered. Seemingly, from the very beginning of the Bible to its shattering end, pain and suffering is  very much the bulk of the matters being discussed. And so it is with our own lives.  We come into the world with a scream, and before we leave it, we have become intimate with the pain that, at times or for longer, sluice our minds, bodies, and souls. It’s all about sensation, is it not? As simple a thing as a nerve ending. And yet, in terms of our [...]

MYSTICAL WOMEN: Faustina—Painting the Portrait of the Divine

January 18, 2012

A passage from the diary of Faustina: Jesus made known to me how very pleasing to him were prayers of atonement.  He said to me, The prayer of a humble and loving soul disarms the anger of my father and draws down an ocean of blessings.  After the adoration, half way to my cell, I was surrounded by a pack of huge black dogs who were jumping and howling and trying to tear me to pieces.  I realized that they were not dogs, but demons.  One of them spoke up in a rage, “Because you have snatched so many souls away from us this night, we will tear you to pieces.”  I answered, “If that is the will of the most merciful God, tear me to pieces, for I have justly deserved it, because I am the most miserable of all sinners, [...]

HOLY SPIRIT: The Unforgivable Sin

January 17, 2012

Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation. (Mark 3:28-29) This is an amazingly thin line that Jesus draws in the sand.  You may do anything you like to me, he says, and be forgiven, but revile the Holy Spirit and there will be no forgiveness. Abuse the Holy Spirit?  Just what could this mean? In context, Jesus made this proclamation after the Pharisees had accused the healing miracles of Jesus to be the work of the devil.  How can the devil heal the darkness caused by the devil, he exclaims.  This makes no sense.  And then he brings down the hammer of God: for [...]

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: On The Nature Of Love

January 16, 2012

1 Corinthians 13:4-7: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. There are, of course, many expressions of love.  In the context of this post, however, I am addressing the phenomenon as love as a weapon in spiritual warfare. I have been tinkering with a definition of spiritual warfare for a while now, and so, for today, my definition is this: Spiritual warfare is the means and methods we use to convert evil into good. Weapons of spiritual warfare are, in short, those [...]

ANGELS: The Angel Of Release, with a tale of my own

January 13, 2012

Acts 12:1 – 16: At that time King Herod caused terrible suffering for some members of the church.  He ordered soldiers to cut off the head of James, the brother of John.  When Herod saw that this pleased the Jewish people, he had Peter arrested during the Festival of Thin Bread.  He put Peter in jail and ordered four squads of soldiers to guard him.  Herod planned to put him on trial in public after the festival.  While Peter was being kept in jail, the church never stopped praying to God for him. The night before Peter was to be put on trial, he was asleep and bound by two chains. A soldier was guarding him on each side, and two other soldiers were guarding the entrance to the jail. Suddenly an angel from the Lord appeared, [...]

GOD 101: The Problem With God, the absolute versus the relative

January 12, 2012

Not that long ago I was listening to two pundits pund.  Isn’t that what pundits do?  Expound, analyze, give us the benefit of their extensive learning?  Pund seems to sum that all up, don’t you think? One nice, little, neat package of a verb: pund. Anyway, these brilliant gentlemen were punding, as they regularly do for the benefit of us all, when they ended their exposition with the phrase, relating to someone’s effort, “if it is of God, it will be a success.” To say that my jaw dropped would be a massive understatement.  To say that it crashed through the floor beneath me would be a more apt description. God?  Success?  What is that supposed to mean? Of course, coming from New England, and so having [...]

SOUL STRUCTURE: Satan’s Soul, and the process of welcoming back possessed souls

January 10, 2012

For the most part, normal, everyday souls, the souls of good, God-fearing people are pretty much alike.  There are some variations, to be sure, but for these variations, it’s like comparing a duck with a swan.  Different, but essentially the same.  You get the idea. But the meat, I have found, in the study of soul structure lies with the souls of evil people.  I’m not sure it is accurate to call a soul, itself, evil, and not keep that label for the person, himself.  But I do have a tendency to look for shortcuts in referring to all this, and so I confess here and now that I do use the term, evil soul. So be it. We all know what I am referring to.  Right? For my study of soul structures, I differentiate between the [...]

MYSTICISM: The Thirst Of The Soul, with help from Evelyn Underhill

January 9, 2012

Psalm 42: As the hart pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when will I come and appear before God?   Evelyn Underhill, the first woman to lecture at Oxford and the woman who gave retreats to Anglican priests, counseling them to start praying, has an expansive definition of what a mystic is.  My first post to this blog, one I wrote up quickly so that I could experiment with it in deciding how I wanted the blog to look, was a beginning to her definition of a mystic.  Here is a continuation of her thoughts about this: So the beginning of an answer to the question, ‘What is mysticism?’ must be this: mysticism is the passionate longing of the soul for God, the [...]

MYSTICISM: Christopher Hitchens Is Dead: A Tribute to Mother Teresa

January 6, 2012

I was traveling to Darjeeling by train when I heard the voice of God.  I was sure it was God’s voice.  I was certain that he was calling me.  The message was clear.  I must leave the convent to help the poor by living among them.  This was a command, something to be done, something definite.  I knew where I had to be.  But I did not know how to get there. At the time of Mother Teresa’s death, there were over six hundred missions of charity in 123 countries. These included her homes for the dying (hospices), homes for those suffering with AIDS/HIV, home for those with leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, orphanages, and schools. One day, Christopher Hitchens decided to make a documentary about Mother Teresa.  It was [...]

GOD 101: Taking The Drama Out Of Being Born Again

January 5, 2012

The words are there: Verily, verily, verily, I say to you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. All my life, I have heard about this great surging, have seen people washed forward by it all.  To me, the process looks like a whole lot of chaos occurring in an extremely structured venue.  A seeming dance of strict formality, a flight of a butterfly in response to a booming command. But, other than conforming to what the person has been challenged with, I can never see any meaning to it all. Being born again, after all, is all about our relationship with Jesus and God, not with the other members of our congregation. But it is [...]

THE MECHANICS OF PRAYER: Silence — Bearing The Fruit Of Reverence, with quotes of Thomas Merton

January 3, 2012

I love Thomas Merton.  He is a writer that I can never read too much of.  So, when I decided to write on the importance of silence in prayer, I looked up some writing by Thomas on silence, or stillness, to see how much our assertions conformed with one another. We don’t proclaim the same things about silence, but I still found myself soothed and moved by his words.  For instance, here is something he wrote: Words stand between silence and silence: between the silence of things and the silence of our own being, between the silence of the world and the silence of God.  When we have really met and known the world in silence, words do not separate us from the world nor from other men, nor from God, nor from ourselves because we no [...]

HEALING: The Great Circle Of Life, Includes the Lesson of Recreation

January 2, 2012

When I meditate on healing, and what helps us to stay alive in the face of all that we are faced with, I keep seeing circles.  I don’t think this is for just any reason.  I have a lesson that deals with circles and with healing, it’s called the lesson of recreation.  (Not recreation, as in, sitting on the beach, but re-creation: to create anew.) This lesson is tied to the number eight, which, as you know, is made up of two circles, one on top of the other.  This lesson teaches how one heals through a trauma.  The top circle represents the thought/emotional process; the bottom circle represents the physical process. According to this lesson, when we are traumatized, our minds and body stop in time.  They clutch and cling [...]

SPIRITUALITY: On Spiritual Formation

December 30, 2011

Henri Nouwen, on his definition of spiritual formation, writes the following: Spiritual formation, I have come to believe, is not about steps or stages on the way to perfection.  It’s about the movements from the mind to the heart through prayer in its many forms that reunite us with God, each other, and our truest selves. Henri goes on to explain that in his context, the heart is the seat of everything: it is where the body, soul, and spirit come together.  He elaborates even on this by saying that in the Jewish-Christian tradition, the heart “refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual, volitional, and moral energies.” That’s quite a mouthful, don’t you think? Henri views spiritual [...]

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: The Way To The Cross

December 29, 2011

Spiritual warfare is a very serious subject, perhaps the most serious of all subjects.  Clearly some religions equate spiritual warfare with hand-to-hand combat, bombing raids, and other acts of violence.  To most of the world, warfare is warfare.  Period.  Some Christians think it right to bomb abortion clinics and kill doctors. But, in truth, spiritual warfare has absolutely nothing to do with violence. Beginning my approach to spiritual warfare with the crucifixion of Jesus is, admittedly, a very, very tough place to begin.  This should most probably be the last lesson on spiritual warfare, but there would be so many lessons before this one that it might be years before I got to it, and there is so much going on in some churches [...]

THE MECHANICS OF PRAYER: Intention And Alignment

December 28, 2011

All right, she says, as she rubs her hands together, let’s get started.  Most people intuitively understand the mechanics of prayer — not all of it, to be sure, but people seem to “get” what prayer is about. However, unlike the sort of general way people approach prayer, prayer is, surprisingly, a very exact activity. So let us begin at the beginning, with the intention of a prayer.  It’s amazing how many prayers that I read, which are written by the average man-off-the-street trying to be impressive, that are, in the end, absolutely meaningless.  These prayers may sound good, all the words heading off toward some fanciful ideal, but the prayers seems to forget completely that our prayers are petitions for [...]

SOUL STRUCTURE: The Basic Construct

December 27, 2011

I have been urged to write about the content of my visions by people and by God for many, many years.  I had two major objections to such an action on my part: first, I assumed people would come after me with pitchforks and lighted torches because of my blatant insanity; and, second, I was overwhelmed by the challenge of having to “translate” the vision into English. This latter challenge was most acute when it came to my visions on the structure of souls.  It wasn’t so much the problem that souls are unseen; psychiatrists have been describing unseen aspects of us, things like the id and ego, for quite a while. But there was something so intangible about the soul, so evanescent, that I feared for a long time that I [...]

GOD 101: The Quality of Accuracy

December 26, 2011

Whenever I am asked, how do you know that your visions are from God, I am able to answer quickly.  Before I’ve taken my next breath or blinked an eye.  The answer is always with me. I know my visions are from God because the visions are accurate. Invariably the person asking the question blinks a bit and then looks a tad vacuous.  No response.  Ever.  It is as though they want to, but hold themselves back from asking, what exactly do you mean by accurate? I like the definitions that Merriam-Webster gives the word accurate: 1.  free from error especially as the result of care. 2. conforming exactly to truth or to a standard; exact. This is, in a way, one explanation of how I approach and handle visions for the most part. [...]

GOD 101: The Lesson Of Silence

December 23, 2011

It would take me more than a lifetime or two to recount all the lessons that have come to me in my visions.  I’m exaggerating, of course, but some days it doesn’t feel like it.  Lessons of God take up a mighty percent of my visions. This is the lesson of silence: In your words, you will find your willingness to serve God.  In your silence, you will find your willingness to be served by God. For me, this could be the first lesson in our understanding of God.  It could also be the last lesson in our understanding of God, as far as I am concerned. As with any study or application of a study of God, the three fundamental laws of God, respect, courtesy, and gratitude, must be the ground on which we base our thoughts, feelings, [...]

TALES FROM BEYOND THE HORIZON: The Painted Scarf

December 22, 2011

I was in my early twenties.  I was a student at the University of California, otherwise referred to as Berkeley.  And I had come to the somewhat painful realization that my mystical attributes were not going away.  If anything, they were getting worse.  Worse, being the way I described the weirdness that was me. For my relationship with and understanding of God, it was a time of rapid growth.  As I grew out of my resistance to being me and settled into taking note of the visions that were coming fast and furious, some of my “gifts” were revealed to me. One was that if I let myself become very, very still and turned myself wholly over to God, and if I was near another person, also still, I could feel my [...]

ANGELS: Gabriel — The Arrow that Pierces Disbelief

December 21, 2011

Discussing the reality of angels is difficult for me.  I find it difficult for a number of reasons. Not that long ago I strolled through the gift shop at the National Cathedral.  There were books and pictures, statues, and stuffed angels.  There were also books and pictures, and other paraphenalia about dragons.  And fairies.  And unicorns. I wanted to get down on my knees and ask the child who had the feet of a green dragon grasped in her hands whether or not she thought dragons were real.  And then I wanted to ask her if she thought angels were real. If dragons and angels are being peddled side-by-side, are we not, by doing this, equating the two?  Isn’t the blatent message to child and adult alike that angels are just [...]

HEALING: The Matters Of Life And Death, and a tale of my own

December 20, 2011

It can be said that healing and prayer are the same functions.  After all, both seek to bring something we want into reality through God.  It may seem that they are the same, but they are not. Healing is an almost infinitely profound concept, whereas the mechanics of prayer can be delineated.  A unique factor of healing, that differentiates it from prayer, is that you can heal into life.  And you can heal into death.  In truth, there is no difference. Another distinction between prayer and healing is that prayer is just simply what it seems to be: a petition to God for something that is on our hearts.  Healing is an actual ridding from the body and mind a potentially enveloping darkness.  Of this subject I will wait until another [...]

GOD 101: A Classification Of Evil

December 19, 2011

Over my lifetime, I have found that the study of evil is a very difficult one.  I first was exposed to a general study of evil when I was in my teens.  Later, I studied it while I worked on understanding the structure of the soul.  Truly evil people can have unique features in their souls.  This last summer, however, finding that I really, really didn’t understand evil, and not really wanting to, I committed myself to a study of it and, eventually, I came up with my own classifications. I define evil as that harm that is done, unnaturally, to a person or persons.  Unnatural may not be the best word for what I am looking to express.  Perhaps, artificial, would do better. I am looking for a way of expressing those things that a [...]

CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER: Unity vs. Wholeness

December 16, 2011

I took the following definition of centering prayer off the website Centering Prayer, ostensibly the website dedicated to the teachings of Father Thomas Keating, one of the priests who began the teaching of contemplative prayer in the modern age.  The definition goes: Centering prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself.  This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. I find within this definition a perfect expression of our relationship with God: through this kind of prayer we experience [...]

MYSTICISM: On Visions And Visionaries

December 16, 2011

I don’t talk with people much about my visions.  For most of my life, I’ve kept very, very private about it all.  But, amazingly, the few times that the subject of visions has come up in a conversation and I have addressed it, there are people who respond to me by saying, you know, that’s not just the way it’s done. And I agree wholeheartedly. Most of the time, I don’t see things, like an apparition of Jesus, neither do I hear things like Joan of Arc.  My visions are like enlarged thoughts.  A thought that I have to purchase some more dish-washing detergent has a low vibration in my brain, a gentle hum.  But a vision about say, the lesson of silence, which I know from experience is not just a [...]

MYSTICAL WOMEN: Joan of Arc—Breaking the Mold

December 14, 2011

This is the story of Joan of Arc’s first trial. No, it’s not what you think.  In fact, before Joan had to stand before the judges arguing for her very life, she was on trial twice.  And as I wrote, above, this is the tale of her first encounter with the forces of justice.  But, first, for better understanding of this trial, a glimpse into her youth. When Joan was thirteen, she had her first vision.  At the second public examination of Joan (The Trial) on Thursday, February 22, 1431, she described to the judges assembled before her her first mystical experiences: Asked if she received the sacrament of the Eucharist at other feasts than Easter, she told the interrogator to move on.  Then she confessed that when she was aged [...]

THE MECHANICS OF PRAYER: Why God? The Three R’s

December 13, 2011

As I rummaged around the fundamentals of prayer looking for ways to talk about it I happened upon a concept that would have flown right past me as I grew up and studied the miracle and joy that is prayer. Unquestioningly I would have included God in the effort. But, I realized, not everyone would be so accepting about the fundamentals of prayer, and take them on without thinking them over first. So the question is, why God? Why pray to God? Why include God in our petitions to the universe? There is, after all, a system of writing out affirmations for our perceived wants and needs. If I want a new job then all I have to do is write out, for a specified number of times, I, Julia, will find a new job this week. Or some such formula. Why not [...]

EVELYN UNDERHILL: A Turning Toward Church

December 12, 2011

Evelyn Underhill was born in 1875 England.  Although her family was associated with the Anglican church, neither her mother nor her father were practicing Anglicans.  Evelyn addresses this situation when she writes, “I was not brought up to religion.” Her father turned away from the church when he grew tired of the constant chapels he was required to attend in boarding school.  Oddly, though, his younger brother had the opposite reaction and eventually became an Anglican priest. In spite of this, at 15, Evelyn began study for her confirmation into the church.  She keeps herself an arm’s length away from true conviction.  She writes in her diary, As to religion, I don’t quite know, except that I believe in a [...]