The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Saturday, May 25, 2019

A Crisis of Identity

Identity is a big deal! It's such a big deal, in fact, that some would kill or be killed over it! Wars have been fought over it! Of course, some people might take issue with me over that last statement, but that should make one wonder how THEY identify! So why is one's individual identity so important? Why should it make a difference in how we treat one another? ( In case some take issue with THIS question: YES; how one identifies DOES make a difference in how they're treated! ( I'm guilty of this myself ) Why DO we then, treat that person differently than the other, simply because he or she identifies differently? ( Not that ALL do this, but sadly, most do! ) Have we forgotten who we are? Are we not More than our humanity, or are we, after all, simply human beings that will go the way of all biology, our bodies returning to the dust, while our spirits rest for Eternity in some 'Heaven' or simply go 'poof' ( disappear )?

'Who are you, really?' This is a quote from one of my favorite Clint Eastwood westerns & is based squarely in the notion of identity, but it fits well into our theme here! In context, the actor had been playing a part which didn't really suit the situation, so he came back to play the part he had formerly played, that of a gunslinger. All that said, we should pose this question to ourselves; 'who are we, really?' While it may be rightly said, of course, that it helps to identify with something, for, as the old adage goes, 'if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything' ( ? ), it should also be noted that to identify with this rather than that, one ideal instead of another, has led to unnecessary conflict. 'Unnecessary conflict?, one might say; 'some conflict is necessary, for one must identify ( stand with ) us or them, or one stands for nothing'! This almost seems to be a valid argument & from a merely human standpoint, it would be hard to say that it's not ( valid ), but when we realize our true nature, everything else seems to fade in importance, if not entirely into the background, into the fleeting edges of consciousness, one might say!

The importance of Identify cannot be denied. One's true nature & the realization thereof is of utmost importance! This is not to say, however, that unless & until one realizes their true nature, he or she is of no use in this world, for there has been much that is good in this world that has been accomplished by those who did not realize ( consciously speaking ) their true nature. Until people realize their true nature, though, the good things they have accomplished will not last, for as generations rise & fall, the good that has been done may be corrupted & thus will become what many would identify as 'evil'! Although not necessarily 'evil'; to many, the 'good' will become 'evil', simply because it is different from what they identify as 'good'.

Lest I be falsely accused of vaunting relativity over Absolute Truth; I realize that there IS such a thing as Absolute Truth & while Absolute Truth MAY be known, it is not by reading words in a book that one may know this Absolute Truth, but it is only through the Spirit Within, the realization of one's true nature, that It can be known. There IS such a thing as 'faith', one might insist, wherein one believes ( blindly? ) that what some book says is Absolute Truth & indeed, Absolute Truth may be hidden within the pages of a book, though it should be noted that, all 'faith' aside, It is what It is, not what any certain book says It is!

What is 'evil' to one person ( or group of people ) may be identified as 'good' to another. The inherent problem with this ( if problem there be ) should be obvious! The problem is personal! Because of personal likes & dislikes, we encounter conflicts. One person enjoys this or that activity, one thing or another, over something else, while the other enjoys just the opposite. It must be noted that, while our personal differences are a necessary part of what makes us human, there is also the more integral part of us that IS no different from the other. THAT is our True Nature, what some call 'the soul'. It is what motivates us, without which our human nature could not perform even its most basic function. There is a higher & lower nature, what could also be called 'the conscious' & 'the unconscious' part of that nature, but that may constitute another story for another day!

As human beings, we feel that we MUST have our own ( individual ) identity; we need to SHINE! There is nothing wrong with individuality, not inherently, but as naturally selfish human beings, we tend to focus overmuch on our ( own ) individuality, often to the detriment of the other's. Rhetorical questions like, 'why can't you be more like your brother/sister?' most often have the effect of making the object of haranguement want to be LESS ( not more ) like their brother/sister! This in turn tends to cause conflict between the two subjects in question & my Christian readers will no doubt remember the biblical story of Cain & Abel: that conflict ended in the physical death of one of the brothers & the metaphorical death of the other, all because they were different & Cain let his Ego get the better of him.

We HAVE an Identity! There is no need for us to go searching for it ( outside ourselves ), nor do we need to DO something in order to BE identified. We are who & what we are. What we are, in our innermost being, is part & parcel with the same Being/Entity that 'created' us, in Whom 'we live and move and have our being' ( Acts 17:28 ). Lest I be accused, again, of saying that we ARE this 'Creator': we are not the One ( if THAT is even the correct way to say It ) that hung the Stars or made the Mountains rise out of the Seas, though we ARE Creators in our own right!

All that said, speaking of Absolute Truth, we are who we are! Humanity, in its varied individual nature, says, 'if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a duck'. Our True Nature, that of Oneness, says, 'though we be ( personally/individually ) different. we will not allow our differences to overcome ( consume ) us!' Our True Nature, along with St. Francis of Assisi, says, 'where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.' We do not find conflict in our differences, but rather unity in spite of or even because of our individuality! May we, as a race of selfish human beings, find within ourselves, in our innermost being, this True Nature, before we murder & destroy each other, indeed all created things, because of our individual identities!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Rest in Peace, Mr. Stuart

What can be said about 'Bo', as he was called by all who knew & loved him? For many years, he was a Teaching Elder at Covenant Community Church, towards the end of which, he was afflicted by something called 'IEED', or 'Involuntary Emotional Expression Disorder'. For several years, Bo persevered as a TE at CCC, but his condition worsened to the point that he felt he could no longer fulfill his duties, especially when further complicated in the last several years by yet another disease that was, for the longest time, misdiagnosed & therefore, mistreated. He will be greatly missed by all those at CCC, as well by the Greater Community of all those who knew & loved this gentle man, for, to know him was to love him!

As there are many others who were more closely acquainted with Mr. Stuart, it behooves me to allow them to recount that part of his tale. I can however, tell the part that I was privileged to partake in. I migrated to Whitehall, Montana in February of 2011 in the aftermath of a failed marriage in Wyoming. As I was staying with my sister & brother-in-law, who were a part of Covenant Community Church, I too began to attend fairly regularly. I had met Bo previously, though, as I remember, rather cursorily, quite a few years earlier, when my fiancee & I had visited. To make a long story short, when I began to sit under his teaching, as well as that of his fellow Teaching Elder, Tim Martin, I was immediately struck, not just by his intellect, but by his manner of teaching. Bo had a way of teaching that not only met one at their level but brought one up to his level. Although, for the past number of years, he was not able to fulfill his duties in the pulpit, his teaching will always be remembered!

In the early afternoon hours of Wednesday, May the 15th, Sidney ( 'Bo' ) Stuart passed from this life & now rests in the arms of his Lord & Savior. As a Christian for much of his life ( again, I'm sure there are those who can recount his story more completely ), Mr. Stuart believed fervently in life after death; that after this physical husk had breathed its last & returned to the dust from which it was made, there was More, gloriously so, in fact! Though Bo never, to my knowledge anyway, talked much about this 'afterlife', or even the fact that we as human beings, are More; I know that he held this Truth in his heart of hearts. As a unique human ( individual ) being, Bo was loved for the presence he brought to Covenant Community Church, but he was loved most of all for the Presence he manifested everywhere he went. His bodily presence will be sorely missed, but we know that his spirit remains, especially with those that knew & loved him!

In His memory,
Charles Haddon Shank

P.S. I probably am not the only one, but I think his IEED ( similar to 'IED'? ) was 'catching', as I seem to suffer from a similar affliction!

Thursday, May 09, 2019

'Open Your Eyes, People!'

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is [g]good, your whole body will be full of light.
Matthew 6:22 

The context of Jesus' words above demands a first century fulfillment ( in other words, they were poignant for the Pharisaical Jews of His day ), but they also hold true today, as many of His words do, as a universal truth. The King James Version renders the Greek 'haplous' as 'single'. In the sense of 'whole', or even 'healthy', both adjectives fulfill their purpose. The singularity of the 'eye' ( Greek 'ophthalmos' ) lends credence to the notion that the Master was here referring to what is metaphorically called 'the third eye'. As a universal truth, Jesus' words remind us of our true nature & that it is with the only with the 'eyes' of the Spirit Within that we truly 'see', or know!

There is much in this world in which we live that is called 'evil'! 'Evil', though, being a fairly relative term ( for instance, what some may call 'evil' is not necessarily bad, or wicked; it just feels or seems that way to them, while on the other side of the coin, what some call 'good' may seem 'evil' to their neighbor ), is simply an adjective describing what any given person, at any given time, chooses to do. 'Evil' cannot be personified ( as 'Evil Incarnate' ), although one could well name many people in our past ( as well as in our present ) as 'evil'. However, some of these, though one might perceive them as continually making bad or 'wrong' choices, are simply guilty of being different, 'marching to a different drummer' ( 'dancing to a different tune' ), so to speak! Coming from a strictly Christian background ( as I do ), we could well say ( most do ), 'well, God ( the Bible ) says this is evil ( wrong ) & that is good ( right )!' There ARE absolutes, but are we to judge them by what some book colored by a certain ( ANE ) perception, says: should we not rather judge them ( individuals ) by 'evil is as evil does', or better yet, 'an ye harm none, do what ye will'??!

Perception, individual or cultural, has much to do with what is considered 'evil' This is not to say that there IS no such thing ( ? ), for anyone can look at a man hitting a woman, for instance & immediately condemn that man for his actions. What they didn't see, in their limited perception, however, is that he was simply defending himself; they didn't see the gun or knife that she had previously threatened him with, or even the child cowering in his shadow. Whether they arrived late on the scene, or whether their perception is colored by a certain dogma, most only 'see' what they perceive with the physical organs called 'eyes'. Many are beginning to understand, however, by 'thinking outside the box' ( or 'the book', as the case may be ) that not all is as they have been taught, so, 'bucking the system', in a manner of speaking, their perception ( if they even HAVE one ) has been altered to the point that they trust the Spirit Within more than what they see with their eyes!

It IS most definitely wrong for a man ( or woman ) to sexually abuse a child! Most often, we are used to reading about it or hearing it on the evening news from a source which is questionable at the very least. Many Americans perceive these articles ( or 'bytes' ) to be true & so start wars both inside & outside themselves. As above, though, increasingly more are noting the bias in much if not all of the major news media & have turned to alternate sources for their information. This often leads to their 'third eye' being opened, with the understanding that 'it is what it is'; all else is simply perception, at least, physically speaking. But then, there is 'knowing'.....................

In the words of that old song, 'To know, know, know you is to love, love, love you'. Okay, so maybe that's a bit out of context ( 'hand-picked cherries, anyone?' ), but the point is, to really love someone, or make any such correct judgement about any certain thing or situation, we must know ( not just perceive ) the facts. Can we 'know' by reading words in a book or listening to what others say? We can surely ascertain truth THROUGH what we read or hear, but only when it resonates with the Spirit Within. In other words, it is not (necessarily ) true just because some book or dogma says it is; the truth can only be known when the 'third eye' is activated, by the understanding of the Spirit Within!

'For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. ( I Corinthians 2:11 )'. Even our own Scriptures tell us that it is not by seeing ( perceiving ) with the physical eyes that one knows a thing ( to be true, but that it is only by the Spirit Within that true understanding, true knowledge comes. Only when we 'see' with the eye of our Spirit ( 'third eye' ) can we come to a knowledge of the truth. Anything less is simply 'perception' & we have seen what 'perception' can do. Anything from wrongful imprisonment to unjust war has been the result of false perceptions of reality.

The prophet Isaiah ( speaking of the ANE context ) was told, 'Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, a
nd return and be healed.' ( Isaiah 6:9 ) All prejudice aside, this is obviously not referring to their physical eyes & ears, but rather to the understanding of their heart, or the knowledge that only comes through the Spirit Within. Much like the world today, the prophet Isaiah had to deal with much that was called 'evil'. Also like the world we live in, the perception of the majority of people was ruled by physicality ( that's why Jesus ended up on the cross ). Lest my readers get the idea that simple perception is necessarily a bad thing; 'perception' is neither good nor bad, but like anything, it can be used for 'good' or 'evil', right or wrong.

True perception only comes through listening to 'that still, small voice'. What we see with the ( physical ) eye or hear with the ( physical ) ear may or may not be true, but by the Spirit Within, through our spiritual understanding, we may ascertain whether it is really true or whether it is simply another's perception of the truth. This, again, is not to say that truth is relative, for there IS such a thing as absolutes, but just because one perceives ( with the physical senses ) a thing to be true doesn't make it so, although, speaking of relativity, it becomes 'truth' for that individual!

Charles Haddon Shank