A small reminder of spiritual commitment

Recently I have been attending Communion at the local Anglican church in Hilton. The experience has been wonderful in many ways, frustrating in a few. Naturally there are the Mysteries involved and the ritual (sort of only medium-low Church, but there you go). But there is also the community and the people, who have reminded me about spiritual and religious commitment.

Now there are virtually no ‘culturally Anglican’ folk left in Australia. Many Catholics and Orthodox Christians still attend on a Sunday morning because ‘it’s just what you do’. The Anglican Church in Australia however is so denuded, Christianity so removed from the cultural norm, that most Anglicans have made conscious decisions to go to Church. These are people, mostly elderly, who really find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Over the last couple of months they have risen in literally freezing conditions (which is hard in Perth ‘cos we are not used to it and our buildings not designed for the cold). Moving through the pain and stiffness of arthritis and other aliments they head over to a cold, cold church building to sit on plastic chairs. After the service they are full of warmth and verve. During the week they help each other and engage in many social service activities, giving much of their time and money to assist those less fortunate than themselves.

Their commitment to their practice and their service is solid and palpable. I have found myself touched deeply. And it is not in the way C.S. Lewis wrote about being honoured to worship among simple, honest people with dirt on their boots. I expect that if I scratched below the surface of the veneer of coffee conversations about the weather and family I would find many deep spiritual experiences and reflections on the mysteries. Their spiritual determination and commitment certainly outshines many modern magical student who wants it all on a plate, right now, preferably with a Facebook link. I wish the students in my magical courses (when I run them) were half as committed and half as mature. Thanks St Edwards’ folk for this humble reminder 🙂

5 comments

  1. David · July 18, 2010

    Lovely post :).

    It has been some time since I have been to a church service, weekend work is rather annoying. And the interaction with those dedicated to such pursuits I sorely miss.

    One thing I noticed recently during a conversation with a soon to be ordained Anglican, is that my former opinion of the church falling apart and lacking the dedication you speak of was completely untrue. It was the opinion of the person I talked to that we as a whole have had our view of such things highly corrupted by TV, and the large portion of anti christian/religion/spirituality propaganda that follows.

    We look to the church expecting perfection but are constantly reminded of the made up depictions of doomsayers and violent/corrupt fundamentalists we see on TV. Instead of seeing the simple truth of a bunch of strong willed, dedicated and willing aspirants of god.

    Through those negative perceptions our ability to be open to our connection to the mysteries of the one, to Christ and of even our own selves is dampened.

    So thank you Peregrin for a simple and welcome reminder that there are people out there who do have a connection to the greater picture, and that there is the capability within the rest of us also.

    David 🙂

  2. Satima Flavell · July 30, 2010

    Christianity in all its forms worries me a bit, because much of the commitment we see often seems to stem from feelings of guilt (“I am unworthy and must earn my place in heaven”) or superiority (“Christianity is the only true religion and the way to turn people to the Truth lies in helping them”) or duty (“I’m a Christian and my personal cross is the burden of helping the less fortunate”). If you’ve found a parish where good works are based on compassion and come completely without strings or judgement, then you are very lucky!

  3. Peregrin · July 30, 2010

    Nice to hear from you, Satima 🙂 Knowing your background and knowledge I assume you know that three motivations you describe are actually not part of the actual doctrine of most Catholic (Universal) Churches. The doctrines are clear.

    Each human being is made in the image of the One and is worthy, divine and complete.

    As for superiority: This from C.S. Lewis, a very conservative and stout Anglican stalwart:

    “But the truth is God has not told us told what his arrangements with the other people [non-Christians are]. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.”

    This is very subtle and expresses the situation well. It affirms the Reformation principle of Solo Christo. Yet, it is open to what we call “Christ”, that Mystery of being and non being, working with non Christians, under different names and images. It expresses the unity that is at the heart of esotericism and a key Christian doctrine at the same time. This attitude and this theology is not a new age or liberal addition; it is at the core of the traditional catholic (universal) Christianity.

    I agree that it is the “duty” of Christians to care for the sick, the dying, the poor etc. The same ethical concern is within pretty much all religions, west and east and within modern secular social politics. I think what the difference you note is the approach of sympathy versus compassion. And again, I think the core doctrine of most Churches is firmly compassionate. See my favourite quote by MLK to the right 🙂

    All this said – what is taught on the ground by the parish priest and practiced by most Christians is another matter, and I am sure IS often as you describe. Coming at Christianity totally from an esoteric perspective and reading the actual doctrines, this does not worry me. And, yes personally I have not found these attitudes too prevalent so far 🙂 I am lucky. Thanks.

  4. Satima Flavell · July 30, 2010

    Hey, Peregrin, it’s good to find a blog that focuses on spiritual issues and is open to comments!

    I’ve come to believe that unless the priest is also a teacher, and, furthermore, a teacher who leads by example, his flock will not learn such subtleties as the difference between pity and compassion; between lovingkindness and sentimentality etc. While these are tenets of Buddhism, that faith doesn’t hold a monopoly. Like you, I firmly believe they lie at the heart of all the world’s most valuable teachings, but they get watered down and even altered by people who didn’t really grasp them in the first place, yet somehow become clergy.

    OTOH, of course, if the priest, rabbi, imam, monk, whatever, has grasped these things, s/he will be able to pass them on to receptive others. Such a congregation is very fortunate, and it sounds as if you might have found one.

    Regarding the distinction between Jesus as the Christ and the Christos as Mystery, you might remember the dissertation I did on personality type (as measured by the MBTI) and choice of spiritual path. One lot of subjects was an Anglican congregation. They were almost all sensate judging types, and mysticism either did not interest them or they were sad that they’d been unable to find a way into the experience. Most of them believed literally in the story of Jesus from Virgin Birth to Resurrection, and the idea that symbolic interpretation was acceptable doctrine was anathema to them. Christianity, as Joseph Campbell puts it, has “concretised the myth”. I think the more people are into concretisation, the less likely they are to get a grasp on what Buddhism calls the Brahma Viharas – lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and detachment – even though these surely underpin any path worth following. People in whom this concretisation is absolute are fundamentalists.

    The spread of attitudes from mysticism on the one hand to fundamentalism on the other seems to be present in all faiths, even Paganism – and, in fact, you’ve probably noticed that at present there are even distinct signs of fundamentalism in the Atheist community, which is a worry. 🙂

    We should have a discussion on compassion and duty sometime, but I’ve hogged enough of your bandwidth for now. 🙂

  5. Peregrin · July 30, 2010

    Nice to have your thoughts and ideas here, Satima. Thanks 🙂

    Yes…agree fully with the need for the teacher to have realised and thereby show these truths by their presence and actions. Yes, somehow many folk become clergy who really should be elsewhere. With the institutionalisation of religion, both in east and west, this happens a lot. Was it the youngest son of an English family who was bound by convention for the priesthood? We are only slightly better off today.

    Yes, I do (vaguely) remember the dissertation. Yes, as you say this concretisation is depressingly the norm. Can’t see how folk believe that, meself…for me religion has always been about practice not belief. The whole ‘belief’ bogey which has arisen since the Reformation has stuffed things up big time. Agree fully once an internal belief is created and adhered to, compassion has to suffer – I mean straight away there is an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality to start with.

    Still, one of the things I like about Anglicanism, as GB Shaw quoted, “it interferes neither with one’s religion nor one’s politics” 🙂 Trying to maintain itself as via media between RC and Protestantism it has a wide acceptance of practice and belief. I think it was our old friend Garry who told me about how in a crop of recent seminarians several openly did not believe in God 🙂 I find, really against my habit and modern liberal thought, intense mystery and nurturance in the Sacraments. So I am not really slouching towards Bethlehem, more being dragged, resisting all the way. I can attend Anglican services as a western esoteric dude and feel very comfortable.

    I think fundamentalism is definitely present within atheism – have you looked at some of their forums? I think it was (again) CS Lewis who said atheists have to maintain that all religions are at the core fundamentally wrong, but as a Christian he can see truth and partial truth in them all. Maintaining each and every religion the planet has ever had is, at root, delusional, which many atheists claim, seems to me a very fundamentalist statement.

    OK – thanks again…yes more talk soon 🙂

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