Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resolved: blessing and not cursing

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

My resolution as we contemplate the end of one year and the arrival of another is to engage in the act of blessing and not cursing.

As discussed in this previous post, the concept of blessing can be conceived of as the act of:
  • recognizing the spirit world which is behind all we can perceive here in the material world, and which in some sense can be said to generate everything we perceive here in the material world
  • awakening and bringing out that hidden, veiled, invisible spirit dwelling within everything and everyone we encounter here in this material world.
I am grateful to Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman for articulating this wonderful definition of the act of blessing in the book Awakening to the Spirit World (pages 25 - 26). As they explain in that definition, it appears that our ongoing mission in this material world may well be the continuous act of recognizing and acknowledging and waking up and calling forth this hidden spark of spirit within ourselves and the rest of the material world around us: 
the physical plane appears to most as a camouflage universe where Spirit does not appear to exist [. . .]
many of us respond to the physical world by assuming a deep hypnosis, a deep sleep where we no longer recognize that Spirit is present [. . .]
So it is our job to wake up and to awaken all that is around us. This act of waking up could be called "blessing the world." 26.
Previous posts have spent a great deal of time examining the symbology found in the ancient wisdom around the world in various forms using various metaphors describing the "casting down" of spirit into matter and the subsequent "raising up" of spirit again. Symbols describing this dynamic include: 
  • the "casting down of the Djed-column" and the "raising it back up again," 
  • the entombment of Osiris in a sarcophagus and the subsequent standing back upright of the god, 
  • the ascent upon a central tree which is a foundational image in shamanic cultures around the world and can also be found in the Norse myth of Odin and in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, 
  • the symbol of the kundalini serpent rising along the central column of the body, which is also related to the symbol of the caduceus
  • the Vajra or Thunderbolt,
  • the widely-known symbol of the cross with its horizontal component (the spirit cast down into matter) and its vertical component (the spirit awakened and ascendant) 
  • the similar and related symbol of the Ankh, as well as the symbol of the Scarab, and
  • the annual "cross of the year" formed upon the zodiac wheel by the horizontal line of the equinoxes (between which the spirit is cast down into matter) and the vertical line of the solstices (topped by the sign of Cancer the Crab, whose upraised arms resemble the upraised arms of the Scarab beetle and serve the same symbolic function).
  • The concept of walking the north-south red road, which is crossed with the east-west black road in the Sacred Hoop of the Lakota.
The fundamental importance of these symbols in the sacred traditions found around the globe testifies to the profound centrality of the continuous process of acknowledging and recognizing and then calling forth and elevating the spiritual which has been veiled and hidden beneath or within this material covering that we perceive with our physical senses.

In other words, the act of blessing appears to be our central ongoing task, according to the world's ancient wisdom!

And yet how often and how easily this physical world can get us to lose sight of the world of spirit pulsing just beneath the surface of everything we see -- and how easily the sharp and sometimes painful exigency of the material realm can cause us to reverse the process just described, and fall into cursing when we are supposed to be blessing!

If cursing is the opposite of blessing, then the definition of blessing just discussed would seem to lead to a definition of cursing which involves the denial of the spiritual within ourselves and other beings around us, and flowing just beneath the surface of everything here in the physical realm. Instead of elevating spirit, cursing denigrates it, or degrades it, or diminishes it, or denies its existence altogether. Instead of seeing ourselves and others as spiritual beings immersed for a time within physical bodies, cursing objectifies, physicalizes, and profanes. 

The downward direction of cursing, driving down the spiritual instead of elevating it, seems to be very much related to the definition of violence offered by Simone Weil in her powerful 1940 essay entitled "The Iliad, or the Poem of Force," in which she famously defined physical violence as "that x that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing."

The curse words and phrases I am familiar with tend to emphasize violence, physicality, and the animal aspect of human existence -- they tend to focus on the carnal in a way that is stripped of any accompanying deeper meaning of spirit, to emphasize the bodily functions of the human body in a way that "turns anybody who is subjected to [incarnation] into a thing," and in doing so they obscure, or deny, or attempt to take our mind away from the dual spiritual-physical reality of human existence. It is a reality that we are always prone to forgetting or ignoring, as the quotation from Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman cited above makes clear -- and as the ancient wisdom expressed in the teaching of the "hidden god" buried inside the material realm but hidden from sight and easily overlooked (see discussions here and here).

If you are anything like me, you know how easily the daily frustrations offered up by life inside the material realm and its unforgiving laws of physics can cause "cursing" in some form to erupt almost spontaneously, whether in thought or in actual expression. And yet how damaging this tendency is to our true mission of blessing rather than cursing.

This tension is expressed in many ancient scriptures -- the scriptures in the Old and New Testaments , as well as ancient sacred texts which were left out by the literalists when they assembled the New Testament, enjoin blessing rather than cursing, and warn us against the constant temptation to fall into patterns of cursing.

The text known as the general epistle of James memorably declares: "Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" (James 3:10-11).

Proverbs 11:11 declares: "By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked" (it is interesting to note that this passage associates blessing with "the upright" and that "uprightness" is associated in the ancient symbology catalogued above with the Djed-column raised-up, the Osiris raised to the vertical position, and the vertical portion of the universal cross -- all of them symbols of the elevation of spirit and hence with the concept of blessing).

In both texts known as the Gospel according to Matthew and and the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus is recorded as saying that it is what comes out of our mouths that can defile us, rather than what we put into our mouth, saying: "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man [. . .] These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man" (Matthew 15:18, 20).

The same teaching is expressed in a text known as the Gospel of Thomas (an important Gnostic text found in the Nag Hammadi library), in which Jesus tells his listeners: "After all, what goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it's what comes out of your mouth that will defile you" (14). 

These passages tend to support the definition of "cursing" which we have derived above from our definition of "blessing" -- the concept of "defiling" means making profane, denying the sacred aspect, driving out the sense of the spiritual and emphasizing all that is most associated with the solely physical aspects of our incarnate existence. These passages seem to be enjoining us to be constantly blessing and not cursing: to be seeing the sacred and the spiritual in ourselves and in everyone and everything around us, and to try to bring it out -- as opposed to doing the opposite.

Of course, as we all know, maintaining this focus is not easy (if it were, there probably would not be so many passages in ancient scriptures enjoining us to do it).

That's why it is a resolution of mine, and something I hope to do more of in the coming year!

Blessings to you in this new solar year. Namaste.