Here’s wishing you all happy flower picking!
☿ 23 Culverine 160 a.L.
I have gone on record many times as an advocate of the use of fixed, formal liturgy—not to the exclusion of more spontaneous, informal prayer, but as a stable foundation upon which the sudden movements of the heart may erect additional structures. One reason for this is that I feel there is tremendous value in re-visiting the same text regularly and in permitting the mind to probe it with ever new shifts of emphasis and intonation. Even the shortest of prayers is found, after months or years of repetition, to be a cornucopia of meanings and wisdom, in keeping with the sage observation of the apprentice weaver that, “There are two meanings to everything and three meanings to most things…” (TCA 8: 9)
My every day begins with the Madrian Morning Offering, the opening line of which declares: “Celestial Mother, grant me this day that every work I do may be as lovingly and as well-performed as though I were to give it into Your divine hands.” When I began saying this prayer, I read the work as being mine, and Her hands as being its destination. Knowing my own feebleness in many areas, of course, I know that, of myself, I could not make any of my actions as perfect as I would wish them to be in presenting them to Her. Hence, I pray for Her help in making all that I do an offering fit for my Lady. (Of course, our Mother accepts even the homeliest of gifts from Her children; the demand for excellence in them comes from our own hearts out of love.)
This reading seems to me still a perfectly valid one, but as I have repeated the line more I have come to think that there is a second, equally valid interpretation, in which the work is mine to surrender, and Her hands are the superior means. As I recited the words one morning, I thought of Krishna’s teaching in the Bhagavad Gita: “Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with mind intent on Me, and without desire for gain and free from egoism and lethargy, fight.” (3:30) In this reading, the work becomes loving and well-performed not so much through a gift of grace that enables me to make it so before presenting it to my Lady but because, in presenting the work at its outset to Her for the doing, it becomes lovingly and well-performed as all Her works by nature are. In this reading, I recuse myself as the actor, and instead render myself transparent as the vehicle of Her action, in accord with the words of our own Scripture: “Seek not to conquer kear alone nor cleave alone to Good, but open your heart to Me, and let Me live through you…” (1 Teachings 8:19)
PS: I always prefer, of course, to draw on the indigenous resources of our own spiritual tradition, and so might have turned first to the words of The Secret of the World, yet I found that my first instinct had not been wrong in this case, for only a couple of days after this thought had first struck me, I was reading through an old Madrian text called The Inner Meaning of Chess, and ran across the following intriguing passage: “The same symbolism is implicit … in the legend that Inanna entered the chariot of an Amazon princess to speak with her on the eve of a great battle, a legend whose form and essential teaching have been patriarchalised and largely preserved in the Bhagavad Gita.”
She is risen!
With the resurrection of the Daughter, we begin a new year and a new spring, yet my thoughts are captured by the symmetry between this first day of the new year and the last day of the old.
Here in the Twin Cities, Kala was a fairly warm day (~55F) after a recent, long stretch of below freezing temperatures. My son spent much of it playing with the last piles of vestigial snow before they melted down, asking me to reseat his mittens every time they came off his thumbs (he’s two and a half). As he hurled snowballs against the trunks of trees, I looked up to find the first signs of new buds. With a distinct nip in the air, it clearly wasn’t spring yet, but spring was already a foregone conclusion. Today, in a burst of sun inaugurating a week of steadily increasing highs, that promise is fulfilled.
I once was told that the ancient Celts started their new year at Samhain (our Tamala) in reflection of a belief that all things came from darkness—the seed waiting in the earth, the day emerging from the dead of night. I do not know if that is true, considering that the dating of the Celtic new year is a conjecture from the Coligny calendar and otherwise unsupported by documentary evidence, but it is certainly a common Neopagan belief. It seems to me a fortuitous coincidence that 1 January, which the Council of Tours abolished as the new year in 567 (it had been such in Roman Imperial times, when it was the day consuls took office), only became so again at the start of the modern age with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582. Before then, most parts of Europe celebrated the new year at locally determined times, which most often fell around Easter, 1 March, or Lady Day (25 March). This latter was the official new year in Britain and its colonies until the Gregorian calendar was adopted by Parliament in 1752.
It is thus only at the beginning of modernity that we see the idea of the year beginning and ending in the darkness of winter establish itself widely. It has a resonance with the other intellectual products of those centuries: the prejudicial notion that Renaissance and Enlightenment society was emerging out of “dark ages”, the idea that human beings were born tabula rasa and that children were thus ignorant instead of unspoiled and the elderly senile, the fixation on the sun as astronomical object (collecting itself from dust and then burning out) rather than as a metaphysical symbol of eternity… even, ultimately, the Darwinian notion of maid as a thing crawling up from the mud which will, like all other species, eventually go extinct in a great finality. The essential recognition that all mortal and material things pass from ashes to ashes and dust to dust is, of course, quite Traditional, but the belief that the ultimate reality of all things is thus to pass from darkness to darkness is a particularly modern trait.
And so, as I watched the trees prepare to burst into leaf amidst the melting snow on the last day of the year, I was grateful for our calendar’s restoration of the old new year at this moment of the coming spring, which assures us that, at the deepest level of reality, all things end as they begin—in Light.
28 Moura 159 a.L.
I have now heard from a number of people who have recently become uncertain as to when they should celebrate Eastre. I am therefore writing this emergency post in the wee hours of the morning before the onset of Hiatus at dawn forces me to close my laptop. Before I say anything else, I wish to note that when we celebrate is much less important than what we celebrate (which has just been described very helpfully over at My Devotions to Dea). When we celebrate is still important, however, and deserves to be discussed frankly.
Some Déanists have recently expressed the concern that, this year, the astronomical equinox falls on 20 March (our Hiatus), rather than the 21st, and that Eastre will consequently be “late”, with Hiatus austerities continuing to be practiced after (what they suppose to be) the onset of spring. This is an understandable concern but, I think, ultimately a misplaced one, threatening to recreate among Déanists what the Christians call the “Easter controversy“. I therefore wish to present four arguments against the proposed adjustment of the date as it has been described here, addressing the following points: 1) that there is no inherent association between astronomical equinox and the beginning of spring, 2) that it is impossible for any calendar, but especially ours, to reliably associate a single date with the astronomical equinox for practitioners in all locations in all years, 3) that attempting to do so unacceptably undermines the symbolic and ritual value of our calendar, and 4) that attempting to do so introduces unnecessary division into the Ekklesia.
- The celebration of Eastre on the day corresponding in the Gregorian calendar to 21 March is an established custom of our community, common to all its various branches, for over forty years. I, personally, am loathe to break with the consensus practice of all our honored foremothers in the faith, but even more loathe to do so in pursuit of an aim that appears out of accord with even broader swathes of Tradition. A very large number of celebrations marking the equinox exist all over the world, but with the apparently singular exception of modern Druidry, none of them align to the precise date of astronomical equinox; all, instead, are marked on a date determined by some other, customary formula. In our particular case, the direct antecedents of our Eastre celebration are Christian Easter (marked on the fourteenth day of the lunar month following 21 March, which is taken as a customary date regardless of astronomical equinox), and the traditional first day of the year in Britain, which was, up until 1752, (Christian) Lady Day, falling on 25 March (which, incidentally, had been the first day of spring in the Julian calendar when it was created). Only after 1752 did 1 January become the first day of the year, or 25 March cease to be regarded as the first day of spring. The precedent for taking a customary date which is, at least in some years, out of alignment with the exact moment of astronomical equinox thus goes back well beyond the forty-odd years of Déanic tradition, into the very traditions from which Déanism arises. We might even expand the scope of this back reference to note that Celtic calendars anciently began spring back at what we call Luciad, showing quite demonstrably how the start of the season of spring and the moment of astronomical equinox are not necessarily related (just as our calendar ends winter well before the equinox that ends it on the Gregorian calendar, because of the introduction of Moura). Thus, contrary to the proposal’s claim, we never have Hiatus when it is “already and actually spring”, because spring definitionally does not begin until after Hiatus. The moment of astronomical equinox is irrelevant to when spring begins in all traditional calendars, not just ours.
- We note, then, that the beginning and ending of the seasons is, throughout the world, marked culturally without necessary regard to precise astronomical considerations. The desire to align with astronomical positioning is perfectly understandable, but also impossible to achieve in practice. Even the Gregorian calendar does not quite manage it with its allowance of a three-day slip for the first day of spring between 19, 20, and 21 March, since it still occasionally occurs that the technical point of equinox falls in the very early hours of the morning of the 22nd for East Asia only, while coming late in the night of the 21st for everyone else. No matter the system we use, there will always be the possibility not just of the astronomical equinox not coinciding with Eastre in certain years, but of the astronomical equinox not even falling on the same day for everyone in the same year. Our situation is made even more difficult in this respect than it is for the Gregorian calendar, however, because our days do not start and end at fixed clock times, but instead begin and end at dawn. The timing of dawn, of course, varies dramatically with the latitude, longitude, and altitude of the observer (and in some cases even the landscape, where significant enough mountain ranges can actually delay the official onset of dawn for those living on their westward side). It thus will necessarily happen with some regularity that the astronomical equinox, happening to fall in the early morning in certain years, will in those years be erratically distributed between two different days for Déanists in different locations. Simply put, the proposed adjustment cannot achieve the aim it intends.
- Even if the adjustment could accomplish what it sets out to do, however, a strong case against adopting it would still exist based solely on the preservation of our calendar’s internal logic and symbolic structure. The proposal aims (in years in which the astronomical equinox falls on 20 March) to advance the date of Eastre onto the date which is currently Hiatus by merging the observance of Hiatus with the observance of Kala, and then making 1 Culverine a two-day event. There is, of course, a strangeness in having a single calendar date cover a forty-eight hour period, which I believe could have unintended consequences in cases where the calendar is used for anything other than simple ritual planning. (And even within a purely ritual context, is there only one set of daily prayers? As 1 Culverine now covers two days of the week, which Janya governs 1 Culverine, and therefore the whole rest of the year? Similar thorny problems abound.) Quite aside from this, however, there are two much more substantial objections I am compelled to raise. The first is that Kala is a Janyatic feast day (though not observed with literal feasting) dedicated to Sai Kala, the third of the three Werdës. Many of those backing the proposal have taken, for reasons unknown to me, to referring to the Day of Kala as Moura (which seems to make an unnecessary confusion with the month), which has perhaps obscured this difficulty for them. However, both of the other Werdës have designated feast days (Florimaia and the Day of Werdë, respectively), and effectively eliminating the Day of Kala by merging it with Hiatus thus creates a symbolic imbalance that implicitly (one might even say subconsciously) devalues all those triplicitic elements with which Sai Kala is connected—cronehood, death, the Dark Mother, and many others. The second point is that such a fusion also effectively eliminates Hiatus. The Day of Kala marks the death of the Daughter, which is a narrative event. Hiatus, being outside time, cannot mark a narrative event which presupposes time for its symbolic description. Hiatus is not simply, as the proposal suggests, an extraneous sixth season; it is a way of representing the hypothetical eternal condition of divine absence, which no day with a calendar date can do, because such a date is necessarily involved in time and thus presupposes the divine order. 28 Moura, simply because it is the twenty-eighth day of a month with narrative functions in the story of the Mythos (as per its meditative use in the rosary) cannot fulfill the symbolic functions of stagnancy and futurelessness that Hiatus carries. To attempt to fuse these two starkly different observances into a single day is to obliterate them both, and thus to impoverish the liturgical year.
- These considerations, combined with the authority of sacred tradition, guarantee that some significant number of Déanists will cling to the old dating. Anything less than universal adoption of the proposed adjustment, however, risks compromising what sense of unity and sisterhood currently exists among the diverse branches of our faith. It is telling, to me, that I first learned about the proposal from a Tumblr post describing the state of “confusion” into which the community on that platform had been plunged. There is enough that divides us already in thealogical understandings, conventions of naming, and much else without introducing yet another point of division. Such divisions, besides weakening our bonds as an Ekklesia, also tend to give outsiders the erroneous impression that ours is an eclectic, make-it-up-as-you-go faith like the Neopagan traditions and New Age cults with which we are already too commonly confused. This deters interested seekers and inhibits the growth of the community.
The proposed adjustment has been put forward, I know, with the best of intentions. Nonetheless, I believe there are, as I have outlined, several compelling factors which urge against its adoption, and I therefore feel compelled to recommend the maintenance of our traditional practice to all those who have been asking for guidance in the midst of the present confusion.
28 Moura 159 a.L.
[For Kala, some thoughts on the meaning of the Daughter’s sacrifice extracted from a conversation I had on Tumblr a while back.]
For a full understanding of the Filianic concept of sacrifice, it is important to recall that the contemporary English sense of sacrifice as a renunciation or giving up of something is a secondary meaning, which the word did not fully acquire until the 1700s. Prior to that, to sacrifice something meant to set it apart from worldly use as dedicated to the gods, the term coming from the Latin sacra + facere—literally, “to make into sacred things”. The sacrificed object was, in a sense, pulled out of the mundane world and the normal stream of time and made a part of eternity (hence the ironic sense, in a later age when people spent more time immersed in the things of the world and less time dwelling in eternity, that sacrificing something meant losing it forever).
This is important to understand because we share with Christians the belief that God has rendered the ultimate sacrifice in the person of Her child, Who is consequently become the final high priestess, performing Her office for all time in the temple of eternity (cf. the Christian Epistle to the Hebrews and our own Mythos 7). Too often, especially in Christian circles, the everyday connotations of the word “sacrifice” cause this to be misunderstood. People take the idea that the Daughter’s sacrifice is final or ultimate in respect of grandiosity—as though, because God sacrificed the most precious thing imaginable, She is now so impressed by Her own sacrifice that nothing anyone else could offer would impress Her anymore. This, of course, is a rather shallow conception.
The Daughter’s sacrifice is ultimate because the effect of her descent was to bring Her Mother’s Light into every corner of the cosmos—inseparably to bond the nature of every created thing back to the divine nature. She is the love that holds the stars within their courses (1 Teachings 5:34), and in this way is Herself become the quintessence—the fifth element that binds the other four together to make manifest existence possible. Hanged upon the pillar of the world, She is become that pillar, replacing its being with Her own like minerals replace bone in a fossil, so that all creation hangs now upon Her. (Remembering, of course, that the Mythos expresses in the language of time truths which are outside of time; i.e., we should not imagine that there was ever a time when the cosmos was not constituted thus.) To bond a thing indissolubly with God’s own being is, of course, the greatest possible “making sacred” of it, and thus the greatest possible sacrifice. It is not that we have nothing as valuable as a divine child to give up, but that we cannot possibly make anything more sacred than She has already made it. Americans might think of the words of Abraham Lincoln when, in his famous Gettysburg Address, he declared of that battlefield where so many had been slain that, “We are come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place… But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far beyond our meagre power to add or detract.” So must we say of the whole cosmos in the light of the Daughter’s sacrifice.
In a very strict, thealogical sense, then, there is only one, and has only ever been one, and can only ever be one sacrifice, and that is the sacrifice which the Daughter is eternally making. Everything which we, in the lazy convenience of our common speech, call a sacrifice is, in truth, simply a ritual participation in that one, eternal sacrifice that is God’s pouring out of Her own Self like so much ghee into the fire of Her own Being. The old Madrian Rite of Sacrifice recognizes this quite profoundly, as does the Catholic/Orthodox mass on which it is unselfconsciously patterned. We can add nothing, metaphysically, to the Daughter’s act, for all things are now sacred, but we can add the time and attention required for us to perceive and appreciate this. Ritually, that may look like a traditional giving up of something treasured as a token of our love for God and a ritual gesture of our willingness to put our relationship with Her above all other things. It may also look like our donating an hour at the soup kitchen to perceive the sacredness of the people who come there, or spending an hour sitting attentively in the woods to perceive the sacredness of the land, or even passing an hour making ourselves up in the vanity mirror to perceive the sacredness of our own selves bearing the image of God. Any of these, done in the right frame of mind, can be a sacrifice—or, more precisely, a way of entering into and participating in Her sacrifice. “Handle a leaf as though it were the body of the Buddha,” the medieval Zen master Dogen used to tell his students, “and the body of the Buddha will manifest through it.” That—which is none other than the vow of the Madrian Morning Offering, to make our every work so lovingly and well-performed as though we were to give it into Her divine hands—is, to my mind, the essence of Filianic sacrifice.
13 Moura a.L.
It is a very appropriate topic to bring up during Moura, of course, as this is the time of our Lady’s descent into the netherworld, and yet most of us, I think, experience some level of discomfort talking about it. One of the most consistent doctrinal imperatives of modernity is disbelief in demons, who are commonly dismissed even by those few who manage to preserve some serious level of belief in other kinds of spirit beings. In the ordinary discourses of the contemporary West, earnest belief in angels is regarded as strange, earnest belief in fairies as delusional, and earnest belief in demons as a sign of serious mental instability.
As Déanists, however, we have a responsibility to engage this “weird subject”. It is tempting, when it arises in a public forum, to sweep it under the rug in order not to put off the interest of newcomers (or potential newcomers) to the faith. It is easy to tell ourselves that it is more advanced doctrine, which should perhaps be held back for more advanced students. I believe that we must be unafraid, however, to face it squarely, even at the risk of being written off by casual observers, or dismissed by some genuinely interested seekers. “Go you out among maids,” our Lady commands us, “and teach them the good doctrine.” (The Light, v. 17) Notably, this is not an injunction to “make disciples”; whether people respond to the teaching is not our concern. We recognize, without disappointment or malice, that our path will not be appropriate for some, and that others simply will not be ready for it when the teaching reaches them.
Yet we teach it all the same, not just for the sake of those who are waiting to hear it, but also for the sake of those who are not yet ready. As a teacher, it has long been my observation that, in the end, it is only the experience of life that really teaches anything. The most a good teacher can do is to provide the means of interpreting an experience we have already gone through, or else preparing us with means to interpret a new experience when we encounter it. People who are comfortable and satisfied in their views of the world have no need of a new teaching, but the seed of one, if planted respectfully, may take root in that moment in which a person’s existing worldview proves inadequate. Then they may remember something they were not ready to hear at the time, but which, at that decisive juncture, provides the means of understanding and navigating the new reality into which their experience of life has thrust them.
Precisely because they spend so much time studiously disbelieving in demons, modern people are woefully unprepared to face real evil, which they have been taught to rationalize away with a variety of sophistical, relativistic tricks. This is an understandable response to a culture where the image of “demonic forces” and the rhetoric of “absolute evil” has been frequently, and I dare say blasphemously, exploited for political points. Nonetheless, it remains true, as Baudelaire said, that “the loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist!”
To one who is unprepared, coming face-to-face with genuine evil in the world can be a shattering experience. The Eclipse, I think, had more than a little to do with placing so many people into just such an encounter between 1931 and 1945. We today can read the accounts, and even see the films, but there are, thank God, very few of us (in the West, at least) who can truly comprehend what it was to be personally, physically present at the Rape of Nanking, or during the liberation of Auschwitz. Coming thus as close as any mortal can to looking the Dark Queen in the eye, even those of strong mind simply break down often enough, and even more subtle and dangerous disturbances are not uncommon. There is an episode of the science fiction television show Firefly in which a young man is aboard a ship captured by Reavers—savage, scarcely human pirates known for committing unspeakable atrocities to their victims. He is the only survivor, having been compelled to witness his crewmates violated, mutilated, and murdered. Under the intense psychological strain, he goes quite out of his mind, and reacts to the horror and to his own sense of powerlessness in the face of it by imitating what has seemed to him powerful, and becoming the very evil that destroyed him.
In these uncertain times, I dare say that a great many people, more ill-prepared than any prior generation, may be fated to witness real evils. Dea grant that it will not be so, but if it must be, let Her grant that the seeds we have planted by our candour will sprout in those moments, like pine cones opening in the midst of a forest fire. Let Her grant that the teaching we have offered into the collective ear of this society will provide to many the tools they have been lacking to come face-to-face with the work of demons and to emerge unpoisoned—scarred but not deformed. Let Her grant that, in the days ahead, many will remember our words and be comforted that there were those who saw the world’s evils clearly, and yet still managed to believe in the Good.
And thus, let Her grant that we get out among maids and teach.
2 Moura 159 a.L.
Being more accustomed to Aristasian traditions than Madrian ones, I generally observe the feasts and fasts in their more more relaxed, sparser style. This year, however, I decided to keep a Madrian-style Moura (or at least something much closer to one) and so, for the first time, kept the first day as a full twenty-four hour fast. I am still processing the experience, of course, having only just now broken fast with some delicious herbed rice prepared by my brunette, but there are, nonetheless, a couple of reflections I would share.
What struck me first and most forcefully, around eleven o’clock in the morning, was the deepening of my humility. It was perhaps the first time that I have ever truly realized that I am incapable of feeding myself. I thought of the meal grace that Charlie Anderson (Jimmy Stewart) gives in Shenandoah (1965):
Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat, amen.
How often even the most mindful of us are implicitly of a mind with Mr. Anderson! And yet, the truth is very different. Mr. Anderson is right that he and his family cleared the land, and plowed it, and sowed it, and harvested it, and did the cooking, but of course it was Dea who made the land, who sent the rain and the sun, who held together every atom of every seed and then brought forth ever shoot and every sapling in the infinite fecundity of Her love. Even in the midst of a successful harvest, we should look out over the fields full of crops that we have grown, look back over the crates piled high with the fruits of our labors, breathe deeply the scent of rich home cooking, and remember that we are unable to feed ourselves.
This thought had set in by about eleven o’clock. By about three in the afternoon, my mind had shifted, because I had mistimed the beginning of my fast. The ritual day of the Filianic calendar begins at dawn. When keeping a twenty-four hour fast for a Monday in Moura, a wise maid (rather than a silly blond like myself), would rise for a light meal just before dawn, so as to delimit her fast to, in fact, twenty-four hours. This is what the young people call a “pro tip”. I, on the other hand, ate dinner the evening before and went to bed, so that my fast was already about ten hours in when dawn on Monday began. This makes for a long day.
Thus, by about three o’clock in the afternoon, I was beginning to feel rather run down. A mild headache set in directly behind my eyes to complain of not having been watered, and there was a certain waifish weakness through my limbs. As I felt myself drain with the close of afternoon and the onset of evening, I had another, and very similar, moment of visceral realization. The Scriptures speak of the First Maid growing tired after embracing the Snake, being drained of energy and requiring rest (Creation 2:9–12). I have been used to thinking of this in terms of sleep but, after yesterday’s fast, I am beginning to think of it in terms of the fatigue that comes with prolonged hunger—the fact that we are, as human beings, incapable of producing our own energy, and run down without an external source of power. We cannot sustain ourselves, and the tiredness of the First Maid thus reflects the classical theological discourse of the creature’s dependent being. Jewish scriptures teach that we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3). Moura reminds us that we do not live by God’s Word alone, but also by bread, and that this is the symbol of our kear—the essence of our “fallen” state.*
That being said, I must relate that the rosary I made in meditation that afternoon did abate my hunger for some time (another pro tip for fasting), as though I were learning, in the absence of bread, to truly feel the nourishment of the Word. And when I laid myself down at the end of that long day with the traditional prayer upon retiring, it seemed to me that I could taste a little sweetness in it that I had not known before.
*I recognize, of course, that this term’s application in Filianism is significantly limited, and not to be blithely paralleled to its meaning in Christianity, but the reader will certainly take my rhetorical intent. (See the Chapel on Original Sin and the Fall.)
21 Brighe 159 a.L.
Yesterday was the Roman Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. It is not formally a part of the Filianic calendar, but I do not wish to let it go unmarked because Lourdes is absolutely central to the Filianic religion and I think there is a terrible danger of this fact being forgotten, particularly as a new generation of Déanists/Filianists comes to the faith through social media, often without having yet read much in the way of Matristics.
For those who do not know, Lourdes was the site where a young paxit girl named Bernadette Soubirous witnessed visions of a “lady” (whom Church authorities later determined to have been the Virgin Mary) in 1858. During these visions, the “lady” identified Herself only by saying “I am the Immaculate Conception,” which became the basis for the Roman Catholic Church’s assertion of the dogma that Mary had been conceived without sin—a doctrine which the Madrians (and later the Aristasians), took to be the declaration of a theophany, forming the basis of their teaching on God’s inherent femininity. The Prologue to the Scriptures thus declares, “O, children of the setting sun, at the place of Lourdes did our Lady speak to you, yet fools did contort Her words; at Fatima did She open Her lips, yet knaves confounded understanding. But in Her mercy shall She not withdraw Her grace where She has bestowed it. Now is set down the fullness of Truth that there shall be no more false-understanding.” (vv. 9–12) In this way, the receipt of our own beloved Scriptures is positioned as the culmination of a divine revelation beginning at Lourdes. So central did the Madrians take this to be that the first issues of The Coming Age (which Sorella Sophia Ruth has recently been making available to view at her blog) were dated in years “après-Lourdes”.
The Prologue, however, is not often read (indeed, neither the AAV nor the MRM editions of the Scriptures even include it), and the Madrians switched in the late 70s to a dating system based on the current year of the Kali Yuga, which the Aristasians in turn replaced with a system dated from Sai Rayanna’s foundation of the Cairean Empire. We have broken from many of our connections with Catholicism, which were far more living in Madrian liturgy than they are in most contemporary practice. Why trouble ourselves now over Lourdes?
For the simple reason that our failure to more frequently recollect it severs us not only from our own past, but also from the life of Telluria. Lourdes is nowhere near as prominent in the Déanic community as Sai Herthe (more popularly known as Aristasia Pura), owing to the tremendous stress that the Aristasians put on their connections with that realm and their receipt of teachings from it. Personally, I am a believer in the spiritual reality of Sai Herthe as something like what is known in East Asia as a “Buddha realm“, but I also think that the teachings on it are a small (and optional) part of our faith. The exaggerated importance which they have taken on has created a false impression among many encountering Filianism for the first time that it is a religion from a fictional universe. I have seen it described as a “prop for a role-playing game” or as part of “an elaborate world setting” or even as some kind of internet meme. This is to misunderstand the nature and function of Sai Herthe in our thealogy, of course, but that misunderstanding is actually beside the point, because Filianism’s origins are very much of the “real world”. Our tie to Lourdes is a tie to this world and its history—a conviction that, although we believe that God has revealed Herself in other worlds that consequently share our faith, we are not the practitioners of an imported, alien creed, but the witnesses to Dea’s work here, on this solid Earth, within its own recorded history.
We speak often enough of spiritual realms that can be perceived only with the heart (like Avala and Sai Herthe) and sometimes of legendary lands that few (if any) of us believe to be literal history, but rather myth and parable (like Abolral and the Rhennesraihir). I think it behooves us to sometimes spin the globe and land our fingers on a place where we can affirm that something did, factually, happen in Telluria. Lourdes is one such place, and the first one (to which we might add Fatima, also mentioned in the Prologue, and Oxford, where the Scriptures were received). This is important not because history is more important than myth (quite the reverse!), or because physical places are more important than spiritual planes (also quite the reverse!) but because, especially in this simple and skeptical age, women and men need the familiarity of physical places and historical events before they can be led into myths and spiritual planes.
Too many have been turned away by a sense of falseness from a religion they mistakenly believed to have materialized out of thin air, without relative or antecedent, from some otherworldly realm. The truth is much simpler and more familiar, however. Nearly a billion Catholics believe that divine messages were given to the world at Lourdes and Fatima. We believe this alongside them, differing only in our interpretation of the messages’ meaning and by our belief in one additional revelation at Oxford. Even this last is not especially eccentric in Catholic history, however, as many notable and respectable churches have broken with Rome over the acceptance of a vision or revelation (granted, one may note with interest, most commonly to a nun; as a Filianist, I can’t help but feel a certain special kinship, for example, with the Mariavite Catholic Church in Poland). We are not Catholics, of course, but an acknowledgement of our Catholic roots (as manifest not only in our belief in Lourdes and Fatima but also in much of our liturgy, the wording of our prayers, our practice of the rosary, etc.) helps to contextualize us in terms of something familiar and credible to our hearers.
What is important in our understanding of our own history and in our self-presentation, of course, is truth rather than missiological efficacy. In this case, however, I think there is no difference. Hence, although I have for years used and advocated the Aristasian system of dating by reference to the foundation of the Cairean Empire, I have decided henceforth to adopt the old Madrian system based on Lourdes.* I have decided to do this not because I have ceased to believe in the Cairean Empire, for I believe in it as strongly as ever, but because I am a Tellurian and I wish to affirm, to myself and to others, that my faith has a history in this world, a place among this world’s religions, and a message to carry to this world’s inhabitants. God has spoken here, and made Herself known on this Earth, and while we join gladly in a chorus that transcends this physical universe, Lourdes is the place, here, where we were given our part to sing.
*One could, of course, use the later Madrian system based on years of the Iron Age, but it seems to me more spiritually healthful to place our focus on the years of God’s mercy in Her Self-revelation, rather than upon the years of our own spiritual decline.
It is customary to take one’s text for Luciad from the third or the fourth chapter of the Mythos, but I would like to begin instead with the twenty-ninth verse of the Heart of Water.
Who lives in true obedience is free, for Her service is perfect freedom.
I begin here because I think it is true of obedience what the Scriptures say also of chastity (The Way of Simplicity, v. 15): that we do not know its full truth.
The profane think of obedience as docility and the capacity to follow directions, conjuring images of the camel in Nietzsche’s famous parable. That story tells of the stages of maid’s spiritual progression, beginning in youth as the camel that takes upon itself all that others would load upon it—the whole range of intellectual training and moral instruction. This burden, however, becomes insupportable, and so the camel goes out into the desert and becomes the lion, which sets itself to slay the terrible dragon on whose every scale is emblazoned “thou shalt”.
How often we see this conquering lion in our culture! —a raging, anarchical beast that, for failure to be torn asunder, never yields the honey that is within.
Because in Nietzsche’s story, the lion is insupportable, too, and when it has done its work of vanquishing the dragon it must be transformed. Thus, at last, the spirit becomes a child—a “wheel rolling out of itself”—in whom innocence is restored and, with it, joy and creativity. How the preening lions of our world like to imagine that they are lions of regal authority—kings of solitary jungles that fester in their hearts—and yet, to paraphrase C. S. Lewis, we may know them to be childish still by their desire to seem grown up.
Perhaps the strongest indication of their fear of seeming childish is their contempt of obedience. We would, none of us, willingly return to being the camel, yet those of us with eyes to see would not willingly remain the lion either. For in slaying the dragon Thou Shalt, the lion has freed its one paw from what the Buddha called the “temptation of dharma”—the distraction of social obligation that turns us from the childlike seeking of God—only to become ensnared again by the other paw in the temptation of permanent revolution, for whether we submit meekly to the world’s demands or pull away in all our fury, the world has so possessed our minds that our thoughts are ever on it. Thusly do the words of Nicolás Gómez Dávila ring true to us, that humanity is a problem without a human solution.
If we cannot remain in the thoughtless rebellion of the lion, nor return to the thoughtless servitude of the camel, what is our third way? What is the difference between our mundane idea of resigned, self-stifling “obedience” and that “true obedience” of which the Heart of Water speaks, that leads to the child’s perfect freedom? Now, we may turn properly to Mythos 3.
There we find the Daughter receiving many burdens. She is given the governance of all things (v. 1)—of the waters and the wind (v. 2), of the times and of the seasons (v. 3). The Mother places upon Her, indeed, the care of every soul on earth and in heaven (v. 4). All these obligations the Daughter must assume, and She does so with perfect obedience, but it is not for any of these that we honor Her today.
Today, we heap our praises on Her holy name for another act of obedience—one of an altogether different cast. For when the Daughter had dutifully performed all that Her Mother commanded, Her Mother perceived that she was not content, and came to her, saying,
You have made the whole earth fruitful and brought My light to all the world, have You not satisfaction in Your work? And the Maid replied, saying: I have brought Your light to many places, and yet a place there is which remains ever in darkness; a place beneath all places, in which there is no light. … And the Mother asked Her: Do You know what thing it is that You must do if You will bring My light into every place? And the Maid replied: I know what it is that I must do. … And this was Her taking on of fate upon Herself. (vv. 9–10, 12–13, 15)
This is the Daughter’s greatest obedience—the model of that “true obedience” of which the Heart of Water speaks—and what must strike us is that it is obedience to a command that was never given. The Mother does not ask Her Daughter to descend into the nethermost hells. She does not ask Her to carry Her light into that last and darkest place. She does not order Her to the sacrifice. The taking on of fate is the Daughter’s own initiative—a voluntary act arising from Her love for Her Mother and for Creation.
The Daughter’s obedience is so great and so free that it responds to no explicit command, but simply to the knowledge of what will be pleasing to Her Mother and bring Her glory—more akin to the chivalric obedience of a knight to a chosen lady than to the merely feudal obedience of a knight to his hereditary lord. We are accustomed, in the ways of the world, to think of obedience as an abnegation of the will—a setting aside of ourselves in submission to another—and yet, for our Lady, obedience was the highest expression of Her own will. For Her will is Love, and so Her obedience was not as a wire tying down a vine, but as a flower erupting from it. When our Lady speaks of this greatest and most fateful obedience, She speaks not of submission but of love, saying “I love each each of you, and have proved my love, and shall prove it evermore.” (The Secret of the World, v. 15)
This is the great mystery, for in taking on fate our Lady took on destiny, and foredoomed Herself in a way that we cannot avoid, but to which the divine nature need not submit. In taking on fate, she entangled Herself in its strands like one lashed to the train tracks, from whom all possibility of escape is gone. And yet the taking on of fate is also the decisive moment in which, although divine, the Daughter becomes maid—one who has the power to choose (The Pillar of Light, v. 19).
When we are made perfect in our love, as the Scriptures give us cause to hope we may someday be (The Three Loves, v. 18), then we are made perfect in obedience as well—not in passivity, as is the camel, but in the truest activity we shall ever know. Our obedience, then, like our Lady’s, will be not a restraint but an indulgence—a service that is perfect freedom, too.