Monday, February 3, 2020

A Conversation with Elaine Pagels in Parabola Magazine

"Moving Toward Hope: A Conversation with Elaine Pagels" From Parabola Magazine

Elaine Pagel's "The Gnostic Gospels" was transformative for me when I first came upon it, which wasn't long after its first publication in 1979. There were elements in the Christian tradition, of Jesus' teachings, that resonated deeply within me, but that Christian orthodoxy would bar me from accessing—because I was a Jew, because I was gay, but mostly because I was more drawn to what Jesus taught than the deification of him as a person. 

My Christian grandmother embodied those teachings. She always respected my upbringing as a Jew, so I didn’t get any of the Pentecostal dogma; but I spent a lot of time with her as a child and witnessed her good works with the poor and sick, and in her lovely maternal warmth, all of which were plainly connected to her love of the Bible and her frequent church goings. When I was twelve, I met Jesus in a lucid dream a couple of days before my bar-mitzvah, which was shocking and profound and more than a little scary (the dream itself wasn’t frightening, far from it, but the implications of it for me as a good Jewish boy were confusing.) There was such a profound opening of the heart in this dream, a soft, crystalline awareness, and a deep, loving, personal connection to this radiant and gentle man, this teacher… I’ve never forgotten it, it is with me still. Yet the spiritual traditions and communities, Christian and otherwise, I explored later all seemed to require acceptance of things that were absurd or antithetical to my experience, or denial of things I knew in my heart to be good and true; and I never felt welcomed, not as I was. 

So I was on my own—hallelujah and amen. Pagel's book was a part of my introduction to the mystic path: it is good to be "on one's own," in a sense; even in community, truth and the ability to discern it comes from within, not without. The things I came to later, that I work with now, all begin with that. And the communities I eventually did find, of which I am gratefully a part of, begin with that, too. 

Please read this wonderful interview with Ms. Pagels, whose personal story is as moving as her books. And please support Parabola magazine, a great resource and source of inspiration for those on the path.

Friday, December 13, 2019

13 December 2019

In prayer and meditation I affirm my oneness with Source, and in so our oneness with it and each other, and with all life.

Source: everything comes from something else. It’s all “begats”: moons born of planets born of stars born of galaxies born of universes… we’re in there somewhere. Our descriptions of ultimate source, of first cause, deepen and expand as our intelligence deepens and expands, but we can never “know” it, never describe it: whatever we describe ultimately comes from something we can’t. We can’t help, however, but “be” it: all that is made is made from what’s made; there is nothing outside of Nature. We are That. 

“Ultimate,” “first,” even “Source,” even “it”… such words, any words, anthropomorphize what I am referring to—it is hubris to refer at all, unless we are fully surrendered in question. Being a Jew, I use a Jewish term for this referring that embodies humble questioning and creates a stop in shallow thinking, and a deepening into Self: “HaShem,” the Name. 

Meditation: a falling into silence and remembering of oneness. Prayer: from a place of oneness an affirmation that others may find the same, and that I and we act from this understanding.  In prayer and meditation I affirm my oneness with HaShem, and in so our oneness with HaShem, and each other, and with all life. 


In prayer and contemplation I am aware of gifts. The gifts of what I can do, what I have, the gift of being, of aliveness; the gifts of struggle and suffering, that I might grow. The gift of witnessing the struggles and suffering of others, that I might give everything I am given to help. The gift of help that others give me. It is here I see the nature of Nature, the action of HaShem: it is love. What but love would give me life? What but love flows through me to give? All that I receive, friendship, partnership, family, yes, but even food in a restaurant, the roof over my head, payment for the products and services I provide—what is the river within which all that flows? It is the river of love, and I and all and everything swims in it, as sure as it swims through us.


Today I contemplate the greatest gift I receive personally, the gift of living itself. Yes, my life is the action of HaShem, of love made manifest; but through whom did this life, this flesh and blood, enter the world? Through my mother and father, of course, and blessed may they be; but who gave birth to them, to all of us? Who is the mother of humanity? 

The Earth, of course. In that long list of “begats,” She begets us. These lives we lead, these bodies we run around in—She gives them to us. We are of HaShem through Her. And like mothers everywhere, she shows us how to survive—and like children everywhere, we must pay attention. Children don’t always outlive their parents; She can survive without us, but not the other way around. Nature finds a way; we haven’t. 

In silence we hear Her advice. What does She say? Nothing. 

But from the silence I see more, I feel more, I sense more. And I love more, and I know I am loved, and I forget to be grateful less and less. Intelligence isn’t just facts—it’s seeing and being and loving and giving, it’s understanding larger contexts, it’s allowing ourselves to be informed. This intelligence, it’s there for us—the Earth holds out Her hand to us the moment She gives us life.

I affirm my oneness with HaShem and Mother Earth, and in so our oneness with them and each other, and with all life. In love, in gratitude, Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

9 October 2018

The innocence of babes, they see so little of the world, and yet so much. There is no added weight to what they observe, no associations—just interest. There is shining magic everywhere. Coming across an old baby book filled with my grandma’s handwriting, I see my mom as such: her first words and steps and waves bye bye. I imagine my husband at that age, toddling about sweet and shy in Vojvodina, in his little town on the Danube with his grandma; and my dad, digging snow tunnels with his pals on the sidewalks of Hibbing. I open the refrigerator and see last night’s stew, thinking how much my mom loved stew when the weather started to turn, how I make mine like hers. I think of her long life full of stews, and birthday cakes and new clothes and old friends, and the place of family in her world, not at the top of her list but the whole and the base of it, the part of her she tended first. I feel the arc of that life, the girl she was and remained through all the addings, the losses and gains, the beliefs, hopes, resentments, loves, worries… and after all, the quiet wisdom and acceptance that emerged, shining soft like a placid lake. This is a blessed sorrow that I feel might break me in two—I can’t hear her singing in the kitchen, I can’t make her coffee best. My father wakes and calls her name. A greater trial than death is loss—I consider for a moment that love is cruel, but a breeze huffs through the window and I awaken to the bougainvillea climbing the wall outside, to it’s character and mystery, as if seeing it through a child’s eyes. I have a baby book too. We suffer our way into humanness to see what we’ve always been, which is more than we ever knew. We are alive in each other, everything is alive in everything. 

I am moving forward in this strange, unmoored peace, empty and full, bereft and grateful, hugging everyone I love or even just like a little, admitting love, treasuring their lives, unashamed. Grief is never assuaged, it is shared, and I am held by them— and, as always, by my mother. My soul is in her arms.