Nine weeks of readings from the Atu descriptions in Crowley’s Book of Thoth and essays from Don Webb’s “Grand Initiation” in chapter three of Uncle Setnakt’s Essential Guide to LHP. Keep a Journal.
Set 1: Apostacy
Week 1: The Thoth Juggler and Priestess; Webb’s words on Chaos
Ritual: Put on favorite outfit of identity; remove, wash, and store for nine weeks. Sit sky clad.
Sigil suggestions: ouroboros, reversed pentagram
Card reading: do an intuitive three card spread on your identity, its release, and other wisdom.
Week 2: The Thoth Hierophant and Lovers; Webb’s essay on Order
Ritual: burn phrases and/or symbols of old identity
Sigil suggestions: Baphomet, Samael, Lilith
Card reading: Intuitive five-card spread on false purposes, desires, relationships, goals, ideas.
Week 3: The Thoth Devil and Tower; Webb’s essay on Clarity
Ritual: break, destroy, or trash a symbol of false purpose.
Sigil suggestions: broken or reversed symbols of the mainstream mindset
Card reading: Two central cards and added clarifiers for needed transgression + destruction
Set 2: Transmutation
Week 4: The Thoth Wheel, Hanged Man, and Death; Webb’s essay on Life
Ritual: Cut apple slices from core and eat; save 7 seeds; hide core in nature to decompose.
Sigil suggestions: star of Babalon, wheel of the year or of Buddhism
Card reading: Daily draws and reflections on life changes. What am I becoming?
Week 5: The Thoth Hermit and Star; Webb essay on Creation
Ritual: create intuitive, runic, or A.E. Spare-style sigil on a dawning intention
Sigil suggestions: rune Gebo, railroad crossing and crossroads sign
Card reading: What are my primal desires? What is my true will?
Week 6: The Thoth Tarot Lust and Moon cards; Watch television shows or movie (Incubation)
Set 3: Apotheosis
Week 7: The Thoth Chariot and Art; Webb’s essay on Birth
Ritual: cast apple seeds into nature and release saved sigil (from weeks 4 and 5)
Sigil suggestions: 8 arrows of chaos magic, hieroglyphic monad
Card reading: What is my temporary anchor or foundation? How is it/is it not stable?
Week 8: The Thoth Sun and Aeon; Webb’s essay on Re-creation
Ritual: in/evocation of deity (Hecate? Santa Muerte? Lucifer and Lilith?)
Sigil suggestions: rune Dagaz, rising sun, butterfly, lemniscate
Card reading: How do I flow one day at a time? How is my ascent unending?
Week 9: The Thoth World and Fool; Webb’s essay on Victory; Review journal
Ritual: Black Mass (black candles, music, invocation, communion with Self)
Sigil: combination of runes Gebo and Dagaz plus triangle of mountain in circle
I recently had the ill-advised urge to dedicate my pentagram ring to a magickal but platonic friendship in my life. Not only was this a case of stereotypical male stupidity—in the repurposing of an item of jewelry—but it was a spiritual error as well as I was confusing an interpersonal situation with something sacramental or incarnational. My adoration of the Goddess, who can sometimes shine through archetype or synchronicity, sometimes even channel through priestess or medium, was misplaced as a liminal space devolved into idolatry, quite an embarrassing error to admit.
Some years ago, I had felt called by the Morrigan through a series of signs: a five-pointed star on a truck, a pentagram on some chimes, the pentacle in a tarot reading, and so forth. My self-initiation culminated in wearing the aforementioned ring. Additionally, after joining the coven, one of two tattoos included the pentagram with the ouroboros replacing the usual circle. In rededicating my tattoo and ring recently and doing some self-searching, I have been reflecting on the power of the pentagram.
One of my first leads to the power of the pentagram comes from its appearance in various systems, including tarot. In ceremonial magic and the Magician’s tools of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the elements are revealed through the wand of fire, staff of air, and cup of water; however, the pentacle (like Earth) reflect all the elements in its five points: sun and moon, sky and land, all beneath the 5th-point of Spirit. In the familiar inversion on the Devil card, the material elements take the lead in Dionysian ecstasy or primal creativity. In the Thoth system, the Princess of Disks—the earthy part of Earth, lowest of the court cards—carries all the energy of the tarot, completes the Tree of Life and starts the cycle afresh. Like the pentagram, Earth is said to contain all of the other elements as a portal to Spirit.
The disk carried by the Thoth Princess has the yin and yang symbol at center, a balance also suggestive of the power of the pentagram in certain magickal systems. When the pentagram points upwards, an inverted pentagon is seen at center; however, when the pentagram is reversed as on the Devil card, the central pentagon points upwards. This harmony of reversals might support the notion that every person and aspect of life—like every tarot card—contains both sun and shadow, that no one is true angel or demon, that nothing is purely light or dark. Spirit effectively descends into the material as well as arising from it in this cosmology.
The pentagram will be familiar for its symbolic power. In ceremonial magic, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram can be used for daily protection, and even in witchcraft and altar work the pentagram may be invoked. Like the Christian cross, the pentagram is a universally recognized symbol with a variety of interpretations, in fact, once used by Christians to represent the five wounds of Christ. With magickal associations it is used in Celtic practice, Wicca, and even heavy-metal and goth rock album covers. As a sigil, the pentagram evokes energy as certainly as a QR code.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, some will note that “pentagram” refers to the five-pointed star proper and that “pentacle” refers to the star within a circle. The alchemy of the Renaissance would see the neo-platonic elements represented as transcendental romantics might find supernatural power displayed by the pentagram. Many modern pagans find the pentagram to be a satisfying symbol of earth-based spirituality, nature religion, or animism.
The pentagram is a symbol and sigil of vibrant energy. Applying various perspectives from classic Greek and Roman, through the medieval and the modern, might lead us to fit the pentagram into a personal paradigm in powerful ways. However, I will close with a reminder from Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP): “The map is not the territory.” These models and systems are merely ways of accessing a living, breathing magick, a fragile communion, or a sacred connection that can wax or wane like phases of the moon.
For the sake of simplicity and my ever-weakening memory, I am breaking my current spiritual mindset down into three areas: Paradigm, Path, and Practice.
Paradigm: At the highest, philosophical level, I follow the modern mindset of synthesis. As the blind men around the elephant need to compare notes, I want to find the thread of wisdom in every individual, group, or age. As the Golden Dawn mixed Kabala, astrology, alchemy, and tarot as well as Christian and Egyptian symbolism, so I seek to blend many eclectic sources. The main streams I see crossing now are the empiricism of science, the inclusion of perspectivism, the individual sovereignty of Thelema, the mainstream love of Agape, and the evolutionary progress of Becoming.
Path: This level focuses on the actual walk of life, apart from the abstract philosophy and religion of the "Paradigm" level. Right now, having been influenced by several years of working with a dark priestess and eight months in a witches' coven, I feel led to walk a left hand path. These are the practical characteristics I see on my LHP: alternative or "other," solitary, Self-sovereign, inclusive, dark themed, shadow oriented or focused on dark deity, transgressive, free, with personal responsibility for integrity and, for me, grace for all people, short of the abusive.
Practice: My practice now focuses on altar work and astral journeys as well as high and practical magick. I seek spiritual disciplines such as study, meditation, and I am open to spiritual gifts such as divination, heling, energy work, channeling, dreams, or visions.
Whether you are mainstream, new age, or pagan, whether on the right hand path, left hand path, or blended path, whether practicing as witch, magician, or mystic; one of the hallmarks of modern spirituality is alternative forms and individual expression. The one true doctrine arising is that there is no one true doctrine. You must follow your own bliss and find your own truth.
One of my first shocks upon going off road spiritually and exploring alternative paths was coming across groups that seemed just as rigid and just as closed as the mainstream religion I was walking away from. People in those groups had also left behind a faith or lifestyle, describing a feeling of “coming home” to what seemed a more natural or resonant practice. However, many others were eclectic or solitary practitioners who had forged their own spiritual paradigms and invited others to do the same.
Recently I formally stepped away from my faith of almost 30 years, after about a five year process of working with alternative practices and various deity. I have studied several esoteric systems, worked with a left-hand path priestess, taken courses in a pagan school, and joined a coven. I feel that it is time for me to work on my own paradigm and am going to outline here my process, perhaps including some of my own results—purely as examples—in case the structure or at least issues raised might help others who wish to create or re-create their own paradigms. I will write the process up in the form of instructions, but I am in actuality instructing myself! The three considerations are the circle, triangle, and square—the circle of Inmost Self or Spirit, the triangle of Soul (mind, heart, will), and the Square of body and practice in the physical world.
The Circle of Inmost Self or Spirit
At least for me, the place to start is at center—the heart chakra in the Hindu system or Tiphareth on the kabalistic tree of life. From this mountaintop, so to speak, I can consider symbols and themes that have been important throughout my life. I can consider how much developmental time I will need: probably two months is better than two days and for me two years has not been too short. Even now, I want to step back from outside influences and the outcry of so many voices as I think about what the core of my personal paradigm will be. Do I want name myself a “mind witch” or “all-inclusive mystic”? Do I want to commit to a fully LHP (left hand path) approach or to identify as a “chaos magician”? Having a key identity or focal symbol is very potent, and having a central theme is also powerful. Some of the tried and true themes have included salvation, submission, enlightenment, will to power, and self-sovereignty. The Temple of Set focuses on “Xeper.”
For me, the circle needs to be dynamic—like the river of Heraclitus, only defined by its own ever-changing flow. This is a concept I have found elsewhere described as “Becoming,” and I often hear folks on alternative paths say, “My ideas may change in future years.” So I will probably use a symbol such as the ouroboros, a serpent who sheds its skin, or an eternally growing tree. The mysticism of the Hermit and the magick of the Magician have become important to me, so such an archetype might serve as a centerpiece. Also non-negotiable for me is openness and inclusivity—not that every path is equally true for me but rather that every path has wisdom or something of value to contribute. However, others might consider only nature religions of value or exclude deity entirely in a hard atheism. Regardless, the center of the circle provides stability and the circumference gives defining borders, boundaries that can be healthy as well as helpful, even if not as rigid as someone who can say, “I follow the Morrigan as a native Irish pagan.”
The Triangle of Soul
While the circle represents the core identity or higher self, the triangle more or less comprises the medial life divided by Aristotle into mind, heart, and will (logos, pathos, and ethos). In building a personal paradigm, I see three areas where issues may arise and decision may need to be made.
1. How will you choose to address the big questions?
First consider how comprehensive you want your paradigm to be. Some may not be interested in considering philosophical issues at all—for example, a witch only involved in practice or an agnostic who is skeptical that we can find any answers. However, depending on your bent, you may want to define your ethics, purpose, or world view. Reviewing important movements of the past such as existentialism or transcendentalism may provide some loose ends to unravel. You may want to consider various versions of the spirit realm, origins, the afterlife, and so on. Do you resonate with a certain view of deity: atheism, theism, deism, pantheism, animism and so on? You may want to consider your place on the spectrum between community and individual spirituality. Do you want to start a new religion, join a coven of solitary practitioners, or live in a world of your own making?
2. How systematic will you be?
Will you only be happy with an internally consistent paradigm or can you enjoy a hodge-podge of eclectic pieces? Don Webb and others have suggested spending some time in one system to see how it operates and how the symbols translate into real experience as well as to explore other systems to see the crossovers and similarities—even though there is not a one-to-one correspondence. Some people will choose discipline and consistency over time, others may prefer a loose constitution with frequent amendment, and others may want no structure at all. Not being a lover of cognitive dissonance, I will want my own paradigm to make sense internally but with great freedom to adapt and shift.
3. How will your paradigm apply in consensus reality?
In a way this question address the moonlit and sunlit realms and the alchemical principle of “as within, so without.” In other words, does your paradigm work in the real world as the Will or Word is made manifest? The paradigm may make magickal workings more effective or bring about desired self-improvement. While outside validation can be overemphasized, I personally value the respect of outsiders who have no vested interest or particular sympathy with my causes.
The Square of Practical Application
This final section does address the question of whether a paradigm works in the real world and how it might actually function. Joseph Campbell, in discussing the power of myth, often highlights the social aspects of spirituality as initiation through the passages of life, in ritual, in relationships, and even in the hero’s journey as a boon is brought back to the community. Even if a paradigm is wholly individual, personal growth and development can be seen as tangible fruit of the spiritual root. Here one might consider if actual therapy or principles of real clinical psychology might be of assistance. Is a code of ethics helpful or tried-and-true spiritual disciplines such as yoga, meditation, prayer, or fasting? Can one adopt practical principles from 12-step programs or put methods of seeking guidance into place?
Finally, someone creating a personal paradigm might consider whether to include written forms. The Hindus collected the Vedas and Upanishads, and Mohammed so admired “the People of the Book” that he wrote his own scripture. Perhaps the whole library contains your sacred words or perhaps you will write your own grimoire. You might consider gathering the writings most important to you, whether they be Jung or Huxley, Whitman or Nietzsche. At the end of his poem “The Wasteland,” T.S. Eliot describes his own gathering of pieces in the desolation of the modern world in this way: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”
In one sense, this is the blog update to end all updates; in another sense it is like the Fool card in tarot and the one that spawns an endless spiral. Here I add a concept from the Left-Hand Path, the idea that the ultimate good involves all individuals seeking an ever-higher, godlike evolution: "Becoming" or in some camps "Xeper," which I take to be a divine manifestation of Self. If I claim to be an "all-inclusive mystic," I must admit these thinkers and groups also have a piece of the puzzle--some tending to be atheist, some agnostic, some deist, and maybe a few theist.
This post comes at somewhat of a milestone for me at the Harvest Moon of 2020. Seeking direction at a self-declared crossroads, doing workings of magick in tandem with a long distance friend, a self-declared "chaos magician," I had a powerful mystical experience followed by an intense outward expression.
The mystical experience included a downpour of love, acceptance, and bliss that seemed to include traditional feelings of worship but also friendship, an almost romantic love, and self-sovereignty. The was almost an ego transcendence; however, it was accompanied by quite earthy soulishness and bodily ecstasy. It may take some days to center and ground this experience in sunlit relationship and moonlit altar work.
The next day precipitated a milestone, probably many years in the making. When I told my wife that I probably would not be attending any more in-person church meetings (not wanting a hypocritical association), she said she did not want to explain my reasons to others. She understands much of my new thinking, but did not want the burden--and probably dramatic stress--of bringing the news. So I sent an email to the pastor explaining my unwillingness to support conservative politics and religion, especially practices of exclusion. He requested a meeting later in the week, in which I was able to articulate my ideas calmly. Although the pastor revealed some liberal sentiment and even requested a copy of the book When Christians Get It Wrong, the real significance of the meeting was the formal declaration, the line in the sand, so to speak, on my part.
So along with my recent tattoos of pentagram, ouroboros, and hieroglyphic monad; along with my pagan altars, meditation beads, and tarot cards; along with my online postings and bumper stickers, I have officially taken steps away from the crossroads at this Harvest Moon of 2020--almost certainly to other crossroads on a path of Becoming.
I have been making some bold Facebook posts recently, basically coming out of the closet as an all-inclusive mystic. I did receive push back from some conservative evangelical Christians. I am copying a few here as an altar of remembrance:
EXCLUSIVISM: Great Walls, barriers, or Star Trek Klingons are tribal and fundamentalist.
UNIVERSALISM: conquest empires like Rome or the Star Trek Borg make every distinctive part of the collective.
INCLUSIVISM: Existing together, groups allow freedom for individuals within as well as outsiders
I take issue not with either democrats or republicans per se but with the polarized politics that has led to an almost Machiavellian extremism in both camps.
Likewise, I take issue not with any belief--whether atheism, Buddhism, Daoism, Paganism (Norse, Greek, Celtic, Egyptian, and so on), Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or what have you--but with the fundamentalist versions of any of them.
I pray the day comes when extremism and exclusivism automatically discredit adherents of any party or faith.
3 LEVELS OF HATE
1. Criminal offense: genocide, holy war, burning of heretics
2. Civil offence: discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion
3. Moral offense: believing in your heart or teaching children that those with faiths different from yours will burn in hell
One time, years ago, as I was posting with other contributors about magic performance theory at The Magic Cafe', one of the perennial issues arose--whether magic is real or not. The discussion got heated as it often did as a few gnostic Cafe' members brought up "logos" as a kind of natural supernaturalism and as I connected the logos to Christian theology. At one point Jonathan Townsend commented to me, "You are so close."
This morning as I meditated on Isis, her story and image and presence in sacred space, I felt how she embodies so much that Jesus does--his story and image and presence in sacred space. Both take human form, both put on an apron and wash feet, and both spread their arms to sacrifice themselves and rise for humanity. In a way, both are exclusive, for Christians warn against darkness appearing as an "angel of light" and even pagan priests teach discerning of spirits.
I reflected on some pieces of the puzzle, too, that any right religious belief or practice should allow for individual conscience and freedom, should hold sacred space, and should demonstrate loving kindness. Perhaps no religion should be cultish and segmented yet should not indiscriminate and naively inclusive either. No religion should deny facts of reality or reason yet should not deny faith, imagination, and intuition.
It's hard to put into words the feeling of openness and acceptance I felt momentarily as I remembered the words from Jonathan: "You are so close."
In the Sources section of A Blended path website, I made some posts called "Questions for Odin" as I had his presence had dawned on me slowly mostly through meditation and conversations with my Empress as personified deity. Now, maybe months later, the past two mornings, I woke up feeling the presence of Odin again, this time stronger but with similar vibrations in the solar plexus and forehead. There was an energy present during each day that was needed for several struggles at work. I felt strengthened by fire and even saw a few signs of divine power as the word FIRE appeared in several synchonicities throughout the day.
I remembered how much my father reminds me of Odin, a real fighter but a scholar, a lover of language, wine, and poetry, and somewhat of a wanderer like Gandalf. I visited a website where a solitary polytheist gnostic writes about Odin and experiences with gods, read some of the Norse Poetic Eddas and felt powerful connections and vibrations growing. I reached a trance state several time and read how Odin was sometime considered an almost shammanistic mystic of trance.
Yesterday I felt the desire to know what Odin wants with me, why he has appeared, so I wrote down the question "What is Odin's call or will?" I suppose I am superimposing my Christian concepts onto Odin, but this is how I phrased the question before drawing two runes and three tarot cards.
The runes Sowilo and Thurisaz seem to suggest a shining breakthrough of sun through thorns, something I hope will be happening in health with my gout bouts and at work with my new World Literature class--as well as in spiritual progress. The Hanged Man reminds me of sacrifice and suspension as when Odin hung for nine days of the Yggdrasil the World Tree and secured the runes. The Chariot and the 9 of Wands echo the runes but the symbols on the Chariot suggest healing and the other figure shows an entrenched holy warrior. All in all, the answer seems to be a call to battle or service of some kind...
A few minutes after this draw, my close co-worker Marilyn came in with a birthday gift for me. It was a keepsake based on the humble Game of Thrones character who died holding the door closed for Bran and friends during the famous time-shift reveal. Marilyn had given me a wooden door stop inscribed with the name HODOR. She also gave me some strategies for starting my new class.
I feel that Odin had appeared to me through trance, signs, and human agency.
One theoretical mathematics professor broke down knowledge into three styles:
If we also factor in Aristotle’s ideas that we communicate through pathos and ethos (emotion and values) as much as through logos (sheer evidence and logic), finding a path to knowledge may be more complex than we sometimes consider.
One of my half-baked thoughts is to someday make a collection of useful principles for considering religion and spirituality. Like telephone numbers that were designed with seven digits to accommodate short-term memory, I am keeping this initial list to 5. These are 5 keys I want to consider as I scan the landscape of many beliefs and groups of believers.
2. Partial truth
3. Collective truth
5. Dualities and dialogue
1. Conservation: Jesus and Buddha came not to destroy but to fulfill the law.
Much like teenagers who feel a rebellious extreme as they learn to be independent, we can feel like rebels when growing in knowledge and thinking differently. There may be a temptation to toss out all of the old ideas or to throw out the baby with the bath water. But the when Jesus and Buddha brought radical change to their respective religions, they showed respect for what came before, Jesus even claiming to bring a further step or completion to what the old covenants and laws intended.
2. Partial truth: We see dimly.
The Apostle Paul wrote that we see dimly as in a dark mirror, even if one day we will see more fully. In arguing that love is more important than knowledge, he argued that we only know in part. That we are dealing in mysteries may be obvious, but sometimes our dim revelations and insights bring pride or divisions instead of love, the actual purpose of real knowledge. Paul said, “Love builds up. Knowledge puffs up.”
Rumi said that “Love is the astrolabe of the soul.”
Love is the astrolabe of God's mysteries.
A lover may hanker after this love or that love,
But at the last he is drawn to the KING of love.
However much we describe and explain love,
When we fall in love we are ashamed of our words.
3. Collective truth: We need the group, universals, or consensus reality.
As a converse side to the partial truth seen by the blind men touching different parts of the elephant, perhaps when we get together and compare notes, we see a bigger picture. We balance and tune one another, to say the least. Both critical thinking and synthesis of ideas work among a network of folk—whether high culture or low culture.
4. Freedom: Knowledge requires individual thought and diversity.
The collective knowledge devolves into group think and cold legalism if there is no room for dissent and investigation. The movie World War Z dramatized the principle of the “10th Man” as the strange plague attacked Jerusalem, and the tenth person was sent out to check out a minority report, no matter how crazy, that dead people were walking. Pluralism allows for outliers and boundary breakers to influence the status quo, to think outside the collective box.
5. Dualities and dialogue: An attitude of open discussion
Many polarities—even within like-minded groups—are necessary tensions that need to be held in balance or key components that need to be used in combination: arts and sciences, justice and mercy, or action and passivity. Many religions recognize God as both transcendent and immanent—beyond knowing yet close to each of us: the extremes of such paradoxes cannot always be held in view simultaneously and holding one necessary emphasis can lead to division even within oneself in a kind of cognitive dissonance.
I’ll close with one example of a never-ending dualism, perhaps discussed in part by Emerson in his famous essay on “Conservatism and Liberalism”—tradition and change that seem as eternal as the river of Heraclitus.
On the one hand, we need order and law, to maintain consistency. On the other hand, structure can sometimes lead us to write things in stone and become legalistic. The images and rules necessary for one time and place get applied too far and wide. Therefore, some theologians have noted we seem to receive “progressive revelation,” expanding understanding that the temples build of stone represent the living temples of humanity or that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.
As Augustine said, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things love.”
NOTE: This blog and the preceding one were written to post on Facebook, where many of my friends are conservative Christians, so here I focus on Christian versions of exclusivity; obviously, the blessings and curses of exclusion are not limited to Christians.
Although rigid exclusivity of faith has become so unpopular as to be brandied with the name “fundamentalism,” an important impulse lies at the heart of exclusion. As we grow and develop, we often long to find or develop an identity. We have a need for community and belonging. Spirituality calls for an ethos; simply discerning right from wrong calls for an ethic. If we do enjoy a spiritual path, we need sacred space and separation of holy ground. Marriage and special relationships are defined by often exclusive emotions of love and affection. In logic alone, we need definitions, critical thinking, division and classification.
However, groups segment and build walls. Accusations of cultural appropriation arise. Fear of discrimination and invasion appear on both sides of polarized fences. Into the sometimes good impulse of exclusivity, Christians have certain categorical statements that sometimes get fired like bullets and that do not seem to be understood well: (1) Be separate from the world; (2) There is only one name by which we can be saved; and (3) no one comes to the father but by Jesus. I will deal with these Christian versions of exclusivity for now and leave to the side the exclusivity of other identities and religions.
(1) Be separate from the world: in the extreme this means isolating in a church group but sometimes is assumed to mean avoiding drinking, dancing, movies, certain clothing, and other behaviors. Of course, are told to be in the world and not of the world. So we often see separation as a matter of the heart: we render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, we have a business without greed, look at art without lust, or drink a little wine without addiction. To the pure, all things can be pure, even other cultures, spiritual practices, and mythology.
(2) There is only one name by which we can be saved: sometimes this phrase is assumed to mean one must be baptized into a certain church or sign a specific statement of faith, perhaps expanded in some people’s minds as any faith that follows Christ’s general teachings. However, the interpretations are so diverse and groups so splintered that ultimately you are only included if you associate yourself with the English name spelled J E S U S. The literal name of Jesus appears in the Hebrew as “Joshua” and means “He Delivers”: this divine identity actually has many names and faces.
But even the God of the Bible has shown himself to have many names and faces, stating with the Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit—so ingrained as to cause no flinch of polytheism except among Jewish and Islamic believers or Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the Old Testament, though, even apart from theophany and appearances of the Angel of the LORD—such as appearing to Abraham as three men, there seem to be multiple names and faces of God: Elohim, El Elyon, El Shaddai, the YHWH of the Tetragrammaton, the LORD my Provider, the LORD my Peace—and Healer, Banner, Righteousness, Shepherd as well as many other names revealing facets of the Eternal. The New Testament has other divine names, including our Father, Abba, Alpha and Omega, and a least seven identifications with “I am,” such as Way, Truth, Door, Good Shepherd, Life, and Light. He is called Logos, the Word, Faithful and True. In Him we live and move and have our being, and Paul finds Him in the poems and art of the secular as well as in the halls of religion.
(3) No one comes to the father but by Jesus: Again, this phrase sometimes seems to be cast like a stone or slammed like a door in the face of those who do not sign a certain statement of faith or join a certain church or use a certain bumper sticker. However, the significance is a grace found in many hearts and many faiths: we cannot save ourselves. In alcoholics anonymous, the first step to freedom is admitting one is powerless and finding help from beyond oneself, a Higher Power. The core truth is that only by God’s grace is anyone going to make it: no amount of education, exercise, or even religion is going to get us anywhere without God. We tend to form human methods and traditions of how we think this supernatural Bridge—this Stairway to heaven--must work.
The transcendent truth gets filtered into experiences of individuals and cultures: people argue over whether they need to be sprinkled or immersed in water, whether those who never hear the name of Jesus can be saved. Yet by grace all those who respond to light given them will are given more light. Unfortunately, the important concepts of love, of belonging, of holiness, and of sacred space get translated into rigid exclusivity and even hate.