Posted by: shawnjohnston | December 18, 2007

A Way of Life

Ten Principles To The Zen Of Attraction

  1. Promise Nothing
    Just do what you most enjoy doing.
    Hidden benefit: You will always over-deliver.
  2. Offer Nothing
    Just share what you have with those who express an interest in it.
    Hidden benefit: Takes the pressure off of wanting other people to see you as valuable or important.
  3. Expect Nothing
    Just enjoy what you already have. It’s plenty.
    Hidden benefit: You will realize how complete your life is already.
  4. Need Nothing
    Just build up your reserves and your needs will disappear.
    Hidden benefit: You boundaries will be extended and filled with space.
  5. Create Nothing
    Just respond well to what comes to you.
    Hidden benefit: Openness.
  6. Hype Nothing
    Just let quality sell by itself.
    Hidden benefit: Trustability.
  7. Plan Nothing
    Just take the path of least resistance.
    Hidden benefit: Achievement will become effortless.
  8. Learn Nothing
    Just let your body absorb it all on your behalf.
    Hidden benefit: You will become more receptive to what you need to know in the moment.
  9. Become No One
    Just be more of yourself.
    Hidden benefit: Authenticity.
  10. Change Nothing
    Just tell the truth and things will change by themselves.
    Hidden benefit: Acceptance.

– by Graham English

Posted by: shawnjohnston | December 1, 2007

Advent Sunday

Seek, all of you, after the Light, so that the power of your Soul that is in you may live. Do not desist from seeking by day and by night, until you find the purifying mysteries of the Light which refine the body of matter and make it a pure Light very refined. Do to all men who come to you and believe in you and listen to your words what is worthy of the mysteries of the Light, give the mysteries of the Light and do not hide them from them. For he who shall give life to a single soul and liberate it, besides the Light that is in his own soul, he shall receive other glory in return for the soul he has liberated.
– Book of Sophia

Advent, originating from the Latin adventus meaning “coming”, is the season of preparation for the coming birth of the Divine Child. It serves as a separated space of time where we say to ourselves, “Shhh! The Light is coming! Release, surrender, prepare: the time has come again.” We prepare for this new cycle through repentance of our sins, reflection on the lessons learned over the past year, and resolutions for the righting our path for the year to come.

It is a time of focus on the inner work of cleansing and purification, of re-dedication to the Light so that we may fittingly celebrate the birth of the Divine Child and the re-emergence of the Light in the world again. Advent has its roots in our Pagan past, where candles were lit in honour of the dying sun and in anticipation of its rebirth at the Winter Solstice, a time of the year where the days cease getting shorter and the hope of spring and the return of life is renewed.

As Gnostics, our awareness is rooted in our gnosis, and in this darkest time of the year, we retreat to the Sacred Flame within us, to reflect and meditate on the cycles of life and learning. We benefit greatly from this period of mindful and deliberate preparation as it allows us to fully appreciate when the Light arrives once again. It is a reaffirmation of our path and of our faith that God is ever with us. It is an awakening of the Light of Gnosis in the seat of our soul.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | November 30, 2007

Gnosis’ Many Faces

Looking into one’s own nature, as here understood, is not an introspective effort at examining one’s, mental processes; still less does it require us to submit to the ministrations of a psychoanalyst. An inner task is certainly involved before we can experience what has been called the “opening of the third eye”; but this again, is no psychological miracle. It is the gift, so simple yet so rarely possessed, of looking directly at reality, so that we see it as it is, in its “suchness.” It is the capacity to bring all our powers of perception to bear on what is before us – including, be it noted, our own actions and experiences – without any subjective admixture of personal feelings, prejudices, alien thoughts, wishes, attractions, aversions, memories, hopes, fears, and, in general, that complex amalgam of emotions which habitually prevents us from observing what we are looking at, clear and unclouded. The result of such “enlightenment” is to remove the sense of alienation from the natural world, from other people, from our selves, and consequently from God, which lies at the root of our distress. Once a harmony has been established, on the basis of that nature “which makes the whole world kin,” there is a sense in which the Christian also can make his own the tat tvam asi (That art thou), and, in enlightened compassion, find relief from an at times seemingly unbearable weight of suffering.  – Dom Aelred Graham, Zen Catholicism (1962)

Without trying particularly hard, one can easily see that what he is talking about is gnosis. This is extremely important to understand, that gnosis is NOT something to be obtained, realized or found. It is a way of seeing, it is knowledge of the Heart. I know I might be sounding like a bit of a broken record here, but I believe this cannot be under stressed. Gnosis does not belong to Gnosticism. Gnosticism is simply a tradition that focuses on the process of living in gnosis, but it does not hold a monopoly on it. Another mistake is to limit oneself to the term, for there are a plethora of traditions and religions that all focus on living within an ideal state of being, and they all reflect gnosis to some degree. They are all speaking of and working towards their own facet of the same jewel. Gnosis is an eternal and timeless mode of understanding the reality of reality and our place in it.

This is an important thing to realize. When we limit our understanding or limit our scope of searching for understanding, we limit not only ourselves, but the where we can go and who we can become. When we declare that the fifth step of the ladder we are on is very high, the likelihood of us taking the sixth step becomes less. Many find their way to Gnosticism through a discontent with the “establishment”, but this is a childish thing and should be cast off as soon as it is convenient. It is limiting and unworthy, to be blunt. The discontent, when looked at truthfully, is not with the administration or the perceived constrictions of that administration but ultimately reside at times within our own limited understanding of our own perceptions and projections. When one dines in a restaurant, does one look with resentment upon the waiter who tells you where to sit, makes sure you dine with a certain level of decorum, and insists you pay for your food before exiting the building? Of course not, so why then do so many resent a tradition or religion for having “rules”?

There is truth everywhere, all religions hold a sacred carriage. As Gnostics, we attempt to be consummate “universalists”. All knowledge is worth having, all ideas are worth exploring and we do not deign to limit ourselves to terms or appearances. Gnosis is truth. Truth is within. If this is the maxim, there can be no borders.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | November 19, 2007

To the Ship as Coastline

You are the future,
the red sky before sunrise
over the fields of time.

You are the cock’s crow when night is done,
you are the dew and the bells of matins,
maiden, stranger, mother, death.

You create yourself in ever-changing shapes
that rise from the stuff of our days –
unsung, unmourned, undescribed,
like a forest we never knew.

You are the deep innerness of all things,
the last word that can never be spoken.
To each of us you reveal yourself differently:
to the ship as coastline, to the shore as a ship.

– Rainer Maria Rilke 

Posted by: shawnjohnston | November 15, 2007

Guarding Knowledge

Guarding knowledge is not a good way to understand. Understanding means to throw away your knowledge. You have to be able to transcend your knowledge the way people climb a ladder. If you are on the fifth step of a ladder and think that you are very high, there is no hope for you to climb to the sixth. The technique is to release. The Buddhist way of understanding is always letting go of your views and knowledge in order to transcend. This is the most important teaching. That is why I use the image of water to talk about understanding. Knowledge is solid; it blocks the way of understanding. Water can flow, it can penetrate anything. – Thich Naht Hanh

I wanted to share this with you because I think this is something we forget constantly. It is the greatest flaw and weakness of any religion, tradition or system of understanding. Our tendency to create rules and guidelines for ourselves is limitless. If I behave thusly, I shall achieve this affect. But this is not the case with things spiritual. Spirituality and understanding is both/and. Things that appear opposite can in fact be true at the same time. Knowledge is either/or and there is no room for either/or and black/white thinking in a spiritual life. All things must be brought into harmony and all things must find a home in peace.

“Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter the kingdom.” – Gospel of Thomas

What else can this passage be directing us to? God is the resolution of opposites, that ultimate reality where all things exist as one in absolute and perfect wholeness. Gnosis is nothing more and nothing less than a way of seeing this in our reality. A way of seeing the inherent wholeness and unity in all things based in their basic existence and participation in the Creation of God. Christ saw this way, and he is the template by which we make our own Christ-nature manifest in this physical reality. He is not the only way, but in many ways, the one best suited for our western way of thinking and behaving. Gnosis is universal, it is not the property of Gnosticism. You can find gnosis everywhere and in any tradition or religion.

When we assert that we “know” something we are in affect closing the book on it. There is an ending implicit in this statement. When we know something then there is nothing more to learn. We close our minds to further understanding. There is a Buddhist teaching story about a father who went to the market one day and left his young son at home alone. While he was away their village was raided by bandits and the man’s son was taken away and forced into slavery. When the man returned home he found his son missing and his village partially burned. He searched and searched and eventually came upon the burned body of a child in a home that was burned and mistook it for his own son. He wept and grieved for his dead son and buried that body and did not search for his son.

Eventually his son escaped the bandits and found his way home but found the door locked. He knocked and called to his father to let him in, but his father refused to believe that it was his son. He cried, “Go away spirit and leave me alone!” After a few more tries the boy left and never saw his father again. When we cling to knowledge we cannot accept truth even when it knocks on our door.

Gnosis is a process of casting off what we know and finding a way towards understanding. But understanding is hard to express without phrasing it in terms of knowing. This is why expressions of gnosis are so varied, so oblique and so hard to understand. They make complete sense only to the person who expressed it. Much of the Nag Hammadi is this way, just written down expressions of gnosis. To take much of it as truth or knowledge is to guard your mind from finding it’s way to it’s own understanding. Understanding is more than just mind. It is heart as well, and it must be brought into harmony with mind. We must become as open windows so that the truth can come to us unchallenged. By clinging to knowledge we close that window, and whats more, we focus instead on the glass rather than the view beyond.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | November 12, 2007

There Is A Quietness

I hope that you will listen, but not with the memory of what you already know; and this is very difficult to do. You listen to something, and your mind immediately reacts with its knowledge, its conclusions, its opinions, its past memories. It listens, inquiring for a future understanding. Just observe yourself, how you are listening, and you will see that this is what is taking place. Either you are listening with a conclusion, with knowledge, with certain memories, experiences, or you want an answer, and you are impatient. You want to know what it is all about, what life is all about, the extraordinary complexity of life. You are not actually listening at all . You can only listen when the mind is quiet, when the mind doesn’t react immediately, when there is an interval between your reaction and what is being said. Then, in that interval there is a quietness, there is a silence in which alone there is a comprehension which is not intellectual understanding. If there is a gap between what is said and your own reaction to what is said, in that interval, whether you prolong it indefinitely, for a long period or for a few seconds – in that interval, if you observe, there comes clarity. It is the interval that is the new brain. The immediate reaction is the old brain, and the old brain functions in its own traditional, accepted, reactionary, animalistic sense. When there is an abeyance of that, when the reaction is suspended, when there is an interval, then you will find that the new brain acts, and it is only the new brain that can understand, not the old brain.

Jiddhu Krishnamurti

Posted by: shawnjohnston | November 12, 2007


I thought I’d post a small message explaining the re-design of this blog. As some or many of my readers(?) may know I was a member of the seminary of the Apostolic Johannite Church. Due to family considerations I have withdrawn from the seminary but will maintain an active relationship with the AJC. The clergy of the AJC was and will continue to be integral in my spiritual formation and are among my most special co-religionists. But this wasn’t right for my family and even if it doesn’t necessarily match my own personal wishes, leave I decided I must. Wish me luck on this new leg of my journey and stay tuned for further musings!

Posted by: shawnjohnston | November 1, 2007

Gnosis, Sacred Space and the Kingdom of Heaven

The word “sacred” is derived from the Latin sacrare, which means, “to make sacred, consecrate.” The word “space” is derived from the Latin spatium, which means “room, area, distance, stretch of time.” So Sacred Space could be defined as a consecrated or holy area, distance or time. This definition could be taken in many different ways. The most common application of the term is in an area that is set aside specifically for rituals or moments of a specific spiritual or holy nature. A church or altars are good examples of this.

When each of us attempts to live a spiritual way of life, it is common and in some ways necessary to create a stretch of time that is dedicated to holy or sacred endeavors, which usually include contemplation, meditation and/or prayer. This often naturally dovetails with the setting aside of a specific place in one’s home or in going to a specific location to perform these things. So a Sacred Space can be both a physical space and an appointed time frame both of which contain this activity of a spiritual practice.

As one’s spiritual practice gains maturity with practice and dedication, you can begin to discern a mindset or “state of being” that will come over you during this allotted time and often can become attached to this place. It is possible to sit or reside within this space outside of the usual time of your practice and feel something of that state of being within it. It can include feelings of peace and wellbeing, of calmness and compassion. So as we move forward with our practice what was once only a physical space or an allotted time, is now burgeoning into a state of being, or “feeling”.

In the Scripture, Jesus has a name for this, the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. In
Luke 17:20-22 it says:

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”

Thomas 3 and 113 has this to say:

Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.

His disciples said to him, “When will the kingdom come?” “It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, ‘Look, here!’ or ‘Look, there!’ Rather, the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.”

The Kingdom is not a physical place but indicative of an interior landscape. Just as our own spiritual practice becomes mature and it is no longer the actual space or time, but an interior reality that has blossomed within us, so to is it with the Kingdom. We become the Kingdom and possibly more profoundly; we realize that we always were the Kingdom. It is through this way of seeing what is before us, through the lens of God’s love, our inherent connection to the Mystery and knowledge of the Heart, that the Kingdom becomes a reality, not by “careful observation” or by “watching for it”.

The Kingdom can be understood as a state of being or a way of perceiving that gains us access to God and allows us to re-unite with Him in wholeness, and also AS that state of wholeness. It would not be worthwhile to understand it as being a physical place. The Nag Hammadi tells us in several places that the Kingdom is not a place we can see or go to, but a reality we can perceive if we wish to do so. So to does the Bible though perhaps somewhat more obliquely.

When understood from this vantage point, we can begin to gain an understanding of the somewhat hidden nature of gnosis. Gnosis is not (or is rarely so) an “Event Horizon” with its world shattering implications. It is little different from the state of mindfulness described by the Zen Buddhists. We practice gnosis every day in the things we do, say, think and act on. Gnosis is a state of mind, a way of living or attempting to live with a unitive understanding of the people and things around us. Gnosis is peace, compassion, kindness, and love.

Every step we take can be an act of worship, mindful of the impossible gift being conscious of that step is, and the obligation every step and every action we take carries and the responsibility we have to those around us. Being better or less than someone else is an illusion. There is no better. There is no less. There just is.

If we can practice in this way, then we live is such a way that gnosis is every step, every word, every emotion. The Kingdom is here with us now and with it the ability to understand and partake in the sacredness of the mundane, in the holiness of the moment. Each of us is a conduit, a doorway by which the Divine can participate in His creation. When we see this and embrace it through gnosis, we enter the Kingdom, we become the Kingdom and we ourselves become a Sacred Space. They are all different facets of the same gem, different shades of the same Light.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | October 24, 2007


For wisdom is quicker to move than any motion;
She is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.
She is a breath of the power of God,
Pure emanation of the glory of the almighty
So that nothing impure can find its way into her.
For she is a reflection of the eternal light
untarnished mirror of God’s active power
and image of his goodness.

– Book of Wisdom 7:24-26

Posted by: shawnjohnston | October 17, 2007

Contemplation and Gnosis

Contemplation can be defined as “meditation on spiritual matters, especially as a form of devotion”. Contemplative practices are tools by which one pursues contemplation. This can include meditation, prayer, study, music, and art…essentially anything that has one attempting to get in touch with our inner landscape and make it available for an outward expression.

Paul tells us that “faith without action is meaningless” and Thich Naht Hanh reiterates “mindfulness without engagement is useless”. We need to outwardly live our internal revelations. This is, I think, a critical indicator in whether or not what someone has experienced and/or realized is gnosis rather than an epiphany. And there is a definite difference.

Epiphanies are wonderful, like a door opened onto a winter landscape, they bring a gust of refreshment and invigoration. But they are not gnosis. Why? Because even though epiphanies bring important realizations and understandings to the forefront of our minds, they do not inherently and irrevocably change us. Gnosis does.

Gnosis isn’t so much a “thing” as it is a frame of mind or a way of perceiving our reality or even a previously hidden understanding. Jesus tells us “there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.” One does not obtain it for this implies you were missing it. It’s like stating you have “found God” when He was with you all along. Just because you suddenly noticed the nose on your face doesn’t mean it wasn’t always there.

Gnosis is a gradual lifting of the veil of our senses and our ego, so that for the first time we are able to see and understand the nature of True Reality, that which IS free of our prejudices, judgments and self-interests. It is a symptom not a completion. The goal is Theosis, or total surrender of Self and union with the Divine. Gnosis is the road signs along that path.

So if a person has truly experienced or is experiencing gnosis, then they cannot help but be changed. Through your gnosis, if you are in tune with the nature of our inter-being and oneness with all people around us, then anger at them is no longer possible. Compassion is a natural replacement, and with compassion comes humbleness, kindness, love and a desire to help and serve. It is obvious then from this standpoint to see the difference in those that have mistaken epiphanies for gnosis.

So why do I bring up this distinction? Because I think it is possible, for those of us that have experienced gnosis on a much more subtle level to not live our gnosis in its entirety. We are programmed beings, in many ways mindlessly carrying out robotic actions and reactions based on stimuli and situational behaviours. But our gnosis gives us the ability and the desire to lift off our veil of ignorance and apathy and to begin to live as we ought to, not necessarily as we are expected to or programmed to.

A regular and commited spiritual practice makes it easier to implement these changes in our external lives instead of containing these changes within ourselves. There is also a certain liberation that can be felt by openly living our understandings and gnosis, allowing the example of our lives to speak more clearly then our words ever could. Daily meditation or prayer, for example, gives us the opportunity to engage our gnosis and within it, live in mindfulness in the moment throughout the day. Deprogramming ourselves is hard work and can and will take a lifetime especially with the the pressures of social life and gnosis will not do this work for us, it simply provides a mirror and a template by which we can accomplish this task.

This is a step, I think, that is a trifle overlooked and perhaps neglected in modern Gnosticism. In discussion forums you see people new to the tradition trying to figure out what gnosis is and how to get it. Talking about it is not the way, but living towards it is. There is a certain value to discussion and debate, for learning will naturally serve to augment our understandings, but it cannot and really should not replace an active personal spiritual practice. This can be as simple has faithfully observing the Aurum Solis Solar Practice or running through a Rosary once a day, Catholic or Gnostic, or just sitting quietly in a special space for 10 minutes every morning.

The power behind the practice is not the practice itself but the intent it represents. It is the intent to carve out a space in your life for it, to pattern your life around it, not fitting it in whenever it’s convenient. It is creating that link of mindfulness between yourself and God. It is beginning that relationship with a part of yourself and of the world around you that has always and will always be there. A spiritual practice is like finally focusing at the landscape visible through your window, rather than constantly focusing on the glass fitted between the panes.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | October 16, 2007

What I’ve Been Doing


So I can see that I’m still getting some traffic here and some of my checker-outers might have wondered where all my posting went.

Well I’ve been developing a Gnostic version of the Divine Hours. What are those you ask? The Divine Hours, or Divine Office, is a monastic tradition (though used by laity as well) wherein you recite and pray a series of readings, prayers and intentions 7 times a day.

With the resurgence of  contemplative practices, there are been many modernized versions of the Divine Office and a few have truncated it down to 4 times, those being: Morning, Afternoon, Evening, and before bedtime time. This is what I’ve done, it’s just easier for those of us with careers and kids, and still serves the function it was intended.

Over the next little while I’m going to be delving in depth into what contemplative practices are all about and where we can hope they will lead us. I will share some excerpts of what I’ve developed and after a bit of test-driving, I will share the smaller version (one week cycle) with you all.

The larger version  (31 day cycle) is more robust and less repetitive and will be available as well though I’m debating whether I will post it to for a nominal fee (it’s quite big and printing it on your computer at home will be largely infeasible). I guess we’ll see how folks dig the smaller version and go from there🙂


Posted by: shawnjohnston | October 3, 2007

Ode 34

No way is hard where there is a simple heart.
Nor is there any wound where the thoughts are upright:
Nor is there any storm in the depth of the illuminated thought:
Where one is surrounded by beauty
There is nothing that is divided.
The likeness of that which is below
Is that which is above:
For everything is above:
What is below is nothing
But the imagination of those that are without knowledge.
Grace has been given for your salvation.
Believe and live and be saved.

Odes to Solomon 

Posted by: shawnjohnston | September 24, 2007

Is a Gnostic Path a Lonely One?

I see this thought over and over again. That traveling a path towards Gnosis is a lonely one for us poor misunderstood Gnostics. That Gnostics are categorically misunderstood, maligned, persecuted, and ostracized. Now I am painting things with a broad brush but this vein of thought is very much present and prevalent within modern Gnostic thought and praxis.

So let me ask the question. Is it lonely because we’re misunderstood, or is it lonely because we want it that way? How much of this perceived loneliness is self-satisfying poor-me-ism? Is it a kind of back handed self-righteousness or is it just the “way it is”?

With the pending publication of Jordan Stratford’s+ book “Living Gnosticism: An Ancient Way of Knowing” wherein he strives to clearly annunciate what “Gnosticism” actually is as a modern and relevant spiritual tradition whose roots and history are at par with Christianity, one has to ask oneself, am I a participant in this growingly accepted definition of Gnosticism the Religion or am I a solo seeker of Gnosis? A seeker of Gnosis does not a Gnostic make, unfortunately.

If one draws inspiration from the writings of Thich Naht Hanh, does that make one a Buddhist? Of course not. If one perceives truths in the writings of St. John of the Cross, does that make one a Catholic or even a Christian? Nope. So why then do those that feel a kinship with Gnosticism yet decline to follow even the basic tenets of the religion, insist on calling themselves Gnostics? Why the ongoing redefinition of it as a tradition?

Why, in this day in age, do we feel obliged and even entitled to push, prod, pull and stretch pre-existing ideologies to fit with our own personal world view and perceptions? Are we so arrogant as to think we know best? Are we so spiritually advanced that we can or should even make these decisions? As Jesus says, “Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end? You see, the end will be where the beginning is.” And this is an incredibly important point.

Accepting a tradition in it’s totality is not to yield our necks to the yoke of another’s will. It is surrendering what “you think is best” is the name of walking in the steps of those that have mastered a path whose intricacies and subtleties you may know nothing about, no matter how many books you’ve read and despite how many meditation seminars you been to. It is suspending your disbelief as it were. It is saying the Universe, “Teach me, allow me to learn, show my your secrets” in a state of submissiveness and humbleness we just cannot achieve if we constantly interject what we think works better. This is not to say that you should do this indefinitely, but how can we learn if we do not at least try? As we learn and perceive we then can make adjustments or choices based on knowledge rather than opinion.

Gnosticism tells us that there are two parts to our spiritual practice. That of an individual and private practice, consisting of contemplation, meditation, scripture and/or writings, and prayer, in any combination or order that works with your individuality. The second part is that of communal expression, of liturgy and the sacraments, and of community good works. To adhere to only one of these parts is to miss the larger picture. Both provide it’s counterpart with a larger or more refined context. It’s no different than a family. Can an individual who spends their entire existence alone truly partake in the larger variance and multiplicity of human experience? And can someone who spends their entire existence wrapped in the protective cocoon of family and people ever truly discover and profit from the hidden depths of our own individual human expression? The answer to both has to be no, so how then we can expect to do the same in our spiritual lives?

Being understood or misunderstood by those around us, or concerning ourselves with persecution or the same, within the context of spiritual life is counterintuitive to what it means to live a spiritual life. The desire to be understood implies a need for acceptance. Concerning ourselves with being persecuted for our beliefs implies a need for belonging. We’re told to worship in private and in secret for good reason, which is ultimately because our relationship with God is intensely personal and not about self-aggrandizement or self-congratulation. It is about satiating a deeper need for a connection for that which has created us. A deeper appreciation and participation in the Mystery that is behind all things, large or small.

Participating spiritually within a community setting as well is not about “one up manship” but about celebrating the Divine within and without together. It’s not about who’s more Gnostic-ier than who, but about sharing our journey with one another, not because we can show how more spiritually mature we are than others, but because doing so adds dimension and richness to our own experience.

Gnosticism does not have to be a lonely journey, nor should it be. It is one full of love, compassion and community. Since embarking on my own path of self-awakening I have experienced more of these things than I ever had previously before in my life, even with geographically being separated from my brothers and sisters as I am. Am I saying I don’t have moments of being misunderstood or maligned for my beliefs? No, that would be silly, but these moments only have power if I let them, if I feed my ego’s desire to be recognized and revered. But if I walk a path of humbleness, secure in my budding relationship with God and my growing understanding of the Divine in how It relates to me right now in this moment, these things hold no power over me and blow away like so many dandelions in the wind.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | September 13, 2007

Todo y Nada: All or Nothing

In order to have pleasure in everything
Desire to have pleasure in nothing.
In order to arrive at possessing everything
Desire to possess nothing.
In order to arrive at being everything
Desire to be nothing.
In order to arrive at knowing everything
Desire to know nothing.
In order to arrive at that wherein thou hast no pleasure
Thou must go by a way in which thou hast no pleasure.
In order to arrive at that which thou knowest not
Thou must go by a way that thou knowest not.
In order to arrive at that which thou possessest not
Thou must go by a way that thou possessest not.
In order to arrive at that which thou art not
Thou must go through that which thou art not.

– St. John of the Cross 

Posted by: shawnjohnston | September 12, 2007

Belief & Faith: Synonyms or Opposites?

Like so many terms and notions in spiritual contexts, the terms Belief and Faith have become incredibly skewed. Belief has come to mean to be committed to an idea or notion to a degree where we would willingly defend it, but do not technically “know” it to be true. Faith has come to mean blind submission to doctrine and dogma as true, even though we have no possible way of “knowing” it to be true. This couldn’t be further from the truth of what these terms actually mean.

In the US, to use them as an example, over 90% of the population (from a recent poll I read) “believes that God exists”. Whereas to some this may indicate the profound religious convictions of a vast majority of a country’s people, it says something entirely different to me. It is my opinion that in today’s culture we have been told and sold on the idea that we can do and be and have whatever we want. That all things are possible for us. Consequently that has lead to the false idea that we can also “believe” in whatever we want, and that that belief is by default true, or at least true to us. I can believe my toaster is a water buffalo, but it’s still going to toast bread and it most definitely will never moo. The high numbers of believers in the US (a shining example of Western Lifestyle where rampant consumerism and materialism are the norm) indicates to me that the belief in God has become a part of being American and has little to do anymore with actually being religious minded. It’s a catch phrase rather than a spiritual conviction.

So what then is belief? Belief used to mean “trust in God,” while faith meant “loyalty to a person based on promise or duty” (a sense preserved in keep one’s faith, in good (or bad) faith and in common usage of faithful, faithless, which contain no notion of divinity). But faith, as cognate of the Latin “fides“, took on the religious sense beginning in the 14th century translations, and belief had by the 16th century become limited to “mental acceptance of something as true.” In essence faith and belief are the same thing, with different overtones.

So if belief is the acceptance of something as true, then is a belief then in fact something we develop on our own, or is it something presented to us for our consideration? And on what faculty or evidence do we make this determination?

Enter Faith. Thomas Merton had the following to say of the notion of faith:

The mind of man is, by its very nature, a participation in the intelligence of God, Whose light illumines the conclusions of rational discourse. Words can be sadly mistreated and misused; but they could not be false if they could not also be true. Language may become a suspicious instrument on the tongues of fools and charlatans, but language as such retains its power to signify and communicate the Truth.
Faith, without depending on reason for the slightest shred of justification, never contradicts reason and remains ever reasonable. Faith does not destroy reason, but fulfills it. Nevertheless, there must always remain a delicate balance between the two. Two extremes are to be avoided: credulity and skepticism; superstition and rationalism.
If this balance is upset, if man relies too much on his five senses and on his reason when faith should be his teacher, then he enters into illusion. Or when, in defiance of reason, he gives the assent of his faith to a fallible authority, then too he falls into illusion. Reason is in fact the path to faith, and faith takes over when reason can say no more.
It is absolutely impossible for a man to live without some kind of faith. Faith, in the broadest sense, is the acceptance of truth on the evidence of another. The essence of all faith is the submission of our judgment to the authority of someone else, on whose word we accept a truth that is not intrinsically evident in our own minds. Human or natural faith is the acceptance of truths on the authority of other men. Supernatural faith is the belief in truths revealed by God, on the testimony of God, and because of the authority of God Who reveals these truths to us.

Even atheists take their beliefs on faith, since as they hold, we believers cannot prove that God exists, so too must the reverse be true. Faith is not the blind submission to doctrine and dogma that it has come to represent. We take things on faith everyday. Every time we buy a product because a commercial has told us that it’s the latest and greatest. Ever found yourself saying “I heard this is really good” but in the back of your mind you know that I heard = I saw a commercial that grabbed my attention or I really like the packaging? And this is the root of what Merton is speaking about…we’ve given up our ability to reason. Is it reasonable to take the words of someone trying to profit from our buying practices entirely on faith and to swallow them as true? Absolutely not. But we do it everyday.

So why then, in terms of religion and spirituality, do we find it so hard to do? What about religion and spirituality makes us reject it so casually? It is my opinion that it is what comes with it that is truly the issue. All religion/spirituality requires things from us, that we are not prepared through our mindless need to satisfy our every desire and want to give up. Even the most PR friendly religion, Buddhism, complete with the peace-filled and ambivalent smile of the Dalai Lama, requires us to live a certain way. But to treat everyone we meet with grace and compassion and loving kindness, to protect the Earth, to help those in need would require us to set our own whims and desires aside for the needs of another. Religion demands that we shift our perception from selfish narcissistic materialism to holistic compassion for all sentient beings and the benefit of the community. I consider it one of the greatest travesties of our time that the idea of giving up our Starbucks and SUVs to give rather than take is greeted with such knee-jerk and absolute rejection.

We’ve become a generation of children who refuse to eat our vegetables based on nothing more concrete than we think they are yucky. If we would just try them we would be introduced to a world of wonderful flavour, health and dimension. If we would just trust what our elders are trying to impart to us backed with 2000+ years of religious and spiritual exploration, experience and revelation, we too could enjoy a life far more fulfilling than mindless grubbing for material trappings. Even the Dalai Lama, the world’s greatest spokesman, encourages everyone to partake and participate actively in some form of religious tradition.

Never has human kind lived in an age where information is so accessible, ideas so prevalent, and open acceptance of traditional and non-traditional notions so complete. And yet, never has human kind been so completely absorbed with ourselves. Global warming, poverty, slavery, child soldiers, hunger, social inequity, disease epidemics, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, religious intolerance and fundamentalism could all be countered and abolished completely if we would just try our vegetables.

So, care for some broccoli?

Posted by: shawnjohnston | September 10, 2007


This past weekend was my first Conclave, as well as the first time meeting several members of my the AJC face to face. It was a joy and an honour to watch two of my brothers be raised to Deacon, it was incredibly validating to finally meet my bishop, and it was a pleasure to strengthen relationships that had already been made.

During the Mass/Ordination marathon, +Mar Iohannes spoke to us about service which led to a later conversation with one of Father Jordan’s+ parishioners. I spent some time pondering not only my bishop’s words but this conversation as well during my long ferry ride home.

There are many forms of service and I always find it odd that most people almost always, and often unconsciously, equate it to “seeing to another’s needs”. I have also often noticed that when one enters or practices this type of service with altruistic intentions, they often find themselves in a position of subjugating their own needs for that of the person they are trying to “serve”.

It is a noble intention indeed to sacrifice your own needs and desires for the well-being of another. Blessed are they that willingly seek out these opportunities to help those around them, but in some ways this can also be a bit misguided as well. It is completely natural for a sense of resentment to build up over time when one is practicing this form of service to others, particularly when this is being offered to the same individual time and again with little apparent affect. For example if you have dedicated your capacity for service to help a friend who is in a bad place or has made a series of bad decisions.

Does resenting someone you have altruistic and helpful intentions towards make you a bad person? Absolutely not. It makes you human. All but the very greatest of us ever totally transcend the little voice of our ego and without constant mindfulness and attention towards the keeping of our “little self” in it’s place and proper context, our ego can and will re-assert itself in our daily psyche. The Demiurge and the Archons aren’t sneaky and subtle and ruthless in our Gnostic myths for nothing!

Serving someone in this capacity could be considered an exoteric form, or literal understanding of the notion of service. I often come back to Jesus’ teaching of the plank in my own eye vs. the speck in my brother’s eye. Our intention to serve another will often naturally lead to attempting to help them with their problems. It is a beautiful thing to find compassion for another’s suffering, in fact it is in many ways a very necessary step in our journey towards spiritual maturity. But one of the most profound understandings I have realized in my own journey and in my own altruistic intentions with those around me is, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Sometimes the best way to “help” someone is to let them know you are there for them when they need you and to just leave them alone.

If you are neglecting the plank in your own eye, then it is increasingly easy for your compassionate intentions to another to turn into resentment and frustration as you watch them to continue to choose the path of suffering, despite all you are trying to tell them and all that you are trying to do for them. By being there for them as a resource rather than as an intervention, you are providing support to them in a more subtle way. It may, even unconsciously, provide that person with a measure of security to know that they have a place to turn.

By resolving your own shadows and quieting our own internal spaces, we are then able to better allow that internal work to shine forth to our external reality. We can become an oasis of calm, love, peace and compassion and in this way we can serve not only those closest to us but anyone we come in contact with. Our positive energy and aura can also pour into the Universe as well and provide a service to all sentient beings. A thimble full of water added to the ocean raises the water level, even if it’s infinitesimal.

Jesus spoke in parables to make us work for understanding, for it is the journey that teaches, not the answer. An answer is easily forgotten all by itself but the milestones of a journey are branded indelibly on our soul and they provide a needed context for us to truly appreciate the profundity of the answer. But more profound than his words was the example he made of his life. Even if he spoke no words to us all, it was all there to be learned by the example he provided us patterned in his everyday approach to life. As gnostics, we understand this also on an even deeper level, realizing that our own path to salvation from ignorance and liberation from suffering lies in following this example and becoming Christ-like ourselves.

Buddhists from the beginning have understood this, Mystics through the ages have understood this. By removing the plank from our own eye we will see more clearly the way to remove the speck from our brothers eye. We will see that by removing that plank, by resolving internally our shadows, we provide a real and tangible example for others to follow, and that the real point from the beginning was that the speck we saw in their eye was in fact simply and profoundly nothing other than a reflection of the plank in our own.

This, in my opinion, is the definition of service and the highest calling we could find in our lives today.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | September 5, 2007

Two Wolves

An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life…

He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

One wolf is evil — he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego.

The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one you feed”.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | September 4, 2007

The Cause of Happiness Is YOU

Happiness and suffering come from your own mind, not from outside. Your own mind is the cause of happiness; your own mind is the cause of suffering. To obtain happiness and pacify suffering, you have to work within your own mind.

– Lama Zopa Rinpoche, “The Door To Satisfaction”

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 30, 2007

Belief Without Knowledge

Belief in the Jesus story was originally the first step in Christian spirituality — the Outer Mysteries. Its significance was to be explained by an enlightened teacher when the seeker was spiritually ripe. These Inner Mysteries imparted a mystical Knowledge of God beyond mere belief in dogmas. Although many inspired Christian mystics throughout history have intuitively seen through to this deeper symbolic level of understanding, as a culture we have inherited only the Outer Mysteries of Christianity. We have kept the form, but lost the inner meaning. Our culture has suppressed the fact that the miracles and stories of Jesus were symbolic mythic motiffs that were intended to convey ‘truths’ as opposed to facts.
What had started as a timeless myth encoding perennial teaching [has been improperly converted into] a historical account of a once-only event in time. From this point it was unavoidable that sooner or later it would be interpreted as historical fact. Once it was, a whole new type of religion came into being – a religion based on history not myth, on blind faith in supposed events rather than on a mystical understanding of mythical allegories, a religion of the Outer Mysteries without the Inner Mysteries, of form without content, of belief without Knowledge.

– Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 30, 2007

Leaves From A Tree

We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves,’ the universe ‘peoples.’ Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it by theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos”inside bags of skin.

– Alan Watts

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 30, 2007

The End Of Living

The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?…

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself….

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

– Letter from Chief Seattle to President Pierce, 1854.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 30, 2007

Battle Against Your Weaknesses

Enlightenment–that magnificent escape from anguish and ignorance–never happens by accident. It results from the brave and sometimes lonely battle of one person against his own weaknesses.

– Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano, “Landscapes of Wonder”

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 29, 2007

I Thought This Was A Gnostic Blog?

Many of you may have noticed my recent plunge into more mainstream Christian sources, posting many prayer excerpts, writings by Benedictine Monks, etc… So what gives? Well it’s just another phase of my journey but allow me to elaborate.

To be honest, I have experienced a lot of shyness with regards to my explorations into more common place Christian sources and writers. Perhaps it’s my background of a family that regularly and vehemently denounced all things Christian, or perhaps it is living in a culture that is uncomfortable with things overtly religious. Let me tell you, reading the Bible on the Skytrain draws many strange looks, and not all of them friendly.

Gnostics in general tend to allude that “regular” Christianity is rudimentary or somehow insufficient for what is obviously a higher spiritual calling. While we will rigorously defend ourselves against the oft charges of elitism, and rightly so, many of us are however guilty of just a little bit of aloofness. Let’s be honest, we can be a little snobby. But it’s alright.

As gnostics, we have the incredibly valuable and enlightening Nag Hammadi Library to draw inspiration from and with it, a certain understanding of our ancient forefathers frame of mind and worldview. But (yes I said but) despite it’s obvious wisdom, however hidden so much of it is, we do lack a contingent of gnosticism-inspired mystics and writers who have, over time, shared and elaborated on these hidden meanings and thoughts through their own gnosis. We do, however, have many “mainstream” Christian mystics and writers that many Gnostics draw inspiration and guidance from. Julian of Norwich, St. John of the Cross, the anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing to name a few all have easily available writings that are still as relevant and meaningful today as they were when they penned them.

It seemed only natural to explore the traditions and inspirations that drove these pillars to express what they did.  And as much as many Gnostics may want to deny it, Gnosticism in a very real and big way is Christian, especially when understood in the context of gnosis leading to Christhood, rather than a blind faith in Jesus the Christ. The strength of Gnosticism not found in it’s not being Christian, but in it’s not only being Christian. Gnosticism’s inclusiveness and the natural and passionate inquisitiveness of it’s members and participants, is where the Spirit is so visible, so tangible. We are participating in a real, breathing, vibrant and evolving tradition that leads gently yet faithfully towards the centre, to God.

So explore I have been doing. And I’ve found such a rich tapestry of gnosis, hidden behind popular opinion and literal evangelism, which is still so very much a part of the heart of today’s Christian traditions. Yes it is at times burdened with outdated or twisted meanings of its terms, but if we can relegate them with our Gnostic understandings and see the truth the words as symbols point to rather than get caught up in what others define these symbols as (as the Gospel of Philip so wisely warns against) we will find a tradition remarkably alike to our own.

For didn’t they develop alongside one another those centuries ago? Were they not inspired by many of the same words, the same thoughts, the same teachings? Who cares where they came from, who coined them? Who cares who said what, who was real and who wasn’t? What matters is how these profound and powerful thoughts and words can activate a real inner change in us today, right now. As Gnostics we pride ourselves finding inspiration wherever we find it, yet so many avoid Christianity as useless and outdated, bogged down by dogma and literalism.

I completely and unabashedly equate modern Christian monasticism and spirituality with my own tradition of Christian Sacramental Gnosticism. To do otherwise is to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and to lose out on 2000 years of exploration and expression. Gnosis is as Gnosis does.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 29, 2007 is Launched


This is a quick note to let my readers (many or few) that St. Julian of Norwich Narthex of Vancouver as launched it’s online home effective yesterday, August 28th, 2007.

Please check it out at, link to it and pass it on.


Rev. Mr. Shawn Johnston
Acolyte of the Apostolic Johannite Church

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 29, 2007

To Hallow The Name Of God

To hallow the name of God is, in the language of the Scripture, to love Him, adore Him, and to recognize His holiness in all things. Things, like words, do indeed proceed from the mouth of God. The events of each moment are divine thoughts expressed by created objects. Thus, all those things by which He makes His will known to us are so many names, so many words by which He shows us His will…To hallow the name of God is to know, adore, and love the Ineffable One expressed by this name. It is also to know, adore, and love His blessed will at all times, in all its effects, seeing all things as so many veils, shadows and names of this eternally holy will. It is holy in all its works, holy in all its words, holy in all its forms of manifestation, holy in all the names it bears.

– Jean-Pierre de Caussade 

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 27, 2007

Spirituality Is Not Just An Add-On

Leland Kaiser wrote a wonderful blog the other day that I wanted to share. Please take a look at his blog as well at

Some folks view religion or spirituality as an important part of their lives. It represents a high value add-on. But, it has its appointed place and is not to be confused with higher priority matters such as career, marriage, family, success, wealth, prestige and status in the world. In other words, spirituality is a part of life, but not its core. These folks may be regular church goers, however, spirituality is not their primary focus. They do not spend more time on it than anything else they do.

A Gnostic has a very different perspective. For the Gnostic, spirituality is the core, the main purpose, the integrating center, and the method and final goal of life. Spirituality is not just a high value add-on. It is the only reason for being on earth. Everything else the Gnostic does is of secondary importance and is always subservient to his spiritual identity and his spiritual activities on earth.

For many students on the path, these two different attitudes represent different stages of their soul unfoldment. At first, spirituality is on the periphery of their lives. However, over time it begins to move toward the center, until at last, it is the center and the primary reason for their being. We refer to this as a growth in consciousness. It represents a more advanced stage of spiritual maturity. Ask yourself – What do you send more time on than your spirituality? This is your god and what you must get over to progress any further in your spiritual development.

In advanced stages of spiritual development, soul becomes the integrator of all levels of being. It is the life driver. Ego takes a secondary position as an enabler of soul. Spirituality moves from the position of high value add-on to a central position as the locus of being. Seeking the Kingdom of God is now primary. Everything else is secondary and assumes a position of high value add-on. This does not mean the Gnostic is not successful in this world. It means that success may come or may not come, but it really does not matter since success in this world is not the purpose of life.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 21, 2007

A Pilgrim of Eternity

I, a pilgrim of eternity, stand before Thee, O eternal One. Let me not seek to deaden or destroy the desire for Thee that disturbs my heart. Let me rather yield myself to its constraint and go where it leads me. Make me wise to see all things today under the form of eternity, and make me brave to face all the changes in my life which such a vision may entail: through the grace of Christ my Saviour.


– John Baillie

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 16, 2007

Believe Nothing

Believe nothing,
no matter where you read it,
or who has said it,
not even if I have said it,
unless it agrees with your own reason
and your own common sense.

– Buddha 

It’s complicated.

Really complicated.

So try to enjoy it.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 16, 2007

Mind & Matter

Resistance does not mean walls and fences, nonresistance does not mean open space. If you can understand in this way, mind and matter are fundamentally the same.

– Tsu-hsin

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 15, 2007

Spirituality Means Waking Up

Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. You know, all mystics -Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion — are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.

Last year on Spanish television I heard a story about this gentleman who knocks on his son’s door. “Jaime,” he says, “wake up!” Jaime answers, “I don’t want to get up, Papa.” The father shouts, “Get up, you have to go to school.” Jaime says, “I don’t want to go to school.” “Why not?” asks the father. “Three reasons,” says Jaime. “First, because it’s so dull; second, the kids tease me; and third, I hate school.” And the father says, “Well, I am going to give you three reasons why you must go to school. First, because it is your duty; second, because you are forty-five years old, and third, because you are the headmaster.” Wake up, wake up! You’ve grown up. You’re too big to be asleep. Wake up! Stop playing with your toys.

Most people tell you they want to get out of kindergarten, but don’t believe them. Don’t believe them! All they want you to do is to mend their broken toys. “Give me back my wife. Give me back my job. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success.” This is what they want; they want their toys replaced. That’s all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful.

Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It’s irritating to be woken up. That’s the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I’m going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, “Wake up!” My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it, fine; if you don’t, too bad! As the Arabs say, “The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens.”

– Father Anthony De Mello+, SJ

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 15, 2007

Walking On Earth Is A Miracle

I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child–our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

– Thich Nhat Hanh, “Miracle of Mindfulness”

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 10, 2007

Practice Love

Arouse your will, supreme and great,
Practice love, give joy and protection;
Let your giving be like space,
Without discrimination or limitation.

Do good things, not for your own sake
But for all the beings in the universe;
Save and make free everyone you encounter,
Help them attain the wisdom of the way.

– Prajnaparamita

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 9, 2007

Prayer to Live With Grace

May we discover through pain and torment,
the strength to live with grace and humor.
May we discover through doubt and anguish,
the strength to live with dignity and holiness.
May we discover through suffering and fear,
the strength to move toward healing.
May it come to pass that we be restored to health and to vigor.
May Life grant us wellness of body, spirit, and mind.
And if this cannot be so, may we find in this transformation and passage
moments of meaning, opportunities for love
and the deep and gracious calm that comes
when we allow ourselves to move on.

– Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 8, 2007

What Gnosticism Is To Me

In a world where everything is for sale, complete with a catchy jingle and appealing logo design, where truth is up to the consumer, and everybody hawks their wares like so many peddlers on the street of life, Gnosticism is a breath of fresh air.

In a world where wars are fought and people die over terminology and points of theology, to prove to themselves and to their version of God that they and they alone KNOW the Truth, Gnosticism is rational, sane possibilities stripped of certainties and absolutes.

Gnosticism is not proselytizing, it is not soap box sermons, it is not a dealer of theories or what-ifs or I-thinks. It is the finger pointing at the moon, a path through the forest, a framework of expression. It does not deal in polarized ideals or rigidly held beliefs. Gnosticism is nothing more and nothing less than the noetic apprehension of it’s participants; past, present and future. It is a cover-less book half filled with ideas, thoughts, impressions…and half filled with blank pages waiting in anticipation.

For me, it’s provides the beginnings of a road map. It provides a community to share with and learn from. A community of people who are not caught up in declaring their own truths, but who are committed to sharing what they have perceived of their part of the elephant without bias or prejudice. It provides the brushes and colours through which each of us can use to paint the story of our gnosis.

Gnosticism is not Truth, nor an avenue to it. It says there is no Truth, for when we label something thusly, it becomes something else. It says there only IS. It leads us on a journey of exploration of NOW so that we may begin to see what has always been in front of us. It is a key to a door we forgot to see.

Gnosticism is freedom.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | August 3, 2007

Free Yourself

In you the worlds arise
Like waves in the sea.

It is true!
You are awareness itself.

So free yourself
From the fever of the world.

– Ashtavakra Gita

Posted by: shawnjohnston | July 31, 2007

What Time Is It?

What time is it?

Right now.

Who are you?

This moment.

In many ways it is just this simple. But staying mindful of this, of controlling your monkey mind and ruling your rebellious passions and desires are another thing altogether.

We are not our thoughts. The past has no power and is useless to us outside of it’s ability to allow us to learn from our mistakes. The future should be planned for but it is easy to get lost in, always living for that future time when you will be happy. I am always wary of this spiral.

What helps me stay in this moment where “I” truly am, is love, dedication and inspiration. Dedication, loyalty and discipline are natural results of these things. I love all things for they are all one in the Grace of God. I’ve even partially overcome my fear of spiders and bugs for my revulsion at killing a creation whose right to life is the same as my own has steadily superseded my fear of their touch.

I am dedicated to the path of awakening, not for my own personal validation but for the happiness and Light it will bring to those around me. I think of cycles that will be broken so my kids can grow in innocence and wonder. I think of a marriage that does not hedge my partner in to dancing around my peculiarities and vanities.  I think of strangers whose day was made somewhat brighter from a warm smile. It is in service to Sophia and the Spirit, to all sentient beings that I walk this path. I believe that for every good act the world is increased and for every bad it is decreased. I seek to remove the bad as completely as I can from my life.

And I seek inspiration wherever I can. I try not to stick to just things “Gnostic”. I draw from things that resonate, that speak a truth that I can feel within me. For me, I play the parts of all the blind men who are attempting to describe an elephant by touch. No tradition is out of bounds, no knowledge is off limits. But I practice within the boundaries of one tradition for it provides an arena, a framework for my burgeoning understanding.

I have even begun to find inspiration in mainstream Christianity and Catholicism, a place I rabidly attacked a short few years ago. Gnosis is there to see once you circumvent the hang-ups and misunderstandings around language and wording. There is Gnosis everywhere, and I revel in the task and challenge of finding it and learning the shape and form of it in this eternal Now.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | July 25, 2007

The 3 Rules I Live By

1) Paradox

Life is a mystery. Accept it and don’t waste time trying to figure it out. Accept that opposites can and do exist and can do so in harmony. Both/and is how the world works. Either/or is a limiting black and white way of operating and costs you the glory and beauty that is found in the gray.

2) Humor

Keep a sense of humor, especially about yourself. It is a strength that will carry you through countless tough spots and moments of darkness and allow you to enjoy the unbridled joy of the moment.

3) Change

Know that nothing stays the same. Relinquish the idea that you can control your environment. Relinquish the desire to be anywhere other then you are right now. Surrender the desire to change the moment you exist in this moment. Embrace change and you’ll see the Divine at work in the world around you.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | July 23, 2007

Change and Silence

Sorry everyone, that I haven’t written anything in awhile. I’ve changed a few things in my practices and read a few things that have “tweaked” my outlook and I’m still digesting it all.

I’ll post about it soon. For now, I’m just resting with Sophia for a bit.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | July 9, 2007

A Spark Which Belongs

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely. I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.

– Thomas Merton

Posted by: shawnjohnston | July 3, 2007


It’s astounding how distorted the meanings of words have become over the centuries and why it’s so important if you are going to delve into ancient writings that you do some sort of etymology research so that you are understanding what you think you’re understanding. Allow me to illustrate:

Surrender: “to give (something) up,” from Old French surrendre “give up, deliver over” (13c.), from sur “over” + Rendre: “give back, present, yield,” from Latin reddere “give back, return, restore.”

The one constant you’ll see over and over again in spiritual writings, regardless of tradition, sect or generation, is the idea of surrender. This is not the “handing yourself over the authorities” type of surrender, but a yielding…a returning from whence you came…a restoration. It is in it’s simplest understanding, a release of the individual identity and the reclamation of your shared identity within the context of the Divine Light.

When one becomes focused on the individual self…when all things become about what you get, what you need and where you’re going it’s like viewing the world through the viewfinder of a camera. Everything for you is seen through this little box, and all the things that are going on off to the side or behind you are being ignored and overlooked. When you put the camera down and set aside your individual “what’s-in-it-for-me” mentalities then the most wonderful things start becoming visible. It’s not that they weren’t there, but just that you were missing them.

I’ve noticed in my own experience a more complex tapestry of gifts and experiences unfold to my senses and understanding. I read a story once about a woman who dropped her teenage daughter off at a ferry. She was traveling to the other side where she would meet with her boyfriend whom she hadn’t seen in several months. The woman on her way back home stopped at the top of the large hill that overlooked the river and the ferry and before her, she could see the whole drama unfolding. She could see the ferry, see her daughter move to the front in anticipation for this reunion, see the boyfriend waiting outside his car, and then the final joyful reunion itself.

This woman was seeing the story from a more distant perspective and could see all the parts of the story together at once, rather than, from where her daughter was standing, only parts of the story. And so it is with our own lives. When we surrender our individual needs and desires to God and allow our Spark to navigate us, we gain this much needed perspective so that we are better able to understand and piece together the myriad of lessons and messages that are being shown to us throughout our experiences. In other words, it’s living your life in a state of constant openness and acceptance of what is occurring right now, being fully aware of what you’re experiencing in this very moment, without colouring it with expectations and concerns. St. Paul called it being in a state of “constant prayer”. The Zen Buddhists call it mindfulness.

There is a particularly unfortunate misconception that surrendering is some how dishonorable or self-abasing. That somehow we are reduced by the act of surrender, that it is shameful is some way. Perhaps this is a product of a macho gladiator hunter/gatherer outlook, in that the only rule is the rule of the jungle. But the act of surrendering to God is not one of “giving up” or one of weakness and slavery. It is an active reclamation of what you are. It is a gallant and courageous reaching out into the unknown and the ineffable. It is a sacrifice on the grandest scale, a swimming against the current and a seemingly vain searching for a single drum beat amidst a cacophony of beats. It is, quite simply, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

But as I’ve said before in other posts, I fail at this everyday. But, I learn a lot from those failures. I read a story about a monk, Thomas Keating, who was teaching a group of people, laity and clergy alike, a new form of Christian prayer he called Contemplative Prayer.

Contemplative Prayer is the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions. We open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – closer than consciousness itself. Contemplative Prayer is a process of interior purification leading, if we consent, to divine union.

Like many forms of prayer or meditation, there is an aspect of non-thought involved which can be very tricky. After the seminar he was approached by a flustered and slightly irate nun, who burst out, “I can’t do this, after just 20 minutes I’d caught myself thinking at least 10,000 times!” His response with a small smile was, “That’s wonderful, 10,000 opportunities to return to God!”

This is just one form of prayer/meditation and it does fit well with my “make-up” and approach to life and spiritual endeavors but this is by no means a “you should do this” plug. We all need to find out what works for us, and the process of searching is as necessary as the finding. But like all spiritual practices and the traditions they’re a part of, it is important to take it with you throughout your day, not section it off to a small special chunk of your day. It is the “constant prayer” state that I try to capture and coax throughout my day. And even though I fail to stay mindful all day, every time I catch myself and return my self to a state of openness and surrender, it’s not a failure, but a small victory. Because it’s not about how many times I forgot, it’s about how many times I remembered I was forgetting and actively did something about it. That’s where I affect real change in my life.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | June 25, 2007

The Power of Choosing

Breaking out of the hold of your ego, or the Demiurge as per Gnostic mythos, can be excruciatingly difficult. Sometimes you’re aware of taking a step or two forward, but often you are NOT aware of taking the subsequent step or two backwards. His hold is insidious and subtle. And there’s nothing worse than someone acting in what they perceive as spiritually noble ways but are obliviously within the control of their own ego again. The spiritual progress of self-exploration is the most difficult, most exacting, most draining activity you will ever undertake, and you will most certainly fail more often than you succeed. Sorry if that bursts any bubbles.

As Gandhi tells us, “What you do may seem insignificant, but it’s important that you do it.” As difficult and failure-ridden as it is, self-exploration and conscious growth is the most important thing you’ll ever do. It has been said that the flight of a butterfly from a flower in Japan will have some effect (however imperceptible) on the weather in California which will in turn have some effect on the pattern of the smoke rising from the burning incense in your living room. We are not separate entities walking through an independent reality. What we are is a field of energy wrapped in the totality of our environment, one dependent on the other. It is more akin to a child in it’s mother’s womb than pieces moving across as sterile and organized board game of life.

With that in mind, every mindful act of true consciousness, every thought that yearns for spiritual liberation, every time we choose the blue pill again, we affect that interconnected reality for the betterment of all. We do this not for approval or acclaim, nor even for personal satisfaction. When we choose to remain awake, no matter how painful and disappointing that can be at times simply because despite the increased anguish and resistance we meet on this path the colours of a sunset are now imbued a magic you forgot existed and the sound of a child’s laughter has the power to open your heart to possibilities and dreams you had long ago forgotten and relegated to the dustbin of the past. Because even the act of choosing has a power all it’s own and in the moment of that choosing we glimpse the truth that this and this alone is why we were created in the first place.

But it is. So. Hard.

The act of remaining conscious and mindful at all times, in all moments is at times impossible. Everyday I try and everyday I fail. But in the moments that I do succeed I learn a little more, I grow a little stronger, and the next day I fail a little less. Every morning I rise, light the candles on my altar and breathe. I seek my centre and the whispers I find there. And in those moments I find the strength to get up and face another day of giggles and screams, approvals and scorn, epiphanies and darkness. I have my talismans though and my dreams, dusted off and wiped clean though a little worse for wear. Blue eyes sparkling with mirth, a warm body in the night, and giggles that resound within the corridors of my spirit.

Today I choose. And tomorrow. And every day after that.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | June 18, 2007

A Father’s Prayer

This is the best dowry of hopes, wishes and prayers I would be able to offer:

May God give you the grace of wit and wisdom to understand that rainbows are only the result of showers, dust, and hope.

May you always have joy in the morning and trust in the evening and may your sorrows be short and without scars.

May your lives have a spirit neither bent by belligerence nor broken by failure; may you simply love each other.

May you share with each other spring flowers, dirty dishes, music, rain, death, mushrooms, a measure of boredom, strawberries, and God.

May that God never make you immune to the wonderful afflictions of real love, making you instead farsighted to each other’s faults, tongue-tied to criticism, and short of memory to petty hurts and slights.

May God provide the confidence and serenity that comes only from the assurance of each other’s fidelity and the tolerance, as years go by, of wrinkles and gray hairs, short tempers, curlers, and Monday mornings.

May no one steal from you laughter at the top of the stairs or giggles and whispers in a dark room.

May you keep a hunger for each other, the appetite to taste tomorrow, and deep knowledge of and devotion to your past, heritage and families.

May you perpetuate trust, the radiation of vitality, kind answers to sharp questions and sharp humor to unkind attitudes.

May your fights be fierce and short, and may each truce be warm and long and held in each other’s arms before the sun comes up.

May you walk with wise men, sing loud songs at late hours, share secrets, have healthy children, and provide smiles for lonesome strangers and prayers for those without hope.

May you never forget small things; smiles, birthdays, holding hands, family, old friends, the neglected, and the simplicity of saying please and thank you.

May you keep a warm, generous, and happy house where love is the insulation and God is present. May your children be friends of God’s child, Jesus.

May your union bring a smile to the face of the Holy Spirit and may he live in your pots and pans, in your hope and aspirations.

– Author Unknown

Posted by: shawnjohnston | June 15, 2007

Praxis: End Genocide. Right. Now.

Father Jordan+ posted today about atrocities, the death, and the suffering happing in Darfur here. It’s happening right now. As I type this and as you read this people are dying, babies are starving.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | June 15, 2007

In Memorium to a Hero Just Found and Lost


Father Laurence+, 1934-2007

An excerpt of an homily given by Father Laurence+

“We’re not made for drudgery. Drudgery in life exists because human beings are also weak. We’re defective, we make mistakes, we succumb to easily to negative attitudes. We find it hard to reach our goal, our purpose. And yet, the amazing beauty of God is that he doesn’t even make it necessary for us to reach any goal to be happy. It’s entering into the struggle to reach the goal that brings us happiness. And so what he says to us is to live life fully, completely, absolutely, without ambivalence, to put our minds, our hearts, our souls, our spirits, all our strength and determination, our whole being into the pursuit of what were doing, right here and now. Not worrying about how it’s going to come out, not worrying about this or that difficulty, despite any problems we might have to struggle with. This is where we will attain happiness.

“This means we have to know what we’re doing, being conscious of every passing moment. We can’t be happy if we aren’t conscious. If we can’t achieve a greater awareness in life, then forget it – we’ll never be happy. Happiness demands consciousness, being aware, being alert, awake. No wonder we can’t seem to attain this, for half the time we’re asleep. We’re only spottily conscious.

“Happiness never comes to us; it can only be achieved. We have to attain it, which is why the tools of the spiritual life – metánoia, self-discipline, solitude, prayerfulness, acts of love and forgiveness – are necessary ingredients to that end. And by the way, don’t doubt for a second the fact that if we’re not happy in this world, which is where heaven begins, then hell begins here. We must come to understand that God has put it into our power to attain happiness, that this is what he wants of and for us, and that it is entirely up to us to obtain it. No one can or will pride us with happiness. If we truly desire happiness, then we must struggle to do the best we can at each moment of life. Our happiness doesn’t depend on somebody else’s action or on anything else. It doesn’t depend on our success, but rather on the effort we’re willing to put into everything we do. Even if people disappoint or fail us left and right, even if people turn against us, hurt us, lie about us, don’t understand us, even if they think they know everything about us and judge us unfairly, they can’t infringe upon our happiness. True happiness means that we have a deep-seated peace and tranquility that transcends all the difficulties of life, that cannot be disturbed by the chaos and warfare that might touch our lives.

“Being happy involves the intense struggle of entering intimately into all that we do. And that is in our very nature; it’s what God has placed in us. This is what the Transfiguration is about. It’s not some pious story about going up a mountain and have light shine on everything. It has to do with the apostles gaining an insight into who Jesus really is. The reason Jesus took them up Mount Tabor was probably to show them in person what we were create for: to be like God. And being like God is always light, it is always joy, it is always peaces, it is always tranquility, it is always total consciousness, it is always being intimately connected with life. God is not separated from anything, which why we say, ‘God is everywhere.’ We can find him anywhere.

“So we have to come to understand that happiness is not only in our power to attain, but our duty to attain.”

Posted by: shawnjohnston | June 13, 2007

The Dangers of the Silo Effect

Like so many people I know, I’ve been guilty in the past of sectioning off portions of my life for specific purposes and/or specific mind sets. This time for spiritual contemplation, this time for prayer, this time for work, this time for eating, this time for sleeping, this time for visiting with friends, etc…

The Silo Effect is something I first heard of in the corporate environment. It refers to the specific phenomenon of individuals functioning only within a specific job description and not extending themselves beyond that to assist or communicate with others. It is most often applied to inter-departmental communication issues. But I also find it an effective metaphor for my spiritual life.

In our pursuit of Gnosis, we understand the tenets of self-exploration and self-knowledge. We understand that it is something that must occur all the time, that we must be aware and awake if we have any hope of reaching Gnosis and ultimately Theosis. The idea of being aware of God throughout the day, of mindfulness and constant prayer are all notions we as Gnostics are familiar with as tools or avenues towards our goal.

So why do I silo my life? I came to a realization a little while ago that I perform my lectio divina and prayer in the morning but don’t necessarily consciously carry that with me throughout the day. I pat myself on the back for hauling my butt out of bed half an hour earlier to perform this practice and promptly let the day carry me away in forgetfulness. Granted it can be a little hard with two little ones running around but not impossible.

I know of many people who hate and loath their jobs for example. I am graced with the blessing of truly loving what I do for a living but I have had jobs I’ve loathed before. For many the concept of working is burdensome. A drudgery that must be carried out to live, a necessary evil. For others it is yard work or home maintenance and cleaning that is the true bane of their existence. There are many tasks and activities that we must perform throughout our days and weeks to make our life move forward functionally within the World of Forms that we don’t enjoy. But these need not take us from our main purpose, that of remaining aware of the Divine in all things.

When I carry the peacefulness, the purpose, the surrendering I experience in my morning prayers and meditation throughout my day and apply those same principles throughout my day, I am more able to stay aware of the Divine. When I view all the necessary drudgeries as opportunities to participate in creation as an extension of God, it adds a new aspect to these functions.

I need not segment my life. I can make every action, every function, every thought one of active manifestation of spiritual praxis. I can make even the most mundane activity one of profound prayer and inner contemplation. For in my opinion, it is just as possible in the smallest insignificance to learn about oneself as it is in the most profound religious experience.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | June 12, 2007

What Does Love Look Like?

A tenet that is repeated many times in Christianity by Jesus and others, within the Buddhist tradition, Hinduism, etc… is the notion of “loving your neighbor as you love yourself”. To love all humanity equally and without reserve, to treat each and every person you come in contact with as you would wish to be treated yourself.

But what does that mean? What does that look like?

The biggest impediment to understanding this and actually living it is the concept and meaning of the word “love”. In English it is incredibly limited and like so many things in today’s popular culture, so totally overladen with greeting card poetry and Hollywood sensationalism. I will do my best to bring some clarification and my own experience to bear.

Love originated from lufu meaning “love, affection, friendliness”. That’s pretty broad isn’t it? The Greeks and multiple words to express the notion of Love. From wikipedia:

  • Eros (ἔρως érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “(romantic) love”. However, Eros does not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interpreted as a love for someone who you love more than the Philia love of friendship.
  • Philia (φιλία philía), means friendship in modern Greek, a dispassionate virtuous love, was a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity.
  • Agapē (ἀγάπη agápē) means “love” in modern day Greek. The term s’agapo means “I love you” in Greek. The word “agapo” is the verb “I love”. In Ancient Greek it often refers to a general affection rather than the attraction suggested by “eros“; agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for a good meal, one’s children, and the feelings for a spouse. It can be described as the feeling of being content or holding one in high regard. The verb appears in the New Testament describing, amongst other things, the relationship between Jesus and the beloved disciple. In biblical literature, its meaning and usage is illustrated by self-sacrificing, giving love to all–both friend and enemy.

So we can see, that our modern understanding of love is extremely limited and open to some drastically different individual interpretations.

At first when I got interested in Zen Buddhism and how it applied and complimented my calling to Gnostic Priesthood, the concept of universal love for all sentient beings resonated with me, but it also seemed a little overwhelming and repugnant in a way. I mean, we all have those people in our lives that we just don’t like. That annoying co-worker, the gossiping mean-spirited aunt, the angry brother, the difficult neighbor. We all come in contact with the impolite, the rude, the mean, the judgmental as we move through life and the world. So I’m supposed to love these people, as I love myself and my wife and kids?

But here is where my modern understanding and language got me in trouble when I tried to apply it to ancient teachings. It is Agape that is being spoken of here. We are going to feel what we feel when we meet people we don’t like. We can’t do anything about that, in fact exploring those feelings can be very helpful to our spiritual growth and understandings of ourselves. But they are completely human and very normal. We aren’t going to be able to change that. It’s OK to feel that way.

The point here is how we act, not how we feel. When we interact with that co-worker with respect and kindness no matter how much we would like to slam their head in the photo copier, we practice this love the Jesus and Buddha speak of. When we offer coffee to that visiting aunt whose very presence is as nails on a chalkboard to us, and serve her with grace and politeness and listen to what she has to say with all of our attention, we practice this love that practically all spiritual traditions speak of. When we exert will and control over our feelings and our actions, we grow, we advance in our understandings of ourselves and of the Divine.

And to me, this is the point of a spiritual life. Every moment, every thought, every action is a manifestation of praxis, of an active pursuit of Gnosis and the salvation from ignorance that it inherently brings. It doesn’t mean I have to fall in love with everyone. But it does mean that I, with time, should be able to feel friendliness to everyone as a fellow member of humanity, as a fellow Spark of the Divine. In time, that intention will slowly evolve to understanding and compassion for another’s suffering and lostness. Mean, judgmental, unhappy, angry people are that way for a reason. They are that way because their experiences have taken them to that space and they are unable to express it or find a way out of it.

By showing another kindess, respect and open friendliness I believe we can take on a portion of their suffering for them. We can show them, even if only for a few moments, that we see who they are, even if they can’t. That we pay homage to their inner divinity despite the personality their ego projects with it’s inherent patterns and defenses.

I have found this to be one of the most profound, rewarding and difficult forms of spiritual praxis. And I practice, I hope, with everyone I meet, everyday, every time. I hope my words have helped to illuminate. Peace be with you.

Posted by: shawnjohnston | June 8, 2007

A Friday’s Ramblings

As I sit here at my desk on a Friday morning, with my headphones clamped to my head and the Counting Crow’s “A Long December” drowning out the truly horrid jazz music playing on the office music system, my mind is full of thoughts and ponderings.

This week has been an interesting one. I am currently reading “In The Spirit Of Happiness” by the Monks of New Skete, a fairly liberal Benedictine Catholic Monastic Group found near New York. I tried and failed to make sense of the intense (and more than slightly childish) fighting in the religious forum on Craigslist. I tried and failed to get through to a friend who’s rushing towards a cliff and far from the path we once walked together. I saw my daughter grow up just a little bit when she got her ears pierced (which she informed me just yesterday makes her look like a fairy princess). I found a new way to make my son make that unique laugh of his. I met a new friend and found a new mentor. I’ve watched the stirrings of yet more new growth in my Church. I’ve instituted new aspects to my spiritual practice and come to some new realizations.

I’ve also spent too much time worrying and arguing over politics and environmentalism. US foreign policy, the Kyoto Accord failings of my own country, the G8 summit, missile arguments between the US and Russia and what they’re REALLY about, ridiculous statements by the head of NASA on global warming, Governor Schwarzenegger’s recent visit to my province, the local public bus companies promise failings, bad spending and push towards privatization, etc… It goes on and on, all the worries, topics and concerns that we can get into in this age of information. It’s maddening.

What do I do as a Gnostic? How do I pursue a spiritual life in all this noise? How can one find peace in a messy life during tumultuous times? How can I make a difference in all of this or should I even try? I wish I had the answers. I do the important stuff, the immediate stuff. I bathe and feed children, I hug my wife, I do my job, I laugh with my friends, I reduce my footprint. I live. I go on.

Perhaps building a church for seekers that need it is where I can focus, where I can make a difference. Ghandi tells us to be the change we wish to see. Perhaps it really is that simple. But how do I approach or find potential church members? How do I stop projecting what I look for in a church and a religion onto them? How do I attract attention without appearing to preach? How do I dress up an organization so as not to alienate those that have become disillusioned with organization? How do I market while not selling out? Still more questions with still fewer answers.

But I begin to see that maybe we’re all not so far apart as we might think. Perhaps terminology along is the greatest barrier to shared understanding. Is not the love of God and the sincere desire to serve Him in all things, to make one’s life a living prayer not the same in all religions? Is God well served in bitterly dividing over theology, over terms and labels? Are WE well served by doing it? Is profit and power REALLY worth it? Does material possessions and consumerism really make us happy? How can I overcome the individualism that is so prevalent in today’s spiritual culture?

Sigh. Any ideas?

Posted by: shawnjohnston | June 6, 2007


You should set your hearts on the best spiritual gifts, but I will show you a way which surpasses them all.

If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have not love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing.

– 1 Corinthians 13

Posted by: shawnjohnston | June 6, 2007

Prayer To Do God’s Will

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous;
Teach me to serve thee as thou deservest;
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to seek for rest,
To labour and not to seek reward,
Save that of knowing that I do thy will.

– St. Ignatius of Loyola

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