Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Why do we say Holy Ghost?

I went down a bit of a linguistic rabbit hole today.

One of the FB groups I’m on posted “Why do we say Holy Ghost? Is it a ghost?”

After the first minute of smacking my head, I started really looking into the question.

Ghost is an English word of Germanic origin, which is used to translate spiritus from latin into old English. It’s first used in Old English as such: sē hālga gāst is Old English for “The Holy Ghost”. Spirit didn’t enter English as a translation for spiritus until the Middle English Period (after the Norman Conquest, when the Normans brought more French and Latinate words into English).

Ghost and geist are direct cognates, from English and German respectively. Geist has a meaning of spirit in the supernatural sense, as well as the meaning of apparition and of something having a frightening appearance. It also has a sense of furor or agitation, a sort of ecstasy. Thus, a sense of being filled ‘with the Holy Ghost’ carries a sense of ecstatic experience. Geist can also refer to a ‘spirit of wine’, alcohol (like the English spirits).

Latin spiritus is used to translate greek pneuma ( πνεῦμα), meaning breath, vital spirit. The German geist was thus also able to take on this meaning in the Christian era.

Geist is also used as a translation for French esprit, which brings with the idea of mind or thought: intellectual brilliance, wit, innovation, erudition, etc. However, this is a later meaning in German, from the 18th century. Ghost never has had this meaning. Compound words in German give us English loanwords like zeitgeist (“spirit of the age”).

French esprit is a word that can be translated as thought, and also a word for spirit in the English sense. So the Holy Spirit in French is Esprit Saint, much like the German Heilige Geist. The German/French meaning of thought for the word used to translate spiritus informs the Apostolic Johannite Church’s construction of the Trinitarian Formula.

In many places in our liturgy, we refer to the Trinity as the Father, the Word, and the Thought. Since the AJC comes out of the French Tradition via l'Église Johannite des Chrétiens Primitifs and the Lévitikon, we find it appropriate to use that meaning of Esprit/Geist in the translation into English.

Personally, I find this linquistic construction to have a wonderful esoteric meaning, especially under the idea of lex orandi, lex credendi
 (loosely, “what is prayed is what is believed”), that when we pray to the Father, the Word, and the Thought we have a wonderful spiritual interaction between the source of all things, the expression of those things, and the internal mental reception of those things. And all of these three (source, expression, reception) interact to form our experience of reality: What is, how it is expressed, and how we receive it, are three parts of the journey of existence we all travel upon.

To bring us back to the start, the reason we say “Holy Ghost” is because of a complex interaction between linguistic traditions. In the AJC, we prefer the idea of intellectual contemplation to the vision of an apparition of a frightening God.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Friary: Work, Opus, Aspirations

For the past few weeks, the Sacred Flame has been reignited in me to re-address my Friary Work.

I've been writing a lot of material and emails and general musings, all about the Friary Work. And as I've been doing that, I've been thinking a lot about the language I use. As a magician, the words have meaning, and choosing them carefully affects the outcome of the process in which I'm engaged.

That got me thinking about the word 'Work'. In English, the word work can have some bad connotations: Something you are doing that you must do, something that takes a great deal of effort, labor, something you do in exchange for payment or gain.

And we know language shapes the way we think. The following video gives examples of that.

Perhaps my efforts in the Friary realm should not be considered work, but perhaps the Latin source for the term, Opus.  We are engaged in the Magnum Opus, the Great Work, after all. And Opus has totally different connotations in English, as well, referring to a creative endeavor.  Opuses are usually creative musical and artistic works, and it is the root of the word 'Opera'.

Or perhaps the term 'Aspiration' is a good one, as it's a goal, an effort, that has the wonderful root word of breath, meaning breathe into. To me, this brings into it the idea of the Creation of Genesis, when Elohim breathed upon the face of the waters, and created the world. It also contains the idea of striving, of reaching for a higher goal, which I think encompasses what I'm trying to do in the Friary.

Friary Aspirations, rather than Friary Work. It makes me want to do a lot more of it, rather than avoid it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Logos is a fantastically complicated word.

It is derived from a Greek word meaning "ground", "plea", "opinion", “law”, "expectation", "word", "speech", "account", "reason", "proportion", "discourse".

To me, as we use it in the AJC, it has all of those meanings and more.

It is the Ground of all being, the Word spoken when God at creation said “Let there be light” יְהִי אוֹר

It is the plea of the Divine to remember from whence we came.

It is the opinion of the Gnostics, that they know the unknowable, and approach the unapproachable; that they make effable the ineffable.

It is the Law laid out for the conduct of morality, whether to be observed or broken.

It is the expectation that although now we see through a glass darkly, then we shall see clear.

It is the Word of God: Written, spoken, experienced, living.

It is the Speech of God: The great Metatron and all of continual creation formed through the continual Speaking, of which this material world is merely the most distant echo.

It is the accounting of a life, division of the sheep and the goats, the burning of the dross from the gold, the weight of a heart against a feather.

It is the Reason that is the foolishness of humankind, for the axioms of God are not the axioms of Humanity; and the proof so written is of a completely different geometry.

It is the proportion that says that every human matters to a Universe spanning deity, that spins all of existence for the divine spark on this rapidly rotating ball of mud.

It is the discourse of the divine with the material, the celestial with the terrestrial, the above with the below, the Kingdom of God within and without. It is not a pronouncement, but a conversation, and our part in creation, miniscule that it may be, is as important and valuable to the whole, as we don’t know how the butterfly flapping it’s wings affects the windchill in Chicago.
It is the whisper in the midst of the storm and the earthquake. It is the silence in the depth of contemplation that indicates the presence to the one who contemplates. It is the shout of joy of 10,000 voices calling upon the Divine to be present, God With Us, Emmanuel.

It is the word of encouragement spoken when words fail. It is the wind through a lonely graveyard, speaking of the efforts and loss and sacrifice and good riddance and all of the words of passing in the rustle of leaves. It is the cry of a hungry baby, the coo of a satisfied one, the last breath on the lips of the aged, the cry of terror from those whose time is cut short, the lover’s sigh, the cry of betrayal.

But above all, to me, it is the divine of which we can speak, and which speaks to us.

Friday, November 03, 2017

What is a Johannite: Spiritually Decisive

"And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him." -Matthew 4:21-22
As the Director of Communications for the Apostolic Johannite Church, I am the first point of contact for many people seeking a spiritual home that can accept eccentric ideas, yet has a strong tradition. I tend to encounter people who've been wandering from tradition to tradition.

These people, their first experience is generally a very narrow version of Christianity, where if you don't toe the line, you are ostracized. So they reject Christianity altogether, and they look at Buddhism, or paganism, or nothing. Then, when they begin to heal, the Church calls them back, but they cannot accept the narrowness of the version of which they were raises. And so they find us.

For some people, they've studied a lot, and they've seen how different translations change the meanings of phrases, how knowing the Greek or Hebrew can radically change the understanding of a passage, give it facets and reflections you simply won't find in Strong's Concordance. They have trouble focusing on an interpretation, and so they find us.

The Johannite does not focus on a single interpretation. They focus on the process, on the exploration. The Johannite is spiritually decisive, and they decide to leave space for alternate theories, for discussion, for knowing in that gnostic sense. The Johannite decides to make camp in this tradition that has room for multiple theories, stories, perspectives.

That call comes from Christ, a call to be open to what happens while one follows Christ. It is a path of growth, of transformation, of newness. One will not simply be working on the nets and the boat and fishing day after day. When you follow the Rabbi into the wilderness, as John and James did, you can never be sure what tomorrow will bring. It might be a storm, or an all night vigil on a mountain top, or serving a crowd with bread and fishes. But you have to decide to follow. That is the first step.

That is the step the Johannite takes. To have faith that Christ will lead them where they need to be. In the Apostolic Johannite Church, we often say "Come as you are, and stay as long or as little as you like and share your pilgrimage toward the Divine." Sometimes, following that path leads you away from the Church to other paths, paths that resonate more deeply in your pilgrimage to the Divine. While we always like to have people to journey with, we wish you Godspeed should our paths diverge.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Reading material

I am reading a ridiculous amount of books at the moment. I should really pick one and finish it.
The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
Complicity by Iain Banks
Driftless Spirits by Dennis Boyer
Northern Frights by Dennis Boyer
Sword of the Legion by Jason Anspach, Nick Cole
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer 

I really should finish one or more of these.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Holst: Jupiter

I am a fan of all of Holst's planet series, but nothing speaks to me like Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity.

Anyone who's read my blog for any period of time knows I like Jupiter in all his aspects: King, Bringer of Jollity and plenty, Expander of boundaries and limits.

The music is so upbeat! It fills one with joy, with granduer, with expansion, at least in the first movement.

Then it quiets, but even it's quiet is joyous, and then it comes back in grand and sweeping, like a mountain vista in New Zealand. One can almost see a procession of gifts and brightly colored courtiers coming to pay homage to the king on the day of his coronation, or the day of his victory. A stately procession follows a flurry of preparation.

Just when you think the grandeur of the second movement will come to it's end, the small trilling notes of fairies and servants and swirling dance comes back in, and then Jupiter is there, proclaiming his good will and beneficence to all.

It makes me happy, puts a smile on my face. I want to dance and sing with the servants around the throne, jolly and happy in the court of the king. The two movements come together, the uproarious beginning, the trilling second movement, combine into a theme of kingship as the king leads his courtiers to the crescendo, and the end of the piece.

[Writing Prompt: October 5
Eye of the beholder
Describe what it feels like to hear a beautiful piece of music
or see a stunning piece of art.]

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Clothes Horse

There is nothing quite like wearing a good tailored suit. The cut simply falls correctly on the body, and the figure you cut, with a neatly tied tie and a pressed shirt, makes you think you can take on the world. A set of shiny dress shoes and some socks that speak to my personality, and I feel like a man about town, a captain of industry, a go-getter ready to take on the world. I can dream in a suit.

That style of dress is out of place on the farm. On the farm, I like my Romeo boots with no laces that just slip on. A pair of old jeans, a flannel shirt if it's cold, a t-shirt if it's warm. A ball cap to keep the sun from my eyes. It's relaxed, it allows for work, and it makes me feel, well, like a man of the land. Someone who works hard to accomplish their goals. It grounds me.

Even more removed is the vestments of the priest. Designed at the height of the Roman empire, the alb, stole, chausible, and cincture put me in a sacred role, a role that is outside of my every day world of suits and jeans. It sets me apart, clothes me for the work of God. In the vestments of the priest, I'm no longer myself, I am the office that I hold, and I embody the work of God in the world. It is intimate with the divine, yet set apart from the world.

At the end of the day, it's still me in these clothes. I find the different outfits bring out different parts of me, though. They emphasize the role that I'm in when I ware them.

[Writing Prompt: The clothes that (may) make the (wo)man
How important are clothes to you? Describe your style, if
you have one, and tell us how appearance impacts how you
feel about yourself.]


Great balls of fire, I am feeling ill.
Grievous wails of despair come from my mouth
Groaning, sweating, swearing, failing of will.
Gone down a bad path, my health has gone south.

Give me release, succor, a cooling cloth
Growing is my unease that this illness
Growls and rolls in my belly, ceaseless froth.
Green mucus, bane color of un-wellness

Government healthcare does not cover me
Great witch doctors have no elixir cure
Good faith healers' prayers do not set me free.
Gross fluids flowing to make body pure.

Greeting the morning of my discontent
Going to find where my superb health went

Writing Prompt: October 1
Fearful symmetry
Pick a letter, any letter. Now, write a story, poem, or post in
which every line starts with that letter.