2682 Middlefield Road, Suite J,
Redwood City, CA 94063
Priesthood at the Gnostic Sanctuary in both The Holy Order of Miriam of Magdala and in the traditional lines of succession.
I look for an unshakable trust and commitment independent of moods or vicissitudes of life in those whom I ordain to the priesthood to tend and represent this Sanctuary. The training and ordination to the priesthood is an acknowledgement of a commitment that has already been made. This commitment is not something that the candidate has determined to do, but something that the candidate is and does. This is a result of a silent but certain inner knowing that is brighter and more real than any concrete reality around us.
Our Sanctuary is a sacred space dedicated to nurture the search for gnosis, where the individual may feel free to surrender ordinary concerns in order to create an inner environment receptive to the mystical experience or gnosis. Gnosis can be compared to enlightenment and moksha in other traditions. The earlier temporary epiphanies that occur can sometimes be more compared to satori—which is not exactly gnosis—because they suddenly arrive and tend not to be permanent.
I feel it a privilege to keep my trust and commitment to not only tend to, but to implement the needs of the Sanctuary. A chief means to facilitate surrender is during the celebration of the Supreme Mystery, as we say in the text of our Eucharist service, "And we set aside this enclosure as sacred ground for Thy most glorious presence, that all of thine may enter." The Sanctuary serves primarily as a "way-station" or "shelter for travelers on the path of self-knowledge and gnosis, and we are its Keepers. We use the word "Keeper" rather than clergy, as it is more appropriate and descriptive of who we are and what we do. We use the word "keeper" from a translation of saying 10 of Thomas, "Jesus said, "I have cast fire upon the world and see, I guard it until the world is afire." We use "keeper" instead of "guardian" because of the negative associations and misunderstandings the word guardian can bring.
As an integral part of my commitment to the Sanctuary, I watch myself ruthlessly so that the altar is as free of my personal ego as it is humanly possible while in physical form. I have equally watched that the egos of others do not find a forum on this altar either. In order to do that, I emphasize mythology and ritual, leaving meaning to gnosis alone, trusting that each priest and candidate to the priesthood will come upon their own discoveries, independent from isms, be they Gnosticism, Jung, Krishnamurti and myself among others.
I have been very vague in past years in explaining the requirements for the priesthood and the role, commitment and consciousness of the priests that remain as Keepers of this Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum, representing this Sanctuary. Many discover their priesthood through the course of the training and know they have finally come home, in the same manner that musicians know they are musicians, sometimes even before they pick up an instrument.
I am infamous for keeping candidates in training for a very long time. The main reason I do so is because I am expecting to see something spring forth which is not illusion, but self-sustaining fire. For those that are to be Keepers in this Sanctuary there is a special keynote I look for. I will try to define below as best as possible that elusive quality, as well as the more practical requirements.
I require training in this Sanctuary for anyone applying to be ordained in our priesthood. I rarely undertake training and ordination for candidates from other locations, as the traveling expenses for the frequency of visits I require a year becomes financially prohibitive for most. I also require that when they come to visit, their journey is not a secondary reason to travel, but that their training is their primary, if not the only reason to be here. There is also a draw-back in that candidates living elsewhere are unable to enter into our rhythm of weekly activities and it is a rare one that keeps the same discipline at a distance—although it happens, I'm happy to say.
For those pneumatic individuals sometimes a genuine, dramatic breakthrough occurs earlier, like a changing of gears. If I feel that the candidate is ready for ordination to the priesthood, I empower them with ordination to go and use it accordingly.
The candidate must be patient with training, especially for those not living in this area. Our program offers no mail-order instruction for holy orders, but requires candidates to visit this area regularly. This Sanctuary has no interest in expansion for its own sake, rather it prefers to have a few properly trained priests with authentic Gnostic awakening and commitment.
Pitfalls in the course of training
Very rarely happens that some candidates may establish a personal image of "what should be" and of "who they are." Ego inflation, fantasy and illusion usurp the chance of gnosis, fertilizing the ground for misunderstandings, hurt, hostility and defensiveness when reality and image do not match—especially if it is pointed out.
The main reason why I withhold ordination for years (and still continue to do so) from many people is not because of lack of worthiness on their part. It is because the training I give is not aimed at receiving an ordination, but to awaken from the illusions and basic premises under which we have been conditioned in our society. The most insidious ones are the beliefs that we don't even know we have but that rule most of our assumptions, values and actions. Often we do things and wonder where they came from, as if it was another entity directing us. It is always us, directing the play, but hidden from view. Till they are exposed for what they are, we don't even know who we are or where we are going. Flashes of gnosis are sporadic while in this state and very soon the insights are built into other illusions. As long as the candidate longs for ordination, I feel they are not ready. When it doesn't matter any longer, when the knowledge of self and Divinity are the one driving passion, then and only then, do I feel they are getting close—as long as they don't become neurotic about it.
So many do!
There are other reasons why I do ordain, and when I do, I do it fairly soon. These are when the candidates are already involved in their own line of ministry independent of the Sanctuary and they are in need of some empowering, some type of validation to operate in the world. Many come already quite unattached to titles and with their hearts quite clear on where they stand, but they seek Orders to be accepted in the world to do the work for which they have been called.
Others, I ordain when they are not living in or they are leaving the area. If they feel right to me for three to six years, I ordain them and, usually, after a few rocky starts, they turn out quite well or they find that to be a priest is not after all what they wanted. To be doing what is best for one is priesthood. To do the tasks of the priest at the altar while believing that alone is a superior calling, would be to ignore the unique calling of each individual soul.
Then there are those that are coming along quite well when they hit an invisible wall. The well trained candidate doesn't see it as a wall but as a revelation. It is an opportunity to discern that the ego wants recognition and wants it now. From that point on, they resist all help. Their monsters, hurts, disappointments and thwarted dreams are projected outwards, and the world, especially authority figures, becomes scapegoats. They feel that great injustice is being done to them. They become very angry and hurt. This is a great opportunity to reclaim all these projections. Once we see ourselves as their source, the world totally changes. There are no more enemies. We can no longer be victims. We have reclaimed our power.
This is a wonderful time, time pregnant with wondrous potential. All the candidate needs to do is to observe these emotions without repressing or succumbing to them. Unfortunately, that is a very rocky period too, with great risk of becoming possessed by these hidden shadows now threatening to devour their light. Many fall deeper into unconsciousness and most often also into depression. Much of this suffering can be averted if candidates manage to remain very still, doing nothing, while standing at the crossroads, simply watching. Then, without even willing it, they rise and name the archons that have ruled them from the shadows since as far back as they can remember. This reminds me of a line from the gospel of Philip that is part of our ritual. "If they ask you, 'What is the sign of the one who sends you?' answer, 'It is a movement and a rest.'" This is the time for rest.
This is a moment of initiation when these rulers are seen and named for what they are. The shadows vanish, for the light has been turned on. This is the hour of freedom. I can associate this with the symbol of the Magician in the Tarot deck. However, this point cannot be reached if the candidates resist the challenge. They can go no further till they manage to break through that invisible barrier. The roots for this barrier can be traced to very early in life, even to the pre-verbal stage, and it continues to be reinforced by our sociological environment throughout all our lives.
If I feel that I can be of some use to the student in breaking that barrier, I try to do what I can if permitted, but usually I'm not and any attempt on my part, even when solicited, is misinterpreted. Already a position has been taken and I can do nothing at that point. They leave, without talking things out, and then some come back only to leave again. There is no resolution until the barrier is broken. However, these souls have incredible potential and I would be doing a disservice to them by giving an ordination before they have their breakthrough. To ordain at that point would be patronizing and disrespectful to whom they are. I grieve when I realize that they believed I did not think they were good enough, for my reasons were quite the opposite. Ordination in those cases would be giving the false impression that they don't have to go any further and I think that would harm more than help their spiritual blossoming. To do that would be to reinforce their egos. If what they want is an ordination, I have no problem with their getting ordained by another bishop and, as long as that bishop is amenable, the candidate can still continue training with me if they want to, now with the ordination out of their system.
In training for the priesthood, I do not look over the candidate's shoulder. I let each of them fend for themselves, as it were. For those living in this area, there are at least two years of coming regularly and participating in everything in the Sanctuary Before they begin formal training. I do not ask any one to do anything, but the ones really interested take note of what is needed, take initiative of their own accord, such as coming to choir practice, etc. After two years of that, then the training begins. While nothing is required of a seeker, a priest's dedication must be their first priority. It is not a hobby or a profession. It is a way of living. The opportunity for training is a talent to be buried or to be invested.
At any rate, ordination is never an end but a milestone in the journey. The training continues after the priest is ordained. To be a priest or a bishop, or a pope does not constitute spiritual authority. Authentic authority comes from the uncreated. It is like a breath of life, and that belongs to no one. My ways were and remain always non-hierarchical except during ritual, but it doesn't matter how often I say it, it is rarely heard while the candidate remains blinded by their basic beliefs.
Last updated April 4, 2006