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Universal Gnostic Ministry & Study
Affirming Unity + Celebrating Diversity

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By Michael Elliot +

Homily for the Summer Solstice / Saint John the Baptist

" Farming in the world requires the cooperation of four essential elements: water, earth, wind, and light.. . God's farming likewise has four elements: faith, hope, love, and knowledge. Faith is our earth in which we take root. Hope is the water through which we are nourished. Love is the wind though which we grow. Knowledge is the light through which we ripen." - Gospel of Philip

Farming in the world and in the spirit require the same four elements. Today, we commemorate the great solstice- ancient celebration of the sun's triumphal longest day- its light and warmth, without which there would be no world, nor us, nor the ONE which comes to know itself through us.

Ecstatically celebrated through the ages in festivals and bonfires, the solstice was also symbolized in torches called "bel-fire," which the Church, in its unhappy habit of usurping pre-Christian imagery, later placed into the hands of John the Baptist.

The Nebraska Indian, when asked to describe God, pointed to the sun and said, "There it is, everyone knows that."

Celebrating is how we acknowledge and show appreciation for that we know that we are dependent for life upon these forces outside of ourselves, and that we are part of the one great whole, the Pleroma- the fullness of life both that which is in front of us and that of the "place of the things which actually exist," in another phrase from Philip. This is a place outside of Chronos/time, eternal.

The solstice is the point where the sun is caused to stand still, which is the actual meaning of the word. From the earliest time, it was noted that the sun appears to pause in the sky.

It is a portal for and to us - a moment in which to know that the Pleroma beckons. Our other, true selves are aching to be called forth from the spirit into the material world; to manifest within us as we live in the world, incarnate into flesh, as it was with our beloved Jesus.

Midsummer is not the birthday of the sun. That occurs six months hence during another solstice. It is never-the-less a birthday, a feast of nativity. Some years after the actual birth of the sun, the herald to the Christian era was born, on midsummer's, according to the story.

This, of course, is John the Baptist. The Baptist is honored in the Christian Great Churches and in non-Christian religions. However, I am not going to speak about this John, even though it is his natal anniversary, except to say that the Baptist incorporated two elements of spiritual farming: water, specifically "living water" in which many, nay, countless persons, including Jesus, put on new garments, the spiritual garments of metanoia. And, Light. Not the light of the sun, rather the light of the hidden which illuminates the way to the incarnation of Wisdom and the Logos.

Let us think, instead, about "John-ness", the quality of being "John." I had a father who despised his given-name, Leander (which I liked). He chose to be called "John." He just liked the name. He did not know he had chosen an archetype.

Throughout human experience, John has been much more than a given-name. In its myriad spellings and pronunciations in almost every culture familiar to us, the name has expressed a sense of the living divine. John has appeared in myths and legends too numerous to detail here.

One example, which has recently come into the awareness of some of us, is the Oannes. These "Johns" were divine incarnations, priests which were half-fish and half - human, appearing before Sumer or Persia, and which taught humans math, geometry, architecture, and the arts. It is said that these were of extra-terrestrial origin. The Oannes are remembered today in the attire of the bishops of the Western Church. Their mitres are the up-turned mouths of the fish-humans and the robes, their tales.

The fish, also, was one of the original symbols for Jesus. I cannot explain the significance of the fish imagery to you. Some scholars insist that the secrets rest in a vault in the bowels of the Vatican.

In western history, in the lineages of Masonic Grand Masters and Popes, the name John is used and invoked more than any other.

Among the John speculations, two are my favorites. Who is the "Beloved Disciple?" Is it John the Evangelist , the author of the fourth gospel? Is it Mary Magdalene? Steiner and others have written that the Beloved Disciple is Lazarus, the one who was raised by Jesus. And, that this Lazarus became the John of the fourth gospel. He adopted the name of John as his spiritual name, reflecting his new status as a child of the Bridal Chamber.

An esoteric variation makes use of the two Saints John. The Baptizer is also known as the "forerunner." The Evangelist is sometimes called the "follower." They are the two ends of the gnostic path. The forerunner is said to be the morning star. The sun is the Christ, and by extension those of us who chose to follow its lead through the sky and through life, to the setting thereof. Waiting for us there is the follower, the Evangelist as the evening star. As Jesus is ever incarnate in us, so are the beginnings of the Christic era, and its setting ever framing our journey.

John is also the "secret church." This also sounds esoteric, and times it hints at or identifies esoteric as contrasted with exoteric spiritual work.

In the early 19th century, Mssr. Palaprat initiated a "gnostic" church in response to corruption in official religions and his own visions. He called it the "Church of John." He was thereby invoking a code name for spiritual activity in which the object would be the search for wisdom, and manifesting the same in the person.

There has always been a "church of John", inside and outside of any society's power structure. Very often, it was the safe place wherein seeker sought freedom to experience truth and the spirit, and to initiate forms of participating in the god-head.

It is alive to day, of course. It lives in persons who strike a very individualized path towards the spirit. It thrives as underground churches such as is described in this book from the 1960's (The Underground Church, edited by Malcolm Boyd, Baltimore, Penguin Books, 1968), and in forms today which reflect our Zeitgeist, and dynamics, to which the Great Church or officialdom are oblivious. It rises to the light of day when gatherings such as ours here today come together and begin to do the Spirit's bidding. Its fecund earth nourishes our tender roots. And, very significantly, it pulses within each of us as the spark of the divine. It is our birthright and our destiny. Amen.

Delivered at the Summer Solstice gathering of the Circle of the Free Spirit - celebration of the Yoga of the Christos - on June 21, 2008.

Posted here in honor of the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, on the Full Moon of July 18, 2008.

To contact the author: mebkieu@verizon.net