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Universal Gnostic Ministry & Study
Affirming Unity + Celebrating Diversity
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  About Us


"In the Name of the Infinite Mind of Light,
the Mystical Body of Life, and the Holy Spirit of Love +
One Reality, that manifests, sustains, and transforms All Beings."

- The Yoga of the Christos: A Universal Gnostic Liturgy

Circle of the Free Spirit was founded in 1992 in New York City as a spiritual and cultural association, with a focus on ministry, study, liturgy, friendship, social justice and the arts.

As a cultural association we advocate a cosmopolitan libertarian society where spiritual and cultural traditions and personal lifestyles may be practiced side-by-side in peace and friendship, while honoring, protecting, and sharing the blessings of Mother Earth.

As a spiritual association we offer an open ministry rooted in the independent sacramental lineage and the Way of Gnosis (Self-Knowledge) as found in pre-Nicene Christianity, and with correspondences in other spiritual traditions and pathways.

As individuals and friends we also work for social justice and engage in literary, visual, contemplative, and performing arts.

"The Child of True Humanity exists within you. Follow it!
Those who search for it will find it."
- The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

We seek Wisdom - Sophia - wherever She may be found. In addition to classical Gnosticism we openly draw from other traditions, such as Buddhism, Vedanta, Hermeticism, New Thought, Jungian psychology, liberation theology, creation spirituality, and current philosophies and methodologies that may be called non-dualist and non-divisive.

"Whatever happens to another, happens to oneself."
- Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

We are not bound by literalist interpretations of scripture and tradition, and freely reject what we consider to be false and unjust notions propagated in the name of religion. Our approach is both pre-Nicene and post-Modern.

We affirm the mutual freedom of all individuals in matters of conscience and lifestyle, and welcome those often excluded and oppressed by organized religion on the basis of gender and sexuality. Indeed, spiritual androgyny is a hallmark and goal of the Way of Gnosis. The true Self is neither, both, and beyond male and female.

As all beings are embraced by the same true Self, the One Reality, we see that whatever we do to others, we do to our Self. This is the inner and Gnostic meaning to the ancient Golden Rule to "Love your neighbor as your Self."

"Friendship is the whole of the spiritual life."
- Gautama the Buddha

We look to one another for insight and cameraderie along the way. Wherever the Circle gathers, there is our "temple in consciousness", one "not built by human hands". We call this AVATAR TEMPLE in honor of our friendship with the Hermetic Order of the Silver Sword and its Avalon Temple in Toronto.

We are an informal community practicing a spiritual friendship that supports each person in the discovery of who they really are. We affirm Unity, celebrate Diversity.

"God Is Friendship"
- Saint Aelred of Rievaulx
(ca 1110 - January 12, 1167)

To find out more please contact:
Bishop + Mark Aelred
Circle of the Free Spirit
Box 230316 Ansonia Station
New York, NY 10023

For Gnostic ministry and community in New Jersey, please contact:
Michael Elliot + Priest
Liberal Gnostic Community

Our response below to the trauma of the Anglican Communion tells you "About Us" -- Circle of the Free Spirit -- in a way that complements our "Home", "Philosophy", and "Avatar Temple" pages on this site. For an alternative spiritual practice, go to our "Yoga of the Christos" page. We hope you will be inspired to contact us.

STOP BEGGING: The GLBTQ Communion, the Anglican Regression, and Biblical Oppression

"The archbishop [Rowan Williams of Canterbury] denied that it was time for the church to accept homosexual relationships. 'I don't believe inclusion is a value within itself. Welcome is. We don't say, 'Come in and we ask no questions. I do believe conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions…. Ethics is not a matter of a set of abstract rules, it is a matter of living the mind of Christ. That applies to sexual ethics.’ The archbishop said he was determined to preserve the unity of the church from being destroyed by the warring factions in the gay crisis. He said he has backed a resolution which says that homosexual practice is incompatible with the bible”. -- Sunday Telegraph, August 27, 2006

In light of recent events in the Episcopal Church, USA, and in the larger Anglican Communion in general, is it not time for gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and questioning (GLTBQ) people to bring to a stop all begging to be accepted as full members in this or any other church? Isn’t it clear enough now that the principle beliefs of established, mainstream bible-based “Christianity” cannot accommodate in more than a marginal way – if at all – a people which is so completely reviled in its sacred literature? The latest statement from the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (above), bears this out.

The Episcopal Church, long the preferred refuge and best hope for true GLTBQ acceptance, and honored as it should be for giving as much heart as it did, slipped into reverse at its June, 2006 General Convention. The church's retreat to conservatism was augmented by the Archbishop of Canterbury with his "Reflections" on the Convention (go to archbishopofcanterbury.org), and has been exacerbated by statements such as the one reported by the Sunday Telegraph, above.

The Episcopal Church ordained as bishop a gay priest, living in a loving partnership with a man, in 2003. This far-seeing, risky act was almost universally vilified by other established “Christian” bodies. The ECUSA is afraid now, very afraid. Canterbury, moving to institutionalize conservative power in the Anglican Communion, of which the ECUSA is a member, declared that it may not be "allowable" to make homosexuals clergy nor to include same-sex unions in the sacrament of marriage. The source of his authority is, as he indicates, the bible. Taken to be literally true (or literally the "word of God"), as the mainstream “Christians” do, the bible has “inspired” more terror and injustice than probably any other book in the world. Yes, bible literalism and homosexuality are incompatible. For all self-respecting homosexuals, and believers in sexual freedom, the choice is clear – reject bible literalism, not your self, your sexuality, or those whom you love!

The Anglican communion desires to win approval and “apostolic legitimacy” in the eyes of the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches. In this, the ECUSA betrays the truth of the Protestant Reformation, the truth that papal authority is not absolute, even as it embraces the error of transferring that presumed absolute authority from the papacy to the bible. This “bibliolatry” is the crux of the problem that “Christianity” has become for those of us in the GLBTQ community.

Do Episcopalians realize that when the Anglican Church ordained women to the priesthood and then to the episcopate, they shut forever the door to winning apostolic legitimacy in the eyes of the Roman and Orthodox churches? The only way to open that door is to defrock all their woman clergy. Are the Episcopalians willing commit such an injustice to women clergy in addition to the injustice of excluding GLBTQ people from ministry and marriage?

Historically, the mainstream churches have been fairly cavalier regarding the "laws" of the Old and even New Testaments, ignoring many inconvenient strictures. Old Testament dietary laws, the punishments for working on the Sabbath, etc., have been ignored since the early days of Christianity. In more recent times the New Testament law against divorce – something the church attributes to its very founder – was abandoned. And why is war okay, for example, when that clearly violates the core values upon which the Christian movement was founded? Why is anti-homosexuality about the only thing that excites mainstream churches into orgies of denunciation?

These churches, from the Orthodox to the Pentecostal, have one basic belief in common – the literalist view of the bible and the Christian tradition. Adam and Eve were tempted by a serpent and ate the forbidden fruit in the garden and brought death into the world. Since then, according to literalism, all humans are born in sin – bad, bad, bad – and all the suffering found in nature is the result of humanity’s fall! Not, perhaps, the other way around? Therefore, from the death of a rabbit to the death of a galaxy – indeed to the death of the universe (a.k.a., the “end of the world”), cosmic suffering is all our fault. We are to blame and god will punish us. Humanity becomes the universal scapegoat!

Jesus came to Earth and died a horrible bloody death, according to bible literalists, as a sacrifice to redeem sinners from the wrath of this almighty god who could not otherwise find it in his all-knowing heart to forgive Adam and Eve, and us, for what he knew Adam and Eve, and we, would do all along! And so the cosmos remains consigned to endless suffering and death because god cannot freely forgive! (Some of the earliest Christians, particularly the Gnostics, had a completely different view of Jesus and scripture, but more about that later.) This is all due to innately evil humanity - original sin – apple-biting (or whatever) in the garden -- disobedience! The doctrine has not been officially withdrawn. But how many in the churches still actually believe this?

This blood-sacrifice scapegoat religion miscalled “Christianity” (and perhaps better called “Christ-inanity”) has to have laws to create sins in order to justify its existence as the remitter of sins. It is obsessed with who is good and who is bad, and imagines a final day of reckoning, the day of the “standing-up-of-corpses”. This religion must have insiders versus outsiders. It makes of Jesus a gendarme, reducing his greatness to that of a city cop. (Jesus never said "I came to arrest ye sinners.") This is questionable religion, and it is not genuine spirituality.

Chief among those cast into the “Christian” outer darkness are the homosexuals. Hiding beneath the need to identify sinners (outsiders) is the need to control sexuality -- by declaring various sexualities to be abominations. The sexualities that are manifest in gay people are deep, life-giving (even if we do not always behave that way), transgressive (of the patriarchal-macho system of domination), and spiritual. These sexualities connect one person with another beyond the biological imperative to "multiply and fill the earth" – the only purpose of sex acknowledged by the churches who interpret the bible literally. But sexuality goes to the heart of what it means to be alive. As such, sexuality (including its biblically outlawed expressions) is a mortal threat to the churches’ agenda of control, which declares as law the male heterosexual duty to dominate women and to multiply, and declares as unhealthy and unacceptable all alternatives.

The literalist churches obsess over this question more than any other, because they take it literally – it is not symbolism to them. Hence the extraordinary effort to make non-procreative sex (and the gay people who practice it) into an evil that can find no comfortable place within the churches.

Membership in any of the literalist churches can be a risky if not destructive relationship for a human being. Fortunately, it is not necessary even for those who love Jesus and wish to follow Christ. Jesus – the eternal Christ who is beyond the control of the churches –prepares a table for everyone. All are welcome. As taught in the Circle of the Free Spirit, sin ("missing the mark") means something very different from disobedience – it means ignorance. This ignorance is everywhere in nature, and is not the result of human choice or rebellion – quite the contrary. The path to overcome ignorance is knowledge, not blind belief, and not "repentance" as is often misunderstood as "feeling guilty".

“Change of mind” is the true meaning of repentance. Spiritual development is one of becoming more conscious – self-conscious, which Gnostics symbolize by the Ouroboros, the snake that consumes its own tail – conscousness curving back on itself, knowing itself – the awareness of awareness. The human being, indeed, is the universe becoming conscious of itself! In this way, the truly human being – the Christ – redeems the world.

The early Christian documents, many of them left out of the Orthodox canon, affirm that true “salvation” is found in knowledge of oneself and the divine: "Come to know yourself and you shall be known." (Gospel of Thomas) This is a deep spirituality wherein the process of living, experiencing, becoming and knowing can lead one to one's own "true self" and to the perception that all of life is sacred. This is Gnosis – and even today it can become the context for actions that will benefit ourselves and others.

The sacredness of sexuality as sexuality – in and for itself (not for procreation) – is a real and vital spiritual issue that cannot be addressed by or within the literalist churches of mainstream "Christianity". It is one thing to have a mythical or Gnostic Jesus and Mary symbolize the “virgin” or inviolate nature of divine consciousness. It is quite another for the literalist churches to present us and burden us with a supposedly historic Jesus born of a virgin mother without a human father, who was nevertheless “fully human” – except of course for his non-sexuality! Sex, in light of this (false) view of the savior and model for all humanity, remains bad, bad… always bad! Isn't it time to save the savior? And ourselves?

Isn’t it time for LTGBQ people to stop begging for acceptance grudgingly granted as charity to the outcasts? Isn’t it time for all who would be free, who would be themselves, including honest sex-loving heterosexuals, to move out of the suffocating atmosphere of mainstream literalist bible-based “Christianity”? Isn’t it time to live as the light-hearted and loving spiritual beings we truly can be – one with the inner Christ?

Yes, it is time.

Circle of the Free Spirit

Box 230316 Ansonia Station
New York, NY 10023

Bishop + Mark Aelred

Michel Elliiot + Priest

Please visit us again!

First posted: September 7, 2006

Preface revised: November 10, 2006

Updated: February 4, 2009