Saturday 25 June 2011

Spiritual Diet for Dummies: On the Eucharist and the Zodiac Sign of Cancer (by Franco Santoro)

The Virgin of the Host
In the article titled Gospel in the Stars or Stars in the Gospel? (click here) I referred to the intimate association between the Bible and astrology. I also mentioned the Gospel of Mark and its division in 12 sections, each corresponding to a zodiac sign, set in the natural order from Aries to Pisces. According to this structure, described in details by Bill Davison in The Gospel and the Zodiac, the part associated with the sign of Cancer goes from Mark 6:30 to 8:26.

The sign of Cancer is associated with giving and receiving nourishment, both at a physical and spiritual level, and according both to our separated and multidimensional perception. A major theme here is nourishment, and the discrimination between what feeds our separated identity and what supplies energy to our true Self.

This is a crucial area encompassing ordinary food and healthy diets, as well as spiritual nourishment. Here in both respects individuals seem to have different requirements. Food items that benefit some people may cause harm to others. Nevertheless there are certain elements in food that are vital for every human being, that are typical of all healthy diets no matter how diverse they are, while there are others that are poisonous for all mankind in general. The same situation applies to spiritual food. Hence a few questions on the Cancer’s front are: 

by Juan de Juanes
How do I nourish myself spiritually? Do I get enough food for my true Self? What is the ideal spiritual diet? Where can I get it? How can I improve its quality? How can I also provide spiritual food for others and care for them?

Since the dawn of time answers have constantly been given to the above, with most ancient scriptures providing detailed indication regarding both ordinary and spiritual food. In archaic times there was also rarely a rigid difference between physical and spiritual food. 

The Eucharist, or Holy Communion, for example, in the early Christian communities was not delivered in the form of a symbolic small host. The Eucharist was a real meal, a complete banquet integrating both heaven and earth. 

God was meant to be in the food, and here women, as traditional caretakers of the kitchen, played a major spiritual role. As John Dominic Crossan puts it “It was not theology that came first, it was the food.” 

Then things changed, as women were excluded from religious leadership, and the gap between spiritual and physical life opened out and became irreversible.

In this current age availability of information on both physical and spiritual food has reached a peak. Just as there is an unprecedented quantity of food items, there is also a record amount of spiritual food in the market. 

Countless spiritual practices, rituals and texts according to the largest variety of cultures and approaches, are freely accessible. Never in human history have we experienced such a profusion of physical and spiritual resources.

Regrettably, abundance of resources does not necessarily imply superiority in quality. On the contrary, similarly to the theme described in the article The Search for Meaning our current mankind seems to suffer from a state of deep spiritual starvation. 

Virgo Mater Adoratrix
Great quantities of spiritual nourishment do not guarantee covering our basic vital requirements. Hence here it is important to understand what the basic requirements for a spiritual diet are.

As with ordinary food, some people benefit more from certain products and others not, some are intolerant or allergic, and also diets change according to life stages. Babies, teenagers, adults and old people have different diets, and so have people according to their culture. Yet, despite all this, certain elements in food are imperative for both physical and spiritual nourishment, while others are fatal.

Put it very plainly, the basic requirement for spiritual food is the presence of Spirit. The term “spirit” comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning “breath”. Breath is the basic physical requirement in human life and largely precedes ordinary food for our immediate survival. Yet, when it comes to spiritual life, breath goes far beyond physical survival, encompassing our multidimensional self, our true eternal nature, and providing the authentic essence of spiritual diet.  

Access to this diet allows us to awaken and energise our true Self, stepping out of the nightmare of separation and expanding awareness of Who we truly are. And this authentic consciousness, again put it very simply, is God, meant as Unity and Love, i.e. Unconditional Love. This is what ultimately nourishes our true nature.

 On the other hand, still in simple terms, what intoxicates and poisons our true Self, is conditioned love, intolerance, condemnation, judgment and whatever stems from separation, included perhaps forms of religiosity based on separated and cursing gods.

The Gospel section of Cancer opens up with “Jesus Feeds the Five Thousands” (Mark 6:30-44), the largest act of nourishment of the entire New Testament followed by a similar miracle of multiplication of bread and fish in “Jesus feeds the Four Thousands” (Mark 8:1-13). 

Further emphasis on food is given in “Clean and Unclean”, when Jesus explains that "Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'” (Mark 7:15), and the passage of the “The Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod”, with esoteric references to the number seven and twelve (Mark 8), which also occur in the previous stories.

The Cancer section is preceded by the episode of the beheading of John the Baptist, the gateway to the Summer Solstice. Since ancient times the opposite point, the Winter Solstice, and the entrance of the Sun in Capricorn, refers to the Gate of Gods, the portal of ascension to our true Self and the rebirth of our original multidimensional identity, which is exemplified by the Nativity of Jesus

Lord's Supper by Bartolomeo Carduccio
On the other hand the entrance of the Sun in Cancer and Summer Solstice represents the Gate of Men, i.e. the portal through which the soul leaves her source and descends, taking up a separated self and letting go of her multidimensional nature, which is exemplified by the Nativity of John the Baptist (24 June). 

The Winter Solstice represents spiritual nutrition, whereas the Summer Solstice embodies physical nourishment. Here the two solstices form a vertical axis, and their aim is more merging and integrating rather then excluding each other.

Similarly to the Chariot (see article: The Chariot - Cancer: AnAstroshamanic Voyage into the Tarot), the Summer Solstice, Cancer and John the Baptist represent the outer mystery, the God of the Old Testament and his old covenant, and whatever is visible for our physical perception, such as bodies, food, etc. This also includes all established earthly doctrines, whose aim, conscious or unconscious, is to lead the initiate to the threshold of the inner mystery. 

The outer mystery is based on our ancestors’ experience and law, which needs to be honoured, yet without jeopardising our own direct experience and connection with God, which is the inner mystery, what lies beyond the threshold.

The Christ epitomizes the inner mystery, the new covenant based on Love, the way of forgiveness that leads to the Kingdom of God, or Realm of Unity. John the Baptist, as outer mystery, is aimed to prepare the way before the emergence of the inner, to lead us to the threshold, yet not to take us over it.
"I baptize you with water for repentance.” says the Baptist, “But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matthew. 3:11-12).

When the outer mystery fails to give way to the inner mystery it becomes a major obstacle to the plan of Salvation. And yet here lies the mystery and the paradox of the threshold, since in such an initiatory stage there is an inevitable obstacle, a baffling challenge we are bound to confront.

Access to the inner mystery is viable only if I have fully learned how to feed myself spiritually. This involves being able to rely upon my direct connection with God, my capacity to receive spiritual nourishment from the Source and let go of any dependence upon other forms of nourishment. At that crucial stage I will not receive the support from any doctrine or outer traditions. 

There will not be anyone to feed me from the outer world, no spiritual master, priest, church, circle or community. I will be on my own, even encountering opposition and persecution from those who were previously walking side by side with me. The same food that was previously used to nourish, now may be employed to stone me. 

The Greek Chapel, Catacomb in Rome, Eucharist
I may also be excommunicated, which literally means being excluded from the community and from receiving the Holy Bread, the Eucharist. Yet, in this crucial stage what counts is my deep desire to receive true nourishment, and uncover the truth that lies beyond all illusions and fears, no matter how I seem to be deprived from all the deceptive nourishments of this separated world.

Would God consent to let His Son remain forever starved by his denial of the nourishment he needs to live? Abundance dwells in him, and deprivation cannot cut him off from God's sustaining Love and from his home.” (ACIM, W165:5-6)   

When the seeker is determined to receive true nourishment, he will receive it. He will let go of all provisional and bogus attachments, seeing them as forlorn defences against God.

I may not be in a luminous temple, surrounded by loving or supporting people, with uplifting hymns or magnetic drums, and not perhaps in a peaceful nature environment, or any other place where spiritual nourishment can easily be received, yet nevertheless God is here, God is present no matter what is happening around me, God is present in me. 

You, Lord, are in this place, your presence fills it, your presence is peace. You, Lord, are in my heart, your presence fills it, your presence is peace. You, Lord, are in my mind, your presence fills it, your presence is peace.(“You, Lord, are in this place”, Ray Simpson, Celtic Hymn Book).

The apparent rigidity and intolerance of some religious doctrines is not necessarily a sign of their failure to unveil the access to the inner mystery. The outer mystery is the guardian of the threshold to the inner mystery. And I can pass through the gateway only if I do not depend upon the nourishment of the outer mystery, and am able to find my way to a much deeper form of nourishment, which lies in the inner. 

Yet this does not mean that the outer mystery is bad, and letting go of it does not imply antagonism or resentment. It is like ceasing to be fed by one’s mother’s breast, or living my parents’ home, and learning to get and cook food on my own. And also this is not a linear process, which means that from time to time I may need to return to my original traditions and early nourishment.

Nevertheless the transition from outer to inner is likely to confront with major challenges. Here the antagonism between outer and inner mystery functions as a strategic test on the way of initiation, which is a path full of paradoxes. This is again part of the mystery.

“I tell you with certainty, among those born of women no one has appeared who is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least important person in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11)

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