February 23rd, 2005

AC Pensive

"the communion of Saints"

93, all!

Given how frequently I "canonize" people -- living and dead, on this page and elsewhere -- perhaps I'd best explain my own sense of Thelemic "sainthood."

The historical notion of sainthood is itself ill-understood, thanks perhaps to the decades, and not infrequently centuries, that go into the Roman church's process of canonization. Most are surprised to learn what Roman sainthood actually means: that it's simply an authoritative papal assertion that the soul of a given dead person has made it into heaven. Traditionally, believers prayed for the souls of the dead, in hopes of aiding their journey from purgatory into heaven; they prayed to the saints in hope of receiving their intercession with the divine*. I suspect that the infrequency of Roman canonization has as much to do with protecting the notion of church infallibility in matters of faith and doctrine as anything else.

While I well understand the EGC's desire to regularize the process of Thelemic canonization, I confess I share Uncle Al's rather more casual approach: significant efforts to advance the cause of human freedom make one plenty saintly enough for me, and I make no bones about sainting people willy-nilly. Historical context is important, too, I think: attitudes quite widespread today used to get one ostracized, pilloried, or worse, hence those who espoused such views when it cost something get major points with me...as well as a tendency to pass over in silence some of their less appealing qualities. That said, many living people meet my definition: I have notable Thelemic Saints on my LJ Friends list, however much antipathy I may feel to some of their beliefs, statements and whatnot. (And Discordian sainthood, like Discordian papal status, is an even easier cut, of course. ;) )

I confess a deep-set and surly prejudice against those who take it upon themselves to slam those I consider saints**; however valid their criticisms may or may not otherwise be, I consider it churlish to insult those who have made significant efforts to advance the cause of human freedom. It always sounds to me like a species of insecurity: "Look at me, I'm so important that I'm in a position to slur my betters." At the least, one might wish to rack up some pretty significant accomplishments of one's own before taking it upon oneself to express disdain for those who've gone before, who have cut away brush so that others might walk more freely. I don't find it surprising that those I consider the most accomplished tend often to be the least willing to disparage the efforts of others. Those who can, do; those who cannot, snark***. :P

Life itself is no cakewalk, and a life lived in the attempt to advance human freedom is harder still. One who hopes to gain my own settled contempt can find few surer ways than to badmouth the saints.

93 93/93 -- AJ

* Neither is relevant to Thelemic sainthood, of course; it's a recognition of human efforts, with no metaphysical implications.
** Not those who disagree with my choice of saints, mind you. Each to his own.
*** "But aren't you snarking here, AJ?" Sure -- but at attitudes, not people. (I should also probably mention that this part of the post was prompted by an overheard comment IRL last night, not anything on anybody's LJ. Peace to all beings. :D )

On Meeting Buddha on the Road

93, all!

In a reply to my last post, the estimable agent139 reminds me of one of the best-known, and least understood, bits of Zen teaching: the one usually shorthanded as "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." I haven't read the modern book with that title, which may (or may not) be the source of the common misconception of its meaning, but let's dispense with the misconception once and for all!...and yet (in typically Zen fashion) end up in substantial agreement with said misconception itself, anyway, as well as with the original statement which gave rise to it. ;) Collapse )