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Category: Elmina’s Fire

Black and White

Black and White

Elmina de Beaupuys lived in the polarized world of the 13th century, a time when the medieval Church and the gnostic Cathars offered contrasting belief systems and vied for the minds and hearts of the people who lived in the Languedoc region of southern France. It was a time not so unlike ours today. No compromise seemed possible and Elmina’s heart craved the certainty preached by the traveling priest Dominic.

There are times when I know just how she feels, when I am almost rent in two by the arguments and vitriol of our times. I understand how any of us could be drawn to a savior who presents a black and white world and tells us exactly what path leads to our salvation, as an individual or a nation.

But I don’t believe choosing one side of a duality ever leads us to peace or to the fullness of God. In this country we are still fighting the Civil War and demonizing religious beliefs that contradict ours. In my own life, I’m still struggling against outdated theologies I could simply release. I’m not sure I know how to do it, but I’m clear that healing the schism is my life’s work

In just three weeks my novel Elmina’s Fire will be available from Amazon or for order at your local bookstore. I hope you will want to read it and will have compassion for a young woman trying to find her way in the most trying of times.

 

 

 

 

 

The Path to Perfection

The Path to Perfection

Almost all physical evidence of the medieval Cathars has been erased, systematically destroyed by the Roman Church.  What remains are a carving here, a button or an old coin there to suggest that the Cathars knew full well the healing power of mandalas.

Arthur Guirdham was a British psychiatrist who treated several clients who believed themselves to be the reincarnated souls of Cathar perfects. In his book The Great Heresy, he wrote that “Seven centuries ago the Cathars used [completing mandalas] to give insight into the nature and potentialities of those wished to be Parfaits,” both to weed out those with healing potential and to discern there particular aptitudes.

In Elmina’s Fire, the Signora Bonata introduces Elmina and her sisters to the Flower of Life as part of their journey on the path to perfection”. This is how I imagine it taking place:

“Can you teach us to drawn a Flor de la Vida like the one carved on Magdalena’s loom?” asked Amelha.

“Of course I can. It’s very easy,” the signora replied. She picked up a piece of charcoal and tied a length of twine to it. She instructed Amelha, “Just put your finger on the twine and hold it fast. Now move the charcoal around it.”

Amelha drew a perfect circle on the table and my heart tightened in envy.

“Next place the end of your twine on any part of the circle. Hold it fast and then draw another circle.” Amelha did as she was told.

“Do you see where the circles intersect? Place the twine at one of those intersections ad draw another circle, and then another until you have made a flower,” continued Na Bonata.

“This is the seed in which all things find their being,” she said.

I wondered what she meant, but she went on. “God’s kingdom is like an everlasting circle. Right here in its center is the divine heart. Each circle is the love of God, sent out in all directions. Look at the petals formed when the circles meet. They make a rose of purest perfection, the rose each one of you can be.

“Now watch,” Bonata said. She took the charcoal from Amelha and added more circles to the the drawing.

As I looked down upon the Flor, I thought that I could feel its energy moving within me. “The roses could go on forever,” I commented.

“Indeed they do,” replied the signora. “They are your souls, all roses and all held within the fullness of God’s love. Do not forget this Flor. Thinking upon it can give you great healing in the most trying of times.”

Consolamentum

Consolamentum

There is a troubling problem, one that no one has been able to answer in a fully satisfying way. It’s connected to the First Cause, the question of How did something come out of nothing? How did the perfect Oneness hypothesized by most religions give rise to multiplicity, in all its complexity and chaos? The problem gets more personal when we confront it on a daily level. Why do things fall apart? Why is that that bad things happen to good people?

The medieval Cathars developed their own response to the vexing problem of evil. Unable to reconcile the idea of a benevolent God with disaster, disease and depravity, they posited a cosmic dualism much like the Manichaens and early gnostics. In my upcoming novel Elmina’s Fire, this is how the Cathar bishop Guilhabert describes it to Elmina:

“The world is overrun with evil,” Guilhabert told us. “Most men look no further that the selfish cravings of their own bodies, and there is no end to their cruelty. . . . Look at the violence that pervades the Languedoc, the horrid diseases that ravish our towns, and the wickedness of the Roman Church. A loving God would never have created a world so given to lust and devastation. Nor would He allow so much misery to still surround us.’”

“Guilhabert went on to explain that there must be two gods, a Good One and a Bad One. The Good One is the God of the New Testament, the God of Light and Love who shimmers as the backdrop underneath the world of matter. It is the Good God who
created our souls and to whom our souls will finally return. This God abides in heaven and sends the Holy Spirit to accompany and strengthen us, but He cannot enter into the morass.

“The other God is a Bad God, a kind of demiurge whom some people call Satan or the Devil. This God was the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the God who created our world as his own playground. He is a jealous God, one who requires unwavering loyalty and obedience to his laws. When his people disobey, Jehovah extracts cruel retribution.

“Our problem,” Guilhabert went on, “is that this Jehovah has entrapped our souls in a prison of flesh. He has created all manner of temptations. He’s made the warmth of spring, the petals of the rose, even the tender beauty of a maiden to keep us tethered to this world. It is the illusion of pleasure and beauty that keep us mired in his own sinful playground. When we look for the hand of God in the physical world, we fall prey to Satan’s clever scheme.”

The Cathars believed that there was a way out of the human predicament. God had sent Jesus Christ to show them the path back to spiritual perfection by fasting and cleansing the body of all sin, receiving the sacrament of the the Consolamentum, and becoming a perfect. The receipt of the Spirit prepared the perfecti to live free of carnal desire and to offer healing ministrations. And by liberating the spirit from the confines of flesh, it promised an end to the cycle of rebirth and a return to God.

This mandala shows a monument to the Cathars at Minerve depicting the descent of the Spirit superimposed against the flower of life.

Le Jeu d’Adam

Le Jeu d’Adam

Sometime around the end of the 12th century a morality play emerged in the Occitan region of southern France called “Le Jeu d’Adam.” On the surface it recounts the stories of Genesis about humanity’s fall: the temptation in the Garden of Eden and Cain’s jealous fratricide. It also offers a dire warning to the growing number of Cathars and Waldensians who were considered “enemies of the Church.” In my upcoming novel “Elmina’s Fire,” I’ve told the story from the point of view of a pious Catholic girl who is tormented by fiery demons and jealousy towards her younger sister. She laments:

The next day was Good Friday and I spent the day in church with Papa and Amelha. As I confessed my sinful heart, I prayed for its release. My soul, like Cain’s, had been branded with the sin of envy, and I begged you, God, to show me a different path. That Easter, I once more stood transfixed before the sacred host and gratefully took Christ’s body into my own. How I wanted to believe that my soul had been wiped clean; but, Dearest God, the flames of envy and desire still burned within me, and I knew it wasn’t so.

As I try to digest each new atrocity that comes out of Washington, I must accept that human nature hasn’t much changed. The jealousy and rivalries that rule our land threaten to destroy our once great nation. I shudder at what might be in store for those our president now deems to be “enemies of the people.” And I pray that I will have the courage and the strength to stand up for them in a way Elmina could not do.

 

Who am I? …

Who am I? …

I wake up to a message ding from my phone: Flood warning for your area.

Don’t be discouraged, I tell myself. We need the rain. It’s a fine day to stay indoors and curl up with a good book.

But then another voice kicks in. You can start work on some the publicity tasks for Elmina’s Fire that you’ve been putting off.

My stomach sinks. I never dreamed there would be so much labor connected with giving birth to a book, work that I don’t feel competent at or suited for. Build my blog from 25 followers to 25,000; connect with famous people to ask for endorsements; arrange public speaking engagements; make a video trailer; plan a book launch event; go visit all your friends and relatives so you can give book talks near them.

ACK! I feel like Moses when God told him to return from Midea and lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Who am I? … I dread all this! I am tongue-tied, an introvert who abhors the stage. Yet somehow I’ve been given the story of Elmina to tell. I may want to crawl back under the covers, but I want to publish that story even more than I want to hide. And so on this rainy day, I will get up, write my blog, make a list of people to ask for endorsements, and go on-line to see if I can learn something about Instagram and Twitter. Look out world, here I come!

Wayfinders

Wayfinders

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I’ve just started participating in a group founded by Darreby Ambler called Wayfinders. Our purpose is to discern God’s call to us at this moment in our lives, to identify a specific goal directed towards that purpose, to create a map and action steps to make that goal manageable, and to form a support group to both inspire one another and hold us each accountable to our chosen way.

There’s a big goal looming over me right now, so big it seems almost overwhelming. On June 14 my novel Elmina’s Fire will be published through She Writes Press. The mandalas are painted. The manuscript is in. I’ve written an acknowledgment of all those who have made this work possible, especially those who have served as spiritual guides over the past forty years, the wise “Brother Noels” in my life. And I’ve dedicated the book “to those who have had to walk away from the spiritual abuse of church and to those who have chosen to stay in the hope of changing it.”

Now I need to develop what they call an “author’s platform.” That means that I have to step outside my introverted shell and put myself out there so that by the time Elmina comes out, there’s a group of people who know who I am. I’m being encouraged not only to maintain a blog but to give talks, write articles for e-zines, send out my manuscript for reviews and enter writing contests. They’re even suggesting I enter the world of Twitter.

ACK!!!!!!

As I worked with my resistance towards doing these things, I made an important discovery. It’s not that I’m afraid to write or teach or use the computer. I’ve done these things most of my life. What I’m really wary of is revealing my deepest self, the self revealed in the life of a sensitive, mystical medieval girl who is plagued by inner demons she’s afraid to confront. I do not really believe that it’s OK to bare my soul.

With this realization I could see that my Wayfinders Goal is more than just “to publicize and market Elmina’s Fire.” It is to dare to believe that it’s OK to share my heart and that Elmina’s Fire is my gift .

And that, I guess is the challenge that faces us all- to dare to come out from under that bushel and let our little light shine.