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Blog of the Grateful Bear

ramblings of a freelance panentheist {"all things are in God, and God is in all things"} . . . musings on Emergent spirituality, powerlifting, LGBTQueer issues, contemplative prayer, mysticism, cats, music, healing, and more. I like my coffee and my existentialism dark-roasted.

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Location: Marietta, Georgia, United States

I'm an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), in private practice in Marietta, Georgia. My writings on queer spirituality have been published in Whosoever and several other magazines. I live in a house-in-the-woods (Bear's Hermitage) in Marietta with Leonidas (Lenny) and Guy, Mighty Warrior Cats, and way too many books.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Magdalene Mystique

When we are separated from our roots in God, we are out of “harmony,” according to the Gospel of Mary. That is why the Teacher says, “Be in harmony. If you are out of balance, take inspiration from manifestations of your true nature” (Leloup translation). How fresh this sounds to our ears! Becoming harmonious involves becoming conscious of our true nature and recognizing of our true rootedness in God. The process of coming into balance, into health, and into life, is a process of recognizing our own divine humanity within. We are made in the image of God; we mirror God, we result from God, we exist in God. Recognition of our true nature begins a movement into harmony and health. This is a different voice than that of Paul, who emphasizes our sinfulness, rather than our goodness; this is a different orientation where our true nature is the focus rather than our vulnerability to evil. In this Gospel we are called into an interior place of recognizing our own divine humanity within.

That’s an excerpt from a beautiful new book, The Magdalene Mystique: Living the Spirituality of Mary Today, by Betty Conrad Adam, an Episcopal priest in Houston. I found this little treasure at the Cathedral Bookstore in Atlanta, and I find that it captures perfectly my own feelings about Mary Magdalene. I have been very drawn to Mary lately, at times feelings a very real and sacred sense of her presence. I’m drawn to Mary Magdalene not as “Mrs. Jesus” or as “the holy grail” but as a visionary prophet in her own right.

The Magdalene Mystique provides a historical overview of how Mary Magdalene has been perceived through the centuries: how she was originally portrayed as the Apostle to the Apostles, then later seen as a prostitute; how parts of her story were replaced by some theologians (including Ephrem the Syrian) by the Virgin Mary; how Mary Magdalene was portrayed in the canonical gospels as well as in the writings of the medieval mystics Marguerite Porete and Theresa of Avila. But this is no dry historical text: the Rev. Adams weaves in her own personal journey into Magdalene spirituality, telling the story of the Magdalene Community that meets each month at an interfaith chapel in Houston. (I’m honored that this community chose to use one of my own writings to open their circle on March 25th.)

The Rev. Adams writes very movingly about finding Mary Magdalene in unexpected places, including an excavated wall-painting in Syria that dates back to the year 232. She writes of the resonances between Mary Magdalene and Miriam the Prophetess (from the Torah) as well as the even older archetype of Psyche. She returns several times to Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis’ masterful retelling of the Psyche story.

The Magdalene Mystique also looks at the Coptic Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the sacred text upon which the Magdalene Community in Houston is based. The Rev. Adams shows how this and other texts from early Christian communities portray Mary Magdalene as a reconciling presence, as an apostle of love and mystical experience. She references the Magdalene scholar Esther de Boer, who “has demonstrated that a Stoic perspective stands behind the Gospel of Mary. This view gives a positive view of the material world and the body. The Stoic perspective of the interconnectedness of all things in the cosmos is brought together with a Christian understanding of Jesus as the Human One that now dwells within the disciples.”

One especially valuable feature of The Magdalene Mystique is the appendix that contains three different translations of the Gospel of Mary, side by side in parallel columns. The versions included are by Esther de Boer; the rather scholarly version by Karen L. King; and my favorite, from the French Orthodox priest Jean-Yves Leloup. This parallel translation is worth the price of the book all by itself.

But this book is valuable in so many other respects, too. If you’d like to understand why so many people today, including me, are drawn to Mary Magdalene – not because of The Da Vinci Code or “the lost tomb of Jesus” but because of Mary’s visionary wisdom and healing presence – The Magdalene Mystique is a great introduction to “living the spirituality of Mary today.”

Friday, March 23, 2007

Episcopal Church: Proclaiming the Gospel

One more reason I’m proud to be Episcopalian . . .

The leadership of the Episcopal Church has affirmed its inclusion of gay and lesbian members and has rejected the demands of conservatives for a parallel leadership structure.

Here’s the news story from The New York Times, March 22, 2007:
Episcopal Church Rejects Demands for a 2nd Leadership

From the statement issued by the church’s House of Bishops:

“We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God.”

Monday, March 19, 2007


Two short but beautiful audio meditations on Gratefulness are available for download from the Wisdom of the World website. The meditations feature Brother David Steindl-Rast, founder of the website Gratefulness.org. There’s also a very brief “Introduction to Gratefulness.org.” Click here for the download page.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rest In Peace: Jean Baudrillard

The French sociologist and philosopher Jean Baudrillard has passed away. Much of the media coverage about his death has focused on his influence on The Matrix movies. But my friend and fellow blogger Heidi has posted a very moving and personal remembrance of her own experiences with Jean Baudrillard. She has also generously given us a host of links to follow to find out more about this incredible thinker. Check out her post dated March 7:

My deepest sympathies are with Heidi and her husband as they mourn the loss of their friend.

Photograph: Heidi with Baudrillard


cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

“The Lost Tomb of Jesus”

The Detroit Free Press has published an article about “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” (the new Discovery Channel documentary from James Cameron) that includes Marcus Borg’s response to the discovery of what may or may not be “the family tomb of Jesus.” Here are some excerpts from the article:

. . . At Oregon State University, internationally known Bible scholar Marcus Borg said, “All I know about this is what popped up in an AOL news alert today, but bottom line, I’m very skeptical. They’re claiming that the particular set of names found in this tomb make this Jesus’ family, but those names are all so common that this claim is extraordinarily speculative.”

. . . Borg raised a question about the advertisements for the documentary that claim it represents a “Revelation That Could Change Everything.”

Millions of Christians around the world believe that Jesus’ resurrection after his crucifixion by Roman authorities was physical. But Borg said millions more believe that what happened after the crucifixion was spiritual in nature.

“I do think it’s impossible for these filmmakers to prove their claim that this is the tomb of Jesus’ family,” Borg said. “But I also think it raises an interesting question to ask ourselves: What do we believe about the resurrection and Easter? For me, and I think for a lot of other Christians, it wouldn’t matter if the bones of Jesus were discovered someday, because I don't think Easter was about what happened to a body.”

That’s a provocative point of view that Borg has explored in several best-selling books about Christianity.

~ from Filmmaker says he’s discovered tomb of Jesus: Scholars decry film’s claims, by David Crumm, February 27, 2007, The Detroit Free Press

I think Dr. Borg raises a valid point, one he has raised before. In a 1999 PBS program, Dr. Borg made these statements about the resurrection of Jesus:

I do believe in the resurrection of Jesus. I’m just skeptical that it involved anything happening to his corpse.

. . . The truth of Easter really has nothing to do with whether the tomb was empty on a particular morning 2,000 years ago or whether anything happened to the corpse of Jesus. I see the truth of Easter as grounded in the Christian experience of Jesus as a living spiritual reality of the present.

. . . I think the Easter stories are true in the sense that the followers of Jesus really did have experiences of Jesus as a living reality after his death. I don't think those stories are simply saying his memory lives on. I think they had visionary experiences. I think they had experiences of him as a presence within the life of the community.

~ from The Resurrection of Jesus, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, March 26, 1999, PBS

More on “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” online:

“Official Site” of the Documentary: www.JesusFamilyTomb.com

The Discovery Channel: The Lost Tomb of Jesus

The New York Times: Leaning on Theory, Colliding With Faith

MSNBC: Claims about Jesus’ ‘lost tomb’ stirs up tempest

How important is a literal resurrection to the Christian faith? Did the post-Easter Jesus have a “resurrection body” that was different from his physical body? If these bones are indeed the physical bones of Jesus, would that negate our experiences of the living Christ?

Bohemian Cats

Two feline images from On the wild coast of Bohemia, the blog of Baba Studio in Prague, producers of my favorite Tarot deck, the Tarot of Prague, as well as the Baroque Bohemian Cats' Tarot.

Tarot and the Christian Wisdom Tradition (website under development).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Jazz Cat Dance

The CD, Mingus at the Bohemia (1955), starts off quietly, with just the bass. Kato the mystical cat turns his head toward the CD player beside the bed, ears twitching. When the saxophone comes in, cool and mellow, Kato closes his eyes and raises his head up, as if in meditative bliss. Soon all the instruments are playing and Kato begins the cat dance, kneading the bedspread with his paws, occasionally moving back-and-forth or from side-to-side in a rhythmic dance. From time to time he integrates a yoga asana into the dance: Upward-Facing Cat, or Downward-Facing Cat, or a graceful back arch (Halloween Cat). Then he sits like the Sphinx, paws outward, eyes closed, head up, letting the music wash over him as he purrs contentedly.