23: The Collected Works of C.J. Cala

This comprehensive new introduction looks at spiritual experiences from past to present, from the experiences of the founders of the major world religious.

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Poetry is also a way of knowing, much like dreaming. She values the inner and imaginary, because it is the source of creativity. Poetry explores the far reaches of the psyche and the depths of feeling in a heightened language carried by breath. At its best, we can call poetry a language of the soul. Many women were wrestling with issues of soul proportion and daring to express the most personal and intimate experiences of being human and female in our time.

The Psychology of Initiation Rites

After two thousand years of patriarchy, a history marked with periods of persecution, witch burning, torture, severe punishment and repression of all dark others, especially women, the silence was about to be broken wide open. Chiavola Birnbaum fully documents, [v] began to give voice to what eventually became a feminist spiritual movement and its poetry. While initiation in ancient times took place in the temple after many years of preparation, modern women poets of the spirit often began their journeys unconsciously, the result of years of inner turmoil and outer situations with people who did not validate them.

Often unprepared for a spiritual ordeal, the poet was driven inward by an energy larger than herself; if she survived the encounter, she could pull from the deep, the new image and energy from which to create, heal and continue. Two pioneering poets who contributed to an earlier evolution of the feminine communal soul were Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. Daniela Gioseffi, Diane Di Prima, Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, Starhawk and myself were some of the poets who found that protesting and rebelling, though important for exposing the evils of lopsided patriarchy, were not enough to heal them.

To heal, one had to confront, time and again, the collective negative beliefs about the feminine and their brutal manifestations, and then transform them one by one within. While the new poets also experienced a deep despair over the old values of patriarchy and the abuses it spawned, they did so with one major and important difference- a conscious identification with the re-emergent Mother Goddess, and the values she stood for: justice, compassion, equality, peace, and love.

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This recognition of our true godliness and beauty was as significant for women spiritually, as the large-scale movement of feminists and all it accomplished was for us secularly. With the re-emergence of the Dark Mother, we now had a legacy upon which to draw. We sought and found that she was there all along waiting to be re-discovered in pre-Christian forms. She was indeed everywhere! Out of this symbolic re-enactment of the creation myth, a new individual is born. Its function must be understood in relation to what it prepares: birth to a higher mode of being.

All religions began as fertility cults, Frazer asserts. However, as these fertility cults were abandoned, the death-rebirth myths remained, reflecting a psychological need in humans to symbolically die and be reborn into a spiritual life. Initiation rites serve as a means to achieve this.

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The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung argued that death and resurrection are archetypal universal processes which are part of the collective unconscious the innate realm of the human mind containing archetypes — universal symbols which shape our personal experiences. For Jung, the archetypal processes of death and resurrection can be utilised in the task of psychological transformation and growth.

Indeed, this is what seems to be occurring in initiation rites. The Road of Trials includes a series of tests, tasks or ordeals the hero must undergo in order to achieve transformation.

Crossing the Return Threshold involves retaining the wisdom gained on the journey, integrating that wisdom into their lives and sharing that wisdom with the rest of the community. Many traditional initiation rites may seem barbaric and cruel from a Western point of view, but in light of the archetype of the monomyth, it is easy to see why they are practised. Here are some examples of some particularly painful initiation rites.

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These, of course, are quite extreme examples. A good documentary on this kind of hazing is Frat House. Initiation into a gang will often involve taking a beating by fellow gang members. The fact that initiation rites still exist in modern society, albeit devoid of sacred meaning, suggests that they are central to human psychology. There is no doubt that initiation into a fraternity, a gang or a secret society enhances group bonding and a feeling of community.

This study, entitled Going to College and Unpacking Hazing , for example, found that the hazing initiation ceremonies produce conformity among new members, which contributes to group solidarity.


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Another study, entitled The Anticipation of a Severe Initiation , found that initiation increases feelings of group attraction, but only with men. It is this newly attained wisdom which allows the initiate to function as a valuable member of that society. As social animals, humans have depended on group affiliation for survival and today we depend on it for our own well-being.

It is easy to see, then, why initiation rites are so widely practised and why they still persist in modern society. Yet they could not think of it as other than His work, since God, as all their national tradition taught, is One. It interpreted for them, as we might put it in our more cautious way, the creative reality to which they, with all men, had looked with uncertainty and even with fear. Henceforth the central hypothesis which men call God was known as love, and everywhere He was made manifest just in so far as love had passed out from Christ to the fellowship of the Christian community.

Christ had risen, and by His Resurrection proved that humanity had in it the seed of life, and that there was no death for the man who could follow in the steps of the Master. In the past, being wholly engrossed with consideration of the Crucifixion, we have been apt to forget the fact of the Resurrection. Yet on Easter Day, throughout the world, believers everywhere express their belief in the risen Christ and in the life beyond the grave.

They have argued along many lines as to the possibility of His rising, and whether He rose as a human being or as the Son of God. They have been deeply concerned to prove that because He rose again, so shall we rise, provided we believe in Him. In order to meet the theological need of proving that God is love, we have invented a place of discipline, called by many names, such as purgatory, or the various stages of the different faiths on the road of departed spirits to heaven, because so many millions die, or have died, without ever having heard of Christ.

Therefore belief in Him as an historical figure is not possible for them. We have evolved such doctrines as conditional immortality, and the atonement through the blood of Jesus, in an endeavour to glorify the personality of Jesus and safe-guard Christian believers, and to reconcile human interpretations with the truth in the Gospels. We have taught the doctrine of hell-fire and eternal punishment, and then tried to fit it in to the general belief that God is love.

Yet the truth is that Christ died and rose again because He was divinity immanent in a human body. Through the processes of evolution and initiation He demonstrated to us the meaning and purpose of the divine life present in Him and in us all. Because Christ was human, He rose again. Because He was also divine, He rose again, and in the enacting of the drama of resurrection He revealed to us that great concept of the continuity of unfoldment which it has ever been the task of the Mysteries of all time to reveal.

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Again and again we have found that the three episodes related in the Gospel story are not isolated happenings in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, but that they have been repeatedly undergone in the secret places of the Temples of the Mysteries, from the dawn of time. The Saviours of the past were all [] subjected to the processes of death in some form or other, but they all rose again or were translated to glory. In the initiation ceremonies this burial and resurrection at the end of three days was a familiar ceremonial.

History tells us of many of these Sons of God who died and rose again, and finally ascended into Heaven. We find, for instance, that "the Obsequies of Adonis were celebrated in Alexandria in Egypt with the utmost display. His image was carried with great solemnity to a tomb, which served the purpose of rendering him the last honours. Before singing his return to life, there were mournful rites celebrated in honour of his suffering and his death. The large wound which he received was shown, just as the wound was shown which was made to Christ by the thrust of the spear.

The feast of his resurrection was fixed at the 25th of March. To the latter, Ovid addressed the following words:. All hail! Shall heal the nations and defraud the tomb. Swift be Thy growth, Thy triumphs unconfined. Make kingdoms thicken and increase mankind. Then shalt Thou die, but from the dark abode. These words might have been appropriately addressed to Christ, and they serve to indicate the antiquity of the Mystery Teaching which, with unbroken continuity, has revealed the divinity in Man and shown him the Way of a Saviour.

But in ancient times these mysteries were enacted in [] secret, and the rites of initiation were administered only to those who were fitted to pass through the five great experiences from the Birth to the Resurrection. The uniqueness of Christ's work lay in the fact that He was the first to enact the whole of the initiation ceremonial rites and ritual publicly, before the world at large, thus giving to humanity a demonstration of divinity centred in one person, so that all could see, could know, believe and follow in His steps.

The same stories are told of Hercules, of Baldur, of Mithra, of Bacchus, and of Osiris, to mention only a few of a large number.

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One of the early Church Fathers, Firmicus Maternus, tells us that the mysteries of Osiris bear a close resemblance to the Christian teaching, and that after the resurrection of Osiris his friends rejoice together, saying, "We have found him. He was brought into the chamber of Initiation, and was stretched on the ground with his arms extended, sometimes on a cross of wood, sometimes merely on the stone floor, in the posture of a crucified man.

The body was placed in a sarcophagus of stone, and there left, carefully guarded. In that he returned to the body of flesh, to re-animate it.

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The cross bearing that body, or the entranced and rigid body, if no cross had been used, was lifted out of the sarcophagus and placed on a sloping surface, facing the east, ready for the rising of the sun on the third day. At the moment that the rays of the sun touched the face, the Christ, the perfected Initiate or Master, re-entered the body, glorifying it by the bliss body He was wearing, changing the body of flesh by contact with the body of bliss, giving [] it new properties, new powers, new capacities, transmuting it into His own likeness.

That was the Resurrection of the Christ, and thereafter the body of flesh itself was changed, and took on a new nature. Thus we find that the resurrection story is of very ancient date, and that God has always held before humanity, through the Mysteries and through His illumined Sons, the fact of immortality, as before our Christian world, through the death and resurrection of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

This whole problem of death and immortality is engrossing a great deal of public attention at this time. The World War brought the fact of death before the public consciousness in a new and arresting manner. There was scarcely a family in over twenty nations which had not been bereft by death, in some form or other.


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The world has passed through a process of dying, and at the present time the mystery of the Resurrection is becoming a theme of major importance in men's minds. The thought of the Resurrection is coming closer, and its significance has been the central idea of the Masonic Fraternity down the ages, forming the focal point of the work of the sublime Third Degree.

In close relation to this Masonic "raising" can be placed a little-known sermon of the Buddha, in which He teaches His disciples the significance of the "five points of Friendship," and thus links up these five points, the five crises in the life of Christ and the five points in the Masonic legend. All these references serve to show the continuity of revelation of which the Resurrection with its subsequent Ascension was the climaxing event for the Occident.

The outstanding need of Christianity today is to emphasise the living, risen Christ. We have argued too long over the death of Christ, seeking to impose a narrow sectarian Christ upon the world. We have fed the fires of separation by our Christian divisions, churches, sects and "isms.