I feel like I'm being overly obvious. Surely I'm not the only one who has thought of this:
|"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.|
|"But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.|
Yet here we are again, on Ash Wednesday, with a bunch of pious folk wandering about with smudged foreheads.
Oh, I've got mine, too. Don't worry. I haven't been going to church much lately, and it seems that my fanatical side has taken a long sabbatical (see what I did there?), so I mostly did it because I like going to church with my wife. There's something very comforting in engaging in rituals like that with her.
The symbolism of the ritual particularly struck me today, though. The ashes are applied right over the third-eye chakra (or Ajna), between the eyes, with the ritual words, "Dust you are, and to dust you shall return." The usual explanation is that we remember our sinfulness and our need for the salvation of Christ, but it struck me that there might be a different explanation.
The third eye (not an actual "eye," btw, in case anybody's feeling particularly bloody literal minded) symbolizes our ability to see things as they are, leaning toward the interconnectedness of all things. Through the application of the ashes, we remind ourselves of our inability to see things as they really are, because of the various ways in which we obscure our true vision, which leads to incorrect action. We then pledge, through fasting and austerities over the next forty days, to clean it, and return to our original state of clarity and love.
I mentioned this to Katie with my usual pedantry, saying how the church probably doesn't even know the symbolism of their own rituals, and she, with characteristic ease, took me down a peg. "Sure they know," she said. "They might have forgotten, but you know that somebody thought of this stuff at some point." Which is most likely true.
I'm probably talking like this more lately because I recently started back up on my meditation practice, which mostly involves continuing to do yoga everyday and adding in some visualization exercises from The Golden Dawn handbook. It's been really helpful in continuing the upward swing I've been experiencing in the last year or so. I'm learning to manage my moods, and my brain seems to be working better. Cleaner.
With the advanced techniques out there (chaos magick and the like) I'm basically hacking my brain with the ritual equivalent of a Commodore 64. Frankly, I don't want anything higher octane right now, as I might end up with a head full of shoggoths. There are rituals and techniques that, supposedly, can send you right up the lightning path to godhead, but I'm content to keep working the slow and steady route. I just keep plugging everyday, little by little chipping away at the barnacle of self.