Abstracting the Gnostic Mass
1 August 1998 e.v.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Soror Helena and I were recently invited to attend a Gnostic Mass workshop held at a beautiful wilderness facility north of Sydney, Australia. Many thanks to Soror Shalimar, Frater Numa, and our Sisters and Brothers from Oceania Lodge, Darkwood Oasis, Alpha and Omega Oasis and Serpente et Astrum Camp, who received us with splendid hospitality. Despite the Mother of all Jet Lags and occasional culture clash over such things as spaghetti on toast for breakfast, we found the workshop to be a wonderfully interesting and stimulating experience. Fresh perspectives seem never to fail to bring fresh revelations about Liber XV. I always try to take away something new when ever I see the Mass celebrated by new faces, and I did not leave empty-handed this time.
In structuralizing (internally processing, describing, interpreting, and evaluating) any event (such as attending a Gnostic Mass), we all abstract from the raw data presented to us; i.e, we perceive only a fraction of the data available, and of that, we accept only a fraction for each level of our internal data processing. This limited data set is, of course, subject to ordinary error, but it is also subject to coloration by our individual psychological reactions to sights, smells, sounds and language. Once we have accepted this “filtered” and “tinted” data set into our minds, we process it by filling in the data gaps with assumptions based on our past experiences and our beliefs, thus creating associations and inferences about the event. Since the observer is always a participant, at some level, in the event being observed, the observer’s inferences about the event can return to influence the event itself.
This is why the Gnostic Mass can seem so different when we participate in one at a new location, even when it is technically true to Liber XV. The performance of the Gnostic Mass will always be influenced by the inferences of the participants; and, since we are “time-binding” creatures, many of these inferences are passed down from one “generation” of participants to the next in a particular area.
Many (probably most) of us, when we first experience a Gnostic Mass which is very different from the Gnostic Masses we are used to, will react rather negatively. Because it was influenced by a different set of inferences than ours, and these inferences were based on a different abstracted data set and different assumptions, it will not convey the same “meaning” we are accustomed to, and it will, thus, seem strange or even “wrong.” If we are accustomed to interpreting the Gnostic Mass as an allegory of the sexual process, we may be uneasy with its interpretation as an allegory of the individual’s path of initiation, or as an exposition of Qabalistic cosmology. If we are accustomed to experiencing the Gnostic Mass as a beautiful, solemn, and stately service, we may be uncomfortable with its presentation as a joyful, boisterous celebration. If we are accustomed to encountering the Priestess as a warm and accessible Venus, we may be troubled by her unveiling as a distant, icily alluring Artemis; or as a terrible, radiant Athena.
This difficulty can be largely overcome by simply being aware of the structuralization process described above. When we travel to new locations as individuals, we should keep our minds open, and use the opportunity to broaden our perspective and learn something new. And, as we stage our local Masses, we should continually question our own assumptions, inferences and “local traditions” pertaining to the Mass. We should try to supplement our abstracted data set, actually rereading Liber XV occasionally; by listening, with an open mind, to the ideas of others; and by trying to approach the Mass with the eyes of a child, with the expectation that we will be shown something new every time.
The Gnostic Mass is a Well which will never run dry, unless we stop it up with the debris of our own ideas and habits.
Love is the law, love under will.