Thursday, May 5, 2011

Odun d'Arechaga has passed....

On January 13, 2011, Odun d'Arechaga passed away. Born Frederick d'Arechaga, he died peacefully in his sleep. Odun had been incapacitated by a stroke since 2005. He is mourned by all his godchildren, his lay students, and his many friends. I had hoped to include more biographical notes here, but none have been forthcoming from his godchildren. I knew him for many years and was a lay student, hoping one day to become an initiate. He was very controversial, and very outspoken. He gave freely of his time and energy, and committed his life to the ideal of the Sabaean philosophy. The Temple of the Moon in Chicago was truly a wonder while it existed, and while it stood, was an example of what can be done with dedication and enthusiasm. He will be deeply missed.

I waited this long to post this entry partly in hopes of obtaining a little more simple biographical information, and to allow the Sabaean Religious Organization put his affairs in order, and hold private services (godchildren only) for him. As I was not a godchild, I did not attend.

If any of Odun's godchildren wish to furnish a simple biographical sketch, they can email me and I will amend this posting.

But ultimately, I think Odun would be happy with this simple note. He stated repeatedly that Sabaeanism was not about him. I know that a godchild tried at one time to put together an official biography, and Odun told him that he would prefer that the godchild didn't proceed.

Odun, may the omniscient, omnipresent existence, which is the source of life for all that exists, above and below, allow the peace, eminence, and redemptive illuminance of its presence to surround you...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Amn & Theisms

Amn is the basis of all existence and non-existence. It stands beyond any paradigm the mind (Ori) can concieve. As stated in previous entries, Amn is a title, not a name. It's a term the Egyptians used, meaning "hidden", that force which like the wind, moves the flag, but is not itself visible.

Odun framed the paradigms of theism this way, and I think it's one of the most helpful things he ever taught (I am paraphrasing him, remembering as best I can):

The rational, intelligent modern man knows there is no objective, dispassionate, non-poetic proof of God/Gods. This is Atheism, and it gives rise to Objective & Verifiable Dispassionate Observation--Science.

The keen observer soon begins to recognize an eloquence in nature, themes and "signatures" and sees an underlying sacredness, a "Spirit" in all things being what they are, manifesting in each unique instance of creation...a natural symphony, if you will. Recognizing the sacred in all nature is Pantheism, and gives rise to a sense of Aesthetics.

Upon further investigation, one notices that each part of Nature is true to its own nature manfesting this Spirit: Hawks "hawk", Storms "storm". This is Polytheism, and it gives rise to Ethics.

One then observes that all this is part of one gigantic existence, that it has a single source, and this is Monotheism, and it gives rise to Politics.

Then one remembers (or comes upon for the first time) the idea of Amn, Tao, whatever...that it's a Mystery, it can't be explained or categorized, and there is much that is hidden and sublime. Moreover, that consciousness/perception/creation/art is capable of altering reality radically, indisputably, objectively. This is Henotheism (the belief in a personal god, which may change over time and at various times, without the exclusion of other gods), and it gives rise to Metaphysics.

Then one realizes with delight, that this is all illusion, that nothing of the above can be objectively proven, and it brings one back to Atheism and Science once again to begin the cycle over.

Odun said that people favor each of the viewpoints at various times, some never coming to agree with particular ones, or stubbornly holding only one viewpoint and never being able to see the others. An intelligent few are able to hold some or all views in their mind more or less at the same time, or better still, see a toolbox of useful paradigms. Metaphysics is not useful to construct a building. Atheism doesn't concern itself with art, or the definition of love.

Odun described Sabaeanism as "kata-henotheistic" but in deference to the above. I'm sure you're literate enough to recognize a "re-packaging" of "The Blind Men & The Elephant" when you see it....but I like its application to perception.

Amn, the ineffable, cannot be defined. One step back is Ori, your own head, the kunzhi namshe of the Bon. Anything further defined is a portion of that ultimate idea, a specific aspect of the Amn. Each God, Spirit, Elemental, Orisha, Irunmole, etc. is a greater or lesser "ray" or "slice" of this ultimate indefinable. Since we have great difficulty perceiving Amn, we approach aspects of it through these beings and perceptions, which are useful at various times in various ways.

Joseph Campbell once said, "If there is no meaning to existence, then we are free to give it any meaning we choose."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pagan Community in Chicago

I live in the suburbs of Chicago, and I've been part of some interesting experiences in the Chicago pagan community. I am interested in hearing about other groups, approaches, etc.--particularly in Chicago. I'd love to hear from any old friends from the Temple of the Moon (SRO), anyone who knows Odun d'Arechaga or anyone practicing or interested in Lukumi and Ifa. Also, anyone who studied magick with Jack Armstrong, or was a member of the Heartland Pagan Association. Chicago has a lot of interesting things happening. I also have seen Michael Bertiaux speak on several occasions, and am very much a fan of his career and writings.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sabaea, An Ancient & Modern Philosophy

Sabaeanism, in this particular spelling , is a modern approach that echoes an ancient approach. (I don't mean to imply the spelling is exclusive, it's just the one this form of Sabaeanism has adopted.) Sabaeanism was conceived of in this modern form by Frederick "Odun" d'Arechaga, Babalocha omo Obatala, my teacher and friend. He founded the Sabaean Religious Order (SRO), and had over one hundred godchildren in the Lukumi tradition. He has now retired, and the SRO may or may not be defunct. Its website has been taken down, and the Order seems to have vanished. This blog is not affiliated with the SRO (if it still exists), but I have adopted the philosophical approach that Odun advocated, and hope to discuss here various aspects of it, and modern pagansim. I feel that whatever the fate of the SRO (and I wish them well), Sabaeanism deserves to live on as a freely adoptable philosophic approach to what is often called pagan religion. While the SRO was a religious order, Sabaea is a philosophy.

Odun felt that the term, "pagan" is slightly demeaning, having the implication of "bumpkin" or "rube"--although I respect those who call themselves "pagan". It's analogous to "Santeria", which some take exception to, preferring Lukumi, while others embrace. I have chosen to call my understanding of "paganism" Sabaea, to make it distinct from the specific viewpoints of Odun and the SRO. What follows on this blog is my understanding of, and my slight modifications of, Odun's philosophical point of view.

A Sabaean, one who espouses the philosophy of Sabaea, derives the name of the philosophy from the ancient egyptian word "saba", meaning "star." I know that historically, "saba" and similar sounding words have other meanings in other languages, and various Sabians will disagree about the etymology of their own paths. That's fine for other varieties of ancient and modern Sabians. As such, those who espouse Sabaea are star children, recognizing that everything that exists was created in the stars.

Sabaeans believe in the mysterious, indefinable, transcendent and unnameable source of creation, which is none, one, and many (all) at the same time. Much like the Tao, the more you speak of it, the farther away you get from it. We have given it the title, "Amn", meaning "hidden", but that is not its name, because it has none. We feel that Allah, Elohim, God, Tao, are names that others give to it, and do not disagree with their definitions, because they apply to their own understanding of something that is beyond any person's complete comprehension. We feel that Amn manifests not only in the visible creation, but in life & consciousness. It is our belief that spirits, gods, etc., are all manifestations of Amn, but that Amn as a totality can never be understood or defined by man.

Sabaeans "follow their own head", i.e. have their own opinions and beliefs. We hold no one person or any one book as the ultimate authority on anything, but feel we that all works of art and knowledge can be learned from, that some degree of Amn manifests in everything composed in contemplation of it.

As star children, we recognize the ancient story of Utnapishtim, who became known as Noah in the Bible. Asked by the gods to write the sacred knowledge in a book that could not be destroyed by the Flood, he chose the stars, assigning meanings to the asterisms. As such, Sabaeans are people of the Book, mankind's book, the Stars. We observe that most of man's verifiable knowledge (mathematics, science) comes from our understanding of the Stars. They are a perfect book, not only in the aspect of their endurance, but also because what has been learned from them regarding science requires all of mankind's participation--through demonstratable, verifiable, repeatable experiment. Even so, Sabaeans and others reserve the right to disagree about the Stars' philosophical and religious importance, recognizing the "no one book as complete authority" rule.

Sabaeans may or may not chose to show reverence to various gods & spirits, because we believe that Amn cannot truly be worshipped or petitioned. These gods and spirits may be "localized" as Idols, Planets, Stars, Stones, Orisha, Irunmole, Angels, etc. as a means by which to approach the idea of Amn. Each spirit manifests Amn to a greater or lesser degree, but we emphasize that Amn may not be comprehended by mankind. Sabaeans recognize the validity of all other spiritual paths, but do not find them binding for Sabaeans. Many Sabaeans recognize ablution, baptism, cleansing etc., as fundamentally significant rituals, particularly in light of other meanings of Saba, and also in the metaphoric significance of the Flood.

Based on the above (and seconded by Wikipedia, "Sabians" as of 6/23/09) Sabaeans contend they are validly manifesting the path of Sabiah Mushrikun, one form of Sabianism as referred to in the Quran (but not necessarily the historic or exclusive one), and as such would be eligible to pay the fitna in a country with a Muslim government. We do not dispute Islam, we simply respectfully contend that it's not mandatory for Sabaeans, citing the explicit verses in the Quran.

Wikipedia has this to say about the SRO and I feel that it applies to all who espouse the viewpoint of Sabaea:

Another group ... is the 'Sabaean Religious Order'. Although neglecting the Budasaf independent rational theist's Noachian path, having a somewhat more polytheistic orientation, and even confusing "Shin" Sabaeans with "Saad" Sabians is The Sabaean Religious Order, they have grasped however that Sabi'anism per se revolves around astrological angelology and despite shortcomings seem to manifest the path of Sabiah Mushrikun.

Sabaeans may belong to any number of cults. I use the word "cult" here in its ancient sense, that of the "service of, and care for, a particular diety". In the interest of minimizing much of the reconstructionism prevalent in modern paganism (though there is nothing wrong with reconstruction) and to link with as much unbroken spirituality from the ancient world as possible, my teacher Odun became initiated into Lukumi. Ifa, Lukumi, Voudoun and other African diaspora religions continue to be cult choices of many Sabaeans, although not the only ones possible. I second Odun's belief that many of the cultural and cultic aspects of the Egyptians have filtered into Yoruba-born religions due to a long gradual cultural interchange along the ancient trade routes of the Sahel corridor. As such, the religions of the West African coast, the religions of the Afro/Caribbean Diaspora, are an unbroken lineage to antiquity. This is not meant in any way to imply they are derivative, as anyone who practices them knows they are original to the great African civilizations of the West African coast.

I hope to discuss topics of interest to myself and, hopefully, the pagan community in general. I think Sabaea is a fairly open philosophic platform for my point of view, but I welcome any and all points of view.