After what can only be described as a tragic lesson in life and death, I found myself at the age of 17 in a Lithuanian Franciscan monastery, on a determined quest for the meaning of life. As the youngest novice in this order's sixty year history in America, I was provided with special tutorial situations on all aspects of the Catholic Church and the rule of the Ordo Frati Minori (Order of Friars Minor).
The Judeo-Christian tradition was my upbringing and I found myself devouring all I could in my personal search of lifting the veil between the temporal and spiritual planes. Ultimately, this analytical and determined purpose led to the rejection of certain tenets of this faith and prompted me to what I believe to be higher ground as I furthered my lessons in the occult. However, the richness and depth of the 'Franciscan Experience' has much to teach occultists today as we all strive forward in the Great Work.
Before I go further, I would like to clarify the spiritual disciplines and lessons to which I have referred. These originate in the life, writings, and experiences of St. Francis of Assisi and not in the practices of any of the current Franciscan orders. Indeed, I'm sure Francis would turn over in his grave from the bastardization of his original rule and testament for his early band of Christian mystics. I suppose it could be said in a manner of speaking that St. Francis himself convinced me to leave the Franciscans two years later. There could be found none of the original substance of Francis within his order.
Franciscan mysticism has as its foundation, "Complete and utter commitment to the Light" (Rule of 1221). This level of intense commitment without compromise is perhaps the greatest testament of Franciscanism. In Francis' conversion he had a vision of a king who asked him, "Who is it better to serve, the servant or the master?" To this Francis answered, "Why, the master, of course." The king in the vision continued, "Then why, Francis, do you continue to serve the servant?" From that moment forward Francis would never "serve the servant" again.
This quality of utter commitment without compromise is what led to Francis' intense spiritual growth and rapturous mystical experiences. I believe this is Francis' greatest lesson to the aspiring occultists of today.
One can read and write and talk about all the properties of the ocean and be a veritable expert in oceanography, but unless that journey to the ocean is made, to feel, to hear and breath it, one will never be able to experience it. It is this experience that separates intelligence or knowledge from Wisdom. It is the difference of discussing Tchaikovsky's Waltz of Flowers and of hearing it, and perhaps even playing it.
Francis knew this and took all aspects of scripture and applied them in their fullest sense. By doing so, Francis reached a state of enlightenment in which his understanding of the cosmic process often put him at conflict with the papacy and doctrines of the Catholic Church, which caused him great pain and confusion. Consider the following excerpt from a letter to Brother Leo:
"I had the following vision, my dear Leo, that causes me some alarm and yet some solace as well, pray to our Lord God that I am being led in the right path! The Almighty in the form of a searing light said to me, '1 am whom am, I am the very process of enlightenment.' The Angel of Darkness is necessary to this process. This process, my son, does take an enormous length of time, but I assure you, once the process is more correctly understood this length of time will no longer be regarded as an essential limitation or evil. It will be seen to be the very essence of the process itself...."
- (Letters to Leo Celano, First Life)
The full impact of that statement cannot clearly be understood without considering the age in which it was written. The Crusades were in full swing (literally!) at that time and Francis' order had swelled from twelve followers to over twelve thousand in less than ten years. To have even proposed the thought of evil and good being one and the same would have resulted in excommunication and most likely death. These profound insights would continue to plague Francis until he decided to retreat from the title of General Minister, and he would spend his final days in a hermitage in the woods of Assisi that he so loved.
The second point of Franciscan mysticism is simplicity. Francis intuitively understood the great paradox of complex simplicity and simple complexity. By 'reducing' the path of spirituality to simply practicing the act of being in the presence of YVWH, his followers didn't need volumes of information on spirituality but instead found the same information within themselves as they understood that the practice and path toward godhead was godhead. Like the Taoists, Francis understood that nothing is something, that less is more and the mind returns with the Pearl where knowledge, distant vision and eloquence fail.
With the two lessons of Franciscanism, commitment without compromise and simplicity, we would be well on our way to a profound understanding and enlightenment. Occultism is not as easy to understand. Occultism could be likened unto ~, which is immutable and cannot be located in space or time. However, Francis would remind us that ultimate complexity equals absolute simplicity...as simple as pi.
Matter is therefore subject to death,
and is thereby nearer to nothingness.
Life which delights in material joys and neglects God,
tends to nothingness and is thereby iniquity.
Reasoning does not create truth but discovers.
Before it is discovered it abides in itself.
-St. Francis of Assisi
Webpage and content Copyright©2002 Gnostic Cross Magazine.