Love the sinner, hate the sin

Oft used as an excuse for why it’s OK to hate on LGBT people when you’re a supposedly loving Christian, this phrase sounds scriptural – possibly Jesus? Maybe Paul?

No. In fact it’s a paraphrase of Letter 211 by Augustine of Hippo, ex-Manichean, opponent of Pelagius, author the doctrine of Original Sin plus lots of amazing, early theological writing. Augustine is one of the Fathers of the Church. 

The letter in question, dated 423CE, is addressed to nuns of a certain monastery and lays out rules of behaviour. Augustine’s sister had been the head of this house and the sisters wrote to him to complain about her successor. Augustine’s having none of it. 

In a section regarding what to do if one of the sisters starts attracting the attention of men due to her “wanton glances”, Augustine advises, 

When convicted of the fault, it is her duty to submit to the corrective discipline which may be appointed by the prioress or the prior. If she refuse to submit to this, and does not go away from you of her own accord, let her be expelled from your society. For this is not done cruelly but mercifully, to protect very many from perishing through infection of the plague with which one has been stricken. Moreover, what I have now said in regard to abstaining from wanton looks should be carefully observed, with due love for the persons and hatred of the sin, in observing, forbidding, reporting, proving, and punishing of all other faults. 

 The common phrasing however is not Augustine’s, it’s Ghandi’s. In his 1929 autobiography he wrote, 

Man and his deed are two distinct things. Whereas a good deed should call forth approbation and a wicked deed disapprobation, the doer of the deed, whether good or wicked always deserves respect or pity as the case may be. ‘Hate the sin and not the sinner’ is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practised, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.
This ahimsa is the basis of the search for truth. I am realizing every day that the search is in vain unless it is founded on ahimsa as the basis. It is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but to resist and attack its author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself. For we are all tarred with the same brush, and are children of one and the same Creator, and as such the divine powers within us are infinite. To slight a single human being is to slight those divine powers, and thus to harm not only that being but with him the whole world.

The reason this phrase is so frequently employed is, I suspect, because it seems to excuse (despite Ghandi’s warnings or Augustine’s very careful framing) the very ordinary activities of judgement and criticism so beloved of the pious. 

Unfortunately for some pious Christians, Jesus was pretty clear on this matter of judging other people, for example, 

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 

Matthew 7:1-3 

 … though there is a lot more. 

Jesus and a long tradition of saints and monastics following him agree – we ought to pay precise and exquisite attention to how we miss the mark ourselves, and considerably less attention to the failings of our neighbours. 

To die to one’s neighbour is this: To bear your own faults and not to pay attention to anyone else, wondering whether they are good or bad. Do no harm to anyone, do not think anything bad in your heart towards anyone, do not scorn the man who does evil, do not put confidence in him who does wrong to his neighbour, do not rejoice with him who injures his neighbour.

This is what dying to one’s neighbour means: Do not rail against anyone, but rather say: “God knows each one.” Do not agree with him who slanders his neighbour.

This is what it means not to judge: Do not have hostile feelings towards anyone and do not let dislike dominate your heart; do not hate him who hates his neighbour.

This is what peace is: Encourage yourself with this thought: “Affliction lasts but a short time, while peace, is for ever, by the grace of God with Word. Amen.”

Abba Moses, Sayings of the Desert Fathers 

Circling back to Augustine and the original context of this saying, he is talking to women who have committed themselves to the strictest spiritual discipline and for whom the behaviour he describes indicates an enormous rift in that commitment. His advice is carefully framed as springing from the care and compassion of one sister for another, 

For the truth rather is, that you are not guiltless if by keeping silence you allow sisters to perish, whom you may correct by giving information of their faults. For if your sister had a wound on her person which she wished to conceal through fear of the surgeon’s lance, would it not be cruel if you kept silence about it, and true compassion if you made it known? How much more, then, are you bound to make known her sin, that she may not suffer more fatally from a neglected spiritual wound. 

In that spirit, please accept this meagre offering intended to point out that judging each other is really not leading anywhere good. It’s not what Christ taught and it keeps us away from the reality he pointed us to. So stop. Saint John, as usual, says it best, 

God is love. Whoever dwells in love dwells in God, and God in them. 

– 1 John 4:16

Song of the Soul and the Bridegroom by St John of the Cross

Where have You hidden Yourself,
And abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved?
You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.

O shepherds, you who go
Through the sheepcots up the hill,
If you shall see Him
Whom I love the most,
Tell Him I languish, suffer, and die.

In search of my Love
I will go over mountains and strands;
I will gather no flowers,
I will fear no wild beasts;
And pass by the mighty and the frontiers.

O groves and thickets
Planted by the hand of the Beloved;
O verdant meads
Enameled with flowers,
Tell me, has He passed by you?

Read the rest…

Dante to the Fedeli d’Amore

A poem Dante Alighieri wrote to the Fedeli as a way of applying for membership.

To every heart which the sweet pain doth move,
 And unto which these words may now be brought
 For true interpretation and kind thought,
Be greeting in our Lord’s name, which is Love.
Of those long hours wherein the stars, above,
 Wake and keep watch, the third was almost nought,
 When Love was shown me with such terrors fraught
As may not carelessly be spoken of.
He seemed like one who is full of joy and had
 My heart within his hand, and on his arm
 My lady, with a mantle round her, slept;
Whom (having wakened her) anon he made
 To eat that heart; she ate, as fearing harm.
 Then he went out; and as he went, he wept.

   (tr. D. G. Rossetti)

January by Ramon Llull

an example of catholic troubadour poetry

The lover asked his beloved if there was anything left in him to be loved; and his beloved replied that whatever could make his love stronger remained to be loved.

The path the lover must walk to search for his beloved is long and dangerous, replete with thoughts and deliberation, with anguished moans and cries, and enlightened with love.

A multitude of lovers gathered to worship one beloved, who filled all of them with love; and everyone cared for his beloved and his enjoyable thoughts, for which they felt pleasant wonders.

The lover wept and said:
– How long till darkness ceases in the world, so that evil deeds will cease? And how longer for the water, which customarily moves downward, to have the nature to move upward? And how longer for the innocent to be more than the guilty?

– Ah! When will the lover rejoice, when he dies for his beloved? And the beloved, when will he see his lover languish for his love?

The lover said to his beloved:
– You, who fillst the Sun with glare, fill my heart with love.
To which the beloved answered:
– Without fulfillment of love your eyes would not be in tears, neither would you have come to this place to see your loved one.

The beloved tempted his lover, and inquired if he loved perfectly; and he asked what the difference was between presence and absence of the beloved. Replied the lover:
– From ignorance and forgetfulness, to knowledge and remembrance.

The beloved asked his lover:
– Can you remember anything that I gave you, for which you love me?
And he replied:
– Yes, since among the sorrows and pleasures you give me, I make no difference.

– Tell me, my lover – said the beloved – : will you have patience if I double your misery?
– Yes, if you just double my love.

The beloved said to the lover:
– Do you know, yet, what love is?
Replied the lover,
– If I did not know what love is, would I know what hardship, sadness and pain are?

The lover was asked:
– Why are you not answering your beloved, who is calling you?
He answered:
– I am already facing grave danger to attain him, and I surely speak to him wishing for his honors.

– Crazy lover: why do you destroy yourself and give your money away, and ignore the pleasures of this world and go disdained among the people?
He answered:
– To honor the principles of my beloved, who by more people is despised and dishonored, than honored and loved.

– Tell me, crazy for love: Who is the most visible, the beloved in the lover, or the lover in the beloved?
And he said the beloved is seen in love, and the lover is seen in sorrow, in weeping, in hardship and pain.

The lover was seeking someone who would tell his beloved how he bore grave hardship and died for his love; and he met his beloved who was reading in a book where all the grief and all the delights which his love would give him for his beloved were written.

Our Lady brought her Son to the lover, so he could kiss his foot, and so that he would write in his book the virtues of our Lady.

– Tell me, bird who sings: have you come to my beloved so that he defends you from hatred, and he multiplies love in you?
Replied the bird:
– And who makes me sing, but the Lord of love, to whom hatred is dishonor?

Love has settled between fear and hopefulness, living with thoughts and dying by oblivion as the foundations are over the delights of this world.

A dispute occurred between the eyes and the memory of the lover, for the eyes said it was better to see the beloved than to remember him, and the memory said that through remembrance the water rises to the eyes and the heart swells with love.

The lover asked intelligence and will which one was closest to his beloved; and they both ran, and intelligence was to his beloved before will.

Into discord came the lover and the beloved; and it was seen by another lover, and he wept for so long until he had brought into peace and agreement the beloved and the lover.

Sighs and tears came to the judgment of the beloved and asked him which one he felt most strongly loved by. The beloved judged that sighs are closer to love, and tears closer to the eyes.

The lover came to drink from the fountain that arouses love in those who do not love, and his sorrows were doubled. And then the beloved came to drink from the fountain to double again the love of his lover, in which he would double his sorrows.

The lover fell sick, and the beloved looked after him: with worthiness he fed him, and with love he gave him drink, with patience he abounded him, of humbleness he dressed him, with truth he cured him.

The lover was asked where his beloved was. He replied:
– See him in a house that is more noble than any other created nobilities; and see him in my acts of love, and in my suffering and in my weepings.

They said to the lover:
– Where do you go?
– I come from my beloved.
– Where do you come to?
– I go to my beloved.
– When will you be back?
– I will be with my beloved.
– How long will you be with your beloved for?
– As long as my thoughts will be with him.

The birds were singing the dawn, and the lover, who is the dawn, awakened; and the birds ended their song, and the lover died for his beloved in the dawn.

The bird was singing in the garden of the beloved, when the lover came and said to the bird:
– If we don’t understand each other by language, let us communicate with love; for to my eyes, my beloved is represented in your song.

The lover, who had worked hard to search for his beloved, felt sleep coming to him; and he feared he might forget his beloved. And he cried, so as not to fall asleep, and so that his beloved would not be absent to his consciousness.

The lover met his beloved, and he said:
– You need not speak to me; but make a signal with your eyes, which are words to my heart, when I give you what you ask me.

The lover disobeyed his beloved, and he wept. And the beloved came to die in the gown of his lover, to let him recover what he had lost; and he gave him yet a greater gift than the one he had lost.

The beloved brings love to the lover, and does not pity him for his sorrows, whence he may more strongly be loved and, in the greatest sorrow, find pleasure and renewal.

English version by Jordi Miralda Escude
Original Language Catalan

Rumi (1207-1273) – Mathnavi I.109

Love is longing and longing, the pain of being parted;
No illness is rich enough for the distress of the heart,
A lover’s lament surpasses all other cries of pain.
Love is the royal threshold to God’s mystery.
The carnival of small affections and polite attachments
Which litter and consume our passing time
Is no match to Love which pulses behind this play.
It’s easy to talk endlessly about Love,
To live Love is to be seized by joy and bewilderment;
Love is not clear-minded, busy with images and argument.
Language is too precocious, too impudent, too sane
To stop the molten lava of Love which churns the blood,
This practicing energy burns the tongue to silence;
The knowing pen is disabled, servile paper
Shrivels in the fire of Love. Bald reason too is an ass
Explaining Love, deceived by spoilt lucidity.
Love is dangerous offering no consolation,
Only those who are ravaged by Love know Love,
The sun alone unveils the sun to those who have
The sense to receive the senseless and not turn away.
Cavernous shadows need the light to play but light
And light alone can lead you to the light alone.
Material shadows weigh down your vision with dross,
But the rising sun splits the ashen moon in empty half.
The outer sun is our daily miracle in timely
Birth and death, the inner sun
Dazzles the inner eye in a timeless space.
Our daily sun is but a working star in a galaxy of stars,
Our inner sun is One, the dancing nuance of eternal light.
You must be set alight by the inner sun,
You have to live your Love or else
You’ll only end in words.

   (tr. R. Abdulla)


Dealing with love, romance and rejection on Valentine’s Day

A nice summary of research on love and rejection.

Dealing with love, romance and rejection on Valentine’s Day

Valentinus Day

For us gnostics, we celebrate 14 Feb as the feast day of Valentinus, a second century CE gnostic teacher whose influence was significant enough to give birth to a whole school of gnostic thought we refer to as “Valentinianism”.

Here’s Deacon Michael on that Valentinus.

Obviously, this isn’t the same St Valentine as the namesake of the day in the conventional calendar… except… we have no idea who that more conventional saint may have been.

Here’s Father Donald summarising the candidates.

The intriguing connection between “our” Valentinus and the traditions around the feast day is his school’s intense focus on love and its use of romantic language to describe the relationship between the Divine and the individual human soul. While our modern Valentine’s Day focuses on personal, human romance, mystics from Rumi to St John of the Cross have used the language of romance to describe the individual relationship to God.

This modern, romantic conception of love draws a lot from the medieval ideals of “courtly love”, which in turn arguably emerges from Cathar mysticism through the work of wandering troubadour poets in the 1200s.

As most Johannites are aware, almost everything interesting about Europe in the Middle Ages winds eventually through the Cathars and the Templars. In this case it also, satisfyingly, lands us in the company of Dante and the great Florentine hermeticist Marsilio Ficino and that mystical society to which several modern orders trace their origin, Fedeli d’Amore (click that link. I’ll wait.)

So… whether or not you’re drawn to the highly commercialised, guilt-trip ridden modern celebration of Valentine’s Day, perhaps this could be a day to explore romantic love as a metaphor for spiritual awakening, rather than nodding along with the tunes the archons play.

I’ll follow up on my own dare with some verse. Please enjoy responsibly.


 n. the feeling of jealousy one gets when one is born into a powerful family, ethnicity, class or social position, but one winds up with no power.

Back in May 2014, I asked my clever German-speaking friends on Facebook

I’m after one of those terrific German compound words which refers to the feeling of jealousy one gets when one is born into a powerful family, ethnicity, class or social position, but one winds up with no power. Any ideas?I’ll also happily accept words in other languages, I just usually discover words for complex ideas in German. It’s the agglutination, you see.

This idea of power-envy keeps coming up for me in what I think is an observable emotional driver for many (not all) of us who do liberation (anti-racist, feminist, GLBTI) work. Many (not all) of us come from a background which would, in other circumstances, gift us with a certain amount of social power, but because of the dimension of our interest, we are blocked from the power we think we deserve. Naturally, we phrase this as a concern with “justice”.

But it also seems to me it shows up, and often in nastier forms, among people who come from a background of entitlement to power, yet find themselves with none without any observable impediment to power. Think about times you’ve heard a heterosexual, cis-gendered, white man excluded from power in a country like Australia or the USA talking about people from other groups having any power at all.

TIP: Use Google Translate to help you work out how to pronounce it, if German is not your thing. 

Making attractive guys using facial morphing

I had some fun with an app called MorphThing. I’ve observed that facial averages tend towards being pretty attractive – which isn’t surprising because most cultures find balanced, average faces beautiful.

Cheap fun because I’m just morphing actors since that’s the faces they had preloaded. So, first I picked a list of actors I like looking at. This guy is – Jude-Law-and-Jake-Gyllenhaal–Brad-Pitt-and-Tom-Cruise–Ashton-Kutcher-and-Adam-Levine–Alex-Pettyfer–Alexander-Skarsgard–Eric-Bana–Ethan-Hawke–David-Beckham–Dean-Cain–Chris-Pine–Christian-Bale–Colin-Farrell-and-Cristiano-Ronaldo


So, that’s kind of peak hotness for me. Then I decided to do a slightly deeper cut. This is… Trevor McFamousguy. This is a morph of a selection of pretty, famous men, heavily biased by what was easily available on, by my personal taste in men and by who shows up at the start of the alphabet.

50 Cent, Adam Levine, Alex Pettyfer, Alexander Skarsgard, Andy Lau, Ashton Kutcher, Bow Wow, Brad Pitt, Chris Pine, Christian Bale, Colin Farrell, Cristiano Ronaldo, Daniel Dae Kim, Daniel Henney, David Beckham, Dean Cain, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy, Eric Bana, Ethan Hawke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Momoa, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Depp, Josh Hartnett, Jude Law, Kanye West, Kwon Sang Woo, Naveen Andrews, Nick Jonas, Orlando Bloom, Paul Walker, Paul Wesley, Taye Diggs, Timbaland, Tom Cruise, Tupac Shakur, Will Smith

OK. I’m loving the trans-ethnic look, but we can do better. This is Mr America, really. Let’s get more global.

This is getting pretty abstract, but… I took my average pretty actor face from yesterday and averaged it with the Average Bollywood Actor from here [A]. Then I averaged his Average Korean Actor and his Average Japanese Actor [B]. Then I averaged his Average Chinese Actor with B [C] and then averaged A with C. All this in attempt to roughly approximate population proportions of different regions.

Behold, Global Actor Dude!

But this really left out Oceania, so one more step. A bunch of Hollywood actors, morphed with average faces of East Asian and Bollywood actors, all morphed with regional average faces from West, North, East and South, together with some national averages from South America and Samoa (for some Oceania representation).

Advent begins!

This year, the season of Advent begins on 30 November, which means the Close the Gap challenge has started. Hopefully we are all ready to go.

My friends Geoff commented on my initial post…

Do you have a post on the meaning of advent and how it connects to this for a little more context? I like the challenge but need a bit more.

… and fair enough too!

Advent is a season in the Western Christian (which means Catholics and most Protestants have it) church calendar. In the Eastern Orthodox calendar there’s a similar season (with slightly different timing) called the Nativity Fast. Both versions go up to Christmas Eve (Dec 24). Advent is the beginning of the church year, so the start of Advent kicks off a new calendar cycle.

Advent is a solemn season, like Lent, and traditionally involves quiet, a reflective mood and fasting – typically giving up meat and dairy. Advent precedes Christmas, just as Lent precedes Easter, and both are seen as periods of preparation for the feast which follows them.

Weird, I know, this time of year work is hectic, social life is a whirl of parties, drinking and eating. But the old tradition was to always have a fast before a big party.

The name “Advent” derives from adventus in Latin which means “coming” and it’s used to translate the Greek παρουσία (parousia) which used to mean “physical arrival”, but mostly came to refer to the Second Coming in Christian theology – the idea that Christ would one day return.

Mainstream Christianity in the West seems to have spent the last few centuries hollowing out the mystical tradition and turning symbolism into history, so most people understand the Second Coming simply and magically as the physical return of Jesus complete with some kind of odd “Left Behind” narrative.

From a mystic’s perspective, the purpose of life, spiritual practice and faith itself is directed toward the Presence of God in one’s own, human being. The church calendar is not primarily about commemorating historical events, but about reminding us of nature and properties of the ever-present divine reality. When we awaken to that reality as experience, we can be said to be “anointed” with the Divine. We will have become a Christ, rather than simply being Christians – the words of the Gospel of Philip.

Advent, occurring at the very start of the year, suggests that anticipation of that awakening is the beginning of the journey. We have faith that the Lord is coming and so, unlike the five unwise maidens of the parable, we prepare His dwelling place: our body, heart and mind. We sweep out the stable and lay fresh straw in the manger.

Hence… Close the Gap, an offer or suggestion that – whether or not you think of yourself as Christian – you consider making these next four weeks a time of deeper practice, devotion and quiet. Your heart knows what you most need to get closer, so take those steps in faith and hope that a new birth is near.