Of those of us who knew Mary, Angela knew her first, and best. She was the beginning of the Circle, but not the end, for the Circle, like Mary, has no ending, only beginnings.
We will not walk and breathe and sing forever; two of us now have been given to the darkness that waits at the end of all things, and the voices that remain must be recorded.
What follows are the voices of that beginning.
The Recordings are dated October 2001, but there are several known copies of the first two parts dating to before this time.
One thing that is clear is that the Recordings were written by at least four different authors, none of which were likely the same author as that of the rest of the Book of Heresies.
3-1 The Nature of Divine Submission
It has been said that science occupies the place of religion in that both seek to explain the universe. As science has explained more of the physical nature of the order of things, religion has receded to occupy a place of explaining or giving meaning to those aspects of existence that science is unlikely to penetrate. Religion seeks to define itself in moral and ethical terms, to give a sense of purpose and meaning to what might otherwise seem bleak, desolate and empty.
Surrendering to a presence that is infallible, immortal and everpresent grants unto the believer a portion of that infallibility, that immortality. It makes the believer a part of infinity, and the price that such a surrender requires is the sacrifice of some measure or kind of autonomy - or perhaps simply pride.
Sentience has evolved under the general drive to preserve first the species, then the self. The genetic aspect that is involved in the dynamic interplay between nature and nurture strives towards this, for to do otherwise would inevitably result in destruction for the species. Our emotions, our instincts, provide general rules designed for nothing more and nothing less than the survival of us.
Hitler's Nazi Germany in its pageantry of moral depravity gives voice and thought to the idea of man-as-god, of the Master, the Fuhrer. No longer is God confined solely to the heavens; the images of a grim god of humanity reach forth to bind humanity to stark and barren purpose. In other places there are the shadows of an Organic State; the individual is the cell. An execution is no different than trimming one's fingernails.
Religion is so often seen in terms of ritual, when its true fountainhead has always lain in its power to bind and harness the human imagination to something greater.
If, then, religion is at its core a submission to the greater whole of the human soul, then there is no necessary contradiction between a secular pursuit of scientific understanding and submission to the greater "instinct" of humanity.
If, then, religion is at its heart merely the greater expression of humanity's will to survive, and the rituals are merely symbolic representations of this greater will, then truly, as Robert Heinlein wrote, "Thou art God."
Thou art a part of God for here God is the whole of human hopes and dreams. Submission to the divine is then acceptance of oneself, and of a commitment to that nature that Nature has granted us.
Are the Heresies religion or philosophy? Are the Heresies pantheistic? Neo-pagan? As with so much else of the Book of Heresies, the question comes down to definitions. Some people have argued that the Heresies are philosophy, as there is no Church, no prophet or leader, and that the God of the Heresies is the universe itself. Pantheism, however, is considered a religion, and the Heresies fall fairly neatly within that description.
Faith, too, becomes an issue. The Heresies take faith as an issue of conviction rather than blind belief. If blind faith is a requirement for religion, then the Heresies become suspect.
Robert Heinlein (now deceased) was a prolific science-fiction writer who wrote, among many other things, "Stranger and a Strange Land", where the son of a pair of astronauts founds a religion based on the concept "Thou art God."
3-2 choice and apotheosis
I keep that word on a little sign on my desk. A few years ago, a man came into my office. His wife had died of cancer a week before. As we spoke, his gaze kept staying to my sign.
"I didn't choose for my wife to die," he said. "She didn't choose to die. What kind of monster would say that everything is our choice?"
We make millions of choices every moment of our lives. We make some decisions consciously, but most of our important choices we make silently. We are not even aware of them unless we pay attention.
We choose to live or not to live.
Once, a series of traumatic events shook me. In their wake, I found myself seeking constant distraction from my own thoughts. The company of those who loved me became difficult, for they would ask about my life, a topic which I found painful. I put off important obligations. I buried myself in work. I felt as though I were viewing the world from the bottom of a pond.
I was choosing not to live.
One day, I awoke and decided to clean my home; I began again to love those who loved me. My obligations began to seem less like horrible ordeals and more like pleasant exercise. Bit by bit, moment by moment, I was choosing to live again.
We are the composer, the singer, and the song. We may choose to leave off singing or to sing again.
The man's wife did not choose to fall ill. She did not choose to leave her husband alone in the world, but until the moment of her death, this woman chose to live. In every moment of the life that she did have, she lived.
"Choose" is a command. It is not Mary's command, nor Angela's. It is the world itself that orders each of us to choose. The command is the world's. The choice belongs to us. The choice is all that can belong to us.
The command is not "choose to live" or "choose to be happy." If the command dictated the choice, then the choice would cease to be. It is up to each of us, in each moment, to find our choices.
Each choice is a note in our song.
What is the "choice" that the Book of Heresies speaks of? Variably through the Heresies it is described as a choice to take responsibility, a choice to fear or not fear, or simply a choice to choose.
Corporate entities are not corporeal entities.
Too often we forget that a group is nothing more than a network of individuals centered around a common set of ideals, goals or conceptions. When a group of individuals chooses to act without ethics, it is they - not "the corporation" or "the group" - who have fallen from grace. When a squad of firefighters saves a family from a burning building, it is those individual firefighters - working together - who save the people, not "the squad".
The group is a concept - not a thing. It is when we forget this and put the "rights" and accountability of a group above those of the individual that we lose sight of the trees for all the forest around us.
It is not "the group" that commits high or mean deeds; the group is merely the lens through which our individual efforts are focused. A group cannot love, it cannot weep, nor can it be brave or honorable - these are things reserved for individuals and individuals alone.
Our organizations and groups are the strings that bind us together, but they are strings, not chains. They exist to help us do those things that cannot be done alone. They are transitive elements in an eternal game.
It is when we accuse and honor by group rather than individual that we fail and fall. Honor the individuals who have worked together, yes - but to honor the effort itself is to give respect to the clothes, not the man.
Some have interpreted this as alternatingly an attack on affirmative action, or an attack on limitations of liability for corporate officers.
We have a choice to remain silent and let the world around us remain as it is, or we can open our mouths, break the silence and attempt to influence change.
Will we succeed? Not always. Does success matter? Success will ease the path for those around us, and allow them to do things and function in ways they may not have had the liberty to do.
Success will set a precedent for others to follow, but it is the mere act of attempting that ultimately matters. It is the choice to make a difference, the choice to do something rather than simply examining and discoursing.
There are many willing to sit in judgement and condemn, to decry loudly and call for others to follow suit.
Others prefer to sit in silence or ignore these things - playing the ostrich and hoping for someone else to choose for them or claim that they have no choice, that others have decided already for them.
Giving up the right, surrendering the ability to choose is a choice in and of itself. We may act, or we may not, but regardless of how we attempt to avoid it, we will choose.
If the choice to not choose is in fact a choice, then how can one not choose? The other option is that choosing is predicated upon perceiving one's position and options in the world.
3-5 of biochemistry and human functioning
The purpose of existence is to survive.
The desire to continue, to expand, to grow is bred into every aspect of our existence. An animal is driven by its instincts; humans, too, have instincts, though we call them emotion.
The key to understanding the emotive aspect of who we are - the human instinct - is to understand that it is something built upon millions of years of trial and error to produce a basic pattern of response that more often than not will lead to the survival of the group. It need not work all the time, it must work only enough to ensure that there is another generation.
Our emotive aspect emerges in our literature, our principles, our sense of duty and honor and fair play, of compassion and romance. We need to resist the temptation to be offended that these things we consider to be absolutes hold a reason and logic behind them, and a very cold and hard logic at that.
That there is a logic behind emotion and principle and compassion does not in any way diminish the existence of the compassion, of the principles we build families and communities and nations upon.
Instead of fighting human nature we must cherish it, nourish it and let it grow. Sometimes it is necessary to restrain it or guide it, but we can do neither responsibly until we understand it.
This recording seems to speak to two criticisms. First, it is not uncommon for proponents of Rationalism to attack the value of emotion; to some, emotion is proper only when applied to animals, and that the reason can only occur to the degree it is divoriced from emotion. Second, the Heresies' equation of human emotion with animal instinct is a blow against the Christian tenet that humans possess souls, while animals do not - in Christian beliefs, humans were created in God's image, which makes animals a secondary classification of being.
3-6 the shaper of the soul
We are who and what we choose to be.
Every day, every hour, every minute we make the choices that shape how others see us. With every breath we take we shape the world about us.
The simple choice to get up an hour earlier or an hour later can change the whole scope of the day. The choice to answer the phone when a friend calls may seem a small thing, but it may be the kindness that saves a life or preserves a marriage.
Each day people complain about how they feel, about where they work and how they spend their free time, as if there were no choice. If they but opened their eyes they might see the multitude of choices awaiting them.
It is a cascade effect - one choice affects the existence of other choices. If I do not choose to go to a movie, I no longer need to choose where I sit or if I get popcorn. If I do not choose to take a job, I no longer need to choose whether to support my co-workers or whether I should quit. If I do not choose to become a nurse, I no longer need to choose whether to answer a call bell or to sit up all night with an ill patient whose family is gone.
We cannot escape choices, for each choice we make affects us, whether directly or indirectly.
3-7 death and self
A wave begins mid-ocean as a random ripple. Gathering strength from wind and sun, the wave rushes towards the shore. Reaching it, there is a crashing and a whiteness of foam, and it is gone, leaving a brief wash of seawater on the shore.
Where has the wave gone?
So it is with ourselves. We begin in microscopic smallness, gathering strength from those closest to us. As we grow in size and experience, our voices echo in the world. Then we are gone, leaving merely a jumble of flesh and bones which the world inexorably reclaims.
Where have we gone?
We cannot say, "We have returned to dust," merely because our bodies have done so. The wave upon the ocean contains not a drop of the water it will contain when it crashes upon the shore. Our bodies are constantly crumbling to dust and regrowing anew, and there is not an inch of us that remains the same from birth to death. Our bodies, from moment to moment, are mere borrowed coats of matter.
It is just as plain that we cannot say, "We are our minds, which merely manipulate our bodies." Our minds are the churning of the waves. Our minds are the light of the candle-flame. As our bodies fail, so fail our minds. Just as the body is constantly replenishing its form, the mind is ever reinventing itself with its own dream of existence.
At a funeral, should we laugh or weep?
Weeping and laughter are two sides of the same coin. When someone dies, there is a crash that ripples outward through us all. Our laughter and our weeping are both echoes of that crash.
When a wave foams upon the shore, it has not gone into another world. The ocean is as full and as turbulent as ever it was. The crash signifies a transition. The single wave has lost its identity. It has become unimaginably less, and yet endlessly more.
Every religion addresses death, and what may or may not come after it, in different ways. The Heresies have a peculiar slant on it. Rather than directly addressing the question of life after death, it dodges that issue by positing that time itself is an abstraction, and therefore the importance of living is that one has lived at any one point in time.
3-8 the solipsist and the pantheist
The solipsist states that all reality is merely the projection of the mind that experiences it; self is the whole of reality, only "I" exist.
Reality is ultimately irrelevant. We cannot ultimately know what is and what is merely illusion. The measure of sentience is not perception, however, but choice. Not experience, but action.
The pantheist holds the universe to be synonymous with God. The world is an illusion for a more profound spiritual truth, to the pantheist. Immanence takes precedence over transcendence, with the divine being placed here, now, and transcendent divinity being treated as the illusion.
Divinity does not imply sentience, however, only being. Not thought, only substance, but the absence of thought cannot be taken as evidence of the right of dominion, for the imposition of power can have effects upon the whole that are never easily forseen.
Neither does divinity imply either omnipotence or omniscience. That everything is does not mean that everything knows. Existence does not insist upon the assumption of choice.
The basic premise of solipsism is that reality is centered around the individual, and that everything and everyone around a person are mere projections of that person.
Pantheism holds that the universe is God, and that as such it is worthy of the same attention as a Christian or Jew would hold for their God. Different strains of pantheism differ on whether they conceive of the universe as actually being conscious or not, and some posit that God exists not only as the universe, but also transcends it.
3-9 the gifts of the magi
Help or harm. How do we define what is one and what is the other? The act of giving assistance can harm those we seek to help by destroying the chance for them to make their own choices. In turn those we seek to hurt may find freedom in our harsh words or actions.
Acting to help someone is not always an act of kindness. Many who help others are merely seeking to fulfill their own needs. They look to others for their worth instead of finding it within, or they seek to bind those they help more closely to them.
The attempt to hurt someone can be the kindest act one can perpetrate. The honesty and abruptness of the act can create liberation. It can be a breath of reality and an awakening.
This does not mean we should seek to hurt those we care for, nor aid those we hate, but merely that we must examine our actions and motives before we act.
Why are we moved to do this? What do we hope to accomplish? Who do we do this for?
It is not the action so much as the intent that is important.
Another recurring theme in the Book of Heresies is the role of violence. Rather than approving or disapproving of it out of hand, the Heresies seem to shift the question to the reason for violence rather than violence itself.
We fear death not for the passing, nor for the crossing, but rather for the loss of self.
In death, as in sleep, we lose volition, we lose control, and, finally, we lose even choice. Our bodies will fade to ashes, our borrowed coats of matter returned and recycled in the lasting cycle of life.
Before we were here, we did not think, and yet we do not fear that time before we were born. When our bodies have at last failed us and our consciousness fled, we will be no different than that when before the beginning of our self.
If there was consciousness before or after our physical existence, then death - and birth - are merely transitions of consciousness. If there is no consciousness beyond the moments of our physical existence, then we will not know what we are not.
Fear does not exist where thought does not go.
We are the might of the moments of our existence. Einstein showed that time and space are different shapes of the same substance, yet still we cannot let go our hold upon our conceptions of reality. What was once, is. The reformulation of a being or thought cannot change the fact of its existence.
As Mary said, there are no endings, only beginnings.
Einstein's theory of relativity and that of quantum mechanics still stand as one of the basic mysteries of physics. Both theories are provable, but each contradicts the other. Relativity holds true on the large scales of worlds and galaxies, but appears to fall apart on the smaller, quantum levels. Quantum mechanics accurately explains the behaviors of particles, but fails when applied to large scale systems.
Relativity is called up here because of the theory's description of mass and energy being essentially the same thing, and of time being merely another component, or dimension within the equation. At a certain very abstract level, time has the same basic characteristics as location.
3-11 fear, suffering, hate and consequence
Fear is a friend.
From my friend I can learn of myself. I can choose to learn, to avoid, or even to hate the very things I fear.
Most of us choose to hate, yet do not even realize it. We choose to avoid the things we fear, but the things we hate never leave us. They grow and expand, they affect our sleep, our waking hours, our bodies, our health and lives, and, if we so choose, they may even affect our choices.
Why fear? Things will happen to us no matter what we do, and whether we live in fear or we learn to live with the fear and use it to teach us the lessons about living the life we want to live - we all die.
Knowing that my boss has fears, that my parents and teachers, my family and friends each has fears has been the most liberating feeling I have ever had. I can hide and become hateful, or I can choose to learn to enjoy relating with those that seem to make of my life a hell.
I have seen and done both, and I choose now to live, to share, to be vulnerable.
It is a great thing to fear; it is an opportunity to live, to break free from the things that we don't even know are holding us down. Acknowledge that fear, greet it with joy and learn to listen to what it is trying to show you.
The thing I fear most is thinking upon all of the things I have let hold me back.
Contrast this with the description of fear in the Principles.
3-12 of religion
There was a time when I can recall someone - Julius or John Mac Tavish, I think it was - asking whether I thought Mary had offered us philosophy or religion.
Religion offers explanation; explanation of the world, of the self and of the soul. Religion makes a community of its adherents and fashions an ethical system of behavior from the raw material of social interactions.
Philosophy offers solace in the fortress of rational thought. It apportions measures of understanding and truth, but chooses to sacrifice in their stead the sense of both community and purpose.
It is a confluence of history and circumstance that have led religion to oppose reason, rather than it being a necessity and foundation of religion.
The Heresies, as Mary called them, are a religion of reason, though not only of reason. They require neither blind faith nor surrender of design, for they offer explanation and do not sacrifice a sense of purpose in the order of the world.
The Heresies perceive God in the grass and stone about us. They see God in the sun and the waves, the fire and the moonlight. God is female and male, profound and base, simple and complex. God is greater than the solitary soul, but the comfort that there is does not come from God, but rather from the knowledge and awareness of God. We are God. Apart, we are mere shards of divinity, but together, we are an infinity.
We are not "saved" by Mary and the Heresies. Everything is woven together, not in any mystical sense, but in the actuality that everything affects everything else, ripples in an ocean that fills all of reality. I cannot be saved by anyone but myself. Surrendering the responsibility that defines us for who we are is a betrayal of not only our own existence, but of all existence.
Faith becomes an issue of commitment rather than a question of belief. Our leap of faith is one of a commitment to a thing that we wish to become truth. I neither "believe" in God nor do I "have faith" in the Heresies. Belief and faith are actions only meaningful in the absence of substantiation.
We do not "submit" to Mary and the Heresies, as we do not submit to God. Submission implies subordination. Reality in all its forms demands not submission, but acceptance. It demands not surrender, but understanding.
Acceptance and understanding imply neither agreement nor approval, merely recognition. The recognition of what is is the first step to making that which will be.
We cannot "relinqish" the corporeal in favor of Mary and the Heresies, for they speak of nothing but the tangible, and nowhere but the physical. What can be perceived, is. What can be remembered, was. What can be imagined, will be.
The Heresies assert a canon that is not dogma. They speak of truths that do not deny a conscious union with the divine, and they breathe a message that requires not affirmation, and asks only acceptance.
The reference to being "saved" is a jab at Christianity, "submitting" at Islam, and "relinquishing (the material and physical world)" at Buddhism.
3-13 the circle
Where there is one, there are two. Where there are two, there are three.
As others came to Mary, bring others to you. Make of yourselves a Circle and keep it, and in so doing be reminded that it is what we do that is important, not what we believe. It is not a secret thing laid bare by the world, but an open thing cherished in secret.
A Circle is not a church, it is not a coven, it is not a congregation. It is the solitary notes of a common song.
We are a part of the universe, but not its entirety; when we come together in a Circle, each of us brings together that which is our part of the universe to share, for it is together that we are both our greatest and our least. Cherish the great; learn from the least.
There is the Circle closest to our heart, there is the Circle that consists of everything, and there are all the Circles in between.
A ritual is the symbol of the thing. It gains value in what it represents to those who bear it. It bridges the gap between mind and reality, and forges an unbreakable link between the two. The whole power of a ritual is given up only to its creator.
On the last day of April, what we have come to call the Choosing begins. We choose what we let come into our lives. We choose what we fear, and we choose what we allow to have power over us. We lay out two candles, but we burn only one.
On the second day of May, the Choosing is consummated. We build a fire against the night, and each of our Circle throws in something we wish or need to leave behind.
On the first Saturday following the first of August, we hold the Regale; a feast that is not for ourselves, but for the others of our community. It is an expression of a responsibility for others, an acceptance of our part in the greater whole of existence. Personal responsibility, through choice, frees us to share, and the Regale is one outward symbol of this.
On the Friday in the week of the Winter Solstice we hold our Candlemass, our festival of lights. When the evening comes we light one candle for Mary, and other candles, one each for each other loved one who has passed from our life, whether by death or distance. We let the candles burn until late into the night, a lighting of passion and fire to stand against the darkness.
The term "Circle" for congregation is also common in neo-pagan groups.
3-14 the word
In the powerful religions that dominated in the twentieth century there was always a single word, a single directive to guide and shape each.
Islam told us to submit to Allah.
Christianity told us to believe in Christ.
Buddhism told us to relinquish the material.
One must pour out what was in a bowl before it may be filled with something new.
By submitting, you choose to surrender your pride.
By believing, you choose to accept hope.
By relinquishing, you choose to lay down fear.
Over and over, whatever path we walk, whatever lens we gaze through, always we are faced with the same challenge and the same choice.
Choose to live, or choose not to. Choose to take responsibility for yourself, for others and for the universe around you.
The adversary of good is not evil, but apathy. When we limit our capacity and willingness to share the anguish and joys of others, we breed apathy and birth tragedy.
We pray to know we are not alone.
Our supplications are rarely prayers for corporal aid in our endeavors, but instead prayers for the emotional succor that a mother provides her children.
We pray to know we are loved; we pray to know we are wanted. We pray to know that another has confidence - when we do not - that we can achieve what we labor to realize. The desire to pray is the desire for inner strength.
We pray to speak to the divine from the fragility of our self. We meditate to hear ourselves in the silence of our soul.
We gain from our awareness of the nature of God the knowledge that we are part of something that is greater than ourself, and that joined together in awareness and interconnection with it, we are infinite and invincible.
The concept of praying is a troubling one for many pantheists as well. Buddhism escapes this dilemna largely by relying more upon meditation (and thus mysticism) than upon prayer and supplication for divine intervention.
3-16 the recording
Creation. Justice. Heresy.
Honor. Individualism. Jealousy.
Responsibility. Ritual. Fear.
Beauty. Control. Confidence.
Entropy. Aggression. Denial.
Freedom. Violence. Respect.
Strength. Identity. Humanity.
Hate. Religion. Sacrifice.
Immortality. Fate. Action.
Faith. Gnosis. Ignorance.
Success. Luck. Sentience.
Love. Surrender. Emotion.
Time. Defilement. Loss.
Perspective. Knowledge. Roads.
Possession. Expectation. Death.
This final recording lists all forty-six principles. As I understand it, some heretics use this as a meditation aid.