Some Thoughts on the Gnostic Mass from the Acolyte's View...
by Soror Nephthys © 1997
First published in The Scales, Vol. I. Nos. 3 & 4
A publication of Serpent In Balance Camp, O.T.O., Orlando, FL
My intention when I sat down to write this initially was to clear up an area of my own confusion concerning the Mass, that of the role of the children, or acolytes. My first draft received some constructive criticism, which I asked for and appreciated. After a few days, I realized that I had also learned something else about the role of the acolytes. When I wrote the first draft of this article, it was from the standpoint that people didn’t seem to think much about the children in the Mass. Cool, people to give me my cakes and wine! Well, yes, they do that, but I knew there was much more to it than that since I had participated in that capacity so many times. What I learned was that people DO pay significant attention to the acolytes: it’s just that the physical nature of their silent role creates a subconscious awareness of them rather than a conscious one, in my opinion.
The whole concept of the children is often very confusing to people who have never done it before: this usually means they have had very little exposure to the Mass, in general. The entire Mass in and of itself can be confusing: it’s packed with so much imagery and symbolism that it can be a little overwhelming. I had only seen one Mass when I started playing the negative acolyte about two years ago when I and my roommates began doing the Mass at home, but I had read it a few times and I sat in on their discussions. I knew enough to know I wanted to get a little more involved in the process. There were just enough of us to have a full Mass team and have a handful of congregants. Let me tell you, living rooms make for cramped and hot temples!! Being that I lived with the couple who were our Priest and Priestess, I sort of got roped into it. “Hey, Nephthys, you'll be our negative child, RIGHT!” (wink, wink) Yeah sure, okay, whatever. Having had only limited exposure to the O.T.O. and the E.G.C., I was sort of trepidatious since I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into. They assured me all I had to do was follow people, hold stuff, and feel negative. Great, no problem. At that point in my life, feeling negative was not a problem.
So, what had I gotten myself into? Not much, it appeared at first. They were right: I followed people, held stuff, and felt negative. In retrospect, I wish I had understood a little better just what I was supposed to be doing. I don't think my energy was detrimental to the Mass by any means, but I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had done a little more research into just what the children were supposed to represent. It seemed obvious on the surface: one negative child to represent negative energy, and one positive child to represent positive energy. However, the more I participated in the Mass in that negative fashion, the less I enjoyed the Mass. It was not until my brothers moved away and I was forced to come out of my shell and attend Mass at Scarlet Woman that I gained a deeper understanding of what the children mean to the Gnostic Mass.
I was the positive child in a Mass that marked virtually the first time I had ever shown my face by myself at the Oasis. Sometimes I wonder if the gods weren't tweaking the strings of fate the day our Oasis Mistress came into my place of employment and invited me to the Mass that evening. The thought had never really crossed my mind, still being very Hermit-like, but I was very honored that I'd been invited, so I hopped on the bus after work and headed up to the Bodhi. I was pretty early, but if I hadn't been, I couldn't have volunteered to replace the positive child that had to cancel that evening, which I did with mouse-like meekness. I then received my first formal lesson in energy work from the soror playing the negative child. As she described how the energy of the Mass flows around the room and amongst the congregants and officers, the meaning of what the children represented in the Mass took on completely new meaning, and I have been contemplating their role ever since.
What I've come up with is a combination of that first lesson I got and my own experience in participating in the Mass. From the learning point of view, there is no better vantage point to see the Mass from than that of the acolytes’. You can see everything, something that can only be done if you've got a really good seat in the congregation. None of the other officers can see the entire temple while Mass is in progress, exception being the Deacon while there's no congregant or Priest at the altar. From the experiential point of view, there is no better vantage point to experience the wide variations in energy that can occur during a Mass: the ceremony means different things to everyone, and being right there at the altar while they communicate gives a completely unique perspective on how the Mass energy affects different people. It's not only that you get to see people's expressions when they're communicating. It's also that the children are an integral yet passive part of the energy network that exists in the temple during Mass.
What I had originally been told about being an acolyte was essentially correct. It is necessary to feel negative. But not BAD-negative. Nor should the positive child try to feel GOOD-positive. It's the kind of negative/positive balance that exists in chemistry or physics between molecules and atoms. Negative ions draw energy towards them, positive ions emit energy. That's not exactly scientifically correct, but it describes the process fairly well. In my opinion, the basic purpose of the negative child is to draw energy from the congregation, send it to the positive child, and the positive child then sends that energy back out to the congregation.
On a more specific level, the path of energy in the temple flows from Priest, to congregation, to negative child, to positive child, to congregation, and back to the Priest. So when someone is standing on the altar communicating, they are standing right in the middle of an energy path. The energy also flows up and down the temple, from Priest to Deacon to Priestess, and back again. Providing, of course, that your Mass temple is set up in the proper directions. If it’s not, I think there still is significant energy flow amongst all participants, but since it’s not in harmony with the natural energy flow of the Universe, it’s perhaps not as powerful. But that’s just my opinion.
So once again, our communicant is standing in yet another energy path. In fact, they are standing at the intersection of two paths of energy, upon which energy can flow in any direction, and what direction it goes is in the control of whoever is communicating. The position of the five officers of the Mass create this energy vortex on the dais before the Priestess, and between the two children. Round and round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows! This vortex also corresponds to the paths of Daleth and Gimel on the Tree of Life, which is, of course, the template upon which the temple is set up, again providing that Temple East is in Real East. If I were a better Qabalist, I would delve into that a bit more. Maybe next time.
I also discovered what I consider to be an astrological correlation to the Mass. There is a planetary configuration used in esoteric astrology called a yod, or the finger of god. It consists of an opposition, two semi-sextiles, a sextile, and two quincunxes. In plain English, these aspects create an energy flow amongst the four points involved that directs transformational force. Mystically, that transformational force can be harnessed in the Mass by utilizing the natural energy flow provided by the acolytes, Priest, and Priestess who represent the four points of the yod configuration. In this little model that I’ve created, your energy is taken by the negative child and transformed into something that can be sent to the positive child, who then can turn it into something serviceable. This energy is then sent to the Priest, who utilizes it until it’s ‘dead.’ This ‘dead’ energy is then shot straight up to the Priestess, who imbues it with life once again, and sends it back to you. If you trace this path with your finger, you see that a cross is made on the communicant with their own energy. This is not something that necessarily naturally occurs when the Mass is being performed. I think it could be used as a personal tool for transforming what one considers ‘negative’ energy into something that can be utilized. When present in the natal chart, the yod represents an area of life that MUST be paid attention to or imbalance and confusion occurs. I think the yod present in the shape of the Mass temple draws attention to one’s True Will, which I know causes imbalance and confusion when not followed in my own person. When communicating, one could use that opportunity to ‘purify’ their will, transform it in such a way that energy that isn’t in accordance with one’s True Will is re-integrated.
The point is that the positioning of the acolytes not arbitrary. They are where they are for a reason and I think they are vital to the general atmosphere of the Mass, unless space or size of membership prohibits using them. I've been to very small Masses that had no children, and they are just as wonderful as the huge Masses I've attended with the full complement of officers, so this is certainly not meant to be a slam on those that do not use children. I offer these thoughts on the children so that other Mass teams as well as congregants can harness the full energy potential of the Gnostic Mass and reap the subsequent benefits. Mass is certainly the best soul food I've ever had.
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