The Meaning of 888

For years, a running joke I told was that I was born on Antichristmas—June 25, the symbolic antipode of Christmas Day. And while the season’s greetings I text my friends have become a lot less sarcastic, I am beginning to see a lesson in the turning of that wheel, again & again, and the spiral path it’s made.

As a species we seem to be formed by contrast. “Kikhhh,” the Lebanese mother will sound out to the child who has tried to taste something he’d picked up off the ground, establishing his boundary between clean and unclean. If this line is tested, the mother may follow with a more direct admonition: “la, diddeh.” And as he ages, the child will learn to navigate between these lines of good and bad that multiply and complexity over the years, turning his moral chiaroscuro into a dappled canopy of many shades of grey.

Some of us will live the rest of our lives in the shade of this zanzalakht tree; others, like many of you and many of me, will quickly grow agitated under that ambiguous haze—we will do everything we can to heighten the contrast.

We will “flip it and reverse it”—its yerrriminip yep yep come on—until the thing we once thought is now precisely its opposite: solar becomes lunar, molar becomes molecular, wrath becomes love, the first becomes the last.

All of this is well and good; thesis needs antithesis to drive the engines of history—that’s what turns the wheel. But sometimes we find ourselves spinning in the same place—“revolutionary” but with little-to-no forward motion. And that’s when we have to look for what might be gumming up the gears.

I see something of this dilemma in the exoteric / esoteric dichotomy that dapples much of our spiritual discourses: religion becomes magic, doctrine becomes folklore, intellection becomes experience, etc. All is well and good if the wheel is allowed to keep turning; June must become December so that December can become June. But what makes intuitive sense to us from the workings of this cosmos does not translate as well into our thinking about our little corners of it.

We are too often governed by shadowy figures in the back-benches of our brain who want the splits to never end, the dialectic to never synthesize.

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But the challenge is two-fold: it’s to remember that the turns form a cycle which in turn forms a spiral—there’s no point breaking binaries just to land in an endless nothing of eternal return. That’s one thing that contrasts Dane Rudhyar’s work on lunation from a lot of writing and practice around the moon I see; he talks about cycles of waxing and waning as seasons of seeding and harvesting that take place within a larger (progressed) cycle of growing and reaping. In other words, this story isn’t bound by our intentions alone—there is an arrow to time and an arc to our cosmic existence.

That’s probably the trickiest balance to make in the spiritualist “metaverse.” To honor freedom and purpose at the same time is to square the proverbial circle. That’s alchemy. That’s buddhahood. That’s the peace that surpasses all understanding. That’s what tests and eludes every limit of every school of thought.

Because Christ is not to be synthesized with Anti-Christ. Christ is the synthesis. That’s what the Christmas story is ultimately about: as above, so below—the mystery of the incarnate deity.

But to claim this is to risk another dichotomy. It is scandalous to believe that the very Alpha and Omega was born on Christmas Day. Why this day and not another? Why this manger and not elsewhere?

This is one reason why the western esoteric tradition has drifted further & further inwards. Its roots are Christian but it is watered by a modernism that can only accept particularity if it is individualized: Christ is your truest self. Christ is symbolic. Christmas is one day among hundreds.

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Our markings of Christmas Day—these exoteric motions we go through year after year—are indeed one day among hundreds in the turning of the wheel. But the esoteric truth of the Christmas story is that the Nativity of Jesus Christ was a unique day in the history of this cosmos. That’s what every saint believed. That’s what every martyr died proclaiming. We are an Easter people because God was a Christmas child.

There are many resources one can draw from the Christian tradition; many practices, many lessons, and many inspirations. But it all hangs together around a single claim: that the God who is One is the same God who was born of Mary.

That’s the story. Some of us will interpolate it within other readings of other stories because we feel we must. Others will completely reject it. All well and good. But still others, like some of you and some of me, will feel compelled to reread and rewrite all other stories through that singular claim.

Why? Because Christ is more than symbolic—Christ is the interpretive key. At least, that’s what makes sense to me.

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