Praying Mantis Symbolism

I don’t write much about archetypes. However, I do consider the symbolic meaning of many animals, monuments, and special natural sites. I look for the symbolic meaning inherent in the attributes of such things. I also consider spirit animals or totems. I think these can be special spirits that choose to share their spiritual existence with us. In that way, I think some could be teachers, guides, mentors, guardians, or even malevolent spirits that seek to trouble us.

In another context, I think the symbology of spirits is important to remind us that we are also nature. I think we, as humans, think we are above nature. We often talk about nature as if we are separate from it. Not to start a great debate, but the distinction we make between natural and man-made is a great example of this thinking. Do we call a birds nest a bird-made object, or a spiders web a spider-made object? We think that only humans are capable of creating something unique and outside of nature. Anyway, I think considering the symbolic meanings of nature is a good way of remembering our place in nature.

By the way…

Diane Cooper has written an interesting book that looks at the spiritual life of animals and their spiritual purpose on earth. It’s called The Archangel Guide to the Animal World. Check it out if you’re interested in learning more about the ideas that animals have souls and a purpose on earth.

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With that being said, I should also mention how thankful I am to work as a gardener. My job allows me to work outdoors with plants everyday. It also gives me much time to think. I often feel like a monk, working in a temple garden, in contemplation. I joke with my coworkers about finding my zen through gardening. It’s only a half-joke.

Now, over the past couple of weeks I have found 2 praying mantises hitching rides on my shoulder. I never see them in the plants. I only realize them when I feel them gripping me through my shirt. Neither of them seemed to flinch when I finally noticed them. Both of them were put back into a plant so they could continue to hunt. As a professional gardener, I recognize that these are friends of the garden.

Mantis next to gloves
One of the praying mantises I found on my shoulder.

But, since praying mantises aren’t as common as bees or ants, I wondered what symbolic meaning they have.  So, I did some google research and found a few common symbolic meanings.

  1. Having proper timing
  2. Peace and Understanding
  3. Patience
  4. Balance
  5. Mindfulness
  6. Stillness and Focus
  7. Prophecy, Clairvoyance

In general, the ideas are that the mantis is patient, still, and calm. It waits until the perfect time to strike its prey. It’s also mindful of itself and its surroundings. Going a little farther, in Greek the word mantis means prophet or seer. It some parts of Africa it symbolizes god.

Sunsigns.org writes,

“The praying mantis will become your animal totem once you have learned to take your time and live your life at a silent and reflective pace. You should make all choices with a sincere commitment to careful thought and contemplation.”

That statement means the most to me at this point in my life. I think that is the type of life I am trying to live and enjoy the symbolic confirmation of my intent. It might not be much but sometimes we humans can be too brutish and we miss these little details in the world around us. It’s my attempt to become more aware of my surroundings and the more delicate details of reality. I hope you make the attempt too!

By the way…

If you’re interested in learning more about spirit animals and animal symbolism here are a few books you might be interested in reading.

Discovering Your Spirit Animal: The Wisdom of the Shamans by Lucy Harmer

Animal-Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Creatures Great and Small by Ted Andrews

Animal Spirit Guides: An Easy-to-Use Handbook for Identifying Your Power Animals by Steven Farmer

This link goes to animal spirit divination cards. I have these cards and I like them because they have left some of the cards blank so you can fill in with animals important to you. Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals with Cards by Jamie Sams.

Many Gods and the One

As someone who’s come to spirituality through Christianity, I continue to consider how to incorporate the concept of God in my beliefs. From a wide perspective, the idea of a great creator God is common to many beliefs. That God may be called by many names but regardless of the name the idea is similar.

In Gnostic beliefs there are many gods. There is still an ultimate creator God but there are also lesser gods. According to the Gnostic creation story, the god of this world isn’t actually the true creator god. To the Gnostic’s, the creator God, was much bigger than just the creator of this world.

Bible in the woods

A great resource I use to research the Gnostic beliefs is the Gnosis Archive, here. Through that site, I discovered Dr. Marvin Meyer who is one of the premiere scholars on the Gnostic’s. He has written an edited many books including translating many of the Gnostic texts. One of my favorite books is the comprehensive, Nag Hamadi Scriptures. It’s available on Amazon by clicking the link.

A good introductory book, also by Dr. Meyer, is The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus. The Gnostic version of Jesus is different from the modern version. This book gives another view of Jesus and how he related to his disciples. It’s also on Amazon by clicking the link.

There are many other books but these are 2 that I think are great resources for anyone interested in learning more about the Gnostic version of Christianity. This is an important perspective on God that has helped me put God in context with my own spiritual beliefs. I think of the creator God as the fabric of reality. This is a much larger God than the one who simply (comparatively) created this world.

The Gnostic system allows for lesser gods. From an animistic perspective, that allows for a universe of powerful forces. But, it also raises the question; what determines status as a god? That’s a question for another time, but it’s important to ask. In the Gnostic creation there are 4 “luminaries” that exist between God and angels and even the “god” that created our heaven and earth. So, if the force that created the Earth is a “god” and he was created by a “god” and there are powerful forces between them that aren’t “gods;” what criteria constitutes a “god?” Again, that’s a question that deserves its own article, but I think it opens the door to the possibility of many “gods.”

Nebula Galaxy

I think the concept of a creator god fits within animistic spirituality. From a Christian perspective, I think the Gnostic traditions provide a way to incorporate both, a belief in a creator god and belief in lesser gods. At some point I’ll have to write another article exploring the question; what criteria constitutes a god? I think we may be misusing that word, or we have restricted our thinking by denying the possibility of multiple gods. This question also leads to many other questions such as; is it possible for us to become gods? At any rate, those are all concerns for another article. I hope you’ve found some value in this article, and if you want to know more about Gnostic beliefs, check out the books I recommended. Until next time.

About

I come from a basic American family. My ancestors immigrated here from all over Europe. We are mostly Protestant. I was raised in the Methodist church. But I never fully bought into the theology. I’ve always been interested in religion especially the spiritual aspect. One critique I’ve developed to modern Protestant faiths is the lack of mysticism and spirituality. Another critique I have is against the story of Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the garden of Eden because they ate from the tree of knowledge. I disagree with the premise that god would punish humanity for having knowledge. Further, I question what kind of god would do such a thing.

From this perspective, I have spent my life trying to find a better spiritual path. Along the way I’ve grown interested in learning my ancestral pagan roots. While many modern spiritualists, in the United States, look to native Americans for guidance in pagan (animistic) practices, I recognize that Europeans also had animistic practices, before they were converted to one of the major world religions. To honor the traditions of local native cultures and those of my ancient European ancestors, I seek to understand the European animistic beliefs.

Candles

This blog is the result of my research and years of contemplation. This project is ongoing. I’m constantly learning new information. My goal is to discover fundamental concepts related to many animistic (or pagan) traditions and to apply those to my own spiritual practice.

I’m using the terms pagan and animistic interchangeable because paganism may be better understood than animism. But, generally paganistic practices are animistic. Animism is a belief that most things have a spirit and agency (can act for themselves). This belief is fundamental to most local traditions and is the natural way of thinking for humanity. Animism is a major part of my research.

Floral Wreath

Besides that, I’m also interested in metaphysics. In metaphysics, I’m interested in vibrations and consciousness. I think vibrations are a missing aspect to our common understanding of actual physics. From that perspective, I think it’s interesting to consider the role of vibrations on the etheric plane. This assumes that the soul or spirit is something tangible in some sense. I do think the spirit is something tangible in some sense and I think consciousness is key to that tangibility. I think consciousness creates a tangible spirit.

Beyond that, I think it’s worthwhile to put these ideas to the test. From time to time I practice rituals with the intent to make changes to my environment. I also practice contemplative meditation. I’ve noticed the most success from meditation. Where I read and study then use practices to enter a trance to assist the synthesis of the new information. This practice has helped open new avenues of thought and understanding.

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I am by no means a spiritual guru. I write to share what I believe is relevant and informative information and experiences to like-minded people. My goal is to explore these topics and to cause critical thinking in my readers. I think we’re in need of new spiritual practices and I’m searching for them. I think I’m not the only one. I hope you enjoy this blog and that it helps you develop your own, personal, spiritual practice.

 

The Immortal Form

This year, the idea of immortality has been in my life. This time around, I’ve taken a different perspective on the idea. One of the angles I’ve been contemplating is describing an immortal life after death. What does that mean? Basically, I’ve been considering what an immortal life, after mortal life, would be like. I think one important question is; how would I exist after mortal life? The reason I ask that question, is because I don’t believe we continue to exist in a humanoid form. And that is where the real problem exists.

Dirt Road

The Christian thought on immortal life is that we exist as humans in either heaven or hell. However, in philosophies of reincarnation, we may exist as any form. In one life we may be an insect or animal and in another we are humans. It’s interesting that it’s not the form of the physical body that exists immortally but the soul. Whereas in Christian thought, the soul has a human form. Does that matter?

In metaphysics there is much discussion about consciousness. Dean Radin is one of the leading researchers examining the effects of consciousness in the universe. It’s a fascinating area of study. It’s also a source of many questions. One of the most fundamental is; is consciousness the eternal soul? To understand the answer to that question we have to question the nature of the soul. Fundamental to that understanding is understanding the form of the soul. Does the soul have a form like the Christians think or is it formless and able to take any form?

Mountain Wall

Beyond the question of form is a question of the power of consciousness. What I mean to ask is; does consciousness have the ability to create its own form? To take that idea further, I could ask; does consciousness have the ability to create the environment around it, or can it create other forms external to itself? But, in terms of immortality for the human soul, can consciousness create its own form first?

Maybe this is the lesson from the story of God. God came into existence through its own will. It created its own form. Then, it created the rest of existence. If we replace God with consciousness maybe that’s how we can understand the lesson. Consciousness created itself through its own awareness. Once aware of itself it gave itself form and went on to create its environment. But, this simple perspective ignores the influence of outside factors. Wildflowers

The Gnostic creation story claims that the god of this world isn’t the true God of all. It claims that we were created by the false god but have a spark of the true God. Its arguable that the spark of the true God is consciousness. Thus, the means to escaping this existence is through the spark of the true God, or through our own consciousness. To put the idea another way, without gods, we exist in someone else’s reality and we can’t escape until we develop our own ability to create our own existence. We must become gods in our own right.

Rocky View

So, I’m way out in a field now. Let’s go back to the original question of immortality. While I think it’s possible that our immortal form could be human, I don’t believe that’s set in stone. I think we have the power to create our own unique forms and probably change those forms at will. But, it’s not the mortal material body that exists eternally, it’s our consciousness. However, while our consciousness has the ability to give form to ourselves and to our environment, we are also influenced by the consciousness of others. Does that make those other consciousnesses gods?

What about our influence on other consciousnesses? At what point does a consciousness start to influence others? Assuming there is influence; at what level of influence would we consider a consciousness god-like? But, let’s save some of these thoughts for other articles.

Juniper in Rock

There is much more to contemplate about god, consciousness, immortality, existence and so on. That will have to wait for another time. I could go on for much longer but I’ll save that for more articles! I hope this article has caused you to ask new questions and maybe open some new angles for your own contemplation. Until next time.

On the Holy Trinity

Recently, I watched a lecture on the Gnostic worldview by Laurence Caruna at the Vienna Academy of Visonary Art. One of the topics I enjoyed was the discussion on the historical context of Gnosticism. I appreciated the way the topic was presented, and I thought it helped put everything in historic context. Another topic I enjoyed was the discussion of the Gnostic creation myth. The creation myth is something I spend much time contemplating.

Of particular interest is the concept of the holy trinity. It’s interesting that the Gnostics didn’t scrap that idea. Instead, the Gnostics changed it. Where canonical Christianity describes the holy trinity as the father the son and the holy spirit; Gnostics described it as the father, the mother, and the child. Intuitively the Gnostic version makes more sense.

I always thought the traditional holy trinity was odd. From a naturalistic perspective, I always thought the trinity worked better as a father, mother, child. I’ve always had difficulty understanding why the woman was substituted for the holy spirit. So, I was happy when I discovered that the Gnostics did have a mother in their version of the trinity!

Bear Creek, Colorado

But the discussion doesn’t end there. Besides these standard models of the trinity there is another way of thinking about it. This is the way on which I spend much time contemplating. It was presented in the lecture as the Aristotle model. But it was also part of the Gnostic philosophy. God is the first thought. Barbelo (in Gnostic theology) is the second thought. And the Child is the third thought.

Laurence presents the concept as, the thought thinking of itself thinking. This seems confusing on it’s face. But through contemplation, I’ve come to understand the first thoughts as; the first thought is awareness (I am- thought), the second thought is an awareness of the thought (I am thinking) and the third thought is self-awareness (This is me thinking).

This perspective seems to coincide with Gnostic thought. Where the son (Jesus) teaches that self-knowledge is the path to knowing God. In other words, if we work backwards from existence the path is to realize; this is me thinking. And that thought is the child or Jesus. So, to begin with finding Jesus, we must first realize; this is me thinking.

From there we can move on to the realization that; I am thinking. From here on it get’s a little tricky. For instance, if I know, this is me thinking; isn’t it correct that, I am thinking. And if, I am thinking, doesn’t that mean; I am. The question then becomes; could I be thinking if I don’t exist (I am not)?

Great Sand Dunes Park

The idea of the self-creating god seems to answer that question. If god came into existence with the first thought (I am), shouldn’t that mean that to go to the second thought, I am thinking, requires existence? Or another way to ask the question would be; did god exist before it had a thought? It might seem like the easy answer to that question is yes but; that would lead to a circular argument where you could ask; if god did exist before the first thought, how did it come into existence at that point, and then before the next point? So, there must be a beginning. Although, there may be another way.

Instead of thinking of God as a thing (like a person) what if God is the actual fabric of reality itself? What if the personified God we think of is actually a projection or actually a personification of the fabric of reality? This not only makes God a much larger concept, but it eliminates a before god argument. This seems to be the way the Gnostics knew God. How else can something be the beginning and end, the light and the shadow. It’s so because God is the fabric of reality. In this way there can’t be time or space, beginning or end, light or dark, without this kind of God.

Modern metaphysics, engaged in the discussion of quantum physics, seem to agree with this way of thinking. One problem scientists are beginning to realize is the problem of consciousness also known as the observer effect. They’ve discovered that experiments involving light can have different results if the experiment is observed or not. A possible hypothesis is that the consciousness of the observer is interfering with the experiment. That’s important because these are experiments dealing with sub-atomic particles (photons). The realization that our consciousness could influence sub-atomic particles would be profound! It would certainly give some credit to psychic healers!

Penitente Canyon

But let’s go back to another aspect of the Gnostic creation myth. When the demi-urge and his angles created man, they couldn’t bring us to life. It wasn’t until Pistis- Sophia told the demi-urge to blow some of this spirit in our face, that we finally became alive. In this way, we carry the little piece of the holy spirit. But we are small. And if we have a spark of the holy spirit it’s very small. Could it be some sub-atomic particle we can identify? If it is, it would be that which gives us consciousness in the first place. So, how to we get in touch with that?

Now, we come back to the beginning. I think this is where the Gnostic teachings were trying to lead us. They told us their story of creation. They told us we have a spark of the holy spirit in us. And Jesus told us that knowing ourselves is the path to knowing God. Since the child is the third thought, this is me thinking, we must start there. Once we can master the reality that, this is me thinking, then we can move on to the reality that, I am thinking. Once we can master those realities, we can finally come to understand that, I am. That is, the holy spirit is already a part of us and therefor we do, already exist, in the Holy Spirit.

-Amen