What is gnosis? A visit to Holy Sophia

Holy Sophia Narthex in Melbourne is the second-oldest AJC group in Australasia. I’ve been visiting for nearly ten years as the group has ebbed and flowed, but slowly, steadily grown in numbers and spiritual depth.

Over the last year, the group has been led by Adam and Thomas who make a warm, welcoming team. Adam is a gifted musician who works as a carer. Thomas is deeply-read esotericist who work in research management. Between them they awaken both heart and mind in different dimensions.

Adam welcomed us all to his home. We shared a meditation and a Eucharist liturgy. I was very grateful that Adam (voice and mandolin) and Stuart (drum) wove music beautifully through the service – it’s rare to have music in our small groups.

We shared lunch and talked about the service, about life and about the future of the group. As it happened, the heating in the house was broken, so it was considerably warmer outside than in. On Adam’s suggestion, we all went for a walk in the park nearby. 

Weirdos under a tree

As usual, the presence of a river and trees took the discussion in a deeper direction. At some point, Jonas pointed out that we rarely talk about gnosis much or how to go about attaining it – which led to a conversation about what we each mean by it and whether we thought we’d experienced it. Vulnerable stuff.

What a gorgeous, precious day of warm companionship with the other strange souls on this very odd path. 

If you’re in Melbourne, get in touch with Thomas and Adam through the group website or Facebook page and make time to visit.

Dinner & discussion

Wisdom, “Sophia” in Greek, is a divine figure for Jews, Gnostics and Christians.

What aspect of reality does Divine Wisdom reflect? What is wisdom for human beings? How does all this relate to a spiritual path?

Let’s talk about it over wine and food. Like the good old days.

These nights are an informal time to meet and get to know each other, but also to discuss what we’re reading, ask questions, and share ideas and experiences.

Event Details

Event Program Jul-Dec 2018

Here’s what’s going on for the rest of the year.

12 Aug Dinner discussion
9 Sep Dinner discussion
28 Oct Eucharist – the practice of union
11 Nov Dinner discussion
Late Nov Introduction to contemplative prayer
22 Dec Agape meal

Dinner discussions serve both a social and educational purpose. They’re an informal time to meet and get to know each other, but also to discuss what we’re reading, ask questions, and share ideas and experiences. We’ll be holding these somewhere public (the venue may roam a little) on the second Sunday of the month.

If you want to get updates about venues and discussion topics – sign up to the mailing list.

Eucharist is a core part of Johannite spiritual life. Liturgy brings us into the shared presence of the divine. This is a traditional service known by many names in different churches – Mass, Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper, The Divine Liturgy – but we all share a common practice of bread and wine, though our understanding may be different.

Introduction to contemplative prayer is a one-day workshop about meditation – or contemplative prayer as well call it. How is it prayer? How do you do it? What does it? Why should you do it? Get your questions answered and get started with a modern form of an ancient practice that goes beyond mindfulness.

Venue and date to be announced. Sign up to the mailing list to stay informed.

What else is happening?

  • Bishop Tim will be in Melbourne on 25 August for a Eucharist service and workshop with Holy Sophia Narthex.
  • Johannite School continues to grow. New courses on spiritual practice and an introduction to gnosticism are coming over the next few months.
  • An online video course about the Apocryphon of John is happening very soon. We’ll announce sign-up details via the newsletter.

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Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

Prayer Circle: Nepal, Vanuatu, those facing execution

Many of us find ourselves distressed by the news each day. While a great deal of the information broadcast by news organisations at the moment seems designed purely to trigger unnecessary emotional distress, some communicates to each of us significant human tragedies that rouse our hearts to natural compassion.

In the face of the scale of large tragedies, it is easy to feel helpless, to disconnect. But the Gospel assures us that we have the strength to face even the most hopeless situations, to continue to love, to continue to care.

praying nun

One natural way to show care is to pray. To allow the reality of the situation to move your heart and release that movement in prayer to the Most High.  Christ assures us that our simplest prayers are heard, so there’s no need to make it complicated. Christian communities all over the world meet together in-person or online to form prayer circles – to pray together about the same things.

I want to pick out three things present for me in the news this week to ask you to care about. My suggestion is that you consider two things: to pray and to act. Each of these disasters is in need of your help, if you can give it – donations, time or materials. Each of these inspire prayer.

Join me in an online prayer circle to pray on behalf of these three situations especially over the next 48 hours (29 April to 1 May). But allow your prayer to also move you to act.

In Nepal over the weekend a massive earthquake caused huge devastation affecting tens of thousands of people and killing at least 5000, possibly many more. Nepal has many remote villages which are difficult to access, so finding and helping people is particularly difficult.

Vanuatu was hit six weeks ago by Tropical Cyclone Pam, a category five hurricane now regarded as one of the worst natural disasters in that nation’s history. The cyclone devastated much of the country and recovery will take years.

In Bali, convicted Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are in their final hours of life before facing execution by firing squad. This situation seems especially tragic here in Australia because the media has done a great job of portraying the complexities of their situation. Many Australians feel sympathy for these two convicted drug smugglers and feel they should be spared.

But I feel we should direct the compassion roused in contemplating the situation of these two men even more broadly. Nearly 800 people faced state executions globally in 2013 and Amnesty International estimates 2466 people were sentenced to death worldwide in 2014. In some countries this punishment is faced by LGBT people simply for who they sleep with or who they love.

So let us pray for the people of Nepal, for the people of Vanuatu and for everyone facing state executions, in particular Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan. Pray simply, pray from your heart, but pray.

Here are some suggestions for action, but check your favourite or local organisations to see how you can help.



Death Penalty