An Introduction to
the Ecclesia Gnostica in Seattle
& the Holy Gnostic Eucharist
| The Gnostic Church | Attending | Eucharist Overview
| Eucharist Specifics
This brief work, borrowed (and slightly revised) from Fr. Troy Pierce+
of Holy Gnosis of Thomas Chapel,
is intended to serve as an orientation and introduction to the Ecclesia
Gnostica in Seattle, WA, as well as the Gnostic Holy Eucharist and other
liturgical services. It is necessarily broad in scope, and the majority
of the information applies to all parishes of the Ecclesia Gnostica. For
more information contact the rector, Fr. Sam Osborne+, at: sosborne1393
(at) gmail (dot) com.
Faith is but the starting point
for Gnostics, and although we do not believe in a dogma that one must
profess, we do generally hold the following central points of view:
- Humanity is endowed with an essential spark of
the Divine Light, and our true home rests in the Divine. As we live
in this world, we are a mixture of good and evil, and can become
forgetful of our origins — Our divine nature serves as a compass to
guide us to our true home in the Pleroma (Fullness).
- Evil exists. While our sparks — our souls
— are divine, evil exists in the form of archons (rulers)
or limiters that strive to keep us in ignorance of our divine
- There is a way out that involves the remembrance
and return of the soul to its divine origin. A true desire for
freedom upon the part of the individual soul may eventually open the
way for him or her. There are intermediary beings and powers that
can assist us to the Light. These Messengers of Light serve to guide
us and open the way for us.
Gnosis is not esoteric, secret,
or occult information only available to an elite few. It isn't a
knowledge one gains from books or learning, and it is available to all —
most simply don't choose to pursue it. It is a very deep knowing, an
experiential knowledge that you are, rather than a knowledge
that you have. The Gnostic Catechism,
quoting one of the ancient Gnostic Fathers, explains: “Gnosis is the
revelatory and salvific knowledge of who we were, of what we have become,
of where we were, of wherein we have been thrown, of whereto we are
hastening, of what we are being freed, of what birth really is, and of
what rebirth really is” (IV:59).
The path of Gnosis is a transformative path in which you slowly grow
and become more of who you truly are. It is a path of liberation, Gnosis
is the means or method of the path, and the goal of the path is the
ultimate divinity. More information on Gnosis, Gnosticism, and the
tradition of the Ecclesia Gnostica is available in the Catechism.
Am I a Gnostic?
The experience of a Gnostic coming to Gnosticism, is best described as
realizing that there is a term for what you are — a Gnostic. It is a deep
recognition of an affinity. A home-coming.
In a general sense, the term “Gnostic” applies to anyone following the
path of Gnosis, using the means or method of Gnosis, and the tools of
ancient Gnosticism, to seek to achieve liberation and reunion with the
Divine as our ancient forbears did.
Not everyone who benefits from our tradition, or Gnosticism in
general, is a Gnostic. Gnosticism accepts our experiences, it recognizes
the presence of the Divine within everyone, it is poetic and symbolic,
while also being practical. In a world that can often misuse our
spiritual impulses, Gnosticism offers a means of following them to
A key difference is that someone who is not a Gnostic, but uses
material from Gnosticism, tends to get stuck on the ideas. They may use
them for liberation, but only to a point. For example, the Divine
experienced as feminine is a continuous part of the Gnostic tradition,
but it is not the point of it. If contemporary women (or men) find this
aspect of the tradition useful in overcoming the limitations of society,
it has served well; but if the process of liberation stops there — it is
The Gnostic Church
There is no shortage of uninformed
opinions about Gnosticism, and some are surprised at the very idea of a
Gnostic church, saying it is contradictory or even impossible. This would
be quite a surprise to the historical Gnostics, who were almost always
associated with a church (ecclesia), and considered themselves
very much a part of the Universal Church.
When we think of “church” today, we
think of a form of church organized around a large set of beliefs and
dogmas that individual members are expected to accept and follow, which
often leads to the frustration of those who fail to live up to the standards.
Many come to the conclusion that church is not for them, and declare, “I'm not
religious, I'm spiritual!” However, that form of church is an orthodoxy, literally
“correct beliefs,” and it developed in opposition to the Gnostic forms. A
church of that dogmatic form, even if the beliefs are based on Gnostic scripture,
is an orthodox church, rather than a Gnostic one. In contrast, the Gnostic
church is a support structure for the spiritual journeys of individuals
who seek to follow the path of Gnosis. Spiritual practice, study, and
mutual support bring us together — not obligation. The church is there as
a service: to offer the Sacraments to those who desire to receive them.
Instituted in Britain in 1953, and
established in the U.S. in 1959, the Ecclesia Gnostica (EG) is the oldest
publicly practicing, overtly Gnostic, sacramental church in North
America, with roots in the Old Catholic and Liberal Catholic Rites.
Centered in Los Angeles, the EG is presided over by Rt. Rev. Dr.
Stephan Hoeller, noted author, lecturer, professor of religion, and
senior Gnostic Bishop in the Americas. In addition to the Los Angeles
diocesan center, the EG has parishes in Portland, Oregon; Sedona,
Arizona; Salt Lake City, Utah; Oslow, Norway; and here in Seattle,
Washington. More information on the history of the EG is available at: the Ecclesia Gnostica Home Page.
(See also the Wikipedia
In addition to the Eucharist, we offer: devotional services, the
sacraments of Baptism, Chrism, and Absolution; and a process of formation as
clergy through inner focus and outer service. Additional services include
the usual sick calls, weddings, funerals, etc. Although the formation
process in the EG spans approximately seven years or more, and involves
personal transformation, in addition to more academic study, one should
never trade one's own judgment for any kind of official “seal of
Spiritual Practice & Gnosis
The methods for progressing in Gnosis that are referred to in ancient
scriptures, and that we use today in the EG, are richly poetic and
symbolic forms of personal transformational experiences that are either
focused upon an individual, or are generally participated in by a group.
They produce changes in consciousness, and have both initiatory (pivotal)
transformative effects, and also gradual transformative effects from
They involve participating in the sacred stories (myths) of the
tradition, and applying them directly to yourself by having a form
through which to experience them, and thus gain Gnosis of them. In our
practice, many aspects of these myths are revisited every year. There are
also times in one's life when there is a more direct need for a deeper
experience of some of them. And there are traditional methods for this as
These methods are what we engage in as a church. They are richly
symbolic liturgical services, that primarily consist of the Mysteries,
also called Sacraments, that are listed in the Gospel of Philip (Baptism,
Chrism, and Eucharist). The regular transformational method we use is the
celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The methods we employ as a church are
the Sacraments, and other liturgical rituals. We take care to follow the
traditional forms and traditional requirements for conveying these
Mysteries. The services are real transformational methods — our services
are public group spiritual practice.
In addition to public liturgical practices, individuals may choose to
take on personal practices, to enhance their spiritual life — Morning
and Evening Prayers, Examens, meditation, and the Holy Gnostic Rosary,
to name a few. A printed copy of a longer Morning and Evening prayer practice
is available from the clergy upon request, for those interested.
The Gnostic rite of
baptism is not intended to replace or rectify any prior baptism the
candidate may have received, but can be received sub conditione.
It is a Mystery to be entered into consciously and knowingly. Therefore
it is not a rite intended for infants, although there is a blessing
service available for them.
To become a candidate
for baptism, it is recommended that you attend services for a period of
months, familiarize yourself with Gnosticism, and the Ecclesia Gnostica,
and read the Gnostic
Catechism by +Stephan Hoeller, to see if it makes sense to you. When
you feel that baptism is something that you wish to pursue, speak with
the priest or other clergy. The sacrament of baptism is regularly offered
at Epiphany (January 6) and the Easter Vigil, but is also available upon
Other Services of the Clergy
Fr. Sam Osborne+ may be available for weddings and funerals, done on
an individual basis. He may also be available for individual
conversations: informational, social, or in the form of spiritual
direction and assistance in spiritual growth.
Members of the parish
often meet after services to socialize, discuss, and (of course) eat!
Feel free to stay after the service. Parishioners often bring a dish to
share after Mass, but no one is expected to do so, and there is usually
plenty of food and drink to go around. Non-Ecclesiastical activities in
the parish go in cycles, based on season and interest level. There have
been book discussion groups, movie nights, social evenings, and holiday
parties. Any, all, or none of which may be occurring at any time.
Attending Services & Activities
Visitors are always welcome.
Services are provided for all who may benefit from them. We ensure a safe
environment for all.
We have no provisions for child
care, but children are more than welcome. It is not recommended that you
bring children to services who will be uncomfortable or distressed by
sitting quietly for a long period of time.
No state or condition of life has
any bearing on the Gnostic path, nor is it a barrier to any level of
participation in the Ecclesia Gnostica. We don't care about your
ethnicity, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, or membership or
participation in any ethical spiritual or transformational organization
or path. Whatever your circumstances, you have the Divine Spark within
you, and we are all in this together. What you are is of no
importance next to who you are.
However, in providing a safe
environment conducive to spiritual growth, individuals may be barred from
participation for acts contrary to this such as: violent or threatening
behavior, verbal attacks, recruitment or proselytizing, hate speech, or
otherwise interfering with the environment or purpose.
The Ecclesia Gnostica provides
liturgical services as a service to those who may benefit from them. You
will not be solicited to join a church. There isn't a mechanism for
joining in the usual sense (membership is based on formation and
participation). We know that you cannot give someone else Gnosis, and
that this particular path isn't for everyone. If you wish to avoid
introducing yourself, sneak out as the candles are put out — we won't
If you are interested: there is
list for service announcements; a small group of people who socialize
after many services; and other parish activities.
Though we do not actively solicit donations at our services and
activities, they are vital to our continued operations. We do not receive
outside support, and must be self-sustaining in our activities. Clergy
receive no compensation, and all donations go to operating expenses and
improvements. If you have the means to support this effort, we greatly
appreciate your help.
Visitors are always welcome, and there are no
barriers of any kind to participate in our services. The
Eucharist is celebrated for all who may benefit from it. The only requests
we have of those attending are:
- That you keep casual conversation to a minimum when you are in the chapel
- That you maintain a respectful silence during the
service, if you do not wish to join in the responsive readings
- That you stand briefly, if you are able to do
so without difficulty, for the reading of the Gospel (you will be
asked at the appropriate time)
Otherwise, the level of
your participation is left solely to your own discretion. Communion is
open to all who wish to receive it, and there are no barriers around our
altar. Visitors are welcome to receive communion regardless of creed.
The Eucharist service begins after the
lighting of the candles, and ends after they have been extinguished. A
brief homily follows the service, and is concluded by a final blessing and
of the Eucharist
The Eucharist is a Mystery instituted by
Christ, and developed over a thousand years. It is not any one thing, nor
any collection of things. A mystery cannot be defined, it can only be
experienced. As the late Benedictine liturgist, Aidan Kavanagh, said:
“The liturgy, like the feast, exists not to educate, but to seduce people
into participating in common activity of the highest order, where one is
freed to learn things which cannot be taught.”
Our form of the Eucharist dates back to
around the eleventh century, as used in Western Christendom, while the
contents are largely drawn from ancient Gnostic scriptures. The Eucharist
is timeless, touching upon the Eternal, and each service has a
particularity, both from the Sunday or Holy Day in the liturgical year,
but also from the qualities of the participants. Its purpose is not to
change from week to week so as to entertain, its purpose is to remain
what it is, and to change us in the process. Like a daily walk along the
same route there are constant changes, and more importantly, you change.
It is a long slow process — like anything real; but rewarding, as only
something real can be. Click here to read an article on the Gnosis of the Eucharist,
by +Stephan Hoeller.
It is our hope that
you experience the depth and richness we feel. It may be difficult to
participate at first, like learning a new language — or one that
is so similar it may be confusing. It takes patience and listening: both
to the service, and the experience of it within you.
Liturgy as Poetry
In the Gnostic view,
liturgy is poetry, theurgy, sacred drama — not theology. The same can be said for scripture in
general, including the scriptural passages that are read during the
Eucharistic service. The words are not statements of belief — they are
not there as an end, but as a means. No belief is required to
participate, and unexamined beliefs are actively discouraged in our
For more information the the inner meaning of the Eucharist and
other sacraments, we recommend The
Science of the Sacraments by the Liberal Catholic bishop +Charles W.
Leadbeater, as well as +Stephan Hoeller's slim volume,
The Mystery and Magic of the Eucharist. The latter is out of
print, but a lending copy may be available from the clergy.
Validity of the Sacrament
The priests of the
Ecclesia Gnostica are duly ordained in the traditional manner, in the
Apostolic Succession of universally recognized lineage, after an
approximately seven year formation. The structure of the Gnostic Holy Eucharist
is that of the Eucharist used throughout Western Christendom since the
eleventh century. The Canon of the Mass (the Consecration) remains
unaltered from a much earlier time.
All who wish to receive Communion may do
so. Receiving Communion is an personal matter, and is solely the choice
of the individual. The Ecclesia Gnostica does not require that one
receiving Communion possess any set of beliefs or attitudes, nor does
receiving Communion imply the possession or adoption of any beliefs or
Communion is usually given in both forms,
through intinction (wafer soaked in wine), and is placed by the priest on
the communicant's tongue. Communion of one type (wafer only) may be
requested. To receive Communion, open your mouth about half-way, and put
your tongue forward onto your lower lip. Use your tongue to pull the Host
into your mouth.
Not all of the words spoken will be found
in the Eucharist book (the Missal). So, don't feel lost when following
along. There are both Pre-Eucharistic and Post-Eucharistic prayers, often
taken from the Odes of Solomon. There are also readings that change
depending on the week or Holy Day of the liturgical calendar: these are
the Collects, Lesson, and Gospel. These readings, as well as the
liturgical calendar for the year, may be found in the online Lectionary. A
brief homily follows the body of the service, preceding the
Responsive reading is
encouraged but not required. Sections of text that begin with a “C:” or
an “A:” signify those to be read aloud by the congregation.
Much of the Mass is
sung or chanted in our parish, and most of the musical settings are
available in a booklet, upon request.
Those who wish to
participate more in the service, yet do not have a background with such
things, may benefit from the following instructions. Again, they are not
Crossing oneself in
our tradition is done in the manner of Western Christendom. With fingers
together touch brow, navel, left shoulder, right shoulder (and optionally
your heart). A “+” in the service book indicates times when it is
appropriate to do so. This is often done in receiving a blessing, either
before or during the blessing. One also crosses oneself after receiving
holy Communion, when receiving the “Peace be with Thee” (Pax tecum)
blessing. One doesn't respond with “Amen” after receiving Communion in
It is traditional to
kneel when receiving Communion, however, those who are unable to kneel
are welcome to stand.
There is another
liturgical gesture that is commonly made before the reading of the
Gospel, while saying “Glory be to Thee, O Lord.” This is done by making a
small cross with your thumb over your forehead, lips, and heart.
Traditionally, this action is accompanied by a silent prayer that the
Lord might keep the Gospel in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.