Feast Day of Saint Carl of Sagan


On November 1st, the Feast of All Saints, Jason asked some of us “Who are your Saints?” and suggested people think of the “great Sorcerer Saints and Mystics that have come before, and upon whose shoulders we all stand.” I knew right away who one of my main saints is, despite not being a sorcerer, and by many perceptions of him, not a mystic or spiritual person at all.

For me today is a feast day, with an unconventional feast celebration, for an unconventional saint. Outside of a technical definition adhered to by Catholicism, it’s hard to define a saint. Catholicism has a complex system of slowly canonizing and investigating miracles to evaluate if a person could be a saint. (A modern idea within the Church, as many early saints were considered saints by the people, and essentially grandfathered in.) Within Buddhism we have a myriad of interesting saints, but no real structure into that definition. Exceptionally wise, and powerful tantric practitioners are called saints.

Crowley introduced the idea of the Gnostic Saints, people who, regardless of their background, seemed to in line with the spiritual path of Thelema, and his saints included people from different religions, poets, and mystics.

For me a saint is about the embodiment of understanding on a divine level, regardless of where it comes from. Like Crowley I have a list of Gnostic Saints, and while my own views are in line with Thelema, my Gnostic Saints are about gnosis, that radical understanding, regardless of source. It includes saints, and mystics, poets and artists, but also scientists and writers.

tumblr_mjecp7AS9j1qcten6o1_500[1]Probably my most important Gnostic Saint, is Carl Sagan. It might seem strange to have a saint that identified as agnostic (and by modern language might be more of an atheist), but to me there are very few people who embody a divine wisdom better than Carl. My path owes a great debt to saints, mystics, shamans, and sorcerers, but I cannot deny the debt it owes to scientists as well, especially those connected to the Cosmos the way Sagan was.

His show in the eighties, for which he is best known and served as my introduction to him, put forth some of the most beautiful expressions of cosmic interdependence from a scientific perspective, that it spoke to me, deeply. The line has become cliché and overused, but Sagan said it best “The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”

His vision of the Cosmos, all that is or was or ever will be, inspired me so much that when I did the Abramelin ritual I used Cosmos for the name of the ultimate divine. Every other word was either too loaded (god, vague, which one?), too culturally specific for my experiences (Brahma, Godhead), or too impersonal (Divine), but Cosmos…Cosmos suited. My path, named by a spirit years before the Abramelin, is known to me as the Starry Path, and the Cosmos, the literal physical universe has always been an important part of my path. As much as we might ascend the spheres of heaven on the astral to understand the universe, it is important to gaze into the heavens at the stars (same rootword as astral) to understand the universe.

I’ll let this introduction from his show speak for Sagan.

“There is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a great height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”

I can’t help but feel a spiritual resonance with that idea. Far too many magick folk spend so much time focusing on the mystical subtle realms, that they don’t realize how astoundingly beautiful, complex, and divine the physical is. Sagan delves so deep into the wonders of the (material) universe that it becomes spiritual.

He understands the interconnection of all things, that we are literally made of molecules forged in stars, that the molecules in our bodies have all come from the same place, that all life on earth is connected in a vast family tree, and all phenomena in reality are part of a single entity, the Cosmos.

“And we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the Cosmos we’ve begun, at last, to wonder about our origins. Star stuff, contemplating the stars organized collections of 10 billion-billion-billion atoms contemplating the evolution of matter tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet Earth and perhaps, throughout the Cosmos.”

He contemplates the Oneness of everything to a degree that puts many spiritual folks I know to shame.

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”

So every year on this day, his birthday, I hold his feast. The celebration is simple.

Turn on an episode of Cosmos, while they’re all amazing for the more spiritual bend I recommend episode 1 (The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean), 2 (One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue), 9 (The Lives of the Stars) or 10 (The Edge of Forever, in which Sagan actually quotes from the Vedas).

My image of Sagan on a shelf of my Saint altar, complete with feast.

My image of Sagan on a shelf of my Saint altar, complete with feast.

While watching it eat the sacred foods of St. Carl of Sagan, a Cosmopolitan (I prefer the variation of using blue curacao, instead of Triple Sec. It tastes better and gives it a deep blue-indigo colour reminiscent of the night sky) and an apple pie (that you bought at a store or bakery, as one cannot make an apple pie from scratch, see episode 9 if that statement confuses you).

Lastly, go outside, find the darkest area within a reasonable distance, and look up at the sky. See our family slowly wandering above us. Remember was are starstuff, those lights are distant cousins. Reconnect to the Cosmos, remember we are in it, as much as it is within us.


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