Category Archives: Writing

As Above, So Below is Cinematic Gold

My pal Travis said this movie As Above, So Below would be right up my alley so, when my wife decided to go to bed early the other night, I fired up the cable box and gave it go.

Travis knows me a lot better than I thought he did.

This movie is really smart.  Writer/director team the Dowdle brothers know their stuff.  They understand what alchemy is at its heart, they’ve read their classics (including especially Dante’s Inferno), and they grasp the idea that salvation is not achieved but realized, not earned but consummated.

This is a horror movie firmly on the creepy-eerie end of the spectrum, low on gore with a smattering of good startles, filmed in jiggly-camera-docu-horror-found-footage style.  Scarlett is the heroine, set a little too firmly the Laura Croft-Indiana Jones mold, picking up her father’s research where he left off.   She assembles a team of explorers to venture into the catacombs that lie beneath the streets of Paris to find the Philosopher’s Stone.  And here’s a plus — this is the first and only feature film ever actually shot in the famed Paris catacombs.  And boy is it creepy down there.  And the ending is pure genius.

So if this movie is so good, why does it only have 6.2 stars on IMDB and a score of 39% on Rotten Tomatoes?  Probably because horror fans want gore not chills, everybody is sick and tired of found-footage flicks (honestly I simply refuse to watch them, and I only gave this one a chance because I got a recommendation from a friend), the set-up is rather cliche, and most folks probably aren’t smart enough to appreciate the depth of what they are looking at.

If you’re into the Western Mysteries, alchemy, inner or esoteric Christianity or Dante’s Inferno, and if you like creepy-eerie horror movies, you’ll love this film.


Rating: R (for bloody violence/terror, and language throughout)
Genre: Documentary, Mystery & Suspense, Special Interest
Directed By: John Erick Dowdle
Written By: Drew Dowdle, John Erick Dowdle
In Theaters: Aug 29, 2014 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Dec 2, 2014
Runtime: 93 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures


7 Big Things I’ve Learned from Bart Ehrman

Bart Ehrman’s book. It rocks. Click to order a copy on Alibris,

I’m reading Ehrman’s book for seminary and, although I’m not quite done yet, I can tell you that it is outstanding.  There’s a reason why this book is the NT textbook for so many 100-level New Testament classes.  Highly recommended.

Here are the seven things I’ve learned from reading it.



7 Things I’ve Learned from Bart Ehrman

(In plain English without any edu-babble)

  1. There are at least three different methods for analyzing the New Testament. None are lame, but the editorial comparative method cuts to the bone by asking “How and why did this author or authors add, delete or change the story?”
  2. In the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, people were a lot less orthodox and uptight than we are today.  Basically, everybody was Hellenized and was grooving on everybody else’s ideas.
  3. Judaism in the time of Jesus was virtually a Greco-Roman mystery cult.  Ever wonder why so many Jews have Greek names, like Stephen and James and such?
  4. The ancients were fully aware of the huge contradictions between the four gospels but they really didn’t mind all that much.
  5. The fact that the gospels contained fictional elements and were written by people — not by the hand of God — didn’t bother them all that much either.
  6. The idea of Christianity as a monolithic thing is silly.  There have always been tons of sects. Even the apostles disagreed.  Lots.
  7. The various Christianities of the ancient world can be seen as attempts at interfaith religion.  People were trying to reconcile the teachings of Jesus with Judaism, Greco-Roman paganism, Platonic Philosophy, Egyptian mystery cults, Helenistic Buddhism, and the myriad ideas of the period.

Introducing Training Involutions

\In`vo*lu”tion\, n. [L. involutio: cf. F. involution.
See {Involve}.] 1. The act of involving or infolding.  2. The state of being entangled or involved; complication; entanglement.

As of this coming Saturday the “Workout of the Week” will now be referred to as the “Training Involution” of the week.

Why?  Because we are martial artists.  We are not “working out” — we are training.  “Working out” means going down to the local fitness center to get your sweat on, maybe get on a treadmill or a bike, perhaps lift some weights.  There’s nothing wrong with that of course.  Workouts are good for you inside and out.

But this is Cabal Fang.  We are not here to work out, we are here to train.  To prepare.  To defend. To build our mind-body-spirit triangles into indomitable pyramids.  Above all, to be involved.  The term “training involution” implies that you are involved.

But there’s also a metaphysical meaning of the word “involution” which is the opposite of evolution.  Evolution is the growth phase.  Involution is the looking inward phase.  A caterpillar must enter its cocoon (involve) before it can exit as a butterfly (evolve).

You can work out while listening to your iPod — but you cannot train.

Who are training involutions for?

They are designed for martial artists looking for an extra-challenging weekly exercise session — especially for those practicing Cabal Fang martial arts looking to supplement their twice-weekly meetings and constitutionals.  But anyone can use them, even if only for inspiration.  See your doctor before beginning a new fitness regimen and listen to your body.  I will not accept responsibility if you try to blame me for injury or death resulting from any exercise routine on this website.

What do involutions consist of?

Each week I generally include three things — a fitness component, a martial component and a spiritual component.  But that doesn’t mean I always will.    Sometimes I will have activities that overlap and/or stretch boundaries and definitions.

When should I perform involutions?

Whenever you want.  But since they can be pretty intense, I suggest inserting them in your exercise scheme at a point that allows you adequate recovery time before your next session based on your fitness level.

Why should I do the involutions?

Because you want to pursue the Great Work, of course.  And to do that you have to get involved with yourself and the world around you.

Get ready, because this Saturday’s involution is going to be a real challenge.


¹ Webster’s 1913 Dictionary

I’m Asking Santa for Your Support

What am I hoping to find under my Christmas tree this year?  Your patronage!  Support my mission via Patreon for as little as $1/ month and you’ll get a ton of patron-only videos and articles, as well as early access to even more.  So a gift to me is also a gift to yourself (but that can be just between you, me and the elves).

Now, if $1/month is too rich for you, here’s another way you can support my mission: buy your books from Alibris!  Alibris has a ton of great features and if you buy used like I do, you can often beat Amazon’s prices.  Shop any Alibris link on my site, buy from them, and I’ll get 5% of the total sale.

Thanks for your support!

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies




Archangel Ikigai? (and the Workout of the Week)

A friend of my friend Leo by the name of Nolan wrote an interesting piece about ikigai.  Ikigai is a Japanese concept  which means “a reason for living; a meaning for life; what makes life worth living; a raison d’etre.”¹

Here is Nolan’s ikigai diagram. Click the picture to read his excellent article.

What’s remarkable is that the diagram often associated with ikigai is also the symbol we in the martial art of Cabal Fang call the Rose of Barachiel.

I don’t think this is a coincidence.  If you’re going to find your ikigai — a reason for being that resides at the center of passion, vocation, profession and mission — you’re going to have to ask yourself a lot of questions about what you want and need, what you aspire to and what you’re good at.  In Cabal Fang we associate Archangel Barachiel’s rose with prayer, and to pray is to ask.

The ikigai diagram and Barachiel’s rose both contain an eye, literally and symbolically.  Both direct you to look within, to self examine, to view yourself truthfully, to ask for insight.

As I I’ve pointed out before, the eye symbol is one of the main characters in the the story of humanity’s spiritual evolution.  It shouts out, “pay attention!”

There’s another connection too.  In Cabal Fang, we often conceive of Archangel Barachiel as the optimal practitioner of our art, which encompasses being in control of Powers of the Sphinx — “To Know, To Will, To Dare; To Keep Silent.”  These four overlapping areas parallel the four zones of ikigai:

  • To Know = Profession (a professions requires specific knowledge)
  • To Will = Mission (a strongly felt aim is advanced by the power of the human will )
  • To Dare = Passion (your passion is what overcomes your fear and makes you courageous a.k.a “daring”)
  • To Keep Silent = Vocation (your vocation is what you want to do in your silent heart-of-hearts)

If you thought this was interesting, you’d really like the Cabal Fang Study Guide (especially if you like martial arts).

And now for the workout of the week.

Cabal Fang Workout of the Week #85

  • Bear-hug Walks for grappling strength.  Set a timer for 3 rounds of 1:30/1:00.  Pick up a heavy bag or sand bag, secure it in a bear-hug body lock with a good wrestling grip and pace back and forth until the 1:30 is over.  Rest 1 min. and repeat twice more. Use the heaviest bag you can safely manage.  If the first round is too easy, add some weight — I strapped dumbbells to my heavy bag to get there.
  • Calisthenics pyramid.  Complete a full pyramid to 7 (1 rep of each exercise, 2 of each, 3, 4, etc. up to 7 reps, then back down to 1 of each — 49 reps in total) of the following: Handstand Push-ups, Get-ups and  Split Jump Squats (x2).  Take as few 12-count breaks as you need in order to finish.  If you can’t do Handstand Push-ups, do Jackknife Push-ups (basically get into Downward Dog and do Push-ups to your upper forehead).
  • Meditation on the eye.  Sketch or print an eye symbol — an Eye of Horus, an Eye of Providence, an ichthys symbol, a Hand of Mysteries, a Hamsa, etc.  Set up the sketch or image at eye level and settle into your favorite meditative posture. Regulate your breathing, narrow your eyes, and spend 10 minutes meditating on the eye. What is the eye saying to you? What do you think is the central truth of the symbol? Record the results in your training log or journal



Keaton Jones, Part 2

Sparked by the story of Keaton Jones, yesterday I blogged some advice for dealing with bullies.  Overnight the story continued to evolve and then devolve.  A brouhaha ensued.  Pictures circulated of Keaton’s family holding Confederate flags.  Allegations of racism started flying around.

And then the internet, which wanted Keaton and his family to be either saints or devils, did what it always does.  It drew apart to into extreme camps.  Because people want easy answers.

The irony is incredible.  What if Keaton and/or his family are bigoted?  I’m not saying that because I refuse to make a snap judgment based on the Twitterverse, and I believe one should first take the log out of his own eye before pointing out the speck in somebody else’s.

But let’s just say for argument’s sake that he/they are racists.  What do you think would change their point of view?  Do you think a multiracial and universal outpouring of praise and support would make them see the world differently?  Maybe.  But most of what was previously offered is now being withdrawn as the social media tide flips to the opposite extreme.

Racist or not, Keaton was bullied and his pain is real.  If the bullies have a legitimate problem with something Keaton said or did, the kids can work it out if they talk.  But if talking breaks down and one side gets physical, let the other side put up their dukes.  Both sides will soon learn that petty scuffles are stupid and that violence stinks (and it hurts).

Then, if they all apologize and can manage to forgive and forget, they can shake hands and treat each other with new-found respect.

So I stand by my advice of yesterday, to parties on all sides.


~Robert Mitchell

Keaton Jones, Put up Your Dukes

[I wrote a Part 2 to this post — read it here.  ~Mitch]

The internet’s response to Keaton Jones’ emotional video about his experiences being bullied has been remarkable.  I was heartened to notice that many folks, famous and otherwise, reacted the same way I did – they felt like Keaton was an incredibly likable kid, and that he ought to put up his dukes.

That was the advice I gave my son when he was getting bullied, some time around age 10 or so.  I told him “sticks and stones” — ignore all insults and taunts — but if a bully pushes you, push him back.  If he punches you, punch him back.

I was bullied as a kid. I know how it feels.  I also know how it feels the first time you let a bully know that you’re not going to take any more and you hit him in the chops one good time.  It feels pretty darned good, but not nearly as good as it does to walk to class with your head held high for change.

In support of my argument I present the following points:

  • Each time a kid lets it slide it’s more likely to happen again.  Psychologist David Coleman agrees, and he says parents should tell their kids to fight bullies.
  • Telling boys to “use their words” doesn’t work.  Young boys learn mostly by action not by talking, and when it comes to linguistic communication they might might not catch up with girls their age until high school or even later.  Both bullies and the bullied learn something from a scuffle.
  • Scientific evidence suggest that the Golden Rule isn’t as effective as an alloy. Carl Sagan explained it very well in Parade magazine back in 1993.  He calls it “the Gold-plated Brazen Rule” and it’s basically with works like this: Be nice at first.  If the other person persists not playing nice, give back what you got.  But as soon as they turn nice, forgive and forget.
  • Kids need to solve their own problems without excessive adult interference.  It’s how they learn to be functioning adults.

How do I, as an interfaith minister, a seminarian pursuing Holy Orders and a martial artist, reconcile all this?   Shouldn’t I be advocating the Golden Rule?

Well, the Golden Rule as given in Luke and Matthew is “Do to others what you want them to do to you.”  And there is also Proverbs 27:17 — “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.”  I don’t think the Bible says you should never ever put up your dukes.  If I ever become a bully I want somebody to teach me a lesson so I learn to change my ways.

So, all in all, here’s my Interfaith, East-meets-West version of the Golden Rule that combines Confucius and Christ in equal measure:

“Repay kindness with kindness, evil with justice and repentance with forgiveness.”

~Robert Mitchell