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LOVE IS NOT AN EMPIRE

How Saint Joan of Arc Teaches Us About True Power

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A member of my spiritual community wrote in to me recently upset that she wasn’t receiving a clear sense of teaching, or transmission, to then be able to go out and teach about Mary’s gospel and the vast, radical love it reveals.

What’s very important to clarify here is that this assumes I “have” something to hand over, or to give, that this community member does not have herself. For me, this perpetuates a very ancient misunderstanding when it comes to religion and hierarchy.

You can’t own, or horde, or control, or contain consciousness in any way. If someone places themselves in a position of power over you, and suggests to you that they possess a consciousness that you don’t, or that you must go through them to acquire it, then there’s a deceptive confusion at work. 

All I can ever offer is the support, the community, the reminder of all you already possess. I hold up a mirror, let’s say, and I suggest that you return to what’s already right here, within you.

So many of the saints, mystics, and poets I adore throughout the world religions and throughout history reveal the way in which love itself came to them and revealed to them a consciousness that can’t be learned from an institution of any kind. A unitive consciousness that can’t be exclusively bought, or acquired from books, or spiritual leaders.

Love itself, for example, guided the French mystic and Free Spirit, Marguerite Porete to a state of merging with love and comprehending on the deepest level that love is God. She wrote about this process in her book, The Mirror of Simple Souls, which was considered a near-canonical masterpiece in subsequent centuries however she was burned at the stake for the truth she told.

Because what she revealed is that love does not exist on some sort of hierarchical structure where only the ordained, only the trained, and educated, or only the elite few can be instructed by it. What she found was that love alone suffices. Love alone can lead us each from within to a state of union with the divine that surpasses all understanding, or egoic reason.

I think at the heart of this confusion, this need for someone outside of us to “give” us spiritual truths or transmissions that we think we don’t possess ourselves, is actually a reluctance, a terror even, of facing this radical truth, which is that love is right here within us.

Why is this terrifying? Because then we have to do the hard, healing work of remembering all we already know is true, which means facing and forgiving all we did out of fear, out of our disconnection from love. We are terrified of this truth, of how powerful we are, of how much love we already, and innately possess, because this means taking ownership of it.

It means going through the painful, death-like-process, of letting go of who we thought we were, or of who we think others want us to be. And instead, to take the more difficult way, which means listening to this love within us, and simply (arduously,) becoming the unique essence of who we are.

There’s an urgency now for us to understand this horizontal rather than vertical practice of spiritual authority, of power, and justice.

What do I mean by “horizontal,” here? Cor Ad Loquitor, Latin for “heart speaks to heart directly.” We can only step into the full power of what it means to be human when we understand that every one of us is worthy of this guiding force of truth within us called love.

We can only step into the full power of what it means to be human by listening to the urgency of our inner angels.

Joan of Arc wanted to stay home “spinning wool.” She didn’t want to become the first female teenaged warrior in the Hundreds’ Year War in France. She didn’t feel ready, or prepared. She simply (arduously,) listened inward and was led by the voice of love within her, which came in the form of the Archangel Michael. Artistic depictions of his assistance show him above her, and loom larger than her diminutive, and usually genuflecting female form.

However, this guidance she received came from within her. There was a bevy of angels that supported her, that never left her alone as she fulfilled her destiny, or as she became not what her ego had assumed she was meant to be, or what others expected her to be, but rather what her unique soul came here to become. She only heard her inner angels because she knew she wasn’t separate from them; “Act, and god acts,” Saint Joan declared.

She was burned at the stake after helping to secure France’s victory, and not for any war crimes, but for “repeat offences of cross-dressing.” Joan, after she was sentenced to death, reportedly said, “I die for speaking the language of the angels.” It wasn’t ultimately her cross-dressing that church authorities found so threatening. It was the power she demonstrated by listening, and acting on the love she heard from within her.

Love needs us now. Love needs us just as we are. Love needs us now more than ever to not wait for validation that’s never going to come that we’re worthy of speaking and acting on behalf of love. Love needs us to know that we’re initiated by each next breath, by each next chance we get to be here. Everything is still possible. Because we exist. Because we are choosing to do the work to be right here, to refuse to exist elsewhere, to refuse to be enticed by what would deafen and numb the clamorous noise, the warrior drum our hearts are beating from the second we wake up. Saying in the only way our hearts can, that love needs us right now. Just as we are. Love needs us to speak and act loudly on behalf of all humanity. The earth, the animals, the angels, love itself, need us to use our voices, because we have them. Because we exist. You and I.

Everything is still possible. Love is not an Empire. It doesn’t seek to have power over us, but rather, to be a presence within us, to work with us in its name.

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