This may seem a joke but seriously, coffee really helps me to rise above some of the creepy stuff lurking in the so-called collective unconscious.
Ever since I converted to Catholicism back in 2001, I found it was a two-sided experience. I had been going through a challenging time after living in India for a couple of years. The West seemed strange, and I learned what they mean by the term, reverse culture shock.
Some people take their hard shell selves with them when they travel. And they return home as if they’d just watched a nice slide show. They know a little more about the world but remain fundamentally unchanged. Not so with me. I was going through a tremendous time of transition. So I was soaking up Indian ways – and vibes – more than most.
I was very open. This openness and sensitivity is a good thing. But I needed something to get me back to my truest self. My core.
Funnily enough, as a former Protestant who never went to church growing up, I found that Catholicism was the path that brought me back to myself. Not just to my Western ego. For me, that’s necessary but secondary. No, I mean my genuine, created self. The one who stands before God in humility and full realization of his human imperfection.
So all fine and dandy, right? I found my spiritual home after years of searching. And I didn’t have to travel miles and miles to exotic lands to feel well. Catholic churches are ubiquitous. In fact, where I live, I tend to rotate among seven, all within about 15 minutes of home. A taste of heaven in 15 minutes. Not bad.
So what’s the problem? Is there a problem?
Well, yes and no.
No, if I keep rotating and don’t get too invested in any single parish. Yes, if I try to be like regular churchgoers.
I’m sure a mean-spirited psychiatrist would have a field day with that. “He cannot settle down in any one parish. He needs to constantly escape to feel anonymous,” etc. etc.
But it’s really not that simple. And I think some people just don’t get why I have to do Catholicism my own way.
It gets back to my sensitivity. In any parish there is good and not so good. There are nice and not so nice people. There are priests who seem en route to heaven and others who might be in for a rude surprise when they die.
And I tend to sense vibes from all of this. Not just the heavenly graces, but also the very real human stuff. It’s always a balancing act. If I frequent one parish too often, there’s a kind of build up of the same stuff. It’s like watching the same movie over and over again. But worse, you’re also picking up the same vibes ad nauseam.
So I rotate.
Sometimes I grow disenchanted or fatigued by the overall Catholic scene. Several times I’ve tried just staying away. But after a week or two, I’m always happy to get back.
It’s a funny thing, similar to a plant needing water, but not too much water. Too much and the plant drowns, just as being dehydrated can kill too. And if you always draw your water from the same well, the same assortment of trace pollutants could build up. So it’s better to draw your water from different wells.
Today I’m feeling slightly over-watered, so to speak, by the same type of water. Last week I did a little experiment. I went to the same parish every day. There were nice things, nice people and nice conversations. But toward the end of the week, the buildup was happening again. The same old vibes, the same old stuff. And the same texture of the Holy Spirit (for me, each parish differs that way too).
I don’t really know why I’m sharing this publicly. For years I’ve kept my private experience to myself or only shared with my intimate friends. But today I confess: I can’t be a perfectly conventional Catholic but at the same time, I can’t be without Catholicism.
Perhaps some of you can relate in your own way, in your own circles.
When I tell people that I like to go to catholic mass I often sense some kind of inner reservation from the other person. I’m not surprised. I know why. Or I have a pretty good idea. The Inquisitions, the child abuse, the corruption. Or maybe just the regimentation. Not to forget the sexism.
I know all about that stuff but regardless, still feel the Holy Spirit active in the Mass. Some folks give me a blank or hard look when I say that. To me, that just tells me something about where they are. Many people think they are open minded but imo are just as narrow and regimented in their thinking as any hardcore Catholic.
Myself, I just go on what I feel. And that leaves me open to a whole new vista that I didn’t even know existed, prior to recognizing the call.
I’ve owned this book for some time but it’s been sitting in my basement, highly respected and largely ignored. I hoped I’d get to it some day. Finally, after years of letting it just sit there, I cracked the cover. Amazing book. Really good. At least, right for me… right now.
The author mentions other luminaries in the field yet resists the temptation, which many bigger names did not, of spelling out some grand mythological theory. So in this sense she’s incredibly contemporary for 1964 (the publication date).
Grand theory is generally “out” these days, I think it’s safe to say. H. R. Ellis Davidson seems quite content to just discuss the evidence without overlaying her own imaginative framework. And that’s what makes this charming and informed work a true classic.
Highly recommended for anyone wanting to go a little deeper into the topic.
For a while I lived above an old diner. It was built around 1920. This place had a life of it’s own, you could feel the past still alive inside. At night when the diner closed you could still sense someone was inside. The hallway to get to my door was long and narrow. Occasionally it would feel like someone walked by me as I unlocked my door, the air moved. At times you just knew someone was right in front of you, staring, ready to confront you. I always entered through the back of the building. Two flights of metal stairs. Going up, they watched. I was the new guy. The one that wasn’t excited about the diner atmosphere. The one you would only get a hello out of if you were lucky. They watched me coming up. They moved out into the hall, silent but present. One place I…
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It’s a holiday here in Canada, so I was taking it slow this morning. Every now and then our internet connection needs to be reset by restarting the modem. That happened today, so I got up out of my comfy chair and went down to the basement where the modem sits.
I also have a personal reference library in the basement, so while waiting for the necessary 10 second “off time” before restarting the modem, glanced at some of my books. A dictionary of anthropology caught my eye. Browsing its pages while waiting for the internet to return, I found some interesting material on the idea of liminality.
You’d think I’d know all about this concept; it’s right up my alley. But as things go, I’ve only made note of it until now.
Some quick research on Wiki produced these two links. I highly recommend them to anyone interested in religion and the related idea of numinosity. Of particular interest is the distinction anthropologist Victor Turner makes between the liminal and the liminoid. The one is structured and expected by society, and more like work (e.g. going to Church); the other is free and playful (e.g. going to a rock concert). But both apparently have similar effects. They transport you somewhere out of the ordinary.
For me, going to Church is a lot more than just a “trip.” And I only go when I feel called to do so (not via social pressure). But that’s something I’ll elaborate on at earthpages.ca. In the meantime, I just wanted to link to these two exciting finds.
This second link is an interview with Talal Asad. I was pleasantly surprised to discover his views on postmodernism and religion. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. And it’s always great to find an “established” thinker who’s saying things that you’ve already thought about. It gives you a sense of reinforcement and encouragement. After all, a single innovative thinker is often ignored or marginalized (as has been my experience). More than one, however, and people start to take notice.
Apart from my personal story, I really believe that humanity would benefit from using all of the intellectual tools we have at our disposal… especially with regard to religion and society.