My friends and companions of a scientific bent mock the religiously minded as simple fools too caught up in their own emotional connection to tradition to see the logical truth as laid and caught by carefully constructed experimental designs.
Those who live within a realm of story told and synchronicity found sneer at the failure of those traps to catch their understanding.
I am pulled to find a connection between the waking world and the worlds that resonate and move in dreams and visions. It is one of the currents of my life, this no-man’s land between science and an unreal reality that lives with me daily.
A while ago a friend quoted Carlos Castaneda to me speaking of how to do magic. She said that magic was to leap from a cliff, knowing that if you did not transform you would plummet to your death. In that moment I knew exactly what she was talking about. Sometimes in life there are moments when all the reason and logic in the world cannot bridge the gap between one viewpoint and another. This dead man’s words resonated with us and helped us have a moment of connection about things that are often difficult to talk about.
Later I came across an article detailing the sordid truth of Carlos Castaneda’s life. How his work was published as non-fiction when it was a story compiled from ideas around the world. How he claimed that Don Juan had been taught about peyote by an old Yaqui Indian when, in fact, the Yaqui don’t use peyote. How in his later years he built a compound where he had young women living with him, claiming he was celibate while he slept with them, and how, upon his death, a number of them disappeared. Later evidence surfaced that at least one of them committed suicide. In the world of logic and evidence he seems more like a dangerous cult leader and less like an inspiration to leap into the sky.
It’s ironic that a moment of synchronicity reinforced my need for logic in my spiritual life. You see, I have been grappling with ideas of spiritual leadership and what my role as clergy means. I have begun teaching classes on spirit work and meditation for money. There is a part of me that fears that leadership. Will I end up someday as a feminine footnote to some masculine spiritual leader as Castaneda’s Witches did? Or even worse, will I eventually become corrupted, fodder for stories told after my death?
I have been participating in an ongoing debate about retired clergy as a part of my duties as clergy. It’s one of the things I do that isn’t often seen or known about by most people. I argued:
“I believe we are again coming up against the challenge of discovering what exactly a priest does within an ADF framework. If we look at it from a more traditional ecumenical perspective, a priest who was retired being the sole leader of a Christian church doesn't really make sense. There are certain expectations. However we come from a different tradition, and while we are one of the most "churchy" of the pagan branches, our line comes from initiate traditions where every member is a priest. Our membership is highly iconoclastic and self-directed. In my experience the priesthood serves more as a guide or mentor for others spiritual development than a direct go-between for the laity and the spiritual.”
The priesthood in ancient times was comprised of both the spiritual and the logical. The two were not divided in any meaningful way. Those who worked with language and numbers did so to calculate calendars for ritual use as well as agricultural purposes. The writers of epic poetry were also the judges and keepers of law.
I see this work I do as an outpouring of my need to re-connect these two realms of thought. I work towards a rational spirituality and a dream-laden science. I think the two are closer than most would like to admit. The answers are there, just waiting to be found. It’s my job to find them.
I’ve been reading about Mirror Neurons in a book called Mirroring People by Marco Iacoboni. He’s this Italian guy who was part of a scientific team that discovered there are neurons in the brain that are specifically about imitation. That basically, when we watch a person do a thing our brain, at a cellular level in our brains, pretends to do it too. When you watch a movie you really do feel what the hero feels. When you are in ritual and caught up by the magic, feeling the connection between you and the others there, it’s real baby. Science proves it. The funny thing is that those Italian scientists weren’t even looking for such a thing. In a wonderful story full of synchronicity they all kind of figured it out together, noticing how monkey with brain probes acted. (Mad scientists for the win!) One of them listened to the static sound of the recording of the raw data and noticed that it sounded weird when the monkey watched them eat. Now the data from their experiments is affecting marketing research, politics, and policy at the governmental and corporate level.
The knowledge that we really are connected is that powerful.
Mystics have been saying this shit for millennia.
I guess they knew what they were talking about.
I’ve been a lot of things in this life. I’ve been a lifeguard and a tutor, answered tech questions, been a baker, a farmer, and even a sandwich maker. But I am also a priest, someone who walks the path between mystery and logic and attempts to translate esoteric knowledge into applicable, useful information and techniques for my community. It is a satisfying twist to my personal story to understand my odd connection to both the realms of science and myth as part of my vocation as a priest and mystic. I walk the liminal line between the two, finding power in the uneasy balance between the two. As I finish writing this I find myself laughing quietly. I am a devotee of the Dawn after all. How could she want any less for me than to be balanced in the in-between?