Chögyam Trungpa & the Level/Line Fallacy

(This post is a continuation of yesterday's post on "Chögyam Trungpa & Pragmatic, Modern Meditation.") Given my post yesterday about Trungpa's shortcomings, why mention him at all today? The main reason is that despite his seeming ethical violations in some areas, it is nevertheless true that he had a particular genius for presenting traditional Buddhist teachings in a way that was accessible to a Western audience. He was a trailblazer in bringing Buddhism to the West. One significant pa … [Read More...]

Chögyam Trungpa & Pragmatic, Modern Meditation

I have posted previously about my interest in pragmatic approaches to meditation. Such approaches seek to balance the best of traditional Buddhism with all that we know here in the early twenty-first century. One significant figure in this movement (broadly speaking) is Chögyam Trungpa, who died in 1987 at the far too young age of 48 from health complications followings a heart attack. You’ll sometimes hear a title added at the end of his name, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan honorific that m … [Read More...]

The Religion of the Rose

Looking back, the philosopher John Caputo (1940 - ) writes that some of his earliest, strongest, and most visceral memories as a child were looking up at the vast, starry night sky and feeling a creeping suspicion arise within him that, “No one knows we are here.” But he kept those doubts to himself since, as a pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic, he was taught that all the answers—and all the questions!—he needed to ask could be found in the Baltimore Catechism (Hoping Against Hope, 1-2). But as he … [Read More...]

Religion & Truth

As an undergraduate, I was a double-major in philosophy and religion. In some ways those two fields are similar—both are interested in exploring the big questions:Who am I? What is the meaning of life? What really matters? Why is there something rather than nothing? What happens after we die?There are also ways in which the two fields are different — as in the classic formulation, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Philosophy literally means love (φιλο/philo) of wisdom … [Read More...]

The Spirituality of Twin Peaks

On April 8, 1990, I was twelve years old. For whatever confluence of events, I tuned in to watch the pilot of Twin Peaks on ABC. The uncanny, surrealist, dream-state quality of the show was unlike anything I had ever seen, a glimpse into how much more was possible beyond the standard-fare network television of the time. The first season transfixed me. The second season confused me. When the show ended after two seasons, I never expected that twenty-five years later, we would get 18 more hours i … [Read More...]

The Legacy of Mary Moody Emerson

This post is a continuation of my previous post on Mary Moody Emerson: Ralph Waldo’s “First & Best Teacher” Mary's independence kept her from being fully comfortable in either the traditional orthodox camp or the new more progressive Transcendentalist movement of her nephew. She was too innovative and free-spirited to be fully comfortable among Calvinists, but there were aspects of traditional Christian theology that she continued to value that kept her from fully embracing her nephew’s Tran … [Read More...]

Mary Moody Emerson: Ralph Waldo’s “First & Best Teacher”

Mary Moody Emerson (1774-1863) was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s aunt, whom he called his “earliest and best teacher.” I’ll be drawing from a landmark biography written in 1998 (Oxford University Press) by an English and Women’s Studies professor named Phyllis Cole, which helped further raise awareness about Mary’s influence on Waldo’s life. I will follow Cole’s choice to break the scholarly convention of referring to Ralph Waldo by his last name “Emerson” and of “Aunt Mary” in relationship to him—and wi … [Read More...]

How to Move from Secondhand Theology to Firsthand Spiritual Experience

(This post is a continuation from my post yesterday on Countercultural Spirituality, Then & Now.) Long before the hippies of the 1960s, the ancient Gnostics were developing a counterculture, which one historian of the period has described as “any figure or movement that privileges non-intellective knowledge and personal visions of truth over cultural constitutions of knowledge” (283). But I don’t want to jump straight from the Gnostics to the hippies. DeConick has also traced four other majo … [Read More...]

Countercultural Spirituality, Then & Now

Over the past few years, I have written three posts inspired by the scholarship of Jeffrey Kripal:Mystical Humanism - on the intersection of the scientific method with more-subjective firsthand spiritual experiences. Eve Was Framed, the Serpent Was Right! Gnostic Reflections on Religion Reflexive Re-Readings of Religion - connected to a class on “Comparing Religions: Coming to Terms.”Kripal is a religion professor at Rice University in Houston, and one of my favorite contemporary … [Read More...]

Spiritual Practices of Curiosity & Commitment #UUWhiteSupremacyTeachIn

Two years ago, I was trained as a facilitator for a Unitarian Universalist Minister’s Association program on “Where Leads Our Call?” As the first part of that program, I co-led a three-day retreat last year in Delaware for UU ministers on “Call & Excellence,” reflecting on both the promises and perils of pursuing “excellence in ministry.” This past week, I co-led the second part of the program on “Call & Accountability.” When this curriculum was written, there was no way to anticipate j … [Read More...]