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...]

The Earth Challenge & the Spiritual Practice of Earth Breathing

(This post continue my reflection from yesterday on #ClimateMarch: Balancing People, Planet, & Profit.) In reflecting on climate change, I don’t want to exaggerate the costs of valuing the triple-bottom line of  “people, planet, and profit” over profit alone. Australia and Germany are already prime examples of how nations can lead in both economic growth and environmental responsibility. What we truly cannot afford is to continue allowing companies to rake in short-term profit from fossil fu … [Read more...]

Balancing “People, Planet, & Profit” #ClimateMarch

In my last post, as part of reflecting on the Easter story from a twenty-first century perspective, I shared a challenge from the evolutionary evangelist Michael Dowd. He says that instead of dating the most significant turning point in history as B.C. (“Before Christ”), we should start thinking in terms of B.C. as “Before Copernicus.” Before the Scientific Revolution, it was more reasonable to maintain that we humans were the point of creation—that we were the reason anything even existed in the … [Read more...]

How the Christian Gospels Became Increasingly Pro-Roman & Anti-Jewish

(This post is a continuation of yesterday's post on Is the Bible “History Remembered” or “Prophecy Historicized?”) To give you a thumbnail sketch of how the canonical Christian Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John came to be, Jesus died around the year 30 C.E. The earliest of the four Gospels is Mark, written four decades later around 70 C.E. The next two were Matthew and Luke, written around 80 C.E. The last to be written chronologically was John, written around 90 C.E. or later. If, ins … [Read more...]

Is the Bible “History Remembered” or “Prophecy Historicized?”

From the theologically conservative Christianity of my childhood, I learned to read the Bible literally—as a record of history as it had actually happened. And although I would occasionally question details that did not make sense, I was also influenced by the signifiant number of people around me who seemed to unquestioningly accept the Bible as factual. Only later did I come to see that likely many more people in my childhood congregation did have questions about the Bible’s historicity, but di … [Read more...]