Quote for the Day

At some point in each of our searchings, I believe it is necessary to become “located” within some valid spiritual tradition. It is of course neither desirable nor necessary to so solidly identify oneself with a tradition that blind allegiance and particularity are courted. Location is decidedly different from identification. In location within a tradition that has been tested and tempered by history, one can cease the furtive skimming of the surface of things and begin to go deep. Here it is possible to measure one’s own perceptions against those of others by solid, valid means. Here it is possible to be open to sensible, understandable criticism as well as palpable support. Without this location of one’s own search within a historic tradition of searching, it is too easy to wander aimlessly. But when the location becomes exclusive and self-identifying, the search is lost altogether.

— Gerald G. May, Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology

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  1. Jason Aubrey says:

    I like this quote very much. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about; well – in particular I’ve been lamenting that as I ‘begin to go deep’ I find myself usually going outside of my current location; i.e.. I’m episcopalian but I read almost exclusively Catholics and have only ever attended retreats run by Catholics. So I worry (actually I downright suspect) that to ‘cease to furtive skimming’ may require, uh, realignment on my part. There just seems to be just so much more ‘on the other side’ to nourish me. But, maybe I just need to go get some lunch.

  2. One of the things I’m trying to learn to do is to be truly affirming of where I am. When I was an Episcopalian, I wanted so much to be a Pagan because I thought I needed a more explicitly ecofeminist expression of spirituality. Then, as a Pagan, I felt drawn to becoming Catholic because I wanted to be able to participate fully in the sacramental life at the monastery, and I wanted an explicitly Marian dimension to my faith, and I thought it would be nice to have a spiritual director who could also be my confessor, etc. etc. Now that I’m a Catholic, I miss the relatively greater sense of intellectual freedom, the honesty about theological conflict, and the sheer liturgical elegance of — you guessed it — the good ol’ Episcopal Church. Moral of the story: the grass is always greener on the other side. I’m trying to continue nurturing my “inner Episcopalian” and even my “inner Pagan” while I remain committed to Catholicism. Perhaps you have a similar task of your own. So I’m not telling you you should or shouldn’t realign. Just be patient and trust the process.

  3. Jason Aubrey says:

    Of course, you are exactly correct about this; at least – I acknowledge a certain amount of grass-is-greener-itis in my constitution. And, by ‘certain’ amount, I mean it’s always fully convinced that the other side has greener grass. :)

  4. This is such a provocative quotation. I suppose being “located” is something I long for to some extent, though I also wonder how much of this is just a superficial desire for a label, sense of identity, something reliable. Perhaps I could make a short term commitment to a particular tradition: even an intellectual commitment to take the time to learn as much as I can about that tradition in particular. And perhaps I do need to be affirming of where I am — even though I may be somewhere else in a couple years, what I learn here and now is no less valuable. To be located is not necessarily a life-long commitment, but a way of going deeper…

    Though this sort of attitude might help me find my location, I still have no idea where I might place myself (initially): I’m interested in Buddhism but I find to be “located” there would likely alienate me from my Western roots and cultural background. I’d rather be located elsewhere and continue to engage in some Buddhist spiritual practices. As far as Christianity goes, I’m attracted to liturgical traditions, but I’m torn between the intellectual openness and sense of community I found in Episcopal churches, and the wealth and depth of tradition within Catholicism. And I love how you speak of nurturing your “inner Pagan” — since for me, paganism is always in the background, it’s sort of the lens through which I view every tradition. I’d say I have a pagan heart, and though I’ve been interested in paganism for years, I still can’t begin to define it, and I have no idea what it would mean to “locate” myself there. And I find it easier to relate to certain liberal Catholics than I do a lot of pagans who seem a bit too ‘anything goes’… not quite rooted… not quite aware of categories such as sin, responsibility, or humility…

    And in Christianity I also have a dilemma. I’m not sure what the attraction is, but Christianity and certain theologians in particular, bring me to life, help me experience the world in entirely new ways. Sometimes I question whether my interest in Christianity and theology is sincere, or merely masturbatory, because what can it mean to me if I’ve given up a literal interpretation of the story of Jesus?!

    So the question I can’t answer: what does Jesus / Christianity mean to me now? Whence comes its power? What is the ontological status of Jesus for me? I can never accept that Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation. I can never accept that my path is more true than other paths… but in light of this, what can Jesus mean to me? Is it mythic? Perhaps that is the attraction of certain theologians who completely transform my understanding of what it *means* to be Christian but I’ve only scratched the surface there. I suppose one of the attractions of Christianity is my rebelliousness — being able to demonstrate that Christianity can be something other than what they might assume it is.

    So this is something I’ve tried to figure out through your writing. What does *belief* mean to you? What is its role in your own spirituality? In reading the 750 word description of your journey, I see (and this is only my interpretation of one essay) that belief doesn’t seem to play so central a role in your path as perhaps values do, or seeking that elusive ‘something missing.’ You write: “I just kept getting angrier and angrier — at myself, at religion, at God (or the gods).” So I wonder, how easy or difficult was it for you to make the shift from gods to God… was it difficult to leave a Christ-centred spirituality, and then eventually come back to it? Or was it simply a disposition of yours that you were able to see the divine in different ways and explore it with different languages? (And might Christianity, for me, simply be a powerful *language* in which to speak about experience?) And what does it mean that I might prefer one language over another?

    There are all these philosophical issues about religion that I’ve never seen addressed in a satisfactory way. Though perhaps if I read more theology I’ll come to some more satisfying answers. :) I’m trying here, in a somewhat roundabout way, to bring up some of these issues.

  5. Jason, thanks for a thoughtful post with some great questions. I’m at work now so I can’t give it the justice it deserves. I’ll mull it over and respond either tonight or tomorrow.

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