In Between the Worlds

Yesterday while working at the Abbey Store I got a surprise: a man came in whom I recognized, but couldn’t quite place. We spoke, and he reminded me who he was. I knew him years ago, when I was active in the Atlanta Neopagan community — and he was a Wiccan elder.

It turns out he’s discovered contemplative Christianity and has fallen in love with it. He spoke enthusiastically about meditating with the monks in the monastery church. I told him that I had become a Catholic in 2005, and he replied, “I still have a foot in both worlds.”

I nodded sympathetically. That’s basically where I was for quite some time before I embraced Catholicism, as I tried to discern how it could be that I was simultaneously making a living as a Pagan author/teacher and falling in love (again) with mystical Christianity. We talked about how a generous spirituality honors and acknowledges love and truth and beauty wherever it is to be found — even when discerned in two wisdom traditions that on the surface are hostile to one another.

Wiccans describe their magical circles as “a world between the worlds.” Sometimes I feel like I’ve taken up permanent residence between the worlds, as a devout and committed contemplative Christian who continues to feel affection and love for the nature-honoring and spiritually compassionate side of Paganism. Hanging out in this neighborhood means I’ll always be misunderstood by those who need clear boundaries and non-negotiable limits in order to feel spiritually safe within their own tradition (whether Christian or Pagan or whatever). But it also means that I get to express the fullness of my love — love for Christ, love for the mystical path, love for the earth and the body, love for community and family and friends and those who are hurting or hungry or in need of healing.

Reduced to its absolute essence, to be a mystic means to be one who loves. I’m hardly a mystic, just like on too many days I’m not very good at loving. But I aspire to be both an initiate into God’s mysteries, and one who loves in harmony with the heart of God. I think the desire for one is basically the same thing as the desire for the other. So I continue to pray that I may love all things the way God does. Even when it means that I’m always sort of hanging out in between the worlds.

Mysticism and the Divine Feminine: An Interview with Mirabai Starr
Do You Need a Spiritual Teacher?
What Has Not Yet Been Revealed
Five Things Christian Contemplatives can learn from Buddhists
  • Peter

    I posted a reply on, my nearly unknown, unread blog:

    What to do while in between worlds

    My friend Carl just posted about being “in-between worlds” because of his love for Christ and the church, and his love for nature and the things of earth as well.

    I have a theory that much of the way we each interpret the spiritual world stems from the way we first experienced it: for Carl, his story of his initial spiritual experience as a teen confirms this: he definitely found himself “between worlds” in that original encounter, and indeed for many years afterwards.

    My own first encounter with God included the awareness of the calling, “Thou art a priest forever in the order of Melchisedek.” From this perspective, if I were to find myself in Carl’s place I would have an agenda, an action plan, already in place–one given to me, not of my own design.

    The Melchisedek intercessor performs both sides of the priestly function: he takes the needs and pains and “gifts” of the earth and brings them as an offering to God. And he takes the heavenly gifts of grace and sacrifice and redemption and healing and transformation, and presents them to the people as the expression of divine love to them.

    So while I am by nature a contemplative, yet the middle ground “between worlds” does not become for me a place of speculation, but of action, being the “bridge of love” that Carl is calling for in his other post for today!

    I offer this to Carl in thanks for a challenge he gave me some time back, that is, to include the drive to communicate our “mystical” or spiritual experiences in my definition of “mystical.” This is some of the fruit of that: the communication or “bridge work” is inherent in the original spiritual call, and it is functioning at least to the extent that you can see here.

    Thanks, Carl!

  • Mariah/Caelesti

    This polytheist here has been feeling drawn lately to Christian contemplative practices as well, many of which I’ve discovered on your blog! I read a quote somewhere that said something like- while theologians of different religions may argue, mystics of different faiths find much to agree upon.
    I also think aspects of these practices and the philosophy that goes with them have the potential to balance out some of the excesses of Neo-Pagan sensuality.

  • Carl McColman

    Mariah, I see from your blog that you’re interested in Druidism and Celtic reconstructionism. I’d suggest you look into the Irish concept of neart as a possible entry way into a truly contemplative Celtic spirituality. Also, there’s a group in Colorado that has a practice they call Dercad Dúthracht: Devotion Meditation. Not sure if it has any empirical links to the ancients, but it sure looks like a way to be contemplative and druidic at the same time.

  • Mariah/Caelesti

    Heh heh I did not see your reply until now. But thanks for the suggestions. The guy who runs the group in Colorado is an online acquaintance of mine actually.
    By the way, there is a Synchroblog MetaPagan is doing about Interfaith Dialogue. My contribution will be posted soon. I’ll probably be discussing it in the context of my relationship with Lutheran fiance.