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.