I received an email this morning from a Catholic who is interested in finding something deeper in faith, and has begun to explore a variety of topics, including Gnosticism and Edgar Cayce. This person wonders if the Vatican might have some secret information hidden away that could truly revolutionize what it means to be a Christian. Here is my reply:
There are many similarities in our journeys… I first became interested in Catholicism in 1979 and for a variety of reasons never formally entered the church until 2005. It’s been a long journey, and I continue to be nourished by this amazing, 2000 year old tradition.
Edgar Cayce, the Essenes, the Gnostics… been there, done that. I also spent a good chunk of my life exploring the Druids, shamanism, Goddess Spirituality and Wicca. Like the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, I can appreciate whatever is truly good & true & beautiful in all these things. But in my experience, none of the Gnostic or New Age spiritualities are as ultimately satisfying as true Christian mysticism, which I believe is 100% compatible with good old-fashioned Sunday morning church. Of course, many Christians (Catholic or otherwise) are not interested in mysticism, and some are even opposed to it, usually because they’ve been misinformed and think mysticism requires the blending of Christianity with a bunch of non-Christian ideas. Although in my experience most people who are interested in mysticism are open to learning from the deep wells of other faiths, in no way does mysticism require or demand such interfaith exploration. Meanwhile, even if 99% of regular church-going Christians will never become contemplatives, that doesn’t make church incompatible with true Christian contemplation and mysticism. On the contrary, I believe the Holy Spirit wants to raise up people whose eyes are luminous with Divine Love, right within the Body of Christ.
As for the Vatican hiding stuff from us, I really have no idea. Conspiracy theories are a lot of fun and interesting to speculate over. But at the end of the day, here’s what I believe: the best way to hide something is to hide it in plain sight. And this, I believe, is what the church has done with mysticism. It’s “hidden” not because anyone is trying to keep it from us, but rather, it remains hidden-in-plain-sight because the Holy Spirit is very shy and doesn’t want to force the mysteries on us until we’re ready for them. Many people gladly go through life without a care for the mysteries in the world. Such people are not bad, that’s just their path. But others are called to something deeper, and it really is available for them… but they have to go looking for it. Where to look? There is a life time’s worth of reading in the field of Christian mysticism. Meanwhile, mysticism is very practical and down to earth and offers us concrete advice on how to become holy, how to pray, how often to pray, how to form or participate in community, and how to ‘be’ Christ to others. Warning: the price is high, for we pay for it with our very lives. But then our lives are taken by God and transformed into something new and beautiful, with a core of deep serenity and silence.
Are you near a monastery? If so, I’d encourage you to go spend a day or two there. Not only because spending a few hours there in silence might help you to reflect on where your path is calling you, but also because most monasteries have a gift shop with a wonderful book department — where you will probably find a few books that might begin to help you discern just what it is that is “hidden in plain sight” that might be calling you “farther up and further in,” as C.S. Lewis put it, into the wild and untameable and totally transformational love of God.
Many blessings to you, and stay in touch!