Next on my reading list for Formations for Modern Pagan Ministry is Ram Dass’ Polishing the Mirror. I have heard a lot about Ram Dass over the years, though never got around to reading him. Probably for the best, as I would not have really appreciated his work or approach before.
While 2 chapters into it, he has packed a lot into his book while simultaneously keeping it very simple. To this point, there are two things that have thus far stood out to me that I want to mention as I continue to process it.
Firstly, I thought his comment, ” And at that moment, I realized that people arrive at spiritual understanding through a much wider spectrum of experience than I ever anticipated” (p. 5). No surprise there, but it was in the context of somebody listening to one of his speeches who did not seem to fit in, yet who still profoundly got his message. I can relate to the not seeming to fit in, while still having much more occurring internally that may be externally present.
Secondly, when Dass was speaking about his experience swimming with a dolphin, he held onto one, Rosie, and had a profound experience. He commented, “The wild creature model of who I had thought she was had stopped working” (p. 20). Rosie became a combination of a teacher and a guru at that moment, helping him to experience a higher level of consciousness in a way he did not expect. It is through this image of learning and experiencing in more profound ways than we expect that I really started to appreciate the author, and in that way his message.
Lots more to still process in this text, though it is off to a good start.
As I shared in my last posting, I am starting to wake my blog up from a deep sleep and wanted to share a few initial thoughts related to the first 3 chapters from Alastair McIntosh and Matt Carmichael’s Spiritual Activism: Leadership as Service.
To be fair, I have only read the first 3 chapters, and am NOT planning to write this as a book review . . . far from it. I am using this space to maintain a running notebook of thoughts and ideas related to the readings for a course I am taking.
The first three chapters involve the notion of activism as related to community, spirituality, and transcendent or mystical states of consciousness. There are many personal examples and, woven throughout, are some references to support the authors’ conjectures. However, I am a bit at a loss to appreciate their flow. In our class this past week when we started to talk about our perspectives of the readings, I characterized the book as one that needs a good editor, as I have trouble seeing how the paragraphs and sections connect to tell a coherent and clear story. In this way, I am not entirely sure if the text is a general musing on spirituality, an attempt to convince or persuade the reader to do or believe something, or something else entirely.
Remember learning about the different types of writing styles–Expository, Persuasive, Descriptive, or Narrative–some time way back in school? While I have not thought of this classification in some time as I never really had the need to, this book makes me wonder about it. The authors give various arguments for or against things they are seeking to demonstrate (such as should we consider mystical states as authentic aspects of human experiences or intellectual assaults on spirituality and how there may be logical reasons why this may not be defensible), yet they do not provide enough evidence to support their claims, many of which people have argued about for centuries without effectively being able to convince or persuade others. If anything, in raising the issues and not providing sufficient exploration into them, they appear a bit unsophisticated and unaware of who their audience may be or what it may know.
I will continue reading the text as it is a course requirement, and hope that my initial thoughts on it are incomplete and missing something. This has happened before, and I hope it may happen again.
I am taking a course at Cherry Hill Seminary this summer, Formations for Modern Pagan Ministry. This course is a very new idea for me, as I tend to approach Pagan practices and beliefs as something I personally practice and enjoy studying, rather than something that involves the notion of ministry.
Perhaps this is due to my solitary practice or my previous difficulties in this area as a Catholic, but needless to say this summer will present lots of learning experiences to come.
I just may post a bit more about this journey here…
I took the plunge in 2016 and took two courses at Cherry Hill Seminary — Paganism and the Body (taught by Christine Hoff Kraemer) and Living Systems (taught by Wendy Griffin).
The courses just ended so I am still processing the experiences, but I am thankful for the article in The Wild Hunt that alerted me to some of the challenges Cherry Hill was facing and, more importantly, that they offered such rich, diverse, intensively academic, and solid courses at all. I had not really thought about studying for another master’s degree, but I had such fun taking these two courses and, even though they were both much more work than I expected, found them so rewarding, that this just may be a 2017 goal of mine.
Hmm, what to take in the spring . . .