Midsommar Most Heat Moon
After leaving the ministry, a gradual process of demythologization and disenchantment took over. In retrospect it’s not hard to see why. A primary motivator of the shift away from Christianity and toward a more pagan worldview came because transcendence bothered me. Transcendence takes us up and out of our bodies, or least out and away from our bodies.
A more important idea, at least for these times, seemed to be incarnation, a going in and down, rather than out and up. Incarnation takes us toward mother earth, toward our blood and bones. It does not pretend there’s an escape hatch from this earthly realm. This is our home, where we live, how we are.
Over time a godless world emerged. This was a world without a scrim, a world in which what you saw was what was. And that seemed enough. The Great Wheel provided a sacred lens through which to see seasonal change and the dramatic results those seasonal changes had on daily and yearly life. This focus on the here and now also informed, in a positive and self-reinforcing way, the Great Work. Building a sustainable presence for humankind on this earth requires, first of all, a sensibility attuned to the earth herself.
Then, at some point-the reimagining faith project signals that point-the flat-earth humanism of this pagan orientation no longer felt like enough. Could the warmth and the depth available to those in the ancient religious traditions somehow be suffused into this empiricist, anti-metaphysical worldview? Could, in other words, a feeling of religious awe and wonder emerge out of our relationship with the web of life and the cosmic experiment we know as the universe?
Must be possible since, with the trappings of culturally specific myths and legends, all religions are an attempt to explain why we’re here, where we’re going and what we need to do on the journey. The journey takes place within in the web of life and the grand experiment of cosmological evolution.
Transcendence still seems suspect. Reimagining though has to take account of it in some way. Here’s one idea. The mystical experience, a well documented and not at all rare phenomenon, often carries the descriptor transcendent. I had one and I want to challenge that idea. In mine, which occurred in 1967 on the quad at Ball State University, I did feel a sudden and inexplicable connection to the universe, all of it. Threads of light and power emanated in a pulsing glory carrying with them a physical sensation of oneness.
You might focus on the threads moving out from the center and psychically travel with them in some sort of astral projection, maybe that would be transcendence, but I don’t think so. The critical point for me is that all this connecting and interconnecting occurred within me. Yes, the sensation was of cosmic linkage, and, yes, I believe it was cosmic connection, but it didn’t feel as if I left my body at any point. I entered fully into my inner world, a world that already had these interconnections, always had them, and in that moment I could see them, at least for a sudden, blazing instance. This is maybe incandescence, perhaps the feeling often referred to as transcendence.
Still working on this one.