“acceptable” mysticism

Of all the mysteries on earth, faith and its practices seem to be the most controversial. War, famine, prejudice… so much pain has been caused in the name of God. If I were him, I’d be pretty pissed.

One of my favorite books on the subject isn’t a great theological text. It’s a children’s book by C.S. Lewis: “The Last Battle“. In it, the world is coming to an end and Aslan the Lion acts as the gatekeeper to heaven, or eternal redemption, or what have you. One soldier, who had devoted his life in the name of a lesser god, was allowed in. In the face of open resentment, the Lion basically told them to suck it up, that while the man had called his god by another name, he’d really been serving Aslan himself.

Emeth, who expects Tash to smite unbelievers with heavenly fire, goes searching for Tash in Aslan’s Country, but instead meets Aslan. Aslan tells Emeth ‘all the service thou hast done to Tash, I accept as service done to me’ and further explains ‘no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him’. He explains that Emeth’s pious devotion was really to Aslan, rather than to Tash, although Emeth had not been aware of this, and Emeth finds great happiness in this revelation. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tash_(Narnia)]

Even as an eight-year-old girl with a newly ordained Lutheran pastor for a mother, I took that to heart. There are too many religions on this planet to count (actually, I bet there’s a list out there somewhere but it would bore me to tears and I won’t force that experience on either of us). Who are we to say what is acceptable, or what will get us into heaven? For that matter, what about those millions who don’t even believe in heaven or a higher being?

But I digress. My point with this isn’t to debate the existence of God, or who’s right or wrong. I’ve been caught up for a few months now with the internal struggle of melding my faith with the exploration of tarot. What can I say?

I’m curious about mysticism, and what makes it palatable to folks.

Buddhism. Shamanism. Paganism and Christianity. And yes, even Science is a religion to some.

Is tarot evil? Is meditation misguided? Why is a bead necklace so abso-freaking-necessary for some Catholics? Why do you need a subscription to The New Yorker to be considered A Writer? What can the smeared picture a psychiatrist makes us fold into a butterfly or a five-headed hydra really tell us about our inner workings?

Is a degree in astronomy all that different from a degree in theology? (Yeah, I know, other than the obvious letters after the name. And the labs. And the textbooks. And, of course, the subject matter… this is my soapbox, smartalek.) Both students attend classes, read historical texts by radical thinkers living half a millennium ago, and spend countless hours staring up at the stars and wondering who is staring back. Plate tectonics is a relatively new concept, only about 50 years old now. Feeling the Earth move, under our feet? Feeling the sky tumbling down, tumbling down… (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Remember when Galileo said the earth wasn’t actually the center of the universe? Yeah, me neither. But I understand it was a pretty big deal back then. Didn’t he almost get whacked by the Inquisition for heresy, or something like that?

The more I read about Tarot, about the psychology of it as well as the mysticism surrounding it, the more I wonder about the “acceptable” means and ways of reflecting upon and worshiping something greater and more meaningful than us.


[Dis]Claimer: I’m a practicing Lutheran and believe in God. … How sad is it that I feel the need to state that up front?

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