Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Big Coonversion, Week II: Between Two Worlds (by Leslie)

I went to church again today. This time it was just me and Tristan. Last week felt like a holiday. Today, I feel like I am following through on my commitment. It's always more of an effort to go somewhere with Tristan. I have to be ready to leave at a moment's notice, for one thing. I have to pack snacks, a few small toys, and diapers. And I have to be able to handle whatever he throws at me... going limp in the parking lot instead of walking holding my hand, throwing a toy at another child during services, or screaming at the top of his lungs about whatever is on his mind. Once again, my experience with yoga and meditation comes in handy. I'm much more able to be in the moment, detach from my preferences, and be thankful for any blessings that appear suddenly, like a smile from Tristan that lights up the place during the closing song.

I'm surprised that I feel so committed to becoming Catholic. It is a relatively new concept. Bob gave me quite the scare last night, though! There was a moment where I thought he was hinting that I had moved too quickly to settle on Our Lady of Malibu as our family church. To me, Bob is the spiritual head of the household, so this would have been a big problem, especially since I've now dedicated myself to convert to Catholicism. Thankfully, he was only commenting on the gap between the ideal experience of faith and the reality of an actual church attended by humans. I feel pretty resolved about that now that I've made the commitment to OLM, but it was a big issue for me when I was casting around, wondering where we'd land.

Since I'm more involved in schlepping Tristan around and getting out among the people, I ended up choosing the specific church after Bob commented that Catholicism might work for us. Bob and I balance each other out really well and always have. I get an idea and obsess about it, do a ton of research and then jump in. Bob waits til he sees clearly what to do and then it seems like he knew what to do all along. So there have been a few occasions in our 23 years together where he made an innocent remark and the next thing he knew, I had taken it to its "logical" extreme.

One other thing that's been on my mind this week. It's an interesting spot, being between two faiths. I've been practicing yoga for 12 years now and often wear an "OM" necklace that Bob got me. If I'm in a tight spot, I immediately say a mantra that I've used for many years -- "Om Sri Aurobindo Mother." I thank the Mother and bow my head when I look at Sri Aurobindo's photograph many times each day. I don't feel conflicted, at least not yet, but I have stopped wearing the "OM" necklace for the moment and asked Bob to get me a cross for Christmas. (Can you wear a cross before you fully are converted... like an engagement ring?) And I guess I'll make the sign of the cross at some point. These are little things but I realize they're important. I'm surprised I don't feel more self-conscious, actually.

I don't think it's right to blend all monotheistic religions together and say that it doesn't matter if I address Sri Aurobindo, Krishna, or Jesus. I don't believe they're one and the same, but I don't know exactly how this all fits together. I will ask Bob what he thinks and contemplate that. And I'll pray for answers... and see who answers.

Any and all comments are welcome!



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River Cocytus said...

Slow Sunday! But... they often are. Here's a little extra entertainment...

If I can be pardoned the irreverence.

Re: Jesus, (Yeshua) I think Peter says in Acts that his is the 'only name by which we must be saved.' I think that's the end of Acts 3.

So, take that as you will.

stu said...

Slow comment day, indeed.

For what it's worth, I'm enjoying your posts, Mrs. G. It must be very difficult transitioning to Catholicism from a Jewish background, no matter how secular it was. That, plus it's something new and relatively unfamiliar.

I'm looking forward to hearing how it all works out.

Coonified said...

"I don't think it's right to blend all monotheistic religions together and say that it doesn't matter if I address Sri Aurobindo, Krishna, or Jesus. I don't believe they're one and the same, but I don't know exactly how this all fits together."

I don't know how it all fits together either. Usually I just end up imagining them all seated at a round table as consults to my salvation. Aurobindo and the Mother feel like my parents and have taken care of me for the last several years. Christ seems the aim, Krishna's blue...and the Buddha's just...where's he at?

I do wear a cross though, and my roots are in Christianity, even though I don't go to church. Reintegration into the church is a personal aim for me, but it kind of feels like the church has to be born within myself before I go searching outside; and maybe its the correlative feeling that's important--do the pieces fit and is there absence of schism. As for myself, I'll just stay close to my vertical parents, whom I'll probably wonder away from as soon as their part in this drama is finished.

Good luck.

Van said...

"... going limp in the parking lot instead of walking holding my hand"

Wo... flashback - I used to tell them that if they were going to act like a sack of potatoes, I was going to carry them like one and fling 'em up and over my shoulders, feet in front and body dangling upside down behind me. This usually ended in stiff sulky robot walking or great peals of laughter - but it did end ;-)

"...and be thankful for any blessings that appear suddenly, like a smile from Tristan that lights up the place during the closing song."

I can picture it, I do miss those full-body smiles!

Um... hey, not to be too nosey (or at least trying to pretend not to appear that way) where's the big Bobber on Sunday?

julie said...

I was hoping you'd post again today, Leslie. I was raised Catholic/ Episcopal, and if I ever go back to church it'll most likely be Catholic. It's the only one that really feels like Home to me. In the meantime, it's good to read about someone else's experiences in starting out.

As to wearing a cross necklace, I think that's a personal issue more than anything. You may be getting it confused with a rosary, which is a necklace of prayer beads with a cross on it. You get a rosary after going through Confirmation (I think - it's been a mighty long time since I got mine, and given that I was about 7 at the time I didn't retain a whole lot of what I learned back then).

Leslie Godwin said...

Thanks so much for your interest and support. I really enjoy hearing about others' experiences and am very open to advice and suggestions.

Mrs. G

Leslie Godwin said...

I am so glad you posted and mentioned that you follow Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

I also feel that they are my mother and father. They are so many things to me, but definitely my mother and father. They are certainly guiding me to church now.

I don't know how I will ultimately relate to them, but I do feel it is helpful now to jump in to my current practice with both feet and give it my full dedication.

River, I liked your link. Thanks!

Mrs. G

phil g said...

Mrs. G,
As my wife and I are currently going through the 'Right of Christian Initiation' (RCIA) process right now, I'm happy to share with you our experience for whatever it might be worth.

As I mentioned before both of us grew up in protestant faiths...mine an extremenely fundementalist variety. We both drifted from the faith, er well, in my case I ran as fast and as far as I could from the faith. Picture fingers in ears and yelling 'la la la la...I can't hear you'.

We attended a local Catholic church, Saint Benedicts in the Atlanta area for about a year before we decided that we should either join or move along. I strongly believed (pulled like a strong magnet perhaps this is what it is like to be moved by the Holy Spirit) that this was it, if it wasn't going to be the Catholic faith than I was probably done with churches.

Anywho we signed up for the RCIA process, my wife with some angst, me more gung ho. My wife started first and I followed in the next session so that we'd have a bit of space to express and learn independantly yet close enough that we could discuss and encourage each other.

The RCIA process seems to be fairly well defined but like any of these things it is only as good as the lay member in charge of it and the church members who contribute. St. Benedict's implementation for the most part has been a wonderful experience.

The process is divided into four steps and has two versions depending on whether you have an accepted baptism or not. The first step of RCIA is the 'inquiry' process and lasts about six weeks. You will go over Church and Christian doctrine and will learn many of the 'mechanics' or rituals of the Catholic faith. At the end of this session you decide to move on into the Catechumenate stage where you either choose or are assigned a sponser. Here you more deeply explore you faith and Church/Christian teachings. At the beginning of this stage you and the other candidates are called forward during the Mass and a ceremony takes place with your sponsor at your side. You are presented a necklace with a cross and Christ crucified. It is a public display of your commitment. This was a very moving experience for me. I am not shy about being in front of people, but standing in front of the priest, with the icon of Jesus Christ crucified above me and the members behind me, I experienced a tremendous rush of energy course through me that left me shaking...I have goose bumps thinking about it now. I had to concentrate on the priest's message and practice deep breathing to keep from shaking like a leaf. I was exhausted for the rest of the day. At the end of the ceremony the priest asks the members if they are willing to help and accept these candidates...the crowd then responds with a vigorous ovation...still leaves me a bit teary. This is also a great inspiration for cradle Catholics who can sometimes take their faith and Church for granted. It is a wonderful ministry and our pastor, a jolly and personable Irishman, clearly loves it.

Through the rest of this stage, about another 6-8 weeks, you are then called out after the homily to stand before the priest who blesses you and your commitment then you walk out with the leader of the session for that day while the choir and crowd sing. You then spend a couple hours discussing the days scripture reading and then a specific topic of Christian doctrine/teaching.

This prepares you then for the 'period of enlightment' where you meet with the pastor and faither community to formally accept the Church. This is another moving ceremony (I'm not at this stage yet). There is also a step for those requiring baptism.

After this you are ready to partake in the Eucharist.

Sorry for the long post. I went into this process blind, so any coaching or information that might be useful for you, I'm happy to provide.

This has been a growing experience for me as I normally do not like these kind of group sessions and would historically stay as far away from something like this as possible or if I had to participate would sit silent. It can be a bit frustrating as you will be with people from various stages of religious understanding, intelligence and motivation for being there...but that is basically like life in a might be able to help someone along and there might be someone there who can help you. There also might be a personal growth opportunity to learn patience and tolerance with someone in the group who simply annoys you...big problem for me.

I chuckle thinking of Bob sitting through these sessions and pity the poor persons who have to lead the sessions with Bob in the!!!

There's a great prayer from Saint Thomas Merton that we used to open up the inquiry session that I still pray every day:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going. I cannot see the road ahead of me.
I do not know where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But, I believe that the desire to please you does, in fact, please you.
And, I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

God bless you and Bob on your journey.

Sal said...

Lovely post, Phil. Blessing to you and your wife on your journey.

I was received without having to go through the formal RCIA process, after some searching interviews with the priest as to my state of preparedness. So, I missed out on the group process.

Thanks for mentioning that the program is only as good as the people who run it. My general rule of thumb is if anything sounds odd of iffy, consult the Catechism. My first encounter with formal catechesis was back in the late '70's: two pantsuited nuns teaching out of the late unlamented Christ Among Us .
That sent me back for seven more years of private study.

I was raised as an Episcopalian and spent eleven years as a young adult in the "high church" regions of that denomination.

(There are Anglicans/Episcopalians who believe in the 'branch theory': that the Anglican communion is actually part of the Catholic communion, with Rome and the Orthodox. They accept many doctrines their 'lower' brothers have difficulty with and use many Catholic liturgical practices.)

From very earliest childhood, though, I had been drawn to all things Catholic. Sea shell Marian grottoes at house calls with my dad, a crucifix on a neighbor's wall, a classmate making the sign of the cross at school lunch: they had a sort of tuning fork resonance for me.

More later- day calling...

Leslie, dear,
Catholics love kids and expect them to be at Mass and the little ones to act up. If he's not lying the aisle screaming himself purple, you're pretty much okay.

The g-son is in the terrible 'baby teens', too. I'd be a better counselor to my dd, if I wouldn't laugh heartily while commiserating about how he acted at the grocery.

Leslie Godwin said...

That was so moving...I'm going to print out the prayer you posted at the end of your comments.

And the description of the process was very helpful and welcome. I have a neighbor who just went through the whole thing and recently completed the process, so I was going to quiz her about it. But now that I have an overview, I can put her comments and the details into your framework.

I also love the way you and your wife are staggering your studies slightly. I don't think Bob is planning on doing the process, but he may come to church with us occasionally.

I would guess most couples have the sort of relationship you more motivated right at that moment, the other interested but less pulled or less tolerant of the hoops you have to go through. It seems that many couples have one more outgoing spouse and one more introverted.


Leslie Godwin said...

Hi Sal,
Thanks for your reassurance about bringing Tristan to church. There was a man behind us with a portable oxygen tank with a tube that went to his nose, and I did think that about 2 months ago, Tristan would have pulled that right out LOL!

He does pretty well in the child care room, although yesterday when I went to get him before the closing song, one of the volunteers said, "You've got your hands full!"

On the way home in the car, Tristan said, "I go church now, Mommy!" I asked him if he wanted to go back to church. Yes, that's what he wanted. Now, Mommy!

ps-T wears the sweater you knit him every night on his walk. He loves it and we talk about how it's "comfy like a blanket."

Martin said...

Ah yes, another one enters our clutches! Excellent!

The ultimate guidebook for your specific journey is definitely Meditations on the Tarot, which Bob has recommended frequently and persistently. Unfortunately, it's one of those "read it all your life and never fully finish it" books. But there is a central lesson to it that can be summarized without too much travail.

Although our Unknown Friend is anonymous, he reveals so much about himself in this book. It is clear that he has spent much of his life in the company of various seekers from wildly diverse traditions, and the letters are essentially written to them out of his love for them. He is obviously in direct contact with people involved in transcendentalism, Indian mysticism, alchemy, magic, Gnosticism, Cabalah, and a host of other spiritual pursuits. One gets the sense that our Unknown Friend has engaged himself seriously with many of these traditions, perhaps as a disciple/initiate.

Our Unknown Friend has three messages to his friends, these seekers:

1. Christ is the true object of all spiritual pursuit;

2. The Church contains the purest mysticism, gnosis, and magic that leads to Him, and is the practical engine of Spiritual Respiration between the Higher and the Lower;

3. The honest spiritual effort of seekers in many other traditions is not in vain! Rather, each one will find the fulfillment of his or her search in Him, and all spiritual practice will be baptized and transmutated (spiritual alchemy) by the Sacred Magic of the Sacraments.

Big time stuff. But the Work is big time stuff, the biggest of them all.

Note that #3 does not imply syncretism of any kind: we are not pansy Unitarians here. Because, in Truth, we must harmonize our spiritual progress and practice with the One, and there is only one Way that is fully efficacious. But the spiritual progress undertaken by different traditions is real progress nonetheless! The advanced Buddhist, for example, who find his way to the Way- how much deeper/higher will he be in his work than a neophyte with no spiritual progress!

When your time comes, I think two thing will happen simultaneously: first, your spiritual exercises will change as your are reoriented by Grace, and second, you will come to understand the deep truth of your old spiritual exercises, so much so that you will look back at those with regret for not having plumbed their depths further.

And in the case of Sri Aurobindo particularly, my personal view is this: I understand what he lacked and where he was mistaken, but I would die (and will!) to achieve what he did in his journey.

Leslie Godwin said...

Dear Martin,
Your comments were very helpful. I'll save them and revisit them as I go along this path.

I hope you post again. I'm very interested in any insights from Meditations on the Tarot. Or any thoughts you have on going from Sri Aurobindo's yoga to Catholicism.

Blessings and thanks,

Martin said...

I guess my only advice would be this: you should approach Catholicism on its own terms first. Don't immediately start to look for ways to harmonize Christian yoga with orthodox Catholicism at first, as this will most likely bring confusion and frustration to your conversion. Find a good priest in your area who has time to discuss the faith with you and help you answer questions. Immerse yourself in the life of the Church, its history, theology and practice. Meet some committed Catholics who can talk about their faith with you. You will need patience, since most adult converts are NOT coming from your background and cradle Catholics probably won't understand the context. But there are fantastic resources on the Internet (I know this fantastic blog you might be interested in ;-))

For example, you should check out the resources on the EWTN website, which includes huge numbers of audio and video clips from various shows. The one in particular you might be interested in is The Journey Home, which is an interview and call-in show hosted by Marcus Grodi. Each week he talks to a different guest about their conversion stories from almost every background conceivable- Buddhist, Protestant, atheist, whatever. Here's a link to the audio library:

A good website that includes a nice summary of audio from EWTN covering important topics is

I can't give you specific apologetics that address your particular situation (Thomas Merton may or may not suit you), but they do exist, and hopefully more people on this blog can help you there.

In short, you MUST learn the faith first in order to make sense of the connections between yoga and Christianity. Temporarily set yoga aside while you are catechizing.* It will take time for you to return to yoga with the confidence of Faith, but when you do, what a glorious thing! The spiritual solace you found in yoga will return, ten-fold, as it has become transformed in you as you have been transformed in Him.

*A thought on this. Conversion can and will be spiritually unsettling. No matter what background you are coming from, the conversion process is a radical change and can cause a temporary loss of balance. Like steering a large ship in the ocean, the movement can be unsettling, despite the rightness of the action. You will have so many questions and such a desire to begin your new spiritual journey (actually the continuation of your existing one, but on a different course) but I advise you to take it slow at first. The ship will turn most smoothly when all input is slow and steady.

NoMo said...

Leslie - If not for the Bible, none of us would even know what Christianity might be. Not Catholics, not protestants, not anyone. I would be sure to include a healthy dose of prayerful Bible study (probably goes without saying, but...). Having been raised in a non-Christian cult, when I first came to know the One, a hunger for His Words drove me to spend a great deal of time there - with spiritual growth as the result.

II Timothy 3:14-17
Hebrews 4:12

jimmiedub said...

Hi Leslie,

I'm glad to see that you've posted again about your experiences with the Church. I continued in my search yesterday by visiting a local Episcopal church. I was raised as a Methodist but have recently become interested in a more or less 'high Church' religious home - kind of the opposite of the 'pep rally for Jesus' style of services. This particular church represents itself as one that is particularly open to 'seekers' and is a bit avant garde in some of its methods while preserving the sacredness of the Episcopal traditions. For example, they had a dixieland band at the service yesterday to accompany much of the music.

So Mrs. G., I don't know if it the power of suggestion arising from your account of your experience last Sunday, but I found myself during the more sacred parts of the service yesterday to be responding powerfully to the proceedings. The singing of certain psalms and other readings appears to have spoken directly to my religious receptors, bypassing the otherwise fully engaged logical and emotional filters. Indeed, I did feel tears well up a bit in my eyes at times. I'm inclined to see this as evidence of the power of these religious observations. I felt oddly compelled to take communion, in fact, for the first time in oh, probably 10 years at least.

I can't explain what's going on here, but I continue to feel compelled to seek religious fulfillment through the Christian paradigm - and this still surprises me, having so recently been borderline hostile to any form of Christianity.

I don't know if my wife will be interested in this, since she has come from a firmly Atheist background (former Soviet Union), but one step at a time, I suppose.

Again, thanks for blogging about your experiences and opening up this topic in so doing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Leslie,

Lots of great comments here. And I'm really glad you're coming into the Catholic Church.
I was born Catholic but left early on, only to come back to the Church as an adult after much research, study and surrender to what I came to know as the truth.
Since you have such a strong devotion to the Mother, I suggest you listen to people like Scott Hahn who speak about the Mother of God and her role in salvation history. ("answering common objections" then "Mary")
Also, not to get into debates, but just to answer the last post, it was the Catholic Church who compiled the books that make up what we have as the Bible today. If we trust the Bible as the inherent Word of God, then we, by defacto, trust the Church who brought it to us.
Bless you on your journey and great to see all the wonderful comments!


ps. Thanks again for your support.

Leslie Godwin said...

Dear Martin,
I can't thank you enough. I feel that your advice is just what I needed. My hunch was to understand Catholicism as deeply as I could first and not try to "hold on" to yoga. Then to see what would happen after that. But you've added a lot that is very helpful and practical right now.

And you sure sound like you know what you're talking about.

Thanks so much,

Leslie Godwin said...

I can't find the words to explain how all of your comments have touched me. I hope you guys will look up this thread during the week to add any thoughts you might have.

And, Bob willing, I'll post again next Sunday ;)


Warren said...

Dear Mrs. GB -

First of all, congratulations on finding the Church (or did She find you...?) I am following the story of your "coonversion" with great interest, for several reasons. One is that I'm in RCIA at the moment, having undergone a coonversion myself a couple of years ago. My own background runs roughly (or roughshod) through Theosophy, New Age (more or less), parapsychological research, Mahayana Buddhisn, Advaita Vedanta, Kashmir Shaivism, Aurobindo, and the Traditionalists (Schuon et al). Note that I never actually practiced any of these things, merely studied them in books. Anyway, like Bob (I think), I got stuck trying to reconcile Aurobindo's evolutionary outlook with the "static" viewpoint of the Traditionalists. Around that same time I experienced some pretty hard knocks, so I finally began a regular meditation and prayer regimen. The result, much to my (and my family's) surprise, was that a belief in Jesus Christ was mysteriously implanted in me! This was about the last thing in the world that I expected, or even wanted - Christianity was something, I thought, I'd left behind me on the road, way back there somewhere. Anyway, another year or two of study (this time on Christianity) ultimately led me to the Catholic Church.

I've been lurking around this blog for a year or two now because I've always found The B'ob to be someone on my own wavelength, albeit with a higher IQ. (My wife, in fact, has long referred to Bob as my doppelganger.) I have also thought for a long time that Bob was another Catholic Waiting To Happen. I have been predicting his coonversion for some time now - but was taken by surprise to see that it actually happened to his wife first! How does it feel to be a pioneer?

I certainly don't have any great wisdom to offer you about entering the Church. My main impression is that it's a big, diverse, messy family, with crazy uncles wandering around and sometimes fistfights in the parlor, but also a lot of wonderful people. My besetting sin is intellectual pride, and I have often been tempted to look down on lifelong Catholics who I think understand their religion in a very superficial, surface kind of way (precisely because they learned it in childhood). However, such people have often, in the end, shown me that book-learning isn't everything, and have taught me a little humility in the process (without meaning to).

As for learning about real, essential, traditional Christianity, nobody does it better than C. S. Lewis. To gain a greater appreciation of the true uniqueness of Jesus Christ, I would recommend Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man" (which was hugely influential on C. S. Lewis). As for blogs, I recently ran across one written by a young Catholic woman with small children - she is a very recent convert (from atheism):

All possible blessings, and please keep writing!

Gagdad Bob said...


You touch on something that gives me some willlies, which is the "un-American" aspect of Catholicism. I don't mean that the way it probably sounds -- I mean it vis-a-vis the do-it-yourself, independent spirit that made America great, and our reluctance to follow leaders and watch the parking meters. We are jazz, not classical.

I'm reading this wonderful book, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, and it goes into how often some of the "crazy uncles" you mention composed one of the two main world forces opposed to Anglo-American values: Marxism and Catholicism! For example, The Wealth of Nations was once on the Inquisition's list of forbidden books. Michael Novak has written some wonderful things in the effort to reconcile his Catholicism with economic common sense, but still....

On the other hand, I'm with Joyce: you can't bloody well leave a coherent absurdity for an incoherent one, if you know what I mean...

Leslie Godwin said...

This will certainly feel familiar ;)

"I certainly don't have any great wisdom to offer you about entering the Church. My main impression is that it's a big, diverse, messy family, with crazy uncles wandering around and sometimes fistfights in the parlor, but also a lot of wonderful people. "

Thanks so much. I am so blessed to have your encouragement!

Re. being a pioneer...I don't feel it is me acting, so I can't answer that. The alchemy between submitting myself to God's will, Bob's wisdom, and Tristan's needs has been magical and surprising in many ways, but perfect.


Matteo said...

I converted to Catholicism 12 years ago, with Meditations On The Tarot as one of my major mystical guides. One concept (from St Anselm) that helped me early on was thinking of God as the Being about which no greater can be thought. I realized one thing: what's greater, a God who would give us a very clear, truthful, and accessible revelation (through the Catholic Church, in my opinion and experience), or one who wouldn't, and would leave us to fumble around in the dark with nothing but guesses and hunches, such that only the most saintly and thoughtful PhD could be saved? I find Catholicism to be the ultimate WYSIWYG religion, but a lot of people just don't believe that crucially important revelation from our Creator could possibly be that clear, publicly available, and right under our noses. Well, why not? What kind of God are we talking about here, anyway? Revelation is the beginning of the adventure, not the end.

I also second the recommendation of The Everlasting Man by Chesterton, as it is a profound meditation on how Christianity fulfills the longings of all other religions. Also, I definitely recommend his book Orthodoxy, which is a superbly written defense of Catholicism and an outstanding piece of literature. Best of luck and grace on your discernment!

phil g said...

I love the references to Meditations on the Tarot. I just completed it, started in January...little bits every day. Now I have an emptiness in my morning meditation/reading time and am trying to decide how to follow such a wonderful book. Reading/meditating this book was particularly fantstic for me as I was raised a fundamentalist and as Bob pointed out in yesterday's post I was raised to KNOW that the seeing eye cain was indeed God and don't ask any questions.

phil g said...

Oops, hit the send button too soon.

Soooooo anyone have some suggestions on how to follow-up Meditations on the Tarot????

I've read Chesterton's Orthodox...loved it. Any other Chesterton I should read? C.S. Lewis?

I purchased a copy of OneCosmos and Meditations on a Tarot for my sister...she devoured OneCosmos and is now wading into Meditations...she's getting hooked.

It's wonderful medicine for those previously scarred by fundamentalism but who gnows there is much more to the story.

Petey said...

Phil G:

Naturally. Follow up with his follow up. (Just don't reveal his identity.)

ximeze said...

Hi Leslie

So glad you've posted again. Several thing come to mind.

You wrote Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are certainly guiding you to church now. How lovely to have True & Trusted friends to go with you into this new adventure. Don't sweat their 'placement' for now, you'll gno where they 'fit' at some point.

You wrote "It's an interesting spot, being between two faiths." I was raised Catholic outside the US in Italy, Paraguay, Argentina & Brazil. Can't speak for American Catholicism today, but in South America there is plenty of evidence of crossover between the native 'old' religion/gods & the 'new' Catholic way.

Catholicism seem eminently suited for these blending/transitions: just look to its worldwide historical success.

I'm thinking it's because so many archetypes are represented within the faith. Its got the Trinity, plenty of Saints & Angels to go around, lots of Faces/Names/Attributes - sort of something-for-everyone. True & Trusted friends to act as guides, many doors that give access.

Any personage or concept transliterates from the 'old' into the 'new', giving rise to some charming 'blended' practices. Forget Carnaval in Rio: go for Reveillon on New Year's Eve, where hundreds of people come to the seafront to pay homage to the Afro-Brazilian orixá, or goddess, Iemanjá, placing offerings in the sea. The Iemanjás I saw on those small boats, covered with flowers (just like your OLM Mary) were the spitting image 'Mary', blue robes & all.

A decided element of the pagan mixed in. This seems to freak Americans out, but the entire world does not our Euro-Judeo-Christian heritage. I suppose that since I grew up in that blended environment, it seems more normal to me. I'm continually struck by the similarities & crossovers more than by doctrinal differences.

Speaking of tranliterations, since I was raised multilingual/polyglot, I always want to know what the 'original' says when compared to a translation. Any effort to move concepts between languages gets one thinking about the essence & subtleties of words used & how to convey the 'wholeness'. Some stuff gets moved without any of the original context, color or 'case', if they're not present in both languages.

I'm thinking here of the Bible & assuming you read it in English. Plenty gets lost in translation from Hebrew & Greek to English, by virtue of the forms available in each of the languages.

'Hidden' right below the surface of the English is a marvelous world of color in the language of the originals. Things like 'faith' being a verb, for example, or 'love' having multiple forms in Greek, while English doesn't easily accommodate such usage in it's grammar & syntax.

You don't have to become a linguist or anything, just be aware that this issue comes with the territory. Sometimes you may find you think you're being obtuse, when in reality it's a tranliteration problem. IE: God is singular, while Gods connotes Pantheism in English. Hebrew has 'plural' forms for the Monotheistic God, while English does not.

"The first revelation of God is found in Genesis 1:1-"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." The name of God given there is "ELOHIM." The word "Elohim" is given in the plural, though is refers to One God."

There are a bunch of names used in Hebrew to specify which dimention/name of God is being referenced. Very cool stuff. The link below has some info, tho there may well be better ones.

Petey said...

God, the OMninameable One!

Warren said...


I fully understand your willies, and to some extent share them myself. I coonverted from a sort of know-nothing leftism (inherited unthinkingly from my older brothers) to a Limbaugh-style American conservatism about 15 years ago. (In fact, your gleeful left-bashing is one of the things I enjoy most about this blog.) And there's no doubt at all that there's a conflict with the Church here. American-style individual freedom and capitalism are very much products of Protestantism, and would never, it seems safe to say, have come into being in a Catholic world (such as the pre-Reformation High Middle Ages).

As far as I can tell, the Church does not give its full endorsement to ANY social or economic system that fallen Man invents. It applauds the (stated) intent of Marxism for social and economic "justice", while at the same time working tirelessly to bring down the Communist Empire from within, and crushing out Marxist encroachments on the Church itself (liberation theology, etc). It applauds the relative freedom and prosperity of the West while thundering against our wholesale slaughter of the unborn and our general slide into a secular wasteland of the spirit. Basically, the Church is a universal spoilsport, goring everyone's oxen and peeing on everyone's parade, forever and ever, whirled without end, allmen.

But that being said, it's a matter of rendering unto Caesar. Whether you're left or right, the Church is always going to nag and kvetch at you, but they're not (anymore) in the business of actually telling anyone how things SHOULD be run. They know that whatever system we set up, it's ultimately going to crash and burn (they've seen it happen countless times), and their main hope is to minimize the damage done to the (mostly) powerless and innocent masses of souls. As Americans, this tends to strike us as a hopelessly bleak and pessimistic view of things. For myself, it's just what I call "history".

Sorry if this wandered a bit and didn't really address your point, but I'm like that sometimes....

Warren said...

Phil G,

If you're a Chesterton fan, both "Orthodoxy" and "The Everlasting Man" are absolutely essential reading. "Orthodoxy", in fact, is the wittiest and most verbally brilliant book I've ever read - I mean, the guy makes Oscar Wilde seem like a dullard - as well as being hilarious and profound. What a performance. "The Everlasting Man" is a little less remorselessly witty and funny, but is much more profound.

Regarding C. S. Lewis (my satguru, the man who explained Christianity to me), it's hard to be objective. Most people start with "Mere Christianity", and it's a great choice, but my own favorites are probably "The Screwtape Letters", "The Problem of Pain" and "Miracles"....

Leslie Godwin said...

Obrigado :)

phil g said...

Thanks Petey...I'll hit the well worn 'Buy Now' button on Amazon. How can one turn down a tip from out of this world?

phil g said...

I agree regarding Orthodoxy, in fact I'd probably gain much more reading again. I'll check out Everlasting Man...thanks!

I started my awakening about 5 years ago with Mere Christianity and loved it. I'm now working through the Screwtape Letters and love it as well.

phil g said...

God I love this place!!!!

phil g said...

Doh...Petey I get it now...wink, wink, nudge, nudge...secret is safe with me. Thanks for the clue.

Warren said...


Probably one more brief rant is in order here....

Chesterton maintained that the most convincing arguments against atheism came from atheists, and the most convincing arguments against Christianity came from Christians. I have found both things to be very true.

By the time I entered RCIA, I thought my faith was pretty darned solid. But regular contact with actual Catholics was something else. Several times I have come home in deep depression, thinking "I've been a fool all this time - what people like this believe CAN'T be true." They're all so.... ordinary. Clueless, a lot of them. Superstitious, some of them. They have petty interests and aspirations. Not bad people, really, but.... the Mystical Body of Christ?!? Get real!

I'm not sure what I was expecting, exactly. Haloes? Rudimentary wings? RCIA class taught channeled by the spirit of Thomas Aquinas? Anyway, due to my intellectual pride, this was a severe test of faith.

I had to keep bringing myself back to first principles. Why did I believe in God? (Easy - because atheism is logically incoherent.) Why did I believe in Jesus Christ? (Personal experience coupled with solid historical arguments for the Resurrection.) Why did I believe the Church's claims? (Historical arguments again, with some faith thrown in.) And were any of these reasons refuted because that stupid lady in the next pew actually reads the National Enquirer? Does the fact that that guy over there is a slob refute Hans Urs von Balthasar's theology? Well, no. I had to keep bringing myself back to first principles until my hellish pride was tamed a bit.

And I think this is the problem that many cradle Catholics have - they have never had to fight their way to faith from the outside. It was just given to them. And as soon as they get old enough to see how stupid and ridiculous most of their believing elders are (or seem to be), they have no first principles to fall back on, and the whole thing collapses for them.

Cautionary rant over....

Anonymous said...

A quibble: I believe that proper Catholics wear crucixes not crosses. There is a difference.

A not so quibble: Lot's of interesting things have been written around Catholicism and the mystical experience but hyou're going to havr to get through the fundamental issue of authority.

In spite of what it may seem orthodox (small o) Catholicism resents self-interpretation. You can be a self-interpreted Catholic but unless you buy into the authority and tradition thing are you a real Catholic.

You can't avoid going there.

I believe in authority and I can't find any there.

Leslie Godwin said...

I know what you mean. I was just telling Bob last night about how I had to overcome my snobbery to practice yoga. I was at my most snobby as an atheist in college.

Years ago I worked really hard to practice the way of the "baby kitten" (as opposed to the baby monkey) which involved throwing myself at the Mother's feet and praying as sincerely as I could to align my will with Hers at all times. Thanks to Her Grace, this has been a huge change in my life.

I believe that these conflicts are not intellectual ones, but spiritual conflicts posing as intellectual problems. I will try to remember to attack them as spiritual conflicts and not try to talk myself out of them. I hope this makes sense.

Leslie Godwin said...

ps to Warren- I don't mean that there aren't intellectual conflicts when considering any religion seriously. I only meant that in my case, the discomfort of feeling intellectually superior to others and devaluing a perfectly good religion was a spiritual attack, not something I could resolve intellectually.


Matteo said...

Phil g,

"Miracles" by C.S. Lewis is astonishingly good.

Warren said...


You are absolutely, 100% right in saying "these conflicts are not intellectual ones, but spiritual conflicts posing as intellectual problems". What you said makes perfect sense.

The "way of the kitten" should carry you far in Christianity. Ultimately, at the end of the day, it is the only way.

Your references to your devotion to the Mother reminded me of how important Aurobindo's writings were to me as a bridge from Hindu to Christian philosophy. I only realized this in retrospect, after I'd already crossed the bridge. His whole concept of a spiritually glorified physical universe, with physically immortal beings in it - a concept totally alien to traditional Hinduism, as far as I know - is really nothing other than the Christian doctrine of the New Creation. And devotion to the Mother - well, that parallel is pretty obvious, I guess. (The Two-in-One Godhead of Kashmir Shaivism also served me as a neat intellectual bridge to the doctrine of the Trinity.)

Namaste, and the Lord's peace be with you.

phil g said...

I've have read that as well and agree. I was a mere kit then and did not gno as much when reading it and some of the concepts were a bit challenging. I'd probabbly gain a lot more gnowledge on the second read.