Monday, October 03, 2011

but she never asked for money

I thought I wasn't going to be able to post anything for days due to recovering from our weekend roadtrip to Seattle, but then I found this, which I wrote about three weeks ago, and never posted (because it is unfinished, as you will see).  But it's as long as most of my posts are, so I'm publishing it and will finish it in another post--if I can remember what the point was, because at the moment, I can't.  I have no idea where I was going with this.

When we first moved here-- in July of 1992, so it has been 19 years now-- I was still in Exploratory Search Mode, looking for a way to express my spirituality that felt right. So I tried out several different things.  Compared to what I was raised with, some of them were pretty wild, but you know, when you actually get there and sit with people and listen to what they believe, it's not wild at all.  It's just people, trying to make sense of the world, trying to live deeper, richer lives.

I tried a UCC church, a church of religious science, a wiccan circle, a group that was more or less a book club that read books on spiritual topics, and a couple of groups that were too amorphous to have a specific category applied to them, but were more or less New Age spirituality groups.  One of them was started by a couple of women who had spiritual interests and wanted to have a group of like-minded women to meet with on a monthly basis.  But the other one had a real live guru in charge of it. 

She has subsequently moved--in fact, it has probably been more than a dozen years since she moved--so I could probably use her real name, but since it's fun to think up internet names, we'll call her Selena.  I went to Selena's group weekly for about a year.  To use her New Age lingo, she believed that she "channeled the universal Christ Energy," but really that is just a woo-woo way of saying.... hmmm, I'm trying to think of a way to say this.  I don't want to sound snide or pejorative, because I often found her teachings to be very wise.  but it's hard not to be snide sometimes.

Let me back up.  I think in our culture, we have a hard time believing that individual humans can be spiritually wise, so if we're going to trust a spiritual teacher, we expect them to have some sort of credibility that depends on an authority outside themselves--their authority to teach has to come from having studied a spiritual text (the Bible, the Koran), or having gone to a spiritual school or apprenticeship (seminary, or lived in an ashram, or spent 20 years in Zen meditation, or whatever), or from some sort of crisis experience (a former drug addict that has had a conversion experience).  We don't want to believe that Joe Schmoe down the street can speak spiritual truths just because he thought of something in between watching football games and mowing the lawn. 

Which is mostly a good thing-- it keeps us from getting sucked in by some charismatic person who claims special spiritual brilliance and by the way if you send him $500 he'll send you his newsletter.  But it's also a sign of patriarchal thinking-- your brilliance can't come from within, it has to have the stamp of approval of some external authority.  It's how the local village wise woman (who was either self-taught, or was taught by the previous wise woman) got labeled a witch and then ousted by a Catholic priest, who had an entire church hierarchy to back him up. 

So, back to Selena.  About a dozen of us would gather every week, and Selena would sit with us in a circle.  She would spend a few minutes centering herself, and then, with her hands out flat on her thighs, she would start to talk.  She would talk about love and what is valuable and the state of the world and how to handle various difficulties.  As she talked, the fingers on her right hand would flutter a bit on her leg.  One time when I was talking to her alone she told me that that was how she knew she was on the right track-- the Christ Energy that she believed she channeled would move her fingers. I can't remember exactly how it worked but it was something like if her pinky finger moved, she was OK, but if it was her index finger, she was getting off track. 

I found her helpful, and interesting, but she didn't say anything exactly earth-shatteringly new.  Everything is love, the world of our senses is not all there is, you should align yourself with positive vibrational frequencies (which is basically the same thing as 'think positive,' if you ask me).  It seemed to me that she used the idea of "channeling" to give herself credibility-- not consciously, I'm sure that she believed what she was telling us.  But I think even in her own mind, she needed to believe that there was some external authority out there-- the "Christ Energy"-- that was telling her what to say.  But maybe really she was just a person who was unusually in tune with her spirituality, and thus had interesting things to teach the rest of us.  Maybe there was no Christ Energy at all, beyond what she had inside herself.

At least, that's one way of looking at it.  On the other hand, I've had experiences, too, where a sudden insight or realization felt like a gift from an external source.  and of course both ways of thinking bring up the question of exactly what spirituality is, anyway.   Is it just an underused section of our own brain?  or maybe as-yet-unknown capabilities of the human brain?  Do we really tap into some external source?  I have no idea.

hunh.  I just googled Selena and she's still around--in Oregon, as a matter of fact. (*waves at Oregon*)

more later. I did remember where I was going with this, and believe it or not, it was going to be about group dynamics.  ha.  I edited it quite a bit before I remembered that, so that's not where it's going anymore, obviously.  (and just in case you're wondering, no I am not about to announce that I will be channeling the archangel Michael on Tuesdays.  I'm just interested in this in a general sort of way.)


  1. Are you sure about that Tuesday thing? Cuz I have some questions I'd like Michael to answer for me. Also, deargawd text me Selena's real name! I probably know her!!!
    Love your mind, love your posts, and I don't actually care WHERE you go with topics like this, they always help me to think more.
    (nice factoid about witches in there, thanks)

  2. Dang, and I was all geared up for Archangel Michael Tuesdays! I am looking forward to where you are going with this post.