Lint-Trap 1/26/01: The Pope
On Sunday, tens of millions of people will be watching the neat ads on the Superbowl. Perhaps the game will also be worth watching. I will be in class...
The last Sunday of every month I have been attending a class based on a remarkable book called Meditations on the Tarot by an anonymous French author. The book is a series of "meditations" on the 22 'trumps' of the Marsailles Tarot. The author is clearly strongly in the French Catholic tradition, with a fair amount of Hermeticism and Gnosticism thrown in. It is a strange and wonderful brew. I learn as much by simply seeing how his mind works as I do from the content of the book.
I was raised Episcopal, and it never did much for me. I lost my faith by way of Quakerism, which isn't a bad way to go, but I did spend several decades with no spiritual life and, really, not feeling the lack. In my fourties, when I remarried, I attended church with my wife, and when I moved to California we found a church where I felt very much at home. I got quite involved for a while in the various committees, etc., needed to keep such an enterprise going.
I was never real comfortable with much of the liturgy, however. When I read the New Testiment, I can't help feeling that Jesus is telling us to worship God, not Him. Sounds like a good idea to me.
And then I had, if not a religious experience, at least a spiritual one. I literally woke up one day certain that I had been here before--in effect, a belief in some form of reincarnation appeared spontaneously within me overnight. It wasn't an argued belief--it was more like recapturing a memory of something I knew to be true. I didn't know much about reincarnation, and the details were pretty blurry, but I knew I'd been here before and would be here again.
There is a lot of good news and bad news in something like this. The good news is that my feelings about death, and those who had died, underwent a profound change. Over the coming months, I began to be able to see myself as an eternal soul that is temporarily wearing a body, rather than a body 'having' a unique soul. This, when I really integrated it, was very good news. The bad news is that it made it difficult to go to church anymore.
The early Christian church was full of those who believed in reincarnation. At an early council, this belief was declared illegal, and writings that might have mentioned it or supported it were suppressed or changed. But it made it hard to sit among those who believed you got only one shot here, and then it was heaven or hell. Reincarnation is a much kinder, gentler approach.
So what am I doing in this strange Tarot class, studying card 5, "The Pope"? The meditations on the Tarot appear to have an accepting attitude towards reincarnation, without advocating it. And the book has such wonderful images and metaphors.
I heard quoted a fundamentalist Christian who, when asked if he belived in past lives (or some similarly New Age thing) snorted "I wouldn't believe in that stuff even if it was true!" I'm almost in the opposite place the that with the Medidations on the Tarot. The language and the images are so beautiful that I want to believe some of the stuff even though my mind thinks it is hogwash.
For example, according to the Meditations on the Tarot, card 5 is the Pope, and represents, at the surface level, the Pope, or religious authority. Ho hum, and why should I have it in my deck. The book then goes into a wonderful couple of paragraphs speaking of a apiritual respiration, where our prayers ascend to God on the inhale, and his benediction rains down on us with the exhale. And while my mind is still trying to recover from this, more images and metaphors come out to play, and then non-Catholic images join the party.
For example, the Hawaiian Huna belief that your soul can speak to you by sending you spiritual energy that falls on you like the mist falling on you from the rain farther up the mountain. I have felt the mist falling on me in Hawaii from the rain falling farther up the mountain. And I have felt the soul sending me energy that feels like that mist. And all of a sudden the cloying thick complicated Catholicism of the Meditations starts to make a strange kind of sense, or at least self consistency.
And I remember why I am working through five pages of study guide for Sunday's class from which I will get no credit, but much value.
Thank you for reading.