On being authentic – spiritual fiction?

A few years ago I was asked, despite the fact that I make it very clear on my website that I am not a medium, to become a medium. For money. Now if I was willing to compromise my honesty, I might actually do a believable job at that. I have a decent amount of insight into the psychology of people and often say things that people take to heart.

This year I was asked to contribute articles to an alternative Christian magazine here in The Netherlands. I was excited by the prospect. Their audience is small but influential in the world of Dutch alternative spirituality. This week I got two of their magazines and I started thinking about what I could write for them.

The first thing that popped into my head was the theme of Christian meditation. I am reading a book about that and of course meditation is quite ‘cool’. Everybody who is anybody in this field meditates. Except I don’t. I haven’t done any training in meditation. Visualization seems like a waste of time to me. I do, every once in a while, sit still to ponder. This is meditation in the wider sense of ‘contemplation’. Nothing wrong with it and on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Indian) scale of meditation it is not the lowest kind, but it is not what people want to hear and it does not fit into any Christian meditation tradition I know of – certainly not the one in that book I was reading.

But I could envision the article I could write if I forgot all that. If I could just pretend – I could fictionalize an article so easily… Except of course I can’t. I’m too honest a person and loosing that honesty means more to me than the network and influence I might gain if I did write that article. So I will have to think of something else. Or pass up the opportunity.

In the world of alternative spirituality the line between fantasy and reality gets crossed more often. The famous clairvoyant C.W. Leadbeater for instance is usually credited with real clairvoyance in his works on the chakras and in his discovery of Jiddu Krishnamurti. But his work on the past lives of Jiddu Krishnamurti is at best trivial and at worst gossipy fiction.

More famously the founder of Scientology, John Hubbard, was a science fiction author before he started his own religion. He once said that founding a religion was a great way to become rich.

What is perhaps not so well known is that in the world of wicca things become even stranger. Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote some books about the world of King Arthur from the perspective of the pagan women whose tradition got trampled under Christianity. The most famous of these books is ‘Mists of Avalon’. This is fantasy literature. It was written as fiction. But in the world of wicca there are people who take one of three approaches:

  • They take her fiction as literal truth.
  • They use the things she wrote about in their rituals and don’t care about whether it was true or not
  • They take her fiction, know full well it’s not historically accurate in a number of ways, yet use it in their wicca rituals.
  • [added later] Ignore her altogether. There are all kinds of wiccans and not all of them (or even a majority) relate to Marion Zimmer Bradley at all. Whether they have read her work or not.[/added later]

That sort of thing doesn’t work for me. I’m not an artist. I’m not going to complicate my life with added images that I know aren’t true. I want to live the kind of spirituality that is based on what I know – though it leaves what I don’t know open. I am quite willing to write about stuff I believe in, even if I am not completely sure.

5 thoughts on “On being authentic – spiritual fiction?”

  1. I have visited Spiritual mediums (the ones that do it for ‘free’ at church) and commercial mediums.

    I have never found a Spiritual medium who has channeled an image of ‘Heaven’ – but a few commercial mediums who have.

    Sometimes people pay to receive their truth


  2. I wonder what Christian meditation book(s) you are reading… _Cloud_of_Unknowing_ and its sequels… _The_Practice_of_the_Presence_of_God_ and its sequel(s) (or the great works by the founders of that author’s order?) The former are anonymous and the latter are from a virtuous person… I know not if Jakob Boehme was completely, but HPB spoke highly of his knowledge.

    Did you mean all Wiccans take one of the 3 approaches above, or some may take such approaches? (because of diversity most probably have not read MZB.) I know various Wiccans, but also a Druidess and other pagans/heathens. The MZB books mentioned are Celtic-based, but ‘Wicca’ seems like a spelling of the old Anglo-Saxon ‘Wicche,’ etc., and I know no Celtic equivalents, but as a name of a religion there are similar and more specific ones in other languages. My Wiccan friend who defined ‘esoteric’ for me was into much esoterism; the best of which seems ancient to Renaissance sources and Theosophy, but I am unsure if (orthodox) Wicca is fully based on those or has modern inventions besides Golden Dawn. That was between Theosophy and Wicca but has more of interest to me except perhaps post-Hellenismos ideas (if GD even mentions Hermes or just Thoth; I forgot) that maybe only Wicca references more: primary sources (mythology and other general folklore) are more interesting or probably should be studied before it or at the start.

  3. Good question. I did not mean all Wiccans read her work. But of those that do, I’ve been told many take it seriously, whether as literal truth or not. My informants mostly knew Dutch wiccans, but had studied the literature on the tradition more widely.

    Of course paganism is a far wider field than Wicca. Modern wicca claims to be based on older traditions, but – again – many don’t take this literally, but more as a kind of modern myth. A bit like roleplaying. It’s a hard approach to take, and not one I can relate to. Personally I feel the evidence is pretty clear that there is more of a relationship between the early 20th century founders of wicca and western esoteric streams like Golden Dawn than with a somehow survived family tradition of witches.

    I believe that wiccans – the ones I know a glimmering of – take whatever mythology appeals to them and do their ritual work based on that, whether they believe in the literal truth of that mythology or not. Bradley’s work is as suitable for that as many myths that actually do go back to the middle ages or before. Especially since she was obviously well read in the subject.

    But the perspective of a truth seeker is different: we want to be part of traditions only in so far as they ARE true. This is a different, more intellectual approach. For us the challenge is to try and imagine an approach that starts with experience first – then it no longer matters so much whether the stories played out are true. That is, I believe, what many wiccans do. And why should they read more? One doesn’t need to read to be able to dress up, light candles and say impressive words.

  4. There is a whole 2,000-year-old history of Christian meditation. In the Catholic tradition, meditation forms part of “contemplative prayer”. I wrote a little booklet on this subject, but unfortunately it is only available at Amazon in the U.S. It is called Brief History of Contemplative Prayer.

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