Betsy and I finished listening to the last Harry Potter book on unabridged audio book. Good stuff. I've always enjoyed the Harry Potter world--it's quirky and fun and not without poignant moments. I was moved to tears a couple of times by the deaths of characters we have learned to enjoy across seven novels.
This inspired a discussion between Betsy and myself about the value and limits of esoteric spiritual disciplines. That could mean meditation or praying with icons or lots of different things. I would take it even further and talk about the experiments and experiences I've had with psychic phenomenon and certain forms of bodywork. I once attended a very cool and extremely powerful group therapy session based on Family Constellations. It's not magical in the sense that some esoteric spiritual techniques can seem, but it is esoteric and "out there" for many people. Yet that day I saw some incredible healing take place and nobody really knows how it worked.
It's kind of like the difference between Newtonian Physics and Chemistry. The Newtonian stuff is useful and powerful so far as it goes, but with chemistry you can subtly manipulate the underlying nature of the universe in way that makes it possible to poison or heal with even a mere gram of powder. If you understand the invisible rules behind the dynamics of the world, you can have incredible power to do good.
There was a time in my spiritual life where I got to experiment and learn from lots of cool techniques. I used to have fascinating conversations with spiritual adepts coming from all kinds of traditions. I haven't been able to do that much since I came up to Toronto, but I think that I'll have the chance at Messiah to really explore my spiritual creativity. Even better, I'll be able to work with a whole community of people to do that work.
In the movie My Dinner with Andre two actors (Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory--acting as themselves?!) discuss this issue at length. One of them has spent many years exploring the most esoteric reaches of the human experience through his vocation of acting. The other chose, by comparison, the straight and deep path. It's not that either is better, but they are different. I'm obviously in Andre's camp. But the really important insight to notice is that the growth comes when Andre and Wallace meet. Something about the spiritual voltage created by the differentiation of paths creates incredible potential.
On a smaller scale, this dynamic is manifest in the preaching relationship. The preacher goes off on a quest for knowledge on behalf of the congregation. She journeys off to encounter the text in a distant land (the pastor's study) and then returns with the golden fleece of insight to share with the community. Interestingly, the myth says that the hero's quest is to restore something that has been lost. This is why it is necessary that preachers be set apart in some way. The degree of the differentiation varies in character and degree from community to community.
Precisely for this reason, preachers/ministers/priests must be a bit odd or geeky. It's not just that a certain personality is drawn to pastoral ministry--it's also the case that pastoral ministry requires or creates a certain personality. I'm precisely most priest when I'm skirting some edge between the mundane and the esoteric. Interestingly, all Christians all called to be priests in this sense, as well, as they partake in the "Pascal Mysteries" and bring that bit of heaven back into the world.
It will be fascinating to see what kind of edge play I end up doing at Messiah. I can hardly wait.