A panentheistic installment of the Heterodox and Fine, I Guess series
I saw a meme the other day that said something to this effect: all you people who wish your younger self could see you now clearly did not grow up evangelical. That’s me. If my younger self could see what I’m about to type, she’d be shaking her head and saying something about being “just so sad.” But beneath that she’d be judging. And beneath that she’d be jealous.
My younger self felt the need to judge anything that wasn’t orthodox evangelicalism for a couple of reasons: 1) judging other beliefs and practices was how we identified ourselves as “in.” 2) I had to judge it so that I wouldn’t try it. Because I have ALWAYS been curious about the mysterious and ethereal. I’ve always been drawn to hippies and mystics and earthiness and airiness.
So in that sense, younger Bekah, if you’re somehow seeing this on the astral plane, congratulations. We’re getting there. And guess what, you wear a bunch of crystals now and you talked to a medium. Oh yeah, friend, you went all in.
Back in January, for my birthday, my friend Rebekah gifted me a session with her medium. My attitude at the time was, “why not! I’m opening myself up to new experiences, might as well do this too!” The way one would order the most exotic thing on the menu, not because it sounds like what you’re craving, but because if you’re at a restaurant that serves blowfish, you get the blowfish.
But it took the medium and me some time to connect. Six months, in fact.
During that six months my whole relationship to mysticism and the spiritual arts changed. Eventually the most exotic thing on the menu was exactly what I was craving.
Relevant change #1: Panentheism/Christian Animism/Theistic Naturalism
Learning more about ancient religion, world religion, and mysticism has led me to believe that God is truly in everything. Not that God is outside working through creation, but that God is actually an essential element of everything that makes up the cosmos. “In him we live, move, and have our being.” I grew up saying “in Christ” to mean that I was under the banner of Christianity. That I was marked as “in.” To live “in God” meant to live according to God’s rules and desire for my life.
I understand that differently now. I believe that a unified Spirit connects us all to God, to each other, and to the processes of biology. God is not separate from photosynthesis. Created beings are in God by our nature, but none of us have understood all of God. So we learn from each other, we grow in our understanding of God through connecting to each other, to nature, and by directly increasing awareness of the Spirit. I recently read my friend Cameron Vickrey’s new children’s book My Love, God Is Everywhere, and it resonated with this new understanding. We have some old Biblical, churchy, theological language that can hold new life—or rather the life it was always intended to hold—if we will open ourselves to that meaning, as Cameron and her co-author have done.
What does this mean for mediums and crystals and all the woo woo? Well, as I explained it to my gem obsessed daughter, the thought that God would imbue rocks with healing properties is no more odd than the healing properties of plants. We’re all made of the same minerals and atoms, if God is working through natural processes, it makes sense that metaphysical and physical push and pull would inhabit the same places. There’s enough connection between all things for us to make more meaning that we know what to do with.
It also means that, since matter can never be created or destroyed…there could be something to the enduring access to our ancestors. If the matter of the cosmos has been shaped into innumerable forms without every ceasing, wouldn’t its Spirit nature do the same?
While Moira was getting into gems, Asa was getting into his ancestors and runes. Using rune readings as a way to probe deeper into the parts of our lives that puzzle us has been fun, not because the stones or cards are telling our future, or seeing something we don’t see, but because they are helping us connect what the Spirit already knows. Our ancestors have passed down genetic and spiritual reality that like all matter cannot be created or destroyed. Tapping into that wisdom and rootedness should be helpful. It should remind us that we are the result of survival and connection between people, nature, and God.
Relevant Change #2: Connectedness
When I told Lewis that this would be my year of mysticism, his response was “And I’m finally going to get into quantum physics.”
Those two things might sound unrelated, but they aren’t. Serious mystics are geeking out over the revelations of quantum physics and the way the physical world behaves in ways we have always described as spiritual. One of those ways is synchronicity and entanglement. Our energy really does go out into the world and change things. Particles far apart really are mysteriously linked. Quantum physicists are not out there validating the mystic arts, don’t get me wrong, and none of these principles are as broadly applicable as we’d like them to be. Things happening on a particulate level don’t necessarily have big cinematic effects at a perceptible level.
But there’s SOMETHING going on. There’s an abundance of meaning to be made.
Which leads me to the day of my visit with the medium.
Hours before our appointment, I was reading the book The Awakened Brain, by Dr. Lisa Miller, about the science of spirituality. She also gets into quantum mechanics, and it is life-giving and fascinating. Miller’s premise is that tapping into our capacity to connect to others, Spirit, and a world full of purpose and meaning is helpful, because it aligns us to a reality. Spirituality has protective effects on mental health the way water has a salubrious effect on physical health. We are made of it. We need it because we ARE IT. At the prompting of the book, I did one of the meditation exercises to help readers understand the part of our brain wired for spiritual connection. It prompted me to envision my “council” — the people I trust to have my best interest in mind. I did. Around the table were dearest friends, family, Lewis, a mentor. Then the meditation invited in God and Self (the aspect of me connected to God), and ask the room “what do you want to tell me?”
One by one, the people around the table started to say “Go!” Then louder and louder until they were all (even God!) chanting, pounding the table around which I’d summoned them: “Go! Go! Go!”
I smiled at their encouragement, and went on with my day. Had I summoned spirits on the astral plane? I don’t know about that. Maybe it was just my brain reminding me I had people who loved me and wanted me to succeed…but that’s pretty great too. I held it loosely and went on.
That evening, as I met with the medium, she began with a moment of asking our Selves, with all their access to the universal Spirit, to meet up and start talking to each other. Aha, I thought, so that’s how this works, quantum physics. By this time, thanks to IFS and ketamine and meditation, I was comfortable thinking about the aspect of myself that lives in a spiritual dimension, with access to far more than I can hold in my hands or perceive through sound and light waves. That part was going to go chat with the medium, to tell her some things she needed to know.
And she must have. Because the medium’s knowledge about my life was uncanny. Things not on the internet, things I don’t really talk about. I’m not going to list them here, because some of them were too personal or would require miles of backstory. But there were two things I do want to share.
The first is a spine tingler. Those who know me know that I really want to leave Texas. I have a deep desire to move, and have for a long time now. Lots of reasons. It is a huge theme in my private conversations, but I have not talked about it publicly, certainly not written much about it. About midway through the session, the medium was looking at her cards and she suddenly said, “Oh! Wait. You’re moving?”
I laughed. “Please tell me you’re seeing that we are going to move.”
That’s not really how it works, though. It’s not fortune telling. It’s more like cosmic advice giving.
The medium could see my desire to move and the steps I had take to make it feasible. Then she named one city, one state, and one region and explained the effect each option would have on our family and careers.
All three were places we had specifically considered. Places I’d looked at Zillow or job boards. Her assessments of the pros and cons were correct. And that gave me all sorts of chills. She also advised against a place that had been at the top of my list.
Then, later in the session, she said she was hearing from my maternal grandmother. We chatted a bit about that, and moved on. We were talking about a few other things when she said: “Hold on. Your grandmother is saying something. She is saying, ‘Go! Go! Go for it!'”
My grandmother was saying exactly what the council had been saying. I had told zero people about this. Not even the spying NSA could have known.
This is the last installation I have planned for Heterodox and Fine, I Guess. There will be more as I evolve, but this is the last of the well that had filled up over the first half of the year. So here’s my conclusion: the Spirit has always been in me, with me, moving through me, but orthodoxy was filtering the information into small, heavily controlled bites. When I grew out of the doctrine and tradition of my first 28 years of life, I never questioned the assumption that spirituality was contained in orthodoxy. So I lost my connection to it, the felt presence of the Holy Spirit.
Rekindling that awareness, bravely considering things that used to make me cringe or judge, has been water in the desert, health to dry bones. The world is becoming beautiful again. I am regaining mastery of my emotions and sturdiness in my love for others. Opening myself to synchronicity and intuition has given me more confidence and delight in the things that seem to “just happen,” to see a benevolent God. I’ve been able to see the kind of mother, wife, and person I want to be, though that’s still the fuzziest part. The best part is that my mind has been reconnected to a source of delight, I can feed on religion and drink from the wellspring of spirit and feel truly nourished.
Freedom has come from doing all of this without the need for an authoritative sign off, and without the goal of becoming an authority unto myself. By making religion a pathway to authority we have made it competitive, exclusionary, violent and fearful. But what if authority—both the authority over what is permissible, and the authority to demand certain behaviors and tributes—is not the goal? What if our connection to God isn’t about getting others to listen to us, or attaining the position that allows us to dictate what is right and wrong? What if it is to give us life, and to give it to us abundantly?