February 8, 2011
This past week I read Thom Beloit’s rambling review (his description) of a book [http://revthom.blogspot.com] and it got me thinking about many things.
I recalled an elder member of one congregation telling me all about how her own father, over months, had communicated with her from beyond the grave. I thought of the three or four UU church members who have described to me seeing auras, including one who told me how my own aura changed as I gave a sermon. His words reminded me of reading, as part of a college research project, first-hand accounts of Native American shamans going on journeys in the spirit world, and then a few years later meeting a UU who went on similar journeys. I wandered in thought to hard-shelled atheists, threatened by the superstition of others, yet who admittedly carried good-luck charms, and deeply rational people who were deeply moved by fantasy worlds. I thought of those who rationally argued that the power of metaphorical Truth was more important than literal truth. I remember my beloved elder colleague Web Kitchell who ate donuts and philosophized with Coyote.
At the end of his review Rev. Thom says:
“Hiding behind and hiding within all those things about the Transcendentalists that we lovingly admire, there is an obvious secret that is uncomfortable and necessary. We are the rationalists who dance with irrationality, the naturalists who live amongst the supernatural. We are both repulsed by and drawn to the image of Emerson and Fuller and their cohorts hanging around with mesmerists and seeking communion with the spirits of the dead.”
This is why I am as much a storyteller as a theologian, as much a lover of mythos as logos (as Karen Armstrong puts it,) as much a nurture of dreamers and dancers as scientists and engineers. I wonder if an “obvious secret” is really a secret. I wonder if we should shake off our heavy identification with rationalist rejection and broadcast instead our engagement with the fullness of human personality and human experience. I love the phrase “Rationalists who dance with irrationality.” It speaks of wholeness, of love and reason blended. Perhaps, if we claim the mesmerists as much as the scientists and US Presidents we will become the religion of our time, the faith of the naturalists and rationalists who dance, not chaotically but gracefully and joyfully, with dream and irrationality.