Free to be a Heretic
Driving to and from Sevenoaks this past weekend (15-hour round trip), I listened to Paul Levy’s Dispelling Wetiko – Breaking the Curse of Evil. Two things stood out for me in this fascinating work. First, Paul, in his harrowing journey, had to be willing to be his own person in working through his experiences of having spiritual emergencies or spiritual emergences while with these disorienting experiences he was being diagnosed by the psychiatric “system” as having psychotic breaks and was treated accordingly. For his own sake he had to break out of the psychiatric system that bound him. I was inspired by his courage in going against the system when nearly everyone, especially his parents and family, insisted that he was crazy and needed professional treatment.
Paul Levy’s second lesson for me was this: we who are on a spiritual path must find and play our role in dispelling evil not only in ourselves (a critical first and ongoing challenging step until we die) but also in the world around us. This dispelling evil in ourselves and in the world around us is our role in the world, the reason for our incarnation!
Regarding the first point, being my own person, I ask myself, “Can I be my own person without endorsement from others to whom I give authority?” I have to smile when I see that this question is complicated by my tendency to give everyone authority over me. I see how I seek understanding and support from other Pathworkers, from other progressive Christians, and from others on a spiritual path. I think in ways my extensive blogging over these past seven years has been in search of support and connection with others on a similar path. But is getting support for my unique path from others, when these others are on their own respective unique paths, really possible?
It seems I must stay open to others — engaging them and hearing their experiences and wisdom, integrating what may apply to me and my journey, BUT at the same time I must be on my own path regardless of what others think about my path. This is what Paul Levy had to do as explained in his book in general and in the book’s Afterword that gives his story in particular.
So like Paul Levy did, I ask, “Do I have the courage to be viewed as a heretic by the church, other spiritual leaders, and others in general, for breaking with what they may consider orthodoxy?” Of course Jesus went to his painful death because the spiritual authorities claimed he was a heretic, dangerous, and even, like Paul Levy, crazy and out of his mind (John 10:20).
Jesus’ break with Jewish orthodoxy quickly led to a new, but now Christian, orthodoxy. So now I face having to possibly break with that new Christian orthodoxy, or perhaps break even with aspects of Pathwork (my current path), to stay faithful to my own unique path. Do I have the courage to hear and seriously consider the “orthodox” positions, but then drop any piece that does not fit me, at least not now or not yet? In short, do I have the courage to be myself if that means being called a heretic by those in authority (again a position complicated when I have the habit of giving everyone authority over me)?
When I look at my sometimes-present anxiety or, like this morning, a wave of depression, in such matters (for example, when I am concerned about how a person in authority might react to my blog entries) I discover that I still sometimes (consciously or unconsciously) seek support for my spiritual path from spiritual leaders among the clergy and from other people on their paths, even Pathwork.
Take for example, at Pat’s and my new church home, St. Thomas Episcopal Church. Here I have to ask, “Is it even reasonable to think that all or at least some of the clergy will understand and support my journey as I am experiencing it and not try to pull me back into the “truth” as they have come to experience and learn it?” The answer is, “Maybe,” but what is key for ME is that I accept my unique spiritual path as “right” for me and see others around me more as peers (after all I have been on an intense spiritual path for over 70 years!) rather than see others in authority as having ultimate authority over me. I am reminded of Thomas Moore’s recent book, A Religion of One’s Own, © 2014, that Pat and I so enjoyed a few months ago.
In this moment I feel a rush of freedom in this realization! With this realization I can now recognize and let go of anxieties about being “wrong” and hence a “heretic” in the eyes of my external “authorities.” I can now be open as to who I am — and open to the opinions of others but not make myself wrong if others disagree with me (and conversely, not make them wrong for not agreeing with me). Thank you Paul Levy for demonstrating the courage that is necessary to be on one’s own spiritual path!
Then the second point that Paul Levy emphasizes is to find and play my role in the world in which I live.
With possible heretical leanings, what might my role be? It does not seem to be that of “teacher,” Pathwork, bible, or otherwise — I am too “unorthodox,” curious, and ever-changing for that. Perhaps my role in life is simply having conversations with people on matters spiritual, matters concerning the meaning of LIFE.
I see I have, and have had, such conversations with many down through the years. Realizing that such conversations may be my role, then I don’t have to be so anxious about “doing nothing meaningful” or “not having found my call.” Perhaps I am living my call by simply continuing to have engaging conversations with Pat, with my brother, my children and other family members, with friends at large, with friends and leaders at St. Thomas, other churches, and friends and leaders in Pathwork. Actually, conversations with whoever shows up in my life! From there I am open to what arises (I smile when I note that my business card – made in 2007, says nothing about Pathwork or teacher or other role, but simply, “A shared life of curiosity, wrestling, & exploration…Inviting conversation,” how perfect is that and it’s been there all along!)
So I see that in any case I am NOT looking for and depending on others to support where I am! I am more interested in where they are in their journey, in comparing notes about life. In other words, my role in life is simply to connect and have meaningful conversations. There you have it, Gary, simply connect and engage — that is your calling!
I notice that I feel much better in coming to this simple realization (again!) — the realization that I do already have the courage to become my true Self (Paul Levy’s first point) and that I do already connect with others (my role in dispelling evil in the world — Paul Levy’s second point) and that these two aspects in my life constitute my raison d’etre. Thank you Paul Levy!
Shared in love, Gary