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Monday, September 29, 2003

Will to believe.

There's a word for the seminary phenomenon Matthew Gatheringwater encountered recently:

I am in a workshop with other students and Professor Thandeka. She has asked us to point a pen at the ceiling and focus our eyes on the tip of the pen. Holding our eyes on the tip of the pen, we gradually lower the pen until it is cradled in the palm of our opposite hand. She asks us to describe the experience. "I began to see auras!" exclaimed one student, "colors radiating out of my hand and swirling around it." Another student saw a light that went from person to person until it spun around the room. "As I brought the pen down, it became heavier," one man explained, while another said the pen appeared to be entering his body and melting into his flesh.

Credulousness afflicts religious liberals as much as anyone else. (See John Buescher's new book, The Other Side of Salvation: Spiritualism and the Nineteenth Century Religious Experience for a lot more on the variety that especially captured Unitarian and Universalist imaginations a century ago.) The rarest and most needed ministerial gift, as far as I'm concerned, is the capacity to sympathize with the religious imagination while exercising the intellectual and moral restraint not to claim to see when you don't.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 29 September 2003 at 9:09 PM

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