Trinity Church on Wall Street once contented itself with minor enterprises, such as founding Columbia University. However, this Episcopal parish has launched a new magazine, Spirituality and Health. Jittery passengers (airlines subscribe in bulk) can now calm their nerves by reading “The Unexpected Gifts of Karate,” or “The Art of Somatic Cryptology” or the reflections of ex-monk Thomas Moore on religious romanticism, which “will take me out of this cold, mechanical world and show me the way to spiritual delights and sensual realizations”—attained, Moore notes, by the great religious romantic Oscar Wilde.
Spiritual delights are the focus of Spirituality and Health, which directs its readers to “The Best Spiritual Books of 2000,” including Susan Seddon Boulet: A Retrospective, with “more that 200 reproductions of Boulet’s stunning paintings of unicorns, goddesses and shamanistic figures of intertwined animals and humans.” Or we can be edified by The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd by Mary Rose O’Reilly. For practical spirituality we have Zen Sex: The Way of Making Love and Tap Dancing in Zen.
But no man is an island, so we should seek in community our spiritual enlightenment. We can attend “A Celtic Horse Experience,” led by the authors of Horse Sense and the Human Heart: What Horses Can Teach Us About Trust, Bonding, Creativity, and Spirituality. For those who are afraid of horses, or perhaps who want to work on their tan, there is dolphin camp: “Are the DOLPHINS calling you? Come to the Florida Keys and embark upon an ultimate transformative vacation! Participants swim and interact with both wild and semi-captive dolphins.” After receiving wisdom from Flipper, one can continue south to “A Spirited Mind/Body Experince [sic] in the Caribbean” aboard the Paradise—“the world’s only smoke-free superliner.”
Lest the tired businessman in seat 28-C think he has stumbled upon a magazine dedicated to terminal dingbattery, a refreshing breath of skepticism wafts from Stephen Kiesling’s “A Visit to the Golden Wesak 2000.” Kiesling coughed up $333 to hear Dr. Joshua David Stone, founder of the Melchizedek Synthesis Light Academy. Most of the 1,500 participants were “women, age 35 to 60.” Vendors at the Wesak were cashing in on the piety of the faithful by hawking “T-shirts, stone Buddhas, golden-wire pyramids, and a variety of healing tonics and elixirs,” among which was the Water of Life (not the Scottish one).
Dr. Stone spoke about ascending the 352 layers of God (who seems to resemble a Napoleon), and then introduced Bob Fickes, who is currently channeling Lord Buddha and Mother Earth; Wistancia Stone, channeler of “Djwhal Khul, an ancient Tibetan monk”; and Dr. Norma Milanovich, “who channels an entity called Kithumi.”
Then came “the person who drew me”: Oyhan Doyuk, who last year was “a 78-year-old Sufi from Turkey who learned the secret of the Water of Life,” which was found “to clean grossly polluted bays, to increase crop yields, to heal the sick, and perhaps even to run cars like gasoline.” However, the Sufi had somehow transformed into “a forty-something Turkish businessman.” Kiesling “was fed up and drove home,” thereby missing “a woman who owns a spaceship and has her vegetables delivered weekly by extraterrestrials.” (Do they charge?)
Kiesling, no fool, “wondered whether in 1999 Drunvalo Melchizedek simply made up the story of the magic Water. And whether this year Stone made up some actual bottles and called central casting for a poor Turkish immigrant.” Being fair-minded, he “e-mailed my suspicions to Stone and got no response.” Kiesling realizes that Stone’s followers “are connected to him in a way reason cannot assail,” and that “we hope to look more deeply at these kinds of connections in a future issue.” Kiesling thinks he must warn his readers: “Approach this man [Stone] at your own risk.” As the website says (if no one has given you a gift subscription, check out www.spirtualityhealth.com), “being open and non-dogmatic doesn’t mean being gullible.”
Spirituality and Health boasts, “We’re talking about experience, not doctrine.” The hidden imp in Evangelicalism (and perhaps also Ritualism) was the thirst for spiritual experience. The Anglican Communion (including the wealthy and prestigious Trinity Church), although it tended to fudge doctrinal differences to keep the peace among both Catholic-minded and Protestant-minded members, once placed stock in the Nicene Creed. Dogmas and doctrines are the map of reality, and spiritual cartography is as important as physical cartography to keep us from getting lost. Getting lost in the invisible world is much more dangerous than getting lost in the desert. Bishop Pike managed to do both. In the ruined desert that lower Manhattan has become, the best Trinity can do is offer workers who have supped to the full on horrors the comforts of a spiritual foot massage instead of the waters of eternal life.
Leon J. Podles holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia and has worked as a teacher and a federal investigator. He is the author of The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity and the forthcoming License to Sin (both from Spence Publishing). Dr. Podles and his wife have six children and live in Naples, Florida. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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