But first, some background: today I looked through a bunch of Wikipedia pages about mysterious things I thought about as a child. UFO abduction stories, the Oak Island “Money Pit,” the lost Roanoke colony, ancient trans-Atlantic human contact, ghosts, parapsychology, Atlantis, etc. I was an inquisitive child but also saw lots of magic in the world, and loved reading ghost stories and mysteries that made me think there was “something more out there.” So today it surprised me when I read down the list of these “In Search Of…” mysteries and realized I don’t believe any of them.
As I’ve gotten older and trained in the Scientific Method (I’m just finishing an MS in experimental psychology and in a few years will get a doctorate in clinical psychology), I have lost quite a bit of my magical thinking. Perhaps this is for the best, but more than once I have been accused of being too cerebral, too rational-logical, and not as empathetic or accepting of magic in my life (especially by my wife, who very much exemplifies this magical way of looking at the world). I don’t seek out miracles from God because I try my best to go it alone and I tend to “psychologize” many of the symbols and teachings of religion. For instance, I see Genesis as divine allegory, I see the “evil demons” in the Gospels as mental illnesses, and when most people see miracles, I see the natural order (sustained by God, of course, but operating according to natural laws). Even my preferred view of God – the Classical Theist God of Aquinas and Plato – is without parts or passions, does not intervene in or “tinker with” nature very often, and whose existence can be established through deductive reasoning. Many Mormons (and even modern “theistic personalists” and Protestants) see this God as cold, mechanical, and non-dynamic – something not even worth praying to. My idea of “pondering the mysteries of Heaven” is like a mental battle of arguments and counter-arguments until I feel the conflict is resolved into some kind of truth.
Many might think that my personality characteristics make me not religious at all. If I don’t feel there’s magic in the world, and I’m skeptical about anything supernatural or paranormal, and I tend towards colder, logical thinking, doesn’t that make me an atheist?
No. In fact, I’m one of the most religious people I know, and I couldn’t fathom ever not believing in God. It all stems from the fact that I think the existence of God has simply been established through reason by the various arguments over the years. As a result, I have sought out knowledge concerning Jesus Christ and have had many experiences that have led me to think that He is a real power that is a part of my life.
But still, I sometimes wish that my relationship with God were more magical and more warm. I wish I didn’t have to over-analyze and run everything through some kind of logical filter. I think that’s really what attracts me about Orthodoxy, even though personality-wise I might be more suited towards Roman Catholicism (and certainly being a Catholic in America would be much more convenient, and easier to explain to people!).
But, though many on both sides would be irritated by this remark, I see the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches as two sides of the same coin, and so even though I tend to think logically like a Roman Catholic (and read lots of Thomist blogs and literature), I want to feel like the Orthodox do. I don’t want to “think about” Jesus during Easter, I want to participate in Jesus’ very life during Pascha. I want to partake of the Mystery of the Divine Liturgy without having to think about substance and accidents, or “baptismal covenants.” I want to surrender my over-analytical mind and give in to a greater mystical reality.
This Saturday night I will attend my very first Pascha at my favorite semi-local Orthodox church (it’s an OCA parish about 45 minutes away from home). As much as I love Orthodoxy and have for several years, I still haven’t been to the most important service in the Orthodox liturgical year! Perhaps I will find it… magical.