One of the books I purchased on a recent book-buying binge was The Circle Within by Dianne Sylvan. I ordered through Amazon and so had to wait a few days before my shipment arrived in the mail. Meantime, I was feeling starved for good reading on Pagan spirituality, so I went to the library and checked out a couple of popular books on the topic that I had not yet read. The only one I’ll mention by name is The Practical Pagan by Dana Eilers because I found the information in this book to be just what the title promises—practical. Because Eilers is a lawyer, her focus, for much of the book, is how to avoid legal trouble and still have a fulfilling spiritual life. Kind of depressing to think that in the 21st century there are still uninformed types out there who believe Pagans are Satan-worshippers who practice human sacrifice, but Eilers’ book makes it abundantly clear that religious intolerance is alive and well and possibly living where you are.
I am not going to give the title of the second book I borrowed from the library because it is just really awful. I will say that it is by a popular and prolific writer on Witchcraft whom readers seem to either love or hate. And even though I thought while leafing through it at the library that it wasn’t totally my kind of book, I wanted to read it and make my own decision about this author’s work. I’ve always been an avid reader and when I was younger, I never entertained the thought of not finishing a book I had started. At midlife, though, I have begun to realize how precious time is, and I made a promise to myself that I would not finish books I hated reading. This one definitely qualifies, so back it goes, unfinished, to the library!
Happily for me, my book order has arrived, and if the rest of the books are anything like The Circle Within (which I delved into immediately—it’s been on my to-read list for a long time!), I will say I don’t regret a single penny of what I spent! Now, if you’ve read through my older posts, you will know that I am a former Catholic turned Pagan. I’ve been pretty open about the angst I sometimes feel because I teach in a Catholic school and, having undergone a change of spirituality that would definitely not find favor with the higher-ups, I am in the broom closet rather more than I’d like to be.
What I haven’t been quite so open about is the fact that sometimes I mourn my loss of Catholic faith, for there were times in years past that I experienced deep emotional fulfillment when participating in Catholic liturgy, reading Scripture, or just praying on my own. Even in the face of some aspects of Catholic theology and some of the positions taken by Church officials that made me squirm, this satisfaction with my personal practice of Catholicism is what kept me going. So when I finally, officially walked away from Catholicism a year ago, I felt bereft in some ways.
And here, at last, is where The Circle Within comes in. In the first chapter of this book, Dianne Sylvan goes to some lengths to describe her own spiritual journey, including what she has learned about being spiritually alive by adopting some of the attitudes and engaging in some of the practices of Catholic (and Buddhist) nuns and monks. I just had this great sense of comfort and relief after reading the first chapter of this book that I didn’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water. My theology may have changed, but my spirituality and spiritual practice are alive and well. I can disagree with Catholic theology while at the same time admiring and continuing some of the practices of Catholics (and really all people) who are truly spiritually alive.