After the Magic

My journey to Catholicism was, ironically, the logical extension of applying Pagan principles to my life.

BY: Carl McColman

 

Continued from page 1

Despite what Pagans may say, a religion without dogma or doctrines does not render faith unnecessary. Faith is just as vital to Paganism as to any other religion-only not a proscribed, top-down faith. "Faithful" Pagans place trust in their personal experience. Since no one will tell Pagans what to believe, they must be confident regarding what they accept as true. If that confidence is shaken, it can lead to an ever-increasing spiral of doubt.



In the excitement of my demanding schedule as a writer and teacher, I fell into that spiral of doubt. Little by little, Pagan spirituality stopped working for me. The goddesses and gods who had once filled my rituals with power and purpose gradually fell silent and seemed absent. Magical workings became a chore, rather than a source of meaning and joy. Even meditation eventually lost its luster; what had been a reliable source of inner peace became a tormented forum in which I struggled against feelings of spiritual boredom and restlessness. I began to profoundly question Paganism's capacity to make a positive difference in my life.

Christianity has a simple, yet effective prayer for those who doubt: "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). Christians often view doubt as a problem to be solved through prayer, counseling, or study. But my Pagan doubt seemed more than just a transitory problem-it threatened my entire religious identity. Since Paganism relies on experience, what does it mean to experience profound doubt? If I dismissed such experience as "wrong," that would just lead to questioning all of my spiritual experience-even my happier "magical" experiences. Once mired in doubt, I found nothing to fall back on-no faith, no belief, no dogma. The very quality of Paganism that initially appealed to me seemed to leave me ill equipped to face my inner questioning.

Thankfully, I had two wise teachers to whom I turned with my spiritual crisis. But they had little to offer me aside from exhortations to keep meditating, keep studying, keep trying. Paganism became an endurance test: could I soldier on through my doubt, hopefully finding some sort of resolution where my faith could be restored? But faith in what?

Adherents of any faith-not just Paganism-can become lost in a crisis of doubt. Such a crisis hopefully leads to some sort of resolution-either a renewed commitment to one's religion, or a decision to change paths. I'm sure that many Pagans can turn a period of doubt into a time of growth as a Pagan, particularly if they have the benefit of an experienced spiritual guide. But in my case, my crisis has led me to a different religious path.

I discovered my path during several

trips to Ireland

. Like many American Pagans, I visited the Emerald Isle to explore its rich ancient Celtic heritage. But Ireland is also a land with a mystical, living Christian history. I've heard Pagans say that when they travel to Ireland, they find the near-ubiquitous Catholic presence to be disturbing and oppressive. But for me it had the opposite effect.

"I'd rejected Catholicism as patriarchal, oppressive, dysfunctional"
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Continued on page 3: »

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