Thursday, April 17, 2008

Who Is Your Spiritual Authority?

I saw the Pope yesterday. Not on purpose, mind you - it would never occur to me to go stand in a crowd to watch a Pope ride by. As a Jew, the whole idea of a central religious authority figure is weird. We Jews have our heroes and our minor popes (I think of the great Talmudic rabbis of the middle ages, for instance), but none of us would think to name one person as the rabbi of rabbis. Never.

In Reclaiming, too, the wiccan group I was once a part of, a core value was based on the idea that every person is his or her own spiritual authority, and that no one needs a mediator to talk to God. In practice, there was a very clearly defined structure of spiritual hierarchy, but we tried not to notice because we were so idealistic.

Religious celebrity is strange, compelling even to spiritual anarchists such as myself. For instance, last year I went, on purpose, to see the Dalai Lama when he spoke at the Capitol. I felt a little thrill pass through me when I saw him, proving that I'm not immune to the glamour of people whose lifetime calling is to talk to God. The "Hugging Saint" of India comes to mind, too. People sit all night waiting for a chance to hug her. Think about it.

I would never have known that the Pope was about to ride by if not for the acupuncturist who casually mentioned it as I was leaving after yesterday's session. Sure enough, not two minutes later the crowd, a half-block away, began to cheer.

As you can see in the shadow pic, the couple in front of me held hands as they waited to see His Eminence. After he passed by, the woman next to me said, "Oh my goodness!" about ten times, very very reverently. For her, a quick glance at that small shriveled man dressed in white, riding past in a bulletproof ice cube, was a potent reminder that she could be close to God. That's a good thing to have happen during a weekday lunch hour, right? Right.


Washington Cube said...

He should throw out holy medals and cheap rosary beads like a Mardi Gras parade. Catholics Gone Wild. Elvis would drape scarves around his neck to leave sweat on them for his fans before tossing them out. Give back to the crowd. Put a papal bobblehead on the dash (they exist) and have his car horn play, "When The Saints Go Marching In" or "Agnus Dei."

Steve said...

Interesting! I must admit I was also pretty excited when I saw the Dalai Lama a couple of years ago.

I wonder if the people cheering for the Pope are really Catholic, or excited to see him in a religious sense -- or are they attracted by his mere celebrity?

That woman looks like she is wearing very uncomfortable shoes.

IntangibleArts said...

Well done. And I'll admit the idea of 'spiritual celebrity' is pretty surreal.

But "who is my spiritual authority"? That's an electric question. Certainly not the Pope, but a short list would include:

-Mullah Nasrudin
-Emperor Norton
-my Grandfather
-that Barred Owl that resided at the Burnet Park Zoo in Syracuse, NY in 1991.

...all of whom have left their mark, thanks and praise.

Barbara said...

Very cool that it happened so spontaneously. Do you think in 10 years you will remember the day you saw the Pope?

Hammer said...

Given the tendency of manhole covers in this town to spontaneously explode, if the man in your photo wants to get closer to God, he should just take a step to the left and prepare for lift-off.

d. chedwick bryant said...

I love your description of him.

I dreamt I saw the Dalai Lama once, and the dream occurred while I was very sick. I woke up and remembered every detail of the dream. All my other dreams during the illness were dreams with thick murky greymists around them so I couldn't recall a thing and it was distressing to have dreams like that.
I was glad to have a long clear concise dream with someone like him as a central figure.

d. chedwick bryant said...

Oh, and I'm with cube, he should be throwing out rosary beads--what a great thing to picture~!

Reya Mellicker said...

I think tossing rosary beads would be great! Except we would have needed more riot police on hand, to keep law and order.

Hammer! LOL!! They were holding hands - they could have lifted off together!!

Intangible - LOVE your list of spiritual authorities. My heart is my spiritual authority. My hear is the Empress of my being, in touch at all times with the greater wisdom and love I call God.

Sometimes that wavelength comes through others. The Dalai Lama channels something I recognize - that recognition of shared connection is thrilling. The divine wavelength has passed through many of my teachers, then moved on once I'd learned what I needed to.

The list of people, animals, trees, flowers and rocks that the God wavelength has passed through strongly enough that I noticed is so long it would not fit here.

I love those Hindu books of names for God - there are thousands of them. That resonates for me, all the different forms the divine abides within. I see it in you, definitely!

Gasshos all around ... and cheap rosaries, please??

Barbara, I won't likely forget it because it has been so provocative.

Reya Mellicker said...

Ched - Your astral body probably went to actually see the Dalai Lama, no doubt for healing.

I love my typo above, my "hear" is the Empress, etc. Meant "heart." Or did I?

Lynne said...

I saw the Pope (a different one, of course!) in his Popemobile in front of the Vatican in Rome back in 1984. I have a pic someone of me posing with his little car in the background. Now .. I wonder where that is?

Hey, next he's visiting NYC (this weekend) and making an appearance down 5th Avenue in the Popemobile. Me? I'm staying home, thank you very much.

Lynne said...

oops, that should have been "somewhere." sigh

Anonymous said...

I love that shoe in the in the photo-and, Steve, they probably are uncomfortable....

Reya Mellicker said...

Comfort is not the first priority in the minds of women who like shoes.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

oh love your turn of phrase "spiritual anarchist" - when folks have asked me 'what are you' (in terms of hopes of ascertaining my religious preference) sometimes I just ignore the question, but other times I've responded that I'm a pantheist - but this concept of yours - spiritual anarchism strikes a nice chord in my heart and soul. I hope you will be honored if I embrace it....

oh and the description of the bulletproof ice cube - most excellent.

I find much of any type of celebrity strange - religious or secular! people are such f**king sheep!

dennis said...

Dennis would like to be a spiritual anarchist.

Reya Mellicker said...

Dennis, you are my hero!

Kim, I am honored if you embrace it. Thank you!

phd girl said...

The video was great--especially the... Oh My Goodness! It's still strange to me that some people have to travel in bulletproof ice cubes, wear bulletproof vests, or have their bodyguards with them.
It's kind of surreal how he drives by, sealed for his protection.

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Cat is my co-pilot.