Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spiritual Teachers

Now that I am no longer a Minister of Word and Sacrament, but a Teaching Elder, I find myself ruminating on the folks whose writings and thinkings have guided me spiritually over the years.

As a child, that would have been Clive Staples Lewis, first as he lead me through the fields of Narnia, and then out of silent planets, and finally as I stepped into Mere Christianity.   As a fledgling, it was Fyodor Dostoevsky and Paul Tillich.  Oh, how I loved me some Tillich.  Must have been the dense Germanic sentence structure and the heady existentialism, all coupled with the use of obscure language.   I remember once looking up a word Tillich had used, because I had no idea what it meant.  In the dictionary was the definition, but as the example of how one might use the word, the dictionary presented...exactly the same sentence I was reading in Tillich.

That is some seriously epic vocabulary awesomeness.

Lately, I've been going to George MacDonald for spiritual guidance, and finding a remarkable amount of strength and grace in his words.  It's not for everyone, I'll admit.  But the past few years have often not been easy, and his ferocity of Spirit and his deep personal awareness of spiritual struggle come pouring out through and in between his writing.  On at least one occasion, he's stood between me and and spiritual disintegration.  Potent stuff, it is.

There have been others, many others, but I re-encountered one this last week who I'd not been in communication with for a while.  During the time of my coming into awareness of my call, I'd read her almost every day.  Her name was (is?) Deb Platt, and back in the mid-1990s she created an interactive online matrix of the most pertinent teachings of all of the mystics in all of the world's religious traditions.  You could read them sorted conceptually, by religious tradition (mostly Christian, but others), and sorted by religious teacher.  This was back when frames were cutting edge web-design, so it's been a while.

It was wonderful, grace-filled, and inspiring, and back when I was snarfing lunch at my desk at the Aspen Institute, I'd often move through the teachings she had intentionally compiled and presented.   It was half study, half meditation, and half prayer, in that 50% extra bonus sort of way.

Platt herself was consistently and utterly humble about her work.  She was not a spiritual guide, she'd say.  She was just a spiritually-inclined homemaker with some time on her hands, she'd say.  I'm not your teacher, she'd say.

But she was.

And then she disappeared.   Not raptured away, although that seemed a possibility, but as in stopped updating and building the site.  It sat for a while, fallow.  And then the account shut down, and all links lead to digiserve nothingness.  Emails got pinged back.

Years pass, but I haven't forgotten.  I'd search for her work, now and again, hoping it would resurface, finding nothing.

But then this last week, I found it on one of those wayback machine-type datamining sites.  It wasn't the last iteration, and the bleeding edge 1997 frames no longer really worked for navigation.  But the writings and ideas were there.

And so rise the stirrings of a possible next project, the one after my book is in final-ish draft, are born.  Because the Platt Mysticism Matrix would just rock as a deep, ornate interactive Prezi.  We'll see.

But whichever way, it'd be nice to do something that passes her work on.