The faculty tend to be from the Midwest and see one another as a refuge from the surrounding Mormonism and Republicanism. They tend to be liberal, secular, ironic, in childless couples or single, and somewhat preoccupied with their right to consume alcoholic beverages.
I asked the faculty member who invited me if he had been involved in any theosophical organizations. His response was that the Leverhulme-grant-funded project on theosophy and the arts was careful to distance itself from the impression that it was in any way funded or ideologically driven by any theosophical organizations. I guess the idea is that "objectivity" via non-involvement is supposed to be some sort of guarantee of unbiased truthfulness. That, I suppose, is a proper white academic response. I see things differently. Without initiatory experiences (either formal or spontaneous), I question the depth of one's understanding of the subject matter.
The reading material I brought with me on the trip--besides some items related directly to my presentations--were Atom from the Sun of Knowledge, Moby-Dick, and an Ahmadi edition of the Qur'an (which is more portable than my other editions). I guess I really have been influenced by Hixon's work to the extent that, if one clings defensively to a liberal self-image, there are shades of experience which one is likely never to be able to "taste." For example, when I was discussing pop music from Utah with some of them, The Killers naturally came up. "They are Mormon, you know." Well, actually, they are from Nevada, and Brandon Flowers is Mormon. The other members of the band are not Mormon, as far as I know. Trying to discuss likely Mormon influences on the subject matter of some of his songs didn't really go anywhere. It was a topic that seemed out of their league somehow. I have actually had powerful spiritual and emotional responses to some of his songs, and his music (with The Killers and his solo work) has been one of the factors that rekindled an interest in me in returning to the practice of Islam. There are references in some songs to fire, storms, angels, etc., that resonated with an attunement to these archetypal images that I had developed through reading the Qur'an and Sufi commentaries on it.
At the end of one evening I spent some time looking at Brandon Flowers music videos and came across his video for the LDS church. I actually found it to be quite charming, in similar way to which I find things like the wedding of Armin Muzaferija at the Bosnian tekke to be charming. They belong to relatively homogeneous cultures of a kind to which I do not belong, but on the other hand, I don't feel an obligation to feel totally oppressed or offended to know that there are some people who have those kinds of cultural experiences, and who appear to enjoy them some of the time, even though I generally do not live in that kind of world.
Monday was a long travel day. Re-entry was tiring and heavy. I was aware of the tendency that my husband and I both have to feel fatigued from work and then to limit our options with what we do with the rest of our time.
Thursday I went to therapy for the second time. It was powerful in a subtle way, and I actually felt spaces of awareness opening up in my body, as if I had had bodywork done. I felt a little hypersensitive yesterday, and considered cutting my workday short, but then I chose to stay and to experience my partial discomfort as part of the process of doing therapy and carrying on with my day-to-day life.
We focused on my attempts, while living here over the past 12 years, to build upon the spiritual and social foundations that I had begun to establish in Atlanta. I was only there for 6 years and seem to accomplished quite a lot. Things have been slower-going here, and much more difficult in some ways. It seems that my therapist is able to get something out the nondenominational spirituality of The Ladies Who Lunch (as I characterize it), but I don't think that that kind of thing is a good fit for me. Basically, the task at this point seems to be to hold some basic questions open and to see what comes up as a result.
When I am in the mode of questioning, I also pay attention to the subtle things that I do, even they seem not to be directly related to whatever it is that I'm questioning. For example, if there is a question about community, and spiritual community specifically, I also observe that I am continuing to re-read Atom. I brought it with me to my appointment so I would have something to read in the waiting room. On the way back from therapy, I was thinking about how, when he was my age, Lex Hixon was at the pinnacle of his career. He had gone to India to celebrate the centennial of Vivekananda's mission to the West; he attended the centennial Parliament of World Religions in Chicago; and Great Swan, Atom, and Mother of the Buddhas were published. Shortly afterward, of course, he became ill, stepped down as shaykh, and then died within a year of doing that. Yesterday I considered going to jum'ah on campus, but I was feeling a bit confused about how best to use my time before an afternoon lecture, and I ended up going to the library and taking out William Chittick's Sufi Path of Knowledge instead. Hixon mentions this book in Atom, so I thought I would check it out. It turns out that Chittick was born in Milford, CT, about 10 miles from where I grew up. So, while there is not NAJ or any comparable tariqat that I'm aware of in the vicinity, nonetheless there may be ways of reconstructing some sort of connection to living streams of teaching, at least partially, or perhaps in preparation for some sort of encounter that may take place in the future.
One thing that I came away with from the therapy session was the sense that, while my sense of intuitive connection with X and Y seemed especially vivid--and probably was so--the development of those friendships into mutually beneficial ones was something that was probably more hoped for than achieved. As the therapist put it, it is possible for some people to be connected in some way to "Source," and yet, since we tend to consist of many parts, there may be parts in some people that are wounded and, when they feel insecure, they will tend to act out in ways that are hurtful to other people. Somehow this acknowledged what was positive in those situations, validated what was negative, and made it easier to let go a little more, rather than to have to violently reject them (or my own naivete in having become emotionally attached to them) in order to try to protect myself from finding myself in similar situations in the future.
She will also sometimes ask me to pause, to breathe, and tune in to what is going on inside when I'm describing a particular situation. When I do that, I usually come up with an image--usually one of darkness, or of a mixture of darkness and light--than can help to clarify some of what may be going on. It seems that I may have hypnotherapy and Rosen to thank for the ability to find those sorts of images so easily, even though I no longer wish to undergo the lengthy and strenuous hypnotherapy sessions (nor do I wish to be force-fed the "affirmations" that were an integral part of what was ultimately a rather scripted technique). In one such "investigation," I was able to sense that a certain amount of darkness actually feels rather comfortable, and may be place to regenerate temporarily. It reminded me of the interest in black metal and dark ambient that I had developed a few years ago.
And so, we go on.