So far, these fictional dialogues have concerned very serious things.
Thus we featured a dialogue here about sexual abuse in the Church.
And here in this post, we had an extract concerning the cultural war between liberals and conservatives.
Today, by contrast, we have something a little bit more lighthearted – even goofy. (I have a silly streak in my nature, which rarely expresses itself in my writing. But in this book, it does.)
Here the Gentle Traditionalist meets a New Ager – who refuses to bear a name, because, like, you know, names aren’t cool, man.
Names, concepts, categories that’s what creates war and violence in the world, right?
At least, that’s what the Man with No Name believes. (And numerous New Agers I have known think along very similar lines! You may wish to see this post about Findhorn here. As a Catholic convert from the New Age movement, I speak with long experience.)
Although the following dialogue between GT – the Gentle Traditionalist – and the Man with No Name is a parody of the New Age, I am still trying to express something serious.
For at the root of much New Age thinking is an Eastern Monism, an attempt to reduce the wondrous diversity of the universe to oneness – and nothing else. (New Agers however use the word Monism comparatively rarely. More commonly, the favoured word is oneness.)
Yet whether we speak of oneness or Monism, we lose the distinction between Creator and created. Not only that, but we also lose any ultimate difference between you and me, dear Reader, as free, autonomous, responsible individuals, capable of good and capable of evil.
Inevitably, New Age Monism leads to a world with no freedom and no love. (How can I truly love you as separate individual or love God, if I believe that you are essentially identical with me or indeed, that, I, myself, am God?)
This is one of the themes in this book. But today we will not offer much more than, as I say, a slightly goofy bit of dialogue.
The dialogue begins with a character whose initials are GPL. GPL laments the fact that his old girlfriend has dumped the New Age movement for Catholicism. The New Age, he thinks, is better than the Church – because the New Age doesn’t have divisive religious beliefs …
GPL: Seems like a good strategy to me. Just find some basic core ideas everyone can agree on and forget the rest. Why can’t we just agree to disagree? [My old girlfriend] was more open-minded when she was a New Ager. She believed in some sort of universal religion back then. It seemed less narrow, if you ask me.
GT: Less narrow and more vague perhaps?
GPL: Perhaps. But also less divisive. More accepting of differences. Now, she’s got all these sectarian doctrines.
At that point, someone rapped on the door. GT opened it and a tall, lanky man wearing an orange tie-dyed kaftan stepped into the room. He had a mellow American accent, which I couldn’t quite place. West Coast, I thought, maybe Californian.
“Welcome, welcome,” GT said cheerily. “I am Gilbert Tracey—the Gentle Traditionalist. And what might your name be?”
The visitor apparently didn’t like the question. “Me? I don’t have a name,” he said. “It’s better that way. People get too hung up on naming things. Pretty soon, we’re all divided from each other.”
“Well, I have to call you something. Can I call you No Name for now?
“Hey, yeah, that’s cool,” No Name smiled. “I like that. If only everyone had no name! There’d be no more wars and killing and religion and stuff like that!
“Where are you from, No Name?”
“Same place as you’re from—the Universe!” Slowly, a broad, toothy grin fanned out across No Name’s face, as though he had just said something enormously profound and satisfying.
“Could you be a bit more specific, please?” GT prodded.
“But why?” No Name didn’t like this. “We’re all the same, man. I am you. You are me. We’re, like, all together. Goo goo goo joob, you know? Nothing to get hung about.
“I am the Walrus, Strawberry Fields Forever,” I said, recognising the Beatles’ references.
No Name: Yeah, man, exactly! The universe is just an infinite strawberry patch! If you start identifying with different places, everyone gets separated. You get wars, nationalism, religious hatred—stuff like that. We are all children of the same Universe!
GT: You can’t post a letter to the universe.
No Name: You’re right. What a drag. Still, we won’t need post offices in the future. We’ll all just be able to tune in to each other.
GT: Telepathically, you mean? How do you know that?
No Name: Well, everyone says that.
GT: Who is everyone?
No Name: Well, you know everyone who’s really spiritually conscious I guess. All the great masters and spiritual teachers.
GT: Like St John of the Cross, I suppose, or St Teresa of Avila?
No Name: Who are they? I never heard of them.
GT: They’re great Catholic saints.
No Name: Oh, Catholic! That’s so, you know, um… medieval—Old Age and rigid. No, I mean like Deepak Chopra or Neale Donald Walsch: teachers of higher consciousness.
GT: Ah yes, the masters. And Sri Baba Rama Ding-Dong?
No Name: Yeah, yeah! That’s what I mean—teachers like that!
GT: What about Jesus?
No Name: Well, Jesus was cool! It’s just the Church messed up everything he said.
GT: How do you know that?
No Name: Well, you know, everyone knows that now. There was this guy Dan Brown who found out Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lovers. Everyone knows that.
GT: Everyone who’s “really spiritually conscious”, you mean.
No Name: Well, yeah.
GT: What about the Pope?
No Name: Oh, he’s not spiritually conscious! Everyone knows that. Well, maybe this new Pope Francis is a little bit conscious. He’s kinda cool. But before him, they were all like, you know, totally unconscious. Hey, are you a Catholic or something?
GT: I am.
No Name: Oh, sorry dude. I didn’t mean to rag on your religion like that. Your religion’s cool, too.
GT: Why, thank you, my good man. I will endeavour to take whatever consolation I can from that!
No Name: It’s just like every spiritual path. They all lead to the same place in the end, right?
GT: Well, if, by that, you mean merging with the universe, where no names, no separation, no division exists, I would have to say no.
No Name: Man, that’s the problem with you Christians! You all think you’re going somewhere different from the rest of us. You’re all so judgmental and arrogant. Like you’ve got to do it my way or else!
And the dialogue continues . . .
Release of The Gentle Traditionalist is planned for the end of this month. We will be featuring more extracts soon. (And there is more about the book here.)
You may also wish to visit the website of my publisher Angelico Press (here) who offer an impressive range of books and richly deserve support.