Unpacking the Rhineland Mystics

Stairs

Books on spirituality and “self help” line the shelves of bookstores, stories on the same topics call at people from the magazine racks.  The millions of readers of these books and articles seem to end up fluttering from one theory, one cure, even one culture, to the next like moths off to the next bright light.   Many seem to get some peace of mind from the busyness of the chase but, given all the activity, the background anxiety must never go away.  Perhaps because they are looking in all the wrong places.

Much of this, of course, is that recent generations have been trained to have almost no attention span, but another important component is the simple fact that spirituality without religion is an empty vessel.  It is a bright, festively wrapped box with a large bow and nothing inside.

So they flutter on.

Deep down, though, the whole culture sometimes seems to be begging for connection to its soul, a way to understand its spiritual side.  It wants meaning from its own culture, a connection to its own past.  The modern culture teaches, through scientism, to disconnect from prior beliefs, and through modernism, to aspire to a future which promises the most glittering, colorful and exciting line of empty boxes, stretching toward the horizon as far as the eye can see.

Meanwhile, the Church, with over two millenia of experience of providing meaning, is trying in frustration to evangelize that culture. Despite the questions of one side, and the rich history of answers on the other, the chasm between the culture and the Church seems to be ever widening, and altogether perplexing.

At this moment there is hope that a new pope will be able to bring these sides together. He seems to have a connection to the people, a charisma, an ability to inspire.  But has the culture given him its attention because he is the next big thing, and already hinted that they will flutter away from when the next bright light appears?

If this Pope does not bring the precise style of change that people’s personal politics desire, then they will certainly press on to the next sensation that appears in the spotlight, as if they are not running all the while from themselves.

But within the great traditions of this very culture are the truths that can nourish and sustain.  The frenzied desperation of believing in self alone offers no peace, and each individual, should they consider it, knows this in their heart.  While they keep following from one bright light to the next, they all, deep in their souls, want to stop the chase, embrace peace and stay in the light.

But how?

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