As a New Age Enthusiast, I Fancied Myself a Free Spirit and a Good Person

Then a strange dream, an old friend, and a disturbing psalm woke me up to reality.
As a New Age Enthusiast, I Fancied Myself a Free Spirit and a Good Person
Image: Justin Clemons

I met God in a dream. He arranged the encounter; I was not looking for him. At the time, I was 41, and I considered myself wildly progressive. As a college professor, I had been teaching critical theory, radical feminism, multiculturalism, and postmodernism since the early ’80s. One colleague reported to another that I was “the party girl of the department.” I was “spiritual but not religious,” which meant I could be good without God. In my spare time, I would attend all kinds of “paranormal seminars”—the kind advertised on Whole Foods bulletin boards.

As a graduate student in the ’70s, I had attended transcendental meditation classes and experimented with marijuana and psychedelic drugs. Then, as a professor in Los Angeles in the ’80s, a colleague and I would regularly explore the city’s weirdest religions. I would collect crystals and study strange spiritual books. (Authors like the feminist Neopagan Starhawk were among my favorites.) Eventually, I would dabble in workshops where we bent spoons and practiced hypnosis on each other, while the braver ones tried walking on coals.

A central image in my life was the actress Shirley MacLaine, dancing on the beach in free-spirited fashion. I was seeking happiness, self-fulfillment, and freedom from restraint, all the while deluding myself about my own “goodness.” We were children of the ’60s, products of the “I’m okay, you’re okay” culture.

In my mind, I was like Shirley, dancing freely on the beach. but in certain moments—in the middle of the night or in the darkness of depression—I could see glimpses of who I really was. I was not growing freer. My heart was ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

November
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Christianity Today
As a New Age Enthusiast, I Fancied Myself a Free ...
hide this
January/February January/February

Member-Only Access

This article is from the January/February 2018 print issue. Subscribe to continue reading.