I have really mixed feelings about this; I think there is a real, live tension between shopping for a religion and American religious syncretism. I also think the same "there are people doing religious practices and there are people doing religious practices" distinction is like the "there are poets and there are poets" distinction. And there are religious practices and there are religious practices. I would like to think it is at least possible that Madonna Kabbalah works for Madonna and has led her to some sort of insight that might be more insightful than the practice of local West Palm Beach third rate artists (you know, the kind that paint letters in pastel colors and gold on plates that show up at craft fairs).
And you know, there are poets and there are poets. You read a poet has adopted as a regular practice a thousand-year-old Christian heresy and writes out of that belief system; you see Will Alexander pick up a book on the same thing and write a poem that'll knock your socks off. You read that poet x has been diagramming sentences, and you remember doing a lot of that in school & wonder if Sr. Josephine was right and then say NAH. Or, for example, I write something and somebody picks it up and says, "yeah, but infinite series are supposed to be about ___; they are not supposed to be about ____."
I know that a real problem I had with American Tibetan Buddhism was the way in which the completely foreign folk religion, lore, culture, etc. was encoded in beliefs, visualizations, practices, and I really felt that these could never be legitimate for me -- especially since I felt the "languages" were so similar to what I knew of medieval Christianity --; I always felt that Merton's Chuang Tsu was nearly indistinguishable from the Italian folk tales about friars. That's why the visualizations in my poems are Carrie, etc., you know, something from my experience.
I know Stephen Dubner, when he wrote his book all those years ago about being raised as a charismatic catholic (as I was, partially) and then converting to Judaism (his parents had both converted to Catholicism from Judaism), was accused of being some new age baby boomer religion-shopper. I hope he gets into the Kabbalah and writes some songs about it.
>>>What you say of course is true, but not in the case of Merton. He did his >>>practice, to say the least, and, at least in his later, more mature, ecumenical, work, was just annotating that part of his spiritual life that lent itself to literature. To call Merton a star, which you directly don't, would be like saying that the Dalai Lama isn't authentic because he has become a public figure, which would be absurd. As for Madonna. I don't know her, so I can't speak for the depth of her commitment. If you can you arrange a date for me with her, I would be grateful.
> you know real Kabbalah and I mean the Zohar or Abraham Abulafia or
> stuff is really interesting. But when Mysticism becomes pop it becomes
> a miscarriage rather than real. This has happened allot recently it
> first began with Thomas Merton in the 50's and 60's with all the
> 'interest' in Christian monasticism and then had an echo in Kathleen
> Norris's work- it then happened again with Coleman Barks and Sufism,
> it continues to happen with Buddhism and now Kabbalah.
> A monk friend of mine put it really well if you are reading that a
> is doing a practice then it is not really happening it is in the quiet
> a mystical movement wells up and creates new realities- these will not
> be created by Madonna doing Kabbalah but with years of study and
> practice of
> form of mysticism it is impossible to get to this place without
> sustained effort, just like it is impossible to get to be a poet
> without the same practice
> Raymond L Bianchi
> > And I'm sick of hearing about the Kabbala and all that shamanitic
> > crap - "The kabbala" - Ha! More like "The Old Cobblers" HA!
> > Richard Taylor