I didn’t go see Mirabai Starr last month in Taos when she read from her new book. The translation of Teresa de Avila’s memoir. I wouldn’t mind reading the book, especially if the writing is accessible. I suppose that’s one of the roles of the translator. To make the language as accessible as possible while being true to the original work.
When I worked for an ad agency in Santa Fe in the mid-1980s, one of our clients was a New Age book publisher. We designed their book covers. The books included some of the translated works of Hildegard of Bingen and, I think, Teresa of Avila. Matthew Fox was one of their authors, and Robert Bly. I always got a copy of whatever book it was we were working on, and I almost always tried to read the book. I never got through any of them. Too scholarly. Too removed.
I’m not sure what it is about “New Age” that turns me off. Maybe it’s that I associate it with people whose own roots aren’t deep enough or interesting enough to hold them. They have to go in search of someone else’s cultures and traditions.
That’s harsh. I suppose I have resentment toward Santa Fe and what I saw as the second conquest. First conquest was Spaniards over indigenous. Second conquest was the white people, and not just any white people. Crystal eaters, I used to call them.
I remember going after work to see a channeler at one of Santa Fe’s many New Age shops. Part of me was intrigued; part of me lost and searching for something to hang on to. The store was closed. The channeler sat on a cushion in the middle of the room; we sat on pillows and cushions in a circle around him. There were about a dozen other people, almost all around the age I am now. Forties and fifties. (Why do people seek out New Age in their 40s and 50s? And didn’t I read in one of the links on QM’s Teresa de Avila post that New Age is going through midlife crisis?) They were dressed in purples and oranges and wore garnets and soap beads and bracelets that jangled with every movement.
The channeler was bald on top with the rest of his hair long down the sides. He had big cracked yellow toenails. After a few moments he started to gyrate. Round and round in wide slow circles like a spinning top that is finally coming to its standstill. In a deep voice he said, Ahhhh, allaaaahhhh, allaaaahhhh, ahhhh… Everyone around him was transfixed.
I wanted to laugh. I wanted to crawl up to him and push him over. I wanted to do something to break his connection, like wave my hands in the air above him. I didn’t believe he had a link to the other side. Was he real or was he putting on a show to make money from people in need?
I never went back to see the channeler. I dabbled in positive thinking, astrology, and body work. Now, twenty years later, I still do the body work, and I’ve embraced the idea of writing practice as a spiritual practice. And probably most significant, I’ve come back to the ritual of the Catholic Church.
I love the saints because they’re people I grew up with. Like aunts and uncles. I feel protective of them. But I also feel like I’m growing up when it comes to New Age. I still can be irreverent toward the movement. I can still be indignant at times, like some feminists are when it comes to the question of whether men have a place in women’s studies. But when it comes down to it, I’m pretty sure I can share.