He used to be my hero. I used to go exploring in my little Datsun, listening to Joseph Campbell tapes over and over until I had them memorized. I had a large collection of his writings. But years later I realized that whatever else he understood, Joseph Campbell did not understand Catholicism. Raised in a Catholic family, he left the Church as a young man. For all his obvious erudition, and his engaging wit and style notwithstanding, Campbell wrote and spoke of the Church as the outsider he had become. In my own experience I have found it difficult, if not impossible, to truly understand a religion from without. One runs the risk of seeing only the externals and missing deeper significances. Leaving the Church is not the best way to understand it; studying other religions does not necessarily help one understand one’s own. Giving in to that sort of intellectual curiosity is tempting but it rarely results in increased wisdom.
Now I don’t know whether or not Campbell was ever reconciled to the Church before he died, but the animosity he felt toward her is apparent in his talks. I listened to The Transformations of Myth Through Time many times in the early 90’s and was bothered even then (years before I became interested in Catholicism) at the digs he made at her. I’ll never forget hearing him call Christ’s Second Coming “the great non-event” and hearing the snickers and giggles of the audience. He reduced the Church’s teaching on the economy of salvation to simple accounting and bookkeeping, attributing such a shallow and mistaken view to the Church herself instead of to his own childish and inadequate religious education. He taught that the Church’s insistence upon the historicity of Christ was a misunderstanding of His true metaphorical nature. And so in failing to appreciate the historical nature of her Divine Founder, he missed the significance of both the Church’s history and her symbols.
The Catholic Church only makes sense if she was founded by Christ, a living, flesh-and-blood, real, actual and historical Christ. The Church exists because He existed and exists. The teachings of the Church can have any claim to authority only if those teachings flow from the real authority of their Divine Author. Her symbols and sacraments are not mere metaphors or signs but efficacious signs: they produce or effect the very things they symbolize. Baptism confers not a symbol of new life but real re-birth, real new life, a participation in Divine and Eternal Life. Here. Now. In this life. If this were merely symbolic, I wouldn’t waste my time. If the Eucharist did not communicate Christ’s own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity to me, I wouldn’t bother to show up for Mass. Mere metaphor did not enable me to give up my former way of living. New life in Christ did.
At the end of The Transformations of Myth Through Time Campbell said that all the ancient religions were outdated, archaic, no longer capable of speaking to us and dangerous, every one. We need a new myth for our time, he said; we need to create one. Now I have yet to find a religion created by man that I can honestly recommend to anyone. They lack coherence and they lack the ability to transform. I’m not including Buddhism among the religions created by man. I don’t think the Buddha created Buddhism; it’s rather as if he stumbled upon it through meditation. And I do think a person can attain a high degree of detachment and spiritual development through the practice of Buddhism. But this same Buddhism is one of the ancient and archaic religions that Campbell dismisses as irrelevant and dangerous now.
As a former Buddhist and as a practicing Catholic of many years, I know that he is wrong about this. Buddhism still has relevance for people of our day and age and it probably always will. I also know that Catholicism is capable of transforming the world because her Founder is Christ Himself and He is the Word Incarnate, the Word made flesh Who dwelt and still dwells among us. Perhaps if he had remained in the Church or had come back to her, and had studied and lived his religion as an adult, he would not have made such a tragic mistake.
Perhaps then Joseph Campbell would still be one of my heroes.
Notes and Links
The Transformation of Myths Through Time, by Joseph Campbell. (Affiliate link. See Full Disclosure below.)
Update: July 27, 2020: There was a time when I knew this book (Transformations) very well and the tape set even better. I could practically recite it by heart. I used to drive all over New England with it playing on a portable cassette tape player with portable speakers. I still think the man is a marvelous speaker and storyteller. I just don’t think he’s right about a lot of the things he says. By the way, I noticed that Campbell’s wife, Jean Erdman, died a little while back, May 4, 2020. She was 104 years old, the same age as Olivia de Havilland who died yesterday, July 26, 2020. Amazing. This weekend John Saxon and Regis Philbin also died. May they all, including Joseph Campbell, the man of a thousand myths himself, rest in peace.
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40 thoughts on “Joseph Campbell was once my hero”
Reblogged this on Sullivan's Blog and commented:
Getting into Joseph Campbell’s work is interesting but not synonymous with my catholic up bringing. I see him as someone I can learn from but not say its like the absolute truth like what Catholics say about catholicism!
Well, there’s a reason Catholics say that about Catholicism.
You appear to be a person who does not understand the difference between poetry and prose. You’ve elected for the literal and your literal understanding blinds you.
How odd. I’ve been a poet and a prose writer for most of my life. I never knew I was so ignorant of either one. But then I don’t reallly know what your comment has to do with the subject of my post. Must be my ignorance again. Oh, well.
You ——- clowns think Campbell converted to Christianity? Obviously too caught ——- on the crucifixial thong to open any awareness. Pathetic.
Thank you so much, L., for the uplifting comment. You did so much to elevate the quality and sophistication of the conversation. Please feel free to pass by my blog any time you might feel the urge to comment again in future. Bye now.
I realize this is years after the fact, but I greatly appreciate this post. Glad to see you’re still posting.
Greetings, Ed! I leave comments open on posts. It’s more fun that way. :) I need to get back to posting but so much has happened, I don’t even know where to start. Thanks for your kind words. And I do love the tagline on y’all’s blog. ;)
Disciple. Your blog and follow up posts are wonderful. I too was an admirer of Joseph Campbell. Read everything I could find of him. Much of what he had to say inspired me. However, I found the Catholic Church to be richer and at a basic level more beautiful than competing ideologies, myths and religions. Still, Campbell did teach me to look for beauty in religion. I did hear that Campbell died reconciled to the Church. Perhaps I’m mistaken.
Thank you, Frank, for reading, commenting and for your kind words. Campbell certainly was inspiring and had a wonderful way with sharing stories. I learned a lot from his writings and lecture tapes, CD’s and videos too. I wish I knew he was reconciled but all I know is what people have said and I don’t know how much that is worth.
At the end of a biography about Campbell by two of his students (or perhaps in an article somewhere) I read that his wife said that there were crucifixes in the hospice where Campbell stayed, as I recall, with his last bout with cancer. She said he liked that and it seemed to comfort him, or something to that effect. I don’t recall ever finding her say any more about it and, believe me, I’ve searched. That may qualify as reconciliation to a non-Catholic but Catholics know better. We mean much more. But what passed between him and his God, on that I would not begin to speculate. One thing I hope: that Joseph Campbell finally got to see the God behind the masks and met His Loving Merciful Redeemer face to face.
Thank you, Frank. Do visit again. God bless you on your own journey. Our Church is beautiful, indeed.
As a former Buddhist and practicing Catholic, you probably find it as fascinating as do I, that the Buddha is enshrined as a Saint of The Roman Catholic Church, under the name Josephat. Keep in touch. http://www.twitter.com/JDC352
I find it not so fascinating at all. A medieval popular Christianized version of a story about the Buddha. Not canonized as a Catholic saint that I’m aware of. Thanks for visiting the blog.
Well, you say Joseph Campbell is wrong. I suppose I could say that you are wrong in the sense of your interpretation that Joseph Campbell dismisses ancient religions. Quite to the contrary. He talks about them extensively in his works as we know. By talking about them, he actually therefore says, in my opinion, we have something to learn from them. If he truly wanted to dismiss them as irrelevant, he wouldn’t talk about them. There is absolutely no need though for him, or anyone, to remain a part of a faith that doesn’t make sense to him. I was born and raised Catholic and I no longer practice. But by reading Joseph Campbell, I actually have come to respect the Church more, it’s ancient myths and symbols do have meaning, even though I don’t want to be a part of the Church’s official community.
But Campbell is correct, we do need a new myth for our time. We have learned myths from the ancient religions and can built up these to have a myth that makes sense in a world of science and technology that didn’t exist in antiquity. So it’s not dismissing the ancient myths at all, it is growing a new relevant myth building up the myths that have been developed in the past. I completely agree with Campbell. It’s much more than simply having a rigid faith in a teaching.
What utter hogwash. I’m not surprised you are no longer a practicing Catholic. If you were, I would hope you’d know better.
I was raised and still am Catholic, and go to Church on Sunday’s. Yet I have been profoundly influenced by Campbell. I think he has helped me understand better than most the sense of spirituality, and has, in a lot of ways, strengthened my faith. I still think however, that you are valid to express your opinions. And just because I like Campbell doesn’t mean I agree with everything he says.
Greetings, Eduardo. Thanks for reading and commenting.
I was once a big fan of Campbell. But the longer I am Catholic and the the more I learn about the faith, the more I realize that the Church means by spirituality something very different than what many others mean. Especially others who have been influenced by new age or Western versions of Eastern religions. I don’t know about your own experiences. I do know about my own and have heard from others about theirs. The Church means something more grand and far more vast by spirituality than “Follow your bliss.”
Then there is this:
“They thought that it would be a disgrace to go forth as a group. Each entered the forest at a point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no path. If there is a path it is someone else’s path and you are not on the adventure.”
Well, I choose to be Catholic. I choose to follow Christ Who said of Himself, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but through me.” I choose to follow a path with billions of others, those who have walked that path before me, and those who are yet to come. I choose not just a group but the Lord and His Church, and it’s been a bigger adventure than anything I could have imagined.
Campbell played a part, while I was still a Buddhist and still searching for the truth, in helping me to look at Christianity again. But it was the Church herself who helped open my eyes to Christ; and it was the Holy Spirit Who gave me new eyes so that I could see the Truth, and gave me new life so that I could put off the old me–with all my new age and Buddhist leanings–and put on the mind of Christ and become a new creation in Him. (And this was something that I didn’t do for myself but I did have to cooperate and correspond; I don’t mean to sound as if I think I did any of this on my own. Far from it!)
Campbell himself was amused when people told him that he’d helped them re-discover their faith. I listened to him talk about it in a set (could be Transformations of Myth Through Time, could be the Power of Myth, I listened to both over and over in my car). He apparently thought he was helping them to see through such things the way he had. He turned away from the Church. He mocked her on many occasions. I heard him do so in his own words with his own voice. He thought all religions were basically the same, to put it simply. For these reasons, these profound errors, he once was, but is no longer, my hero. But I am grateful to him for the part he played then in what I see now as my gradual and ongoing conversion.
Thanks again for reading and commenting, Eduardo.
Your sister in Christ,
I am a cradle catholic. Went to parochial schools. Over the years I began to find areas in Catholicism that bothered me. The basic teachings of Christianity I totally accept but some of the churches dogmas are bothersome. I think the church does create fear with all its dogmas. If anything it tends to keep people from the church. Yes I do believe we are all guilty of doing the wrong thing (sin). But what I have observed over the years is that most people want to be good but because if our innate need to survive in a world that threatens from every angle, those very survival instincts are set into motion without our even planning a reaction.
I believe that God created this world through the process of evolution (doesn’t mean I believe we came from Apes). I believe that we are still evolving. I believe that Jesus is the Christ the total manifestation of God come into the world to be the light that shows us we are God’s chosen children and we are part of his plan for creation to manifest God’s perfect idea of what we are to become. “We know what we are now but not what we are yet to be”. We are on the road to Jerusalem.
I believe that Jesus the Christ shows us the way and when we follow him and his teachings we will be a part of God’s perfect plan Jesus died on the cross and I thank him for his sacrifice . . Through that death and resurrection he showed us that death is overcome. I’m not sure of the blood sacrifice. In Jesus time blood sacrifice was part of the culture. It spoke to the people when he said the old covenant (blood sacrifice), death was being replaced with new birth. So much is symbolic to get across to the people the idea, I think not to be taken literally.
There is so much I have come to think about that I can’t put it all down.
God Bless you
Thank you for reading and for commenting at such length. You took the time to read and to reply and I appreciate that.
And thanks be to God that some of the teachings of Christianity make us uncomfortable! Thanks be to God that we have the teachings of Christ Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and have not been left to our own vain imaginings that tell us to turn away from the Way and His Cross. Imaginings that entice us with another gospel of our own making. That tell us that we have no need of what Christ did and does for us (it’s not all in the past) or what the Church is or does for us, but that we can be our own gods, self-contained, self-sufficient, self-satisfied. The serpent told Adam and Eve that they could be like God by not listening to Him, by disobeying Him. The serpent lied.
I don’t know what you were taught when you were a young Catholic but it sounds like it wasn’t Catholicism. I invite you to discover, now, as an adult, what the Church really teaches. I left a past filled with New Age and eastern religions and philosophies because I was seeking the truth and found it, found Him, in His Church. We were made for truth, you and I and everybody else, and we will not rest until we rest in Him. Put away what you think the Church teaches and does and is, and explore the reality. It is grander than anything you or I could imagine.
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Free Online. Buy a copy.
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I will be praying for you, as I pray for all visitors to and readers of the blog, and, if you are willing, I ask you to pray for me, also. May the Lord bless you, Frances, and guide you on your journey home to Him. Peace be with you.
I respect you for your beliefs and admire your dedication, as a Zen priest it’s important to teach others that no matter if we agree with someone elses views or not, they are all valid in some way. Joseph Campbell may not have written in a way that you believe in, however for you to flat out say that he was wrong is of course a jugdement, nothing more than an opinion from your point of view. Joseph Campbells writings have opened many doors for many people. Our beliefs arent what bring people together, beliefs, especially beliefs about strong subjects like religion, politics, etc. have the power to start wars. My point here is to simply say to be carefull in your writing when you make judgements as to who is right or wrong. thank you
So all views are valid. Except the view that some views are true and some are false. But if all views are valid, then that view is also valid.
It isn’t the way Campbell wrote that bothers me. He was surely eloquent in writing and in speaking, thoroughly charming. It’s what he wrote, not the way he wrote, that is troublesome. He rejected objective truth and embraced relative truth. He rejected Christ for a myth. For a thousand myths. He rejected the God Who is for the masks of a god of his imagination.
If all views are valid, then the views I just expressed are valid. For you to say that I’m wrong to say that Campbell was wrong is to commit the same judgment you accuse me of committing. If everything I expressed is mere opinion from my point of view, and if all any of us have is an opinion and point of view, then you are merely opposing my opinion and my point of view with your own. If I cannot be right, then I also cannot be wrong. And neither can you or anyone else.
This is one reason why I left Buddhism.
When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is
added I get three emails with the same comment.
Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
Thanks a lot!
WordPress users: I posted the comment and this reply to let you know about this problem many are having. The comment is apparently spam and it’s happening a lot. If it were a real email subscriber, there would be a link in the emails he received to unsubscribe or manage his subscriptions. Or he would be on the email subscription list. But he’s not.
So this is just another example of annoying, time-wasting spam. Sometimes spam is obvious and sometimes not. I hate spam, spam, spammety spam.
Hi! disciple,right? Just making sure.You know, there was a time,when I was 19, I visited where my brother went to college. The place is called “Harding University”. Maybe, you’ve heard of it. But, it was very empowering being there around many young christans and maybe even some who weren’t .. I felt so grown up, upon returning home from that wonderful experience. Maybe there is a heaven. Whatever and wherever that may be. But, I also take living on earth seriously. Do you believe God created the earth? If so, I say; what would Jesus do about the way humans are harming the earth in our every day decisions? I think he would be very angry. Very, very angry. And, I don’t look down at all on religious people. Treat others the way you want to be treated, Right? I believe also Joseph Campbell is beyond brilliant. I also have learned that if something is too much for a persons mind to handle, such as -what if our own government wanted to harm us. Many people would find that hard to believe and choose to shut their minds off to it. Most people go along with things. They may not always realize it, but they do. I’m a maverick, much like Joseph, because I’m a seeker. I notice that you have faith in things. My dad is like that. I just want to say that my dad is so very nice. I adore my dad. I think faith can be good. What if a dog were left in a hot car with the windows up. Do I have faith that God will help him? Or do I help him. Hmm….. Will faith work? But, I tend to stay in the middle, because when you do, you’re not flooding your energies to one area. You are open to everything, and I can tell that when you do that, that amazing things take place, and all is well. It’s letting go. Luke Sky walker did it.
Greetings, Anne :) Yep, Disciple is my web name. Using that name helps me remember what I am doing, helps me remember Who I am serving and representing, even though I still forget from time to time and still slip and fall. But the Lord is rich in mercy, slow to anger and quick to forgive. Thank God! :)
Empowered. I’ve heard people mention that term a lot over the years. Remember, I was a dyed in the wool New Ager for many years. This empowerment — empowered to do what? Where does the power come from? What is it for? Seems like the sentence never gets finished.
I do take living on earth very seriously and the idea of stewardship is one that is very important to Christianity and has been for, oh, two thousand years. Nothing new about that. I don’t need to look outside my faith for that. Christians are to steward their resources very carefully, tending the Garden, guarding the sheep, tilling the soil. Goes back much further than Christianity right into the days before the Old Testament was even handed down orally.
I think the Lord cares more about the souls of His children than He does rocks and trees. If you’ll remember, Jonah was more concerned for the fig tree than he was the inhabitants of Nineveh, but the Lord was more concerned for His children whose lives and souls were in danger and who Jonah wanted destroyed, which is why he was stalling and not taking the Lord’s message to them.
I hope you do not think I have faith in things for, I assure you, I do not. I have faith in God and God alone. I do not think that I should rely on faith to open the window for a dog left in a car on a hot day, that would be called presumption, presuming upon God’s grace instead of taking common sense action to do what I could. Faith is not magic, God is not a wizard and I am a disciple of Christ, not a magician. I would do everything I could to get the dog out of there and get him help but I would not stand there and merely wish him well. That is dealt with in the Bible, too, you know. We’re not to see a person in need and merely say to him, Be well — here, I’ll quote it:
You see, the New Age isn’t new and it isn’t necessary for me to turn backward toward it when I have found the Truth for which I was seeking all those years. (I was a New Ager a loooong time.) I wouldn’t go back to that stuff if you said you’d give me a billion tax-free dollars on the one condition that I embrace the so-called “New Age” teachings again. Nope. I threw it all in a dumpster far from my town. Buddhist books, astrology, tarot, the whole shebang. Gone bye bye. I have to have what is real, what is true, what God wants to give each and every one of His children…
Hi! Um, I want to say I’m really inspired by Joseph Campbell. I used to go to a non-denominational church, but haven’t in a long time. I’m open-minded to learning everything I can while I’m here. My parents are church goers; Sundays and Wednesdays. The thing about many religious people is they don’t think. They have faith in God. What I’ve learned that if you are open and you let go of any doubt in anything, great things happen. And just always be beautifully kind. I know Joseph Campbell would say to “Follow your Bliss”. He’s so right. Doors do open for you, and only for you. I don’t know if I believe in a hell, or maybe it is within us, and maybe heaven is too; I don’t know. I’m thankful I became a vegan (my twin sister is too) and eat organic, and I’m grateful to the people who showed us a better way. My, parents are religious and the don’t completely get it yet, but I wish for that. If there is a God, and he created the earth, than shouldn’t every single religious person want to help the earth? There is so much we can all do. Thanks.
Greetings, Anne :)
If you’re really open-minded about learning everything you can while you’re here, why not learn more about the Church instead of looking down on religious people as if they were missing something by being religious? Most of the deep thinkers I know are also deeply religious and that’s not because most of the people I know are religious; most of the people I know aren’t religious at all. It’s because those deep thinkers went searching for Truth, something that could satisfy them intellectually and in their hearts, too, and they found that something when they found Christ in His Church.
Now if you’re like I was, you can’t hear the name Christ without cringing. I admit it, I was a total New Ager and I wanted nothing to do with any church then. Except for Unity and other pseudo-churches like it. I wanted philosophies that could entertain and “enlighten” me and I found an abundance of philosophies that promised to do that. I settled on Buddhism and stayed there for years, reading and listening to Joe all the while.
Until one day I stumbled into Catholicism and I tell you, nothing else I have ever encountered can hold a candle to the intellectual riches I have found in the Church. Nothing Joseph Campbell ever said or wrote can compare to the wisdom and beauty of the great spiritual writings of the Fathers of the Church, the Doctors of the Church, or simple saints like Saint Therese, Saint Teresa, or Saint Faustina, just to name a few.
If you’re really open to learning everything you can, Anne, please don’t close your mind to religion. Please don’t close your mind to seeing that there is more there than perhaps meets the eye. Seeing with new eyes is perhaps what is needed and hearing with new ears. That has been my experience. Everything that made me cringe before and sounded old, worn out and trite sounds completely different to me now. New eyes and ears and a new mind have made all the difference. My heart is in the process of becoming new, too. But God works in His own time and we, His children, place so many obstacles in His way, imagining that we know more than He does, preferring stories we want to hear rather than the Truth He wants to give us.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Anne. I’ll keep you in my prayers. Please keep me in yours. I need all the help I can get!
Buddhism doesn’t move me to tears, Catholicism does.
(I mean Catholicism which isn’t under, understood).
Catholicism surely does move me to tears, too, Steve. I can’t begin to count how many times something the priest has said at Mass (or a reading from the Scriptures or the Catechism or some spiritual book, or light the Lord has given me while praying the Rosary) has moved me to tears and made that lump in my throat and filled my heart full of gratitude and joy. And, after I’ve been thoroughly humbled, to repentance. I was looking for truth when I found the Church and she is wiser and deeper and more beautiful than I had ever imagined. And she led me to Christ for which I shall forever be more grateful than words can say.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Steve. Peace be with you.
I don’t know if the Holy Spirit calls everyone. I do know that when He does call, we should respond. I don’t know that it would be fair or unfair. God created us and only He knows what He has in mind or how He wants to accomplish His plan. Who am I to say that what He does is fair or not? I think that the Book of Job is relevant here. I cannot hope to comprehend God’s ways. If I could, I’d be God.
But I can take what He has revealed and study that, I can listen and then follow the way we’ve been given. Like someone who longs to be an artist apprentices to a master, I can be a disciple and submit to the discipline of following the Christian spiritual path and living the Christian spiritual life.
If you are wondering if the Holy Spirit has called to you, that is something to ask Him. If He calls someone else or does not, how would we even know? And if He does not call someone else, could it be because we have not prayed to Him and asked Him to call that someone? If others do not know the truth and the light that Christ brings, is it because we have not shown them? Have not taken to heart the commission to spread the Gospel?
The Buddha instructed his followers not to allow themselves to be distracted by curiosity but to work toward enlightenment. That is good spiritual advice for Buddhists and Christians alike. Take up the way of life, live it, study it, devote yourself to it, see for yourself whether it is true. Theory is fine as long as it is joined to practice. Neither one stand alone.
Hello, Disciple. You wrote:
“And the Holy Spirit called to me, called me to Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
Does the Holy Spirit call to everyone? If not, would that be a bit unfair to call some and not all?
I see. Well, in my experience practicing both leads pretty much to practicing neither and understanding less. I suspect that you will one day be faced with the need to make a choice, to commit to one or the other. I still have much respect and affection for the Buddhist path. But I just can’t travel two divergent paths at once. That’s a talent I just don’t have.
And, just so’s ya know, you didn’t need to clarify that at all. I was not under the impression that you were orthodox in your Buddhism or your Christianity. I rather suspect you might think of orthodoxy as something bothersome and unnecessary. You can correct me if my impression is in error. ;)
But there is something to be said for discovering and committing to a path, whichever one that ends up being. Truth is worth that commitment. Truth is worth whatever price you have to pay. If I thought that the Buddha was the source of the ultimate truth, nothing and nobody could keep me from following him and I’d still be Buddhist. If you think his is the way, embrace his path but do it fully, completely. Half measures are for half truths and who would spend his whole life following a half truth?
I agree that it would be very, very difficult, if not impossible, to practice both orthodox Christianity and orthodox Buddhism simultaneously.
I should clarify, though, that my understanding of Christianity and my understanding of Buddhism are not necessarily doctrinally orthodox.
The mechanism of my transition? Interesting way of putting it. There was no mechanism. There was a quest, a very human search for truth that led me into many things, one of them being Buddhism to which I was committed for years. I found glimmers of truth here and there and much truth in the Buddha’s Middle Way.
But a friend introduced me to the Catholic Church and took me to Mass. I began to read Church history, the Bible, the great spiritual writers and Fathers of the Church. I became convinced that Christ was Who He said He was and that meant He was the Son of God Who also founded His Church which is still here today.
And the Holy Spirit called to me, called me to Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Not a middle way but The Way which passes through a narrow gate. I answered the call and here I am. Catholic and ecstatic about it.
I tried at first to be both Buddhist and Catholic, but I found it impossible to serve two masters. It’s rather like trying to walk in two different directions at the same time. I ended up not being able to walk, getting nowhere, torn in two.
As a Buddhist, I had made a commitment not to deceive others or myself. As a Catholic I made a commitment to Christ and to His Church. After a few years I tried to return to Buddhism. But, you know what? I couldn’t. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even read about it, couldn’t hold any of my Buddhist books in my hands, couldn’t look at the images of the Buddha in my room, couldn’t look at the statues. Instead I longed for the Eucharist. I longed to pray the Divine Office and the Rosary and the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy and the Mass.
So I came back. I threw away stacks of books. Removed software and images and texts from my computers. I was attached to those things and I had to get rid of them and of the attachment too. So now I belong to Christ. One Master. One Way. Now I’m moving in one direction. And by His grace I’ll not only get somewhere, I’ll go wherever He wants to lead me. :)
I’m Buddhist and Christian, so I was curious as to the mechanism of your transition into Buddhism and out of Buddhism.
I approach the doctrines of salvation, heaven and hell the way I do all doctrines. I embrace and am faithful to the teachings of Holy Mother Church. What my Mother teaches, I accept.
What is it you are actually asking me? Are you familiar with the Church’s teaching on hell? I’m only asking because I don’t know you and have no idea what you know or don’t know.
I don’t find the Church’s teaching on hell to be hard to understand or to stomach. She teaches that one can accept or reject God and the time to do so is while one is alive. After one dies is too late. The choice has already been made at that point. One has either followed the Light of the world to the best of one’s ability or one has not, has embraced the good and rejected the evil, has embraced a Godly life or rejected it, has embraced evil or has rejected it.
If one wants to reject God in this life, one can do so. But one cannot then expect to spend eternity in His presence. He made us all with the calling to spend eternity with Him in joy in heaven. But He did not create puppets. We can choose heaven or hell and it’s up to us.
Eternal damnation or eternal joy. Pick one but only one. And after you choose your goal, then take steps that will carry you there. How do people expect to get to heaven by living like hellions?
Do you have something more specific in mind? I’m just kind of rambling here, but I’m enjoying it. :)
How do you approach the notion of eternal damnation?
Since you were Buddhist, and then became Catholic, how did you deal with ideas like rebirth/reincarnation?
I accepted those ideas as hypotheses when I was a Buddhist. And when I embraced the teachings of the Catholic Church, I let those hypotheses go. I spent 40 years in search of truth. And then I found Him.
You know, the Buddhist teachings on rebirth and reincarnation were never quite what many New Age writers claimed when they took hold of perfectly intelligent Buddhist ideas without also taking hold of rigorous Buddhist discipline, meditation and logic. The Buddhist notion of reincarnation, as I learned of it, had a lot to do with practicing the Dharma and concentrating one’s mindstream to such a degree that one could even begin to talk of that mindstream being able to reincarnate with anything like recognizable continuity.
Ie, a great spiritual master might reincarnate and be recognized by himself and others. But someone who barely practiced would probably be torn apart by the death process and the elements of his consciousness would scatter like the elements of his body, to recombine in another life form that could not be said to be the former person’s.
Most New Agers I’ve known (whether in person or through reading) think that everyone reincarnates and that we would all remember it if we could go through some sort of therapy to help us remember.
Now I simply don’t need such an idea as reincarnation. According to Catholic doctrine, I’ve got this one life to spend following Christ, tending to perfection, making reparation and receiving the sacraments, picking up my cross daily and following my Lord. If there are some more or less minor attachments and impurities in my soul after death, well, that’s what purgatory is for. So I don’t have to wait millions upon millions of kalpas to become a Buddha or merely to obtain the precious human rebirth in this realm of samsara.
I’m a Christian now and my hope is to see God face to face when this life is over. Buddha discovered some very wonderful things when he looked within. But what I want is what God can show me about Himself and only He can show me. Buddhism cannot show me God.
And more than I anything else, I want to see God.
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Hi, I was reading Catholic Answers, and I saw your website link, can I add you as a friend? you seem very cool, and pretty wise. Thanks for bringing up such relavent subjects! :)
God Bless and Keep you!!
Greetings, InMariesGrace *wave* Thank you for reading my posts on the forum and for reading the blog too. And for commenting. :) You certainly may add me as a friend, thank you so much. I dunno how cool or wise I am, but I appreciate the compliment. I’m trying to be a faithful disciple and sometimes I manage to listen when the Lord is trying to tell me something. Sometimes. And sometimes I manage to communicate it to others. Sometimes.
Thank you again for reading. Peace be with you.