Thursday, 30 September 2010

Priscillian, the Cathars and Me

Hey! I'm back. Canada was wonderful and I had an opportunity to meet many old friends, some of which I haven´t seen in 20 years. I have written elsewhere that true friendship knows nothing about distance or time.

My paper at the Brock University Conference on Gnosticism was entitled "Priscillian, the Cathars and Me". If you have been following my ongoing research into the Camino de Santiago, you will know that I have written quite extensively about Priscillian of Avila in my book Pilgrimage to Heresy: Don´t Believe Everything They Tell You
But what was that "heresy"? And how does it affect today´s walkers on the Camino?

We are told that the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela houses the mortal remains of St. James. But how true is that? To find out more, I invite you to look at my blogs over the last 14 months or so.

In the meantime, I thought you might like to share in what has become a personal journey towards Gnosticism.

Here is the first part of my paper:

A Child's Garden of Gnosticism

When I was four, I dreamt I met Jesus outside of our local village pub. He was nice, but neither meek, nor mild; quite stern in fact. I remember waking up with a sense that Jesus was telling me somehow to be very wary of what I as going to be taught.

As I grew, I devoured the Narnia chronicles of CS Lewis, which were just then being published, never once considering that Lewis was providing my thirsty young mind with allegory. It didn't matter. To this day I maintain that I learned about honour, valour, love and nobility from the children in the books and their mentor, Aslan. He made more sense to me than Jesus.

Skip forward to age 12 and my first year of secondary school. In divinity class we had to write a composition about Jesus' visit to Jerusalem as a young boy. I decided to use a bit of licence and described the excitement of the young boys at the vanguard of the group of parents who followed behind. Just imagine, I thought, how they might have behaved each one vying to be the first to see the "spires" of the city. "I saw it first," says one; "No, I did," says Jesus. I was really proud if it when I handed it in and waited for the high grade I knew must come.

Now I've always written well; it comes naturally to me and so I was excited when the teacher handed back all of the compositions with the exception of mine. I can remember to this day the exact seat I was in, waiting with great anticipation to hear what a remarkable insight I had had into the everyday life of Jesus.

I was to be not only disappointed but roundly embarrassed in front of 25 other girls all of whom had their papers on the desk in front of them.

"But," said the teacher, "there is one that I simply must read out to you all," and picking up my composition began to tell my story. I was thrilled. At last, acknowledgement for my hard work and imagination.

Then she finished. And turned on me in such a fashion as I had never seen. How DARE I treat the Lord Jesus as though he were a normal child, what BLASPHEMY was this in her own class...she went on and on.

One part of me just wanted to slide under the desk and stay there for the next five years. But you know, the other part of me wanted to scream: "You are SO WRONG!"

To be continued...