Atheism or agnosticism were never serious considerations. At no point during my spiritual wandering did I contemplate either of them very long. Where I was, at this point, was a theist. Nothing more.
I think that when a person says, “I believe in God, but I don’t believe in religion,” there are only two options left for her. The first is slip off into profound lukewarmness, and to begin viewing God like a magic lamp, taken out when there is a wish to be granted. The other option is to keep looking for a deeper relationship with God, which means you have to keep coming up against the one thing you’d rather avoid.
I wasn’t looking to distance God even further. I wanted more. And so, like someone who keeps checking out the window to see if their family is pulling in the driveway yet, I kept returning to the subject of Religion. What was God? Who was God? What was the relationship between religion and God? Did we need religion? Did we need God? All the typical questions that we humans ask ourselves, and, like many others, I had no objective method to use in finding answers. I just knew there was something missing, and that something was God. I also knew that I didn’t want to run the risk of finding Him in some religion that was going to tell me things like “right” and “wrong.”
Pride is fun, isn’t it?
So, looking for a deeper relationship with God that didn’t attempt to burden me with annoying lessons on morality, I found myself become more and more enamored of the New Age movement.
Since the only experience I have with universities is limited to what I lived out on Michigan State University’s campus from 1993-1998, I will make sure that I don’t paint all universities with the same brush. So when I say that I found college a very hospitable environment for New Age influences, please understand that I mean this only for a particular place during a particular time.
From the occult “Triple Goddess” bookstore a little ways off campus to the pagan student alliance on it, there was a world of New Age, pagan, occult information at my fingertips. Now, keep in mind that this was the early 90s, and the Internet was more or less limited to telnet and Gopher. So when I say “a world of information at my fingertips,” know that my fingers were much shorter 20 years ago than they would be now. In other words, if I wanted to learn about it, I had to do so through a book or a real live person.
At first, I kept my searches confined to books. Not quite ready actually to talk to another person, I would spend time at the campus library, reading poorly researched works about ritual prostitution in ancient Babylon, or information on the Celtic pantheon derived from source information of conquering invaders. I had as little concern for scholarly integrity as many of the authors of these books did, and information derived from New Age novels was viewed as reliable as that from non-fiction.
In other words, at this stage of my spiritual quest, critical analysis was not part of my vocabulary.
Eventually, my one-track reading theme caught the attention of a friend, who had grown up in the area. She introduced me to the “Triple Goddess” bookshop. Here I was able to get more contemporary literature on all manner of New Agey topics, and for an almost unlimited amount of new material, all I had to do was part with both my money and any desire for responsibly researched, verifiable information.
The hallmark of the New Age movement is a do-it-yourself mentality. Whatever whim, interest, or fancy strikes you, there is some way to incorporate it into your customized belief system. Drawn to reincarnation? Find yourself a past life reader who can tell you who you were previously. Want to cultivate a friendship with your animal totem? Grab a book on guided meditation that will take you on a vision quest to do just that. As the signs posted prominently in the bookshop reminded customers, “Following Your Bliss” was the prime directive. There was no evidence that apologetics was an area of concern.