Books are like nets that fishers of men use to harvest the seas of eternity.
Like the image of a crucifix hook with bait secured neatly upon covers, writings outside the bindings of the Holy Bible also lead sinners to repentance. The mystery of the written word extends beyond immediate comprehension, definitions of words, sentence structure and the medium they are written upon. The book in which I stumbled upon a kingdom within was written by James Marion, a former Catholic monk who is gay. His masterpiece– “Putting on the Mind of Christ”– Hampton Roads Publishing Company (July 1, 2000)—changed my life.
Mourning my lover’s death in such a way that my own soul sought death for itself and being led by what in hindsight seems like the Holy Ghost, I stumbled upon a lesbian and gay bookstore in Chelsea and found a shelf of books dedicated to religious writings that offer inspiration to homosexuals despite what has been preached against them.
It was a hot spring day in 2002—the book still relatively new and my soul not yet discovered. I stepped inside to absorb refreshing air conditioning. The scent of expensive candles first led me to a shelf of gay friendly greeting cards where pretty, nude male bodies wished happy birthday in ways Hallmark would never dare venture.
To my left, near the storefront window was where Marion’s book, the bait was. A few sentences on the inside struck me as profound so I purchased the hardcover. I took it home and stayed awake all night reading it all.
It was from this book that my life changed. In the flowing weeks my clinical psychosis emerged—a horrific religious experience to include ‘command hallucinations’ and false senses of smell—according to medical experts in the field of psychiatry who treated me for several weeks. For I don’t remember much from my initial awakening to the flame within—just my prayers spoken in those weeks of social withdrawal and isolation – for I was certain that I had died.
Marion’s book was about the life of two gifted writers/ mystics—St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila who had inspired him during his personal identity struggle and losses of faith. It is my belief that I was led to this book not to have my psyche unravel but to prepare me for the aftermath of recovery in what to the outside world may appear as schizophrenia, but to one sitting in my inner silence is absolute bliss and a peace that passes understanding.
Teresa Availa’s maps of ‘interior castles’ have reaffirmed my faith not only in God but of my desire to live and write on—for if only I could leave such treasures to this Earth. Teresa writes candidly of ‘levitations’ which occurred to her during painful moments of prayer. I couldn’t help but doubt that Teresa was simply suffering from ‘command hallucinations’ such as myself, but read on to discover a deep secret in regards to the path of illumination and how anyone seeking Christ in true form must pick up his cross and follow.
According to Marion and his interpretation of the writings of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, “The Beloved” consumes the soul in rare moments of absolute inner-silence. I am certain that I have somehow ignited the mystical flame of love, seven years later, for as I sit here in my garden in June as the first yellow rays of sun turn my inner-contemplative prayer blood red, I somehow understand and believe beyond the shadow of death and doubt that I will live forever.