Imperceptibly, something has changed. I entered the New Year of 2009 with the feeling that I had lost my grip on faith, and this feeling grew on me until, after a bout of mild depression in the summer of 2010, I was beginning to think that I might have to resign myself to atheism. My resort was to silence, and in particular to zazen, which I have now tried to sit with for a year and a half. By Christmas 2010 I was trying to decide whether I was a radical post-theist Christian, a heretical Buddhist, or a crypto-Taoist. But over the holiday, Mrs Bookworm drew my attention to a couple of old BBC TV programmes, "The Big Silence" (about a group sent on a traditional silent retreat) and "The Monastery" (a group live at a Benedictine Abbey for a month). The latter I watched when it first came out, attracted to it especially as I had an old fondness for Worth Abbey myself. This time, watching others experience the richness of silence, I heard for myself the resonance of something that Dom Christopher Jamison said:
Silence is the gateway to the soul, and the soul is the gateway to God.
He also commented to one of the participants:
Maybe the God you don't believe in doesn't exist.
I have not encountered any new arguments, or had any new experience, or heard anything that I have not heard before. Nothing has changed; but somehow everything has changed. For no clear reason, I had lost some underlying confidence on which the scaffolding of spiritual endeavour was based. For no clear reason, I have regained it: some vague acceptance of the possibility that the universe might have meaning beyond that which I project upon it. I am still an agnostic in most respects. My approach to faith must now be based on a more tentative, more experiential, more subjective approach. I had long thought that much of the idea of a "personal" God is a projection of our own personal being, and I feel this more strongly now. And church services still seem mostly boring and verbose, though that may just be because I do not (for family reasons) have the option of selecting one more congenial to my taste.
On the Feast of Epiphany 2011, I actually got up early and went to a Cathedral Eucharist. The simplicity was refreshing, and I boosted the number in the congregation to four (all the others, plus the celebrant, being women). My sense of personal loyalty to the figure of Jesus had taken a bit of a bashing from considerations of early Christian mythmaking, but maybe a more post-modern reading of biblical texts and of the Christian myth may be possible. I'll see how we go.
One thought struck me from the Epiphany sermon on the tale of the Magi: we are called to go home by another road. I'm off down that road now, chasing the ever-elusive ox.