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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, January 11, 2004
    Free your mind
     
    After Wednesday's 'team shirt' question, here's another - ought a curate read the Fortean Times? Well, this one does and here's one reason why: it takes dreams seriously.

    I first bought the Fortean Times to keep me company on the tube last time I was in London, and loved it. It's a kinda glossy Northern Earth, a mag for people who believe that truth is stranger - and more fascinating - than fiction, and like searching for it in the outer reaches of experience. In the past, in the skies, and in the realm of the paranormal.

    I've just spent a month encouraging tinies to act out the journey of a group of stargazers, encouraging oldies to be excited about the message angels bring, preaching on the dreams of Joseph, Magi, Simeon and so on, each of them events at the heart of the central story of our faith. This side of Christmas it's obvious to me: how can a curate not be interested in exploring this sort of stuff?

    In the excellent Under the Unpredictable Plant Eugene Peterson lists fourteen spiritual disciplines which we dip in and out of at various times in our lives: spiritual reading, spiritual direction, meditation, confession, bodily exercise, fasting, Sabbath-keeping, dream interpretation, retreats, pilgrimage, almsgiving (tithing), journaling, sabbaticals, and small groups. Dream interpretation - the Fortean Times I picked up last year contained lots of dream material: people experimenting with dreams in particular places, news items about premonitions various folk had had in their sleep, and so on. Well, there's a thing - Fortean Times as an aid to spiritual development...

    This isn't to say I take Fortean Times entirely seriously. I doubt anyone should, as I suspect the editors don't. With gravity and wit, the current issue examines how generations of artists have used various kinds of drugs to assist their searches for inspiration. Well, I'm sure I've benefited from the fruits of such experimentation - indeed we all have, as the two words "Keith Richards" amply illustrate. Now, a footnote in Peterson's book tells us that in the sixties, in at least two seminaries, professors of worship and liturgy were conducting such experiments, using hallucinogenic drugs in eucharistic worship. I can feel another question coming on...