Thank you, Glenville Ashby for making both possible.
Dr. Ashby is a columnist for the Gleaner who came across my Church of the Churchless blog somehow or other (i've forgotten the how that he told me).
He got in touch with me by email. Then, a few weeks ago, we talked by phone about my religious past and non-religious present.
Here's a link to the Gleaner story, "Church of the Churchless: A Home for Former Believers," that was sent to me by Dr. Ashby.
Nicely done, Glenville. Our phone connection was OK, but not great. And I enthusiastically jabbered on about all kinds of stuff, which must have made it difficult to take notes.
An excerpt from the piece:
We are well aware that many are repulsed and disillusioned by religion because of the violence and death that surround it.
But many have also abandoned their faith because of the unfulfilled promises found in sacred literature, many of which are delivered as truth by religious leaders.
Brian Hines' story is one such example. Hines is an author, scholar, and a man worn by his indefatigable search for spiritual truth.
His quest, spanning nearly four decades is not unfamiliar. He recalls his youthful, college days in the 1960s, when the counter culture of sex, rock and roll, and psychedelic drugs held sway. It was a period that welcomed the 'God is dead' philosophy.
"Experiencing a drug-free high was my goal, the Oregon resident said. I remember being initiated by a Greek yoga master who practiced an eclectic blend of Christianity and Eastern philosophy." A theological disagreement led to his departure from that yoga master, but his thirst for knowledge never abated.
Hines was introduced to an Eastern-based mystical organisation called Surat Shabd Yoga, translated, 'Union with the Essence of the Absolute Being.'
Like most mystical philosophies, it promised direct experience with the divine. Soul travel demanded a disciplined, near ascetic life. "I used a mantra (a sacred word that is repeated mentally), that was given to me when I was initiated by Sri Charan Singh. I meditated on a daily basis, sometimes up to two hours on a given sitting," Hines confided. He also went to India on spiritual retreats.
But the much-touted inner experiences: the sounds and lights of God eluded him.
"Losing faith in any spiritual group does not happen instantaneously. It's a process," he continued. "When my breaking point was near, I remember asking my guru to show me a sign, something tangible to convince me that I was on the true path. But it never happened, at least not in a dramatic sense. I may have had subtle experiences, but how do I know if it's authentic or just the brain or my mind at work?"