Anne Mason and Thea Mason –– — with returning guest Drake Mason-Koehler
What does a priest provide that we can’t provide ourselves?
VIDEO TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
Anne: 00:01 Okay. Here we are again, we’re going to dive into some possibly controversial topics. I want to ask the question, can we be our own priests?
Drake: 00:18 Yeah. Remembering what we were talking about last time where we, we sort of discussed different spiritual paths that people might have, whether they, I believe in God, whether they don’t believe in God whether they’re agnostic and whatever they’re sort of moral guidelines or a spiritual path might be. And coming back to this question of whether we could be our own priest, I feel like that leads me to think about what are the things that I would want a priest to do. ‘Cause I’ve never been a part of an organized religion. I’ve never had a priest. I’ve gone to church a couple of times, I’ve talked with a couple different priests, and it seems like a very important thing is that you would confide, right? And I know that that’s different in Christianity depending on whether you’re Protestant or Catholic in terms of things that confession and stuff like that. But that kind of leads to this difficulty of building up a relationship with yourself where you actually confide things or dialogue about things with yourself, whatever that would look like. Would it be a journal? Would it be a prayer? Would it be a conversation with a loved one? I feel like these are all different spaces that you could sort of hold that confidence with.
Anne: 01:45 So in that’s the context of a counselor almost. Right? So a priest serves as a counselor and a guide to people. And we all need that sometimes. The reason the question comes up for me is that I have a difficulty with the idea of a middleman between me and my source. And maybe I have it wrong. Maybe the priest doesn’t get in the way of that. I don’t know. But Drake has gotten me reading The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, and I’m only about halfway through. Drake has read it and there’s a particular chapter that came to mind when we were talking about this before we started recording. Drake, could you describe it briefly?
Drake: 02:59 Yeah. Well, we were talking about about The Grand Inquisitor (chapter), and I remember I first read that book in high school and then re-read it recently. And it’s pretty life changing. But I do remember that chapter where one of the brothers presents a poem to his younger brother. And in the poem––it’s set in the Inquisition in Spain where many heretics have been burnt––and Jesus appears. And the Inquisitor instead of celebrating or kneeling down or anything like that, sends Jesus off to prison. And then comes down later, I think it’s later that evening, to interrogate him and tell him how in refusing the temptations of the devil––which is in I think Matthew and Luke section four or something like that––how they damned mankind to be free and who they choose to worship, to have freedom of conscience and have to try to be their own conscience. And he, the Inquisitor talks about how the church has stepped in to be that authority and to be what he thinks Jesus couldn’t be. Keep in mind, I mean I have to keep in mind this is all Dostoevsky’s view of the church. But what the Inquisitor lists off that he thinks that the church has provided for people, that Jesus refused to give, is miracle, mystery and authority. And so I feel like in Anne’s question of, “Can we be our own priests?”, well then we have to ask like, is that necessary? Like do we want the authority of a priest? Do we want miracle to come from, cause that’s another thing when you’re talking about, you know, not wanting a priest. I feel like, I mean I know human beings can be incredible, but I don’t look at them as exalted in that way. And I feel like that’s something that rubs me the wrong way. If someone was to tell me I needed a priest to have a relationship with God, I’d be like, well, I know he’s studied the text more than I have, but what makes what makes them special?
Thea: 04:54 We’re all creations of the, out of some divine.
Anne: 04:58 Right. If we all have a divine spark in us, if we are all God’s children, why should one have more authority over that relationship than another?
Thea: 05:14 And I mean, and that’s wherewe were talking a little bit about the priest or whatever the Holy person is in a tradition that they do provide that quality of being a wise person, an elder or some sort of a guide like we just spoke of. And then there’s also that these are people who are dedicating their lives to this practice of this religion, of this tradition. And so therefore they’re giving their time and energy and efforts in a daily practice that maybe strengthens…The reason I’m saying this is because when you were saying that, it’s like, yeah, do they have a direct line to God? Is it like their channel’s a little clearer? And maybe that is what it is a little bit. Maybe their channel and frequency is tuned in a little bit more clearly, and in a stronger path to it because it’s been practiced.
Anne: 06:30 Well, and because they are devoting themselves to that. Right? Whereas we’re raising kids, we’re doing the work in the worldly world that is not giving us that time or allowing that, allowing us to become as learned first off in that way so that we have so many resources to draw upon, but also that we are not spending as much time in prayer, in meditation, and perhaps in direct connection with source.
Thea: 07:05 I mean that’s a question. That’s a possibility.
Drake: 07:09 I think at least on the moral side of things. And in speaking to that sort of like need for authority, like if we do have a need for authority, because it seems especially like today, it seems a big claim to say that people have a need for religious authority. It’s like you can just look around and be like, plenty of people don’t seem to have that need. Right? But it seems fair to say that we at least have some sort of tendency to want to, to look to a moral authority when it comes to things. And we might want to escape it. But we so often, like at least I know I so often want to appeal to something, to be able to judge actions. To be able to look at myself, you know, have I treated these people right? Like what am I going to compare that to? And when you’re talking about people who’ve dedicated their life to something, it seems like that’s an easy way to, to feel trust. Like this person is going to hopefully tell me the right thing to do. They’ve dedicated their life to being able to tell me the right thing to do.
Anne: 08:10 Yeah, yeah. They’ve been studying this so much. They intimately understand it. They have dissected it, they have contemplated it.
Thea: 08:19 And they’ve observed, right? And had experience. And seen others.
Drake: 08:25 Well, people are busy, right? Like, yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard to be able to do your whole day at work or do whatever it is you’re doing. Take care of your kids and then check in with yourself and be like, you know, how am I holding up to this moral standard? That’s a whole extra level of work to do and trust in yourself. That’s difficult.
Thea: 08:44 And that takes us a little bit too, and I don’t know if I segue too much right here, but the need of, what was it you said? Magic, mystery, authority? Miracle, mystery and authority. But that we were talking about a little bit in terms of this idea of being our own priest or priestess is having ritual, having a practice of some sort that brings us back to that space of reflection or meditation or whatever it is. Something that is part of our daily rhythm that brings us to a space of that observation really, or contemplation in some way. And I was saying that that’s what, you know, Hatha yoga came out as, I mean that’s a practice for the householder to attain self-realization. You know, because you are busy with life works of managing a household and children and all of that. But then ritual, magic, when you were saying the need for a moral authority, that, I mean our sense of that checking in with ourselves, but also, I mean, we look at our world, we have a need for mystery and miracle, you know, that is huge. And we see it in people’s excitement of tech, technological advances. We see it in all sorts of these things that show a little bit of mystery that we go Ooh. And miracle. Okay. So anyway, I went all over.
Drake: 10:42 So that’s a funny thing looking at the, at the modern world, like I mean, so few of the people that I know are a part of organized religion, and I know they’re still so many people that are and have that as a part of their daily life. But it seems like generally, or in many cases, we don’t want the miracle, mystery and authority all in the same place. Like we still want those things, but to have them all in one figure, it seems like, I mean, so when you’re talking about us being our own priests, it brings back the conversation to like, well would I want a priest to do that if I was going to have a priest, I don’t know.
Anne: 11:33 Well so correct me if I’m wrong. I think where you’re going is that so the miracle and mystery, well we can perceive certainly the mystery, right? We can perceive that there is the mystery, and we might be able to bear witness to the miracle. Right? But do we also then want to answer the question? Do we want to then appeal to our own authority in making sense of all of it? Is that kind of what you’re saying?
Drake: 12:06 Right. Yeah. Cause I mean that, that at times that seems impossible. Right? To, you know, at the end of the day, come back and have yourself as the authority.
Thea: 12:20 Yeah. Well, I wonder if there’s something else in that authority is that that’s a thread to community and not being alone. When there is an authority and you, if there are many that link to an authority figure in some way, that builds community.
Drake: 12:43 Right. I feel like elders that I’ve known, you know who I’m thinking of. But like they can be that figure in a community to some extent. I mean in a different way, but still someone that another young person and I can look to and, and go, you know, we’re going to be reverent to this person because look how much he’s lived and look what he has to say. Let’s listen. Because if we’re both doing that, it’s somehow affirming both of us, both of our experience in the moment, right? Like if we’re both, we’re both hushing down when this older man is talking or we’re both, you know, offering to help this older person. Like it’s a shared reverence that shows we’re both kind of on the same wavelength.
Thea: 13:27 And that’s one of the things that I think is so important. And I think maybe that’s one of the things that comes out of the need for something outside of ourselves. Is that sense of togetherness that we feel with others when we are having something shared, something profound that we share.
Anne: 13:51 Well so makes me think of a couple of things. Number oneI suppose this might seem obvious, but the priest is channeling, presumably channeling communication with God, connection to source and representing in some ways. A representative. The priest is a representative in the same way, you know, you might say parents are also representative to the child of the divine. We are an earthly manifestation to channel that perhaps. And speaking to your point, Thea, and yours, Drake, that, together we all revere, rightfully revere our elders, first of all. Our elders and those who have experienced and become wise. And so even in revering them, they do become elevated, right? And so…go ahead.
Drake: 15:13 Well, right. And in that sense, they seem like a representative too, right? Like if someone has made it to 80 years old and they look happy, they’re healthy. And they’re talking about, you know, whatever it is, some experience or you know, they’re telling their grandchild that was the wrong thing to do. And explaining something to them. It seems that they’re representative of living a good moral life. Right? And I’m sure there’s immoral old people…
Thea: 15:43 Well, not all old people are wise. I mean, not all old people shine.
Drake: 15:50 Well and not for everyone would you hush your voice as they, when they start talking, because you have some sort of reverence., And I feel like with many, many elderly people, that’s my initial reaction because they at least seem like a representative of that. So when Anne’s talking about the priest being a representatives and parents being representative, like you were thinking about parents also as a representative of wisdom, too. Right?
Thea: 16:16 And that’s what I was saying––or is it the same thing really like that not necessarily only that vessel of communication from the divine or the source, but the wisdom that comes through experience and observation, but from my experience so far in the moments where I feel like I’m exercising wisdom, when other things fall away and what’s left is that wisdom or that experience or that compassion of truth, when the other things fall away, that to me there is something in that that that is a channeling of what is good and true and, and is. Regardless.
Drake: 17:05 Well, it’s like, I mean to look, I feel to look at something similar to that in a different way is like, it’s almost just like giving different things different weight, right? Like seeing what’s really most important or what’s truly relevant. Right. The other things falling away and being left with a single thing in a given moment, in any given moment that this is the most relevant thing right now. Even being in any dire situation and your wisdom or your past experience is telling you, okay, this is exactly what we need to do right now. And nothing else is important. It’s kind of going to one thing by itself all of a sudden.
Anne: 17:41 Well and so I would like to not go a whole lot longer this time. So I also am hearing that the priest serves as one we can dialogue our experiences with. So that we can find some objectivity to our subjective experiences. And I explained, one of the reasons that I felt that having a priest, having a middleman there to me is problematic––the other reason ismaybe this is too long a conversation right now, but going back to The Grand Inquisitor the Grand Inquisitor who was actually also the Cardinal, right? The Cardinal, the Bishop? We find out later as he relates to Jesus that actually about 800 years ago they started working with the other guy, right? And they are basically, they are, they are working with Satan. And, and the people are none the wiser. So having a priest in that capacity, in that role––it is ripe for corruption. Right? So, you know, maybe this is something to explore beyond this conversation, but so I see ideally now, and I understand even better ideally why we have a priest outside of us to help us dialogue and relate to our source. But I do see some problems with it. We have all seen the corruption around us and how that power and authority can be and has been misused.
Drake: 19:47 Right. And I feel like that that highlights again, looking for ways to be your own authority because you can follow, you can, you know, through every chain of like of authority, you can find someone for this authority to be accountable to and someone for this authority to be accountable to and so on forever. And it’s never going to be infallible, right? No person is going to be infallable. Right? So it seems like, I don’t know, I feel like my takeaway right now is that I’m my best shot in some ways.
Thea: 20:21 Well, I think so. I mean, even when we have someone who we revere, we can hear that, but then we still have to be coming to our own process.
Drake: 20:34 It’s hard though. It’s hard to revere someone and not sort of fall into a blindness regarding their faults.
Thea: 20:40 Well, we have a tendency to that. But I think if, I mean, when I think of the teachers I have who are doing it well, they don’t allow people to put them up there and worship them. You know, they remember and remind of their humanity and failings. Not that they have to lay their failings out, but there is, it takes a real something to not let people worship you if you’re doing some powerful work. And so I think in that, in ourselves as people who are looking towards having elders and wise leaders among us, we have to remember that we still have to bring it into our own process. I mean we’re talking about, at the end of the day, that part of the practice of becoming our best self and being of service to the world in a right way is to be able to have that checking in. And strengthening that, that compass, I guess, of ourself, of our own priesthood, priestliness.
Anne: 21:54 And perhaps to remember that it’s a relationship that we are required to participate in fully, at least equally with any authority that we have granted. And so that we have to continually be checking them and making sure that they are also doing the work to deserve that authority.
Thea: 22:24 Right. That we don’t hand it over blindly.
Anne: 22:27 Yeah. Or get lazy after we’ve handed it over consciously, but then over time it’s very easy to get lazy. So, I’m not sure what we’ve concluded on this one, but it was a good exploration.
Thea: 22:47 Well, it is. And I think that the one other thing I’d love to add to it though is that in order for us to be our own guides and authorities or then even in equal relationship to those that can offer that to us, is to have those spaces just being in nature too. Because we were talking a little bit, and I won’t go into it, but talking about creating places of worship or places that are Holy, and nature is one of those that we all have. To make an effort when we’re living in cities to be in that because it gives us that sense of connection, like a direct line. I mean, that’s my experience of it anyway. You know, and it charges that, it strengthens that current in us as people.
Anne: 23:47 Yes, it is very grounding. It is the grounding, I think.
Thea: 23:51 And uplifting. It’s grounding. I mean, it’s the whole thing. It’s like we become clearer to be able to perceive what is there.
Anne: 24:00 Truth. Truth. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I like that. Okay. Let’s end on that. I mean, you know, you can’t go wrong with advising that people spend more time in nature. That is, there is the quiet, there is the reverence automatically or just laid out there for us. Right? It is creation.
Thea: 24:25 Creation. Observation. I mean, when I think of the things I want to practice more, it’s that, that quiet observation and I mean, observing anything in its natural state is a good exercise.
Anne: 24:40 Yeah. It’s a good reference point. Going back to references, right? Drake, it’s resetting in nature and seeing this unadulterated creation gives us some perspective to bring back into our manmade world to check it, to see if it kind of stands up to truth.
Drake: 25:06 Right. And when you were talking about representatives too, right? Like in nature, if you can look at a natural, any little scene, right? Like a little pocket of trees in a brook somewhere, it’s kind of in a harmony, right? So you can, you can look at it as representative of things. Yeah. It does seem like nature seems to work.
Thea: 25:27 It does seem to work!
Drake: 25:29 When left to its own devices. So when you were talking about priests as representatives, and then we were talking about elders as representatives, to just kind of look at these things as examples or exemplary of something good that we might want to emulate, that seems like a path that it can take as well.
Anne: 25:45 Yes, what, and that, that nature and being there in nature and witnessing all of that perfection we can see that pattern and want to find that particular beautiful, perfect pattern in at least the ideals of those that we grant authority to?
Thea: 26:17 And even then in relationship, right? In the dynamics of relationship and the way relating is happening, those dynamics of nature, the balance. Am I losing something here? Maybe?
Anne: 26:31 We’re just, we’re just getting very abstract here, but yeah. Okay. All right. All right. Let’s cut it here and we’ll continue this dialogue in another one at some point. Thanks you guys.
Thea: 26:45 Thanks. Love you.
Anne: 26:46 Hold on one sec. Love you. Hang on one minute.