Saturday, November 29, 2008

Searching Along the Road of Faith

I plead a turkey day-induced coma as to why my column managed to be 23 hours late! - JKM

My religious background contains a hodgepodge of theology. My mother grew up Roman Catholic with a Lutheran father. My father grew up Sikh in a Hindu country. I grew up Quaker, which is the religion both of my parents had found/converted to before I was born. I still believe in the faith and practice of the Religious Society of Friends and identify myself as such to this day.

In fifth grade, I went to an Episcopal school where all the classes attended services every morning. I loved the hymns; "Morning has Broken" was a favorite. For college, I attended a Jesuit university and went to mass weekly (a choice, not a requirement). I came thisclose to getting a minor in theology, but decided on writing instead. After college, I attended the Metropolitan Community Church and the Episcopal Church equally in the Florida Keys. My mother now lives at a Jewish nursing home, where she visits with the rabbi and is learning about the Torah. I go to Shabbat dinner when I visit her.

So where does my interest and belief in religion intersect with my interest in paranormal writing and the paranormal? In some ways, the story I've been working on, Walking in the Dark, has always been about faith -- believing in something even when there's no empirical evidence. The first versions even had a pastor as a main character and love interest, until the story decided it didn't need him.

I have read the Bible, the Book of Common Prayers, the Dalai Lama and books by various Christian and Buddhist mystics and saints, though I wouldn't characterize myself as a particularly religious person. One thing I've found in my readings is how much of the mystical appears in religious writings. Psychics, soothsayers and mediums can be found in the Old Testament, as can demons and angels.

I can't say that my research in the paranormal or theology has made me a true believer. I can say that my religion has led me to be unafraid of asking questions and of searching for where the answers take me -- both in life and in fiction.

I come to religion, the possibilities of the paranormal and writing with an open mind, ready to go wherever the road takes me.

In ghostly spirits,
J.K. Mahal

Photo of Haverford Monthly meeting courtesy of Martin Kelley.

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