Moving back to Virginia was not easy. Mainly I had piles of books to transport. So I rented a truck to carry my books and a few of my belongings and drove across the country. I had flown out earlier and had found a cottage out in the countryside, near Charles City, that was also just a few minutes drive to Christ Church Abbey. It took me awhile to get settled. Then I started doing a lot of land- scaping. That took awhile, since there was a pretty piece of property involved. After a year I realized that what with the patios, small gardens, and larger trees that I had planted, I had created a hermitage. But I must add that I didn't live like a hermit, but I did enjoy the solitude of my new home. It had become a place of peace for me, and I was grateful to God for having found it.
I also plugged into the local wetland council in Charles City and offered my services as a volunteer. This time around I decided to limit my time, because I sensed that I was ready to plunge into a different kind of work (or challenge). Consequently, I participated in a bird-monitoring group only periodically.
My main priority after settling in was to re-establish myself at Christ Church Abbey. I sorely needed to get back into the Benedictine routine when it came to the liturgy and prayer. Eventually I began to get back into the monastic flow, and at least spent a couple of days a week visiting the monastery.
One major issue that whirled around in my head was one of the Benedictine mainstays: *conversio morum,* about becoming closer to Christ. Formation was also involved. After awhile I found myself a spiritual guide at the Abbey--a lovely monastic, Fr. Keith was also a very pastoral-type priest, who exuded a genuine care for others. Being the kind of strange "bird" that I am, I still wonder how he has ever put up with me!
Fr. Keith knew my background, which seemed almost a dichotomy of the "warrior" and the "monk." I was still having a tough time seeing this archetypal life of mine as ALTOGETHER. Therefore, I had trouble with self-acceptance--particularly as a Christian. My former military background seemed unacceptable now, though at the time I truly believed that I was nobly serving as a protector of the Nation. I couldn't be placated, even when it was pointed out to me that several of the professed monastics at the abbey were former military men. And my Oblate Director had been a lady Marine officer! So why in the world was I all down-in-the-mouth? Get real, realize that life is not a story of sweet perfection.
The important thing is to realize what is Right and Good in this world. Most of the time we walk around like moral zombies, never entertaining these qualities in any depth. That's why the world is the way it is, poor and oft dangerous. And just maybe the military is a necessity in this world, holding off the danger, so that some ingredients of Civilization can creep forth and (with some luck) take hold.
Just saying all this makes it sound easy, just get over my issues! But it took a long time, and even now I sometimes worry.
Regardless, Fr. Keith put it straight. As a Benedictine Oblate, as a Christian, I needed to come "to know" Christ better and better! Of course, what with my earlier Theological Studies, I had enjoyed a deeper exposure to Christology. Humanity has been pondering over the many concepts of Christ that have abounded nearly since the death of Jesus. But to be frank, I wasn't all that thrilled over either traditional or even the more contemporary Christologies. The problem seemed to be that they failed to employ the knowledge-base that was more familiar to me: namely Scientific discoveries.
Shortly before I returned to Virginia, I had come across yet another Templar tidbit. Actually it was a book about the Rosicrucian Order, a gift sent to me from a friend as a Christmas present. After I read through all the "magical" qualities of the Rosy Cross, I spied a reference to the Enlightenment--which was a widespread cultural movement in Europe during the latter part of the 18th century. That attracted my attention when I read that some of the Rosicrucian luminaries leading up to the Enlightenment were rather important personages: Francis Bacon, Robert Fludd, and Elias Ashmole.
I remembered visiting the Ashmolean Musem at Oxford when I was touring around Britain with Edward. Checking out these persons, it seemed they were early scientists--no matter that they may have been into alchemy. Of course, too, it's a moot point as to whether any of those folk were actually Rosicrucians. As for the Rosicrucian Manifestos, they probably originated with a Lutheran minister in the early part of the 17th century. They called for socio-political reform, wrapped in magical religious terms. Yet--delving more into Rosicrucian history, one has to admit that Rosicrucian thought considerably impacted on the Enlightenment that was eventually to follow.
It was a period where the common man was breaking out from under the tutelage of feudal authorities and principalities all over Europe. Aristocracy and Church were both under fire. Democratic movements were afoot, assisted by fervor. Even the later American Revolution followed in the footsteps of the Enlightenment.
However, what particularly interested me about the Rosicrucians was this idea that they were offshoots of the Templars. Again, we enter into what I call the "Templar Myth." After the Templar Order was destroyed, those Knights Templar who survived disappeared into the monasteries, into other knightly orders--that's History. On the other hand, in later centuries myths and fantasies arose about these mysterious fallen Templars. There's the thought that they inserted themselves into the Peasant Rebellion in England, circa 1381 c.e., which later influenced the Freemasonry Movement. Other Templar myths and fantasies were circulating around Europe, and one of those was connected with the Rosicrucians!
Of course there's the obvious--the Rosy Cross. Does it emanate from the red-splayed cross of the Knights Templar? Lots of people want to believe this. And there's also the formation process of the Rosicrucian Order, which originally was based on the Qabala. But recent presentations of this process have shifted to a more magical orientation that includes adepts, magi, etc. And one of the highest modern Rosicrucian formation stages is now actually called the "Master of the Temple." Hence, people jump at a Rosicrucian and Templar connection.
But I guess what caught my eye in all this was the sense that Science was beginning to enter into the picture. I knew that Elias Ashmole had been one of the founders of the Royal Society in Britain, wherein even to this day its membership includes famous scientists. Whether ever Rosicrucian or not, the Royal Society was a major stepping-stone towards scientific progress in this world.
And, somehow, I felt I was getting a "message" from working through all this Rosicrucian history--no matter whether a Templar connection or not--and it seemed to be pointing towards a blend of Science and Spirituality. Suddenly things clicked, and I had found myself a new challenge!