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  • Writer's pictureMarc-Henri Sandoz

The Wonder-full Path

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

Author blurb: A former Protestant seminarian and ex-Roman Catholic, Barrett Evans is now skeptical of traditional dogmas but retains a fascination with certain non-supernatural aspects of spirituality. This meditation is based on content from his book The Contemplative Skeptic. (A slightly different adaptation of this chapter previously ran on A short account of Barrett’s journey can be found here.

Filled with a sense of awe in the natural and supernatural worlds, loricas are ancient Christian prayers believed to have been heavily influenced by the conventions of Druidic incantations. They were numerous in the early Irish church and were thought to be a protection from evil forces and dark magic.

Although there are good reasons to be skeptical about magic and supernaturalism, there is no need to reject the power of awe and the value of wonder. In the words that philosopher-theologian Rudolf Otto (1869-1937) used to describe the experience of the Holy, the universe is both a mysterium tremendum and a mysterium fascinans—an astounding and fascinating mystery.

Although borrowing some language and structure from a lorica known as “The Breastplate of St. Patrick,” my musings here are meant to be a journey in a different direction:

I arise today

With a renewal of Focus,

With a remembrance of Wonder,

With an openness to Reality.

I stand in awe today of

The majesty of the Heavens,

The brilliance of the Sun,

The whiteness of Snow,

The radiance of Fire,

The flashing of Lightning,

The rushing of Wind,

The depth of the Sea,

The stability of the Earth,

The hardness of Rocks.

I am spellbound today by

The numbers of the Stars,

The glories of the Sunset,

The blackness of Caverns,

The shine of the Harvest Moon,

The glow of the Aurora,

The eruption of the Volcano,

The roar of the Gale,

The quiet of falling Snow.

I marvel today at

The sprouting of Seeds,

The spreading of Forests,

The chattering of Insects,

The soaring of the Hawk,

The jumping of the Fish,

The running of the Deer,

The howling of the Wolf,

And the thoughts of Humanity.

There is Wonder within me, Wonder before me, Wonder after me,

Wonder under me, Wonder above me,

Wonder at my right, Wonder at my left,

Wonder in lying down, Wonder in sitting, Wonder in rising.

Wonder in every mind that thinks,

Wonder in every mouth that speaks,

Wonder in every eye that sees,

Wonder in every ear that hears.

May this sense of Wonder be with me always.

While there are typically no creeds or confessions among the non-dogmatic, the best forms of skeptical spirituality nonetheless seem to embrace a mix of both affirmation and negation. Awe is cherished—while superstition and supernaturalism are met with suspicion. Mystery is valued—while dogmatic speculations and obfuscations are set aside. Reason is held in high esteem—but with a recognition of the routine and far-reaching effects of human fallibility and ignorance. Admissions of human shortcomings are encouraged—while the call to growth is made without the warping weapons of fearmongering and self-loathing. Compassion is often seen as paramount—but with an acknowledgment that empathy is sometimes wrapped in challenge.

A skeptical contemplative path at its best is thus not negativity, but rather a way for discerning both what to hold onto—as well as what to leave behind.

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