Beth Holloway Oer
One morning while I was on tour in Ohio, staying with my friend Shelley, she got a text message from her friend Beth, who lives in Germany but is originally from the US. Beth had seen an event Shelley posted about one of my upcoming readings and was intrigued by what the posting said about To Drink from the Silver Cup. She went online to try to order it, but at first it seemed she couldn’t get it in Germany, and she had messaged Shelley for suggestions. A few minutes later she reported success and also sent me a friend request. Later I got a message about how much healing had taken place through her reading of the book. In particular she mentioned my rewritten version of the Apostles Creed. As we exchanged thoughts and experiences, she mentioned her own statement of faith, which she’d sent to her sister, who is religiously conservative. After reading it, her sister told her she was bound for hell. In the process, Beth sent me the letter she’d sent her sister, and my response was much different from her sister’s. I was deeply moved by it, particularly by her experience in the shower and later that day in church. I also identified with how she deals with scripture she doesn’t understand. I asked if I could publish her letter as a guest post, and she graciously agreed.
From early childhood I have been aware of the spiritual. I remember at the age of six or seven putting myself into a trance by repeating, “I am I,” until I would feel myself expanding beyond myself. Hard to explain that experience. I stopped being able to achieve it after about the age of ten. I was confused the first time I tried it and it didn’t “work” and nothing “happened.” I missed being able to go beyond myself.
In the meantime I was taken to church (we were Methodists from my mother’s side, Baptists from my father’s side) and to Sunday school, read my Children’s Bible Stories that Granny had given me when I was three years old, when she discovered I could recognize JFK but not Jesus. I also read the occasional Jehovah’s Witness pamphlet that would wander into our home. There was one that proclaimed that if a member of the family was saved, they could pray for the rest of the family to save them. I literally prayed the whole night, sweating in my bed, hoping I could somehow save Mom and Dad. When I was confirmed into the church at age 14 I did so because I truly believed everything I had been taught up to that point. I went up to the altar rail convinced I was a sinner, in all humbleness.
But at about the same time I began to wonder about the theology behind the Christian faith. I started reading books on comparative religions and began to feel the conviction that something in the theology was wrong. How could everybody be talking about a loving God who then condemned his creation to hell? The whole business of heaven/hell seemed wrong to me. I remember having a big argument in Sunday school about whether Buddhists or Muslims or Jews were damned. Our Sunday school teacher preached the “straight line” that if they had heard of Jesus Christ and not believed, they were going to hell. That made no sense to me. Who wants to pray to a God who is so jealous, mean and spiteful? Who chooses and picks favorites? Or even worse, who “knows” and who has already “picked” the ones to be saved?
It seemed to me a religion based solely on FEAR. Fear of eternal damnation, fear of retribution. Where was the love?
Then I went to a few retreats and had my “Jesus freaks” experiences. The youth at these retreats had swallowed the dogma, hook line and sinker, but seemed so fake to me that it totally put me off. To them, you were saved only if you spoke in tongues. They prayed with such a supercilious expression on their faces. I spoke to one girl because I was worried about my mother, who was in the hospital at the time, and she asked me if I wanted to pray. I definitely wanted prayer for my mother. But then she began speaking in tongues, which made me feel sick. It was as if she was glorifying herself and I felt nothing, no comfort, no relief.
At this time I was introduced to the idea of reincarnation, and that made sense to me. Experiencing cause and effect as a learning experience seemed more in line with a loving creator who gives his children an opportunity to grow and learn by experiencing the results of their actions and the free will to do them.
When I graduated from high school and went off to college, a Lutheran university, I lived for a long time with the feeling that I wanted to believe (like a good orthodox Christian) but just couldn’t. I admired Dr. Busarow, my professor and organ teacher for his adamant Lutheran faith. At that point in time I was ministered to by music. Bach’s B-minor Mass and Brahm’s Requiem would connect me to my soul in a way that reading the Bible or prayer just couldn’t. Hymns and anthems could reach me. A Bach fugue was prayer.
After a “lost time” when I was more concerned with earthly things—sex, alcohol, etc.—I started reading the works of Edgar Cayce. That was the first time I encountered the term “Gnostic” or “Gnosticism.” Cayce said in his writings that this was the Christianity that Jesus actually taught. His description of cosmology is very complex, but to summarize it succinctly, one could say it is a melding of Eastern and Western religious beliefs, putting Christ at the top. His description of Christ being a savior by being an inner teacher resonated with me. An inner, personal relationship to the Teacher was what I wanted.
Cayce’s writings didn’t help me much in my day-to-day spiritual work, though. I didn’t know really how to connect to my Teacher.
Finally I accepted the Greek idea of knowing that I know nothing. I left off trying to comprehend with my mind and tried to experience the Divine by getting out of the way and shutting my ego up through meditation. At times I would experience a feeling of oneness that would last for a short time before my mind would start its endless blah-blah up again.
During this time I completely left the church. The work I was doing in Fulda, a city in Germany, with Larissa Kylius at the piano was spiritual in nature and filled the void I had been feeling. Larissa had developed a system of playing the piano that involved learning total immersion in the moment and in sound, which was incredible. Unfortunately, she also had an extreme need to control all of her students. Her misuse of power finally led me to break with her after 15 years of study. When I left, I took the best and left the rest from that system. It had taught me how to get out of the way and let something (music) happen. At least I could be egoless at the keyboard. Well, it was a start.
I blundered about for a few years until I had a reawakening to the church. My husband Herms and I had gone to hear the new organ in Bad Gandersheim on Easter Sunday 2000. At the end of the service everyone chanted the Apostle’s Creed and I found myself getting really, really mad. How could anyone say that crap??? I couldn’t get the words out. I choked on them. I asked Herms about it, and he said he wasn’t bothered by it. That week I fumed and questioned, fumed and questioned. The next Sunday I was under the shower, and I heard the church bells ringing. All of a sudden, I had a vision. I could see/feel my ancestors lined up behind me and I realized I had been baptized because of their love and faith and that was truly the “faith of my fathers” and mothers—especially Mother. All the time the water was running over me. I got out of the shower and told Herms I was going to church and asked if he wanted to go with me. So we went. And the first hymn was “Ich bin getauft in deinem Namen” (I am baptized in your name). Tears were running down my cheeks. Then came the sermon—on Thomas the Doubter!!! All I could say was, “Lord, I am here.”
I went back to the church still believing in reincarnation, still having all the doubts I had had before, with the exception that my experience led me to believe God loved me and had me in His hand and would lead me.
Soon after that I discovered the Gnostic gospels—especially the Gospel According to Thomas. When I read that, I feel I am at Jesus’s feet. It is a compilation of His sayings--nothing more, nothing less. Often I read it and feel something in my soul grasping it. Other times I can only say, “Well, that is over my head. Lord, help me to understand, help me grasp it, fill me.”
I still read the Bible. But I run across passages that I just cannot believe. These I just let go, or I ask for guidance to understand and comprehend. At times I find myself reading passages through Gnostic eyes, and am filled; other times I find myself appalled and frustrated. The New Testament is a compilation of copies of copies of copies, and sometimes I feel my inner bullshit detector going off when I’m reading it. So no, I don’t see the Bible as the infallible word of God. God is a concept that is beyond words, anyway, and putting His reality into three-dimensional language can only distort. That is my belief.
Finally I was led to A Course in Miracles, which I am using now to further my soul learning. Parts of it I have sent to you. “Preparing the Second Coming” to me means inner work, forgiving myself and others.
Maybe I am wrong, and the second coming will be a physical occurrence. Cayce said as much in some, but not all of his readings, which correlates with Revelation in the Bible. But my belief is that it will be a psychological, spiritual experience and awakening of the individual and the realization of his true spiritual nature and oneness with all creation. And it is for all creation. And in that belief I am a Gnostic.
Thank you so much for caring so much to ask me about my beliefs and letting me express them as much as I can find words for them.
© Beth Holloway Oer All Rights Reserved