DANCE OF THE FALLEN MONK: The Twists and Turns of a Spiritual Life by George Fowler

DANCE OF THE FALLEN MONK: The Twists and Turns of a Spiritual Life

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Ex-monk Fowler (Teaching Your Heart to Dance, not reviewed) tells the story of his life, celebrating self-discovery and scathingly attacking organized religion in general and Catholicism in particular. In the late 1940s, hundreds of American ex-servicemen joined the toughest and most regimented of the Catholic Church's monastic orders, the Trappists, only to find themselves confronted with the Second Vatican Council and the changed world of the 1960s, which challenged them to reevaluate many of the order's customs. Fowler grew up in Montana, plagued with doubts about himself and his masculinity. Enlisting in the Navy at age 17 in 1946, he exchanged his stepmother's Mormonism for the Catholic faith; in 1950 he entered the Trappist Abbey of the Trinity in Utah, where he was later ordained a priest. Encouraged by the questioning atmosphere of the '60s, he came to realize the neurotic and immature basis of his monastic life. In 1967 he left the abbey, lived as a priest-student near San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury area, and soon rejoiced in a new experience of freedom and sexual experimentation (somehow unconstrained by financial concerns). In 1970, Fowler left the Church and married a former nun. He writes off monastic life as a series of petty rules motivated by a futile delight in having one's life run by others and castigates the Catholic Church as a clinging mother who offers rudimentary spirituality at the cost of personal individuation. He aligns himself with Emerson and Joseph Campbell, maintaining that all religions are simply schools for self-actualization (and unsuccessful ones at that) from which we need to graduate. Fowler's personal search ""to be okay"" reads like the reversal of Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain and, unfortunately, has little to offer beyond euphoric pantheism. As he puts it, ""I am Eternal Existence expressing here as me.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley