When you hear the word “mob,” you immediately think violence. I’ve mentioned that I once was submerged into a mob mind. This probably isn’t true — though I hesitate to call the other two examples true “mob” experiences. Indeed, crowd psychologists also identify some collective consciousness experiences in religious practice.
Three religions influencing my life the most are Catholicism, Quakerism and Taoism. Twice in Quaker meetings, I experienced what the Quaker belief would call a “covering.”
For those of you not familiar with the original methodology of the Quaker meeting, you should know that this type of religious gathering is conducted in silence. There are no ministers. Nor are there sermons or readings. The meeting room contains no religious symbols. The attendees sit in silence, facing each other. For me, in many ways, this service is the most meditative of Christian services and Quakerism is the Christian sect that most closely approximates the meditative practice of various eastern religions.
If any of the Friends attending believe they’ve been given a spiritual message and feels moved to stand and speak, they do so. This should be done after the attendee goes through a number of levels of discernment. Their discernment should be dedicated to winnowing out any motivations like ego, imagination or personal need. They should be asking themselves questions even regarding the timing of the message; like whether it should be delivered during the meeting or afterwards to a single individual. Only then should the attendee speak. There are many meetings where not a single voice is raised. All simply wait humbly for the voice of God to begin.
During such silent meetings, the Quakers have designated an experience that sometimes occurs, known as a covering. A covering is where the attendees feel a complete oneness with each other. It is a deep silence that softly and sweetly “covers” the congregation and permeates the members. Is this also a collective consciousness? Having experienced this twice in Quaker meetings, I believe it is a type of collective mind. I believe it is also much more. I also recognize that like any spiritual practice that touches upon the infinite, inherently it cannot be explained with our finite language, or our tragically narrow human concepts.
What is most pertinent to The Church of Wolves is that this Quaker spiritual methodology is conducted within a community. The community guides the experience. This guidance is one of the fundamental concepts in so many religious spiritual practices. It is also one of the novel’s central themes. Without community guidance or mentorship, the spiritual seeker can become lost. Before I return to this, I have to state that for me, The Church of Wolves was one possible scenario attempting to explain the true events of what occurred in Lithuania in 1917 during World War I. I was astounded that wolves could paralyze two modern armies. Were these creatures mobilized into some sort of super efficient, predatory force? How could they move almost like they were one organism? One answer would be if they shared a single mind. Like humans, wolves are pack animals. I began to believe that wolves also could form a mob psychology. The novel hinges upon my conjecture of how the wolf mob mind formed and was controlled. This formation was without benefit of community or stewardship. As such, it was doomed to eventual failure and darkness.
You may think I took quite a leap in assuming that the wolves could form a mob mind … Perhaps I did. In my defense, I did construct other scenarios to explain those true events. However, few of those scenarios led to the type of novel that I felt emerging. I mentioned the urge to write in the first blog; there are other impulses as well. What I felt emerging was the “pace of the story.” The “pace” is when the story begins to write itself, take on its own life. It comes in scenes, bits of dialogue and even in images. Still I may have been able to direct the story away from what it eventually became. But I once had another experience that spoke directly to me when I compared it to what may have happened to those soldiers on the Eastern Front. The experience didn’t contain wolves. But it did involve a pack of feral dogs, patiently and quietly hunting me in a very dark, Pennsylvania forest. I can speak to that experience next.