Author Vernon “Bo” McGuffee presents Drinking From an Empty Glass: Living Out of a Meaningless Spirituality as a thought-provoking text investigating the direction that modern Christianity is headed. The title is a reflection upon the evolved state of Western spirituality from the perspective of someone who identifies as Christian (a Presbyterian teaching elder), but integrates basic principles of Eastern truth-seeking consciousness, personal storytelling, and general spiritual revisionism; adapting his own relationship with the divine to accept that which has not traditionally been considered compatible with Christian doctrine.
This book is a journey for the intellectual believer, beginning with relatively gentle concepts like storytelling and personal archetypes and gradually delving into the deeper meanings of Christian stories in order to question the existential implications of living a spiritual life in the modern world. Looking deeper into one’s ingrained traditions and beliefs is the both the surest and most challenging way to regain confidence in the presence of divinity and to strengthen those beliefs with certainty. Not certainty that the words in your book or doctrine are more correct than those of another, or even that your congregation has the right version of events and traditions, but certainty that existence does not have to be framed by a pre-ordained set of absolutes. There is no “one way” to survive an eternity of damnation exclusive to whichever version of the “right way” is ultimately correct. You are not The Walking Dead just because you end up in the wrong congregation.
As the chapters unfolded I found myself challenged repeatedly to set aside my prejudices and reconsider not only the structure, but the compassionate core of Judeo-Christian belief systems. At times I had to physically set the book aside and think about the things it suggested and even the language it used. This book is not for the faint of heart -but for those who would push past the illusions of truth that are presented on an almost daily basis to modern humans and those who would actively seek to understand the impact of living and being an agent of life for those around us.
As I read this book, I felt as if my own understanding was experiencing a revolution in both the expectations I had for the text and my relationships with the more inquisitive Christians in my life. As a pagan, it is often difficult to speak openly about my spiritual experience and understanding with those who relate to the Bible or to the story of Christ’s sacrifice. It is a story of violence and contradiction, of desperate hopelessness and redemption, and those often overlooked (but profoundly important) details of the story are part of what make it so compelling and ultimately meaningful, even outside the standard teachings of the church.
From the beginning, this book challenged my preconceptions -the glossy cover with the gothic looking sculpture and stark silhouetted branches is completely at odds with the soft purple glow of a tiny butterfly in the lower right hand corner. The author’s story is about stories and archetypes, discussing the workings of personal spirituality with a truthfulness that gave me a pause at least once on just about every page. Some statements are knee-slapping “Ah, Ha!” moments and others had me scratching my head and reaching for a pen to jot down my points of contention. Throughout the book there is a distinct sense that the author is speaking with complete candor about his own views of life, the universe, and well… everything. Even when I was shaking my fist mentally and muttering as I flipped through the pages, I found myself liking his tone, irreverence and all. It is easy to intuit from his references to foundational texts, scripture, and other holy doctrines that the author is a scholar with a healthy understanding of multi-cultural belief systems.
In the final chapter, as with the end of any journey, I found myself relaxing into stride and understanding what all my perplexities had been laid out for. Drinking From an Empty Glass is a text intended to challenge the foundations of established religious structures and -at least in the mind of the reader- shake the temples into dust. By sharing his interpretations of and experiences in organized religion, McGuffee relates to the reader and plants the seeds of an altruistic spiritual revolution. It is a revolution of the soul that can only begin with a revolution of the mind. As with every great change in the tide of human events, this is a metamorphosis that must take place in the hearts and minds of those who are willing to look within and truly answer for themselves the questions that drove Martin Luther to the doors of the church with a hammer, a nail, and a proclamation.