Current Issue

SAINTS & SINNERS: Parabola Volume 48, No. 3, Fall 2023

At about age ten, I was given a tiny silver crucifix on a chain. I was told that it contained a “relic” of a saint, which I guessed meant a bit of hair or bone, not realizing that more likely it was a fragment of a cloth the saint had touched. It wasn’t long before I’d pried it apart, which I figured was wrong, even sinful, but curiosity trumped virtue—and all I could see was grit and dust. 

That is the closest I have been to a proclaimed saint (whose name I never learned), although I’ve met vernacular saints, His Holiness Dalai Lama and Mister Rogers among them. As for sinners, it takes only a mirror to greet one, assuming, as many of the contributors to this Fall 2023 issue of Parabola do, that saint and sinner reside within us all. Even within, as Richard Smoley vividly demonstrates here, a personage as notorious as Rasputin—or as esteemed as Bill Wilson, the co-founder of A.A., whom Dawn Eden Goldstein brings to dramatic life. This is in the nature of things, explains Rabbi Eliezer Shore in his thoughtful contribution, for, in the words of the Baal Shem Tov, “evil is a setting for the good”—we would not know one without the other.

And yet there are individuals who truly reflect the Good in their lives, among them several illumined in this issue, including the Sufi “saint” Rabia; the Zen master known as the “tea saint”; Hindu healer and mystic Ramalakshmi Pathaneni, interviewed here; St. Francis, Rumi, and Dogen; and, arguably the most popular modern-day Catholic saint, Padre Pio, who apparently could bilocate and levitate, and who exhibited stigmata. And then there are those who embrace sin—some as a means to explore what is hidden, like Jean Iversen in her memoir here of watching “Condemned” movies, and some seemingly just for the hell of it, such as Aleister Crowley, “The Beast 666,” a black magician who in these pages encounters another sort of magician entirely in the person of G.I. Gurdjieff.

We hope you enjoy spending time with the many saints and sinners in this issue. May they all serve to guide you on the way.

—Jeff Zaleski

table of contents

“Mister You Go?”  The Editors  
When G.I. Gurdjieff met Aleister Crowley

”Evil Is a Setting for the Good”  Eliezer Shore
A Talmudic path beyond duality

A Higher Power   Dawn Eden Goldstein
The spiritual awakening of a world-class drunk

The Real Rasputin?  Richard Smoley
A fresh look at “the mad monk”

Enlightened Contemporaries  Steve Kanji Ruhl 
St. Francis, Dogen, and Rumi point the way

Rated “Condemned”  Jean Iversen 
Tasting the forbidden fruit

The Hagiographer  Andrew McCarron
In tribute to everyday saints 

Walking with Thoreau…  Keith Badger
…in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis

Meeting the Shadow  Connie Zweig 
Darkness on the Path

Karma  Peter Singer and Shih Chao-Hwei
An acclaimed philosopher and a Buddhist nun on 
the price of doing right and wrong

Seventeen Million Strong  The Editors
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Tea Saint  H. Talat Halman
Sen no Rikyu and his enduring legacy

The Sacred Clown  Mary Lane Potter
Wake up, sleepy heads! 

Saint Sara-la-Kali  Arienne King
The Black Madonna of the Romani

A Saint of Remarkable Character  Usha Akella
A conversation with Indian mystic Ramalakshmi Pathaneni

La Llorona  Edward W. Wood, Jr.
A visitation in the night

Padre Pio da Pietrelcina  The Holy See
A saint for the ages

A Holy Life  Claud Field
Celebrating Rabia, a Sufi saint


Journey of the Rainbow Serpent
Anonymous / Aboriginal  
Retold by Nartana Premachandra  

book review

The Search for Meaning and the Mystery of Consciousness  Stephen Aronson / reviewed by Jack Cain