The extraordinary project
Memoirs of a Spiritual Outsider
"Clores still wonders if there are others out there like herself, quietly carrying out an individual spiritual quest."
– Chicago Tribune
"Brims over with grace and heart."
– Dave Isay, Founder, StoryCorps
"The timeless journey of a young woman searching for a larger and deeper life."
– Margot Adler, author of Drawing Down the Moon
"A respectable quest...no tear-wrenching return to Christianity. Rather, this is a mature memoir that speaks to a common dilemma - how to claim and develop one's spirituality outside of a religious container."
– Gail Hudson for Amazon.com
"Reading Memoirs of a Spiritual Outsider was an experience in synchronicity! I share author Suzanne Clores' all-girl Catholic school background, I also spent my twenties focusing on spiritual discovery, and we share a birthday on el dia del muerto. In this unique memoir, Clores exhibits great courage and talent, sharing deeply personal experiences of the search for meaning in a life beyond materialism, careerism, and the bonds built in both platonic and romantic relationships. She chronicles her explorations of Wicca, Shamanism, Yoga, Vodou, Sufism, Shambhala meditation and the Burning Man Festival. These practices become integral to her, as she merges with Shamanic vision quests, changes her body and mind through yoga practice, and accepts the mindful quietude of Shambhala meditation. Her explorations reveal both innocence and cynicism, open-hearted participation in sacred space as well as dismissal.
Clores is a gifted listener with the ability to chart someone else's course from their brief revelations. By learning the stories of women she encounters in each of her quests, we are privileged to know what brings each to her path. It's an important book that chronicles a passage that many have taken. For those of us who have delved into soul searching as avidly as our peers have explored technology, music, drugs, and dance, Clores' memoir will help you feel like less of a spiritual outsider."
— Felicity Daly
A View from the Outside:
Commentary on "Outsiderness" as a Cultural Phenomenon
by Jeff Carreira of EnlightenNext
Sometimes a book comes into your attention so many times within a short amount of time that you decide that the universe is telling you to read it. That recently happened to me with Colin Wilson's 1956 title "The Outsider". I just heard about it from too many people in one three week period to ignore it. I only just started reading it, but I can already see why it made its young author a controversial intellectual.
The Outsider is a "type" according to Wilson, and it seems to me that it is a type typical to us Romantics. The outsider is just that – outside. They are not totally in life, they see through the game that "everyone" else seems to be playing and they look in at them as if through a window. Some outsiders are negative and fatalistic, others hold to ideals that they hope to impress upon the world, but fundamentally they exist outside of the norm just to the left of the center line. Why is the outsider on the outside? As Colin Wilson puts it, the outsider has seen through life. The outsider has discovered – or at least tasted freedom – and because of that taste they can no longer be satisfied with an existence locked into social norms and expectations.
10 years ago I read a book called Memoirs of a Spiritual Outsider by Suzanne Clores. The book really touched me when I read it and so I wrote to Suzanne and we have stayed in contact on and off ever since. What intrigued me about the book was the spirit of being an outsider and the way that Suzanne had written from the point of view of being on the outside looking in at the post-modern spiritual marketplace. The outsider position is a fascinating one because on the one hand it holds a position of objectivity because part of being an outsider is not being committed to what is happening on the inside. You are a witness to it and an examiner of it, but you are not a player. Your position is one of detachment and that is something that Wilson explores at length in his book and that Suzanne writes from in hers. The Outsider isn't in the world or at least not lost in it. They float above it, stride beside it, and observe it. That is why they are often so creative and can bring such fresh views and perspectives to circumstances. In Suzanne's book she takes this detached view, but as I see it the outsider is only semi-detached. They are not fully free like the Buddha, they are partly free. In the land of the blind they have one eye partially open. Why? because they have often traded their attachment to the world for an attachment to being outside the world. They have escaped the allure of the mundane, but they remain fascinated by the position of being unattached. They have become attached to being unattached. Being unattached is better than being blindly adhered, but it is not exactly the same as being free either. Suzanne's position is particularly compelling because she is not just observing, she is also seeking, so she cannot claim total disinterest in what she is seeing. Like a spiritual under cover agent, she enters different spiritual scenes and tries them on for size reporting on what she sees as she goes.
My personal favorite outsider of all time is Holden Caulfield. Holden is the fictional protagonist of J.D. Salinger's 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye. If you have read the novel you will know it as a quintessential outsider tale. Holden gets kicked out of prep school and spends his time in search of something that is not phony. Outsiders have seen through the bullshit and they want to find what is real. Here is a typical quotes in distinctly Holden style.
"You ought to go to a boy's school sometimes. Try it sometime," I said. "It's full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques. The guys that are on the basketball team stick together, the goddam intellectuals stick together, the guys that play bridge stick together. Even the guys that belong to the goddam Book-of-the-Month Club stick together.
When I was all set to go, when I had my bags and all, I stood for a while next to the stairs and took a last look down that goddam corridor. I was sort of crying. I don't know why. I put my red hunting hat on, and turned the peak around to the back, the way I liked it, and then I yelled at the top of my goddam voice, "Sleep tight, ya morons!" I'll bet I woke up every bastard on the whole floor. Then I got the hell out. Some stupid guy had thrown peanut shells all over the stairs, and I damn near broke my crazy neck.
I have a feeling that you're riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall. But I don't honestly know what kind…. It may be the kind where, at the age of thirty, you sit in some bar hating everybody who comes in looking as if he might have played football in college. Then again, you may pick up just enough education to hate people who say, ‘It's a secret between he and I.' Or you may end up in some business office, throwing paper clips at the nearest stenographer. I just don't know."
I guess Holden gives you the idea of the outsider. The outsider is usually in pain, but they aren't nihilistic yet. They haven't given up, but they are always in danger of that. Let's look at one last quote of Holden's from the end of the book so we can see that he still has his dream to save the world.
"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."
Colin Wilson's book is full of quotes from novels and short stories that show you who the outsider is and how they feel. The sense of being outside is at least part of the feeling of being a Romantic so I will be sure to report more on it as I read more of Wilson's book, and congratulations to Suzanne on the tenth anniversary of Memoirs of a Spiritual Outsider.