The Rev. Dr. Richard Banach
A 50th Anniversary Autobiography
Adventures in Living
the LIFE of
Richard W. Banach, D. Min.
Pentecostal spirituality began around 1906 among a few Spirit touched people, and has since burgeoned into a kaleidoscopic array of expressions reported to have 30 million adherents in America and more than half a billion worldwide. Its appeal, like all mystically minded movements, is personal empowerment through direct experience of God. Among its pioneers were all four of my grandparents (former Roman Catholic Ukrainian immigrants), my parents and most of my relatives, all living in the new world’s lower Manhattan’s gateway to the American dream.
In depression era 1935, their bilingual congregation bought Manhattan’s 1867 landmark Metropolitan Savings Bank building on the corner of Third Ave. and 7th St. Five ornate floors for $55,000. Occasionally, I slept under its majestic mansard roof when my paternal grandparents were its live-in caretakers. Here, my parents ministered in music. My maternal grandmother taught an adult class in the Ukrainian language for fifty five years, sometimes to two hundred fifty students (1924-1979). She lived to be 103. Outside and across the street, we kids played tag around the stately Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art where Abraham Lincoln once made a speech (1860). Overhead rattled the Third Ave. “el.” Oft-times, it whisked me far away through the sky.
‘Twas a charmed childhood (b. 1937). All things seemed possible. Soon, I too began awakening to the palpable presence of God. It was so transcendentally blissful and transformative, I wanted nothing more than to live in this PRESENCE and enable others to also experience its life changing power as well.
So I became a minister.
My vision of ministry focused on creating an atmosphere in my congregations conducive for them to also cultivate experiences of transcendence I called, “Adventures in Living the Life of Presence.” As a classical pianist, I occasionally led congregational singing from the piano or organ, and played classical piano solos within liturgical settings hoping to enhance their awareness of oneness with the ineffable.
My message emphasized the Spirit filled life as relational and transformational. God is Spirit, always everywhere, simultaneously transcendent and immanent. It’s God’s omnipresence. But we are not usually aware of it. We can be. And when we are, it’s magical. It’s God’s manifest presence - numinous, luminous, glorious – empowering us to live a transfigured, serendipitous life.
John Wesley, founder of Methodism, described his encounter with the manifest presence as his heart “strangely warmed.” Walter Beuttler, a much beloved teacher at Eastern Bible Institute of the Assemblies of God (now Valley Forge Christian College) coined it “an inner glow.” Beuttler specialized in teaching us the contemplative art of training our mind upon God by inwardly waiting on God in stillness and outwardly walking with God in activity. He did so by interpreting the Bible as illustrative of living life continuously aglow with God’s manifest presence within. Mary Green was one of my classmates, and when we married after graduation in 1958, this life style became the basis of our life long relationship and partnership as a ministerial team.
John Wright Follette was another of my classical Pentecostal mentors. He was an elegant expositor of his Methodist upbringings emphasize on spiritual formation. It greatly enhanced my understanding of the transformational process as becoming “christed,” like Christ our ideal, called “deification” and “divinization” in the Eastern branch of Christianity. “The divine nature is deposited in us,” Follette stressed from II Peter 1:4, “and needs to be brought out and expanded in life. It is a life long process.”
At one intensively unnerving transitional stage in this process, it seemed as if the PRESENCE itself began pressing me to venture forward and plum further the depths of its sublimeness.
There’s more waiting to be experienced and understood.
Jesus said the Holy Spirit is like the wind no one can control. It blows where it wills in its endeavor to lead us into all truth (John 3:8; 16:13). And I was being called to go wherever it led in pursuit of understanding, come whence it may, cost what it will. If need be, would I dare defy the endless “Thou Shalt Nots” of cloistered world views to explore unknown, even “forbidden” territory? How about doing it in full public view of those in the pew scratching their heads quizzically, even frowning disapprovingly? “YES!”
So I began my trek.
While continuing to cherish and proclaim the perennial philosophy of mystic jewels in my own rich heritage, I also began discovering them in other wisdom traditions as well, along with their relationship to the emerging sciences of quantum physics and the mind/body connection.
Example: Whenever God is near, our instinctual kundalini energy at the lower centers along our spine transmutes into more subtle spiritual forms as it rises to higher centers like our heart chakra and even on up to the crown chakra in our brain. At these higher levels the “inner glow” of our heart “strangely warmed” then testifies to the wonder of our very own body being the temple of God, aglow with the divine fire within (I Corinthians 3:16).
Moreover, I went on to graduate school. When the Augustinian Fathers of Villanova University’s theology department revised their curriculum to express the new openness of Vatican II, I became the first Protestant clergyman to earn their master’s degree in religion (1972). At Drew University I earned a Doctorate in Ministry
– D. Min. - in part for creating and conducting in my church a congregational program on the relevancy of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Kabbalistic Hasidic mysticism for Christian self-understanding (1975).
It led to expanding my ministry into mainstream Christianity, writing on the spiritual life for the devotional Journeying column in The United Methodist Relay, and reaching out to “believers in exile.” This outreach included publishing a series of provocatively titled New Age Ministry essays in the 1980’s. Their purpose was to inform and inspire those eager to explore potential next steps on their spiritual journey in the “New Age” Jesus inaugurated 2,000 years ago, an age of humanity discovering the PRESENCE within on a mass awakening scale.
Along the way I also tasted the flavors of yoga, TM, Reiki and shiatsu; Theosophy and the ascended masters; the Science of Mind with The Unity School of Christianity and Religious Science International; and the perennial philosophy in ancient wisdom and its correlation with modern science at Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment.
My journeying was a costly quest. It brought on many purgative dark nights of the soul. But only by running the risk of going too far did I discover how far I could go. I was now ready to meet him who was about to appear. Then came Ramtha – spring of 1983 - like an old friend dimly remembered, returning from an extended holiday telling tales of his odyssey to worlds I only dream about. We met personally one Sunday afternoon on a Manhattan mountaintop of heightened awareness after his talk at the Roman Catholic Church of the Ascension on 107th St. My collection of mystic jewels now began radiating with an even more illuminative, unitive vision of reality. “Aha!”
So I arrived where I began with a more sublime experience and understanding of the PRESENCE.
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of the
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
This odyssey unfolded all the while I stood in Assembly of God and United Methodist pulpits each Sunday for forty years (1958-1998), and endeavored to share my findings in a manner I hoped would enhance my congregation’s personal relationship with the PRESENCE we all sense in moments of heightened awareness at the Ground of our being, “…that within us, within which we also are.” In other words, with whom Ramtha calls “the Lord God of our being,” and in whom the Bible says, “We live and move and have our being…for we are indeed his offspring” (Acts 17:28, 29).
I am indeed grateful for the warm hearted fellowship of my colleagues and congregations in
gifting me this privilege.
Ministerial Church Record
Assemblies of God
Bethpage, NY 1958 (with W. Radawski); Oneonta, NY 1959 –1964; Binghamton, NY 1964 (with RDE Smith); Pt. Pleasant, NJ 1964–1974.
Neptune: West Grove, NJ 1974–1977; Audubon, NJ 1977–1984; Succasunna, NJ 1984–1988; Suffern, NY 1988–1998.
Notable histories of Classical Pentecostalism include my mentor Gordon P. Gardiner’s Out of Zion into All the World, Radiant Glory and Concerning Spiritual Gifts; also Edith Waldvogel Blumhofer’s Restoring the Faith, and Grant Wacker’s Heaven Below. The Pentecostal statistics reported here are from Newsweek’s cover story, Spirituality in America, Aug. 29/Sept. 5, 2005, p 52. For Pentecostalism’s beneficial impact on reshaping religion today, see Fire From Heaven by one time advocate author of The Secular City, Harvard theologian Harvey Cox.
The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902) and Mysticism by Evelyn Underwood (1911) include case studies of past generations living the life of PRESENCE. The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald May is a very insightful up-to-date guide to understanding this purgative, illuminative and unitive life style.
“Seek the truth, come whence it may, cost what it will.” is the motto of the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA. It was adapted from Bishop John S. Spong’s bestseller, Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile, p. xix.
The Perennial Philosophy is also the title of Aldous Huxley’s classic anthology on the subject. It is the theme of Frithjof Schuon’s The Transcendent Unity of Religions. Methodist theologian Huston Smith speaks of it as “the primordial tradition” in Forgotten Truth and his best seller, The World’s Religions. Marcus Borg enlarges on it in The God We Never Knew, and in The Heart of Christianity.
Among the first books expressing the beneficial affects of the contemplative arts on our modern high stressed over achieving life style were Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer: A Holistic Approach to Preventing Stress Disorders by Kenneth R. Pelletier, and The Relaxation Response plus Beyond the Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson of Harvard’s Medical School.
Neurotheology, the new science dedicated to understanding the complex relationship between mystical experiences and the brain was first reported in Newsweek’s May 7, 2001 cover story, God and the Brain. It is the theme of Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief by Andrew Newberg and Eugene D’Aquili.
The United Methodist Relay, published 10 times a year, is the official voice of the Greater New Jersey Conference of the United Methodist Church. Circulation: 23,000 clergy and laity leaders in 600 churches. I was one of its associate editors for 20 years.
The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra was one of the first books written on the parallels between spirituality and quantum physics. More recent studies on these correlations are Ramtha’s A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Reality and The White Book.
“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” is T. S. Eliot’s original unsourced quote which I adapted. The poem is from his Little Gidding, Quartet 4.
The concept of God as “…that within us, within which we also are,” comes from The God We Never Knew, Marcus Borg, p. 41.
The Bible quote is from The Revised Standard Version, 1952. email@example.com 2/21/8
Dr. Banach and his wife reside in Rainier, WA.