If you are anything like me, then there has been a time when you were enthralled by mystics. These were the men and women who beckoned convincingly from the page or pulpit. Somehow they had a bead on things that excelled my own and simultaneously made me long for that wider understanding, that wider stance, that peace that eluded me.
A mystic is partially defined by an internet dictionary as:
▸ noun: someone who believes in the existence of realities beyond human comprehensionThe deliciousness of such an understanding was by turns profound and confusing and magnetic. Something in my life responded like one of Pavlov's dogs. Yummmmmy!
▸ adjective: having an import not apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence; beyond ordinary understanding ("The mystical style of Blake")
And so it began -- that willingness to seek out in very grounded ways some essence that was not yet grounded in my life. Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Tao ... hell, even Rasputin. At first it was an intellectual believer's search. Follow the yellow brick road of ritual and belief; store up explanations as a squirrel stores up nuts; fill the mind with text and encouragement. Later it would segue into a literal practice -- something you actually did instead of something you actually praised or memorized. In my case it was Zen practice -- a sit-down-shut-up-erect-the-spine-and-focus-the-mind exercise that wasn't quite so yummmmmy, but had the advantage of bringing experience, to bear. No doubt others learn to really pray or sing or dance.
Just thinking this morning that the mystics of our lives, the exemplars I may have constructed out of my own need and hope ... how useful they were and how thankful I am to them: Men and women who, often as not, had no sense of anything 'mystical' and yet encouraged others who longed for mysticism, longed for something 'beyond,' longed for something 'else.'
I feel pretty fortunate not to have gotten mired down -- ritual, religion and the like -- in the wonders of it all. Or rather, to have gotten mired down and yet found a practice that washed off the very-useful mire. Experience trumps belief every time and yet belief is an inspiring starting point. It only falls on its face if that is the best anyone can do -- believe, conceive, go mystical... what a hellish life that would be... not as a starting point, but as a destination.
Religion ... imagine that! Salivation and no food.
But for starters, all those mystics, all their pointings, all their holiness and serenity and peace ... thank you very much.