Mystic Mondays August 1, 2016
Fourteen weeks ago I committed to this Mystic Monday blog. I was convinced after the 40-day Lenten series “Between Two Worlds” that our future is actually a return to the past–that is, we are seeing the re-emergence of religious mysticism in our culture and, to some extent, in our churches and worshiping communities.
It is an uneven series to me. Less like following a paint-by-the-numbers picture and more like putting a 1,000 piece puzzle together–lots of fits and starts and trial and error. But the most uneven portion of this has been what felt like leaving my mystic theme in order to comment on current and political events. Out of the fourteen posts so far (yes, I did count them) three times I just couldn’t help myself. Twice I felt compelled to speak to the bizarre Trump phenomenon and once to the mass shootings that have become as much a part of our American social psyche as baseball and apple pie.
A voice inside was nagging me, “C’mon Brian, be a little more disciplined. Stick to mysticism on Mondays and save your political/social commentary for one of the other six days of the week.” But a deeper voice, maybe even the voice of wisdom, trusted the need to write those posts as part of my exploration into the re-emerging world of mysticism.
I knew a few days ago I was going to write on this subject. I knew that my discomfort with mixing politics and mysticism coupled with my decision to write those three posts anyway was rich fodder. The nagging discomfort revealed that despite a number of years of exploring this growing trend I was still subject to a shallow and false dualism: that is, mysticism is the art of seeing beauty in all things and politics is the reality of dealing with the dirt of life.
Once I named my discomfort with writing political and social commentary in my Mystic Monday blog I saw how a vestige of that false dualism was still residing in my body like a highly resistant virus. Mysticism is about experiencing life so intimately and trustworthily that one sees reality for what it is. The most succinct definition of mysticism is simply “the act of having direct experience with God or the Sacred.”
It was no wonder that I felt compelled on a handful of weeks to speak to our political and social environment. On those weeks I felt like Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars when he said, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” On those weeks I felt a great tremor in my soul. As I sat down to write on Sunday evenings my head told me write about mysticism, but my soul said, “Speak your pain. Speak your grief. Speak your anger.”
In this time of emerging spiritualities it is hard to trust what is valid and what is just fluff. I have a good friend who once spoke to this when she said, “I don’t trust any spirituality that doesn’t take seriously the reality of evil.” I have used her line many times when I have surveyed some new spiritual teaching. If it doesn’t pass the Deborah test, as I would say, then it probably isn’t valid. Many New Age spiritualities have countered the Church’s over-reliance on sin and shame. But many of them also see only light and beauty and sugar and spice and everything nice. In other words they threw the baby out with the bath water without a hint of guilt!
True religious mysticism isn’t just about seeing goodness in everyone and everything you meet. True religious mysticism is about seeing things for what they are. Water both sustains life and destroys life. Fire can save a freezing man and kill too-slow-to-run man. War can be both sublimely beautiful and viscerally ugly.
True religious mysticism doesn’t place a value system on human experiences; it only seeks to live deeply into the experience at hand. “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die…” writes the Ecclesiastical poet. Mystics don’t value one experience over the other, but only try to honor the Source and the reality of the experience right before us.
I know this, yet a part of me still wanted to split the world into the positive and the negative. Mondays would be reserved for heavenly mystical thoughts (positive) and political, dirty realities (negative) could be blogged about any other day of the week (except maybe Sunday when my thoughts would turn pure again!)
But I feel my false dualism eroding away. Mysticism doesn’t look down on Trump. Mysticism just seeks to see him for what he is–a fallen child of God in need of a big divine hug (somewhere far, far away from a microphone and any red buttons).
This has been a good blog post for me. I am not sure exactly how it will manifest itself, but I can feel that I won’t allow that subtle need to apologize to nag at me anymore for writing political, social, cultural commentary again. My only test will be, “What reality does my soul see? What psalm of praise or lament does my soul need to express?”
Mysticism isn’t just about seeing the beauty in all things. Mysticism is also about calling Ugly ugly. And learning to love both equally.