From a dude on a dating site: “How can you call yourself a mystic but not be spiritual?” From a friend: “Isn’t a vision just a dream?” From a Youtube comment: “…could it all be some sort of a mental illness and you`re interpreting it as a gift?”
Let me first say that as someone with extensive experience with all things mental health–as treatment provider, as law enforcement program developer, and treatment consumer–I can assure that my ecstatic experiences are not symptoms of mental illness (although skeptics might argue the opposite). I’m going to share a few of them here to address the first two questions.
Knowing what I know now, I had my first mystical experience when I was a kid. I’m not quite sure how old I was, probably 12 or 13. While I was in the back yard, I saw and was, for the lack of a better word, immersed in a bright, color-filled light that brought an immediate sense of safety (which was not standard for me at the time). I told my mother I saw an angel because that was the only way I knew how to describe something that was sort of visible, sort of tangible, that sort of emanated from the sky and was pretty. I remember being entirely confused when she placed a poured-concrete figure of an angel on a tree stump where I had my vision. That cold lump of grey concrete was definitely visible and tangible but certainly wasn’t pretty and it in no way, form or fashion, resembled what I saw. And, then, I never really thought about it again until more strange and unusual things started occurring around me in the fall of 2007.
Although I occasionally went to church as a kid I never got the ‘God-thing’ whether it was preached about with the Methodist, Southern Baptist, or Unitarian flavors. I had no desire to connect to with any of the concepts other than the Golden Rule. That was the only thing that made sense at all. I have never been a seeker of any God, Godliness, universal Divine conceptual teachings. It’s never been on my radar, and, even now, it’s not.
Generally mysticism is usually associated with religious expression or spirituality in terms of emanation or immanence. “In the emanation view, all things in the universe are overflowing from God. In the immanence view, the universe is not projected from God, but is immersed in God”. There are a variety of Christian forms of mysticism, Muslim, Judaic, Hindu, Taoist, etc. Some seek unity and identity with God (monistic). Some seek unity but not identity (theistic) with God. I don’t associate my experiences with any religion or a God as defined by others although I most closely connect to the Sufi tradition.
I do not call myself ‘spiritual’ because I am not seeking anything especially sacred–because it all is. I’m not living a lifestyle associated with knowing, pursuing, or creating a God, Gods, a singular source, a defined super-humanized version of something larger, grander, more powerful, ‘higher’, better-knowing, supra-sized-outside-of-me-and-you, entity.
I do call myself Mystic because my experiences of and relationships with both the visible and invisible elements of the world are imbued with a ‘knowing’ things and ‘seeing’ things universally, as connected, as ‘one’. I call myself the Misfit because my experiences of and relationships with the invisible do not come with preconceived meanings, definitions of energies/entities, or ‘translations’ attached to archetypes, and are not connected to a belief system. In addition, I am not ‘seeking’ ecstatic experiences, a different state of existence beneath day-to-day living, or to transcend any, say, duality, in the manner that some mystics do. I don’t engage in prayer, I’ve not drunk from the meditation kool-aid (although red wine is a staple), and my contemplation is in every action and interaction with those around me (although I’d really like the capacity to be still for a while). My mystical or ecstatic experiences are not derived from a specific action–there are no invocations, talismans or tools involved–other than breathing normally. And, they do not always occur when I’m in an altered state of consciousness–although there is a specific state I am in when I have ‘visions’.
To answer the question put to me by Paul, ‘visions’ occur when I’m awake. My dreams, when I’m asleep. But, while in ‘vision-state’ I’m in what I call ‘no-think’-a period in the wee hours of the morning (usually between 4:30 and 8) when my brain isn’t otherwise engaged in generating thoughts. It’s similar to receiving messages or talking to my intuition during waking hours but the clarity is immediate because of it’s visual nature. For instance, the last one has me going to Shelton, CT, for an unknown reason. Road signs (Trap Falls Road), directions (turn left), and don’t run into big water (reservoir).
My ecstatic experiences include visions that offer direction for me, ‘just knowings’ that provide clarity for others, visitations from a variety of invisible energies, the capacity to bi-locate, to transform from form to light, being surrounded by the light I saw as a child, being observed by that form and more. I’ve written about a few significant ones before: On Integration and Becoming, On Fear and Stepping Up, and An UnCommon Experience.
Each experience has its own meaning (or lack thereof), each bring me into awe, some to tears, others into that incredible lightness of being–utter joyful bliss. They remind me that Grace isn’t an amorphous thing; it’s the energy that I embody even when I’m not feeling particularly graceful, and I’m intimately connected to every being.