My Love/Hate Relationship with Mysticism

(Saturday, April 11, 2009, 2:52 a.m.)

This is going to be something of a confession, I'm afraid. I'm not sure how many things I have truly ambivalent feelings towards, but mysticism is one of those things. By this I include both new-age California type mysticism and traditional organized religion. Depending on my mood, it is either loathsome or mysteriously enticing, and people who subscribe are adventuresome, playful explorers; or admirable, devoted human beings; or fatuous, presumptuous idiots. I define mysticism here as belief in the supernatural, whether it be a Creator-god or with some life-force that just happens to do the bidding of the human race and conveniently 'wants' us to flourish. This entry is a self-exploration, totally about me, so if you could care less about seeing the anatomy of an emotional ambivalence laid bare, you might want to skip the rest. I'm likely to offend somewhat, at any rate, if they have a cherished belief in some higher power. But if you have some ambivalence yourself, maybe you'll see some of yourself here.

The first step of dissecting an ambivalence is to isolate the elements that lead to the good and bad gut reactions separately. I'll start with the bad because it's a nice thing to end on a postive note, don't you think? I know I tend to prefer to hear the bad news first. So, what are the things that turn on my loathometer about religion and mysticism?

Actually, there are very few people truly in my life who are believers that evoke strong negative reactions in me on a personal level. Mostly what I feel towards believers I know is mild exasperation for believing things that the evidence seems so thin for. Or, if the person is having a hard life and has need of the comfort religion brings, I feel some sympathy, though I wish there were a less delusional comfort they had to fall back on. I will be the first to admit that being a thorough-going atheist has its psychological disadvantages, and that a little illusion can be a great comfort, and if the alternative is suicidal depression, I'm inclined to let a person have their religion without carping too much. I try to minimize my exasperation towards my believing friends by telling myself that they have been too busy to really analyze things or don't have the right personality type to do so. (The latter may be true in some cases; a skeptic like myself is a different kind of breed than the norm, for better and worse.)

So now, let's turn to the positive or titilating aspects of mysticism.

To summarize, the philosopher in me loathes religion and mysticism. The poet and the dreamer in me, however, find it seductive. I suppose the poet and the philosopher ought to sit down and have a discussion on the matter. Should they come to a compromise, or should they, rather, agree to disagree and negotiate when is the best time to take the helm of Self?

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