“Why is spirituality such a powerful and universal force? Why do so many people believe in things they cannot see, smell, taste, hear, or touch? Why do people from all walks of life, around the globe, regardless of their religious backgrounds or the particular god they worship, value spirituality as much as, or more than, pleasure, power or wealth? I argue that the answer is, at least in part, hardwired into our genes. Spirituality is one of our most basic human inheritances. It is, in fact, an instinct.” Dean Hamer
Yet we’ve reduced this beautiful human instinct to the term “woo” in America, and/or exploited and commodified this spiritual hunger in the pseudo-spiritual and highly lucrative self development industrial complex, and/or used fundamentalist religion as a weapon (i.e. prolife legislation and gay conversion camps). Because of the harm caused by all of these things, as well as the darkest night of my soul descending 6 years ago, like many Gen X’ers I gave up spirituality. After losing all sense of safety and belonging, I consequently lost faith in everything. And that was a problem because my spirituality and my faith in something bigger than me (no matter its perceived shape) has been my saving grace since birth. I am wired to be in a conscious relationship with something beyond this being human.
Fortunately, this past summer I experienced a remembering. A reawakening. My spiritual self came back to life. Working with the plants resurrected mysticism as my spiritual path, which makes sense because witches are often nature mystics, seeking ecstatic states and direct communion with the divine through nature and sex. I committed to following the song of my soul on the first of the year and this is where it ultimately led me – to my spirit. I think because we need to be in active relationship with both soul and spirit to be whole.
“…mysticism speaks of the eye of love which is looking at, gazing at, aware of divine realities.” William Johnson
What does mysticism mean to me? Direct and ecstatic relationship with the force behind All of Life. Experiencing a “rapture of aliveness” (Joseph Campbell). Knowing my connection to Source is direct and I don’t need gurus or priests or spiritual teachers to be intimate with it. Experiencing ecstatic states, whether through sex, substance, body rite, ritual, or simply being present to the miracle of life. And intentfully allowing my intimate relationship with the sacredness of all things to inform my choices about how I live, including how my understanding of the God-Between-Us informs my relationships and my work.
I’ve experienced ecstasy in many ways. I was regularly “slain in the holy spirit” at the front of my Pentacostal church in my teens. I danced in magically charged circles with the goddess. I danced till my legs buckled at the queer club. I intentfully took ecstasy, peyote, and LSD. I practiced sex magic. I was bound to a cross and single-tailed by a mystical lover in the dungeon. I was topped by a lover who played with my energy field rather than my skin (I wish I knew how to write a story about that, but it’s beyond words). I worship(ped) my Master as a manifestation of the divine. And now, when I allow myself to drop into full presence in any situation, from picking flowers in the garden to sitting in a room full of humans, I am able to experience a subtle ecstasy that does not carry me away, but rather infuses me to be more present. Ecstasy is far more accessible than we’ve been taught to believe.
Mysticism is trangressive. Mystics have always lived on the edge of their tradition’s experience because mysticism is ecstatic, emotional, and nurtures a passionate relationship with the Sacred, something traditional religion finds threatening to its power. We may now venerate mystics like St. John of the Cross (Catholicism), Rumi (Sufism), and Hafiz (Islam), but mystics are often rebels or outsiders of their time. Patriarchal religious experience is calm and intellectual, sitting and listening to someone speak or quietly praying. Churches and spiritual teachers don’t generally invite passionate ecstatic experiences in the aisles, unless it fits within the dogma like with Pentacostal Christianity, which allows speaking in tongues and dancing in the aisles. In that case the the ecstasy is bestowed by those in power and is limited to particular expressions. The patriarchal religions do not permit unruly ecstasy through body rites, sex, or substance as ways to directly connect with All of Life. They proclaim rules against those things. They would rather have us rely on human intermediaries for our relationship with god. The patriarchal religions (as well as most modern spiritual teachers) are also top down hierarchies, just like the rest of patriarchy. One person – generally a man – is supreme in their ability to communicate with god (or develop a philosophical “theory of everything” or a practice of “constant and neverending improvement”) and translate the laws of god or the universe for the rest of humans. Those laws are interpreted in a way that gives the superior person(s) power. Did gods have laws before men 10,000 years ago imagined they did?
I no longer participate in hierarchies.
I no longer allow anyone to claim superiority over me.
I no longer believe in saviors or gurus.
I refuse to believe intellectual understanding is superior to emotional or ecstatic experience.
I will resist patriarchy and any of the ways it tells me to behave, especially as a woman.
I will not believe material reality is more real than what is unseen.
The Universe is made up of far more space than matter, at both the atomic and material levels. It is made of all kinds of forces and energies between those spaces, from gravity to empathy. I believe that’s where magic (which is based on relationship and synergy) and the Spirit of Life resides. Not in any supreme being(s). I think that’s why a lot of physicists believe in the Mystery, because they meet something unnameable at the edges of what we can quantify.
I am a mystic, but I don’t buy into any religion or existing spiritual system, so I am writing my own theology of the God-Between-Us. It’s the only god I can believe in these days. I find considerably more comfort in playing with the quarks dancing in our breath than I do submitting to a supreme being based in human imagination. And the God-Between-Us is the only god I’ve believed in that can actually save us. Because the only devotion it asks for is that we treat ourselves and each other as sacred expressions of Life. If we did that, we would not destroy ourselves and our natural ecosystems.
One definition of sacred is “entitled to reverence and respect.” Isn’t that everything from crawdads to supernovas? I can’t imagine any better way to direct my own instinct for the spiritual than to commit to a practice of treating All of Life as worthy of reverence and respect through my devotion to the God-Between-Us.