Monday, November 2, 2009

Tolerating Mysticism

Recall that in the broadest sense a mystic is anyone who is predisposed to believe there are mysteries that can never be rationally solved. To many rationally-inclined individuals, mysticism represents one of the great ills of our society. They point out that mystics were responsible for many of the greatest atrocities in human history (whether or not Adolph Hitler was a theist he was undeniably a mystic). But the fact that we can appreciate the wrongs done in the name of mysticism does not mean we no longer need it.

Early in the evolution of a society its awareness of the existential threats facing it exceeds its knowledge of their basic nature and how to eliminate them. During this period, the society is at risk of being undermined by fear of the unknown. The most common solution to this problem is for sages to develop a belief system that allows the people to push forward through this fear and uncertainty. This mythos provides the culture with certainty based on a belief that its people can influence the unknown to their advantage without ever fully understanding it. This situation often leads to the personification and worship of the Primal Mystery underlying all unknowns. And thus a new religion is born.

At about this point in a mystic culture’s history it transfers a portion of its fear of the unknown to the Primal Mystery, which represents the fundamental unknowable. As a result, most of those who worship the Primal Mystery also fear it. This mystical fear serves to keep its subjects from completely giving in to their most selfish instincts. This is why the Primal Mystery, which is the ultimate object of mystical fear, is the basis of morality for most mystics.

The mystics’ fear of the Primal Mystery also serves to inhibit their pursuit of knowledge. In the story of the Garden of Eden this fear kept Adam and Eve from initially eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Mystical restrictions on the quest of knowledge often lead to a situation in which a culture’s worshipful fear of the Primal Mystery limits the growth of its people. Such repression represents the essence of evil. To avoid this circumstance a culture must transition from a reverential fear of the Primal Mystery to a purposeful search for the complete connection to the Fundamental Absolute. This Fundamental Absolute is what will survive the solution of the Primal Mystery (i.e., the so-called ‘Death of God’), which is the event that usually facilitates this transition.

Has our society reached the point at which mysticism, the customs that sustain our relationship with the Primal Mystery, is doing more harm than good? This question is essentially asking if we are mature enough to resist our self-centered tendencies in the face of the temptations of the fruits of the unbridled pursuit of knowledge, without the influence of a real or imagined supernatural agent. Even if you believe that as an individual, you have the requisite maturity, would you trust the average person around you with the knowledge to reshape the planet?

If your answer is ‘no’, then while it may be okay for you to doff your mystic robes, you probably do not want to live in a world where no one who needs to believe in a Primal Mystery is inhibited by fear of it. Even with this fear consider the carnage mystics have caused under the influence of their misinterpretations and misrepresentations of its will. This indicates that at your core you believe it is still necessary for some people to remain mystics, even if you aren’t one of them. This is because most mystics are not mature enough to be freed from their self-limiting viewpoint. As such, even if you no longer share the characteristic beliefs of mystics you still believe the world needs mysticism.

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