This weekend’s column will address the question: “Is there a secret to becoming a secular mystic?” There are many who claim “visions” and esoteric knowledge, but can a secular person have a mystical experience? What does that really mean?
As I will explain in my essay, I used to teach classes on “Mystics of the World,” reading Sufi, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu and Native American “visionaries.” We would compare and contrast their ecstatic claims. But there was no way to rationally test or assess the truth of these visions. Without the “eyes of faith” we can’t see what they see. Even then, the eyes of which faith? Could a Catholic mystic have a Jewish vision?
Is it possible for a secular person to gain that “special knowledge,” to have visions?
While you’re thinking about that in anticipation of the column, here is a snippet from Lakota mystic Black Elk and the tragic error of his vision:
“The nation’s hoop was broken, and there was no center any longer for the flowering tree … Maybe if I could see the great world of the [white people], I could understand how to bring the sacred hoop together and make the tree to bloom again at the center of it.”
“And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth–you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.” (Black Elk Speaks)
The sadness of mystic visions and utopian dreams that fail.