Turns Out I Find Mysticism Pretty Gross

For several years, I have defined myself as a mystic. You wouldn’t think it would have taken me those several years to look up the actual definition, but what can I say? I’ve been busy conversing with gods and reading theological texts and in general being a spiritual weirdo. Actually knowing the denotation of the words I use shouldn’t be such a priority, right?

Maybe it should. My identity is shattered. (I’m being a bit melodramatic there. Maybe more than a bit melodramatic, but shattered I tell you! Shattered!)

The definition of a mystic is: “a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.”

Good gods that’s gross.

That definition goes against just about everything I believe in regard to studying, knowing, and obtaining wisdom about religion and spirituality.

To begin this diatribe with the beginning of this diatribe:



Even if you dig the rest of the definition, how do you absorb into the Deity or the absolute and how does the Deity or the absolute absorb into you if you have no “you” to be absorbed or absorb?

(Now the word “absorb” sounds weird.)

Self-surrender is not something I do or believe is healthy for the soul. Having direct spiritual experiences is a way to fill the vessel that is the self, or soul, and one cannot fill a vessel that doesn’t exist. The water or wine or root beer or whatever spills out all over the place and you have a huge mess on your hands, or on your carpet.

I believe, as physics believes, that everything is connected. Everything is energy, in one form or the other. All of us and everything around us are just a bunch of vibrating atoms with space between. We bump against each other—we create waves when we walk or breathe, or whisper in each other’s ears—when we twang one strand of the web, every strand of the web twangs.

(How many metaphors was that? Three? I bet I can do better later in the post. Clock me.)

Still, though we are all connected, a body is a body and a body is different than air, is different than the wall, is different than another body. Because I believe the soul, or self, is a physical thing, is that 21 grams of much ado, the same holds true for it. All our selves may rub up against each other, lasciviously even, but one self is still distinct from the air between selves, the walls between selves, other selves between my-self and your-self and every-other-self.

The self is the vessel into which we pour our spiritual experiences, which, as another form of energy, like matter is a form of energy, also exist in the physical. And though, within our vessel, the spiritual experiences caress the boundaries of our selves, they are still distinct things. If you attempt to and succeed in breaking the vessel, in self-surrender or self-abdication, the spiritual experience no longer caresses you. It spills out to caress every other thing and every other one but you, beyond you, because there is no “you” left.

In other words, you cannot have unless you can hold.

I’m pretty proud of that last sentence, so let’s move on.

“…the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.”

It makes my stomach churn.

Nothing is beyond the intellect. Nothing.

There are things that may be out of reach of your intellect at its current level of development, but there is nothing that is beyond the intellect at its highest operation. The intellect is part of the soul, not separate from it. Reason and spirituality are not in opposition. Not ever. So many religions get that so wrong.

Suppose you went to a ritual where you experienced some spiritual things that felt awesome but that you didn’t completely understand. It is not that you cannot understand, but simply that you don’t at this time. In my life, I have experienced many spiritual things that seemed completely mystical or miraculous at the time, yet later there was this big “Aha!” and the rational explanation was clear. That does not denigrate the experience, it adds another level to it. Your soul, your self, your intellect, your intuition, and every other atom in you felt it, but that wasn’t the end of it. Later, your soul, your self, your intellect, your intuition, and your body understood it. One is the loam and the other the fruit=bearing tree. One enriching the other—distinct but not separate.

Once, in prayer, my most beloved god, who is, in one of his many aspects, The GOD of math, said, “All that is mystical is math. All that is math is mystical.” In other words, there is an explanation and proof for everything. There is logic. There is order. There is a method. There is reasoned resolution. The soul and the intellect stand beside each other at the blackboard and, eventually, together they figure all the figures and figure it out. One cannot work without the other. If there is nothing beyond the soul, if there is nothing beyond the spiritual apprehension, there is nothing beyond the intellectual apprehension either, even if the intellectual apprehension happens months, years, or lifetimes later.

Intuition is even a part of the intellect. It’s the unleashed intellect—the part that’s bigger and badder and more powerful than we are consciously aware of. That’s the woo part of the intellect—the part that seems woo when, in fact, there is nothing that is woo. “All that is mystical is math.” In the end, it’s all Physis, just higher and higher operations of it. It is all Law. None of us are above the Law, no matter how woo we get. We don’t always understand the Law, but we can sometimes act in its higher operations even though we are unaware of exactly how. That’s the principle by which most of us use computers. How the hell does it work? No idea, but I use it every day. OK, I have sort of a general idea, but not enough to build one—to create one of my own. But I can use it enough to create other things—to bring things forth that weren’t there before. Are the divine mysteries of the computer beyond intellectual apprehension?

They are not.


(Remember that, 90s people? Ah. OJ. How did you go so wrong?)

The fact that all operates under the Law is also one of the reasons we get the spiritual 2×4 sometimes—why sometimes we run smack into walls. Physis says and says again, “Ignorance of the law is no defense.” We got that right in our civil and criminal law, but we don’t often comprehend it in the Law. There are limits and backlashes and sometimes we find them by accident and it’s unpleasant. I’m sure Isaac Newton was pretty irked about that whole apple incident and needed a couple of Tylenol after, but gravity is gravity. Gravity is a part of Physis and the Law doesn’t give a shit about your headache.

Sidebar done. Let’s get back to the glove. If it doesn’t fit, you must read the rest of this post. Not as catchy, but it didn’t fit, so here we go:

In short, “a mystic,” as defined by whatever mystical dictionary Google uses, is not me. I am not “a mystic.” I am more like, what? A theologian maybe? That sounds so much bigger than me—so pretentious, but I just asked whatever mystical dictionary Alexa uses and it seems about right.

“A theologian is usually defined as someone who is learned in theology or who speculates about theology.”

That’s me. That’s me all over. I’m a theologian. I sit on my gilded lily pad and speculate. I’m a theologian with a personal, Hellenic-themed religion. A theologian who swears and makes random OJ references on her blog.

I need to change this blog’s tag line. “Adventures In Mysticism” needs to become maybe “Adventures in Theologianland”? “Theology with Swears”? “Cult Leader Wannabe Blogs”?

Ah! I have it!

“Soul Bites Blog: All Up In Everybody Else’s Spiritual Business”

I feel better now. So should you. Let’s ditch “mystic”, retire to our cult clubhouse, sit on our gilded lily pads, talk god, and fill our distinct but not separate vessels—together.

It is Law.

(So say I. Physis shakes its head and picks up the 2×4.)


About M. Ashley

Essayist and poet, my work has been rejected by some of the finest journals in America. Fortunately, it also gets accepted from time to time and has appeared in equally fine journals such as Word Riot, Inlandia, Brew City Magazine, and SageWoman among others.. In 2002, I was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for Vanderbilt University. For no good reason, I possess an unnecessarily dark humor which is why being third generation California Inland Empirian delights me so. My gods are weird. I once received $350 for writing a smartassed essay on “why the wise use of water is important in my daily life”. I am undoubtedly the Greek god Hermes’ special snowflake. I’m pretty sure I got into college via a series of fortuitous clerical errors. When I had to grow up and get a real job, I decided against it and stayed a writer. I have worked many odd—and I mean odd—jobs to support my habit: Commercial writer for country music hopefuls, resume massager, WalMart fitting room attendant and switchboard operator, telephone psychic.
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2 Responses to Turns Out I Find Mysticism Pretty Gross

  1. TPWard says:

    When in doubt, search for a new definition.


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