Posted by: aediculaantinoi | July 17, 2013

Laity and Laborers (Or, Must All Be Mystics?)

The following post was one inspired by a conversation else-internet from last week, with a prominent modern pagan (who shall remain nameless, unless that person wishes to identify themself in the comments here!), on a certain matter that is perhaps more widespread theologically than it should be in modern paganism, and which might be useful to clarify further.

The initial conversation started when the individual concerned mused on the possibility of getting more deeply involved in some form of pagan spiritual practice, perhaps to the point of pursuing having direct experiences with deities. However, the individual then said something along the lines of “But I’m not sure that I want to be a mystic,” and said that their own role within modern paganism was one that was important and fulfilling and needed to be done.

First off, let me state that I think there are a gigantic and variegated plethora of possible roles for people to play (and by that, I don’t mean that anyone is “just acting” when they assume these roles, I mean carrying out their particular role’s responsibilities, duties, and customs to the utmost of their ability and with all of their hearts, souls, minds, bodies, strengths, loves, and desires engaged to the utmost!) within modern paganism, and I think we’ve only really begun to scratch the surface of the possibilities in this regard. A lot of what gets called “priest-ing” or “priestess-ing” these days can often be called by more accurate and appropriate terms, and I think there’s absolutely no harm in moving toward those more accurate designations, because their inclusion under the rubric of “priest/esshood” ends up then diminishing the actual and specific role of priest/esses, both in the past and in a workable, realistic, and functional fashion for today.

So, let no one state that I am against people playing whatever roles they are meant to play in modern paganism, whether it be some role as a sacred functionary, or some role as a sacred potluck organizer (which might fall under the Irish rubric of “hosteler,” perhaps!). There needs to, in fact, be a lot more of this than there has been; and, the people playing these other important roles need to also realize that just as their role may not automatically entail priestly functions, so too does their role not also necessitate a good understanding of theology, nor does it make their theological opinions useful or informed simply because they have such opinions and are perhaps in a prominent role amongst modern pagans. (But that may be a separate issue…perhaps not, as we shall see.)

The real issue at stake, however, in the individual’s thoughts to which I was responding, is the notion that someone who is a modern pagan and who has had direct experiences of a deity or deities is, thus, a “mystic.” That is a rather common error, I think, and one that is very widespread, and has ended up making the term “mystic” be one that is often self-applied and self-defined rather than something that actually ends up meaning anything. This requires some further explanation and qualification, I think.

In some dominant creedal monotheistic religions, for example, there is often a distinction made between the everyday person-in-the-pews–which Catholicism has called “the laity”–and the clergy and/or “the religious” (i.e. persons in religious orders, whose entire lives are dedicated to the service of their gods, their communities, and their religions, e.g. nuns, monks, etc.). In the mainstream forms of modern Christianity, mysticism is an oddity, even to an extent amongst the religious (and perhaps especially amongst the clergy!), and thus someone who is in the category of the laity and who has intense spiritual experiences might thus–if their experiences are considered canonical and orthodox–be thus considered a mystic. Mysticism is so unusual in mainstream modern creedal monotheistic religions that, despite a mystical basis in much of those religions’ theologies, nonetheless actual mystics are the exception rather than the norm.

Okay, fine. But, what about religions where mysticism is more the norm than the exception?

Some religions have a practice that automatically makes whoever does the practice correctly into a mystic, whether or not they might choose to identify as such. Buddhism and Taoism are both largely non-theistic religions, and yet those who practice them diligently do end up having experiences of “Buddha mind” or satori or of the Tao, which by definition would, thus, make them mystics since they have attained an experience of the essence of their religion. Okay, no problem.

Most practical and experiential religions, thus, are more inclined toward mysticism than creedal religions. I would say, despite some notions to the contrary, that polytheism is a religion in which direct contact with divine beings is pretty much the expectation rather than the exception, no matter how subtle or fleeing such divine contacts might be. It is an experiential religion, and thus it means that if it is working properly, its practices put an adherent of the religion into contact with divine beings in a very direct fashion. This applies to priests and other religious functionaries in pagan and polytheistic religions (including various forms of diviners, oracles, exegetes, theologians, sacred artists, ritual specialists, etc.) as equally as it does to the non-religious specialist–or, what in some other religions would be called “the laity.” When one looks at ancient religions and sees who had dreams of Asklepios, for example, the vast majority of inscriptions on these matters are not priests or seers or other such individuals, they’re everyday people from all walks of life (though they usually have to be relatively financially stable in order to have left an inscription that has survived). The mysticism–if that term is simply understood as “the pursuit of or experience with direct contact between humans and divine beings”–of someone who went to Asklepios’ temple and had a dream of the god which lead to their healing is no less mystical than the mysticism of the Pythia at Delphi, or the priests who wrote the Delian Aretalogy of Serapis. (Yes, there are further distinctions to be made in the mystical experiences of each of those examples, but the discursive category of “mysticism” applies equally well to each of them in its most basic definitions.)

Thus, a non-priestly practitioner of an experiential religion that employs the practices of it and successfully has direct experiences of divine beings as a result is not automatically a “mystic,” they’re “a practitioner of the religion,” or in other words “a layperson” or “member of the laity.” If the person’s entire life is dominated by pursuit of such practices, then they are a mystic (and that mysticism usually gets defined in a further fashion to distinguish how it is practiced and how mystical experiences are pursued); but if one is just someone who, for example, goes to a Wiccan ritual and feels the presence of their Goddess, then they’re just someone who went to a Wiccan ritual and it worked for them.

Or, to speak in terms of the Ekklesía Antínoou, which is the tradition I probably know best (!?!), there are a variety of different levels and experiences and potential engagements with Antinous which can result in direct experience, and not all of them would give one the title of “mystic.” One can simply attend an Ekklesía Antínoou ritual, like Lupercalia for example, and have a pleasant experience of the presence of the god, or feel his peace after one of the prayers, or gain his blessing as a result of the flogging and the race, or any other such matter that takes place in the ritual. This would make one an attentive participant in the ritual, which while it involves what some evaluations of religious phenomena might refer to as mysticism, does not thus confer the title of “mystic” on everyone who came to the ritual (especially if they only come to one ritual in their life, or only do this ritual on a yearly basis, or only do Antinoan ritual generally speaking a few times a year, etc.). Then, there are some people who wish to seek initiation (or, as we often call it, “mysticization”!) in the Antinoan Mysteries. When they undergo this process, it is ideally hoped that it will be the gateway to many more direct experiences with Antinous and to a more active practice of Antinoan devotion; so, afterwards, they become a Mystes, which is pretty much a “mystic” by definition; but still, if they do not further pursue these experiences afterwards, that doesn’t make them a “mystic,” and they may not even be a “mystic” at all times in their life after that, even though they have the title and the recognition as being one of the Mystai Antínoou in the aftermath. Still others may get involved in Antinoan devotion as a result of having had one or more direct experiences with Antinous, and thus these individuals–wishing to pursue such devotional relationships further–might end up being called “mystics.” But, the experiential basis of all of these levels of engagement, involving as they do direct encounters with the god Antinous, are all equally deserving of the term “mystical” as far as their characterization of these phenomena go; but, not all of the above individuals, no matter how powerful or effective their mystical encounters might have been, are thus automatically “mystics” in the aftermath for having had them.

To use a completely different metaphor, think of it this way. I have been on sailboats in the past. I have helped to tie up ropes or raise and lower sails or even handle the tiller on a few boats in my time. I may do so again in the future if I’m in a position to have such an experience. But, I wouldn’t say that I’m by any means a “sailor,” nor have I been one in the past simply because I helped out on a boat on a few occasions.

The life of a mystic is not usually built around a single isolated experience; it tends to be a series of such experiences and a general propensity for them that singles an individual out as a mystic. And, this means that one’s priorities are necessarily different, and are thus incompatible with certain other ways of life or areas of pursuit; and, make no mistake, it also involves responsibilities to the gods that go way beyond what is expected of, or is feasible for, a lay practitioner of an experiential religion. (Hence, the other term in the subject line above: “laborers,” because mysticism does take a shit-ton of work!) Yes, there is a certain amount of mysticism that is involved in a lay engagement with modern paganism and polytheism, and thus there is a mystical quality to all pagan and polytheist religiosity; but, that doesn’t make everyone who practices these religions a mystic, any more than having candles in our usual altar equipment makes every pagan or polytheist a chandler, or use of a few sprigs of juniper in ritual makes all of us herbalists, or that we often sing chants in our rituals makes everyone a cantor or an opera singer or any sort of professional vocalist. That our religion is mystical does not make everyone in it a mystic; that our religion is earth-friendly does not make everyone in it a green-thumb or environmentalist; that our religion is most often derived from English, Greek, and Irish components does not make everyone in it English, Greek, or Irish (or all three!); and so forth.

Further, I suspect that many people who self-identify as mystics–perhaps because they have had a few experiences, or even a single experience–don’t really understand what this means to as full an extent as they should. Yes, I know many people who self-identify as mystics, and almost all of them do deserve the title and use it accurately; but I have also come across some who use it in ways that seem to suggest that their experiences are more deep, rich, “authentic,” or (as if often the case on some subtle or over level) to be trusted more than anyone else’s, and they do so in a self-aggrandizing fashion that may not always be useful or even accurate. This is unfortunate, but as with so many things in modern paganism and polytheism, since there is no central authority and the traditions and lineages which there are often don’t have facility with conceptualizing these matters, there is little to nothing stopping someone from appropriating whatever term they feel they might like or to which they are entitled (and I use the latter term deliberately to indict the very high level of entitlement many pagans feel they have to anything and everything that they might feel an interest in or liking for spiritually), including the term “mystic,” whether or not it is accurate, deserved, or appropriate in a given case. But, that may be a much larger issue as well…

And, perhaps just to fully disclose my own self-understandings on this issue, I should state what follows as well. I have a practice that involves mysticism to a large degree; I have had a propensity towards mystical experiences from a relatively young age, and many of them continue to shape my religious engagement to this very moment (and likely will for a long time). However, do I identify as a mystic? Generally, no, and I prefer not to do so. Why? Because, not unlike the term “priest,” I think it is a rather unspecific term that can mean a great many things and doesn’t tell one as much useful information as some other more accurate and specific terms might. For example, a “mystic” could be anyone from an Orisha priest that has regular experiences of being ridden by Orishas in an Afro-Diasporic religion, to a “meditator” in some form of Buddhism–and, due to the very different nature of these two practices, both of which involve what can accurately be called “mysticism,” the term thus is less useful than describing each of these individuals as what they do. In my own case, I’m a mystagogos, a leader of and establisher of a mystery tradition; I’m also a sacerdos, a priest in public rituals; I’m a fili, a poet and practitioner of the craft of filidecht; I’m a person who practices dream incubation and other dream-based spiritual techniques; and I’m a devotee of a variety of deities, heroes, and land spirits. Each of these things could come under the rubric of “mysticism” quite easily, and thus each of these roles could be described as a “mystical” role, and thus a person who does each of them could be called a “mystic”; however, each of these things can also fall under the category of “spiritual role,” or even more widely, just “a role” or “a thing someone does.” “Mystic” feels too general to me to be as useful as the more specific descriptors, and while not quite as useless as “a role,” it moves further in that direction than in the realm of specificity which, I think, is one of the things that polytheism always has to keep in mind at all levels of its engagement–if deities really are distinct and separate individuals (which they are!), then every time one can maintain that specificity in one’s everyday practices, whether that is prayer to the gods, use of some words over others to convey accuracy and specificity, or even dealing with humans on levels that emphasize their individuality and uniqueness rather than responding to them as members of a group or a type (stereo- or otherwise).

So, one mystical experience does not a mystic make. However, no mystical experiences at all does not make one anything either, and if one wishes to have such experiences (and one’s regular practices of one’s religion–particularly if it is an experiential religion like modern forms of paganism and polytheism are–aren’t bringing them about), then it is by all means a good and valid thing to do to pursue them further. One can do so secure in the knowledge that simply by so doing, it won’t absolutely revolutionize one’s life and force one to give everything up only to pursue further devotional relationships with a deity or set of deities (unless that’s what ends up happening!…but, let’s be honest, it doesn’t usually…), though it should make one’s religious engagement richer and more rewarding in the aftermath. It may very well even make one a better doctor, teacher, lawyer, gardener, journalist, firefighter, dancer, computer programmer, circus tumbler, or janitor (or whatever one’s job happens to be!) in the aftermath as well; but, it doesn’t necessarily make one a mystic always and forever afterwards, or even for a fleeting moment or two.


Responses

  1. Part of the problem with the term “mysticism” is the unnecessary and really quite strange connotations that it has acquired over the years. If we were using the term in accord with its ancient, Hellenic sense, mystikos would refer essentially to the knowledge appropriate to an initiate, who of course need not be a member of the clergy. One would say that such a person is not a mere “casual” worshiper either, but then again, an initiation once undertaken, and the “mystery” conveyed, the initiate need not go on to do anything much differently from the “casual” worshiper, and the term certainly carries none of the connotation of spiritual athletics, if you will, that seems to attach to it today.

    That’s one aspect of the problem. The other has to do with the notion that “mysticism” concerns, not just of the form of one’s practice, or some content peculiar to one’s particular cult, but with a universal content that is derivable, in some fashion, purely from the practices of “mystics”, and that is common and perennial, invariant regardless of the cults, which are like mere husks concealing the core “mystical” insight, which is generally expressed as a substantial monism in which the impersonal medium of “consciousness” is all that is properly Real. We probably have William James to blame for this hijacking of the term, but it, or some doggerel version of it, has become proverbial to the degree that “mysticism” now in many circles is pretty much synonymous with the immanent monotheism that is the Tweedledum to transcendent monotheism’s Tweedledee, if you will.

    • Yes–I certainly had the mystai in mind as I wrote this, and the fact that most of them ended up being “just regular people” afterwards…and, the spiritual athleticism of many modern mystics as opposed to the “I did it…now, to the rest of my life” approach that characterized the Eleusinian initiates, for example, is a noteworthy difference, and yet one that tends to be assumed in favor of the former rather than the latter by many people who are modern initiates into certain traditions. (But based on actual experience and the experiential track record of those who have done it, the Antinoan Mysteries seem to be more like the ancient pattern in that regard, as many don’t have much more of an intense Antinoan practice than anyone else, and several have even then gone on to get heavily involved in other practices, religions, or so forth after their initiations–nothing wrong with that, but anyway…!?!)

      I also very much agree that the monistic notions that many have around mysticism (and even the clever saying about “mystics always recognize each other; fundamentalists only see themselves and sin”!) tend to result in people talking about “Deity” and “the Divine” a lot more than they ought to, even if they are polytheists, as if “the Divine” experienced by pagans is the same as that experienced by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc. Of course, it isn’t; but there seems to be a certain amount of PR-savvy feel-good monism that gets perpetrated by pagans in the effort to get other religions to not reject us outright due to our focus on actual deities, etc.

  2. So…where does that leave people who don’t have direct experiences with a god?

    • It leaves them exactly where they are…?!? ;)

      But seriously, I’m not sure I understand the nature of your question.

      There are all sorts of divine beings that can be experienced, outside of the gods–are you referring to people who experience those (e.g. ancestors, land spirits, faeries, egregores, archetypes, etc.; and also, just general “energy,” “divine presence,” “consciousness,” etc.)? If so, then substitute whatever being is appropriate for “gods” and I think the discussion above would remain relevant for the most part.

      There are some people who are open to having experiences with gods, but just haven’t yet–are you referring to them? And my response there would be: keep practicing, and perhaps it will happen.

      There are some people who are not at all interested in having experiences with gods, and will adamantly state that they don’t believe that gods exist; if that is who you’re talking about, then I’m not really concerned with them, because that’s another thing entirely. One of the things that has (usefully!) emerged in the recent polytheism debates is that humanists are really not interested in nor are they doing things comparable to what polytheists are, and thus we should stop talking as if these things–though some include both under the rubric of “paganism”–are even remotely related to one another or share anything in common. So, I’m not really talking about that group here because it’s not relevant to these concerns.

      Or, I’m certain there could be a variety of other possible understandings of your question…thus, I’d be very interested in hearing more from you on what would be the most relevant to your own concerns. :)

      • I’m talking about people who worship and believe in the gods but don’t experience them. They just don’t, for whatever reason. I’ve been talking to a lot of people like that recently. And I’ve heard from a lot of people who despair because they don’t experience the gods. They don’t have dreams, they don’t get any impressions during ritual or prayer, they don’t feel anything. And I wonder where in an ‘experiential religion’ people like that fit.

      • Ah…

        Something which religions of experience tend to be as equally as they are experiential in basis is religions of practice that are practical in nature–and by “practical” I don’t mean “useful” or “convenient,” but instead “based in practice.” When pagans say they are an orthopraxic rather than orthodox religion, that’s what they mean; although, in reality, polypraxy is more the norm than a strictly enforced orthopraxy (despite some modern preferences for portraying it as such).

        For people who don’t experience the gods, then something must be keeping them doing the practices and in the community and identifying as pagan or polytheist or what-have-you. Whatever that is, it doesn’t matter one way or the other–and by that I mean that the exact details or patterns of that continued interest and the reasons for it isn’t that important to reckon for anyone other than the person who has the continued interest.

        Many religions that have an animistic or polytheistic basis are more practical in nature than experiential, like Shinto for example. It’s not so important that every person, or even the priests, in Shinto experience the kami, although there is some expectation that at least a vague feeling of improved ki should probably accompany some rituals and practices. It’s not so important in Shinto that people have direct experience of the kami, it’s instead important that the ceremonies are carried out fully and correctly–not unlike Zen (which, of course, was especially popular in Japan and developed further and thrived there down to this very day)–pretty much as an end unto themselves, in the same way that Zen practitioners say that zazen doesn’t have a point, it’s just a practice that should be done for the sake of the practice.

        I think many pagans, polytheists, and others who worship and acknowledge the existence of the gods but don’t experience them shouldn’t feel bad that such is the case–I think that it still benefits the gods for people to worship them even if the gods concerned don’t come down to shake hands and say thank-you. If these religions are understood as practical-experiential, then leaning more on the former than the latter is just as legitimate and valid–and, more significantly, important to have. The presence of people who do it for the love of doing it and because they value the experience of practice, without the necessity of the experience of the gods, is a very good thing. All too often, those who are in it just for experience of the gods then can get big heads over having those experiences (as I tried to indicate above), and so those who aren’t motivated by those sorts of things can often be a very needed antidote to the excesses of those who try to make it all about how special those who have lots of divine experiences. The practical-based religionists can really provide useful feedback, too, on how to make our practices that much more effective, and just as enjoyable and potentially transformative for those who don’t have direct divine experiences as a result of them, which is a really important role that they may be ideally suited to play.

        That would be my thoughts on the matter…what do you reckon?

      • Hm, I think that answers what I was getting at with my questions. (I’m still thinking of writing about direct experiences of the gods and spirits, because in my circles and experiences that isn’t very well described and is often vague, and I think outlining what experience is/can be like for people will help others realize if they’ve had an experience with a god or spirit.)

        My thoughts on the issue are similar to yours. I do think that the frustration and sadness I’ve seen from others comes from the ‘everyone is a priest/priestess!!” meme that still pervades Pagandom (and which I know you were speaking out against in this piece!). For me, the focus is much more on the practice, on keeping the proper practices, at least when it comes to teaching others about my faith.

      • I think that would be an excellent matter to discuss further: both to alleviate the vagueness of what is meant by “direct experience”; and, to talk more about the importance of practice and just keeping up with it.

        (I’ve written before, whether here or on Patheos or both, about the importance of practice as spiritual technology–even though some people may not feel anything at a given point, it’s still good to do, and even if one has the sense of “going through the motions” with it, often that’s exactly what the point of it is, because even if we can’t feel something as a result of it, it’s still accomplishing what it is intended to do for the gods, and there’s all sorts of things which can prevent us from being able to perceive that on any given instance, etc.)

        I think if more pagans understood that being a “priest/ess” (and, as a side note, I wish there were a term for such sacred functionaries that isn’t binary gendered, or that uses “priest” and assumes it is gender-neutral…!?!) doesn’t automatically mean that they are experiencing the gods directly in any given moment when they are executing their priestly functions and duties. If one is a shaman, sure, of course that’s what is going on; but just a priest? Nope, not necessarily, and it never has been that way in most cultures that are animistic or polytheistic. (In Shinto, as I’m sure you know, the person most likely to have direct shaman-like experiences at a Shinto shrine is not the kannushi or even the guji, but the miko; and even though women can be priests and are thus not acting in the roles that miko carry out, nonetheless, it’s something rather interesting about the religion in some respects…)

      • I do think that point about clergy/priests/damnit-can-we-get-a-better-word is very relevant. It seems strange to me to assume that the clergy would have experiences with the gods directly, or frequently, because in my experience and understanding that is not their role or emphasis, any more than the laity. (It also bugs me when people expect clergy to commit their entire lives to fulfilling that role when I don’t believe that was even true for polytheistic cultures, and it certainly is not feasible in our current broader pagan culture which has a really unhealthy relationship towards ‘official’ clergy.) This brought up a lot of points I’ve been meaning to write about actually… (I recently saw someone claim that rituals to discern what gods one should serve in a priestly capacity was ‘wrong’ because ‘real’ clergy should be able to talk to the gods themselves and figure out how to serve for themselves, which, to me, was problematic on a lot of levels, and discussing this reminded me of why I want to write about that attitude, which is unpleasantly present in modern pagandom…)

      • 100% to all you’ve said here…Of the various things that are frustrating about the general perceptions that pagans have, this is definitely in the top 5. It seems like everyone who is asked about what pagan clergy should be seems to indicate that their notion of “priest/ess/hood” involves a person being a direct conduit to the gods, a teacher, a spiritual director, a pastoral care authority, a theologian, a magician, a psychologist/therapist, a social activist, a hospital and prison chaplain, a public speaker, and, oh, also, maybe, a ritual specialist, when in fact the only thing that traditional priesthoods have been is the latter, which is valued the least today. And, on top of all that, the clergy candidate should also be able to do all of the above at the drop of a hat, do it for any and every pagan or polytheist who might come to them (as long as they’re not a recon or too much of a polytheist), and also get not a dime for it, and do it happily and without thanks…or else, we don’t need ‘em. Needless to say, it’s unrealistic, far too much based on the “all things to all people” models of priesthood advocated by Catholicism (which, also, don’t work), and which doesn’t realize that each of these functions, while important, does not mean that someone will be able to do any or all of the others. Most of the people I know who are good at one of these things would be relatively bad at several of the others, at very least. Why can’t we have specialists in particular aspects of religious practice or communal religious life, without any stigma attaching to specialization? (Of course, the answer is because of that oft-quoted line from Robert Heinlein about specialization being for insects…well, they’ve been around for millions of years longer than us, and seem to have pretty good functioning communities, so perhaps there’s something useful to learn from them after all!)

        But most certainly, you should write on these topics much further, as they are needed and need to be heard and understood more widely, so the more people who can get in on such conversations, the better. :)

  3. […] the last few days, I’ve been having a very nice and useful conversation in the comments on this blog post with Aine Llewellyn, whose Patheos.com Pagan Channel blog has had some interesting things in it of late (and always!) […]

  4. I tend to like “mystic” because I do not fall into the apparent “spiritworker” self-definition of being claimed in some way/getting assigned duties and tasks by the beings with Whom I converse. I generally just have experience/connection/communication with Them – mostly personal interactions without any Value to the Greater Pagan Community. I did deliberately set out to do so and have taken/continue to undertake particular actions to continue connection, so it is an active pursuit on my part.

    It’s also such a nice contrasting modifier to “reconstructionist”, that I hope makes my admittedly fairly heretical priorities more transparent. I’d hate to come off as a mountain lion in sheep’s clothing when yo, duh, blinking neon sign – mountain lion over here, don’t say I didn’t give any warning.

    • Yes–and, I like your definitions and understandings, and am glad you’ve joined in this conversation! I’ve missed you! ;)

      I think it can be a very useful term, and in your own case, it is extremely appropriate. But, “any spiritual experience at all beyond vague warm glows and good feelings = mystic” is, I think, a bad construction, and one that I don’t think really serves anyone other than some people’s egos and their inflation; or, in some cases, the exact opposite–“Gods forfend that I have any direct interactions with a deity–then I’d be a mystic, and eew!” (or something, so it seems).

      • I’m sorry to have been missing out on so much what you’ve had to say here, but the predominantly offline life focus is being very productive for me. As you see, I do sneak peeks now and again. ;)

        I’m puzzled by what perceived negative impacts “being a mystic” might have that would cause an aversion towards taking actions that might even suggest the possibility. (Or who would enforce them. Is there some particular distance on one’s Otherworld Odometer that once past, gives you the label, like it or not?)

        I appear to be out of the loop on the current thoughts on mysticism out in the general Pagan community. Last I knew it was mostly a vague adjective for woo (I habitually give my TV the finger whenever I hear it used as such, a tradition established while Netflixing Buffy the Vampire Slayer), or a quaint old-fashioned label self-applied by people within the scholarly/philosophical/analytical portion of the Pagan spectrum.

        Is there an idea that mysticism leads to compulsory godservice of particular kinds? That it is some kind of destiny trap?

      • Is there an idea that mysticism leads to compulsory godservice of particular kinds? That it is some kind of destiny trap?

        No; but, as mentioned briefly in the post, I heard a rather prominent pagan recently say that they desired more personal experience with deities, but that they didn’t want such to make them into a “mystic” because they have enough of a job to do already elsewhere in their life and in their pagan communal role, etc. And, that made me go “huh?” because seeking a divine experience (of a necessarily limited nature, as the individual indicated would be the case) does not make one a “mystic” automatically or irrevocably.

        Sure, some would like to think of themselves as “mystical help desk workers” or “mystical bus drivers” or what-have-you; but, it’s not really the same thing, and isn’t that easy.

        It certainly gets over-used as “equivalent to woo” in ways that aren’t useful; but, it can also get used pejoratively in the wider culture.

        In any case…


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