I am a practical person – project manager, a writer who manages his own works, and a cook who has tested recipes up to eighteen times to get them right. I’m also a mystic who mixes magic, meditation, Taoism, and syncretic paganism. I find that a mystical viewpoint is very practical.
The fact I even feel I have to say that says something about the American culture I live in (as well as some of my own personality, but that’s for later). Our culture seems to be awash in religion and spirituality and an obsession with supposed-practicality – to judge by the various self-help books and seminars I see. In reality our culture seems to mostly be interested in making money not actual life – which in many ways is sort of impractical.
Making money is not the end-all-and-be-all of life. In fact that’s where I find a mystical viewpoint useful – dare I say, practical.
Let’s take a look at a sort of “generic” mystical viewpoint. The world is composed of powerful living forces like gods and spirits. There are connections and correspondences in the world, an interconnected reality beneath our supposedly mundane world. People can alter themselves with meditations and practices, interact with this world via ritual and activity.
It is a view of an organic, living world that a person can adjust themselves to and interact with.
Viewing the world as organic – complex and connected – is useful and accurate. From the way disease spreads to complex cultural changes, our world is not like a mechanism on any larger-scale level. An organic viewpoint helps you get the world – as if it is alive. In fact . . .
Viewing the world as alive, as filled with living (or life-like) forces, is also accurate. We can argue if spirits or gods are literal, but as I’ve said before, they’re at least a useful concept to grasp the world. Understanding the world as alive, respecting it, fearing it, understanding it’s as complicated as you lets you live within it better (and know it may crush you so get out of the way).
Viewing oneself as able to improve and evolve in this living world is vital to growth and participating in the world. Sure some stuff about aligning forces, energies, whatever is bullshit. But the idea of learning to rethink yourself as a changing being lets you, well, change – or resist change when needed. You just need to be careful of the bullshit, which is often prominent AND has neat diagrams.
Viewing the world as something we evolving beings can participate, is both empowering psychologically and for real. We evolvable beings, connected to this living world, can work within it and live our lives better. We think in terms of interaction, be it energy flows, correspondances, or whatever.
The mystical worldview is being engaged. Which is, as I note, rather practical.
The “dressing” for all of this – correspondence charts, pantheons of gods, etc. are just tools for doing this. They are ways to wrap up these living complexities in ways we can understand and share. They’re a mix of art, advice, maps, and metaphors to help us deal with the world.
You’ll notice none of this asks what’s “real” because in many ways that’s not the point. The question is does it work and help us deal with this world – a practical one. For many of us who engage in mystical practice, the answer is “yeah, it works.”
Of course it only works if we’re also engaged in thinking and rethinking our practice. But the whole thing is about being engaged, isn’t it? Most people I know who are inclined to magic and such spend their lives refining practice and their understanding. Many a witch or magician is more skpetical than supposed skeptics.
And thus we arrive back at my conclusion – the mystical viewpoint is practical and useful, a way to interact with our living, wide world. Indeed I wish we explored this in a more secular, systemic way so others can learn from it.
But then again, that’s for another time. Or perhaps something for you and I to discuss and see what we and our friends can learn together.