The Challenge of Sharing the Mystical

I’ve written here about my thoughts and opinions on the mystical – religion, magick, and the like.  What I haven’t done is share experiences I’ve had.  As you can surmise, I’ve had them, and had ones that stood up after examination – I just don’t like sharing them.

I wanted to explore why, and the hope that it provokes dialogue, dear reader – with you and with myself.

First, such mystic experiences are to an extent personal. They’re intimate things involving gods, personal motivations, and personal insights.  Sharing such things feels, to be honest, rather cringe as people younger than I say.  It’s like blogging about your marriage or when your friend confided their insecurities.

Second, I dislike the idea of sharing mystical experiences as it sounds like bragging – and the esoteric community has no shortage of annoying braggarts and grifters.  I don’t want to show off, I want to share and learn and have a few laughs.

Third, I fear being misinterpreted.  The realm of the mystical is not easy to communicate, and the bullshit out there makes it even more of a challenge.  I’d rather not accidentally lead someone down a painful path, and I’ve made my own mistakes.  Let’s just say I take Quigong much more seriously after what we shall call “an incident.”

Fourth, I sometimes wonder if I can explain mystical things properly.  I have notes on my experiments going back  about 25 years.  But I have to translate them from “me” to “other people and sometimes I’m not sure what I wrote down.

Fifth, let’s face it, all experience is incomplete.  My mystical experiences, even well-explained, might not actually be useful.  That might lead to people misinterpreting as well.

And, finally, I’ve seen plenty of drama among communities of magicians and mystics, and I want no part of it.  This also means I’m pretty bad at finding fellow practitioners, something I hope to remediate – but I don’t blame myself.

So that’s it.  Still, I think I should start sharing some of what I’ve done, and I am seeking appropriate ways to do so.  I will doubtlessly do some here.

Maybe I’ll share some of what happens here – but in a non-cringe way, of course.  I hope.

– Xenofact

Mystic’s Game

For this post, I am using the term mysticism to refer to the overlapping worlds of magick, spirituality, and religion.  It’s hard to divide the three up, so I chose to lump them together, and we can fight over that sometimes.

“Gamification” is a term I’ve seen in increasing use over the years – the idea of applying game elements (scores, achievements, measures) to various “non-game” elements of life.  When you place systems, rewards, and social recognition around something, people gravitate towards it.  We like systems; humans seek and make order.

Despite the term becoming prominent in the 2000s, humans have been doing this for our whole existence.  We have ranks in the military, systems of promotion at work, and ways of organizing territories, etc.  The title of Sergeant, the need to pass a certification test, and the idea of states or provinces are all gamification, at least in the broader sense.  As you noticed, I prefer the broader sense.

The world and people are complex, and we humans are good at making or finding rules and boiling them down to something we can work with.  If something needs complexity or simplicity, we’re damned good at finding either.

I’d argue that Gamification is critical in mystical practices.

When you dive into mysticism, you’re facing The Big Everything.  Call it the Good, Kia, Tao as I prefer, the Universe is simply so big it’s hard to deal with – and we’re part of it!  Even trying to understand and deal with our own minds is a challenge since you’re using your thinking to think about thinking.  No wonder we need to think of the great Powers as like us, understand stages of meditation, or develop cosmologies of Spheres and Paths.

Mysticism needs gamification because otherwise we have no place to start.  Even blowing your mind with ritual practices and substances is gamified because it’s safer – it’s easier to see the guardrails when there’s a plan.

I find seeing mysticism as a form of gamification to be liberating.  It provides appreciation of the systems people have built before me – and are building now.  It provides awareness that some of this is made up, but it’s made up for a good reason – it’s a tool to deal with the Big Everything.  It provides the power to make your own systems and ways of thinking when needed.  Finally, it provides humility to realize that what you think or believe is a construct as you need it that way.

And, of course, admitting mysticism contains gamification lets you apply knowledge from games, gamified activities, and gamification theory.

By the way, if you look at your esoteric practices and see the gamification within, turn that view on your entire life.  I think a lot of us know instinctively we’re gamifying our mystical practices since they’re big colorful, and wild.  We might miss how gamified our mundane life is.

Or maybe we ask if there’s any boundary between the mystical and the mundane.  Maybe that division is just a rule we came up with . . .

– Xenofact

Accuracy Through Obscurity

When I returned to my meditative practices after a long break (entirely my own fault), I found myself frustrated.  Where were the insights I once had?  Why was this so hard, filled with distractions?  Where was this milestoneI had once passed, or that milestone I had reached?

Sometimes I suddenly had success, returning to the progress of years ago – and then it would snap back like a rubber band.  I had some techniques to help me, but they were temporary, and I’d end up back where I was, sitting and wondering what I was doing wrong after all those years.

Months of this (and further interruptions I had to work around), frustrated me further.  Eventually a random insight thanks to a podcast provided the righteous puncturing to my ego – I was trying to force my past experiences.  I was using a map and trying to force myself to a location instead of going step by step.

I focused on doing my practices properly and avoided interruptions, going bit by bit, breath by breath. The tensions, the frustration faded, and I made the progress I had sought with surprising rapidly.  The map in my head didn’t help, it just made me frustrated and unhappy with myself.

Yes, it was a terrible display of egotism.  But I value the insight – plus it makes a useful blog post!  Also, this post further gives my ego a good deflation, and that thing needs it.

This experience made me think of some of the Taoist documents I love, such as The Secret of the Golden Flower.  Though some of them describe certain meditative states, they oft use metaphor, maybes, and warnings of when you’re off the path.  In turn I thought about other mystical and meditative practices that seemed irritatingly obscure or symbolic.  I began to see the value of obscurity and symbolism in mystical practices.

I’ve always believed mystical, spiritual, magical practices should be as open as possible.  They are liberating and I am all for “liberation mysticism.”  But I realized that trying to map out what and how a mystical experience should happen invites people to become frustrated, to force it, or to use the map to imagine they’re having the experience.

I may have avoided the last one, but I certainly experienced the first two.
Now my meditation is just walking on the path, doing my techniques moment by moment, breath by breath.  My goal is to do them right and that’s what matters.  I’m walking the path, I’ll get to where I should be by sitting right there on my cushion.  I have my past experiences and writings by learned people to provide me signs, and I’ll recognize them when I see them.

A little obscurity is needed so you don’t deceive yourself.

  • Xenofact