When you’re born you have a family. This family has a belief system. At some point as you grow, you will begin to think about these beliefs and if you want to adopt them as your own. Your relationships with your parents, friends, religious/spiritual association, school, culture, etc. all affect how you perceive these beliefs. No man is an island.
I was born into a Christian family. I grew up going to church. I lived in the Bible belt. The majority of people I knew identified as Christian. I read the Bible and thought about theology a lot. I read Christian fiction and non-fiction books. I listened to Christian music. But I knew there was something off about the Christianity I knew.
In college I thought about becoming a Bible major but decided against it. I believed that if I started studying theology, I would learn a lot intellectually, but felt that it would not help my emotional relationship with Christianity, God, and other people. Those things seriously suffered growing up no matter how hard I tried to be a good Christian.
In grad school I worked hard on my emotions and relationship with God. I worked hard to improve my outlook on life. My brain had been feeding me negative thoughts and emotions as long as I could remember and it seriously hampered my ability to function well at times.
If you’ve read my other blog posts you know the rest of the story. I had an awakening and much later spiritual journey to understand and integrate my awakening. I have gone down a very unorthodox path.
These days I hold onto my beliefs less firmly. All I know for sure is that God is love and that we will all return to this love at some point. I have fun trying to figure out how that makes sense in light of my experience (which is all we really have in life).
I don’t think labels are as important anymore. They help people identify with each other. But I also see the dangers of tribalism. Our labels can lead us to assume a simple understanding of our complex experiences and beliefs. This can become a check-list of deciding who’s in and out of the group based in a set of belief statements.
However, some people still want to know your label. So if I had to label myself I’ve settled on “modern mystic.” Mystics are people who believe strongly in Gnosis or direct experience with God. Theses experiences help us get out of our analytical left brain. Our understanding goes beyond language and intellectual structure. We still use words to try to explain theses experiences, but we know these are always inadequate simplified symbols of our direct experiences.
Why the modern part? Because we live in an exciting time where science is starting to connect with spirituality. Quantum physics is starting to upend the scientific belief in materialism as the foundation for reality. Psychology is beginning to understand the powerful benefits of meditation. Psychologists understand that people aren’t just brain chemicals but have different parts of the psyche such as the body, ego, conscious, unconscious, and superconscious parts of the mind.
So I’m a modern mystic in the sense that I try to connect science and intellect the best I can with the ancient mystic practices of direct experience. I strive to strike a balance between contemplative practices that give me space for quiet connection to the divine and reading books & talking with other wise spiritual seekers to clarify our understanding of truth.
I have decided that I won’t reject my heritage. I still want to help Christianity to a less legalistic, more loving, experiential, contemplative, nuanced place. I know that many people in my church can still teach me a lot about patience, simplicity, and love. But I know longer identify necessarily as a Christian or hold to many modern Christian beliefs.
I have done a lot of work battling with myself on my beliefs, anxiety, and struggles with my parents. But I am maturing more and more to a place of peace, acceptance, and love as I journey. I’m excited for the future and what it may hold.