In Practical Mysticism: A Manual for Normal People (1915), Evelyn Underhill defined Mysticism as “the art of union with Reality.” Mystics see beyond reality and peer into the Reality. They are dissatisfied what what is seen and what is known. What does this deeper Reality look like? Well, BLS, whose well-thought out comments I love, wrote in a fantastic post on deflating the ego that the Mystics see “. . . the vast, amazing vista of living that we can only get fleeting glimpses of on our own.” Mystics see what we do not see. Mystics see what we ignore. Mystics know what we do not know. Because of they see Reality, they do not like reality. They are not at home here, as Thérèse of Lisieux reminded herself frequently, “The world is thy ship but not thy home.”
Frankly, I’ll never understand you if you like reality. You might be so pleased with the present condition that you never yearn or reach for anything else. You’ve probably never fantasized about living in another time, another place. You love life in the twenty-first century so much that you might whisper disorders against the unsatisfied. You probably avoid novels. You are at home in your body and in the world.
Some days, I even envy you.
But, you’ve never known those “scenic vistas” where life suddenly surprises with terrifying grandeur. You’ve never been so moved to cry all your tears or laugh all your laughter. You’ve never napped after lovemaking because you’ve never made love. You’ve only fucked. You’ve never been crushed, tasting the sweet freedom of failure, because you never open yourself enough to be hurt. You’ve never been so exhausted by life, yet so charmed by it, that you go on without a complaint. You exist, but you do not live — yet.
You inhabit a terribly claustrophobic and season-less world. Amid the florescent hum, you live in a monochrome city of winding passageways meandering through carefully-engineered technicolor facades. “Looking good!” they holler at you from the sides as you walk through dimly-lit hallways of always-given compliments. Echoing your own, these voices only serve to flatter. No one ever questions your existence. You’ve never been not needed here.
You accept the world as it was given to you. You accept all the conditions. So, your reality is of humorless distinctions: left, right; one or ninety-nine percent; gay, straight; believer and non-believer; the haves and the have-nots; crazy, sane; the for and the against. So, you heave your shoulders with a sigh, “Well, that’s just how the world works” and — bingo — you feel no guilt for inhabiting a reality that is not really Reality. Changeable lies become immutable truths because you claim no responsibility for your existence.
In this manufactured world, you will not die. You will disappear. You will simply be forgotten, just like when you forgot all the disappeared ones while you were busy walking the lanes being complimented, while you were busy meditating on how beautiful this little reality is. It will go on without you, by the way. It will go on praising the next one, and the next one, and the next one, while cold death haunts the streets unknown and unrecognized. You don’t see him because you don’t want to see him.
I do not want this reality. I do not want the world that you’ve made. I don’t want the world that I’ve made. I want the one made by God. The one that praises and magnifies him forever. I want Underhill’s Reality. I want the scenic vistas that BLS wrote about. I want the world as seen by Julian, Teresa, John, and all the other Saints throughout the ages. I want to live. I want to coexist in the fragrance of the Earth so that none dare call me a self-loathing Gnostic. I want breath down in my chest.
I don’t care about what you know. For that matter, I don’t care about what I know, anymore, either. I only care about what you and I both know, but do not see. I only care about what you and I both feel, but refuse to believe. I want to see Reality. I want to see Reality not for what we pretend it to be, but for what we refuse to imagine it will become. I’m done pretending that your reality is nice; I’m awaiting the New Jerusalem.
You’ve looked every direction in those claustrophobic streets of yours, haven’t you? You’ve looked to the left and to the right. In the middle of the night you’ve wandered around, looking for an exit from the town that diligently praises you before forgetting that you ever were. There is no freedom in your night walks through those streets. There is no escape to the right or to the left. In front of you is a brick wall with a sign, “GO BACK!” because you’ve gone to far. There is no escape in either chaos or order. You might call it by another name, but it suffocates you all the same, doesn’t it?
I walked these streets in delirium. I looked for escape from lie into Truth. I looked for the road that would lead from reality to Reality. But there was no release. There was no escape because I didn’t want to look up. I didn’t want to look up because I’d lose everything I’d know. I would lose my moorings. I didn’t want to look up because I would be crushed.
Yet, one has to be crushed to become light as a feather. Because man never breaks through impenetrable walls — he only soars over them.