In a write up on the recent “Turn on Your (Psychic) Light” class I taught in St. Louis, Tara of Staff of Asclepius quoted me as saying “No sick mystics!”
It feels important to unpack that statement. Here’s a bit of background:
Yes, I have strong mystical states. There are times when non-duality is pure Reality for me - all my molecules are separated out into limitless light, space, motion, stillness… There is nothing but bliss and connection. No words. No sense of this or that. I have had glimpses of this since childhood, and spent one year pretty fully extended in these bliss states. As an embodied mystic, I came back from that, in order to have effect in the world that felt helpful. The sense of the non-dual, however, always swirls somewhere nearby, even as I live amongst perceptions of polarity: of light and shadow, warm and cold, Liberal and Conservative… body and spirit. There is an abiding sense of connection, and the bliss states enter when I let polarity go.
Early in my magickal training, I developed chronic illness, and likely had undiagnosed chronic fatigue, plus somewhere along the way ended up in constant pain resulting from a motorcycle accident. I knew other magick workers who were fighting various illnesses, and recalled the stories of some of the Christian mystics in which their bodies, being less important than the numinous, simply started to fail. My friends and I seemed to take this as a matter of course, and even talked about how those who worked a lot in the spirit and ancestral realms got sick, despite the words of one of our teachers - “Body trumps spirit.”
I think our illnesses made us feel kind of special. Or more likely, that was just me, being still heavily impacted by “Stories of Saints for Boys and Girls” in which martyrdom and suffering were held up as examples of spiritual depth. Plus, it was easier to have a mindset of “mystics are often sick” rather than look at the ways in which our spiritual training was impacting our bodies and trying to correct that trajectory.
Since then, I’ve struggled very hard to become fully healthy, and to mend the self-imposed rift between matter and spirit. There is no rift. The body is a sacred part of my soul. All systems intertwine and affect one another. Either we have mutually supporting systems, or we have systems that tear each other down. We have graphic evidence for the ways in which this ripples out into our communities, and of course, in how we treat other humans, animals, plants, sky, ocean, and earth. Things become torn asunder that could instead be seen as whole.
Old school occultists often made agreements, whether consciously or not, to let the body go in favor of pure energy and spirit contact. We can learn from that, and let their ill health and poverty point us at ways to change our relationships to the physical and spiritual.
I wish to be clear here that in no way am I positing that health looks or feels the same for each of us. There is no one ideal exercise program, way of eating, weight, size, flexibility or mobility. What I’m lobbying for is deep listening to all of our parts. What kind of movement does my body want in order to feel happy? What sort of food does it crave when I’m not pumping myself full of toxins, or forgetting to eat until I feel crazed? Can I slow down enough inside to truly listen, every day, to body, mind, emotion, and spirit within, and to the earth, the cosmos, and the spirit realms around me?
A person living with cancer can find ways to be as healthy as possible while living with cancer. A person who is bedridden can find his best way of courting health from bed. What is your best way? We can’t let the overculture dictate how health should look or feel. When we do that, a different imbalance enters - self loathing and a bunch of ‘shoulds’ - and often we give up, because the distorted ideal is unattainable. What is ideal for our personal optimal health?
I suspect that early Pagan mystics did not have this trouble of divorcing the body from the rest of the soul. I cannot imagine the legendary Amergin sick in his hut on a regular basis because he did not take care of his body. No, he was one with the creatures of the earth in his fully mystical states, and as such, he was also one with the animal of himself. The famous poem “I am the stag of the seven tines…” is oft thought to be a political challenge and a claiming of the land. I read it differently. I read the words of a mystic, so fully in touch with All, that he truly was the salmon in the stream, the stag, and the fire. With that sort of embodied mysticism, he and the earth reflected health and wholeness. No separation.
We can support embodiment and health by learning to run our energy differently than we do now, no matter what our mobility is. I was taught to run every kind of energy through my body, and I’m pretty convinced that this contributed to my illness. I’ve experimented and worked hard to design ways to run energy through my energy fields instead of my physical form. This helps a lot. The only energy I now run through my dense physical body is earth energy, and my body’s natural energetic states. All else, including spirit or deity contact, or aetheric energy, goes through my etheric body, my aura, or my God Soul (I write about this in Kissing the Limitless). Yes, these systems all interact with each other and the physical, but they are better suited to channeling what I might call the cosmic energies than my pancreas, for example.
By “No Sick Mystics” I don’t mean that magick workers, mystics, spiritual seekers or priests never get sick. What I mean is, let’s not court illness. Let’s court health. Let’s work toward the greatest synergy possible for our minds, bodies, emotions and spirits.
Today is Earth Day. By learning to better honor all of our personal interlocking systems, our personal earth, we can learn to better honor all of the systems that depend upon us, and upon which we depend. We can work toward healthy self, healthy culture, healthy planet, healthy cosmos. We can bring all of the worlds into wholeness.
To your health. To the health of the planet. To the health of the cosmos. To the health of all the realms.
As above, so below. As within, so without.