No Sick Mystics!


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.


12 Responses to “No Sick Mystics!”

  1. Tatjana

    I’ve came to this very strong and sudden conclusion a couple of months ago, followed by a strong kick in the arse 2 weeks ago when I had a guest who had an excuse for everything and played the victim to the nines. It was almost unbearable until I realized the potential lesson and ran with it. Would that all had such easy lessons staring them in the face.

  2. DEclectic

    No separation, Thorn. Your perspective clarifies the body/mind rift issue.

  3. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Very good reflections, Thorn!

    I do think much depends upon how one defines “sick,” though. There is the classic “shamanic illness” that still pertains in many societies, and I have often wondered if that has anything to do with many societies, in attempting to find a role and a place for everyone born into them, created many of these types of sacred role as a way for the non-able-bodied to still contribute by being a specialist in liminality. Being physically disabled, and often “closer to death” due to illness, naturally brings such people to often greater insight into or experience of spiritual states and matters, simply because they loom as a constant probability that more able-bodied folks have the temporary luxury of not having to deal with as an immanent reality.

    I know that for myself, my own ongoing chronic conditions are a challenge. I had several instances of near-death experiences in my youth, and the last one, when I was 15, was at the threshold of my becoming a polytheist. I have had a few bad health episodes in the 19 years since, but none as severe as those of that period, and never with loss of consciousness, stopping breathing, etc. I am told by everyone who knew me then that I look very good and healthy now, even though in certain ways my conditions have had further adverse consequences since that time. But, I can say with certainty that I no longer fight my body, nor do I consider it a shell or a vehicle of consciousness…I am my body, and it’s great, even when it isn’t! The opportunity for physical infirmity to open one to spiritual experience, therefore, is significant in my own experience. No, I am not “healed” of my various conditions, but I would say I am more whole than I would have been otherwise…and I think that means I may be a body that contains certain diseases, yet nonetheless I am not “sick.”

    Anyway, I’m certain you understand the distinctions involved. 😉

    • Thorn

      Thanks for the input.

      Sufenas, the distinctions you are making are what I was trying to point to by mentioning that one can have cancer and still work toward being as healthy as possible while living with cancer.

      Of course physical infirmity – just like any intensity or stressor – can open one up spiritually if we allow for it. Anything can be a great gift and teaching. I just don’t want to court that. We deal with what happens, and sometimes that becomes a thing of grace and beauty. Some people who deal with “infirmity” on a regular basis derive great power from it – I think of Victor Anderson’s blindness, for example, that was surely part of the reason he was so talented with drawing things down from the astral realms – others are simply ground down by it, as you likely know.

      What I was trying to point to was partially what you mention about not fighting your body, or considering it to be a shell, and also that body is spirit and therefore, being in as much health as possible is helpful for our long term work.

      Methinks we agree!

  4. Scott Reimers

    Re Body/Spirit connection.
    I wholeheartedly agree. It’s amazing how rewarding re-connecting with our bodies can be: relationships, health, pleasure, wealth and a return to BEing in the here and now were some of the most powerful consequences for me.

    Re: Energy Work.
    I remember marveling at how much our Aura/Ether concepts were similar in one of your classes at PSG (still love and use the “re-align with higher self technique btw”). I work to process most energies either with my Aura or by “extending” my Etheric body outside my physical and channeling it through that.

    Most of us don’t have that level of control of our Etheric when we’re starting and it takes intentional practice to get toward it. I agree that it can help your health immensely to choose to do so.

    I’ve noticed that in moderation all of the energies have value and can benefit within. You specifically mention spirit as one you keep outside the body. Earth from below and Spirit from above are some the energies I bring in and intermingle in relatively large quantities. Why did you choose to only allow earth energies within?

  5. Thorn

    Scott, actually I would have to correct my statement. I allow earth energy in from below and sky energy in from above – but both feel of ‘this plane’ to me.

  6. Soli

    Let’s court health. Let’s work toward the greatest synergy possible for our minds, bodies, emotions and spirits.

    Yes. I don’t understand the fetish some seem to have to take illness as some kind of badge that they are higher up/further along/etc. because they’ve developed an illness apparently alongside spirit work, and it bothers me greatly. Why court something which could potentially limit how you interact with the world? How can you serve your community in that state?

  7. AlanHeartsong

    Thank you VERY much for this, as I’m just recovering from having a naughty gallbladder removed and mapping out a fitness regime to get me fully recovered, this is quite timely (even though I’m reading it later than you wrote it). Years ago I knew a young woman who believed her car accident and permanent disability were direct from the Goddess so she’d have time to be a full-time priestess (I think it was Athena or Artemis she was worshiping, I forget which). Of course, she was zonked out of her mind on pain medication and sleeping most of the time, so she got very little priestessing time in, but I found that point of view alarming – and I still do.

    Because energy work can be taxing on the physical body, I think we need to do everything we can to be as healthy and strong as we can. I’m planning on a regular routine of Tai Chi, Yoga, and strength training. Physical exercise *is* spiritual, and there’s nothing wrong with having some good strong muscle tone. I just can’t help but feel that, if I go to big pagan events like PantheaCon, I’ll be treated like something of a freak, though.

  8. Thorn

    Alan, not sure why you think you’d be treated as a freak. I workout every day at Pantheacon, in the hotel gym. I always see at least a couple of others in there, too. Last year, I taught a well attended (well over 100 people) active, self-defense class, and someone else did a fitness class, too. I definitely have muscle tone!

    Our religion is embodied! Let’s celebrate!

    (and good healing to you!)


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