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Sincere Worldly Mystic Seeks Religion

by Carl J. Schroeder

A Report from the Field...

Since a powerful personal awakening to mystical possibilities in the 1980's after graduating from a technical college, I have both sought and founded support groups for the mystical experience in the Boston area. Thus did Dr. Taylor invite me to give a report from the field in this newsletter, addressed to what would appear to be a contradiction in terms: the mystical body of an academic and official religious organization. In fact, people like myself, and no doubt yourselves, try to reconcile with and seek support from traditional religion most regularly, with spotty success. Mystics are notorious for anecdotal rather than statistical evidence, so I will not buck the trend in this review.

The American New Age movement, for all its commercialized quackery (of which both those inside as well as out are painfully aware), has been a true godsend to the modern mystic. Bookstores packed with esoteric how-to manuals, and newstand catologs listing name-dropping workshops with jingoistic titles, have availed themselves to the sincerely touched seeker.

The 1990's saw the stellar rise of a third massive support, the personal revelations website, and on these and their chatrooms I have spent quite some time - even to the point of authoring a few of my own. One could argue too that the popular culture has increasingly encouraged the mystical experience, with movies like the Sixth Sense, but after a little history lesson you realize that we have yet to return to the spiritualist heyday such as when New England (Boston!) was the world center for mediumship (before Old England took the title under its more superstitiously protective wing.)

So where has religion been in the hearts and minds of the people through this time? Not far, the net is just cast further than our parents may have imagined or approved (unless you had hippy parents, which I did not). To paranthetically list my own field trips, the rubric of traditional religion now includes not only the mainstream Christian denominations (Protestant, Catholic, and now eyeing Pentacostal for a hoe-down experience), but also the pre-Christian (pagan, wiccan, shamanic), non-Christian (Buddhist), financially cultish (Scientology, Mormon), and alternative Christian (Spiritualist and Swedenborgian, my lasting faves). This may be a great heresy to list such a variety all under one heading, but frankly, they all have their dogmas, their prescriptions for undesirable limitations, both overt and covert... and none entirely satisfy the modern practitioner. For they all fail to fully answer the kind of experience that is being touted and flouted on the internet today (with perhaps shamanic and spiritualist venues remaining the most agreeable). Increasing in number are those people who, while remaining admiring, are not content to quote theprophets, or even be them, but simply are happiest when right in there with the E.T.s, angels, and saints - and this is not about ego but real abilities.

So where does that leave my Boston friends and me today? Websites alone aren't enough; the mystically inclined crave the face to face, here below as above. So we remain the dabblers, pending the improved socio-religious structures that surely must be coming. I'm proactive for that dream as well.

Leveraging my affable associations with the local Swedenborgian community, I run a mystical experiences discussion group in the Cambridge chapel. Swedenborgians other than myself have yet to attend, but several Spiritualists do, as well as local students, artists, and yuppies all bearing amazing stories. We devour books like Robert Bruce's new Astral Dynamics (perhaps the most ambitious how-to treatise on astral travel to date), study energetic disciplines like Reiki and Polarity as fast as they are invented, and compare our field notes for the entities we've been working with. My friends in the shamanic community run a drumming circle out of the Quaker meeting house, and this group is journeying ambitiously several times a month, mixing and matching the ancient traditions to see how far they can get. When I despair of poor attendence at intelligent Christian services, I go to the Watertown spiritualist church, which is booming with folks young and old who aren't afraid to say Jesus and Edgar Cayce all in one breath, and who attend many mediumship/channeling oriented programs. The local media is catching on too, with just about every newspaper (even the Globe!) running occasional menus of the mystically oriented houses, churches, and consultants succeeding now.

The scathing attitudes of those 1980's reporters who were trapped on the New Age beat have been replaced by a wider reverence for what is truly and deeply selling. Many heaven-minded people are spending and voting and living conspicuously high; software is a haven not only for the materialist but also the modernly mystical (it helps to set your own hours if you want to follow up on that dream sequence into its full OBE before showing up to work all day in front of the computer that doesn't care if you look like you've just seen a ghost).

I hope my report, anecdotal and biased as it is, reads for just plain fun for all, and not intimidating to anyone. Above all, experientialists and academics alike, we're in this together - being amazed and humbled at what humanity is forever stumbling into. The spiritual potential has always been actual just under our noses.