Western-Based Mysticism: A Personal Story
Posted by spritzophrenia on March 24, 2010
I invite people to tell their spiritual or agnostic stories. Today I’d like to say thanks to my friend Tanya for sharing a little of her journey. While I’ve come across many of the ideas such as ceremonial magick and the kabbala I hadn’t realised that they can be grouped in a general worldview and practice known as the Western Esoteric Tradition. It might be compared with New Age teachings except they come from a Western mystical worldview, rather than the New Age’s Eastern focus. Tanya writes:
My belief in god has changed from being absolute and unequivocal, to atheist, to now a moderately fluid appreciation of what might be possible theistically speaking – sometimes I believe, other times I’m lost and just don’t know what to think anymore. Mostly I live in a state of not-knowing-ness and surrender.
It all started when I became a committed open brethren at age 11. This transpired through my attendance at a youth group – my primary family were secular in the extreme, so no influence there.
My unconditional commitment to God lasted about three years. At 14 I started to question the more “misogynistic” doctrines – why could I not speak in church? Why should I wear a head covering? Why was I, as a female, essentially a second class citizen? Although the men and women of the church were genuine and gracious, it was the dogma and the flimsy explanations that disappointed me. And so I rejected any concept of God and became a faithless wanderer. Very quickly, though, I realised that having some kind of faith is important to me, so I delved, somewhat predictably, into various New Age practices for the next 20 or so years.
I became a Reiki Master, a certified EMF Balancing Technique practitioner, and an Aura Soma practitioner. I work in these areas still, although more on request than as vocation. Common themes in my apprenticeships were symbology and the concept of universal truths.
I studied astrology, tarot (Thoth and Rider Waite), numerology, occultism, herbalism, the teachings of Alice Bailey, esoteric astrology, theosophy and anthroposophy. I eventually understood that these practices are all tied together by what is termed the Western Esoteric Tradition. If I were to classify my practice today it would be syncretism.
I’m now pursuing post-graduate studies in Education (psychology and issues of diversity). Through this academic channel I have encountered one Michel Foucault, who is also associated with the academic
field of Western Esotericism. It seems that whatever avenue I traverse, I’m lead somehow to the esoteric…
It is through this ongoing dalliance with the Western Esoteric Tradition that I have come to understand the imperative impulses of making art and other forms of self-expression generally; music and sound; science and empiricism; physicality and sexuality; nature and the wonderous magic that is mathematics. If there is any purpose to life as a human, then I believe it is in creative acts – of any kind. Between creativity and beauty is where I experience what I now conceive of as god. I guess this is more or less a gnostic perspective. It is not a relationship, rather a state of being and understanding. There is nothing that I can do that provokes god, and I am nothing more or less than any other thing in existence in the eyes of god, assuming god even sees. I’m merely a conduit for knowledge, which I gain experience of through creative acts and beauty.
Here’s the introduction from Wikipedia which Tanya links to above:
Western esotericism or Hermeticism (also Western Hermetic Tradition, Western mysticism, Western Inner Tradition, Western occult tradition, and Western mystery tradition) is a broad spectrum of spiritual traditions found in Western society, or refers to the collection of the mystical, esoteric knowledge of the Western world. This includes, but is not limited to, alchemy, theosophy, herbalism, occult tarot, astrology, Rosicrucianism and Western forms of ritual magic. The tradition has no one source or unifying text, nor does it hold any specific dogma, instead placing emphasis on “inner knowledge” or Gnosis. Various groups including Hermetic organizations, neopagans and Thelema persist in practicing modern variants of traditional Western esoteric philosophies.
All I’ll add at this point is that a common factor in the Western Esoteric Tradition seems to be a belief in hidden knowledge which can be imparted by those in the know (the word “occult” means “hidden”). For me personally, I’m interested not only in what ‘works’ (does it?) but what is true. I hope to have Tanya expand on why she finds these practices attractive in future. What do you think?
Today’s Fun Unrelated Link Teddy Bears take over! Brilliant surreal video.
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