Mystics are loony?

 

When you see “mystic” there, you know, it means basically loony.

– Michael Palin in No Such Thing as a Fish 20 hour podcast.

I love Michael Palin, and I am sure he would have a more nuanced view on this in a different setting and conversation, although I thought it was an interesting comment.

He referred to a specific person who may have been a bit loony. (He wanted to crash a plane half-way up Mount Everest and walk the rest of the way.) And in that particular podcast setting, it’s easy to make fun of groups nobody there belongs to. It creates a sense of cohesion.

So is there some truth to it? Are mystics loony?

The looniness of mystics

Yes, mystics can definitely be seen as loony from a mainstream view. Mystics are wrapped up in an obsession with the divine, and most people don’t even know if there is such a thing as the divine, and if they do, they don’t think it’s possible to have any kind of direct connection with it. So yes, it can seem weird and perhaps a bit crazy.

The path of the mystic does often come with experiences outside of the mainstream – of the divine in all, of perceptions of oneness, visions, synchronicities, seeing things others don’t, perceptions at a distance, strong energies running through the system that can’t be measured by modern medicine, and so on. This can be seen as loony.

Some mystics also get caught up in certain interpretations and fantasies that are not grounded in intellectual honesty, and this – rightfully so – can seem loony.

There are many types of mystics. All have experiences outside of the mainstream that can seem weird and even crazy to others, even if they are real experiences and reported faithfully. Some may be a bit crazy in their interpretations if these are not grounded in intellectual honesty. And a few may actually be a bit crazy in a DSM sense. (Although not the ones I know about, or the ones most known from history.)

The sanity of mystics

Then there is the sanity of mystics.

If we notice what we are (Big Mind), get familiar with it, explore how to live from it, and are honest in our interpretation of it, we tend to be quite sane. In a sense, we are saner than most since we are more aware of our true nature.

Most perceive and live as if their fundamental identity is this human self, while in reality this human self and the wider world happens within and as what we are. So if we wanted to reverse the “loony” statement, we could say that it’s loonier to believe and live as if you fundamentally are something you are not.

Many mystics also work on their relationship with themselves, others, and the world. They befriend their world and live more from kindness and a sense of unity of it all. That’s not loony at all. It’s sane.

Loony and not

So are mystics loony?

The answer is yes, no, and it depends.

Yes, they can seem that way from a mainstream view.

Some may actually be a bit loony if they latch on to interpretations not grounded in intellectual honesty, or if they have some actual mental disorder. This goes for anyone independent of what label we put on them.

And no, to the extent the mystic notices what they are and live from it to the best of their ability, live from kindness and a sense of oneness, and have some intellectual honesty.

A note about the label mystic

Mystic and mysticism can refer to many different things, from the most outlandish beliefs to glimpses “beyond the veil”, nature mysticism, and non-duality. In mainstream western society, mysticism is probably mostly associated with the two or three first ones. Non-duality may not necessarily be perceived as mysticism, partly because Buddhists and others have done a relatively good job taking a pragmatic approach and bringing it down to earth.

How to live in an insane world?

 

If we hadn’t noticed earlier, in some point in the awakening process we realize that we are living in an insane world. Not the natural world, which is beautiful although in many ways merciless, but the human world.

A world where what we are doesn’t notice itself and take itself to be a separate human being. A world where people actually believe their thoughts. A world where people create a great deal of suffering for themselves and others only because they happen to believe crazy thoughts.

So what do we do? How do we live within this insane world?

For me, the answer is the usual one. Go further. Look more closely. Use it as a mirror for yourself.

Examine your thoughts about this insane world. Identify your beliefs about it. See what’s more true for you.

Identify emotional issues triggered by this. Invite in healing for these.

Reorient. See how it is to find love for what is triggered in you around this. See how it is to find love for these people and the suffering they create for themselves.

Learn more about the mechanisms behind this suffering and learn more about trauma and trauma behavior by exploring it in yourself.

Instead of feeling like a victim (which comes from a belief and emotional issues), why not do what you would like to see more of in the world? Why not do something, even if it’s small and local, to support life?

When we see insanity in the world, we see our own insanity. It’s an invitation to go further in our own healing and awakening and bring a little more into the world of what we would like to see in it.

Note: I intentionally wrote the two first paragraphs from the view of someone seeing the world as insane. It’s not so difficult for me since I went through that experience during the first few years after the awakening, and still connect with it now and then.

CG Jung: Madness is a special form of the spirit

 

Madness is a special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical.

Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it? Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness? Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a friendly manner? You wanted to accept everything. So accept madness too. Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you. Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life…

If you want to find paths, you should also not spurn madness, since it makes up such a great part of your nature…

Be glad that you can recognize it, for you will thus avoid becoming its victim. Madness is a special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical. Man strives toward reason only so that he can make rules for himself. Life itself has no rules. That is its mystery and its unknown law. What you call knowledge is an attempt to impose something comprehensible on life.

My soul spoke to me in a whisper, urgently and alarmingly: “Words, words, do not make too many words. Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it?

Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness? Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a friendly manner?

You wanted to accept everything. So accept madness too. Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you.

Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life.

Carl Jung, Red Book, page 298.

Insanity?

 

When nothing else works, you can always claim insanity, as this former NASA astronaut.

It is of course very helpful to have relatively stringent definitions of insanity to use in court cases and for insurance purposes, definitions that have pragmatic and practical value in a limited set of circumstances.

But really, if we look a little closer, we may see that as soon as any of us believe any story, we are right away insane.

We take a story and its reversals, which somewhere we know each one has a grain of truth in them, and tell ourselves that only that story has truth in it and its reversals don’t. Only that one story is an accurate representation of how things really are. In fact, it is so true that it faithfully reflect a truth inherent in the world itself.

And by talking ourselves into it that way, we make ourselves go insane.

As soon as our stories of how things are and should be conflict, there is a wide range of emotions from anger, fear, desire, frustration, grief, and much more. And then behaviors flowing from that. All of it triggered because we took a story to be true, propping it up with a range of other stories, and ignoring the grain of truth in each of its turnarounds.

So if I tell myself that I absolutely must have that man, I obsess about him, think about him day and night, drive myself crazy by thinking that I may not get him. And if someone else comes into the picture, I drive myself crazy by jealousy, anger, fear, sadness, grief, until it gets absolutely intolerable, and I go out to do something I would never do otherwise.

We all do this, in different ways. We all get absorbed into a particular story, convince ourselves it is true, and drive ourselves mad in different ways when life does not confirm with the shoulds of this story. And then we resist experiencing it all, which makes it even more intolerable.

Even those core beliefs of I, I am, I am an object in the world and so on, are really forms of insanity. We believe a story and take it as absolutely true, ignoring the truth in its reversals, and so our whole experience of the world is filtered through these stories, making them appear substantial and true. We create an overlay for ourselves which seem very real, and we act on it as if it is real.

And yet, already in the midst of all this we know, somewhere, about the truths in the reversals of those stories, and we know, somewhere, that we are not this small region of the manifest world.

We know, somewhere, that we are this awakeness which has no form, no shape, no beginning, no end, is not to limited to the manifest world, and within and as which this manifest world happens. We know it, because it is our immediate experience, even if it quickly gets clouded over by beliefs and their effects and attention goes into that instead.

A side-effect of seeing all, even in a limited way, is compassion. I look at Lisa Nowak, and see myself. And right away, there is a deep compassion. My view is not fixed in rigid ideas of a split between I and her. My heart is receptive to both of us, including our insanity.