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A Writer of Mystical Persuasion Speaks Out: Why Atheists Are the Only Ones Who Truly Own The Mystery

Image: Safe Distance, by Cynthia Decker

Image: Safe Distance, by Cynthia Decker

This is not a skeptical website. Not by any stretch of the imagination. The stamp of the sacred cow is all over it — any skeptic could smell it a mile away. Finding this, they would most likely cease in their reading, warning others against it as well. 

Does that bother me? Yes, to be honest. Even though I am not truly one of them, I have a lot of respect for the skeptical community. They serve as quality control for reality itself, and that’s one bad-assed job. They’re like the Justice League of beliefs, kindly kicking the crap out of all of the pretense, pseudoscience and outmoded mysticism the world continues to suffer from, all in the name of truth, real truth. ‘Why believe that which cannot be proven?’ they ask. ‘Why allow your mind to be narrowed by that which is — as yet unproven by science — observably non-existent?’ 

Good question. And an important one. Even as I stand as somewhat of a perpetrator in their eyes, I speak out here, naming their crusade as a highly commendable one, its contribution to the greater good of humanity indispensably important. The bullshit must not be allowed to flourish. 

How can I say that? Well, it’s my website, so I can do whatever I want here. I could fill an entire post with the word ‘cat’ if I wanted to. (And it would probably set a record for hits, at this point.) I am free to propagate whatever bullshit I may so choose. Not that this is my intention. If you’ve done any reading here at all, you’ve undoubtedly garnered the distinct sense that I am after just as much truth as any self-respecting skeptic. It’s just that I have a different way of searching. A slightly different mode of inquiry. One informed by, yes, mystical beliefs. 

This is where it gets weird. Ironically, this post on how awesome atheists are will probably end up being the most pseudo-scientific post on the site so far. 

So. Why do I believe? A few reasons: 

1) I am romantically biased. I have a fantasy-based mind. I love the idea of things that are unexplainable, exciting, and mysterious. I was uncontrollably drawn to these things when I was a child, as were most, but with me it didn’t stop as I got older. If anything, it only got stronger. I have no reason to think that it will cease before I’m in the ground. And, while this is surely no excuse to go about propagating a belief in mysticism, there’s more to it than that: 

2) I’ve experienced proof — just not empirical proof. 

And this is where all the difference lies. It is, in my mind, the only true dividing line between the honest believer and the honest skeptic: the experience of subjective truth. This is the point at which romanticism goes out the window, along with any beliefs that are at all convenient, in service of existential dread, inherited, or indoctrinated. None of those apply once we reach this line. The problem, however, is that subjective truth is just that: subjective. Empirically unprovable. The only person who can ever know whether they’re telling the truth or not is the experiencer themselves. Therefore, it is instantly inadmissible, at best explained away through some form of psychological delusion or neurological anomaly. Yet, for the individual who experienced the phenomena, there remains a distinct flavour of the otherworldly.

So what happened specifically? Synchronicity. Big time. More than once, more than twice. Utterly succinct moments and passages of time that were jaw-dropping and undeniable to me in their assertion that my innermost thoughts were not only being heard, but answered.

Also, specific physical phenomena. Two distinct times. One took place in a hot bath, years ago, while I was reading a particular passage in a book called Conversations With God — a ‘channelled’ writing, at that — which was unusually poetic, and, as truth delivered through art often does, it induced a cold chill. Instead of subsiding, however, the shiver only grew in strength, being soon followed by another, and then another, until my entire body was being mercilessly flooded with an unrelenting torrent of hair-raising electricity. It was insane. It felt as if someone were dumping a massive canister of ‘cold chill’ right into the top of my head, leaving me writhing with the ecstasy of it all. Losing control, I dropped the book — outside of the tub, thankfully — and burst into a fit of unstoppable weeping that lasted several minutes, subsiding only when the sensation itself began to recede, minutes later.

I didn’t pay much attention to it after that. It was an odd experience, to be sure, but I had other things on my mind, and continued about my life as any young adult would. A decade-and-a-half of good times and bad decisions later, I was visited again, this time completely dry and fully clothed.

I was at work, in a busy retail store, when, for no reason whatsoever, I began to become overwhelmed with joy. Suddenly all of the messy clutter of my on-going mind-static was cleared away, leaving me looking at the world with more clarity than I had ever thought possible. It was as if clouds that had hung over me since birth had suddenly parted and I was seeing the world in the light of the sun for the first time. It was a miraculous experience. I was suddenly, intimately in touch with every breath as it was taken, every sense perception that I had never really sensed before, and every person that came into contact with me. While it may sound as though it would be hard to ‘hold it together’ in such a state in public, it was actually the complete opposite. I was more ‘together’ than I’d ever been. I knew exactly what to do, while at the same time knowing there was not one thing I had to do. The sensation continued to the point where I was utterly over-flowing with bliss. At the height of it, I could almost sense a type of grid-work expanding and contracting around me in conjunction with my breathing. All I could think of while this was happening was how incredibly thankful I was for my life and everyone in it — it was an absolute explosion of gratitude, during which an actual, specific phrase arose: “Giving is a confirmation of having. Altruism, therefore, is a confirmation of infinite abundance.”

Yup. The sacred cow, full on. You are reading the writing of a crazy person, and no one could blame you if you stopped right here. I sure couldn’t.

And yet, it happened. While the peak experience only lasted around five minutes, I stayed buzzing with the energy of it until going to sleep that night. The next day I managed to induce it again — in much less intensity — simply by recalling how it felt. The day after that, however, it was pretty much gone, fading into the realm of memory where it still remains today, over a year and a half later at the time of this writing. The mysterious place it now occupies in my mind has been the source of many changes in my life, this website not the least among them. As frustrating as it has been, it has ultimately served as the catalyst for the search that I'm now on. The whole thing has been a massive surprise to me. This is not what I had intended. — I did have other plans.

Yet here I am, a reluctant mystic, armed only with a few fleeting memories and an old love of creative writing. (And if you’re wondering if there were any drugs involved, there weren’t. Apart from a few terrifying exceptions, the majority of my drug experiences have been pretty par for the course.)

I still retain a skeptical outlook in many ways, however. I am not an atheist, but I am somewhat envious of them. They haven’t been touched. It is a strange paradox, really. My mystical experiences have left me with a certain, unshakable belief in certain, unbelievable — and unprovable — phenomena and therefore, have not expanded my outlook, but narrowed it. It has crippled my skeptical faculties, and forever precluded me from the atheist worldview, both of which hold the greatest potential for mystery itself, by dealing, always, only, in total reality.

The point is that skepticism should be our default state, period. Belief, in anything, narrows imagination. It is also very dangerous. (Certain things come to mind — things like cults, religion as a whole, the holocaust, you know…) So needless to say, I make a conscious attempt not to take any of my beliefs too seriously.

Yet if there is one place the mystic and the skeptic can come together, it is here, in the contradiction, in the self, in each of us. We are children of the universe.

This is not some poetic statement, it is a hard reality. There is no contesting this. Almost every element on earth — the planet out of which we grew — was formed in the belly of a star. Everything that makes us up, that has ever made us up — believer and non-believer alike, ancestor and descendent, saint and serial-killer — found its origins in the furnace responsible for forming the universe itself. It is the most ancient of tales, and when our physical bodies are gone, when the brief corporeal imprints we occupy here are turned to dust and relinquished to the elements, the dance of life will continue, and every particle that makes us up will still exist, billions of years into the future, scattered throughout the cosmos in a play of form and substance as yet unimaginable, turning forever into new forms, new systems, new individuals — believers and non-believers alike — all in service to the ongoing chaos of the greater order.

Knowing this lends an incalculable reverence to the experience of life here in this body, in this particular form each of us holds, incredible and unique as it is. Just as there has never been any like it before, neither will there be again. No ‘belief’ can hold a candle to the implications of this reality, no matter how they came to be found. In this way, it is the atheist worldview that demands more awe than any other. What an incredible miracle we are! What a mystery! Any type of unfounded ‘knowing’ would diminish our sense of both. In truth, it is the atheist alone that has their board balanced right on the edge of the cosmic surf, right on the hilt of all new knowledge, all discovery, all meaning. It is the most exhilarating position from which to view life, one which says ‘I know nothing of this mystery, even as I take part in it directly.’

And, really, how much more mystical can you get than that?