In 1999 on the eve of a new millennium, I gathered with a few thousand others, for a conference entitled: 'God at 2000'. Hosted by Marcus Borg (an expansive soul) on the campus of Oregon State University, he brought together theologians from a variety of traditions: Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Indigenous.
During the conference the question was asked: 'What do you believe about God?' Here, not surprisingly, the answers were different, influenced by each religious tradition.
Then the question was asked: 'What is your experience of God?' Here the answers were deeply personal. Yet, the stories were in many ways, interchangeable.
Each speaker, from very different traditions, reflected on their experience with the Divine/Sacred. Each spoke of an intimate encounter with the Creator of the cosmos, felt oftentimes, in the seemingly ordinary moments of life: A birth, sunrise, an act of kindness, a death, beauty of nature...the list as varied as the people.
A common element was a sense of being part of that which was greater than oneself. Being connected to that which inspired and blessed. Such is the quality of a mystic. Matthew Fox, author of Original Blessing, writes 'mysticism is all about interconnectivity.'
Often times, this word seems archaic, as if it is a mantle worn only by the saintly and eccentric. I think that's wrong. Mystics, simply put, are those among us who look for beauty in the hidden places, find worth among those deemed broken, who see interconnectedness in all that matters.
Mystics can be found in any walk of life. Religious or not. Educated or not. Young or old. They are the ones who see what others miss and value what others deem disposable.
Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century mystic (and, an outside the box thinker), said: 'Everything that is in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.'
How have we forgotten this truth?
This summer with worldwide records for heat, drought, fires, floods...what and who will bring us back to our senses? Matthew Fox believes that it will be the mystics among us, who will show us the way back. Back to our senses. Back to wonder and awe. Back to humility and compassion. Back to a reverence for the natural world.
Do we believe this to be true?
Mystics are expansive, they know that everything and everyone belongs. Kabir, a 15th century mystic from India put it this way: 'O seekers, remember, all distances are traversed by those who yearn to be near the source of their being.' And, a present day farmer and poet from Kentucky, named Wendell Berry, writes: 'There must be a new contract between humanity and the earth; the earth must be newly seen and heard and felt and smelled and tasted '.
This morning I kayaked on an 8000 acre lake in a vast wildlife refuge. As I paddled and drifted there were moments, long moments when my sense of self became so immersed in the beauty of this place, that I was no longer aware of a where I began and nature left off.
So, it seems, there's a touch of the mystic in me. And, perhaps in you too.
Let's face it. We need ordinary people like you and me to see that everything and everyone belongs. It's all about choosing to alter our stance, open our heart, mind and imagination, to gain a new perspective.
Our fragile planet needs voices like ours to cherish and protect. And, in a society full of vitriol, we need common sense folk to speak up and say, everyone has value...there's no them and us, simply us.
Friends, we have work to do. Calling all mystics, wherever and whoever you may be.
With you on the journey ~ Kent Harrop