So, I am relatively new to mysticism. I realized that I was a mystic over one year ago when I had an intense interaction with Hekate via a Drawing Down aka (partial) possession ritual. That ritual provided the concrete experience that made the reality of intimate, powerful oneness with deity clear to me and helped me to realize that particular aspect of what I wanted in my relationships with deity was possible (which was an amazing realization because for a while I thought that sort of Connection wasn’t gonna happen for me).
Through my experiences over the last year, I have come to define epiphany as the energetic “appearance” of a deity, which may or may not be accompanied by a visual manifestation. For me what makes it an epiphany is the pervasiveness and intensity of the experience. If you have no doubt that you are being enveloped within the massive presence of an awesome being where your body (all five/six senses), mind, and spirit all experience that presence in a stimulating and absorbing way, then it is an epiphany of deity. That deity (or maybe generally a “big” spirit) has come into your space in an enormous way. For me, when deities make an Appearance in sacred space, I often become overheated, cry, feel at once excited and relaxed, a sense of awe pours over me and I want to scream, run, move closer, join with the deity, and a host of other things. The experience is highly personal and I would imagine because of that it is different for everyone but I suspect the common thread is the pervasiveness (i.e. you can’t really think about, do, or experience anything else but that deity) and intensity of the experience (whatever that might mean for you).
Those two threads combined create the ecstasy. It is at once passionately pleasurable and powerfully uncomfortable because it is a direct encounter with something profoundly Other that for a moment (or longer) is at One with you. [Some might wonder about the “uncomfortable” part. Well, you try being separated from the standard reference points you have for who, what, why, how, when, and where you are and see how “comfortable” you feel. Shifting states of being/consciousness so profoundly for a moment or more is mind (et cetera) blowing. Yep, “uncomfortable” is putting it mildly, but the pleasure…um, wow! Moving on…] The desire to at once run from and move closer to the experience is what seems to generate the pleasurable and uncomfortable sensations. Also, this ecstasy has a physical element, at least for me. I often am short of breath, in tears, sweating, and/or having other, more minor physical responses.
At this point, pretty squarely situated in my early experiences, epiphany and ecstasy are the stuff of mysticism. I seek the pleasure, fear, elation, pain, passion, longing, fire, and ice of union with deity. Thus far, my experiences have been with gods (Hekate, Nerthus, and Dionysos in particular), but I suspect that other types of spirits can produce this response in the human mind, body, and spirit when fully present and seeking intimate connection with a human being.
To date, my mystical experiences have been ephemeral – three to five minutes, although with Hekate it was a little longer – but they inspire me each time, encouraging a striving in me that invigorates all of my pursuits. I want to grow closer to the gods and spirits, to seek out their mysteries, for the ultimate purpose of doing their Work, being of Service, and – I’m not gonna lie – the sensation. Awe is its own kind of feeling and its own kind of reward. One day, when I am a grown-up mystic, I hope to do my laundry, cook my meals, and take in each breath in some awe-filled state of ecstasy fueled by the wonder of being.
So, how do I facilitate mystical encounters with the divine in my practice? I follow this sequence:
1) Complete physical, mental, and spiritual relaxation and purification rites (when I half-ass this part a sense of union is usually not achieved at all)
2) Reduce the fear that the space between the deity and I is substantial and irreconcilable (It helps me to acknowledge that mysticism is not new and others do this Work regularly across multiple cultural and spiritual contexts).
3) Engage in devotional work and prayer/communication with deity (regular/ongoing, not just when I prepare for a Meeting)
4) Once thoroughly centered, relaxed, and properly cleansed, speak aloud or whisper invocations/prayers to the god (honorific, reverent, praise pieces), usually one or several that I have written myself or improvised on the spot; whatever the case, it’s always heartfelt. Occasionally I will splice in bits from ancient hymns or more contemporary devotional material created by other devotees. This step in my process reaches out to the god, specifies my intent, and invites their presence/our Meeting/Joining/Union/or whatever sounds the least cheesy :-D.
5) Enter a trance state via a method that feels comfortable (usually rhythmic swaying/rocking, humming/droning, deep patterned breathing, many times the deity invocations themselves are enough to put me into a trance state). The deeper the trance the fuller the mystical experience of union is for me. Sometimes trance leads into a journey where my consciousness is somewhere else Connecting with the deity. Other times, my consciousness is a little closer to home and I am overcome with the presence of the deity, no travel needed. When I have my own plans for something quite different than a full blown Meeting, that is usually when a journey is involved; in those cases, the mystical bits just happen along the way. When I intend Connection of the mystical variety, that is when I sit in my living room and “have a Moment”, or not, if the deity is not feelin’ it.
**A few notes on the process: Give yourself time because lots of barriers within you have to crumble before deity can be Present or before you are open enough to notice. Don’t try to force it, because you can’t. Deities have free will (duh!); they will either decide that today is the day or they will not. Just because one deity does not Appear to you does not mean another will not. No matter what, a (mutually consented) relationship with the deity usually needs to be cultivated first, especially for folks who do not shift consciousness and/or experience energy easily.
My mystical path has not been about escapism or denial of self. In fact, I find that my work with the spirits and gods brings me back into standard awareness in order to complete a number of tasks, some personal and some for the community. In addition, mystical pursuits have brought me to a great understanding of myself. It’s helped me to live the reality that we all exist in dynamic relation to one another. Me and you, us and them, here and there are concepts built for sport really. The way I see it, there is no me without you, no us without them, no here without there. Self is constructed in relation to other people, places, things and ideas. A child alone is destined to wither and die. It’s only with the presence, care, and nurturing of community and environment that a child’s life and self develop and flourish. Mystical practices have strengthened my hold on that reality and its implications, rather than help me to escape from this world, its people, and its concerns. Everything is connected in my worldview. Mysticism is a facet of that truth. Consequently, mysticism is one more way for me to be fully, completely, absolutely, engaged with this world (and the “other” worlds).
Thus far, my journey toward mysticism has been beautiful and awe-inspiring. In the words of Sigourney Weaver in Planet Earth, “Long may it be so”.