[Guest blogger du jour Tony Jones]
What’s the mystique about mysticism? (Or is the question itself just a misleading fork in the road, excluded middle term, dun leaves dead on a worm-ridden tree, as in “not seeing the forest for the … ”, regarding spirituality).
When I watched Kung Fu as a young child, then as now I was entranced by the mixture of action and the ambiance of a kind of deep inner peace that drove it. I think I missed the master-pupil “grasshopper” dynamic, but I was only two or three years old. But then again, I have never really been content with the notion of master and pupil, either in being a student, or in being a teacher. Of course, then I had absolutely no idea what the show was about on an intellectual level and would not have begun to be able to articulate it until late in high school, possibly. There was a kind of scary and alluring negative space about it for me.
Bizarre side note on “Pizza Space.” One of the kid shows I watched had a recurring film segment about a man making pizza crust from scratch. As he tossed it into the air in slow motion, and the crust sort of percolated and flapped around in space, it seemed to me that it actually left the room and hung in the void for a while, and then returned. This was only an optical illusion created by the camera angle, and probably not one intended by the film-makers. But “Pizza Space” — which I did not name until a couple years ago — then existed for me as an archetype of the creative void, the emptiness in which artistic craft occurs, possibly ex nihilo. (In fact, I think now, never ex nihilo, because there is always some antecedent, but that has not always been my thinking on the subject…)
I find myself also thinking about religion in general in parallel to mysticism. They are not identical, but they always inform one another. Even those who pursue mystical experience from a secularist perspective — or materialistic, empiricist angle — are to some degree relying on the insights of those operating from within a religious tradition. (Even to use the term “mysticism” is to repeat a meme that originates within religions.)
Where does art fit in? For many of us, artistic experience is our primary engagement and appropriation of the numinous. And perhaps, in many instances, where the numinous grabs us. (To be “raptured” after all, does not always imply literal translation of the body into heaven … to be “caught up” is maybe not the province of just one spiritual tradition.)
Why did I in two instances above reach back into childhood to lay hold of some dimension of mystical experience? Is it because the impact of the numen in my life then was more intense because of my developmental stage, and because less crowded out by other concerns in life? Is this related to what Jesus meant when he said, “Unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God”?
Just ramblings late at night as my stomach rumbles unquiet at the thought of a long work week, and my cat paws my leg for attention. Not unlike the numinous, either in the cat’s paw, or the work week, or the indigestion.