Last week’s article “Mysticism Is Like Sex” argued that self-transcendent experiences are comparable to sex in that they are both hardwired into the human body. They don’t necessarily need to be attached to religious beliefs to be enjoyed and experienced.
As I explored in the article, my fascination with altered states of consciousness started when I was young. I was raised in a Charismatic Christian family that regularly spoke in tongues, and this revealed to me that interesting states of mind were always just around the corner. This provoked a lot of feedback from my audience on my discord server, and a number of people shared their own experiences with speaking in tongues.
I don’t believe in god or gods. I have no belief in an afterlife or supernatural beings. I’m not saying that they don’t exist. I’m open to being wrong. I just have an absence of belief in them. I’m what could be described as a “soft atheist”.
And yet, I also have a lifelong fascination with altered states of consciousness and the experience and practice of mystical self-transcendence. This fascination started when I was a child growing up in a charismatic family.
I consider myself a mystic, and yet I am an atheist. I don’t believe in God, gods, the afterlife, or the supernatural. How is this not a contradiction in terms? Isn’t supernaturalism and woo central to the experience of mysticism?
Since my Christian deconstruction I’ve started to try on various labels for size. Among these labels have been: post-Christian, nontheistic Christian, esoteric Christian, nontheist, Satanist, and, of course, atheist.
(Some annoying hippie in the back will, at this point, ask “why do you have to have a label, man? Why can’t you just be yourself?” Suffice it to say, I like identities, and I am pro-label. That other people are less comfortable with that is fine.)
I’ve spent a great deal of time explaining why Satanism works for me, and you can find that trove of information here. But, as I continue to explore my Satanism and receive questions from bemused readers, I’m starting to realize that there is an essential component of my Satanism that I’ve left out. So essential, perhaps, that it feels impossible to articulate. I feel intimidated trying to put this to words, but I will do my best in this post.
For my entire life, I’ve been driven by success. I measured success by the number of eyes that were watching me, by the number of mouths who sang my praises, by the number of laurels I collected. This blind, obsessive drive for success ranks as one of the top silent torturers of my psyche. It didn’t matter how many people read my work – it was never enough. It didn’t matter how perfected my vocal technique was when I was a lyric baritone, I was always more aware of the microscopic flaw than my general improvement.
For over a year now I’ve been describing myself as an Esoteric Christian. I adopted this terms before I fully understood what it meant, but I also knew that it was the best description of where I am in my faith journey. Whenever people ask me what an Esoteric Christian is, I jokingly respond, “it means I’m a Christian who’s into weird shit.”
Every so often, a book appears that changes everything: the way you see God, yourself, and the world. The past two years have been my Season of Reading Consciousness Changing Books, but none have had such dramatic effect on me as Meditations on the Tarot by Anonymous.
A reader of mine recently tweeted at me asking how, especially when in the midst of deppression, one can do little things to reach larger goals. I thought his question was a good one, particularly because I’ve spent the past 4 years trying to discover an answer. I’ve already written a post about my tools to stave off depression, and this post can be read as a sequel to that one.