Where have all the mystics and visionaries gone?

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Where have all the mystics and visionaries gone?

Mystics and visionaries are now as rare in the West as the Seychelles Sheath-tailed bat.

“Where there is no vision the people perish”, says the proverb and we need only watch the news tonight to see the truth of it.  A culture without mystics is bland, superficial and blind to alternative possibilities and deeper insights. Mystics challenge our perceptions, unsettle us with their divinations and  encourage us to try new ways of dealing with old problems.

Where are they when we need them?

Aldous Huxley, a visionary writer himself, saw two reasons for our mystic apocalypse:

Firstly, our culture has no room for mysticism:

In the currently fashionable picture of the universe there is no place for valid transcendental experience. Consequently, those who have had what they regard as valid transcendental experiences are looked upon with suspicion, as being either lunatics or swindlers.  To be a mystic or a visionary is no longer creditable. (Heaven and Hell, p.96)

Secondly, we eat too much:

For almost half of every year our ancestors ate no fruit, no green vegetables…very little butter or fresh meat, and very few eggs.  [By spring], most of them were suffering, mildly or acutely, due to lack of vitamin C, and pellagra, caused by a shortage in their diet of the B complex. (Heaven and Hell, p.97)

Eating so frugally burdens the brain and causes it to work less efficiently because it’s more susceptible to stress than other areas of the body.

Huxley believed the brain evolved a mechanism he called the  “cerebral reducing valve” which filters out anything unrelated to physical safety, survival and security.  Mystical experience, being inessential for survival, would normally be stopped by the brain’s reducing valve unless the brain is stressed.

A malnourished brain is a stressed brain and it cannot filter experience efficiently. The result: mystical visions.

Is it any wonder, given our brimming supermarket shelves and burgeoning waistlines, that mystical experience is less common?

Mystics and Visionaries Revival

Time for a mystic revival – I’m sure it’s possible even if we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Here are some underrated  bygone mystic careers you may like to resurrect:

  • Bibliomancy: Bible divination
  • Empyromancy: a divination whereby eggs, flour and incense are thrown onto a sacrificial fire and its behaviour observed
  • Axinomancy:  an Ancient Greek, criminal-finding  divination using an axe.  A stone was placed on a red-hot axe and a person’s guilt was divined via its motion
  • Haruspexy: a Roman official would divine the will of the gods by inspecting the entrails of sacrificial animals
  • Sieve and shears:  shear points were stuck in the wooden rim of a sieve and two people supported it upright with the tips of their two fingers.  A Bible verse was then recited and St Peter and St Paul were asked who the guilty person was.  The sieve would suddenly turn if the guilty person was named. This method was also used to see if a couple would marry.

Reference: Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell Vintage Books, 2004

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Claire Bell

Claire Bell is the health and wellbeing editor of Midlifexpress. She is the author of Stone Age Secrets for Mind and Body and Comma Magic. Print and ebooks available on Amazon.

7 thoughts on “Where have all the mystics and visionaries gone?

  • January 14, 2013 at 1:58 am

    Interesting about the food-brain link! How to experience the mystic universe when our minds are full of shopping… I vote for time outdoors preferably in a peaceful natural environment as one conducive avenue…

  • January 14, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Thanks Merridy. Yes, I agree, time in nature offers us the possibility of mystical experience. Perhaps the shopping mall does, too, and I have yet to appreciate its visionary potential.

  • January 15, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Oliver Sacks has just released a book exploring the neurological reasons behind auditory and visual hallucinations. He puts most of it down to brain malfunction. Next time I’m shopping and hear a voice inside my head urging me to buy new clothes I’ll assume it’s my brain imploding and leave my purse at home!

  • February 1, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Where have all the mystics gone? I think we are here, but mostly fly under the radar–and yet now, we are being asked to “come out of the closet” and speak about unseen worlds and ask others to “listen for the deep calling the deep” (an aboriginal dadirri wisdom teaching). I speak to midlife and beyond women now whom I call borderless broads and say we are these mystics and the time to show ourselves is now…..
    Morgana Mogaine
    Author of Borderless Broads, New Adventures for the Midlife woman.

  • February 1, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Morgana. I love your reference to the aboriginal dadirri wisdom teaching, “listen to the deep calling the deep”. I am relieved and delighted to hear the mystic tradition is extant and emerging from its long hiatus in the West. Where can people obtain your book?

    • February 2, 2013 at 3:06 am

      Thank you for your response, Claire. My book is currently available at http://www.Amazon.com in paper and as a kindle edition. Barnes and Noble “nook” e-reader is also available from Barnes and Noble online.
      “Borderless Broads, New Adventures for the Midlife Woman” authored by Morgana Morgaine.
      Thank you for asking!

  • Pingback: A Yearning to Reenchant the World — Randy, Horny, and Saps A-Risin! Coaching Momentum Coaching Live Life Full Out Morgana Morgaine

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