Something to know—Two humans, Cameron and Rayla, run this blog—you can read more about us if you are interested, but for the meantime, we just want to say this particular post is written from Cameron’s point of view, but we do our writing together, and it is a reflection of both of us.
Dabbling in the Mystical
I did something that felt very meaningful, dare I say mystical, on the spring equinox. I got high and went for a many hours long walk in the woods near my house, and began this walk with a little ritual of sorts.
There is a stump that I often see on my daily walks in these woods that is about ten feet tall and hollow on the inside. I have always wondered what it looked like in there but had never been able to check it out because I always have rowdy dogs with me who can’t be left unattended. But on this day, I had left the dogs at home and decided I would check it out. I climbed on top and sat there for a while looking down into its eerie middle. The darkness of its insides was fiercely juxtaposed with the bright, sunny first day of spring, and it called to me. I decided to descend.
I climbed my way down and found myself inside a blackened and charred underworld. There was life everywhere, but it was not the life of spring that was just about to flourish on the outside. This place was full of spiderwebs and fungi and all sorts of creepy crawly vibes. It was a reminder of the things that live in the dark and how they support the flourishing of the things that live in the light. I climbed out and emerged into the bright world of spring and felt that I had really tapped into this seasonal change that the forest is going through. I felt as though I had gone through a little rebirth; it was a DIY baptism of sorts.
I found the divine darkness of nature in the depths of a stump.
Many hours later, after dark, I came back to this stump and placed both of my hands on it. I don’t really like the word “prayer”, but I focused my attention on this stump and gave it a sort of reverence. I felt thankful for the very visceral experience I had there and it is now a place of importance to me. I give it a little nod of reverence every time I walk by.
This story is not unique.
People have been having these sorts of visceral experiences and finding meaning in their environment for as long as there have been people. Every one of the great prophets from the world's largest religions is associated with a story not so different from this one. They go to a place with a mystical vibe, and they receive some sort of meaningful knowledge from their experience in this place.
And then they emerge from that cave or come down from that mountain or get out from under that tree and go tell people a story about their experience. This story is relatable and enjoyable enough to get people to repeat it, and the prophet’s conviction that their experience was truly divine is a special sauce that sometimes makes the whole thing so viral that it becomes the basis of an entire religion.
Putting aside supernatural forces and claims of divinity, this is the functional truth about how these movements begin as deeply personal moments. And there is something truly spiritual about this sort of experience. It feels like the world presents you with meaning and, as it often fails to do, finally makes sense. But meaning is in the eye of the beholder, and the further we get from the source, the more abstract this all gets.
There are almost one million articles online about the difference between being “spiritual” and “religious”. There is even a huge (and growing) number of people who identify as “spiritual but not religious”. There are a lot of facets to this way of identifying oneself, but mystical experiences play an important part.
Nearly every religion is based around a great prophet and a story of how they came to be enlightened. The practitioners of each religion tend to hold up the experiences of their prophet as uniquely divine and worship these experiences through story, song, and reenactment. They often do so at the expense of seeing the value in similar events had by other prophets, or finding their own mystical experiences.
This feels, for many of us in the modern era, awkward and uncomfortable.
Like, how is the Mormon missionary at your door trying to convince you of the spiritual nature of Joseph Smith’s revelation of god late at night in his bedroom any different from me trying to convince you that I found a unique relationship with the dark divinity of nature inside a stump on the spring equinox?
For many of us who have identified as “spiritual but not religious”, there isn't much of a difference at all.
This isn’t to say that I’m some kind of prophet or that Joseph Smith or any of the other (way cooler) prophets of the world’s religions didn’t have mystical experiences. It’s just to say that we have no reason today to hold those mystical experiences above anyone else's. Especially not our own.
A huge part of the “spiritual but not religious” vibe might be the idea that we don’t have to look beyond ourselves and our environments to experience the divine. This is a huge part of Real Hedonism too. We have no gurus and no prophets, no gods and no masters. But we highly encourage every individual to remember that wisdom is everywhere, and if you are willing to do something that feels powerful to you, like climbing up a mountain or into a stump and truly listening to your surroundings, you just might be able to experience the divine.
Few things feel so fucking good.
So get out there and have some revelations!
Have you had a mystical experience? How did it make you feel? Let us know with an email or down there in the comments!