Who can identify as a mystic? Rabbi Rami investigates during a conversation with a ceremonialist.
Are you a mystic?
I have been asked that question countless times over the decades. For most of that time, my response was a humble “no.” The term mystic just seemed too demanding, too self-serving, and—in a way—too aggressive. To be a mystic was to be enlightened and special, and I was neither.
My answer changed when a slightly different question was put to me: not “are you a mystic?” but “what is a mystic?” As soon as the question was asked, I knew the answer (or at least my answer): a mystic is a person who refuses to settle for a second-hand god. With that as my definition, my answer to the question about my being a mystic changed from a humble “no” to a simple “yes.”
I want to know God directly and not through a book or creed or tradition of any kind, so, yes, I am a mystic.
The noun “mystic” is often clarified—I would say muddied—by adjectives such as Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Hindu. If a mystic is a person who refuses to settle for a second-hand god, then there are no Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Hindu mystics; there are only mystics. A Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Hindu mystic is a Jew, Christian, Muslim, or Hindu who wants a direct experience with the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Hindu deities.
While I am a Jew and often use Hebrew words to refer to God, the God to whom I refer is not the Jewish god. The Jewish god chose the Jews as his [sic] special people to whom he [sic] gave his only revelation (Torah) and the deed to the Promised Land.
The God I experience doesn’t come with tribal ties. The God I experience doesn’t choose people, save people, write books, dabble in real estate, or play politics. The God I experience is the nondual aliveness (Chiut in Hebrew) manifesting as all life.
What is true of God is true of mystics as well: They point to a reality beyond tribalism, religion, caste, race, and politics.
This is why mystics are important and so necessary. It is also why they are so rare.
Listen to the podcast that sparked these musings here.