Skeptical Mysticism

“It takes faith to believe, and it takes courage not to, and who is to say which is the deeper and more truthful.” (Herbert Weisinger)

You often hear about believers who have a crisis of faith, but what of the skeptics among us who have a crisis of doubt? For years we skeptics have decisively refuted the metaphysical claims of the great religions and scoffed at the pretensions of newfangled spiritual fashions. But then our doubt is suddenly shaken by an unbidden mystical experience. The power of this direct cognition of ultimate reality, beyond word or image, is undeniable. But does it prove the existence of God?

If you remain skeptical you find yourself in a difficult state. You now seriously doubt your doubt and yet have no abiding faith to replace it. How do you proceed? You can no longer be atheistic because you’ve communed with the divine. You can’t be religious because the existence of God is still in question; what’s more, religious representations of God now get in the way of your direct mystical experience. Nor can you be agnostic because you’re far from neutral on the subject. You must become a skeptical mystic. As you cut your own singular path to the great whatever, you must now treat your own experiences with the relentless skepticism you once reserved for the claims of others.

I am One with a God I do not believe in.

Reprinted from Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe by Andrew Boyd, with permission of the author and publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright ©2002 by Andrew Boyd. For more Daily Afflictions, see dailyafflictions.com.

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