Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mystic Bling

Another of the ways that mysticism tends to get spun in our consumption-addled culture is as a means to the acquisition of more stuff.

Why should the mystic walk barefoot up the mountain, when they could instead float...on the buttery smooth suspension of their eco-friendly Lexus RX450h, their holy tushie coddled warm against the heated leather seats, as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan serenades them through the astounding 330 watt Mark Levinson 15 speaker 7.1 surround sound system? Ah...such inner peace....

When you're connected to the universe in profound and mysterious ways, why shouldn't those connections result in the universe serving up some schweet, schweet schwag? After all, it's not what you know, it's who you know. And if you know the Creator of the Universe on an existential level, then why shouldn't you leverage your connectness, making Oneness with Being serve up some Oneness with Bling?

This approach to "mystic" faith can be found everywhere. It seems to have almost completely hijacked Kabbalah in the popular imagination, as folks traipse about imagining that the little red threads they wear somehow connect them with a future McMansion, or at a bare minimum will allow them to download Madonna's music for free.

This is, to use a delightfully archaic word, balderdash.

Though mysticism is earthy and practical and woven into the fabric of being, possessiveness is utterly alien to any true mystic. The desire to acquire is meaningless to those who yearn most deeply for God. As George MacD puts it:
The man who for consciousness of well-being depends on anything but life, the life essential, is a slave...
But it is not the rich man only who is under the dominion of things; they too are slaves who, having no money, are unhappy from the lack of it.
and, here sounding remarkably like a Scottish mystic Yoda:
If it be things that slay you, what matter whether things you have, or things you have not?
The mystic renounces desire for power in all of its forms, be it economic or coercive. They simply cease to seem meaningful. The unsatisfied, ever-empty hunger of the consumer is unknown and unwanted. That doesn't mean living a joyless, stale, or austere life. It simply means a different way of standing in relation to creation, one that is far richer and more abundant. As MacDonald puts it:
He who has God, has all things, after the fashion in which He who made them has them.
Next to the touch of a breeze, or the smell of the honeysuckle, or the laughter of your children, or the bright moon on a clear Spring evening, the cloying cornucopia of consumerism seems a rather empty nothing.