[Jewish, Christian, and Muslim] mystics all had recourse to myth. The words mysticism and mystery are both related to a Greek word meaning: 'to close the eyes or the mouth'. Both refer to experiences that are obscure and ineffable, because they are beyond speech, and relate to the inner rather than the external world. Mystics make a journey into the depths of the psyche by means of the disciplines of concentration that have been developed in all the religious traditions and have become a version of the hero's mythical quest. Because mythology charts this hidden, interior dimension, it is natural for mystics to describe their experiences in myths that might, at first glance, seem inimical to the orthodoxy of their tradition.Some Thoughts:
1) "Orthodoxy" for the U.S. modernist, rational, post-Enlightenment worldview = scientific determinism, naturalism, or whatever you want to call it. I'm not a philosopher and don't know the right labels. (RichardM, feel free to chime in. :)
In any event, I assert that in my case, I seek to chart my inner experience in God language, in Christian language. Is this not living with integrity because the stories in the Bible are possibly not factual, in any case not historically provable, and in some cases scientifically impossible? No, I don't think so.
I was just rereading a post on Simon St. Laurent's blog called "A Sense Beyond the Rational." In response to a comment by Zach, Simon wrote:
Somehow, that's where I fall, too. I don't read the Bible to follow literally true events, but to find great moral teachings wrapped in mysteries and koans. Something about the sacred that I sense seems larger than life, my life at least, and yet I don't have a scientifically provable hypothesis to base it on. I'm okay with that. Similarly, I find inspiration in music or writing that is not directly explainable or conscious. The Christian mythos is the mythos I inherited. After all, my first name is Christopher, Bearer of Christ, even if it was chosen primarily because it was one of the most popular names the year I was born not for faith reasons!
Is it possible that the natural world is all there is?
Do I think it makes sense to live with that as a foundation assumption?
I figure it's my responsibility to tell my story in ways that have integrity for me, and which I can put into a lightly sketched context that helps my listener or reader understand where I'm coming from when I use this language.
2) The passage above by Armstrong somehow suggests to me that it's unproductive to argue theism vs. nontheism. True, a mystic who experiences the unshakable reality of God's existence will "know" that God exists. And someone with an unshakable, experiential knowledge that "that's all there is" will "know" that God doesn't exist. And their discussions might be very interesting, and often will seem argumentive from someone not engaged directly in the conversation.
So, I conclude it's more interesting at this time to follow the path of "personal narrative theology" (or "nontheology" if that's your practice) and tell your story.
What have you experienced? in relation to your inner reality? in relation to other people? in relation to the world at large, including the natural world?
What were your moments of beauty, of terror, of joy, of seeking and questing? what have you found, what have you lost? do you carry a sense of innocence or of stain, and how has that changed at different times of your life?
Let's spend more time bringing this up out of the depths, and trying to put it into words.
Me, I'm going to use Biblical imagery and stories and use God language. You can share the truth in the words that best express your own truth.