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Moving through Existential Despair to Resilient Hope

One of many reasons folks seek out spiritual direction or spiritual guidance (terms I use interchangeably), is the need for support amidst feelings of existential hopelessness. These feelings may present themselves as a big crisis, or they may be more like a gnawing malaise or skepticism about the meaning of anything. Either way there’s a reckoning with despair, and a search for hope or something to believe in.

in an underground cave, looking up to the light shining in - Ape Cave, Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Washington, USA

Such inner turmoil is quite understandable in our imperiled world. Runaway technology, military aggression, and environmental degradation pose threats to humanity’s – and all Nature’s – health and survival. Prejudicial marginalization, exploitation, and domination continue to violate the dignity of people in most demographic categories. Polarization, addiction, violence, and other pathologies plague our communities. Corporations, governments, and media saturate our lives without much accountability. The list of troubles goes on.


And our smallness in all of this can leave us paralyzed. It’s no wonder struggles with mental health and meaning have become nearly ubiquitous. In these struggles, we may vacillate between anxiety and numbness, anger and disengagement. But underneath, we consistently feel uneasy, powerless, and alone. Even if we’re able to ease these symptoms through therapy, exercise, or other healing practices, the causes lie beyond our immediate control. And even for activists who try to change these causes, it can seem like there isn’t a cohesive narrative that can offer purpose amidst the pain of it all, nor a roadmap to something better.

ancient spiral earthworks in Scotland, evoking cross-cultural human spirituality - Isle of Skye

Fortunately, a credible narrative and roadmap does exist. In fact, one could argue many versions of these things exist, yet that these many versions are all just different yet related perspectives on the same overarching worldview. This worldview is called the Mystic Tradition or the Mystic Way, and it has sought the common ground of – and secrets truths behind – all other worldviews since the beginning of human history. It doesn’t have, nor claim to have, all the answers. But it is a tried and true perspective that has drastically and demonstrably improved the world and individuals’ lives. And it is emerging from its hidden place in our cultural consciousness just in time, offering truly resilient hope in the face of disillusionment.


What exactly is this Mystic Tradition? To learn more, I recommend reading a few of my other blog posts, all of which draw on the wisdom of the Mystics. But for now, let’s look at a few key features, in contrast with most religious and secular ideologies:


The Mystic Tradition doesn’t subscribe to any illusions. Too often, other ideologies can begin from inflexible first principles, such as “this document is The Divine Word” or “existence is defined by a contest for power.” Statements of this sort are like hammers, and those who wield them tightly soon begin to treat everything else as a nail. Dogma encourages adherents to follow their tunnel-vision as far as it will go, until they find themselves in an echo-chamber. At this point they’ve deluded themselves into imagining they’re “the chosen few,” whose only “rational, remaining course of action” is to violently impose their will on others. Disaster ensues. Such devolutions indicate that someone started from an illusion in the first place. It’s not necessarily that their initial principle was wrong per se – though it may have been – it’s that they were wrong to believe it was the only valid initial principle.

Flammarion Woodcut, artistic metaphor for undoing illusions and expanding consciousness

Mystics avoid these temptations, honoring the need for balance and nuance. We know that, despite all human claims to certainty, the universe will remain fundamentally mysterious and complex, averse to panaceas (including optimistic ones – Mystics are sober rather than sunny given the reality of suffering). Thus we hold no grandiose claims to a definitive understanding of reality, and hold broad openness to the gamut of perspectives. So too…


The Mystic Tradition is compatible with almost every other worldview. The only exceptions are ideologies that are willfully close-minded and hostile to life, like fascism or other extremisms. Otherwise, it’s possible to be a Mystic-anything: Agnostic, Buddhist, Christian, Conservative, Hindu, Humanist, Jew, Libertarian, Muslim, Neo-Pagan, Progressive, Skeptic, Socialist, Taoist, Yoruba, you name it. By staying so radically receptive to the diversity of wisdom and abundance of Sacredness, Mystics are able to find affinities between almost all people and ideas, and can thus reveal our uniting causes and truths. This ability to cultivate friends of every tradition guarantees that we’re always in good company in the effort to improve the world. This fact alone galvanizes us with hope. But there’s more…

Earthrise, first photo of Earth from the Moon showing beauty and fragility of our planet

The Mystic Tradition is the key to our species’ spiritual evolution. Nature shows us that the only way to “survive” in this universe is to evolve. In order to overcome all the crises above, that’s exactly what humanity must do, politically and culturally, yes, but deeper than that – we must evolve spiritually. We have to learn how to reckon and reconcile with the reality of suffering: our capacity for harm, the pain and vexation inherent in existence, the frontier of death. We need to reimagine our species’ unique generative purpose, our contribution to sustaining the biosphere and the cosmos. And each individual will need to do this as well – all people must be capable of accessing their deepest calling, vocation, and spiritual consciousness. The Mystic Tradition is the closest thing to a holistic guiding narrative and roadmap in this, the closest thing to a comprehensive initiative engaging these challenges. And finally, the world is awakening to its wisdom.


Will you join me in the effort? Will you take up the cause of resilient hope?


Image credits: #2; #3; #4

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