Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Old Age and Mysticism

Occasionally in the past thirty plus years of my life, I would recall that I had read somewhere that a man becomes a mystic in his old age. I would wonder and hope that perhaps there is truth to mysticism and that a skeptical streak within me was a necessary stage along the way of a life's journey.

At last, when sitting in a restaurant Berlin last spring and reading an elementary dual English/German book*, I found the quote that spurred this thinking. It was a passage by Goethe.

Every age of man has its own appropriate philosophy. The child appears as a realist....The youth...is transformed into an idealist....the man has every reason for becoming a skeptic...The old man, however, will always espouse mysticism.

Maybe he is right. I used to think that mysticism was about believing things that were not true. I now believe it is about experiencing and perceiving certain things. I have not had those experiences. Or, perhaps I have had and don't yet know or remember it. Mysticism is fluid and paradoxical like that. I have more to learn.

* First German Reader: A Beginner's Dual-Language Book ed. by H. Steinhauer. Library of Congress Number 64-7673. page 89-90.

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