This post is an interesting companion to the piece you wrote about those we leave behind specifically in terms of accepting the fact that mysticism is not for everyone while at the same time wanting to bring it to a broader audience … the path of the mystic appeals to so few (based on personality and inclination as you say), it seems an inherently difficult entity to effectively bring to the marketplace.
Herein lies the core dilemma of writing about mysticism.
It’s one to thing to blog about mysticism: I pay nothing to the good folks at WordPress for this blog except for fifteen bucks for the use of my “anamchara.com” domain name. Pretty cheap for a platform that allows me to reach thousands of people, huh? And while I do get a modest amount of credit at Amazon.com from the various book links sprinkled throughout the site, this is not an advertiser-supported blog. In other words, it costs me nothing and only benefits me by allowing me to keep acquiring more books (on mysticism and related topics, of course), whether from publishers who are eager to have me review their books or through the Amazon.com referrals.
But as I’ve said before, there is a difference between blogging and book-writing, and — for the moment, at least — the book is not dead. But to do it right, publishing a book costs in the tens of thousands of dollars. From editing to design to paper to printing, to warehousing to marketing, the money adds up — quickly. And of course, since I’m not self-publishing, I represent a cost as well: the publisher will pay me an advance on the royalties, and once the book sells enough copies to cover the advance, I’ll be owed additional royalties with each book sold. With all this money at stake, a book only makes sense if it’s going to sell well, as in “tens of thousands of copies” well.
See why the Joel Osteens of the world have an easier time getting published? If you are the kind of person who walks into a bookstore and feels like much of what is coming out these days is bland and plays to the mainstream, well, you’re right. Publishers have to pander to the masses because it’s simply too risky otherwise.
So here’s the challenge: those of us who have caught the fire of the great Christian mystics want to share it with others. Not in an evangelistic, “you must read the mystics in order to be saved” kind of way, but in a more natural, organic, “this really speaks to me and I think you’ll like it too” sort of way. To expand on what I said yesterday, I want people to understand that the mystical life is not a million miles away from where they are now: it begins only a single step away. Not everyone wants —or needs — to take that step. But I want to make sure that those who do, know about what’s possible.
A book is a great way to get the word out (and I have been blessed by an offer from a publisher to bring out my book on Christian mysticism). But increasingly, blogging will simply make more sense as the way to bring together mysticism’s small numbers but large degree of devotion. I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the leaven: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened” (Matthew 13:33, NJB). It’s really okay if only 1% of the population are contemplatives. But we need that 1% to be contemplating. I think the spiritual health of the world, if not the entire universe, depends on it.
Ken Wilber talks about “greater depth, less span” — in other words, the more highly evolved an entity is, generally speaking the fewer of those entities there are. Now, I don’t know that contemplatives are more highly evolved than other people, but they do have a commitment to “go deeper.” So the analogy holds: greater depth, less span. There are relatively few of us who want to go deep. And that’s okay. But I just hope that those who want to go deeper, get the opportunity — the tools, the knowledge, the mentoring and the communal support — to do so.