me as mystical liberal and master of nealism

Es­ti­mated reading time is 6 min­utes.

ONCE UPON A TIME, I was a member of a ca­sual coffee klatch—is there any other kind of klatch, be­cause the two words seem to be con­joined Siamesically?—that met every Sat­urday morning at the Cross­roads Shop­ping Center in Bellevue, Wash­ington, and chatted. The group ba­si­cally re­volved around Lynn, Don, and myself—primarily be­cause we were al­ways there and we were some­what un­stop­pable once we got going. 1

It was a gen­der­i­cally mixed group and so topics as di­verse as re­la­tion­ships, con­spir­a­cies, dating, dining, and es­pe­cially the two big non-no’s, pol­i­tics and re­li­gion (es­pe­cially pol­i­tics and re­li­gion), were cov­ered reg­ular. Hell’s Belles, we even talked some sports—especially when the Mariners, Sea­hawks, or Sonics were win­ning, which is the only time ca­sual ob­servers dis­cuss sports. (And by East Coast stan­dards, most West Coast sports fans are ca­sual.) 2

(Un­less it was base­ball, upon which I can go on end­lessly, so the topic tended to be side­stepped. And even then I con­stantly used base­ball metaphor­i­cally to ex­plain other topics; it’s amazing how useful the game is in that re­spect.) 3



If my memory is serving me well here, I re­call Free In­quiry, a sec­ular hu­manist mag­a­zine avail­able on news­stands, reg­u­larly run­ning a list of 35 be­liefs or prac­tices that de­fine a sec­ular hu­manist. I was in ac­cord with #2 through 35 but not with their #1 re­quire­ment: atheism.

Dialectical materialism never dies

Among the five reg­u­lars, Don was the closest to a di­alec­tical ma­te­ri­alist that we had, the de­f­i­n­i­tion of which is “the Marxist theory that main­tains the ma­te­rial basis of a re­ality con­stantly changing in a di­alec­tical process, and the pri­ority of matter over mind.” (Merriam-Webster)

Don was more the di­alectic (“a method of ex­am­ining and dis­cussing op­posing ideas in order to find the truth”) than Marxist, al­though most rea­son­able forms of socialism—especially those that could both coöperate with and temper the rav­aging ten­den­cies of capitalism—were cer­tainly topics of conversation.

I am rather skep­tical by na­ture and choice, skep­tical being “an at­ti­tude of doubting the truth of some­thing, such as a claim or state­ment.” I am also at­tracted to sim­ilar forms of ben­e­fi­cial socialism—as are al­most all human be­ings who work for a living, al­though people are not as ap­proving of such so­cialist con­cepts as wel­fare as corporations. 

I am also a bor­der­line sec­ular hu­manist but nonethe­less was often at log­ger­heads with Don about a va­riety of life’s is­sues.  My ex­pe­ri­ences with those as­pects of life not broached by sci­ence made the re­jec­tion of the un­ques­tioned ac­cep­tance of ma­te­ri­alism all but au­to­matic. 4

So it was that while I was the one member of the klatch that most often agreed with Donnem and backed him up in ar­gu­ments with others, I was the one most likely to dis­agree and argue with him on fun­da­mental is­sues of the human life ex­pe­ri­ence. For my having what he con­sid­ered to be a mas­sive case of philo­soph­ical cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance, he dubbed me a “mys­tical liberal.”

He meant the term to be hu­mor­ously condescending—any di­alec­tical, ma­te­ri­al­istic, athe­istic person would only ever use mys­tical in such a manner—but I was im­me­di­ately taken by the term and have used it to de­scribe my­self and my set of be­liefs as mys­tical lib­eral since! 5

I haven’t a clue as to what a prac­ticing mys­tical lib­eral (ML?) would claim to be­lieve, but I in­vite anyone who thinks they might be one to claim the mantle and come out of the ML closet today!



I refer the reader to Stephen Jay Gould’s book Rocks Of Ages (1999) and his con­cept of “Non-Overlapping Mag­is­teria,” which ex­plain how sci­ence and re­li­gion can co-exist peace­fully as each keeps its nose out of the oth­er’s business.

What about the politics?

Oh, yeah: that! The only thing that scares me more than the 45 De­moc­rats  in Con­gress who voted for H.R. 1599, the Safe and Ac­cu­rate Food La­beling Act of 2015, are the 230 Rep*blicans who voted for it. In fact, the elected mem­bers of the GOP frighten me so much that I can’t even spell their name out any more, hence the as­terisk (*) in the middle of their name on all my sites.

The rightwing as­sault on America is a very real and very growing threat, and one that most people who vote for Rep*blicans ei­ther don’t see or won’t ac­knowl­edge. So, if you are one of these folks, keep two things in mind: my barbs are usu­ally pointed at ei­ther rightwing (I rarely use the term con­ser­v­a­tive, as its meaning has been usurped by the righties) leaders, both elected of­fi­cials and media commentators.

My ideal ticket for the 2016 Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion would be Bernie Sanders and Eliz­a­beth Warren with Dennis Kucinich tag­ging along to be­come the first Amer­ican Sec­re­tary of Peace.Nothing close to this will happen on the DNL ticket and I ain’t holding myb breath ex­pecting an in­de­pen­dent run at the White House . . . 

Bralds Marx full 500

The won­derful car­i­ca­ture of Marx giving the world the peace sign is by German artist Braldt Bralds and ap­peared on the front cover of the Au­gust 22, 2005, issue of Der Spiegel.

Fi­nally, this ar­ticle “Mas­ters and Mis­tresses of Mys­ti­cism Part 1 (Me As Mys­tical Lib­eral” will be fol­lowed by a second, sil­lier ar­ticle that ad­dresses mys­ti­cism versus mist­i­cism. (Don’t look it up: I coined it just now. . .)





1   The Cross­roads Shop­ping Center was owned by a gent who took um­brage at anyone re­fer­ring to his place as a ‘mall,’ de­spite it being a mall in every way ex­cept that at one time most of the stores were in­de­pen­dently owned. It was not a cookie-cutter mall with the same chain-stores in the same lo­ca­tion as al­most every other mall in America. It ac­tu­ally had some soul to it at one time.

Then, as the rent and CAM charges es­ca­lated year after year, the small mom-and-pop shops moved out and the face­less cor­po­rate fa­cades moved in. Nonethe­less, it re­mains a so­cial hub for folks of Bellevue who too un­cool to make the real mall scene at down­town Bellevue Square . . .

2   Yeah, I am playing with words today: Siamesi­cally and gen­der­i­cally are coined for this piece and should prob­ably not be bandied about without a con­sid­er­able will­ing­ness to strut one’s aplombness.

3   “I be­lieve in the Church of Base­ball. I’ve tried all the major re­li­gions and most of the minor ones. I’ve wor­shipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mush­rooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For in­stance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a base­ball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out be­tween us—the Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer meta­physics to theology.


You see, there’s no guilt in base­ball, and it’s never boring—which makes it like sex. There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his ca­reer. Makin’ love is like hit­ting a base­ball: you just gotta relax and con­cen­trate. Be­sides, I’d never sleep with a player hit­ting under .250, un­less he had a lot of RBIs or was a great glove man up the middle.

You see, there’s a cer­tain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can ex­pand their minds. Some­times when I’ve got a ballplayer alone, I’ll just read Emily Dick­inson or Walt Whitman to him. And the guys are so sweet, they al­ways stay and listen. Of course, a guy’ll listen to any­thing if he thinks it’s fore­play. I make them feel con­fi­dent, and they make me feel safe - and pretty.

Of course, what I give them lasts a life­time. What they give me lasts 142 games. Some­times it seems like a bad trade, but bad trades are part of base­ball. Now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake! It’s a long season, and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried them all, I re­ally have. And the only church that truly feeds the soul day in, day out, is the Church of Base­ball.” (Annie Savoy)

4   My first psy­che­delic ex­pe­ri­ence was a classic psy­che­delic ex­pe­ri­ence, a ‘level four’ ex­pe­ri­ence as de­scribed by Robert E. L. Mas­ters and Jean Houston in their 1968 book Psy­che­dlic Art.

5   And those be­liefs, un­cod­i­fied as they may be, are nonethe­less taught the world over by my acolytes under the um­brella term nealism (with a small ‘n’—no room for un­nec­es­sary ego here).




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I hadn’t seen that pic­ture of Marx be­fore, but it’s a good one of you making the peace sign.

Apropos of not much, but I have to fit it in some­where: My son over the phone said re­cently, “Dad, you’re a non se­qui­turist,” then added, “... if there IS such a word.”-- Said I, “There is now.”

(Semi-timely trivia is SO much cheerier than noting right out loud that Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu got re-elected for a fourth term.)