On Being a Mystical Liberal
WHAT DOES IT MEAN to be a Mystical Liberal? One upon a time, I was a member of a group who enjoyed chatting and arguing while drinking large quantities of coffee. We that met every Saturday morning at the Crossroads Shopping Center in Bellevue, Washington. 1
The core group was Lynn Terpstra, Don Morrissey, and myself, because we were always there and were unstoppable once we got going. It was a genderically mixed group and so topics such as relationships, dating, and dining mingled freely with politics, conspiracies, and religion.
We even talked some sports—usually when the Mariners, Seahawks, or Sonics were winning. This is the only time casual sports fans discuss sports, and by East Coast standards, most West Coast sports fans are casual fans at best. 2
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.
Old dialectical materialists don’t die
Among the five regulars, Don was the closest to a dialectical materialist that we had going for us. The definition for that little-used term 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)
Morrissey was more 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 best described as skeptical (“an attitude of doubting the truth of something, such as a claim or statement”) with a need to play devil’s advocate, even when I agree with someone.
Despite also being a borderline secular humanist, I was often at loggerheads with Don about issues. My experiences with aspects of life not broached by science made for a weird mix, especially for someone like Morrisey. 3
The Master of the Mystic Arts, Dr. Strange stares into one of the may wondrous worlds created by artist Steve Ditko in the Marvel Age of Comics (the ’60s and never since).
Mystically liberal and loving it
So it was that while I was the one member of the klatch that most often agreed with Don 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! 4
This marvelous caricature of Karl Marx (“Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains”) holding up the peace sign to accompany his world-weary countenance is by Braldt Bralds.
What about the politics?!!?
I reside in the astral plane of progressivism and do my best to vote in a manner that reflects that worldview. I still yearn for a Presidency for Dennis Kucinich so that he could implement his promise of a new Cabinet-level group titled the Department of Peace.
To hell with politics!
As stated, the term mystical liberal isn’t mine—I did not coin it. It was given me in an affectionately mocking manner. But it fit. You might want to give it a try: the next time someone asks, “So just what are you?” try answering, “Why, I’m a mystical liberal, of course.”
It sounds so right.
So sixties …
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.
Kevin Costner as Crash Davis and Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy in my favorite baseball movie.
2 Baseball is different: I can go on endlessly about the joys of reading early Bill James when no one else knew who he was and how I use baseball metaphorically to explain other topics; it’s amazing how useful the game is in that respect. And, as Annie savoy has observed:
“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 … 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.
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.”
3 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 Psychedelic Art. It changed everything—or perhaps I should say it opened me to what everything is instead of what I wanted it to be.
4 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).