An acquaintance of mine is in his middle 80's. Not long ago he spoke about how, at age 50, he was diagnosed with CRI. Cranial rectal inversion. The gentleman was informed that his spiritual life was dead. Not that he had neglected it. Rather, that by a lifetime of starving his spirituality, it had long since died a truly inglorious death. He was told that the result had turned him into a person best not known by others in the civilized world. Not, that is, unless he was ready to take the necessary steps to turn around the death in his soul, his life.
To see this man today, joyful and forever cracking jokes with his twinkling Irish eyes, no one would ever guess that he had been informed of the death sentence he had imposed upon himself.
A week ago I was in a metaphysical shop giving what are, for lack of a more convenient phrase in our society, psychic readings.
I am not a psychic. I do not consider myself such. I am a mystic. The concept of mysticism and mystics is unfamiliar in contemporary life. When I say that I am a mystic, people have no point of reference.
Maybe they have heard of Francis of Assisi, the charismatic preacher from Italy. Or some other person—typically male—who lived and died a long time ago.
The first time I knew that I was no longer alone after the death of my mystic teacher and grandmother was when I met Orthodox Christians for the first time. An Orthodox friend took me along to church one Sunday. Later, at coffee in the parish hall, the men of the mostly working class parish told me that they are mystics. The point of their religion is mystical communion with God.
Why, I wondered, can't we all have that?
A priest friend was told recently after he had celebrated Mass that there was a figure standing beside him during the service. Upon further inquiry, it was discovered that the person had seen an angel standing at the priest's side.
I once told a Jesuit priest that while he celebrated Mass I had seen Jesus on one side of the altar, Mary on the other, angels all around and blood dripping from the host. He looked stricken, worse than if I had just offered him a one-way ticket to hell. I told him not to get upset, nor to let it go to his head. It happens. When people are completely focused on the reason they come together, miracles happen.
I have seen it in Catholic and Orthodox services. I have attended services of other faiths where the buildings overflowed with angels. I have been in the middle of city streets during rush hour, on subways and airplanes and buses, and there have been angels everywhere.
I have sat alone in my home—in the middle of hundreds of acres of corn or in large cities—and been surrounded by angels.
What it takes is willingness. My elderly acquaintance became willing to up-end the life he led. It had become small, narrow and crabbed. Our lives center on our work to the point that we cease to exist. We become our work. We become our addictions to television or money or sports or whatever catches our fancy. We lose the ability to be, to relate to the world outside of ourselves.
Until we believe when somebody tells us we have CRI. At the moment we recognize that lifeless person in the mirror is us and we don't want to be that person any more. Then we have the opportunity to push and pull and drag ourselves into a new existence. A better existence. We can free ourselves. We discover a life which has life in it. A life where we spiritually connect with the world around us.
To discover that I did not have to be who I was told to be was a shock to my young self. The old man that I am keeps finding out that I am not who I appear to be.