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Center for Action and Contemplation
Everyday Mysticism
Everyday Mysticism

A Life Steeped in Mystery

Monday, March 18, 2024

CAC teacher Barbara Holmes shares her experience with everyday mysticism. 

Every person has had some mystical experience. Maybe the seas have not parted, and maybe they haven’t walked on water, but there have nevertheless been amazing miracles in our lives. We just haven’t shared them in community, so we don’t feel comfortable sharing them as individuals. I will tell you the basis of my personal mysticism so that you will consider yours…. 

I’m an ordinary, everyday mystic. I’m not claiming special powers, just a life steeped in mystery. My family was comfortable with mysticism, spiritual discernment, and the use of spiritual gifts such as healing and words of knowledge. My Aunt Lee, a Gullah shaman Catholic, was my biggest influence. She saw dead people and mediated mystery for our family. She could tell you who was coming and going and how they were when they got to the other side!… She relayed messages from ancestors on the other side back to us. Once a relative transitioned to the other side, she would tell us the age they had chosen to represent their physicality.  

It seems that at least in her understanding, you could choose your age in the life after life. So when you saw people in dreams, you would see them embodied as the age that best reflected their spiritual joy. My dad chose his 50s, and when I see him in dreams, that’s what he looks like. My mom chose her late 30s. I’m not familiar with that look for my mom, so I always hesitate, because at this point on the spiritual side, she’s younger than I am. There were all kinds of rules about dreams and encounters. My aunt’s messages always included what they called “verification.” She would seal the deal with the information that no one would know except the loved ones who had gone on. She’d tell you where a piece of lost jewelry could be found, or the content of a few last words spoken in private.  

Those were the mystics of my dad’s side of the family. And wouldn’t you know it, we have a bunch of them on my mom’s side too.… We’ve traced our DNA linkages, and my mom is from the Tikar people of Cameroon with surprising interconnections with China. As an everyday mystic, DNA testing helped me with the spiritual healing of cultural and historical loss.  

The weird part is that all of this seemed normal to me. Despite the fact that schooling and further education tried to invalidate my experience, I knew that everyday mysticism was real. I could not be persuaded or taught otherwise. I’m describing mysticism as a natural part of everyday life and all of the things that I’m describing happened in ordinary time. There was no weird music, sweeping cloaks, or spooky incantations … just a deep understanding of the sacred and a willingness to allow the gifts to lead.  

Adapted from Barbara A. Holmes, Everyday Mysticism: An Online Gathering with Dr. Barbara Holmes, Center for Action and Contemplation, October 18, 2023, online teaching. Recording unavailable.  

Image credit: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled (detail), New Mexico, 2023, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. During the course of every day, mystical moments are available to us, like sharing a moment with a grasshopper. 

Story from Our Community:  

My exodus journey began when I left the Catholic priesthood. I continued through therapy groups, terrifying dreams, ruined relationships, atheism, Buddhist retreats… the death of my wife, then a return through an encounter with Christian mystics. Finally, I have come to recognize the Christ mystery for the first time! —Peter M. 

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