The world turns upside down every January. Diviners—prophets, astronomers, seers, mystics and oracles—are celebrated.
Twelve days after Christmas we arrive at the Feast of the Epiphany. The Magi, the Three Wise Men from the East, after at least two years of travel came to Jerusalem in search of a child. According to legend the Magi had read of a child to be born who would be greater than all humans throughout time. We do not know their sources, only that they studied the stars to find their way to Jerusalem and its king Herod the Great.
For two years the mystics travelled from unknown lands to Jerusalem and ultimately Bethlehem. Then for at least two more years they travelled back to their homes. Had they come from Babylon, Sumeria or another ancient Mesopotamian (Iraqi) area their travels by land would be two years each way. It was similar to the journey of the Queen of Sheba a thousand years earlier when she travelled to Jerusalem and King Solomon.
On the Epiphany—the day when the manifestation of God among men—is celebrated in songs and incense and celebrations we celebrate the wise oracles who first travelled from across the world to see this manifestation of grace.
We celebrate prophets who celebrated a baby. We sing songs about men who followed the stars, men who worked for foreign kings in foreign lands.
Those nameless men were the descendants of men who lived and worked in royal palaces for some three or four thousand years before the birth of the Christ. They studied herbs and plants. At a time when there were no doctors, nurses, no medical facilities as we know them, the court oracles kept the ancient knowledge of native medicines. They studied the heavens and humans. Oracles pondered the divine. All of the many things they did from medicine to metaphysics to physics and astronomy are now spread across many fields of endeavor.
As human society as split and divided, formed and reformed over the eons and especially over the last five or six centuries, we humans are forced to make more and more decisions.
Do we wish to study the heavens? Will we become astronomers or astrologers? Will we study the earth or the seas?
Two thousand years ago the primary task of the Wise Men, the Magi, was to divine the Divine. Literally. They were to find divinity where it was and bring it to their lords whether that lord was the Queen of Sheba or Caesar Augustus.
The various kinds of work they performed is now divided into enterprises and lines of study. Only the mysteries of the mystical, their work as oracles and diviners is now dismissed as useless and irrelevant.
There remain studies in mysticism such as the mystical theology of Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross. During their lives both were under great suspicion for their mystical beliefs. John was imprisoned. Yet their writings are among the great mystical writings of the last thousand years. The Magi would recognize them and their books at once.
The decision to be and live the life of a mystic now, today, in the twenty-first century since the birth of that child the Magi sought is more dangerous than their travels. The Magi had only to elude thieves and marauders, an Edomite ruling Jerusalem who was renowned for his treacheries and murders.
A modern mystic lives in a world afraid of him, his knowledge and beliefs. A mystic who cannot be seen and acknowledged as such lives a safer life than one who is open about his mysticism. He is the subject of physical and emotional abuse. He is ridiculed. He is tortured and murdered.
To be a modern mystic is singularly unsafe. It is also a decision. Our forebears made decisions to travel hundreds of miles across seas, sands and forests in search of the Divine. Some mystics still travel like this. Others live their lives in a single town, maybe the same house their entire lives.
It is not where one lives nor what profession they hold. It is the decision to live for the Divine which makes our lives worth living.
My decision today is for the Divine.
Come, join me.