In Search of Better Stories

Mysticism Might Be My Thing

Coleridge remained a Christian throughout his troubled life; however, he found himself depending more and more on mystical writers to keep the heart of his faith alive. He says:

For the writings of these Mystics acted in no slight degree to prevent my mind from being imprisoned within the outline of any single dogmatic system…(these writers) enabled me to skirt, without crossing the sandy deserts of utter unbelief.

P. 308-309 Mariner

Any attempt to lock his wandering, wondering spirit into a rigid system of belief would have proved fatal. Coleridge’s faith was more like the wild plants of the woods that he loved so much—growing in the right direction upwards towards the sun but not in any way hemmed in, pruned, or restrained by systematized human intervention like the garden plants.

I resonate with the wild and free mystical version of faith over against the farmed variety. However, organized robust systems of belief, clearly articulated and meticulously enforced, just like gardens, will produce more fruit. One will tend to feel safer growing in a garden, looking the same as all the other plants around and protected by a farmer’s care. Destructive weeds are less likely to grow, and the ones that do are more easily plucked up.

Wild faith is not for everyone. Things can go badly in the woods. There is more mystery, more uncertainty, more danger, and more doubt, but the plants that make it are truly magnificent, springing to life in the most unpredictable and unlikely places.

Ironically, later in life, Coleridge returned firmly to the church of England, much to the dismay of many of his friends. To double the Irony, he returned at a time when the Anglican Church was doggedly supporting the slave trade and bloated with greedy, lazy, and hypocritical leaders. Coleridge returned at a time when the church was as corrupt as it has ever been! Why did he do that? Perhaps his wild faith is partly to blame for the ruin of his life? Towards the end, maybe he knew that a fenced-in belief properly husbanded was better for him given his terribly fragile condition.

For me, at least at this time in my life, I continue to grow in the Christian way, but it’s a mystical faith more at home in the wild and not so much in the garden.

To Learn More about the book from which Coleridges mystical affections come Click Here

Colerage and Guite his biographer have some fascinating thoughts on loneliness. Click Here to check that out!

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