Spiritual Realism, Fuzzy Logic and the “Hedge Mystic”

In keeping with my life-long aversion to the “father-knows-best” model of authoritarian determinism, I tend to avoid “isms” of any kind. But in contemplating my approach to spiritual matters in general, I was casting around for a definition that does the same thing for me that “scientific materialism” does for the pure rationalist. I consider myself a spiritually-oriented but wholly non-religious individual; one of my favorite oxymorons is that I’m “devoutly non-religious.” But I strongly suspect that there are natural laws behind the experience of spiritual phenomena that we don’t yet have the ability to measure and quantify. I decided to put together the terms “spiritual” and “realism” and go googling for any existing thoughts on the subject. Lo and behold, there is apparently an entire “ism” built around this concept that echoes many of my own notions (although it is just a bit too ponderously pedantic for my taste)!


One of its key points restates my own idea about cause-and-effect:

“Spiritual Realists do not believe in miracles or supernatural events, but see in all so-called miracles and supernatural events, as yet unexplained laws of nature.”

Which brings me to the subject of “fuzzy logic.”


One statement from the article linked above really stood out for me as describing, in terms intelligible to the non-mathematician, an interesting rationale for the intuitive approach to tarot reading:

“Fuzzy logic is based on the observation that people make decisions based on imprecise and non-numerical information. Fuzzy models or sets are mathematical means of representing vagueness and imprecise information (hence the term fuzzy). These models have the capability of recognising, representing, manipulating, interpreting, and utilising data and information that are vague and lack certainty.”

I believe that the most convincing modes of divination bridge the gap between traditional knowledge-based wisdom and entirely non-rational insights that arise from imaginative assumptions about the nature of reality. There is a middle ground that takes the best of both worlds and fashions a paradigm that is accessible from both ends of the spectrum. The challenge as I see it is to prevent the “fuzzy” from overwhelming the “logic” in our rush to bolster our own suppositions about “how tarot works” in spiritual terms, while at the same time keeping any narrow presumptions about objective realism from shutting us out of more inspired visionary thinking.

It gives me another opportunity to trot out the old Reaganism: “Trust but verify.” In other words, we shouldn’t be too quick to swallow our first impressions about the apparent meaning of the cards in a particular reading; in the words of James Ricklef, we should let them “simmer in our consciousness,” gathering certainty as we bounce them off our prior learning and experience. If we open our mouth before engaging our brain, we run the risk of being miles wide of the mark in our attempt to offer meaningful observations within the context of the question being asked or the topic of the reading. There is nothing more disconcerting and damaging to our credibility than having to sheepishly backpedal away from something we said with great conviction when the querent seriously doubts its applicability.

In a recent post I characterized myself as a “garden-variety mystic” in that I don’t identify as a “psychic” (much less an all-seeing one) or a “sensitive” in my professional pursuits (nor as an “empath” either, but that’s a subject for a different post), I just “read the cards.” Today I hit upon the even more precise moniker of “hedge mystic.” It echoes the ideas of “hedge witch” and “hedge knight” in that I operate on the fringes of mainstream wisdom and practice (if such can be imputed to divination as a discipline) and pretty much march to my own drum, although my work does coexist peacefully with what is considered more customary (that is, I’m not a fire-breathing agitator, more a creative re-thinker and re-formulator). I live within the broad parameters of the Seven Hermetic Principles explained in The Kybalion but don’t revere them as one might orthodox religious tenets. Mysticism comes naturally to the esoteric philosopher and diviner since it embraces abstract concepts of spirit, expressed in the second case through the medium of divination, for which there is often little objective evidence of veracity other than personal and largely anecdotal experience (once again, exactly like religion).

I found two definitions of “mysticism,” the first of which I mostly agree with (although I don’t see myself as “surrendering” to my orphic perceptions); the other one looks more like the typical “debunker’s” snide commentary. (We could say that where divination has its James Randi, religion has its Richard Dawkins.)

  • belief that the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender
  • belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought, especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or mysterious agencies

I have no illusions about this stuff. It may be charming and illuminating, but it can also be problematic as a source of absolute truth, especially if one responds blindly by acting as if it is. On the other hand, I’m not convinced it has to be such if it proves useful to the recipient, who can, with a modicum of discernment (and keeping in mind “Pascal’s wager”), choose just how much to accept as a matter of prudent foreknowledge and how much to ignore. This utilitarian viewpoint is what allows me to endorse Hamlet’s proposition: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in (our) philosophy.”

I have no problem characterizing my observations as showing possible (or, at best, probable) trends or tendencies in future circumstances even when my querent is seeking airtight forecasting precision, since mystical awareness is typically more impressionistic than clinical in nature. This outlook coincides perfectly with the role of storyteller that I assume when doing readings, as well as with the understanding that what we do as diviners is more an art than a science. The “mystic arts” are just that, conveying visionary and often atmospheric fragments of inspired insight that can be transmuted into actionable advice with a little imagination and ingenuity on the part of both the reader and the querent. In practice, applying a little “spiritual realism” can rein in the “fuzzy logic” and act as a rudder to keep the reading on-course.

I’ve been involved in the esoteric arts since 1972, with a primary interest in tarot and astrology. See my previous work at www.parsifalswheeldivination.com.

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