I am a mystic. I suspect that I have always been a mystic. Mysticism and fundamentalism are about as diametrically opposed as it is possible for two approaches to the Sacred to be. Fundamentalism is by definition and by history a rigid adherence to a pre-determined set of legalisms, whereas mysticism is knowledge of the divine by direct experience. I can tell you from long experience that it is categorically impossible to be both mystical and evangelical, even in theory, most certainly in practice.
From the time of my earliest memories I have been highly intuitive, even psychic. Such things are anathema to evangelical fundamentalism. My father himself was named after two of the major authors and an editor of The Fundamentals (the set of essays in the early 20th Century that gave the movement its name). Staunch doctrinal legalism was obviously important to his family and he passed it along the generations.
Prime among the fundamental doctrinal statements is sola scriptura, which declares that the bible is inerrant, infallible, historically literal, the very Word of God and, indeed, the only source by which God may be known. I obviously had knowledge of things beyond my ken. When that knowledge didn’t corroborate the bible interpretations being preached, where did that leave me? I can tell you exactly: sitting in the back pew with my mother, worried desperately that I was a witch, that I wasn’t really saved, even that I was possessed by Satan.
Not knowing, or acknowledging, that there was any kind of True Christian other than evangelical fundamentalist, I stuffed my mysticism, my intuitive and psychic knowledge, into the deepest darkest closets of my very Being. Where, of course, it leaked out constantly to disrupt my practice of Christianity! Oh, how I prayed that God would take away these weird feelings, these visions, the dreams, the knowledge I had of people and of Life Itself. And how I wished I had been born in Bible Times when it was still possible, permissible, to hear God directly, to be a prophet. Everything I was seemed much better suited to some other Dispensation than these Almost End Times (or at the very least some other gender).
Religion, mostly evangelical Christianity but really all religions that I studied, always tries to tell me how to know God—what must I do, actions I must take, doctrinal statements I must believe, attitudes and behaviors I must model, in order to be in fellowship with God. The practice of religion is supposed to make possible a connection to the Sacred Other that is Beyond Me.
But the place where I begin my spiritual seeking (my Fundamental, as it were) is to notice that I already have a relationship with Something Beyond Myself that I call God, or The Divine when I want to differentiate from a specific conventional concept of God. I am a mystic looking to reconcile my experience--what I know that I know that I know--with the intellectual exercise and physical practice of religion.
As a mystic, my ultimate standard of Truth is this experience of the relationship that I already have, rather than a particular canon of scripture or set of doctrinal statements. My experience of God is so essential and visceral that I can only describe its validity as similar to the validity of knowing that water is wet. Wetness is not a quality that you can define or explain. You can learn the chemical formula for water, or the phase changes of the water cycle, you can learn the uses of water; but you cannot learn Wet. I know God like I know Wet.
When I read other people's opinions of the nature of spiritual reality--whether that is the bible or other writings--I compare that to what I already know. When I read other mystics, whether Christian or not, we all sound the same. Our words are not always the same but there is this quality of knowing the Divine that is so visceral as to be indescribable. But when I read theologians, they are always trying to define and delimit what my experience should be. It often feels like going to school for years to learn all about the properties of water and all the stuff water can do before being allowed to walk outside to step into the stream and JUST GET WET.
That's the number one reason that I don't trust the bible to be the Word Of God but rather lots of words about other people's experiences with God--extremely valuable in their own right but not at all the same thing as an ultimate spiritual authority. If the bible, or any other teacher, doesn't jive with what I already know about Wet, I will search long and hard to reconcile the differences but the final authority for me is, for lack of a fuller description, that still small voice that speaks to me on my very breath.
And that is only the first of many ways in which I am a heretic.