Myth. Magic. Mystery.
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The definition of mystery, though multi-faceted, is a good place to start:
Anything that arouses curiosity or perplexes because it is unexplained, inexplicable, or secret.
That [which] is not fully understood or that baffles or eludes understanding; an enigma.
But it goes further. I’m not the only one that has noticed the prevalence of mysticism in contemporary civilisation:
The skills, lore, or practices that are peculiar to a particular activity or group and are regarded as the special province of initiates.
A religious truth that is incomprehensible to reason and knowable only through divine revelation.
An incident from the life of Jesus, especially the Incarnation, Passion, Crucifixion, or Resurrection, of particular importance for redemption.
The derivation is even more interesting:
From Latin mystērium, from Greek mustērion, secret rite, from mustēs, an initiate, from mūein, to close the eyes, initiate.
So you can see, the concept of mystery is old and likely prehistoric, pre-dating all forms of modern civilisation. Though Christianity is the only religion mentioned by name in the definitions, all theistic religions rely solely on mystery as their driving force; their ‘hook’, if you will. That’s why those few that actually communicate with God (or gods) are referred to as ‘mystics’ — they’re dealing with mysterious, inexplicable, unprovable phenomena. Gods are mysteries, in other words.
The fundamental axiom of all advanced lifeforms can be generalised as ‘What’s around the next corner?’ On a low-level it might be as simple as finding new hunting grounds; for humans it might as complex as finding a new partner, a new job — either way, it’s about moving. Not necessarily forward or back, but moving. There are higher concepts but at the end of the day it’s exploration and horizon-hunting that really does it for us; what really satisfies us.
Why then are we so damn addicted to mystery? Mystery is the polar opposite of exploration, science, truth. But we embrace it! We find comfort in the not-knowing. We set out on epic journeys to seek out new continents and new civilisations, all the while seeking solace in the gods that illumine starlit skies. There’s something about that which we do not know.
And these mysteries will forever remain because we don’t try too hard to solve them. No matter how hard we try, a mystery remains just beyond the reach of our grasping fingertips — or rather, we don’t stretch our hands too far in case we actually reach the mystery. The moment we close our fingers and find it to be nothing more than insubstantial smoke and deceptive mirrors — we shatter. Our world-view contorts and shifts and finally buckles under its elusive enormity. The shattered fragments of mystery lay limp and unravelled between our fingers. There’s nothing there. There never has been. There never will be.
Why do we keep reaching? Why do we raise our hands to the sky in search of salvation and heavenly oases?
Why does it hurt so much when we find out that a mystery is really nothing more than random chance or laws of physics? Because we’re rational creatures; we feast on order, reason. For every effect we must attribute a cause.
Someone somewhere once prayed to the very first heavenly and inexplicable body: the stars. The constellation of Orion perhaps. ‘Let tomorrow’s hunt be a success’ he prayed. And you know what? It was. The hunt was a rave success. Forever after, he prayed to the stars.
Then one day, sometime in the near future, the hunt wasn’t a success. In fact, some of the hunters were gored by the wild boar and died. So of course he prayed harder. What other option was there?