Some years ago I attended a workshop taught by Bernadette Roberts, a contemporary Christian mystic. She made the offhand comment that she wished there were no autobiographies written by mystics and saints. Why? In her opinion seekers read these and compare and contrast their experiences with those of acknowledged Masters. This flies in the face of the reality that each of us is unique so our individual journeys will be unique. Each one’s process toward increasing transparency unfolds in his/her particular context.
I think of it in terms of travel guides. I can read a travel guide written by an experienced visitor to a country. I will surely learn a lot about the writer’s experiences a well as what I might encounter; what to avoid; how to prepare, etc. Still, none of this is a substitute for my own experiences in that country. For that I need to go there myself.
One definition of transcendent is something beyond or above the range of normal or merely physical human experience. How many of us have had those moments perhaps as a child or out in nature or in communion with another?
There are different ways to explore these experiences in writing. One is to create a chronological record. Another is to unpack the major components of the history—people, places, encounters, insights, dreams, etc.—the good and the bad, the light and the shadow. Typically an individual has been working from within a specific faith tradition and a concept of God. As more and more people discover themselves as spiritual but not religious and nones the spiritual autobiography can be a way to capture the subtleties and nuances of the transcendent; the kind of experiences too easily crushed by doctrine and dogma.