I believe Abby is a mystic, but only out of desperation. His mysticism is that he will surrender himself to nature to achieve enlightenment. Abby’s mysticism is like his last hope. He is a loyal servant to the desert out of devotion, but his hope to attain knowledge is desperation to make his more human part fully understand and merge with nature, and to pass on that same knowledge and hope to human society so they will protect nature.
It is obvious from the very beginning Abby wishes to be a guardian for nature. On one of his first nights working in arches he says, “I wait and watch guarding the desert, the arches, the sand and barren rock, the isolated junipers and scattered clumps of sage surrounding me in the stillness and simplicity under the starlight” (Abby 12). He is clearly very protective of all the parks elements. He also calls it his “garden”, and goes on multiple rants about the protection of national parks, natural predator, circle of life, and the destruction he witnesses in human society. He makes it clear that he identifies more with nature and less with humanity. While describing himself he explains, “There are mountain men, there are men of the sea, and there are desert rats. I am a desert rat” (239). Notice he doesn’t call himself a desert man, but a rat. He then goes on to explain the leisurely exploration, and long-term inhabitance, and the rebellion against human assimilation that only the desert allows for (240). Basically he is saying he wants to live in and explore the desert, the least humane or all environments. His characterization of himself as a rat mixed with these desires shows a willingness to dissolve into nature. Not only does Abby want to inhabit nature but he also wants to leave humanity. After seeing a human made damn flood the Glen canyon Abby says, “In these hours and days of dual solitude on the river we hope to discover something quite different, to renew our affection for ourselves and the human kind in general by a temporary, legal separation from the mass” (155). This separation comes from his disappointment in humanity he cannot identify with societies cause. His frustration leads him to retreat into nature. He them goes on to describe a sort of rebirth into nature as they get further away from the dam strengthening the point that he want to be reborn as a part of nature instead of a human.
Abby describes his mysticism and pursuit of knowledge as one of the reason he came here in the first place. He describes, “I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with a non-human world and yet somehow survives still intact, individual, separate. Paradox and bedrock” (6). Abby’s description of his mysticisms is to merge with nature and be reborn. He describes a certain understanding of nature one would gain free of scientific categories, but yet objective. Abby says he would “[risk] everything human in [himself]” for this (6). He goes on to apply this hope to all of society a little later he explains that he appreciates Alaska even though he’s never been because he thinks “We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope” (129). He is describing nature as this refugee an instinctual home to run away to. We need this escape and hope to hold when we desire to lose ourselves in it and escape from society when it gets too awful and too destructive to bare anymore. Abby is saying that at some point we will join him and his mysticism desperate to escape from society, and find an enlightenment on nature. He is saying we need to protect and recognize nature so it’s there when we need it. His mysticism is born from his devotion to nature and inability to identify with society. His mysticism of becoming one with nature sounds farfetched because it is. Even Abby knows this, but he continues to have hope because a deeper understanding and rebirth into nature seem to be his only options in escaping society.