We are about to embark on a quest for truth, the eternal wisdom, that treasure hidden in the center of the soul. Our goal is union with the divine. The question we shall answer: “What is that by which all else is known?”
Do you feel alienated in the modern world? Do you see through the nonsense which seems to so thoroughly preoccupy everyone else? It has been said that man is a meeting ground of various levels of reality, from the ridiculous to the sublime. At what level do you reside? Do you perceive transcendental reality? Have you established your identity with that?
The four stages of spiritual progress are purgation (of bodily desires); purification (of the will); illumination (of the mind); and unification (of one’s will or being with the divine).
Mysticism, to give it a name, and since what you are after all is precisely that, a mystic - is the core and basis of the oldest religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, and its influence has been felt in the more esoteric strands of Judaism (as Kabbalah), Christianity (as Christian mysticism) and Islam (as Sufism). As such mysticism predates all theisms, or belief in God. Mysticism has influenced every major sacred text, from the Vedas of Hinduism (dating from 2000 BC), to the Mahayana Sutras of Buddhism (which itself derives from Hinduism), and the Chinese Tao Te Ching, as well as the Holy Bible, from which Christianity and Judaism are derived, and the Bible’s offshoot, the Muslim’s Koran, which was written by the prophet Muhammad and finished in 632 AD. Indeed the founders of religion were mystics, as were the world’s most famous philosophers. Spinoza’s universal love of God reveals the sense of aloofness and impersonality reminiscent of the ancient Hindus’ Brahman.
For eons and the world over, mystics concern themselves with a return to the source of being, and in their writings have endeavored to express this adventure to end all adventures, however inadequately or incompletely, because the mystic experience is beyond concept and cannot be perfectly rendered into language. As with life and consciousness, which are both in a sense synonyms for Absolute Reality, mysticism can only be experienced.
Historically mystics have been a minority, distrusted or maltreated, branded as different and peculiar. Mystics have not easily fit into society, composed as it is of less sensitive seekers, those for whom religious routine suffices, a majority who couldn't care less about things unseen, as long as they have an abundance of creature comforts and all the latest possessions. Mysticism focuses exclusively on pure unitary consciousness, on union with God. It has been called a science. As science, it is autology, or science of self. It is the science of hidden life, but its practitioners, who have been referred to as “the people of the hidden” should no longer remain hidden. It is time to come out in the open, time for an era referred to by modern scholars as “open realization.” Mysticism is also an art, and each practitioner of “open realization” is therefore an artist.
In short, mysticism is the art and science of the holy, abidance in consciousness its ultimate goal and gift to the life of an evolving humanity.
In this expanding universe in which we are so miraculously situated, mysticism will burst the limits of narrow cults and religious rigidity and usher in the true age of enlightenment, one that is ecumenical in nature, drawing as it does on the expressions and experiences of all the creeds and contemplatives who have ever existed.
How to practice mysticism, to achieve that immediate feeling of unity of the ego-based individual personality (the self) with God (the Self)? In the words of 2nd century BC mystic Patanjali, it is by “the holding or stopping of mind stuff.” Or in the Christian tradition, the via negativa, or negative way: “the emptier your mind, the more susceptible are you to the working of the presence.”
One becomes what one contemplates, and in contemplation of the Divine you access the divinity that dwells within, in the lotus of your heart, Buddhism’s om mani padme hum or “the jewel in the lotus.”
In the Old Testament, God is referred to as Yahweh, which means “I am who I am.” God’s Name, this “I Am”, gives a sense of the enigmatic, transcendent and eternal nature of the One. Instructing Moses, God says, “This is what you must say to the people of Israel: 'I Am has sent me to you.'" Christ, as a representative of man establishing identity with God, says about Abraham who was born 2000 years prior: "Before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58)
All can be said about ultimate reality also applies at the level of the individual, you: I AM.
Self-realization is the same in essence with the Greek injunction to “Know thyself,” and cosmic consciousness, which refers to the individual’s acknowledgement of oneness with Brahman, the One without second. It is the final stage in a progressive self-discovery, or more accurately Self-recovery, that has been going on since you were born.
But in modern times mysticism has become somewhat adulterated. Many mystics, in speaking of union with God, do not imply identity with the divine, which traditionally has been construed as heresy. Elevating oneself, lowly as one is, to the level of the Supreme is unthinkable! So mystics speak or write of encounters with the “other.” And even though implying the Self that dwells within and seems to stand aloof and separate from the lower self, this emphasis on otherness considerably lowers the potency and accuracy of the mystical experience. For union with the Divine, Source of all - the Hindu mystics say “all life is yoga” and yoga means union – implies duality, because only what is separate in nature can be unified. But the Self, being omnipresent and alone, the Lonely Purity, is beyond such union. When you are all that is, union with what?
The Hindus posit three states or provinces of consciousness. These are the waking state, dream state, and sleep state, with which we all are familiar. But there is a fourth (Turiya), which underlying the three is nothing less than consciousness of one’s pure self-existence or being. These levels of consciousness can be seen as rungs of a ladder, in this case a ladder of being, by which the individual climbs back to the Source. Climbing implies strenuous activity. Thus the great contemplative is a man of action, and the Buddhist’s “sitting quietly, doing nothing” and with senses subdued, mind quieted and intellect focused intensely experiencing the profound perfection dwelling in the lotus of the heart, is the only kind of action worth its salt, and one that leaves no bitter aftertaste.
Moving through worship, ritual and devotion, and beyond all symbolism, mysticism propels us inexorably toward the ultimate goal: annihilation of the self (which, being ephemeral, does not exist in the Absolute sense) and realization of that which is: called mystical union in Western Christianity, moksha in Hinduism, Nirvana in Buddhism, and fana (the snuffing out of self) in Islam.
And so, dear friend, turn within and become a mystic yourself. Go from concept to reality, from knowledge to wisdom, from books to being. The paths are many, you see, but the goal is the same: Rest in the Eternal.
"Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)
"Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)