Mysticism in World Religions
Saturday, May 16, 2015, 3:55 PM
Many contemporary mystics are laypeople who seldom speak about religion, although most are quite religious. Mystical consciousness, for them, is considered a mode of being, not a question of their faith. These people are not trying to convince you or asking you to agree. They are merely attempting to explain their own direct awareness. They have no desire to describe their mystical experiences. Application to living is far more important.
Almost every person feels that their life is lacking in some way, although they are seldom able to define it. There always seems to be something missing. True mystics feel wholeness often. It is not a temporary absorption in divine union. Rather, it is identifying with the divine essence everywhere. Living, for them, usually expands beyond their own immediate sentiments, thoughts and sensing.*
Rebirth is conceived as being born in another body, after death in this life. Contemporary mystics sometimes speak of being born again. After absorption in oneness, they view existence from a broader perspective. The universal essence, which had engulfed them, is later felt as background to everything they experience. Living has greater purpose, even if they cannot explain it in words
True mystics concentrate on eternal here and now, partially manifested in space and time, yet transcendent to each and both. “What about eternal life?” Most people regard it as after passing on. It can, however, be realized both consciously and presently. What we call this life might be just like watching and performing in a play on stage. The concluded acts we call the past. The following acts, termed the future, have yet to be presented. For true mystics, here...now...this moment is Reality. It is not merely an intermission. It is truly boundless and endless.
Many of these essays use symbolic terms, as did most quotations of mystics. “How do they relate to everyday living?” If you looked at a movie film, frame by frame, you would not grasp the meaning of the complete picture. When you look at this life, hour by hour, day by day, you cannot see it in its whole context. Even if you could review one mortal life in its entirety, its greater spiritual significance would be missing. Life is all of existence.
“How can one person possibly relate to all of existence, let alone to the spiritual essence which underlies it?” That is what mystics are conscious of, sometimes momentarily and, rarely, throughout every day. “Can you believe in a personal God and be a mystic?” Most of them do. “Can you be an atheist and a mystic?” A few are. God is the supreme concept of that essence which is God beyond God.
“God is a concept and not a reality?” God is as real as you want God to be. The divine essence is Reality, even if you do not believe in God. It is another mystical paradox. “Why can’t it be simple?” It is simple...it simply is. It is our minds which add the complexity.
*Their feeling, thinking and actions become for the soul, the whole and all, not for “I, me” and “my.” Their sense of being reaches beyond limited personal concerns.
(21 of 30 quotations from "the greatest achievement in life," my free ebook on comparative mysticism)
Saturday, May 9, 2015, 3:38 PM
“The devil made me do it.” Whether this is said tongue-in-cheek, or by a believer in satanic influences, it is still the grand excuse. Too many people attempt to blame someone else for their own troubles or lack of personal achievement. If you want to see the devil, simply look at what is reflected in the mirror. Blaming yourself, even when it is justified, is quite difficult. “It isn’t my fault,” they usually say.
When tragedy impacts their life, some people reproach God. “How could He let this happen?” “My God failed me.” “If this can happen on Earth there is no God in heaven.” Unfortunately, too many religious leaders respond with sayings like “God works in mysterious ways” or “there must be a reason in God’s plan.” Hindus and Buddhists may point to karma, the consequences of our previous actions in this life or the last. While the latter might seem more reasonable than the former, they can both be types of the grand excuse. We too frequently want to excuse ourselves today and/or to wallow in self-pity. It is much easier to accuse another.
Christianity offers a grand a priori excuse: we all are born in sin due to the fall of Adam. Many men accuse Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. The serpent isn’t talking unless you let it. Some Hindus call this serpent the kundalini, spiritual energy coiled in the base of the spine, which must first be released through the crown of the head, in greater consciousness, to reunite with the divine. Separation is the grand excuse of most religions; mystics realize it is just imagined. The mystical “truth” is that All is in One and One is in All here and now, in infinite and eternal Reality. Every person must actualize divine union in this life and then live in that awareness to be in eternal life in the divine. Your excuses can prevent that realization.
Get over it! Forget the excuses, even if some of them are valid. Forge ahead with what you can do. Try your damndest or you might be damned. If someone offers a simple and foolproof way to realize the divine life, either that person is attempting to fool you or you are a fool to believe it. As the Dalai Lama once stated, “No one said that it would be easy.” The mystical path is a maze; mystical consciousness is amazing. You may get lost on the path, move off of it entirely or find yourself back where you started. Aha! That is the answer. You are always where you started in the here-now (not space-time). Divine union is forever here and now; your deepest, most hidden, elusive self - the soul - is already living in the divine.
Many people might say, “that sounds too basic,” especially those who have spent years seeking in books, in prayer or meditation, and/or traveling across the globe without much apparent success. Again, this is the grand excuse. Just because your previous efforts have been in vain does not mean that you should reject the obvious. Most devotees of mysticism believe that the divine is in their soul, if only they could find their soul. Look at who is seeking, behind the masks, underlying the surface self and all its contortions on Earth. Forget conceptions of “you”; allow the divine within to guide this life. What is already is. You must “realize” it: make it real in the present, embrace this One vital essence, always aware of the divine inherent in All, actively conscious that All are One in transcendent and immanent unity. That is the greatest achievement in this life.
(20 of 30 quotations from "the greatest achievement in life," my free ebook on comparative mysticism)
Sunday, May 3, 2015, 3:28 PM
When we do discard our ego, and abandon our individuality, we begin to see this world as it is. This is a “seeing” beyond emotional, mental and sensory perceptions. It must even surpass “empathy,” our identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings and motives. It progresses to an intuitive insight into the spiritual essence in all around us. It is suprarational consciousness.
To completely go beyond “me” is to lose all awareness of self. In encounters with others you are totally absorbed in them. After selflessly following the spiritual disciplines, you will eventually lose any awareness of other. In sublime discernment, separate forms will appear, but essential differences do not. It is the full acceptance of oneness, sharing in divine union. The unity of existence is evident.
Many of us have had a brief absorption in universal unity, with no sense of separateness. Unless we were advanced in spirituality, or actively engaged on the mystical quest, the awe of oneness which had we felt was as inexplicable as it was profound. It was impossible to sustain it when we tried to understand it; sometimes it may even have been frightening. We had seemed to have lost hold of “reality.” We actually had a glimpse of true Reality, the nature of being itself.
Some might say that to suggest going outside self and outside other contradicts traditional teachings of mysticism: to go within to seek our inner self, or the soul. Rational consciousness conceives of outer or inner. In suprarational consciousness of mystics, it is focusing beyond apparent realities to the underlying Reality. Whether we follow the inner path of contemplation and meditation, or an outer path of objectivity and concentration, the goal is transcending appearances to realize the One essence in All.
Barriers to the inner path are an endless stream of our subjective thoughts. Blockades to the outer path are the multitude of physical objects. Our ego creates those interior barriers; our individuality experiences the external blockades. When you discard the first, and abandon the second, you can then move in any direction from the apparent to the Real. Those thoughts and objects do not vanish; their disparities are insignificant in light of shared divine essence.
Dualities of subject and object, which our isolated self does seem to encounter, are scattered reflections of the divine, diffusion of the One into the many, simply phased impressions of unity. “Darken” differences until they fade, the inner way, or “illuminate” them until sameness emerges, the outer way, each result in a vision of oneness. While in divine union, however, there are no distinctions between the lover and beloved, knower and known, or seeker and sought.
Deep meditation can result in the absence of any sense of self and other, which Hindus and Buddhists may call samadhi. All ordinary people experience subject and object in daily life. Most mystics are aware of essential union in spirit, yet experience the certainty of separate appearances in their lives. Saints, while aware of separate appearances, experienced the certainty of oneness and actualized that realization during every moment of their mortal living.
(23 of 30 quotations from "the greatest achievement in life" at suprarational.org/gail2012.pdf my free ebook on comparative mysticism)
Most true mystics feel that eternal union is assured when you give up self during this lifetime. Sufis say, “to die before one dies.” The Christian mystics call it “death of self.” Kabbalists refer to it as bittul ha-yesh, “annihilation of the desiring self.” Whenever there is no observing “self” then, in transpersonal actuality, there is no “other.” In self-less living, all is experienced as unity in essence. The greatest achievement in life is maintaining that realization.