Mysticism: (1) the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics.
(2) the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (such as intuition or insight).
The idea of having a mystical experience seems incredibly magical to most of us these days. In a world ripe with technological advances and artificial sensation the concept of looking within and deepening our spiritual connection seems very ancient and old fashioned to most of us. We have a tendency to believe that the world outside of ourselves is the real one and our interior world is merely the stuff of imagination. Mysticism urges us to shift our perspective by asking us to look within ourselves and search out what we feel.
When we think of what drives most of our accomplishments it’s easy to think of all the stuff we accumulate along the way. We get the nice house with the pretty picket fence. The luxury vehicle to park out front. We tailor our look to match that of a GQ model and search for our ideal mate to share it all with as part of the overall package. In doing so we fail to miss that what we wanted all along was the feeling we hoped to achieve by gathering all this material wealth to begin with. A house isn’t a home until it’s filled with all the laughter and sorrow that comes from it being full of family.
All that fulfillment we seek already exists inside of us. All that desire to be happy rests within the recesses of our minds. The simple fact remains, keeping up with the Jones’s isn’t a guarantee to that perfect state of being we all desperately crave. In fact, let’s play with that idea a bit. How many of us are in debt up to our eyeballs struggling to keep up the appearance of wealth? How many of us have endured toxic relationships for far to long because of how we looked to others? How many of us have battled addiction because we simply haven’t been able to accept ourselves as we are?
Maybe it’s time to try something new. Maybe it’s time to shift our perspectives. Obviously the superficial worldview isn’t bringing us lasting peace. As the Llama Thubten Yeshe was fond of saying. “if your religion doesn’t bring you lasting happiness then you’re better off with a Pepsi because at least that quenches your thirst.” What are we most thirsty for?
ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE
In Platos classic, the Republic, he gives a beautiful analogy for how we relate to and understand the world we live in. He tells his pupils of a cave where an ogre ties up a few prisoners. Their heads are stuck facing the wall with a giant fire burning behind them. A pathway runs between them and the fire. As figures cross this pathway they see the Shadows dancing on the wall in front of them. Having painted this picture Plato begins his speculations. Wouldn’t the prisoners mistake the images dancing on the wall as reality? Would they come to accept their view is the only one that is real? What would happen if one managed to escape the cave?
Our Escapee would undoubtedly note the figures scurrying back and forth along the path between the fire and the Prisoners on the way out the cave. Once outside they’d discover a whole new world and realize how backwards their view had actually been. Plato speculates that this prisoner would shy away from the brightness of the Sun being temporarily blinded before re-entering the cave to tell his friends what he saw.
Yes. In Platos typical paradoxical fashion, our hero goes outside to look in. Understand, the cave represents the physical world of the senses and our philosopher/escapee is stepping into the dazzling Radiance of the mind. Like all the great Mystics wishing to help us, our philosopher really, really wants his friends freed from their limited thinking. He wants them to open their eyes and see how much more to life there is beyond the mundane existence inside the cave.
WHERE TO START
How does one go about freeing themselves from captivity? Greek philosophy unearthed a treasure-trove of studies that deal in abstractions, from geometry to the movements of celestial bodies and even harmonics- the study of sound. See, Plato believed the real power of all these disciplines lies in their ability to move the soul out of the ever-changing world of the senses into the eternal world of the mind. He saw abstract thought as a Gateway through which our souls connect to the Divine.
Mystics from all cultures have always agreed that true spirituality applies sort of backwards logic; at least at first. The world we experience doesn’t exist as it seems and only the inner self can awaken to the true nature of reality. What all this means is the interior life has to be experienced firsthand as it is nearly impossible to explain the profound spiritual experiences one enjoys along the way.
Mysticism has to be lived. Let’s demystify the whole arena of spirituality right here and right now. The spiritual experience is completely subjective and open to your interpretation. Don’t ever let anyone demean your experience or tell you you’re doing it wrong. It’s completely up to you and your walk with God. All any of us could ever hope to do is be better today than we were yesterday. That’s how we grow.
“No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.
“The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.
“If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.”
The really beautiful spiritual lessons must be internalized by the seeker. That means each and every person must come to their own understanding of the Divine. This is evident in the way people argue over whose beliefs are right and wrong.
The simple truth is mysticism doesn’t translate and has to be realized through trial and error. Spiritual leaders can give long winded discourses until their blue in the face but they can’t walk the path for you.
Start by doing. Open your heart and soul to God. By simply being alive and aware of the breath in your lungs you’re already connecting to the Divine presence within. This is how we awaken.
Practice morality by seeing God in everyone and everything you encounter and serve as a devotee. We don’t even have to struggle with discourses and circular dialectics. There’s no need to practice action without the fruit of action or confuse ourselves with paradoxes. We technically don’t even need to meditate. All we have to do is LOVE God and serve God in everyone we meet. We wake up and make ourselves available by saying ‘how can I serve?” Altruism is to live in the service of others. Simple and plain.
Any value you may have found in these words is completely God working through me. Any fault you may have found is completely my own. It is my goal to help others and I thank you so much for the opportunity to share all the beauty and joy I’ve found during my walk with God. Thank you so much for your time. Peace be with you.