The mystic finds the eye of the needle and enters into the realization of the Kingdom of Heaven within.
What Is Mysticism?
More and more people have been asking me lately What do you mean by the word mystic? There seems to be quite a lot of blurry, confused notions and outright misconceptions about the word. And yet, it is perhaps one of the most important words pointing toward a fundamental truth about who we are at the soul of matter. Mysticism is about how we can come to live within the fullness of our true nature.
In a very real sense, because mysticism concerns the essence of life, it is audacious to even try and define it. Words are insufficient, often in the way of understanding. That to which the word “mysticism” refers, is a quality of presence that is quite literally beyond and before any words. Still, and like others, I feel compelled to try and come as close as I can to pointing toward something that speaks of our original nature. I beg pardon in advance for the terrible insufficiency of language and the limits of my own mere glimpses into these realms of an endless sacred mystery. Still, let me try.
A mystic is one who, above all else in life, desires to know, not in the intellectual sense of knowing, the deepest truth of existence. A mystic is one who senses more to life than making a living or being of service in the world although these things are both necessary and good. The mystic, however, is looking beyond an exclusive or preoccupied focus on these survival or self-actualization to something more. He is looking to discover the deepest truth of our being as incarnate souls; to understand our greatest potential as reflections of God; to realize our wholeness within the ground of all. The primary interest in life for the mystic is to discover truth, to know God, to see into mans whole nature. The mystic sees all of life as an abundant opportunity to discover, realize, and express the Divine.
Mysticism springs from an insatiable curiosity for understanding the essential questions of life: matters of God, creation, the infinite and the human potential for knowing truth. The mystic is in reality the ultimate scientist who, looking beyond the apparent or obvious in all matters, asks, Is this that I am seeing reality or the illusions that stem from fear? What existed before this sense of reality? “What existed before my mental constructs, my beliefs, my self identity?” “Who is this that observes and is self-reflecting?” What is at life’s very source?
Mysticism: Why its so often misunderstood
Mysticism is terrifically misunderstood by mainstream culture. It always has been. Many people incorrectly think mysticism is some kind of odd occult or a mystic someone who studies magic or renounces life and goes off to live in a cave. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The reason this has often been confused though is not so surprising. The mystic is one who undergoes a radical shift in conscious understanding and that often looks, sounds, or seems very mysterious to our accustomed ways of thinking and being.
The mystic consciously enters into the sacred journey that all the world’s great religions speak of in various ways. Some call it becoming awakened, enlightened, or born again. It is an inner journey that requires a deconstruction of the conditioned illusions of separation so that the true freedom of living can emerge. It is the true meaning of being born anew. It is the process and realization of letting die our stale and conditioned habits and beliefs so that we may live in the fullness of each new moment of creation. It is the understanding that conditioned patterns, belief systems, and memory are not living, but dead moments already. It is the realization that true living can only be lived in a freedom that moves with the current of creation, forever open to each moment teaming with new potential.
To let go the illusions of ego identity and stand naked before our true original nature, often requires a removing of oneself from typical ways of living and thinking at least for a time. In the sacred literature, this is often referred to as entering the wilderness, facing the dark night of the soul, annihilation of the ego, or dying to oneself to be born again. It is a process of fundamental transformation of conscious understanding that the mystic takes on. The journey it takes to successfully deconstruct the layers of conditioning that block true awareness, and what emerges from this inner journey of realization or awakening can often look and sound very mysterious, if not down right confusing, to the uninitiated and linear mind. But in truth it is the deepest meaning upon which all the world’s great religions have their original foundation. It is the journey to discovering and experiencing direct relationship with/as God or the source of all creation. It is each individual soul coming to directly know itself within the divine. It is the fulfillment of our purpose, “I and my father are one.”
Great Mystical Teachers of the Present and Past
Throughout all of history, mystics have been our way showers, those who go before, those who see beyond, those who seem to so often speak in riddles. They are those who have lifted the veil of worldly illusion to experience a deeper truth and wisdom of Being. The mystic is not so much concerned with survival as with coming to realize the full potential of being. The mystic is seeking direct realization of truth even within a dynamic of evolving mystery. The mystic finds the eye of the needle and enters into the realization of the kingdom of heaven within.
Every religion the world over, both of the east and west, orthodox and liberal has at its origin the way-showing wisdom of one or more great mystics. Indeed, all the men and women throughout recorded history who have had the greatest spiritual integrity and direct authority are rightly called mystics: Jesus of Nazareth was a true mystic, as was Gandhi, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, William James, Thomas Merton, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramakrisna, Lao-tse, Shankara, Vivikananda, Abraham, Job, Carl Jung to name a mere few. There are scores more of men and women poets and artists.
Commonality amongst the Worlds Mystics
If you study the life of past mystics you’ll find they share several things in common:
First, they all speak of an induction or of a need to learn/realize a new level of understanding. They all speak of a fundamental shift in consciousness be it called awakening, realization, divination, or being born again.
Second they all tell of making a journey into and through a despair process of being undone as the precursor to this fundamental shift in consciousness, be it through experiencing 40 days and nights in the wilderness, starving under the boddhi tree, facing the dark night of the soul, or the heros journey. There is a journey of metamorphosis that all mystics have undergone in some way.
Third, it is an inner journey that must be taken up and navigated alone. This is a hallmark of the mystics realization: The reason the journey must be alone is because that which must be faced, seen, and surrendered in order that something new can emerge, is only possible through sustaining the fear and despair process of being alone and meeting the ultimate and fundamental fear of non-being and annihilation.
Fourth, they all seem to realize the frustration of being misunderstood by those who have not yet been through the awakening journey — those who have ears to hear, let him hear. A great deal of the mystical writings are devoted almost exclusively to the fact that fundamental spiritual truth cannot be understood by the intellect nor correctly put into words. Forever, the great spiritual teachers have tried through the insufficiency of words to point toward that which can ever and only be experienced and known on a level that is before and beyond the mind. This is something unfathomable to those who have not yet had this breakthrough revelation – and particularly so in our contemporary culture that has become so overly reliant and blinded by the limiting paradigm of the scientific method that forever reduces our understanding of intelligence to that which is sensory, measurable and linear in nature. Life isn’t only or always linear. In fact it rarely is, except in man-made constructions and habituated uses of the mind.
The Mysterious Language of God
There is literally a new language/understanding that accompanies spiritual realization. The same old words now have entirely different, deeper layers of meaning and significance within the framework of spiritual realization. In fact no words can encompass that which has been realized. That is why when the words of our world’s great mystics are heard through the common language of those who have not yet made the mystic’s journey, they are invariably misconstrued and misused. That is why Jesus was crucified. It is why we have “religious wars.” And it is why we have so much religious politic and prejudice corrupting a universal truth that one has to enter into alone.
That is why we see so many people, wrongly, trying to practice their way into spiritual realization with all sorts of dogma, belief systems, religious structures, postures, and prayers. The reason these things don’t work is because the need to grasp something, the very mechanism of the mind that needs to hold on to anything for its salvation, is the very thing that has to be let go of!
It’s an odd sort of reverse psychology with a double twist. The path to spiritual realization is completely antithetical to what anyone would call a path at all. It is always the subtle paradoxical opposite of what one tries to see, know, find, understand. That is why so much of it sounds like riddles. That is why I say it is a fundamentally different language. That’s as close as I can come to pointing toward finding your way. Realize that were talking about developing an ear for a completely foreign language. Start listening into the unfamiliar, the unclear, the uncomfortable, the not-knowing. Start living in not-knowing anything, not any thing! From there, the new language of knowing emerges like one of those 3-d picture puzzles where the image is embedded within and is more than the dots.
Listen in a new way, and not so much for new things . a key.
The word mystic at its root stands for that which cannot be named, that which is forever before the naming, source. The word also hints at the path to spiritual realization, that is, to become capable of going into a terrain that is beyond the mind before the naming, separate from any belief, any identification or security, and opens through a sense of awe for the great mystery.
The Call to Remember
The mystic is really anybody who seeks to experience above all else, the direct expression of God/Source/Being in ones life. He or she is anyone with the deep desire and courage necessary to look – and see – beyond the obvious conditioning of our manufactured world view; to see beyond the illusions of our self-created identities, and find what lies forever before and all around us, as the One that is All. The path is one of surrendering all that we currently hold on to as belief, identity and intellect. What emerges is the full expression of being within the language of love.
Forever is the dance of awakening to find Love, here, in the eternal moment of living.