Midweek Mysticism: Mysticism is not religion but more like science and is the basis of both
Jesus, Gautama Buddha, Krishna, and others were all highly mystical adepts who saw life, the cosmos and existence itself in very different terms from those around them. The religions they now embody were created by others as a means of organising the hundreds of camp followers that soon clustered round, eager for wonders.
As generation succeeded generation, the initial insights of the founders became lost in meaningless ritual, complex theologies and the never-ending verbiage of philosophers and “scientists” of the soul. When the experiential link is lost, so is the truth.
Science, as we know it today, began among passionate mystics too, such as Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon and many others, who secretly practised an apparently pseudo science called alchemy — the transmission of base matter (lead) into gold. Thus were the waters muddied from the outset.
The mystical psychologist, Carl Jung, who trained as a scientist in a large research mental hospital in Zurich, recognised the underlying spiritual quest contained within alchemy which had been carefully concealed from the frankly thuggish Catholic Church of its day.
This intermingling of religion and mysticism has left the latter under a cloud ever since and certainly in our “scientific” age.
Whereas science is inevitably materialistic, given the nature of the scientific method and the need to obtain reproducible results, mysticism goes beyond that and steps outside the human mind altogether to gather its insights (see below). However, I’ve always believed that science and mysticism (not religion) are part of the same quest.
Science is ground level research, feet stoutly placed on terra firma, eyes focused on what its practitioners like to call “reality”. Mysticism goes out from the human thinking mind into consciousness itself, where the world becomes a very different organism.
In other words, the mystic has to be as rigorous and depends on events and experience, as does the scientist. More so in that he uses his own faculties as principal probe in place of machines. The mystic journeys into the unknown alone and without guarantees of a safe return. He confronts death in order to conquer it.
As the Buddha put it: one mystic is worth 10,000 warriors.
Here is an example of a scientist — a medical doctor and psychiatrist — describing an overwhelming spiritual experience in the 1870s: “[I] saw and knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter, but a living Presence, that the soul of man is immortal, that the universe is also built and ordered. That without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love, and that the happiness of everyone is in the long run absolutely certain.”
Dr Richard Maurice Bucke subsequently wrote up this life-changing experience in his 1901 book, Cosmic Consciousness — A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind. He never gives up on the scientific cast of mind, but regards his insights as the culmination of a quest beyond the physicality of normal Earthbound experimentation. The one shapeshifts naturally into the other.
Now, the essence of his experience seems to reflect an earlier understanding of the cosmos and its contents, that the universe, and everything in it, is in some ways alive. God — if I may be permitted the indulgence — is not out there, or in here, but all around us and within, encompassing, embracing and filling all space and time, and occupying a placeless place that is timeless.
The Gospel of Thomas, one of the books ejected from the canon by the Roman Church, puts it like this: Jesus said, “The kingdom is inside you and outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are the children of the living Father. … See what is in front of your face, and what has been hidden from you will be disclosed to you.”
That is surely the most mystical passage ever spoken or written, for it not only tells you what to do, but describes the results as well. One could almost call it “scientific”.
Now here’s a question for the scientists: is that not a testable proposition, simply expressed, with supreme clarity and confidence in the outcome? Could it not be tested empirically by almost anyone? The answer is yes, and in fact it has been on countless occasions with great success. Read the mystics.
Here is the result of my own quest to test Jesus’s proposition:
<<<<<< ... My plunge into this dramatic state occurred 18 months after the first when back in England. I was engaged in the usual early morning limbering-up exercises and thinking about my failure to make further mystical progress, when — and there’s no other way of putting it — the world turned inside out.
The room and its objects were suddenly transparent, while the space that occupied it was alive and vibrant with intelligence. “I” was completely separate from my body, which continued with its exercises. I could actually see it and hear my own chattering thoughts, although I was no longer originating them.
I now had other ways of seeing and hearing away from the body — the “inner senses” as they have been called by mystics. The experience was a bit like swimming under water, and seemed similar to near-death experiences (NDEs) even though I was not near death. In fact, my body continued with its strenuous exercises right in front of "me".
My centre of consciousness was completely outside the body, brain and central nervous system. It existed quite separately from the body-mind which continued to produce a chain of thoughts like a bird singing.
Important intimations were made during this process, mainly about the Unity of Being — everything is part of it — and especially that everything is wonderfully fine as it is. Later I was reminded of Lady Julian of Norwich’s famous cry: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” which was uttered after her own profound mystical experience.
Although "I" was completely out of the body, I retained a non-discursive consciousness (though overwhelmed by a greater consciousness might be a better description) and was aware of everything that happened. I reflected afterwards that this is what survives physical death. This is the famous mystery state that proves the continuation of consciousness after death.
When my body had finished its exercise regime, it went into the kitchen to make the customary pot of tea. As the tea was poured, I came back to normal bodily consciousness. >>>>>>
That spiritual experience can be divided into three parts: 1) Out of body but still alive and cognisant, 2) Addressed by another Being, 3) Overwhelming sense of numinosity beyond thought and emotion.
Another remarkable feature was that the world we know simply dissolved into a gossamer veil of insubstantiality. I now realise that this is the mystics’ plenum void, which is full of conscious intelligence. It’s the “emptiness” described by the Buddha and others.
It is also, I believe, the emptiness of the atom, and hence the universe, discovered by quantum science — the words “physics” and “mechanics”, often used, are really inappropriate for it. Most scientists have yet to realise the significance of their “discovery” — and how close they have come to God!
Cosmologist Brian Cox’s talk of “hippy stuff” is really rather funny, if you ignore the tragedy of it. Generations now alive are being deprived of the only real consolation of life: it is not what it seems and it is not the end once it fades away. Science has so far failed in this quest, clinging to the physical, while mysticism has led the way.
The crucial difference between scientist and mystic is that the former’s reach does not extend to the life beyond the physical. The mystic’s does.
So, the next step for science is to become more mystical. To leave behind the shackles of the scientific method, the product of an earlier age which will never progress further than it has, and see beyond itself to the next stage of our evolution: the posthuman spiritual being.
The irony is, it was there all along, staring them in the face.
… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
Mystics in the Modern World is coming soon.
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