Syntagma Digital
Editor, John Evans

Midweek Mysticism: The world as it is beneath the cloak of the physical

Ramana Maharshi
Ramana Maharshi at his ashram in India

It is all too easy to take mysticism less than literally, to imagine that it’s “only psychological,” by implication sub-reality.

Following after the Divine Light experience, described earlier, the next episode is usually Seeing into the nature of Reality, an out-of-body view of your immediate surroundings.

This extraordinary experience occurs suddenly and, if you are not expecting it, can be a little disorienting: “What happened? Why was I floating above my body? Am I dead?”

The answer is most emphatically No! You have been chosen to be at the cutting edge of humanity’s exploration of the real world — not the physical one given to us by science.

While you are in this state, the body and senses continue doing what they were doing in complete ignorance of the event taking place beyond them. The subject “sees” but not with human eyes, which are seeing the normal world. It is a completely separate faculty which remains totally in the background in our normal lives, but which may explain many types of extrasensory perception.

And, yet, the mystic — which is what he now is — remembers what happened during the encounter, while the bodily thoughts and emotions fail to register it, having been left behind during the experience.

We spend much of our lives sunk deep into our thoughts and feelings, mostly unaware that there is a realm beyond them which watches over us and gives us a glimpse of our immortality. We get to know that realm through direct experience and the growth of our human potential.

To understand this better, let’s take a brief look at the life of one of the 20th century’s greatest sages, Ramana Maharshi.

That there is “nothing but [God]” is the central premise from which Advaita Vedanta takes its source. All else flows from this austere statement. Vedanta’s greatest modern exponent, Ramana Maharshi, (1879 – 1950) continually emphasised the point to visitors at his ashram in Southern India.

“That silent Self alone is God; Self alone is the individual soul. Self alone is this ancient world.” The mind is only a collection of thoughts, a pale reflection of God’s; and the mind distorts the light of God into the appearance of the world.

It is as if a piece of ornamental glass, irregular and multi-coloured, had been inserted between us and the pure, white light of the force that made us. The kaleidoscopic dazzle of hues refracted through it make up our world. The glass is the mind and the ego (the “I” sense) which gives rise to it.

It is the role of mystics, and religion at its best, to convince us of this reality and direct our efforts along the simplest path for achieving our own experience of it.

The admittance of other matters, or complications, for example: rituals, multiple deities, institutional hierarchies or the working of wonders, are the result of ego activity and lead us away from the goal not towards it.

By this definition of religion: non-dual, simple and direct, Ramana’s life was exemplary.

John Evans

Author of: The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face?
Coming soon: Practical Mysticism: A different way of looking at the world

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Midweek Mysticism: What is the Universe?

Hands

“Look up at the sky at night,” you might reply, “there is our bit of the Universe.”

Fair enough, that’s reasonably logical and easy to understand, but does it answer the question? I don’t think it gets anywhere close.

The Universe is certainly impressive. To call it “big” is somewhat underwhelming given the scale of it. There are plenty of scientists on TV screens at the moment asking questions like: “What brought the building blocks of life to Earth to enable human life to evolve?”

Ask yourself, why would it need something from somewhere else to do the job? Is our little corner so limited as to require extra-terrestrial forces to create it? This planet is teeming with life.

If you drill down into solid matter to atomic level, hardly anything physical seems to exist. Even atoms break down into vast empty spaces with the occasional tiny dot to represent matter, and you can be sure that the dots disappear at some point. Solid matter is clearly nothing of the sort.

Nevertheless, comets are the flavour of the moment as the prime movers of life, especially with a European spacecraft latching onto one after a 10-year journey across the Solar System. Naturally, there are high hopes that all will be revealed in due course.

Now, I don’t want to be a spoilsport, especially as the voyage cost vast amounts of our money, but doesn’t anyone think these days?

What is the governing factor of all life — wherever it emerges? Consciousness, of course. That is the magic ingredient. Without consciousness, nothing could exist at all. Consciousness is not just the heart of life, it’s the essence of it. … Don’t worry! I’m not going to get all religious on you. This is logical.

So let’s begin with consciousness itself. Another word for it is “awareness.” To be aware is to be conscious. And awareness is the main signifier of life … and living.

That is so obvious it’s hardly worth saying, but is rarely articulated. We take it for granted as if it hardly exists. Awareness/consciousness is the real miracle of life. Without it, there would be nothing at all. No us, no universe, no anything. A profound Zero!

So what actually created this universe, assuming that it needed creating at all? We have many words for it, mostly magical and mystical to hide our desperate ignorance.

Let us simply say that without consciousness there would be nothing. Awareness is both the creator and the thing itself. Is there any need to go further than that?

Probably not, but that’s not our human way. Most of us want to know who owns this awareness and why it exists.

Now that’s the biggest mystery of all.

John Evans

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Midweek Mysticism: Mystics have no fear of death

God

Continuing the discussion from the last piece on “assisted dying”, the assertion here is that genuine mystics lack all fear of death.

While others quake and quail at the mere mention of the “D” word, the mystic sails on towards its inevitable arrival with, as Hollywood might put it “a song in his heart”.

I must make the distinction though between death itself, which is easy, and the pain of dying, which might be considerable. We are none of us immune from that, although I believe mystics can rise above it in startling ways.

There are many explanations for pain in this context. The most persuasive is the Hindu idea of Karma, a pay-back for all our deliberate ghastliness in the present incarnation. I’m not sure I totally go along with that, preferring the Christian notion of redemption — although that might be self-deception. In the end only real experience will guide you to the truth.

The genuine mystic will receive at least two extraordinary experiences before being shunted off this mortal coil: the Divine Light experience (see my description here: The Comforter) which will change him (or her) forever and set him up for the next stage: Seeing into the nature of reality.

This is an out-of-body experience which walks him through the death process. Read an account of it here: The act of dying as a living experience

That then is the aim of the spiritual adept: to get both initiations before the end comes. Is there any more than that? It may be that he is charged with passing on this “good news” to those with ears to hear and eyes to see.

All this information is available in some splendid books out there, but I’m convinced they will only come into your consciousness if you are ready to understand them and, more to the point, ready to act upon them by receiving their message directly through spiritual experience.

If you turn away from this topic in fear (and many do) or with a snort of contempt, you are not ready yet.

Stick to Pythagoras’ Theorem.

John Evans

To be published: Practical Mysticism: A different way of looking at the world..

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Saturday Ramble: Assisted Dying?

Library AngelIt’s the topic of the moment thanks to a new Bill going through Parliament. I believe, however, there’s a lot of it going on now … silently.

The present block on this practice is that anyone doing the assisting is liable to be charged with murder.

The current legal and moral discussions refer to medical professionals administering the fatal dose. It’s not yet clear how this would (or will) be done and what administrative procedures would be written into the law.

When my mother was 80 and in hospital after suffering a number of devastating strokes, she could only speak in gobbledygook, but was otherwise aware. Knowing how much she was suffering, I told the excellent head nurse that we all wished it could be over, by whatever means it took. She just nodded.

After we returned from lunch, she led me aside and said that our mother had just peacefully passed away. I was never more grateful for anything in my life.

We don’t need a bureaucratic law, just simple compassion and understanding. I hope if ever I’m in the same situation, such a nurse or doctor will be on hand, whatever the law may say.

The professionals should not be hampered by ill-considered laws made by sometimes ignorant politicians or religious fanatics, often of the Christian kind.

There is also the opposite case. We in England had Harold Shipman, a British Doctor who killed more than two hundred of his patients for money.

There have been a handful of those, but I believe the evidence shows that people requesting this service, whether for themselves or others, are acting out of overwhelming compassion and need.

I know. I’ve been there.

John Evans

Coming soon to a bookseller near you: Practical Mysticism: A different way of looking at the world.

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Saturday Ramble: A politics of the afterlife will prevent the world destroying itself

The Soul rising to Heaven

Life in the 20th/21st centuries has been broadly inimical to any concept of an afterlife.

The weighty intrusion of science into traditional modes of living bears down heavily on all forms of spirituality and anything deemed “natural”. Human society has become more like an ant-hill mimicking the construct of a machine. Observe your way of life more closely and this will become apparent, even to the most obtuse among us.

The thesis of this article is that a re-emergence of belief in an afterlife, amounting to a certainty, will reduce this tendency to dust. Take a look.

There was a time when everyone believed in an afterlife. And not only Christians.

In those days, death was a simple passing through a gossamer curtain to another aspect of life. People lived their lives to the full, conscious that they could survive anything.

In modern times those certainties have been lost beneath a deluge of atheism and scientific speculation. Giants of theoretical science claim that this is all we have … so just get used to it.

The inevitable consequence of this dogmatic view is that our existence must be protected by any means possible. Therein lies the politics of the afterlife.

Physical immortality through medical intervention is passionately sought and paid for, even if it means freezing a newly-dead body for hundreds of years. Cosmetic surgery — now on the NHS — is de rigueur among women of a certain age, often 23 or over.

Politicians of the Left have responded by weaving ever more legal safety nets to stop us walking into danger. The Left is, of course, mostly atheistic. Man is their god and the measure of all things. And he is doomed to extinction. The job of socialists is to extend that span for as long as possible.

The result of this kind of government action is that modern society has become neurotic, as David Cameron pointed out on one of his better days. Sometimes it crosses boundaries that properly belong to the individual and border on the psychotic. Everyone will have their favourite examples.

I believe the cause of this denaturing of life lies outside the political landscape, however. It derives from the moments when Darwin, Freud and others cackhandedly lost touch with the essence of existence and rebuilt it on a rickety structure of theory, poorly executed experiment, and narrowly-based investigation. In our century, the movement relies almost entirely on mathematics and complex equations.

And yet, contrary to received opinion, an afterlife is provable using a multitude of anecdotal evidence from the length and breadth of historical testimony. If you had read as many accounts as I have, you would be in no doubt. See this piece on survival after death — just below this one.

That may not be “science” as we know it. It will always fail the repeatability test of the scientific method because only interactions between simple physical objects tend to a similarity of outcome.

The main sickness of modern society is the feeling of impending doom, even execution, thus “What the hell!” And that sums up all the ills of our world. We seem to be sentenced to death by an implacable fate.

The great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, was convinced that almost all mental problems in adults are religious in nature, usually linked to a loss of faith. Now this might seem to be something the churches should deal with, not politicians. I don’t agree.

There is as much disputation and loss of confidence among churches and their denominations as in other policy areas. Totalitarian religions are as much to blame for the emptiness of modern life as the titans of science, which has become a religion in itself: Scientism.

Politicians could help by refusing to fund Big Science projects, such as the Large Hadron Collider, and concentrate scarce resources on technology, where small-scale projects can have immense outcomes for employment and productivity. Look at Silicon Valley.

Governments could stop “following the science”. It is this apparent invincibility that’s giving a few rather pathetic figures the aura of knowing all the answers. Their depressing materialism is infecting modern life with a nihilism that is totally self-destructive.

Science has replaced a god as the object of worship in many socialised countries around the globe, including our own. The answer is not necessarily to go back to any one religion, although if Christianity reformed itself, it might become a useful vehicle for a new way of looking at the world.

Since the loss of an afterlife is at the heart of our deep societal neurosis, some way should be found to bring it back on to the public agenda.

Loss of an afterlife is our modern tragedy. It can only be healed by a less materialistic philosophy and a new conviction that death is not the end.

John Evans

… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

To be published soon: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world.

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