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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Saturday Ramble: Hilarity is dangerous; Cam fights back … sort of

LionsManic comedian Russell Brand has an interesting observation in The Guardian. Referring to the death of fellow funny man Robin Williams he writes of “the all-encompassing sadness of the world.”

It’s undoubtedly a law of life or, at the very least, a truism, that too much of anything, whether it be mood or activity, triggers its opposite in the human mind.

Nature has an instinct towards balance, compensating for any excess by reaching for the contrary. Thus an endless diet of comedy shows on television is sure to reduce us to misery in the end.

I only have to listen to a minute or two of the raucous canned laughter that often accompanies them to sink into a welcome gloom.

We are not built for too much of anything, however compelling or interesting at first. Nothing induces laughter more than several back-to-back renditions of Pagliacci’s despairing aria.

The long face of the clown is not a stereotype for nothing.

It follows that Russell Brand’s “all-encompassing sadness of the world” will, in time, reappear as hilarity.

And sure enough …

* * * * *

I’ve just had an email from David Cameron. Well … not precisely from the PM, but Conservative Central Office promoting the Tory party.

I’m sure you are terribly interested so here’s how it begins:

I’m passionate about the United Kingdom.

Working together, our family of nations has achieved so much over the years. Our armed forces have defeated dictators and defended freedom, our inventions have shaped the modern world, and our businesses export to every corner of the globe while creating jobs at home. And if we keep working together, even brighter days lie ahead for all of us.

Dear oh dear, who writes this stuff?

It is, of course, a plea for Scotland not to vote for independence.

But, hold on! If it’s so viscerally important, why did he grant a referendum in the first place? I must say, the decision left me speechless.

The Scots are nothing if not rebellious. Give them half a chance at biffing the English and the conclusion is foregone.

There’s only one consolation in a Yes vote. We could at last ditch that unspeakably awful name, “United Kingdom” (Youkay) and return to the glories of “Great Britain”.

You know, it might be worth encouraging our northern neighbours to think positive and vote Yes!

John Evans

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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: The end of the road?

Extra Sensory Perception

When I was six or seven I encountered death for the first time. I found my pet budgerigar stiff in the sawdust at the bottom of his cage.

I was both devastated and fascinated. I could see he was dead because something mysterious had left his body.

Later I called this, personage because it was what made him who he was. And now it had vanished. The aliveness was gone.

Much later I had the same experience when both my father and mother passed away.

My psychology professor refused to expand on the topic because, he said, it was a religious thing, not psychological.

I couldn’t see the difference. If personage doesn’t impinge on psychology what does? I think he was a little scared of death, as so many people are.

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery I sought out the people who were equally fascinated by it. The first was a psychologist, the great Carl (C.G) Jung who led me into, first, mythology and then mysticism, all through his voluminous writings which have lasted well.

But I wanted more. I had read many mystical books in which some advanced souls had experienced “death in life”, that is to say mystical (spiritual) experiences, including out-of-body states.

Later I went through the gamut of such experiences myself, all within the context of a normal life. These were always given not self-induced, although years of reading and practice must have played a part. I think life will deliver what you ask for, if you make the right preparations.

All this has confirmed what has always been believed — better, known — by advanced souls and mystical adventurers: that death is not what it seems.

It is much more interesting than that.

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: Losing your mind in peak experience

Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson

With the recent death of prolific author, Colin Wilson, I thought it appropriate to reprise one of his favourite themes: the peak experience.

Neurologist David Eagleman describes how our conscious mind knows nothing of what is happening in the brain where our lives are plotted out in detail well in advance of our knowing about it and acting on it. We are nothing but puppets on a string, according to science.

That basic template might be true as far as it goes, except that the process takes place outside the physical brain, which may be just a translation device, an interface, into the body.

Moreover, simple mystical techniques can return control of even the most shadowy of activities.

In my forthcoming book, provisionally titled A different way of looking at the world, the theme is developed beyond the stage of “seeing into the nature of reality”, the centrepiece of the first volume*. It covers the ground of the genuine mystic as a scientist of immateriality, by which I mean the physically unknowable: the cloud of unknowing.

It centres on a relentless pursuit of firsthand knowledge, a single-minded drive for the perfection of experiential knowing that can’t be mistaken for the truth because it is the truth.

A motor racing driver is a good analogy. He risks life and bones to arrive at a state where every bodily response to unpredictable circumstances is controlled by apparently automatic impulses. Indeed, to “think” about anything at all would spell disaster. Daydreaming or calculation would mean death at this level of performance. It could almost be described as an advanced form of meditation.

The reward is a sustained sense of elation, as consciousness seems to split from normal mind patterns and the inhibitions of daily existence. Total immersion in this state releases an experience close to spiritual exaltation, as slow, clunky thought processes give way before the unity of body and soul.

Many of us have experienced moments of peak experience when playing sports. Suddenly everything seems to go right: balls hit the right side of the line in tennis time and again, or the back of the net in football; there’s a surge of ecstatic energy in running or rugby; we’re suddenly stroking the ball to the boundary in cricket. For a while we can do nothing wrong. Our opponents watch in dismay. It doesn’t last, but we sure as hell remember it.

A mystic would observe that the “normal” mind is nowhere to be found during peak periods. The American psychologist Abraham Maslow has written extensively on these experiences; for a broad coverage of the field, see Colin Wilson’s New Pathways in Psychology.

These are just the foothills of dedicated mystical experience, but it illustrates the splitting off, and falling away, of normality required for full-blown experience of the ineffable. Paradoxically, this turns out to be more real than life itself.

Both my books explores the fundamental workings of what lies beneath the material world through experience, not through an electron microscope.

Physics always struggles to separate the scientist from the object under observation, straining for objectivity. Contrarily, the mystic plunges into the object area, observing it from within. Both quantum mechanics and mysticism demonstrate that objectivity is a deception by the egoic mind.

You won’t learn how to swim without jumping into water. Textbooks and all the mathematical demonstrations in the world won’t crack it. Experience of the actuality is essential.

Mysticism is not incompatible with science, as Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and, in recent times, others such as Fritjof Capra have shown. It represents the essence of who we are, from which we arise, and whence we return.

We need both sides to give us anything like a complete picture of the world, as all the spiritual texts ever written firmly attest.

* The Eternal Quest for Immortality

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.

Coming soon: Practical Mysticism: A different way of looking at the world.

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