Mysticism/What is mysticism?
In mysticism, we learn that there is a higher, holistic reality. This reality can be understood as a higher consciousness that encompasses everything and permeates everything. It can be seen as personal and impersonal. It may be referred to as God. There are many names and descriptions for it in various religions, such as Nirvana (emptiness/unity) in Buddhism, Brahman (the absolute, the ultimate reality) in Hinduism or communion (light, Holy Spirit, spiritual energy) in Christianity. Almost all founders of religions have had enlightenment experiences. God is a fact of experience on the spiritual path. In Buddhism, enlightenment is central and in Christianity the center is God (God-consciousness). These are two different paths to the same goal. The goal is a mystery, which brings together many different spiritual ways.
What is mysticism?
This section draws heavily from a version of the Wikipedia article on mysticism.
Mysticism is the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God. The believer seeks a direct experience, intuition, or insight into divine reality/the deity or dieties. Followers pursue certain ways of living, or practices that are intended to nurture those experiences. Mysticism can be distinguished from other forms of religious belief and worship by its emphasis on the direct personal experience of a unique state of consciousness, particularly those of a peaceful, insightful, blissful, or even ecstatic character.
Such pursuit has long been an integral part of the religious life of humanity, pursued in private or group devotions, worship, rituals, as well as in the habits of everyday life. In many long-established religions, it has been explicitly pursued within monasticism, where rules governing the everyday life of monks and nuns provide an environment that encourages the cultivation of mystical states of consciousness. Practices particularly associated with mysticism are meditation and contemplative prayer. Mysticism may be dualistic, maintaining a distinction between the self and the divine, or nondualistic. Many religions teach new devotees to begin with a dualist approach, and then to work toward a fully unified experience, transcending the self to be at one with all of existence, and/or the diety or dieties.
In ancient Greece, particularly around 300 BCE to about 100 CE, the mystery religions pursued the worship of one or several known Greek gods and goddesses, and sometimes some from other cultures. Using secret religious rituals, the mystery religions provided the mysticism that many Greeks, either at home or in colonies abroad, desired during the uncertain times after Alexander conquered Greece and surrounding areas in the fourth century BCE.
In early Christianity the term mystikos (Greek) referred to three dimensions of worship, the biblical, the liturgical, and the spiritual or contemplative, which became intertwined. The biblical dimension referred to "hidden" or allegorical interpretations of the scriptures. The liturgical dimension referred to the liturgical mystery of the Eucharist, or the presence of Christ at the Eucharist. The third dimension was the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God. A link between mysticism and visions of the Divine was introduced by the early Church Fathers, who used the term as an adjective, as in "mystical theology" and "mystical contemplation".
Under the influence of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, the term mystical theology came to refer to the investigation of the allegories in the Bible to try to discern underlying truths. Pseudo-Dionysius' "apophatic theology", or "negative theology", exerted a great influence on medieval monastic religiosity. It is best known nowadays in the western world from the works of medieval Christian leaders Meister Eckhart and John of the Cross.
In contemporary usage, the term mysticism has become an umbrella term for many kinds of transcendent, or non-rational (in the sense of not scientific) worldviews and experiences. A popular view of mysticism holds that a common "mystical experience" runs through a wide diversity of religious traditions as well as modern and less formal spiritual approaches and activities in life.
The Path of Enlightenment
Through enlightenment, one learns that there is a higher, unified reality. This reality can be seen as a higher consciousness that encompasses everything and is present in everything. It can be taken as a personal and impersonal reality. There are various terms for this in assorted religions such as nirvana (emptiness or unity), Brahman, (the absolute, the highest reality), or light (the holy ghost, enlightenment consciousness, spiritual energy). The founder of each religion has had an experience with enlightenment. God is absolutely present along the spiritual way, to be experienced. What exactly takes place still has to be explained by science.
The path of enlightenment consists of working on one’s thoughts and meditation. Then the mind can quiet down, one rests in his or her true nature (in God) and inner peace and happiness awakens. Buddhat taught the way of four steps to absorbtion (meditation combined with contemplation, meditation without thinking, the dissolving of the ego and existing in Nirvana/God/Light). Patanjali consists of three steps which are concentration, meditation and Samadhi (bliss).
A large danger along every spiritual path is practicing habitually, like a machine. This empty ritual will not advance you spiritually. Buddha was against this type of empty ritual. He advised the Brahmans (Hindu priests) to concentrate on arriving at enlightenment instead of focusing on aesthetically, externally perfect ritual form for show. (Hermann Oldenberg: Reden des Buddha. Page 366)- It is helpeful to read spiritual books (Jnana yoga) and to have sufficient spiritual knowledge. Sometimes one can only escape the danger of formal practice through an enlightened master or guru, or through the grace of the cosmos in that you arrive at enlightenment through spontaneous experience.
The Dalai Lama recommends to test every master before taking his path. (Dalai Lama: Dzogchen page 40). There are many traps along the spiritual path that can be overcome with personal truth and wisdom. (Padmasambhava: Der Führer auf dem Weg zur Wahrheit, page 34).
According to Swami Sivananda enlightenment occurs through the three principles of calm, practice, and love. If a person lives alone on a quiet place, then he or she is already halfway to enlightenment. The second half is then managed through spiritual practice. The gate to light is passed through via the way of all-encompassing love.
1. Enlightenment comes about when tension in body and mind is dissolved. The tension builds up through the stress of life and false mental reactions toward that stress. One can say “an enlightened person is healthy inside.”
2. Meditation and thought work are the main techniques to let go of inner tension.
3. The enlightened mind is distinguished by inner peace and calm. God is not an image, but inner peace and calm facilitates higher consciousness. The human can suddenly find him or herself thinking within the unity of all. This person can see things as they really are. He or she sees things according to their connection. Whereas the person was fixated on the ego before, he or she now thinks without the ego and finds him or herself one with the cosmos.
4. When the tensions of a person disappear, deep inner peace becomes inner bliss, divine happiness. This person is one with him or herself and the world. He or she feels peace, happiness, power, love and clarity. He or she has a higher consciousness, an expanded ability to understand what is. He or she can think according to higher dimensions in the cosmos. The boundaries of time and space disappear. One can sense the past and future. He or she can see things far away, and can transfer thoughts and energy.
5. An enlightened person sees God as light in the world. He or she recognizes that there is a higher consciousness that permeates everything. He or she is connected to this consciousness of God.
The Sermon on the Mount
- "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, don't resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. If anyone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and don't turn away him who desires to borrow from you." "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. 'But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you."
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
- Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
- Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Jesus meant "poor" in terms of the inner self, and not the outer self. Outer poverty does not lead automatically to inner happines. Those who let go of outer attachments can simply exist and find a way to inner contentment in God.
Suffering in and of itself does not lead to happiness. However, those who can take suffering in their lives and raise themselves through spiritual exercises, can find solace in inner peace. Mourning can help to let go, but one should not allow the self to be overwhelmed by grief. Grief is not the center of life, rather inner peace.
Those who can greet their fellow beings with non-violence and placidity, can live in a relaxed and peaceful way and relinquish into a cosmic consciousness. Those who are at peace with all things, are at peace with themselves.
Justice means correctness in the Bible. To long for a correct life, means to long for a life in the light. Those who long for happiness and search for it in the right places will receive it one day, in the form of inner peace.
Those full of empathy, will feel with the cosmos. Those who love their enemies will experience inner harmony. Those who experience the center of their existence as a love for all other beings will be rewarded by God with an all-encompassing love, peace, and inner happiness.
To dissolve inner tension, exercises for the body are required (going, meditation) and exercises for the spirit (reading, thought exercises). Those who exercise spiritually every day will reach a lasting happiness one day. Then one day the meaning of God will be found.
Those who let go of the ego, come into the light. Without a sacrifice, the breakthrough to enlightenment cannot be made. Those who live according to these teachings and therefore experience difficulty in their daily lives, provide the basis for such a spiritual sacrifice. To let go in a spiritual manner is an art. Those who do not go about this the right way create inner tension and conflict. We should not sacrifice too little or too much. Those who go about this the right way will be rid of their inner conflict.
A peacemaker is a person who makes peace within the self and the world. Those who are enlightened can be called holy, a son or daughter of God. Those who live in peace radiate peace into the world.
The central message of Jesus’ Mount Sermon is that a person cannot serve two lords. He cannot serve God (inner happiness) and money (the outer form of “happiness”). One has to decide for him or herself as to what form of happiness he or she will seek to attain. As a wise person, one must place the way of peace, serenity, love, and spiritual exercises as the central point of existence. In this way, he or she will one day find true happiness and live in the light.
Breakthrough to Enlightenment
There is in all people a thought which hinders the enlightenment and the inner happiness. This thought mostly has something to do with unwisdom, immodesty and lack of love to all. We need either wisdom, humility, resting, self-discipline, some fun or universal love. We need a special thought which awakens the lacking quality. Suddenly the happiness, the love, the light and the peace is in us. The right word in the right moment for the right person causes a breakthrough to inner happiness. What is now your magic word?
1. Shower = We visualize a shower above us. We turn on the shower and clean us with enlightenment energy. We think the mantra "Water" and massage water (or light energy) from head to toe in our body. We rub all tensions and stress from the body.
2. Earthing = We rub the earth with our feet. We draw a circle with a color of healing around us. We think the name of our healing color several times as a mantra. What is your healing color (purple, orange, yellow, red)?
3. Friend = We go in the shower on the spot. We move our feet. We visualize a boyfriend or a girlfriend and say a positive word. What is your positive word? Imagine that the word actually reaches your person. Think your word several times as a mantra: "My word for... is... (I love you.)"
4. Enemy = We remember an enemy (aggressive person). Whom do you feel in this moment as an enemy? Who is your opponent? Give him a positive word. What do you say to him? Forgive him and get inner peace. Move a hand and send him wisdom and love. Think your word so long as a mantra, until you are in peace with your enemy.
5. A word for you = Investigate your own mind. Is there a thought that blocks your inner peace, your happiness and your love? Which positive word can overcome it? "My negative thought is ... My positive thought is ... (Forward on the way of wisdom, love and happiness.)"
The following table briefly summarizes the major forms of mysticism within world religions and their basic concepts, as recognized by a Perennial perspective.
|Host religion||Form of mysticism||Basic concept|
|Buddhism||Shingon, Vajrayana, Zen||Attainment of Nirvana, Satori, Bodhi, union with Mahamudra or Dzogchen|
|Christianity||Catholic spirituality, Quaker tradition, Christian mysticism, Gnosticism||Spiritual enlightenment, Spiritual vision, the Love of God, union with God|
|Hinduism||Vedanta, Yoga, Bhakti, Kashmir Shaivism||Liberation from cycles of Karma (moksha), self-realization (atma-jnana), non-identification (Kaivalya), experience of ultimate reality (Samadhi), Innate Knowledge (Sahaja)|
|Islam||Sunni, Shia, Sufism||Innate belief in God; Fana (Sufism); Baqaa.|
|Jainism||Moksha||Liberation from cycles of Karma|
|Judaism||Kabbalah, Hasidism||Abnegation of the ego|
|Taoism||-||connection to ultimate reality (Tao)|
- Bede Griffiths talks about the love of God (3 min.)
- Bede Griffiths talks about God (5 min.)
- David Steindl-Rast Search for Spirituality (5 Min.)