What Is A Mystic?
A Mystic is one who has a particular concept and a method to transform it into a personal experience. The mystical concept, the objective sought, is of a universal nature. That is, man can have an immediate personal experience of the One. This personal experience he seeks is a realization of a unity of the self with the One, that is, the Absolute.
In the doctrine of mysticism, the One is a term designation Absolute Reality, that is, the totality of All. This Absolute, the One, may have other identities ascribed to it. Yet, in the final analysis, these other names may have, to the mystic, the same innate value. Thus, for example, God, Universal Mind, Cosmic, Supreme Intelligence – all have a correspondence to Absolute Reality, or the One. Only in the mental image which man assigns to them do these terms appear to differ.
For example, the theistic concept of a personal god is distinctly different from the notion of an impersonal Cosmic. Regardless of which notions the mystics have, they all alike accept certain transcendent qualities. This Supreme One is thought to be ubiquitous; its quality, its essence, pervades all things. It is immutable, eternal, and perfect. It is omnipotent; in other words, it is the cause of all that is or can ever be. It is also thought to be omniscient, that is, all things, as a result of its wisdom, are necessarily perfect.
It is necessary, according to mystical doctrine, that man should seek a unity with this divine, transient state which he conceives.
This brief explanation of the universal idea held by mystics may seem to differ little from the spiritual beliefs expounded in most theologies. In long-established religions, even those considered as pagan, the elements of mysticism exist, sometimes as the core.
However, many religionists will not accept the fact that certain doctrines to which they subscribe are basically mystical in content. This is due to two factors. First, most such individuals have never made even a cursory examination of the principle of mysticism. Second, because of all the erroneous ideas attributed to mysticism, it has become, to the uninformed mind, a subject immersed in superstition and magic.
The rites, rituals, and ceremonies of all religions may appear to have an element of eccentricity to those who are not familiar with their symbolical significance. Ignorance really mocks itself. Man has often become awkwardly encumbered when he has tried to transform his spiritual ideals into acts and things, in order to represent them finitely.
The mystic’s concepts, his beliefs, are one thing; and his methods of experiencing them are quite another. Simply, how is the mystic to attain that unity with the One, to which he aspires? The mystic rationally accepts that he must acquire a liberation from the bondage of the secular world. He is then confronted with the realism of man’s dual existence. In other words, there is the common awareness of the physical, mortal existence and, on the other hand the realization of the Inner World with the emotional rapture it can provide.
The mystic does not attribute this inner aspect of his dual nature exclusively to his organic being. Though its sensations may function through the medium of the brain, glands, and nervous systems, he realizes the origin of this inner aspect is not there. Rather, this Inner Being – Self (or Soul) – he considers to be a link in the concatenation of divine or cosmic forces in which he has his being. The body is not thought by the mystic to be separate from this chain of divine phenomena. To believe such would be counter to the mystic’s concept that a unity exists in all reality. Therefore, to the mystic, there is thought to be a hierarchical order of the manifestations of reality, of the one transcendent power. In essence, these manifestations are, however, all of the same quality. But they vary and may even seem diverse in the manner in which they manifest and express themselves to the human consciousness. We may, for example, use the analogy of the spectrum of light with its different and yet related colours, or the musical scale with its varied yet also related octaves.
The Physic Element
The mystic may then refer to this inner part of the self and the complexity of its expression as either the spiritual or the psychic part of the whole of self. In past centuries, this inner aspect was principally alluded to as the spiritual nature of man. However, in more recent times, it has been referred to by the mystic or the student of mysticism as the psychic element of his being, though the word itself is ancient Greek in origin.
This psychic infusion is considered by the mystic as being the highest of the divine or cosmic forces functioning in man. It its likewise believed to be the threshold of his personal unity with the whole of Reality. This unity that the mystic strives to attain has to him a dichotomy of meaning. On the one hand, this unity is thought to be a plenum of all, that is, nothing is apart from it. In this sense, man is always an intrinsic element of this cosmic or spiritual unity.
On the other hand, man is a conscious being. And the phenomenon of consciousness is awareness. Succinctly, a thing can only have reality to man if he is aware of it. The mystic contends that this all-absorbing unity with the pristine One can only occur when he is conscious of his inner self merging with it. This unity with God, the universal Mind, the Cosmic – or whatever the mystic conceives its image to be – can only exist to the mystic when he realizes it. It is therefore insufficient to know just the physical self. Such would be like perceiving a finger and not the whole hand.
Another distinctive and most important characteristic of mysticism is that this experience of exalted Unity is always personal and has an immediacy. In other words, the mystical experience does not require, nor is it experienced through, an intermediary. The rationale of the mystical doctrine in this regard is that the quality of this sublime experience is not transferable from one mind to another. The self must directly realize its integral relationship with the Divine or the Cosmic One. Succinctly put, we have no mystical unity until we know it. The individual can only know by means of his personal attunement and response to that Whole of which he conceives.
Renowned mystics of the past were devout followers of established traditional religious sects. Upon cursory examination, this may seem to contradict the previously cited essential qualifications of a mystic. All the traditional religious faiths have their clergy, their priests. Such individuals are considered well versed in their dogma and are also thought to be especially spiritually evolved as intermediaries for man. However, a reading of the lives of the prominent mystics down through the centuries reveals that the priests or clergy of the mystics’ religious affiliation were not the direct medium of their mystical experienced. Those mystics actively associated with a religious sect were ardent students of the sacred writings of their particular faith. They were inspired by the traditional rhetoric and preachments of their religious realm. However, all such was but an incentive to personally acquire the necessary enlightenment to attain the spiritual objective. The technique, the instruction such religious teachers expounded, became for the aspiring mystics only the method, the instrument by which they would realize their own mystical experience. The intimate mystical experience, the ultimate unity cannot be divulged to the mystic; all that which is shown or taught to him is but “The Way.”
Though the mystical experience itself is personal, yet the true way, for its realization, is universal in its fundamentals. In other words, a basic preparation involving certain acts must be adhered to if the neophyte is to realize his objective. Unfortunately, this time-tested procedure is not usually conscientiously followed. This “way” to mystical enlightenment has often been corrupted by the accretion of suggestions proclaimed to be worthy but which are actually worthless and often harmful. Primitive magical rites, hypnotism, and other practices have often perverted the true teachings necessary to mystical unity.
What are the elements of the true method which may be applied by those seeking the personal benefit of mystical unity and its illumination? It is not the purpose of this article to delineate these in detail, nor do we have the space available. However, a few efficacious statements can be made in this regard.
In the ancient Buddhist dharma (doctrines), there is a concise statement regarding the purpose of meditation, which is a fundamental of all mystical technique. The purpose of meditation is stated to be three fold. First, one dominates the lower aggressive nature of self. Second, one develops the higher faculties and attributes toward a vision of life’s essential unity. Third, one unites the dual nature of man into one continuous spiritual process.
It is admitted in Buddhist literature that this is a difficult task: “Though one should conquer in a battle a thousand times a thousand men, he who conquers himself is the greatest warrior.” There cannot be a transition from a vulgar, coarse mind to a lofty state of meditation. In other words, the mind must be constant in the higher ideals and objectives which it seeks.
The Body, A Vehicle
Concern for the body is likewise advocated for the true mystic. Asceticism, with its frequent self-mortification, is not recommended by true mysticism. We are reminded that “the body is a vehicle of consciousness.” Deliberate, rhythmic deep breathing is the means by which one purges the body of its impurities and infuses the energies conveyed by air. Exotic postures, so often associated with deep breathing in so-called mystical practice, are not absolutely essential to it.
The Buddhist technique particularly recommends that the best results in meditation are had in the morning. Of course, this advice is not limited to Buddhist instruction alone. The mind is then rested and fresh, and is unencumbered by the many impressions of the day. It is further suggested that one always conduct his meditation, if possible, in the same place. This creates a familiar surrounding that becomes symbolic of the purpose, and aids in attaining the desired state of consciousness.
It may be asked, “And what results are to be expected from, let us say, Buddhist meditation?” It is said that true results of meditation in its early stage are both negative and positive. The negative aspect is the reduction of external objective impressions which normally dominate the consciousness. As a result, the aspirant acquires greater tranquillity. The positive result in meditation, as related in the doctrines of antiquity, is that the individual acquires a greater universal understanding of humanity and of himself. In short, the self is bombarded to a lesser extent by external impressions, permitting that introversion which results in a greater self- realization.
A distinction is made in the Buddhist Dharma between concentration and meditation. We quote these ancient doctrines to show the line of true meditation that carries down to those organizations perpetuating authentic mystical methods: “The goal of concentration is immediate and finite; the goal of meditation is ultimate and infinite.”
The Tibetan presentation of the subject of meditation is a conglomerate of Hindu and Buddhist doctrines as well as the indigenous traditional beliefs of the Tibetan peoples. Though the Hindu teachings in Tibet preceded Buddhism by centuries, they were later greatly influenced by its doctrines. The famed Buddhist doctrine of the “eightfold Path” became an integral part of Tibetan religion and philosophy. The doctrine of the Eightfold Path, as it descends to us today with slight variations, admonishes one to pursue Right Belief, Right Seeing, Right Aspiration, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Endeavouring, Right Remembering, and Right Meditation.
It is assumed that from such character and discipline one would pass to higher degrees of understanding, as the aspirant would come to “realize the non-existence of the personal ego.” This simply means that the individual ego would be absorbed into the Absolute, that Unity which is the essence of meditation. It is said, “Then, again, as the mere name of food doth not satisfy the appetite of a hungry person, but he must eat food, or, also a man who would learn about the voidness (of thought) must meditate so as to realize it, and not merely its definition.”
Are we to assume from all the foregoing that the goal of the mystic is but an abstract idealism, an escape from the rigors of the phenomenal world of everyday reality? Is mysticism but a retreat into a world constructed of figments of the subconscious? Does the mystic thus live entirely unto himself, isolated from the needs of the rest of mankind? If this were so, it would then make mysticism solely a practice of soteriology, a mere personal and selfish system of spiritual salvation.
The real purpose of mystical unity is to seek a contiguity with the source of greater enlightenment. The modern mystic is one who realizes that self is an integration of levels of consciousness, of awareness. Our common perception, our objective consciousness is limited. We are all aware of the illumination that comes to us at times as inspiration and intuition, and also of their differentiation from our common perception. Every artist, writer, inventor, and scientist is enhanced at times by the brilliance of the unexpected thought that suddenly enters the conscious mind. The mystic seeks to climb, figuratively speaking, a ladder of consciousness, not only to be able to grasp from his own exalted level of consciousness a new knowledge, or illumination, but to regenerate the lower levels of his mind by means of the momentary influx of what might be termed Divine Light, Cosmic Illumination, and so on. Such a mystical experience is to be translated into terms, ideas which are comprehensible to the individual, and which are adaptable to his worldly life in the form of practical knowledge.
It is fallacious idea that the object of meditation is to merely experience a state of euphoria, of sheer tranquillity. Such in itself contributes little to the welfare of humanity. True meditation is much in accord with modern psychology. Psychology refers to meditation as a form of “altered consciousness”; and so it is. Concentration is a function commonly of the objective consciousness. It is the focusing of the attention upon external stimuli, the impressions of the peripheral senses.
Contemplation, reasoning, and imagination are the result of an introversion of the consciousness to thoughts and ideas. In other words, it is concentration turned inward, involving the subjective levels of consciousness. Yet it is not true meditation, as meditation transcends these other forms of our mental attributes and it is not related to a fixed symbol or idea. Having a fixed symbol or idea in connection with the technique of meditation is but an elementary aid, and not the final key that unlocks the inner powers of mind.
- Author Unknown