The Universal Order - Study Group Paper 3
Mysticism and the Inner Life
"God is a pure Being, a waste of calm seclusion - as Isaiah says, He is a hidden God - He is much nearer than anything is to itself in the depth of the heart, but He is hidden from our senses. He is far above every outward thing and every thought, and is found only where thou hidest thyself in the secret place of thy heart, in the quiet solitude where no word is spoken, where there is neither creature, nor image, nor fancy. This is the quiet Desert of the Godhead, the Divine Darkness - dark from His own surpassing brightness, for in the presence of its brightness our eyes are like the eyes of the swallow in the bright sunlight - this Abyss is our salvation." Tauler
I. Always and everywhere man has aspired to a knowledge of himself, of the secret of the universe, and of that Mystery of Mysteries, Which is behind and above all, the Cause and End of all things. Behind every manifestation is a cause, and behind and above even the Idea of Causality Itself there is the Unmanifested ONE. To recognize this truth is the first real step in the Mysteries.
A mystic, in the original and pure meaning of the word, was one who had set out on that great quest of the Mystery of all Mysteries. And the mystical faculty in man represents the yearning of the finite for the Infinite.
Much that is commonly termed mystical or spiritual experience may in reality have very little to do with true mysticism. True mysticism implies the awakening of spiritual faculties, for spirit as such is only perceptible to spirit, although spirit may illumine the soul faculties and become translated in terms of mind, feeling and action.
True mysticism does not involve the cultivation of any abnormal powers or the possession of so-called supernatural "gifts". It is simply the result of the awakening of man's more inward and spiritual nature through a life of prayer, meditation, contemplation and religion in its truest and highest sense.
In true mystical experience the finite and transient nature is temporarily absorbed in the Infinite and the Eternal, hence the difficulty of giving an intelligent account of the exact nature of this experience, wherein the personal self is lost in the All-Self.
This is the true mystical art which can be practised at any time and in any place, when the soul forgets itself in action, in thought, in feeling, and according to the power of the mystical love that dominates it, so in selfless service it experiences an ever closer and closer union with the Indwelling and All-pervading Spirit of God.
II. Mysticism unfolds the principles according to which the human nature may attain to an ever-growing consciousness of the Divine Nature, by realizing not only the immanence of God in man and in the universe, but also the transcendence of God above and beyond all that is manifest.
Some of the principles of mystical science are:-
- That there are fundamentally Three Ideas: God, the Cosmos and Man, each of which is distinct from, although contained in, the others in a paradoxical and mystical sense.
- That the Cosmos and Man are in God, and that God is, at the same time, immanent in both.
- That God is both transcendent and also immanent, manifested and also unmanifested.
- That the Cosmos is both subjective and objective, spiritual and material, seen and unseen.
- That Man is threefold: Spirit, Soul and Body.
- That the Spirit essentially abides in God, and that the soul proceeds from and returns to God through the Spirit.
III. There are three paths leading to the Divine - those of loving aspiration, of exalted thought and of purposive action, corresponding to the three soul faculties of heart, mind and will:-
The Heart: devotion, prayer, meditation, contemplation and worship are the modes according to which the soul is awakened and responds to the inner pressure of the Spirit.
The Mind must be rightly oriented. There must be a ceaseless endeavour to realize in the living consciousness the Presence of that Great One in Whom all apparent contradictions are reconciled;
Who is the Inner Teacher, the Light of God in Man.
The Will must conform to the Divine Will in joyful self-surrender. It is man's sublime destiny is to give himself back to God in perfect conformity and understanding.
IV. Religion without philosophy tends to dogmatism, and philosophy without religion tends to intellectual pride, whereas in the true mystic path religion and philosophy are united.
When knowledge is transformed into wisdom, when the soul is lifted up to that which is above itself, it is said mystically to "die" to the physical body. But this mystical death is followed by a resurrection in the Spirit. This may happen at any time and in any place, and yet it transcends all temporal and spatial limitations. All the great sages have proclaimed that now is the time and here is the place to begin the journey back to God. Not the end of life, or in some future state, but here and now.
V. There are in one sense as many mystical paths as there are human beings, yet since all beings depend upon and have come from the Infinite, they must all possess an inherent oneness of essence, through which they are rooted in the One, Who is the Goal as well as the Beginning of All. In this Great Integral Path all human faculties are brought together in oneness of aspiration, singleness of purpose and one-pointedness of heart, mind and will. And, when blended in unity, they lead to a realization that the normal consciousness has been raised to a stage above and beyond that which the mind can understand and interpret. Such a realization is called a "mystical experience".
"By ME the whole vast universe is spread abroad; by ME the Unmanifest! In ME are all existences contained; not I in them." Bhagavad Gita
"When thou prayest, shut the door - that is, the door of thy senses. Keep them barred and bolted against all phantasies and images. Nothing pleases God more than a mind free from all occupations and distractions. Such a mind is in a manner transformed into God, for it can think of nothing, and love nothing, except God; other creatures and itself it only sees in God…The soul in contemplation views the world from afar off, just as, when we proceed to God by way of abstraction, we deny to Him, first of all, bodily and sensible attributes, then intelligible qualities, and, lastly, that being (esse) which would keep Him among created things." Albertus Magnus
"There is a Spirit which is pure and which is beyond old age and death; and beyond hunger and thirst and sorrow. This is Atman, the Spirit in man." The Upanishads
"Expand thyself into the immeasurable Greatness, passing beyond body and, transcending time, enter the Eternal." Thrice Greatest Thoth
"Not what thou art, nor what thou hast been, beholdeth God with His merciful eyes; but what thou wouldst be." The Cloud of Unknowing
"Through the cooling influence of bhakti, one sees forms of God in the Ocean of the Absolute. These forms are meant for the bhaktas, the lovers of God. But when the Sun of Knowledge rises, the ice melts; it becomes the same water it was before. Water above and water below, everywhere nothing but water." Sri Ramakrishna
"Pythagoras, being asked if he called himself a wise man, denied himself that name, and said that he was not wise, but a lover of wisdom. And thence it happened afterwards that all students of wisdom were called lovers of wisdom, that is, philosophers…which we may observe is not a term of arrogance, but of humility." Dante (Il Convito, III.xi.2)
© The Universal Order 2001