I posted this in answer to a question on the Quora website. A questioner asked ‘what is Mysticism and why do I associate it with nonsense?’ I though I’d answer below.
It depends upon your point of view. For me I’ve always been a seeker of the fundamental truths of existence. There’s a whole path of philosophy concerned with such things called ‘Meta Physics’ which seeks to understand the reason why the universe exists and why does it behave in the way that it does.
Sadly the term ‘Meta Physics’ has been really badly abused by the new age movement in particular many of which advocate that the mind is the prime mover of matter and superior to it. In other words you can create your own reality.
I find this type of thing to be really harmful. I’ve never successfully visualised a brand new Mercedes into my life, but do you know what, I’ve worked hard for a second hand one. Work is the only thing that has ever got results for me, so be sceptical about claims that your mind can change any and all aspects of your life with it’s focused attention.
Your conscious mind does not and will not trump reality. Now then we get on to what exactly is reality? That’s what mysticism is all about.
For me I rejected my christian religion at a young age and was an atheist for a time, but I fell in love with the spirit and beauty of the universe and over the course of many years of deep thought, contemplation and earnest seeking I’ve learned that I am the entire universe and so are you.
This is just a way of saying that we’re all parts of a greater union which you can call it anything you like. Some people call it god, some people call it the universe. What you call it is actually unimportant, but it’s like this; you depend upon the planet to live, the planet depends upon The Sun, the Sun couldn’t exist without the Galaxy, ad infinitum. Everything that exists is in a relationship with something else. Understanding those relationships is mysticism.
This is both biological and at the same time physical in the sense that today you’ve gained some new atoms and at the same time you’ve shed some old atoms. You are not the same being that you were yesterday, both in mind and body, new thoughts and new ideas have changed the old ones forever.
You can view the entire universe as a vast atomic cloud, it varies in density from place to place but it’s one cloud and you move around in it. Given that from day to day your atomic make up changes then it stands to reason that you cannot claim ownership of your atoms. They are not ‘you’. They belong to the cloud. What you are is in fact a pattern in the cosmos. If we further examine you and zoom in to the atomic level it’s impossible to see where you end and the rest of the universe begins. All that varies is the density of the cloud.
This means that separation from all other things is an illusion. It’s a really good illusion that we all buy into but nevertheless it’s an illusion. We extrapolate this further to reveal that we’re all one being. That’s mysticism.
To quote Alan Watts, ‘You are the entire universe in the place that you call here and now’, in exactly the same way that a blade of grass is what the field is doing where the grass is, or a wave is what the entire ocean is doing wherever the wave happens to be.
To hammer the point home you are what the universe is doing in the form of a human being right here, right now.
From this you can see that your soul (if you believe that you have one) is not confined to the limits of your skin, but the limits of the entire universe. Everywhere you look you can’t see anything other than yourself. That’s mysticism.
All other things, places and creatures are just you peering back at yourself.
Now this has very important ramifications for your relationships with the other aspects of yourself you might bump into.
It becomes obvious that if you help another you are actually helping yourself, so finally we have a true explanation for the origins of altruism and benevolenece.
Likewise if you are a scientist about to experiment on a rat or a monkey, then be kind because that creature is also you. You are the abuser and the victim, the hero and the villain, the lover and the loved.
You are all that can possibly exist in any and every combination that is possible so you might as well be kind.
Mysticism teaches you that we’re all the same and we’re all one. That’s all there is too it.
So when you die you can take comfort in the fact that you will live on, you are as eternal as the universe because you are the entire universe. My atoms will be reused elsewhere (which gives me great comfort).
That’s more than enough of an afterlife for me, my own individual persona/identity will die with me and that’s how it should be.
If my own particular pattern of consciousness pops up again in the universe I’m sure that I will be delighted to be back though probably unaware that I’ve been here before, but this latter part is entirely speculative. When it comes to survival of the soul and reincarnation or an afterlife make your own mind up. Accept what you can accept and reject the rest, starting with whatever religion it is that you were brought up in.
Before I sign off, I’d like to say that not once have I claimed esoteric knowledge or abused any science out there. You can be a christian, islamic, jewish, hindu or whatever religion and still be a mystic. Indeed Atheism is a natural starting point for mysticism as mysticism doesn’t require that you believe in a God, because in a sense you’re it!
Mysticism is one of the oldest spiritual paths and practices, spirituality trumps religion. Religion is just the ritualised trappings of spirituality that over time have been indoctrinated as being more important than spirituality. This is patently false. The beginning of wisdom is in rejecting orthodox ideas and the beliefs that you might have accepted as true at a young age, only to find that they are not actually your ideas.
I hope this helps you and answers some of your questions. I used to think exactly the same thing about the assorted wackos out there that claimed to be mystics with their tarot readings and other forms of divination (this isn’t really mysticism but magical practices disguised as mysticism), not to mention their baseless beliefs. Then one day I realised that I had become one…
Either way mysticism is exceptionally rewarding there is no greater joy than suddenly getting a moment of realisation when wham another piece of the cosmic puzzle slots into place in your mind leaving you stunned with how obvious and simple it all is.
Soli Deo Gloria.