Mystics, Mysticism,
& Peak States

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Albert Einstein

Our challenge is to be Contemporary Mystics!

Preface - "What Is Mysticism?"

The word 'Mystic' originally comes from the Greek word for 'mystery' - meaning 'the unexplainable' - whose own root word means quite simply, 'with closed eyes'. According to mystic philosophy, one cannot gain a full understanding of God, the nature of the universe, or indeed the 'Self', by external or physical means alone since God, religion and spirituality all exist within our own selves, within our own souls.

By 'closing the eyes' and shutting out the external physical world of the five senses through introspection, meditation or prayer, a divine union with God, vision or revelation may be experienced by the individual. Meditation, introspection and prayer are common to all religions, and yet mysticism is not a religion because it has no hierarchy, no rules, no regulations, and no sacred texts. In mysticism the central character is yourself and you are, in your highest sense, both the worshipped and the worshiper, both temple and congregation.

The mystical journey is, by its very nature, a journey into the self, and a journey ultimately made alone. The mystical and supernatural however, may also be experienced spontaneously by those with no religious affiliations at all, atheists and agnostics alike. Apparently regardless of all belief and outward form, the mystical experience appears to exist and function as an internal vision or revelation within the mind or the 'soul' of the self, and not as an externalised sensual experience.

The mystic tradition itself pre-dates organised religion and is ultimately the very foundation of all religions, whether they are pagan, primal or otherwise and mystical revelation can be clearly seen to be at the heart of them all. This includes the Eastern philosophies of Hinduism and Buddhism as well as the three Western monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the latter of which were founded on the mystical revelations of their own respective teachers or prophets, Buddha, Moses, Jesus Christ and Mohammed.

Although the three great monotheistic religions which originated in the Middle East - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - are based on the individual vision, revelation, and mystical experience of these divine messengers or prophets, it has been the case throughout recorded history that some of these self same religions have also been largely responsible for the repression of individual empowerment through the internalised individual experience of personal revelation.

However innocent and natural this primal human desire for higher spiritual states of consciousness may be, and it is obviously a collective social phenomena from the beginning, the art, knowledge and practice of spiritual mysticism has found no safe haven in our relatively modern male-dominated monotheistic religions.

In the words of Carl Jung however: "So long as religion is only faith and outward form, and the religious function is not experienced in our own souls, nothing of any importance has happened. It has yet to be understood that the mysterium magnum is not only an actuality, but is first and foremost rooted in the human psyche. The man who does not know this from his own experience may be a most learned theologian, but he has no idea of religion and still less of education." The philosophy of mysticism and individual revelation, however, is a unifying philosophy in as much as it recognises the right of every individual to this state of harmony, bliss and union with the divine, which can only be experienced by the individual as an internalised phenomena.


Abraham Maslow always laid great stress on the importance of peak experiences and the experience of transcendence. A peak experience is one of those times, felt by many millions of people, when all the pretence and all the fear drops away, and we seem to be in touch with the whole universe. It is a timeless moment of intense feeling, which comes to some people when they see a sunrise, or a mountain, to some when they hear great music, to some when they look at a child, to some when they are having sex, and to some in a religious ceremony. It is technically known as casual extraverted mysticism, and it is within the reach of all of us. In humanistic psychology we are very interested in studying this kind of phenomenon, and seeing how in some cases it can change a person's life.

I "Exceptional human experience" was coined by Rhea White, a noted parapsychologist, as an umbrella term for many types of experience generally regarded as psychic or mystical. It is a useful construct for considering the varieties of experience as points on a continuum and for examining possible connections between some, if not all of them. It may provide the "big picture" that might be overlooked if we were to study these experiences as discrete types of experience only.

The most fundamental principle of mysticism is transcendental omnipresence, which refers to being totally independent of spacetime while still being everywhere at once in spacetime. The idea of transcendental unity is built-in to this principle, since we are referring to a single, undifferentiated state of being. The second most fundamental principle is polarity, which refers to the inherent dynamic-creative aspect of the transcendental state, and is said to be the essence of consciousness, both at the universal level and the individual level. From these simple principles the entire physical universe is manifest in all its cyclic diversity, from the highest frequencies of oscillating energy to the lazy ellipses of orbiting planets, from the birth and death of stars to the expansion and collapse of the Universe itself.

At present, the Vedas (the Knowledge, the Sacred Science) are the most ancient texts known to our official historical records. The teaching itself probably dates from a time beyond which we can know, and some historians now estimate that it could easily be at least 12,000 years old. Some say it comes from a time long before that.

The Upanishads, translated by F. Max Müller, published originally in 1879 by the Clarendon Press, Oxford, England, and republished in 1962 by Dover Publications, New York, NY.

Ancient nondualism at its best, as we find it in the teachings of Buddha and Sankara, represents mysticism at its loftiest. Theistic, pantheistic, and other forms of mysticism are pale reflections thereof. The core of nondualistic mysticism lies in the conviction that the supreme truth is the timeless and formless Being or Nonbeing. Reality is essentially indefinable and nonverbal. It is beyond all opposites -- nondual. Beyond all limitations of cosmic expression, it is still the source and support of the cosmic manifold. ...

A Hindu theistic mystic may say, "I am at one with Krishna." Insofar as he is a theist, and not a nondualist in the strict sense of the word, he finds it difficult to rise above the Krishna-form. Indeterminable Being is for him only an abstraction. At best it is the limitless power and glory of the determinate Krishna-form.

Similarly, a Christian mystic, who is usually a theist, says, "I am at one with Christ, or with God the Father, who is inseparable from Christ." He finds it extremely difficult to rise above the Christ-form and comprehend Being in its transcendental universal essence. ... Formless Being is the common ground of all such specific symbols of the Divine, as Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, Moses, etc., with all their historical particularities. ...

The theist equates the historical form with the transhistorical. Consequently, the transhistorical reality appears to him as a person. Failure to rise above personalities and to comprehend the superpersonal divine ground introduces an element of parochialism into his religious outlook. He fails to appreciate the common universal essence of all religions.

Haridas Chaudhuri Being, Evolution, and Immortality - An Outline of Integral Philosophy 1974, The Theosophical Publishing House


Seeing Beyond

The literal meaning of transcending is "going beyond," and at moments of clarity it is possible for anyone to be aware that reality isn't confined to the five senses. Peak experiences open up windows to spirit. Yet "going beyond" is not an accurate description of the experience of transcending, since there is no distance to cover; spirit never leaves us, it is only overlooked. This practice trains you to stop overlooking the spirit and love that surround you, waiting to be noticed.

Although it means "going beyond," a better way to describe transcending is "seeing beyond." What can you see beyond the apparently solid façade of life, the constant flow of time, the limitations of space, and the laws of cause and effect? If the answer is very little, the reason is that your perception has not been trained for such vision. Yet every day contains clues of the second reality we all inhabit, which is timeless, unbounded, causeless, and intimately tied to our needs on the path to love.

First examine the following list to determine if you have experienced these sorts of clues:

1. In the midst of danger or crisis, have you had suddenly had the feeling of being completely safe and protected?

2. Have you ever been with someone who was dying and felt a sense of peace or a coolness in the air when the moment of passing came?

3. Have you known someone who recovered from an "incurable" illness?

4. Have you prayed and had your prayer answered?

5. Have you ever witnessed a soft light around another person or yourself?

6. Have you ever asked for silent guidance or the answer to a dilemma and received it?

7. When looking at a sunset, a full moon, or something of great natural beauty, have you felt yourself expand as if you were no longer enclosed within the physical limits of your body?

8. Have you experienced a silencing of your mind, perhaps just before going to sleep or on first waking up?

9. Have you felt a loving presence when you most needed it?

10. Do you ever hear an inner voice you feel you can absolutely rely on? (This voice doesn't have to speak in words; it can also be a strong feeling or intuition.)

11. Have you felt wonder at the sight of a newborn child?

This isn't a quiz. You aren't trying to answer yes to as many questions as possible, but if you did say yes to any of them, pick the one that resonated most for you. Let us say it was the first one: feeling a sudden sense of safety and protection in the midst of crisis or danger. Close your eyes and put yourself back into that situation; see all the details of where you were, who you were with, what time it was and so on.

Try to relive the moment, but instead of being the person who was reacting at that moment, ask to be given a larger perspective. Ask to see the meaning of what was happening, and request that the meaning be as specific as possible. Take a deep breath and listen to whatever response comes. Now interpret your answer. Do any of the following meanings come through?

I am loved. I am safe. A part of myself watches over me. I know. I am. The light is with me. God is real. God is. Nothing is wrong. I am at peace. Things are OK. I can love. Everything is one. These are the messages love is trying to send you at every moment. Each is extremely simple yet eternally true.

You do not have to have an extraordinary or peak experience to receive such messages, but peak experiences do bring sudden clarity.

Attune yourself to spirit, and it will speak to you in love.

Spirit isn’t a phenomenon; it is the whispered truth within a phenomenon. As such, spirit is gentle, it persuades by the softest touch. The messages never get louder, only clearer. If you have the slightest hint of communication from spirit, ask for clarification; look at the preceding list if you need to. At first the links to spirit may seem tenuous and fragile, but as you grow more confident you will find that your life is full of meaning, that every moment has an aspect that goes beyond if you have the vision to find it.

the exerpt is from The Path to Love, by Deepak Chopra


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