4 min read

On Mysticism

On Mysticism
Photo by Ivan Jevtic

The purpose of Applied Philosophy in summary is to enlighten our souls and bodies. In short, this means the breakdown and rebuilding of our ego.

Enlightenment, illumination, etc.; these are ancient terms referring to the process of becoming a living mirror to reflect the Light of the World. Religion, originally based in mysticism, was given us to meet our emotional needs in this effort, while Philosophy was developed to feed the intellectual side of our natures.

Religion gone sour becomes cultish, when we forget that the whole point of it is the spiritual exercises. Just as one can become obsessed with fitness, but never get around to the work of making physical gains, we can become 'religiously-themed' without result. Ditto for philosophy. Hence the adage: 'you will know them by their fruit'.

Our ego is the extremist within, it is the sensationalist side of our nature.  We must work hard to develop the virtue of moderation in all aspects of our lives.  We must guard against the tendency of our ego to merely 'theme' us.

The ego is the part of ourselves that gets offended. This occurs when we identify ourselves with the image we have created in our own minds. Much of the modern world teaches us to inflate ourselves, in brief, we are encouraged to become as selfish as possible.

It's a short trip for the ego to simply say 'I am enlightened now', moving on and blaming others for all our problems. The ego also gives us a strong drive to reform or convert others to our way of living... by that I mean the way we claim to live or agree with in theory.

There are a few people in the world who are actually more 'enlightened', they will have certain characteristics that we can check for: They will be kindly, patient and forgiving. They will be the first to tell you that they are not enlightened, that they are just like the rest of us. In a sense, this is true, but we all have much to learn from them. The great mystics and teachers of humanity in history were all these simple people.

Most likely, people of great character will offend us, if not consciously, certainly at the subconscious level. This is because we are internally dissatisfied with our own true condition. We don't like to see ourselves next to a better example. Thankfully (although perhaps it is even worse), these people will never treat us badly in exchange, they do not change who they are just because we behave badly towards them.

Obviously, not everyone who offends us is enlightened. If we have spent a lifetime being self-centered, we are probably good at offending people. Sometimes our ego suggests to us that we are meant to help others breakdown their egos by being offensive. But although this seems an easy path to being a spiritual teacher, and while it may help others tangentially, it does not help us much.  Offending people on purpose is combative and no one will respond any better than we would in their shoes.

If we feel others to be wrong and strongly in need of correction, the best approach is to figure out why we have such an extreme emotional drive to reform them. Surely they are offending our sensibilities somewhere, which means we have an inner issue to work on resolving.

An 'enlighted' mystic will feel compassion for the ignorant, and they will approach others in a kindly fashion, as an equal, not as a 'teacher' or authority figure.

Probably the greatest teacher humanity has ever had (we must either take him as a mystic or a psychotic, as he left us no middle ground), Jesus of Nazareth, was constantly stressing that he spoke for God, not for himself. He was not too good to speak to children, the afflicted, the 'worst' people of the day. He healed those in pain, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

We must be deeply honest with ourselves. If we find through experience that people do not find us to have a healing presence, if we know that our bedside manner leaves much to be desired, we must leave others to the natural processes of growth inherent in the universe.

We must tend to the logs within our own sight before we attempt eye surgery on the 'less spiritually fortunate'. The world will be just fine without our instruction and direction, we must develop the interior faith to honestly believe this fact.

If we feel called to share, we must learn how to do so kindly. I am not saying we need to keep our beliefs and what wisdom we have acquired via experience a complete secret from the world, but we must be content to let others grow at their own pace. No forcing. People respond better when they know we have no ulterior motives, no driving  agenda to push down their less-than-willing throats.

Live and let live, to an extent. If we have civil responsibilities, we must not neglect them. We cannot allow ourselves to just go along with the crowd because it is easier.

Being nice or a pushover is not kindness, but nor is belligerence. Taking a stand on integrity when it is called for does not require any shoving. It all comes back to moderation.

Our ego wants us to tell a story about ourselves, how we won't back down, or how we don't cause trouble. But deep down, we know what each situation calls for.  We must learn to stop consulting our backstory to evaluate how our decisions will look, and simply live.

If we do this, the world will gradually become a better place. Others will see our example and how it is actually a more effective lifestyle, one that does not require constant sedation and/or stimulation to sustain.

Others may see us becoming truly contented with little outside reason to be so. They may be curious, they may ask how this happened to a person just like them. Then they deserve an answer, so share. But you will not be compelled to judge, as kindness will be second nature.

For by then we will have learned how to forgive ourselves, to release all the self-judgement and inner conflict, by completely devoting our focus to the Love we are all (at times, desperately) seeking.

This is mysticism, that indescribable path back to the Heart of God. We can only experience it in small doses in this physical life, but it can forever alter us if we center our lives on the active pursuit of the Beloved.