I started a new class called Practical Mysticism (through a Science of Mind aka New Thought Church). What is Mysticism? The dictionary has a couple definitions. One is that it is the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, obtained through contemplation and self-surrender. I like that definition. The second one is a belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought, especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or mysterious agencies. That one is the one other people think of when you tell them you’re interested in mysticism. I supposed the word itself is a bit foggy and unclear, like a mist. The idea of mysticism is similar to that of enlightenment, the more you focus on it the more it evades you. You can aim in that direction but like a rainbow, it is always moving away as you move toward it. Can one achieve mysticism? It’s a journey, not a destination (like life, thank you Aerosmith!). Once you understand the concept of obtaining knowledge that is inaccessible to the intellect you become a mystic. It is knowledge that just becomes a part of you. The teacher of my class defined a mystic as a person who seeks union with God; who believes in the internal interconnection with sacred wholeness. This is my highest purpose in this life and the catalyst for all my seeking of truth throughout my lifetime. I desire to feel that spiritual connection more and more until it is just who I am.
In lockstep with my Mysticism class, I ordered a book on Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck. It is a great supplement as part of the class is choosing a “path” to report on. Over the last several years I have been reluctant to identify with a particular religion or practice as it is my philosophy that truth can be found in all religions or practices and therefore to identify with one may blind me to receiving new truths. However, I’ve been consistently drawn toward Buddhism since I first started challenging my Christian faith 7+ years ago. My first encounter with Buddhism was through the book Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield. I was shocked to see the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity at the core of who we need to be. My criticism of Christianity has always been the elitism of the followers, not the core teachings. Of course, the notion that one cannot be saved unless one believes in Christ as their Savior automatically excludes everyone who doesn’t adhere. However, if you choose to disregard that little nugget then you are left with concepts like loving your neighbor as yourself, being forgiving, showing compassion, don’t be selfish, etc. My argument has continued to be, and will remain, that people who profess to believe in Christ and yet do not exhibit the character qualities of Christ are not true believers. It is dangerous to espouse something and not become it. Yet, the church and the people in it act like they’ve purchased a ticket to heaven rather than agreeing to live their lives in compliance to becoming more Christlike over time. That is why Buddhism is so appealing to me. As a practice, it isn’t looking at what happens when we die or shaming people with the threat of hell. Buddhism is about how to live each day working toward oneness with the whole, non-attachment (prevent suffering), and embodying love, forgiveness, and the intention to do no harm on a consistent practical level. At its very core to practice Buddhism is to practice becoming Christlike.
Venturing into argumentative territory I have to ask the question, what is it really to be saved? We spin the concepts of heaven and hell like we know what will really happen in the afterlife. We have lots of literature and people’s philosophy about it. Churches do their best to spread fear and terror. The truth is if you exclude the book of Revelation from the Bible there is very, very little about either heaven or hell in the rest of the books. Everything we have on the subject has been created by man, in my opinion, to control people. If we just look at the teachings of Jesus we are left with how to live in a way that embodies love on a daily basis. Non-judgemental, non-hateful, non-ritualistic living that is peaceful and joyful. There are Christians who embody that, but the interesting thing is how many non-Christians embody that. If it were only obtainable through repeating the sinner’s prayer then no one who has not said those magic words would be able to achieve it. Why don’t we, regardless of our faith, put aside the fear tactics and worrying about who is getting into the exclusive banquet at the end of life and just embody the qualities that Jesus embodied? Won’t the rest work itself out if we do? Shouldn’t we focus on not condemning others, but focus on becoming our highest self in a spiritual way? If we continue to strive toward something, it will continue to elude us (like that rainbow). It is when we just learn to be that we find peace. That is the way of the mystic and the path to enlightenment.