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Nature and Need of Mysticism

Let it be stated clearly that mysticism is an a-rational type of experience, and in some degree common to all men.

It is an intuitive, self-evident, self-recognized knowledge which comes fitfully to man. It should not be confounded with the instinctive and immediate knowledge possessed by animals and used by them in their adaptations to environment.

The average man seldom pays enough attention to his slight mystical experiences to profit or learn from them. Yet his need for them is evidenced by his incessant seeking for the thrills, sensations, uplifts, and so on, which he organizes for himself in so many ways--the religious way being only one of them. In fact, the failure of religion--in the West, at any rate--to teach true mysticism, and its overlaying of the deeply mystic nature of its teachings with a pseudo-rationalism and an unsound historicity may be the root cause for driving people to seek for things greater than they feel their individual selves to be in the many sensation-giving activities in the world today.

Mysticism is not a by-product of imagination or uncontrolled emotion; it is a range of knowledge and experience natural to man but not yet encompassed by his rational mind. The function of philosophy is to bring these experiences under control and to offer ways of arriving at interpretations and explanations.

Mysticism not so controlled and interpreted is full of pitfalls, one of which is the acceptance of confusion, sentimentality, cloudiness, illusion, and aimlessness as integral qualities of the mystical life--states of mind which go far to justify opponents of mysticism in their estimate of it as foolish and superstitious.

The mystic should recognize his own limitations. He should not refuse the proffered hand of philosophy which will help his understanding and train his intuition. He should recognize that it is essential to know how to interpret the material which reaches him from his higher self, and how to receive it in all its purity.

The belief that the neglect of actual life is the beginning of spiritual life, and that the failure to use clear thought is the beginning of guidance from God, belongs to mysticism in its most rudimentary stages--and has no truth in it.

The world will come to believe in mysticism because there is no alternative, and it will do so in spite of mysticism's historical weaknesses and intellectual defects. But how much better it would be for everyone if those weaknesses and defects were self-eliminated.

He has so learned the art of living that the experiences of everyday life yield up their meaning to him, and the reflections of daily meditation endow him with wisdom.

If it be asked, "What is the nature of mystical experience?" the answer given very tersely is, "It is experience which gives to the individual a slant on the universal, like the heart's delight in the brightness of a May morning in England, or the joy of a mother in her newborn child, in the sweetness of deep friendship, in the lilt of great poetry. It is the language of the arts, which if approached only by intellectual ways yields only half its content. Whoever comes eventually to mystical experience of the reality of his own Higher Self will recognize the infinite number of ways in which nature throughout life is beckoning him. The higher mystical experience is not a sport of nature, a freak phenomenon. It is the continuation of a sequence the beginning and end of which are as vast as the beginning and end of the great cycle of life in all the worlds. No man can measure it."

The Yoga Vasistha states, "There are two kinds of paths leading to liberation. Now hearken to them. If one should, without the least fail, follow the path laid down by a Teacher, delusion will wear away from him little by little and emancipation will result, either in the very birth of his initiation by his Guru or in some succeeding birth. The other path is where the mind, being slightly fortified with a stainless spontaneous knowledge, ceaselessly meditates upon it, and there alights true gnana in it, like fruit falling from above unexpectedly."

There are primary and secondary levels of mind and consequently primary and secondary products. The former are insights, the latter are intuitions.

Sages speak from the highest level; mystics contemplate, while genius speaks, writes, paints, and composes from the secondary levels.

Primary consciousness is exalted but calm; secondary consciousness is exalted but excited. The first does not change its settled mood, but the second falls into rapture, ecstasy, and absent-minded reverie.

-- Notebooks Category 1: Overview of the Quest > Chapter 1: What the Quest Is > # 62

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