The quintessence of mysticism1There are three principal paths that lead to God-Realisation: the path of Selfless Service, the path of Love and Devotion and the path of Knowledge and Wisdom. Raja Yoga (Mysticism) is a significant aspect of the Yoga of Knowledge (Jnana Yoga). The Knowledge Supreme is something infinitely more than mere philosophical knowledge. Mysticism is experience, the direct and intimate experience of Truth. After covering a great distance in the path of knowledge, philosophy gets tired and takes rest. Mysticism begins when and where philosophy ends. The seers, after having personally experienced the knowledge of Truth, revealed it to the world at large.
The seers sing:
Him I have known, the Being Supreme,
Refulgent, luminous as the Sun beyond darkness,
Far beyond the embrace of devouring gloom.
The seers teach us that the Transcendental Reality and the All-Embodying Existence are one and the same.
A mystic takes unity and diversity as one. Further, he sees unity in diversity. He tells the world that the One and the Many are one. The One is Many in its universal form. The Many are One in their transcendental form. In our spiritual life, we come across two significant words: occultism and mysticism. Occultism is secrecy and cries for secrecy. It wants to house everything in top secrecy. Mysticism is not like that. Mysticism is ready to offer its achievement, transcendental Knowledge, to all who cry for it.
The difference between a philosopher and a mystic lies in the fact that a philosopher, with the greatest difficulty, sees from a distance, and rather imperfectly, the body of Truth, whereas a mystic enters into the very soul of Truth at his sweet will and can live there as long as he wants. And, also, he is permitted by the Supreme to bring to the fore the vast wealth of the soul and share it with the seekers of Truth. Mysticism affirms that the Knowledge of the Divine is universal.
Let us for a moment enter into the lore of the supernal mystery of the Vak in the Vedas. Vak is The Word. Vak at once embodies and reveals the Truth. In its embodiment of Truth, it receives creative inspiration in infinite measure from the Supreme. In its revelation of Truth, it offers to mankind the Supreme, the Liberator Supreme. Vak is the connecting link between two worlds: the world that has not yet realised and fulfilled itself and the world that has already realised and is fulfilling itself.
Mysticism has a language of its own. Its name is Intuition. In it, no mind or mental analysis can ever exist. A mystic sits on the wings of the Intuition-Bird and flies to the Ultimate Real. Intuition reveals the perfect oneness of the Transcendental Vision and Absolute Reality. A mystic is sincere enough to tell the Truth. He says that it is next to impossible for him to interpret his inner experience. No word or thought can do justice to his experience. At this point the Vedic seer cries out, “What shall I speak, what verily shall I think?” The poor mind and senses are no longer alive, having collapsed in their race toward the Unknown. Not for them the Ultimate Mystery of the Universe. Not for them the Knowledge of the Beyond. Mysticism emphasizes the unity of all souls in the Universal Soul. When we look at the Universe, we see it as the scene of conflict between good and evil, darkness and light, ignorance and knowledge. Needless to say, this struggle commenced long before the appearance of man and still continues. The light works in and through the aspiring soul; the darkness works in and through the unaspiring soul. The real transformation of human nature comes not through an austere, ascetic life or a complete withdrawal from the world, but through a gradual and total Illumination of life. And for that, one needs aspiration. Aspiration, and aspiration alone, is the precursor of this Illumination.
A mystical experience is the aspirant’s inner certitude of Truth. This certitude rests on revelation. Revelation is inner authority. Inner authority is final. And who has this authority? Not he who is a victim of merciless logic, but he who has had the experience and who has now grown into the experience itself. Logic is the reasoning and reasoned truth, which is the pride of the finite. Mysticism is the revealing and revealed Truth, which is the pride of the Infinite. If we believe in mysticism, then we must realise that the Ultimate Truth is not only above reason, but contrary to reason. If we believe something through reason, we enter onto the life-torturing path of plurality, the unconscious plurality of separateness. But when we believe something through our inner, mystic faith, we enter onto the life-giving and life-fulfilling path of unity’s Transcendental Reality.
Martin Luther vehemently distrusted the effectiveness of reason. Nor did he have any faith in ritual or in mere work as a means to salvation. In his mysticism, we see the smiling and convincing face of faith. Faith alone can bring about salvation. Faith alone has the key to salvation.
Existence and essence live together. They are one. In the thirteenth century, Meister Johannes Eckhart dynamically asserted this view. We have to realise that essence is singularly manifest in the divine qualities of the human soul, whereas existence is gloriously manifest in the human qualities of the divine soul. The end of the journey for the human soul is complete union with God. The end of the journey for the divine soul is the absolute manifestation of God.
Mysticism tells us that God-Realisation can be attained not by the practice of ideas, but by the constant feeling of oneness with Truth. An idea, at best, indicates the passive aspect of the sense-world because a mental formation is directly or indirectly caught by the sense-world. But the feeling of oneness with Truth easily transcends the sense-world and indicates and ascertains the active and dynamic aspect of life’s evolving process in the flowing stream of Eternity.
A mystic tells the world that God’s Body is Wisdom and God’s Soul is Love. A worldly man feels that his body and his physical activities fashion his soul. A mystic smilingly says that it is the soul that moulds the body and transforms it into the unlimited consciousness-light of the soul.
According to Santayana, “Mysticism is not a religion, but a religious disease.” Santayana is perfectly right when he says that mysticism is not a religion. In my opinion, mysticism is the highest aspiration that religion embodies. But as for “religious disease”, I can never agree with Santayana in his profound realisation.
I want to say with all the spiritual confidence at my command that mysticism serves as a panacea; not only for those who cry to see their Beloved God’s Face, but also for those who are afraid of seeing God’s Face in His Omniscience and His Omnipotence; and even for those who are at once mercilessly and unpardonably unbelievers and disbelievers in the very existence of God.
EL 12. American University, Washington, DC, 21 April 1969.↩