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What Does It Mean to Be a Modern Mystic?

By Conscious Owl | Inner Peace

Aug 02
today’s mystic

This is it.

There are no hidden meanings.

All that mystical stuff is just what’s so.

A guru is someone who found out.

Werner Erhard, Aphorisms

You may be someone who keeps asking, “Is there more to life? What does this all mean?” You may have tried various paths and found you liked one of them.

You might have done a class in TM, Vipasana or Zen. You might have taken a class in Tai Chi Chan. You may have done a class in hatha, ashtanga or kundalini yoga. You got into all the exercises and found them incredibly relaxing and helpful. However, you wondered, where are they all leading? What is available to me now?

If so, you are a good candidate for a mystical experience, whether a peak experience that validates your entire life, or the bliss of sudden satori, where everything is as it is and is perfect being just that way.​

What is Mysticism?

Mysticism refers to the Mystery Cults in ancient Greece and Rome where certain citizens were initiated into the hidden order of the Universe in special ceremonies away from the public eye. You can think, for example, of the Masonic Orders, whose participants are forbidden to discuss what it is all about.

Mysticism came to mean a transformed consciousness, a deep awareness of how everything is one, despite how separate everything appears. Appearances are just that... appearances! People experientially realize unity with other people, with the world as a whole, with God, and ultimately attaining the realization that there is just the Self, without any distinctions.​

mystic definition

Mysticism increasingly refers to our ability to go beyond our rational mind and draw upon our intuitive faculties. Sometimes this requires turning off our digital appliances and taking a long walk in the park. Eckhart Tolle has brought into public recognition “The Power of Now.” He has described in great detail how, at the age of 29, his constant stream of thought short-circuited. He was able to BE, to truly experience his surroundings for the first time since childhood.

What Were Traditional Mystics Like?

Early on, hunting and gathering societies designated special people, usually male, as shamans who would both heal the tribal members and reveal the Great Spirit. They got their wisdom, not from authority, ritual or belief systems, but from going out into the wilds and having an encounter with the Transcendent. As heroes, they would then bring back the boon to their kinfolk.

In the agricultural civilizations, this was formalized into a priesthood accessible to very few. Emphasis was placed on special revelation given in a bygone era. Temples were built and sacraments administered, sometimes with psychoactive substances.

Most of the great founders of religion were mystics of the first order. When Moses went up to Mount Sinai to commune with God, his people didn’t dare to look at his face when he returned. Buddha, toward the end of his long career teaching enlightenment, focused on silent transmission, without words. Christ, in the Gospel of John, comes alive as a total mystic, using metaphors throughout the text. I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.​

Words move, music moves

Only in time… Words strain,

Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,

Under the tension, slip, slide, and perish,

Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,

Will not stay still.

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

What Are Modern Mystics Like?

In the modern / postmodern world, people increasingly insist upon a direct experience, not dependent upon an external institution, authority or set of rituals. Where the mystical experience earlier on was available only to a select few people, it has broadened out. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, mysticism was exotic and cool. Going to India was the thing to do. Today, you can find any form of Eastern philosophy and religion you could possibly want within the U.S.

If we look at the supreme sage of the 20th Century, Ramana Maharshi, he enacted a near-death experience as a teenager, and instantly realized that the True Self never dies. He wandered off to a sacred mountain and lived there for the rest of his life. What is amazing is that Ramana had no guru. The most profound realization came to him spontaneously.

mystic wisdom

If we think of Dr. Deepak Chopra, who is the most brilliant exponent of enlightenment in a generation, he was an upwardly mobile Indian surgeon practicing in New England, given to smoking and drinking. Deepak took up TM simply to calm down his nerves. However, when he encountered the Beatles’ guru, Maharishi, his life suddenly took a different direction. He was privileged with close association with a great master, and became a master in his own right.

The Way that can be told is not the everlasting Way;

The Name that can be named is not the everlasting Name.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

How Do People Become Mystics Today?

In our global society, we see people of every nation, race and religion taking up spiritual practices, as ancient wisdom has become increasingly available through the Internet, as well as broad cultural diffusion. For example, over three million Americans are part of the Indian diaspora, and attend temples, occasionally wearing traditional attire.

You no longer have to be religious. You can get the real thing without resorting to drugs. Mystical experiences via peak experience spontaneously happen to people. Both Eastern and Western religious traditions are increasingly interested in experiencing God directly, and they are often informed by each other’s deepest insights.

More and more highly sophisticated people, such as quantum physicists, become mystics as they realize that the traditional Newtonian Paradigm of billiard balls is totally obsolete in the face of high-energy particle research. Not only is all matter energy, but also that energy requires consciousness to be experienced.

The Universe is as much in you as you are in it.

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Do You Have What It Takes?

Do you have an open heart and mind? Or do you have the entire Universe in a compartmentalized box, where you have it all figured out? Do you hunger for the Truth? Are you willing to do anything to address “matters of ultimate concern,” to find the Self?

​Are you comfortable with uncertainty, with the unknown? Do you like the Zen idea of a beginner’s mind, where you are constantly learning, constantly viewing the world with fresh eyes. Have you ever come to terms with Meister Eckhart’s claim that the greatest obstruction to God is “God?” Do you realize that your preconceptions about our Source may block direct experience?

Are you highly persistent about what you truly want, not what you think you want? Do you see beyond the house in the forest by the sea with a brand new Tesla and your own Lear Jet? Do you realize that you want pure awareness, the experience of unconditional love, joy and peace even more?​

mystical enlightenment

How I Became a Mystic

I came from a broken family as a child, and clung to religion as a source of inner empowerment. I became a charismatic and fundamentalist before I went to the university, where I encountered a broad range of people and ideas. As a Christian, I enjoyed marvelous peak experiences with my faith that would come and go.

I studied comparative religion, got into the human potential movement, doing encounter groups and the like, and then the transformational movement, where I did est and had a powerful satori that was undeniable. I experimented with a small amount of psychoactive substances; just enough to become utterly convinced that our popular conception of reality is bankrupt.

Later on, I worked with both the Japanese and the Indians. I noticed a fascinating way of being Japanese, impacted not so much by their belief or practices, as by their sensibility. With South Asians, I acted much like an anthropologist, and got to the core of Vedic Civilization. In the process, I read hundreds of books and ended up co-authoring a book on collective transformation - Awaken Perfection: The Journey of Conscious Revelation.

Today, all my groundwork is bearing fruit, as I am able to draw in a powerful experience of unconditional love that seems to have no end. I am very clear that this doesn’t come out of my ego. I am also now able to talk back and forth with God. I ask questions, and God responds. (The words are not audible, but emerge within my innermost being.)

How to Awaken the God / Goddess Within You

If you have gotten this far, you definitely have what it takes, the requisite hunger and thirst to open up to Who You Truly Are. The resources available to support this happening are greater than at any time in history. Consider the following options:

  • Go onto YouTube, iTunes or Amazon and play videos and audios of present day masters, such as Dr. Deepak Chopra, Father Richard Rohr and Marianne Williamson.
  • Read classic orientations, such as: Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions, Baba Ram Dass’s Remember Be Here Now and Les Hixon’s Great Swan.
  • Start a meditation, contemplation or prayer practice that works for you. For example, I daily review sacred scripture from many traditions, including the Bible.
  • Take an enlightenment intensive, and consider the Landmark Forum, which has a track record of delivering a life-changing satori to nearly every participant.

Zen Buddhists, from Hui-neng onward have maintained that we are ALREADY enlightened. We just don’t cop to it. Realize, “YOU ARE.” That “you” is big enough to fill the Universe… and then some!


About the Author

One conscious owl to another... sharing what we learned over the years, and from many wise owls before us.