Is mysticism mysterious?

 

Is mysticism mysterious?

It’s certainly presented that way in popular culture. And perhaps for a couple of reasons. There isn’t a widespread understanding of what it’s about, so it naturally may seem a bit mysterious. And what it’s about isn’t so easy to put into words. 

And yet, it’s not inherently mysterious. Not any more than most things. At least when we have had a taste of it. 

As I like to say, it’s about noticing what we are, which is what our experience happens within and as. We can call this the awakeness (or consciousness) all content of experience happens within and as. And from here, it does seem as if the whole world is this awakeness. It seems that this awakeness is what takes all these forms, and locally may temporarily take itself to be a separate being – even if the ultimate identity of everything is this awakeness.

Most can have an immediate and direct taste of this through, for instance, forms of inquiry such as the Big Mind process or the Headless experiments. (Some also do by using psychoactive substances but I wouldn’t recommend that.) And after this taste, most of us will need to clarify and stabilize and learn to live from it over a long period, usually for the rest of our lives. 

As with most things, we can explore this endlessly. For those who us who have, for whatever reason, a fascination with this, it’s an endless exploration. 


Demystifying our experience

 

Inquiry is, at least partly, about demystifying our experience.

We may have a recurrent stressful thought or feeling, and don’t know what it’s really about, where it comes from, or what we can do about it.

Inquiry can help us see how it’s created by our mind at a more basic level.

I have had a vague sense of dread come up. When I look at it, I see that it’s made up by a set of mental images out in front of me with fuzzy dark shapes and textures. These are connected to words such as “it’s a disaster” and “something is terribly wrong”. And these images and words are associated with certain sensations in my body.

As I look at each of these, I see how the experience is created. By asking simple questions of each image and set of words, and the sensations, I get to see that none is a threat. I also see that the images are images, the words are words, and the sensations are sensations. I can also more easily feel the sensations as sensations, and rest with them. All of this releases the reality and solidity that seemed to be there.

My experience of the vague threat and dread is, in a sense, demystified, although I know there may be more there. I am OK with more coming up, since I know I can look more intentionally at that too.

Some aspects of the experience are demystified. And that doesn’t mean there isn’t mystery here too. It’s all a mystery, even if I see – to some extent – how my mind creates a certain experience. It’s amazing that something is here at all. It’s amazing that these experiences are here visiting. It’s amazing there is awareness to experience what’s here.

Demystifying and mystifying

 

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In most areas of life, demystifying that which can be demystified is a practical and sensible approach. (Or so we think in our culture, so why not play along?)

Most spiritual teachers today do a good job demystifying mysticism. They use a clear and direct language. They use a practical approach. They often describe direct experience instead of relying exclusively on traditional – and sometimes confusing – terminology.

And by doing this, what is truly mystifying is left even more obviously mystifying.

Something is. What can be more amazing?

And I don’t know. A story may appear functional in a practical sense, but it is still a story. A story may appear to point to what I am, but it doesn’t really. Even when what I am is awake to itself, that is all that is known. And even that is mystifying.

So it can be helpful to demystify that which can be demystified, such as maps and pointers, leaving what is truly mystifying still mystifying.

And it may be less helpful to do the reverse. To mystify that which can be clear. And to demystify – by taking stories about it as true – that which is genuinely mystifying, which is everything.

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