Everyday mystics

I am a classic everyday mystic.

Most people who know me don’t even know I am into this, but it’s a – or the – central part of my life.

I just live it and explore it quietly in daily life, and write a bit about it here or in paper journals as I have since the shift in my teens.

I am not a very good writer or communicator. I have not been called to take on a more public role. And the essence of what I write about hasn’t changed since my teens. (The changes are more in the details.)


This is just like most people who are into something, whether it’s playing the piano, chess, history, or anything else.

Most people do it for their own enjoyment and are not very public about it. They may share a bit for a small group – of friends, family, or folks on the internet, and it may be appreciated because it’s simple, sincere, and does come with a unique flavor (as anything anyone does).


Of course, any mystic is mostly an everyday mystic, even if some sometimes take on the role of a book writer or public speaker or spiritual teacher. These roles are fleeting, like any role.

It’s lived in daily life. It is, in a sense, ordinary to us.


And we are all everyday mystics, whether we know it or not.

To ourselves, we are all oneness and the world to us happens within and as this oneness.

We are all oneness living daily lives through and as our human self in the world.

We are living from and as oneness, whether we notice or not.

In that sense, we are all mystics.

We are oneness exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself through and as our life and all our experiences.


In a more narrow and conventional sense, a mystic is someone sincerely engaged in exploring their nature and how to live from and as it in the world.

It’s a oneness engaged in noticing and exploring itself, and how to live from and as it through and as this human self in the world.

There has to be an aspect of direct noticing and living from and as it.

There has to be a sincere interest in the essence of what this is all about: our nature. Not just a fascination with states and experiences that come and go. (Although that can be the beginning of it.)

And, of course, most don’t go around calling themselves mystics. I am doing it here just for the purpose of this article.

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Carl McColman: The point behind mysticism

The point behind mysticism is not to dazzle the mind with ecstatic wonders or heady feelings, but to foster real and lasting changes, for the purpose of becoming more like Christ, which is to say, more compassionate, more forgiving, more committed to serving others and making the world a better place.

Carl McColman, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism

Tradition or truth?

After the initial awakening when I was sixteen, I sought out books of people who may have had something similar happen – mainly Christian mystics, Buddhism, and Taoism. (This was before the internet and I didn’t have any spiritual teachers nearby.)

In Taoism, I found the most resonance. I could see that these people got it.

Within Christianity and Buddhism, I could see that whether or not these people got it, they often seemed to value tradition over truth. They would clothe what they said in traditional wording and even in traditional ideology, and that obscured the simplicity and clarity of awakening.

So the question is: do we value tradition or truth the most? Are we willing to sacrifice the simplicity and clarity so we can be more aligned with tradition? Or the other way around?

Of course, there doesn’t have to be one or the other. The ones with the most clarity and flexibility in how they express it can often do both.

From this, something else quickly became clear to me: traditions are about maintaining themselves. That’s their primary and obvious purpose. If there is genuine spiritual insights, guidance, and expression there, then that’s a bonus.

A caveat

I hesitate writing about this because it can easily be understood in a way it’s not meant. The truth this is about is not one found in words, and if we take it as something that can be found in words, it becomes an ideology. And if it becomes an ideology, it just becomes another tradition, even if it’s our own personal one. And if it becomes a tradition, then the main purpose of it easily becomes to maintain itself.

So as usual, this is something to be held very lightly. There is often a great deal of value in traditions. I am immensely grateful for them and the people maintaining them, and have benefited greatly from them.

It’s just that when we notice what we are, it’s free of traditions. All of them may point to it, but it cannot be contained by any of them.

What’s the difference between mysticism and insanity?

Mystics typically report experiences and insights that are well outside of consensus reality and what’s considered normal. So why are they not considered insane? What’s the difference between mysticism and insanity?

There may be several reasons.

Although mysticism is fringe, it’s often culturally accepted. There is a tradition for it in most cultures.

Mystics talk about God and Spirit, and our culture gives us a larger leeway when we talk about that topic.

Mystics often report similar experiences and insights to each other. In the essence, there is a universality.

Mystics are usually well-functioning people. They typically manage their life and relate to other people in a way that’s not a problem for others or society.

To the extent mystics are empathic, kind, and perhaps have some wisdom, they are given some leeway if what they talk about sometimes sounds odd.

And perhaps most importantly, it depends on how we relate to our experiences and insights and what stories we tell about it.

To the extent mystics are intellectually honest, they appear more sane and ordinary even if what they report is out of the ordinary.

In my case, I emphasize the pragmatics of it – practices and what they can do for us at a very human level.

On the rare occasions I talk about my own out-of-the-ordinary experiences, I have evaluated my audience and wouldn’t talk about it unless I know they understand or have a genuine personal interest. I also often preface by saying I know it sounds weird, I am clear that I hold my stories and interpretations about it very lightly, and I find ways to talk about it that are as down-to-earth as possible.

Mystics are loony?

When you see “mystic” there, you know, it means basically loony.

– Michael Palin in No Such Thing as a Fish 20 hour podcast.

I love Michael Palin, and I am sure he would have a more nuanced view on this in a different setting and conversation, although I thought it was an interesting comment.

He referred to a specific person who may have been a bit loony. (He wanted to crash a plane half-way up Mount Everest and walk the rest of the way.) And in that particular podcast setting, it’s easy to make fun of groups nobody there belongs to. It creates a sense of cohesion.

So is there some truth to it? Are mystics loony?

The looniness of mystics

Yes, mystics can definitely be seen as loony from a mainstream view. Mystics are wrapped up in an obsession with the divine, and most people don’t even know if there is such a thing as the divine, and if they do, they don’t think it’s possible to have any kind of direct connection with it. So yes, it can seem weird and perhaps a bit crazy.

The path of the mystic does often come with experiences outside of the mainstream – of the divine in all, of perceptions of oneness, visions, synchronicities, seeing things others don’t, perceptions at a distance, strong energies running through the system that can’t be measured by modern medicine, and so on. This can be seen as loony.

Some mystics also get caught up in certain interpretations and fantasies that are not grounded in intellectual honesty, and this – rightfully so – can seem loony.

There are many types of mystics. All have experiences outside of the mainstream that can seem weird and even crazy to others, even if they are real experiences and reported faithfully. Some may be a bit crazy in their interpretations if these are not grounded in intellectual honesty. And a few may actually be a bit crazy in a DSM sense. (Although not the ones I know about, or the ones most known from history.)

The sanity of mystics

Then there is the sanity of mystics.

If we notice what we are (Big Mind), get familiar with it, explore how to live from it, and are honest in our interpretation of it, we tend to be quite sane. In a sense, we are saner than most since we are more aware of our true nature.

Most perceive and live as if their fundamental identity is this human self, while in reality this human self and the wider world happens within and as what we are. So if we wanted to reverse the “loony” statement, we could say that it’s loonier to believe and live as if you fundamentally are something you are not.

Many mystics also work on their relationship with themselves, others, and the world. They befriend their world and live more from kindness and a sense of unity of it all. That’s not loony at all. It’s sane.

Loony and not

So are mystics loony?

The answer is yes, no, and it depends.

Yes, they can seem that way from a mainstream view.

Some may actually be a bit loony if they latch on to interpretations not grounded in intellectual honesty, or if they have some actual mental disorder. This goes for anyone independent of what label we put on them.

And no, to the extent the mystic notices what they are and live from it to the best of their ability, live from kindness and a sense of oneness, and have some intellectual honesty.

A note about the label mystic

Mystic and mysticism can refer to many different things, from the most outlandish beliefs to glimpses “beyond the veil”, nature mysticism, and non-duality. In mainstream western society, mysticism is probably mostly associated with the two or three first ones. Non-duality may not necessarily be perceived as mysticism, partly because Buddhists and others have done a relatively good job taking a pragmatic approach and bringing it down to earth.

William McNamara: every person is a special kind of mystic

The mystic is not a special kind of person; every person is a special kind of mystic.

Father William McNamara

I love this quote. It turns the “mystics are special” idea on its head, and there is a lot of truth to it.

Mystics are not a special kind of people. They are human beings like you and me, with all the universal human experiences and all the universal human psychological parts. The only difference is that they have had some opening to the divine, as many have, or they have an intuition about it and are drawn to it, as many are.

Every person is a special kind of mystic. Our relationship with the divine is colored by our personality, experiences, and culture. Our perception of the divine is colored by the same. As is how we live and express it. The universal is expressed in unique ways.

From a bigger perspective, we can say that mystics are the divine locally and in human form rediscovering itself and expressing and living it through and as that human form.

From this bigger perspective, what’s astonishing isn’t that humans discover the divine, although from a human perspective it can look that way. What’s astonishing is that the divine temporarily and locally has taken the form of a human being in the world, and then takes itself as just that and separated from the rest of existence.

The infinite wishes to experience itself as finite. The one as parts. Oneness as separation. Love as a lack of love or hatred. And so on.

Jane Goodall: Lost in awe at the beauty around me

Lost in awe at the beauty around me, I must have slipped into a state of heightened awareness. It is hard – impossible really – to put into words the moment of truth that suddenly came upon me then. […]

It seemed to me, as I struggled afterward to recall the experience, the self was utterly absent: I and the chimpanzees, the earth and trees and air, seemed to merge, to become one with the spirit power of life itself. [….]

And I knew that the revelation would be with me for the rest of my life, imperfectly remembered yet always within. A source of strength on which I could draw when life seemed harsh or cruel or desperate.

– Jane Goodall in Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey

Jane Goodall describes a mystical experience. I imagine many have had similar experiences at some point in their lives, whether spontaneous or induced by psychoactive plants or something else.

It’s a taste of oneness, and a sense of self can still be present or apparently gone as she describes.

Often, it seems more vivid and real than our apparently more mundane everyday experience. It seems more real because, in a sense, it is. This is what we are and the trance of being caught in our stories and thoughts temporarily obscures it.

It’s also very common that these experiences stay with us and feed us for the rest of our life. It may also inform how we are in the world, and I assume it has fueled her passion for preserving and protecting the natural world.

Where does the sense of oneness and absence of self come from?

We can say it’s just a noticing of what we already are.

To ourselves, we are consciousness and all our experiences – of ourselves and the wider world – happen within and as this consciousness. Any sense of being something particular within the content of experience – a separate self – is created through a combination of thoughts and sensations.

Thoughts tell us that’s what we are and the mind associates these thoughts with particular sensations in the body, often from a slight and mostly chronic muscle contraction, and these sensations lend a sense of solidity and truth to these thoughts.

When we have these type of mystical experiences, the trance is temporarily lifted and we notice what we are and that all our experiences happen within and as what we are. There is a taste or experience of oneness.

Sometimes, the trance returns and what remains is a memory. It’s an experience that came and went and becomes something to remember.

Other times, this lifting of the trance is more stable. It lasts and clarifies over time, often through an apparently messy process. It’s revealed as what we are and what all our experiences happen within and as.

Dialog with one who has lived eons and has a mystic streak

In my case, I find a more down-to-earth and pragmatic language helpful. There are already a lot of amazing mystic poets out there. And people are hungry for not only that but also the more pragmatic.

– quote from this dialog

This is part of a series of imagined dialogs with people who have lived eons. This time, it’s a dialog with someone with a strong mystic streak.

After writing this, I felt that the many eons perspective didn’t show up very much. I suspect it’s because mystics tend to perceive and live as if they have lived for eons anyway.


How do you see spirituality?

That’s a very broad question. I’ll have to split it up.

What I consider authentic spirituality is about life and reality. It’s about exploring and finding who and what we are, and live more consciously from and as it. It’s by necessity nondual since reality is one. It’s about finding ourselves as that which all already is.

In a more concrete sense, it’s about finding ourselves as that which all our experience happens within and as.

People have a lot of different ideas about spirituality. Some are closer to reality, in a conventional sense, and some are more imaginative. They can serve as pointer for our own exploration, and they can also serve as mirages we get fixated on.

It goes almost without saying that conventional religions and spiritual traditions often deal with a mix of mirages interspersed with some glimmers of real realization. Those who get it a bit more, who get it from own experience, are found both outside and inside of traditions.

If they are inside of traditions, they often tone it down so it fits the tradition more. A real awakening goes outside of convention and tradition, but it can be expressed so it fits it more. Or it can be expressed more freely and then it only partially overlaps with tradition.

In the bigger picture, it’s all lila, the play of the divine.

We can say is all the divine exploring itself, and sometimes locally and temporarily takes itself as a separate being. This is what we see in most Earth beings, including most humans. It’s part of the game.

You sound a lot like P.? (This interviewer)

Well, yes. You are dialoging with a part of him. And this is pretty basic and universal stuff. Of course, it takes on the flavor of the person who speaks the words. It’s a little limited, but that too is part of the game.

Also, he is quiet and a bit somber right now so he doesn’t feel like going to the effort of going outside familiar ways of taking about this.

What’s something many people don’t get about spirituality?

That’s also a broad question. Some don’t get that is OK to not be awake. It’s perfectly fine. It’s natural. It’s the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself that way, locally and temporarily.

Others don’t get that they can have a taste or glimpse of what this is about in relatively easy ways, for instance through the big mind process and headless experiments.

Some don’t get that what this is about is something very ordinary. It’s this ordinary experience, just with the “context” waking up to itself. What our ordinary experience happens within and as notices itself. All of the components are completely ordinary and familiar to us, is just the noticing that shifts, along with what we take ourselves to – more fundamentally — be.

Can you say something about healing vs awakening?

For most people who seek awakening, there is an element of wanting to escape pain and suffering. And that’s easier addressed by seeking healing. A wise approach is to use tools that invite in healing and awakening. Like inquiry and heart-centered practices.

And embodiment vs awakening?

Give at least as much attention to embodiment as awakening. Most people can embody a lot more of the kindness and wisdom in them than they do.

Continued a while later….

What about nature spirituality or nature mysticism?

Yes, I love nature spirituality and mysticism. Spirit is as much nature – and everything physical – as anything else. The divine takes the form of you and I and everyone and nature and the rocks and stars. Nothing is left out.

How would you live if all is the divine?

It changes everything. And the beauty of it is that although nature mysticism can be seen as a step towards a more clear awakening, it can also very easily exist within this more clear awakening and enrich our lives and the lives of others.

You use a very down-to-earth language? I thought mystics used a more effervescent and poetic language?

Yes, that’s the image! But it doesn’t have to be that way. It depends on the personality of the person it comes through, the phase we are in, and also what the function of the words are and the audience.

In my case, I find a more down-to-earth and pragmatic language helpful. There are already a lot of amazing mystic poets out there. And people are hungry for not only that but also the more pragmatic.

What do you think about other mystics?

Well, it’s a very varied group. I love how some of them express it. Especially the ones who are more clear, heartfelt, embodied, and pragmatic. (I know that’s a tall order.)

I also appreciate the rest even if there are more obvious – to me! – filters. They too are in the awakening and embodiment process. They filter based on their own conditioning as we all do. They see themselves and not so much the world as it is – as we all do. They connect with some people and not others – as we all do.

How has all of this changed for you over the eons?

It took some eons to get here. It’s an ongoing clarification and deepening. Mainly, I have a more sober approach now. In the beginning, everything was very exciting. And now, it’s still alive and fresh but in a more sober way. It’s more and more a part of me. It’s more and more what I live and live from. More and more, I see it’s about being a sane human being. It’s simple and at the same time infinitely complex.

Thanks you

Thank you!

Note: I had initially decided to not post this since there isn’t much new here and the “many eons” dimension didn’t show up very much. I suspect the problem is partly with the interviewer! And maybe more importantly, mystics live as if they have lived for eons anyway. I re-found this article some months later and decided to publish it now even if it’s not as interesting or surprising as I had hoped.

Adyashanti: Spirituality is simply a way of indicating that we’re plunging beyond the personal

Spirituality is simply a way of indicating that we’re plunging beyond the personal consciousness. The depth of our being is just astonishing.

– Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol. 70

There are many definitions of spirituality, and the most basic one is perhaps Adya’s definition above. Spirituality suggests that we are going, or intend to go, beyond the personal human being and into something wider. Whether that is our human community, our Earth community (nature and Earth as a whole), the Universe as a whole, or Existence as a whole. And whether it is to connect with this larger whole, take it into account, live as if it matters, expand our sense of “us” to include all there is, or – ultimately – find ourselves as that, and this human being as an expression of it.

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. 

The essence of mystical experiences

My mystical experience has faded a lot now. I still spend time in nature, but that incredible oneness and closeness of feeling with the birds, trees, rivers is much less.

– J.

You may already have discovered this. One thing that has helped me with fading mystical experiences is to see what’s still there. Often, the strength of the experience may fade or the “bells and whistles” (the bliss, amazement etc.) may go away, but something is still there. And what’s still there is often the most central.

What I have found helpful is asking myself “what’s the essence of the mystical experience”, and then see if I can find that here and now. For instance, it may be a sense of oneness, or that all is Spirit or the divine. Initially, it can be a bit disappointing to see that it’s here but not as strong as before. But as you attend to it, you may find a real appreciation for what’s still here. It may turn out to be what’s most important and transformative in the long run.

– from my reply

I thought I would share this here. It’s common for mystical experiences to fade and for the side-effects – the bliss, awe, amazement – to go away. That’s the nature of mystical experiences. And there is an invitation here, and that’s to see what’s still here.

It’s easy to get into “chase the mystical experience” mode. I did for a while. Whether it works or not, it becomes pretty clear over time that it’s a bit like a dog chasing it’s tail. It can be fun, it may work, but it’s also exhausting and – if we are honest with ourselves – futile. It doesn’t really get us what we want because experiences, including the most amazing ones, fade and go away.

So what is it that didn’t go away? What’s still here? Maybe that’s what it is more about?


mys·ti·cism / mistsizm/ noun

1. belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender.

2.  belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought, especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or mysterious agencies.

Mysticism is a word I rarely use, partly because it’s often misunderstood and partly because it doesn’t seem necessary.

In a way, everything is quite mystical. It’s all quite weird. It’s a mystery that anything is at all.

Looking at definition no. 1 above, the first that comes is that it’s not about beliefs. It’s about seeing what’s here, in immediacy. And a thought may call that union with the divine, although it’s much simpler and more ordinary than that.

Definition no. 1 is the more scholarly definition of mysticsm. It’s how it may seen when seen from the “outside”, by other people. Definition no. 2 is how the word is often used in our culture, and that’s partly why I don’t find it so useful.

I see how the word may be used in three different ways.

(a) In the sense of fantasy, wishful (or fearful) thinking, as definition 2 above.

(2) In the sense of exploring the non-physical world that’s still within content of experience. The astral, soul, openings and glimpses, peak experiences, and more.

(c) In the sense of recognizing and realizing what’s already here. Spirit as all there is. (Whether there is still some identification so it appears as slightly “other”, or the sense of “I” is gone.)

When I use “Mysticism” in this blog, it’s usually when referring to other people who have used the word, and it’s typically in the third meaning.

Mystical experiences vs recognizing reality

Mystical states can help us recognize the truth.

And the trick is to continue recognizing the truth as the states change.

Mystical states and experiences are certainly not necessary for recognizing reality, but they can offer us a window into reality. They can be stepping stones for recognizing what is.

A oneness experience shows us all as God, although there is still a sense of it happening to an I. The I is recognized as God too, as an appearance of God, but there is still some identification with it.

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Mysticism and mystery

Mysticism is an interesting word.

Colloquially, it often means obscure or irrational.

In a more technical or traditional sense, it is about clarifying and demystifying, and also revealing the utter mystery of existence.

It is a process of demystifying. Depending on our path, we may get more familiar with the dynamics of the mind, what happens when there is identification with stories and viewpoints, and when this identification is released, what we really are, and so on.

And it is process of recognizing, in our bones, the utter mystery of everything. We may be deeply familiar with something, have sophisticated and useful maps, or clearly recognize that what we are is not the story of “I”. And yet, the essence and root of all of this is a complete mystery.

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Blog: The Website of Unknowing

One key, I think — coming again from the monastic tradition — is the idea of joyful repentance, which suggests that even the purgative way can be a source of delight in God. Granted, surrendering sin and opening ourselves up to transformational healing can be hard, ego-threatening work, but I see no reason why it must be miserable work. It’s like the question of purgatory: I think Protestants rejected purgatory because it was seen so much as a hellish place. But many Catholics regard purgatory as a place of great wonder and excitement, a room in heaven rather than in hell. Once you enter purgatory, the exit door leads to the great banquet hall. You are there simply to get a manicure and take a lovely bubble bath before your intimate date with your beloved. I for one cannot think of anything more delightful than taking the extra effort to clean myself up before a special evening with my wife. S0 — even for Protestants who reject the idea of purgatory — I think we can all agree that the hard work of holiness and penitence in this life ought to be an occasion for joy, if entered into in the right spirit — a spirit of trust and hope and confidence in God’s love for us, and humble recognition that everything we do to improve ourselves is ultimately a gift of grace to begin with.
– from Mapping the Journey, a post on Anamchara: The Website of Unknowing

I rarely read blogs these days, but happened to find Anamchara: The Website of Unknowing. It is the blog of Carl McColman, and every post is a gem – insightful, informed, well-written, and practical.

His new book is called The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, and will be out in August. If it is half as good as his blog, it will be well worth reading.

Mysticism Scale

I came across this mysticism scale which I believe is from some decades back. There are probably more updated ones out there.

Questionnaires are notoriously difficult to construct. They need to be clear, appropriate to the topic/culture, refined through studies and research, and even then, it is usually possible to interpret the questions in many different ways.

1. I have had an experience which was both timeless and spaceless.

Even such an apparently simple statement runs into problems quickly. Timeless and spaceless, yes, although a timelessness that allows for (the appearance of) time and a spacelessness that allows for (the appearance of) space. And is it really an experience? Isn’t it really what experiences happens within and as? And what about the “I”? Is there an “I” there that it happens “to”? Isn’t that “I” also content of experience? That which happens within the timeless/spaceless?

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Zlatko Sudac


I am impressed with the sincerity and maturity of the young Croatian mystic Zlatko Sudac.

Here is an interview with him from a few years back, and an English language website with information about retreats and more.

His message is very much aligned with that of other mystics:

God is something which surpasses any and all thoughts about Him. He surpasses our feelings, and even the state of our souls. It is impossible to speak about Him. The only way to communicate with God is to love God. We have to sink into God so that I no longer exist but God does. When I do this I don’t lose myself, but find myself in God. This can be understood only by those people who love God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their strength. If anyone sins, the only cause for all sins is the lack of love towards God and the lack of love for mankind and ourselves, that is the cause of all evils. If this wounded humanity would discover the formula of love, unconditional love, this life would be heaven on earth.

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Bøygen [2] represents an apparently unmovable obstacle that it is often tempting to avoid and walk around, which is sometimes a good idea. But other times, it may be good to stand our ground. To hold and allow it, stay with it with some receptivity and curiosity, take our stories as questions, take it as an invitation for exploration. 

For me, one bøyg is Bernadette Roberts. From the descriptions in her books, it seems that her awakening is the garden variety one, the one mystics from all the great traditions attempt to describe and point to, Ground awakening to itself. At the same time, she insists that it is not. It is different somehow, although  – to my limited knowledge – she is not all that specific or clear about how. (She may well be somewhere.) 

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Atheist mystics

I was a die-hard atheist before the initial awakening, and became one on my own in elementary school. God doesn’t care.

After – or within – an awakening, we tend to operate from the same general worldview as we had before the awakening, only modified some to fit our new reality. We used to be Christian, and still are afterwords. Or Muslim. Jew. Buddhist. Taoist. And so on.

And the same goes for atheism. The worldview I am most comfortable with is in many ways the worldview of an atheist, only modified to fit my new reality. I still have a more-than-average interest in science, and now also in stories about science that bridge science and spirituality such as integral views and the Universe Story. And it also means I am free to explore pointers and teachings from any tradition, and value and find appreciation for them.

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Demystifying and mystifying


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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The Jesus story

From New York Times today:

JERUSALEM — A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

Of course, the Jesus story has parallels with not only Jewish myths, but also myths from other earlier traditions of that time and region.

Some examples are given in The Jesus Mysteries by Tim Freke and Peter Gandi where they outline the following parallels of the Osiris-Dionysus and Jesus stories:

  • Osiris-Dionysus is God made flesh, the savior and “Son of God.”
  • His father is God and his mother is a mortal virgin.
  • He is born in a cave or humble cowshed on December 25 before three shepherds.
  • He offers his followers the chance to be born again through the rites of baptism.
  • He miraculously turns water into wine at a marriage ceremony.
  • He rides triumphantly into town on a donkey while people wave palm leaves to honor him.
  • He dies at Eastertime as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
  • After his death he descends to hell, then on the third day he rises from the dead and ascends to heaven in glory.
  • His followers await his return as the judge during the Last Days.
  • His death and resurrection are celebrated by a ritual meal of bread and wine, which symbolize his body and blood.

Why is it so? The obvious answer is that the Jesus myth picked up elements of existing myths to make it more familiar to the people of the time.

But another answer, as Freke and Gandi points out, is that these stories are about an inner truth more than an outer – historic – truth. They reflect an inner process of growing and waking up.

And that is why similar story elements not only appear in traditions of that place and time, but around the world in many different cultures, and also in dreams and visions of people today.

None of this really touch whether Jesus was a historic figure or not. He may well have been, and the specific events of his life may or may not have followed the lines of the Jesus story as we know it today.

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Eckhart Tolle at Oprah Book Club


More than 700,000 have signed up for the Tolle/Oprah 10 week course, and it is also the most popular podcast on iTunes. Very impressive in terms of numbers alone, and even more impressive considering that Tolle is a genuine a mystic as any. His namesake had only a handful of listeners, at most.

I watched the first episode, and thought it was well worth it. I found it especially interesting to see how Tolle and Oprah helped bridge the gap between fundamentalism and a more open approach, and also between traditional religion and spirituality.

Sign up at the Oprah Book Club website and watch it there, or download the free podcasts.

Eckhart Tolle online class for Oprah’s book club



I see that Eckhart Tolle is doing an online class for Oprah’s book club. A genuine mystic who goes mainstream and reaches thousands and thousands of people. It is actually quite astounding. It is free, and anyone can sign up.

Human self as the finger pointing to the moon II


Buddhism and Christianity both use a “pointing beyond itself” analogy.

In Buddhism, it is the finger pointing to the moon. The teacher, teachings and practices point beyond themselves to what we really are, this awakeness with a content which is awakeness itself. Don’t mistake the finger for the moon.

In Christianity, it is the realization that it is all from God. Nothing happens here which is not from God.

This also shows where the traditional teachings sometimes don’t go quite as far as they can.

In Buddhism, it is not only the teacher/teachings that are the finger pointing to the moon. It is also this human self. When it points to itself as the final truth, it is deluded. When it notices that it is already and always pointing to awakeness as reality, it is awakened.

In Christianity, it is not only that I as a human being give all credit to God. It is also that God is all there is. It may appear that there is a human being here, with a separate I, but there is nothing but God. There is no separate I here, only God.

In both cases, this human self becomes a finger pointing beyond itself.

And this shift has to be thorough for it to be real. For this human self to really notice what is already and always is.

(Leonardo’s beautiful painting of St. John the Baptist shows him pointing up. He has to point somewhere, so it may as well be up. But it is really in all and no directions.)

History of Mysticism available as ebook

I just received this comment on one of my previous posts:

I thought you did an excellent job of encapsulating the book. However, as you may have noticed, it is no longer available on amazon.com, as it is Out of Print. The good news is that I am offering History of Mysticism (with some additional text in the Chapter on Gnosticism) as a FREE Ebook in PDF format on my website at:  www.themysticsvision.com. Check it out. And, if possible, please publicise its availability.
Best wishes,
Swami Abhayananda (Stan Trout)

As before, I can highly recommend this book. It is among the clearest and most inspiring books on the history of mysticism I have read, and I am looking forward to reading the new sections on Gnosticism.

And what an honor to receive a comment from the author!

If you would like a copy of the free ebook, send an email with “History of Mysticism” in the subject line to abhayanand [at] aol [dot] com

Transition experiences

In shifting from taking ourselves as an object in the world to awake void & field of form (Big Mind), there can be many transition experiences, either as glimpses or more stable phases.

One way to organize these is by the three aspects of Big Mind: void, awake, and form. It works to some extent, but there are also lots of overlaps here (by necessity, since those three are really the same thing/no-thing). Also, what I list here are mostly things I am familiar with from my own process, so a lot is left out.

  • Void… a sense of form as transparent, translucent, insubstantial, dream-like, absent of I and Other, absent of identification.
  • Awake… a sense of the wider world (beyond the human self) as somehow awake, conscious, animated. (Leading to experiences akin to nature and deity mysticism.)
  • Form… a sense of form as a seamless whole (from shifting the center of gravity into the witness, pure seeing), as transparent and insubstantial (from sensing it as void), and as awake or consciousness itself (from seeing it in its awakeness aspect).

And then a fourth area which comes up to different extents: the soul. It enriches the process tremendously, can appear as a stumbling block if taken as anything final or attached to for any other reason, and can also be a guide into an awakening of the void to itself.

  • Soul… a sense of clear luminosity, of alive presence, of smooth, full, round, luminous blackness, and of this body and all form as void combined with any or all of these. (For instance, a sense of alive presence in and as this body, or the smooth luminous blackness as what all form arises from, within and as.)

More specifically, transition experiences can include a sense of no separation, of oneness (a vague I here, one with the wider world), of synchronicities (the content of form out there mirroring what is going on in here), of one’s inanimate surroundings as consciousness (and not really separate from this consciousness), and much more.

Eventually, it leads into a sense of a separate self falling away, and what is left is just the field of awake void and form, the form including this human self and its surroundings (whatever arises in the field of consciousness), and all inherently absent of an I with an Other. It is all just a field… void, awake and as form.

History of Mysticism by Swami Abhayananda

Strictly scholarly works on mysticism are of course necessary and useful, but it is still a relief to come upon a history of mysticism written by someone where Spirit has awakened to itself. It gives it a freshness, immediacy and clarity that is often lost in the more dry and exclusively scholarly works.

History of Mysticism: The Unchanging Testament by Swami Abhayananda (Stan Trout), is one of these books.

In going through the history of mysticism, from prehistoric to more recent times, he touches upon some of the highlights from many traditions, showing how they all describe the same realization of Spirit as emptiness and form.

(Brahman and Maya, Purusha and Prakrti, Shiva and Shakti, Sat and Asat, Vishnu and Lakshmi, Theos and Logos, Tathata and Samsara, Tao and Teh, the unspeakable Tao and the speakable Tao, El and Elat, Baal and Asherah, Yahweh and Chokmah, Haqq and Khalq, yang and yin, masculine and feminine, and so on.)

This lens gives the book a clear focus and message: there is one theme with minor variations from culture, tradition and personal flavor. It takes some of the many flavors of ice cream and shows that it is all ice cream. (If there is a minor drawback with the book, it is that it becomes somewhat predictable after a while, and that some of the interesting variations are downplayed.)

Still, highly recommended for its clarity, for its excellent overview of the history of mysticism, for its clear theme, and for its ability to inspire.

Note: The book is available for free and in digital form at The Mystic Vision.