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What is mysticism?

by Pat Revels

The unique characteristics of mysticism demand its consideration as both an art and a science. Mysticism is the direct knowledge of God that occurs through the extemporaneous experience of union. This involves something deep within us, which is beyond the senses, intellect and imagination, and much more sublime. We call this something "love," although in truth, it cannot be named. Furthermore, although we have union with God through love, God must out of necessity remain a mystery. The higher degrees of union have nothing to do with our own efforts or actions, but rather depend upon the grace of God

The communion

In the initial stages of mysticism, there is much striving on the part of the mystic. Yet when a certain amount of progress has been made, all such activity must cease. At this point, any further progress we can make is due solely to God's intervention, rather than our own effort. The Holy Spirit of God works wonders within us when we simply love without action, which is pure contemplation. This pure contemplation is known as the Communion of Depth and Refinement, so called because through it God increases our capacity to receive love as well as our ability to give love

The senses and the intellect are surpassed, and something more secret, more subtle is employed. It may seem trite to call this most sublime something "love," and indeed it is beyond love as we know it and to label it as such only gives us another term that cannot be defined, but only experienced instantaneously and directly. Nonetheless, there are several reasons why this love is able to breach the barrier between us and the Living God, which sensation and intellect are not allowed to pass:

First, love only perfects our way of being. The increase of love is inward and hence does not involve any physical change, unlike the external or outward objects that sense and intellect concern. God being beyond all change, so must we be in order to approach

Secondly, like God, love is beyond time, matter, creatures, words and all description.

Finally, not through the senses can we perceive essential nature, not through the intellect can we grasp essential nature, but only outward expressions of inward essence; love is in and of itself inward essence, through and through. Outward phenomena and inward essence are but two modes of Divine expression; however, inward essences lie closer to the Divine source of all and hence are "purer." Our innermost secret lies near to love; love, in turn points in the direction of God

Hence I say that the abandonments of the senses and the intellect are necessary in order that any love of a true nature be felt, and we are speaking here of true love for God (Sanskrit prema), a love which is most pure. This is the self-sacrifice crucial to love, which unifies previously distinct elements as One. Here God is introduced not to the person, but into the person, and likewise, the person is introduced into the mystery that it is to be deep within God. This is the meaning of all love, if it be true: to irreversibly exchange the depths of one's being with another, which is the essence of unity

The significance of love

Our gratitude for and reciprocation of God's love are of utmost importance. An intimate relationship is created by God's love for us and our love for God, and this is God's intent in creating us. Love cannot be perfect without being felt and reciprocated, and God's love must be perfect

Spiritual gifts

At times, through God's grace, spiritual gifts arise, and they do so in the forms of dream and vision, through which we receive knowledge and revelation with varying degrees of specificity. Another gift is called spiritual intuition, which occurs when our awareness and appreciation of God's presence harmonize with the Presence itself. This intuition witnesses the procession of consciousness and existence, transcendence and immanence, emptiness and manifestation that is the creative play of God known as Akroasis (Divine music)

Ecstasy and rapture

The next gifts we receive, if it so pleases God, are ecstasy (Ananda) and rapture. Both involve love to a very high degree. Ecstasy, being of a lower nature than rapture, is still bound up in our sensuality and emotion. The influx of Divine love (shefa) fills to the point of overflowing all the spaces where we feel lonely and empty with much needed Water; this travels outward and is felt in the body and senses with equal urgency and significance. If ecstasy is being placed face to face with God, rapture is returning to a state of inseparable oneness with God. This is beyond all description, beyond the senses, intellect, emotions and all things associated with the body and mind

When imperfect love strives to perfect itself, and is unable to do so as of yet, it thus contorts itself, and the result is Fire, wormwood, bitter torture. It is common for a person in this stage to fluctuate between two extreme states: being tempered in the Fire and drinking of the Water. The Fire is deep longing for God, and the Water is rapture, the satisfaction of this longing. While the suffering is most terrible, it is important to remember that the more one is purified by the Fire, the more fully one is able to enjoy the taste of the Water, and this is exactly the reason this Fire consumes us. In any case, these two states are similar; they are not opposites. In fact, in many cases they may be seen to intermingle. This idea contains another Truth concerning love, which is the observation that the most powerful love thirsts even when satiated

The secret Godhead (the essence of God) illuminates us first through Love, then Truth, then these two alternated, intermingled and finally transcended; Love transforms itself into something new as the Inscrutable unveils, which lies beneath and beyond the supernal Trinity (which corresponds to the three universal functions of proceeding, abiding and reverting)

Ecstasy and rapture have been known to occur spontaneously in persons who haven't yet advanced mystically. God has a purpose in the giving of all spiritual gifts, and any of them can arise spontaneously in any person, at any time and in any order

The highest purpose

This rapture reaches its culmination in the most complete, unwavering state of union with God, which is Soteria, salvation. This is the germination, growth and flowering of the potential within the seed. Only the ultimate silence of Soteria reconciles the dissonant chaos of the Fire with the fluid harmony of the Water. This reintegration is called Apokatastasis.

Then, if it pleases God, the duality between this transcendent state of union and mundane existence is bridged; the mystic becomes simultaneously aware of both. This is very rare

Prolonged simultaneous awareness makes possible an even rarer and higher state. It is known as the manifestation of Spiritual Fruit. Not much can be said of it, other than emphatically stating just how special this gift is. The mystic becomes a conduit through which Divine love gains expression, which is the most Divine purpose a human can fulfill

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text content by Pat Revels
page uploaded 8 June 2006