It is hard in our fast paced contemporary world to stop and contemplate the nature of reality. We all take for granted what is real, or what appears to be real. To the mystic reality is the product of a state of consciousness. I recently read that there is a war of ideas taking place in the scientific community. On the one side are the materialists who believe the world exists independently of our awareness of it. On the other side are the idealists who believe our awareness creates reality. This war is not necessarily an either-or situation. In most mystical traditions there is a middle path, a living between these apparent worlds in a consciousness of oneness.
Webster defines mysticism as “the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics; it is a theory of mystical knowledge, a doctrine or belief that direct knowledge of God, of spiritual truth, of ultimate reality or comparable matters is attainable through immediate intuition, insight or illumination, and in a way different from ordinary sense perception.” The key words in this definition, as pointed out by the great twentieth century mystic Joel S. Goldsmith, are experience and union. If we accept that ultimate reality is spiritual, then our experience of it gives us insight into the nature of creation itself. Reasoning from that high point, we discover that creation must be one – how can there be an ultimate reality and something else – another reality? We discover that creation must be spiritual, since matter is not one. And, our experience of mystical union makes us one with all spiritual idea, form and activity. This consciousness of oneness is an illumined state.
In his book, A Parenthesis In Eternity, Mr. Goldsmith says, “the unillumined and the illumined are the same person living two different lives. In the absence of illumination, we are individuals with many, many problems and with unhappy, unfulfilled, incomplete and unfinished lives. (Or, we may be happy and content in a materialistic way. But in material consciousness, where our well being is part of the belief in dualism, the belief in good and evil, there is always the fear that our happiness and joy can be taken away.) With our first glimpse of the spiritual life, even though we seem to remain the same person — wear the same size clothes, the same size hats and shoes, and probably even look the same in the mirror — we are not the same. We are living from a different standpoint, a different experience, and under different conditions.” We all possess an illumined consciousness, but usually it is buried under mounds of human conditioning, conditioning that makes it easier for us to accept objective reality at face value, not question beyond what our senses tell us, and live lives dominated by the pull of material cause and effect. There is another way to live.
A basic tenet of mysticism is that creation is spiritual. The great question for the mystical student is how do I reconcile objective reality to spiritual creation? Here is where we examine the debate between the materialists and the idealists. The materialists – who include Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Paine, and Albert Einstein in their camp – believe that the ultimate nature of reality can be discovered by measuring the material world, even into the world of subatomic particles. The idealists, who include Plato, Bishop Berkeley, Kant, Hegel, and a number of quantum physicist like Amit Goswami and Fred Allan Wolf, hold to the view that our observation alters the nature of perceived reality, or to the extreme that nothing exists out side of our awareness and that our awareness makes it tangible.
The middle path bridges these views in the following manner. From a spiritual point of view, creation is complete. All that exists, or will ever exist is here and now as ultimate reality. The unillumined individual does not perceive this. The illumined individual, even if his or her illumination is but a glimpse of spiritual reality, realizes the nature of this reality and stops trying to change the appearance world. This understanding allows the illumined person to shift into a spiritual perspective that nullifies material effect, brings the experience of spiritual oneness into consciousness, and conforms their lives to spiritual principles. Science defines the nature of material reality through observation and measurement. A mystic knows spiritual oneness through experience. When an individual consciously recognizes the spiritual elements of life, those elements – love, peace, abundance and fulfillment – begin manifesting in his or her life. The nature of spiritual reality is activated through that recognition and with that comes the realization of spiritual omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. These principles replace the belief in material cause and effect, of a world made up of forces of good and forces of evil. That a spiritual reality exists, and the fact that many have experienced that reality, baffles the materialists because spiritual reality cannot be measured, it can only be experienced through spiritual consciousness.
Spiritual reality is not experienced through physical sense. There is a spiritual element within each of us and we experience the spiritual dimension through that element, traditionally called our Soul, but also referred to as our higher Self. To commune with our Soul requires a quiet mind. In most mystical traditions a quiet mind is attained through meditation. Fundamentally, what we accept in our mind – our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and ideas form our perception of the world. The result is a life lived through the attitudes we have of good and evil. For example, if we love good and hate evil, our lives are going to more black and white; swinging between the highs of love and the lows of hate. On the other hand, if we look at life with compassion and understanding, we are less easily influenced by social and religious trends and live a more balanced life. However we view the world around us, our higher Self is not touched by these perceptions; It is linked in oneness to the infinite expressions of spiritual creation. This higher Self, which Goldsmith calls Consciousness, stands behind the mind and our physical senses waiting to be expressed. The thought processes – concepts, hopes and dreams, that come into our mind are really universal in nature and come to everyone. When we go beyond that human, mental activity we find a place of peace within us. Our method of meditation is to find the spaces between the thoughts, because those spaces are free of any material concept. Without words going through our mind, or thoughts coming to us, we are in a state of spiritual receptivity. In that atmosphere we find ourselves free of judgment, free of fear and desire, and as we consciously acknowledge this state of peace as spiritual, we align ourselves with universal, spiritual consciousness and open ourselves to experience spiritual reality here on earth.
The middle path is the great paradox of mysticism. According to the principle of oneness, this one creation, ultimate reality is inseparable from its source, and in all esoteric teaching that Source is good. It is the Light. It is universal good, and the purpose of creation is to express that good as unconditioned love. So, in a nutshell, the definition of ultimate reality from a mystical point of view is infinite, universal good manifesting itself uniquely and individually for the purpose of expressing love. All of this is one; the creator and expression are one, one substance, one life, and one good. Nowhere in this dimension of reality is there evil, or an opposite, and this seems to create a dilemma in human consciousness where the perception of the world is based on the forces of good and evil, with evil sometimes seeming the more powerful.
All mystical schools teach their students how to deal with the appearance world. The Master, Christ Jesus taught that “My” kingdom is not of this world. He was not referring to a heaven in the sky, but to a state of consciousness that is not affected by the good or evil of “this world.” He taught that the way to be free from the forces of this world was by not judging after appearances. The Buddha gained his illumination by not resisting the appearances of evil coming at him under the Bodhi tree. His passive observation, and non-reaction to destructive material forces gave him the insight to not react to material good either, realizing it came from the same force, from the same material god as did the appearance of evil, and with this recognition he gained his illumination and freedom from material bondage. The Christ said, “Why call me good? There is only one good…” and that good has nothing to do with the material world. These men knew the oneness of ultimate reality and found the way to experience it by withdrawing power from the world of effect and turning within to the source of all good.
It’s not that this world isn’t real; it’s our perception of it that is false much of the time. From the materialist’s point of view, that which doesn’t make sense isn’t worth examining. It’s just the way of the world. William B. Lindley in his article “Reality and Quantum Mysticism” in the journal Truth Seeker quotes R. P. Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist when commenting about the unexplainable in quantum physics; “Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, ‘But how can it be like that?’ because you will go ‘down the drain’ into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.” The bad comes with the good, or visa versa, and man can do nothing about it; that’s the epitome of the materialist’s point of view. Yet the idealists who believe man’s awareness (or God’s awareness) creates objective reality are equally off the mark from the mystical perspective. Where is the power in man to create the universe? Where is it in human consciousness to change one white hair black or increase one’s height? How could omnipotent good create evil? The only thing a person has control over it his or her perceptions, and as one becomes aware of the underlying spiritual reality, here and now, those perceptions of material reality change. As you see the spiritual reality underlying the material appearances, your experience – your life and your world, begin to conform to the perfection of ultimate reality. In this sense our awareness creates our world, but it is a world already in existence coming into focus.
It says in the book of John that the word is made flesh. This is the middle path. What is the word he is talking about? It is the sacred word, that which cannot be spoken or revealed. It is the name of God, revealed to Moses and given only to those who have the discernment not to personalize it. It was before Abraham, and It exists until the end of time. It is the alpha and omega. This spiritual nature of life is manifested in the flesh, yet the flesh knows it not. Within each of us is the flame of spirit. It is impersonal, universal love revealing the nature of ultimate reality, but being spiritual It only speaks to Itself. That Self is our spiritual identity. It is the word within that appears as individual being. But that individual being is spiritual. To become aware of our spiritual nature is to make the word flesh.
Spiritual creation is one. In that oneness are infinite expressions, each expression being the same substance and having the same elements as creation Itself. If we substitute the word God for creation, we have God being all in all, from the farthest reaches of the universe to the sub-atomic world of quantum mechanics. Our realization of this universal Presence within shifts our perception from the material to the spiritual. Acknowledging the spiritual dimension within brings it into realization, and a realized consciousness of Truth manifests in one’s life as peace, harmony, freedom and love. A realized consciousness lives not as a physical being, but as God in manifestation – the word made flesh.
The path to illumination takes the courage to follow that inner impulse even if it defies conventional wisdom. Once an individual takes that step, that illumined consciousness within begins revealing the truth. That revelation may be in an instant, or it may take lifetimes. As the individual learns to see beyond the objective reality and perceive the greater truth, his or her life gains the freedom of the mystic and becomes an instrument of love and forgiveness to the world.