The Path of the Mystic
What's a "mystic," why it still matters, and why you need to know.
your own myth.” – Rumi
Meditation, prayer, yoga, near death experiences, lucid dreaming, flotation tanks, psychedelics and sacred geometry may seem like an unbelievably diverse and ‘out-there’ set of nouns with dubious connections at best. However, they all share a common bond: the propensity to provide transcendent, mystical experiences that give insight into what many say is the fundamental truth of this world. Everything is connected. I don’t mean this in an indirect, impersonal sense. I mean it in an interdependent, crucial and absolutely necessary one that transforms lives.
The word “mystic” is often misused or misunderstood, so before we go further let’s look at a concise definition. A mystic is one who seeks to have direct contact with the transcendent, or a higher truth through active work. It is the opposite of being a passive onlooker or listener. It is not mindlessly sitting in a pew on a Sunday gobbling up the dogma and worldview placed before you. It is done through inner work. For example, the disciplines I mentioned above are all methods that lead you inward, into the murky waters of what preeminent Psychologist Carl Jung, a mystic in his own rite, called the “unconscious.”
It’s not a stretch to say nearly every ancient culture valued these mystic practices. From the Hindus and Buddhists of Asia, to the Sufis, Kabbalists, Gnostics and Hermeticists further west, all initiated individuals into orders requiring a journey inward to explore their own nature, confront the unknown and come out a better, more self-realized individual. In fact, the number of historical figures that were initiates of mystical practices is pretty astonishing.
Though there are plenty of methods, both slow and extreme, both secular and religious, the path of the mystic has been lost to most people in this day and age. Most of us don’t meditate, practice Yoga or strive to control our dreams and often times if we do, it’s not with the proper intention. Meditation and these other exercises are often seen as an escape or a distraction from our everyday lives, or as a means to encourage a healthy, balanced life. While these things are all necessary, well and good, they don’t do much to encourage exploration of our existential state and they don’t even begin to change our nature. To do this, we need to make a concerted effort to explore these big questions, or no measure of growth will come.
The idea of becoming a more selfless individual with a nullified, or at least more controlled, ego is something we’ve mostly lost interest in as a society. The daily rat race we live takes consumes our time and it dominates our thoughts. Due to such thoughts, we chase material goods and status. We end up repeating these mental and physical patterns until we define ourselves by our egos, professional accomplishments and belongings. Bring this up to most people and although most will agree that true fulfillment won’t come from this shallow lifestyle, their eyes inevitably glaze over when you try to take the conversation further.
So what’s the answer? Do we all take vows of asceticism and relinquish all of our worldly goods? No, at least I’m nowhere near ready for that. I advocate a middle path. A path where we, as laypeople, can take steps to change our head space, acknowledge our egos and actively take steps to work against it, or at least cope with it and see it for the impermanent illusion that it is. It’s utterly amazing how much we can change, just by acknowledging the fact that we are more than our egos. Embracing this fact will change the way you view and treat others. Which in turn, will change the way others see you. As you redefine yourself and recognize your necessity to this world and that of others, real change will come. You’ll see a path before you. The only thing you’ll have to decide is how you’ll travel it.