Cultivating Mysticism

Interspiritual Mystics

Cultivating Mysticism
Thursday, August 8, 2019

Deep down, each one of us is a mystic. When we tap into that energy we become alive again and we give birth. From the creativity that we release is born the prophetic vision and work that we all aspire to realize as our gift to the world. We want to serve in whatever capacity we can. Getting in touch with the mystic inside is the beginning of our deep service. —Matthew Fox [1]

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive. —Howard Thurman [2]  

Mysticism isn’t an exclusive, esoteric club to which a few people “so heavenly minded [they’re] of no earthly good” belong, as Johnny Cash sang. It’s not only found in monasteries or ashrams but in ordinary people, in all of us. How can we cultivate mystical wisdom? Beverly Lanzetta writes:

Contemplation is beyond the normal consciousness of the mind, granting access to the mystery, known only by love. Here, the normal activities of the human personality come to rest, in order to hear what has remained unheard and to see what has been hidden or veiled. . . . Far more than a meditative practice or a temporary respite from worldly concerns, contemplation revolutionizes conventional attitudes and roles in order to transform the foundation upon which life is lived. And to illuminate the hidden teaching of love inscribed in our souls. Christian sannyasi [3] Bede Griffiths writes about contemplation:

It is not something that we achieve for ourselves. It is something that comes when we let go. We have to abandon everything—all words, thoughts, hopes, fears, all attachment to ourselves or to any earthly things, and let the divine mystery take possession of our lives. It feels like death, and it is, in fact, a sort of dying. . . . [4]

Although contemplation and mysticism can invoke rarefied experiences, “the true contemplative,” Catholic priest and Zen master Pat Hawk writes, “does not strive for unity of Divine and human only at specific times of prayer, but in all circumstances and conditions of daily life: washing dishes, caring for children, family, work, sleeping.” [5]

Contemplation refers to an inner monastic attitude, a centering point of one’s whole life and being. . . . This living, daily prayer breaks through into one’s mind and heart, teaching those insights and wisdoms that uplift the soul and lead it toward what Buddhists call Prajñāpāramitā (“perfection of wisdom”).

Contemplation normally is associated with formal religious institutions, yet it both precedes and exceeds religion itself. New traditions of contemplation—interfaith, interspiritual, intermonastic—pass beyond religious forms into deep states of consciousness that—while remaining part of the enduring wisdom of the world’s religions—also are the site of new spiritual traditions and forms of practice. This emergence expresses the timeless qualities of the monastic, contemplative experience outside of denominational institutions and structures.

References:
[1] Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations (New World Library: 2011), 3.

[2] Howard Thurman, occasion unidentified. This often-used quotation is attributed to Reverend Thurman by the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground at Boston University, https://www.bu.edu/thurman/about-us/about-the-htc/.

[3] A sannyasi is a Hindu monk or person who embraces the state of sannyasa, the fourth stage of Hindu life, as a homeless, wandering ascetic or renunciate.

[4] Bede Griffiths, “Prayer,” unpublished talk at Kreuth, Germany (April 7, 1992). Quoted in Shirley du Boulay, Beyond the Darkness: A Biography of Bede Griffiths (O Books: 2003, ©1998), 253.

[5] Pat Hawk, Pathless Path Newsletter, vol. 1, no. 4 (2002), 3.

Beverly Lanzetta, The Monk Within: Embracing a Sacred Way of Life (Blue Sapphire Books: 2018), 51-52.

Image credit: Sacred Heart (detail), Odilon Redon, 1910, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Mysticism . . . is not merely a shift in perception or how one knows. It is not disembodied or relegated to rarefied states of being. Instead, mystical consciousness affects the whole of one’s life by opening the heart to the Divine Presence in all realities. —Beverly Lanzetta

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