Please do not let the word “mystic” scare you. It simply means one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience. All spiritual traditions agree that such a movement is possible, desirable, and available to everyone. The experience of divine union is the goal of all religion. ~Richard Rohr, Catholic Theologian and author of The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. (pp. 29-30.)
Have you ever had what felt like a “religious experience?” Something that filled you with awe and wonder and made you feel you were in the presence of the Divine? Perhaps it came in physical form, like a wildly improbable synchronistic experience; a wave of chills that came while listening to a beautiful hymn; seeing an aura around a person; or feeling a powerful surge of energy in your body that couldn’t be explained by science. Maybe it was an extraordinarily meaningful dream, vision of light, sudden knowing, or spiritual awakening. Or you stepped onto a forest glade or mountain peak with a view that stopped you in your tracks and brought tears of appreciation and gratitude to your eyes. If you’ve experienced these or similar things, you’re not alone.
Throughout history, revered spiritual leaders such as Lao Tsu, Jesus, Buddha, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Mother Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, Hasidei Ashkenaz, Rumi, Ibn Arabi, and countless ordinary people have reported spontaneous mystical experiences. Documented religious experiences have also been induced by a variety of hallucinogens for millennia.
Either way, mystical experiences are not only real, but surprisingly common. Why? They’re simply evidence of the benevolent life-giving and life-sustaining Divinity that indwells every one of us, that permeates our minds and physical bodies, that is the very substance of which we are made. What should be more surprising than having a mystical experience is not having one!
Unfortunately, the idea that we can each find a direct and personal pathway to the Divine is still considered blasphemous by many adherents to mainstream religions. And when hallucinogens are used to induce mystical experiences, world governments get involved in banning them. This, despite the fact that a rigorous study with clearly explicated methods was conducted in clinical conditions at John Hopkins university in 2006 with astonishing and highly beneficial results that
“may re-define our mutual human history as it’s been indoctrinated into billions of humans across the planet. Not just one of two participants spoke of having an ineffable mystical experience; it was 79% of the 36 participants who underwent the study…. That’s truly an astounding and inarguable number.”
As one writer reports, a follow-up in 2011
“appeared in the June 2011 issue of Psychopharmacology entitled Psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences: immediate and persisting dose-related effects“. Personally, I feel it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever read. How often do any of us get to read something that speaks directly to the human psyche in relation of our experience of the mystical in such a scientific and clinical environment, but while recounting it in such personally spiritual terms?”
Now here’s the kicker:
“This study unquestionably and undeniably validates what shamans and spiritual explorers throughout history have known, what they’ve often shared at the risk of incarceration or death, but have painstakingly documented throughout history: The Psilocybe mushroom, a hallucinogen, can provide any one of us with an extraordinary, life-changing mystical experience that is indistinguishable from any other religious experience reported in our mutual human history. What is perhaps more extraordinary is that the participants in this study didn’t just have a spiritual experience; the ingestion of these hallucinogenic mushrooms “produced substantial spiritual effects” and “those beneficial effects appear to last more than a year” (Griffiths et. al., 2008). In other words, here we have an example of scientifically proven religion, a spirituality that, rather than being in conflict with the rational, is supported by it.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pushing a particular agenda for drug reform, despite the obvious need. And I know the difference between entheogens—a term meaning “to reveal the Divine within” that belongs to a category of substances used for Divinatory purposes—and dangerous and life-threatening drugs like cocaine and heroin. It’s just that my goal in this blog is to serve evolving consciousness and empower individuals to discover spiritual meaning for themselves, and I’m not going to avoid doing so just because it requires us to challenge outmoded laws, belief systems and institutions.
My point is simply that we don’t have to blindly follow doctrines, religions, or spiritual authorities to connect with God! Nor should we, unless they serve our growth into compassion and expanding consciousness. Rather, we can listen to and learn from our own inner spiritual authority, which can be developed with reflective and meditative spiritual practices. Each of us knows what’s truly Sacred in the depths of our being, and that inner knowing, that actual inner experience of holiness, is available to everyone.
Have you ever met a mystic? You have if you or anyone else you know has had an individual “religious” experience of divine union that s/he trusts over collective attitudes and institutions. If so, I invite you to share your story here.
Image Credit: Google Images. “Contemplation” Nathan Jon Tillett 2003 http://www.Fuzzy Planet.co.uk
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.