From the Heart: Demystifying Mysticism

I believe the spiritual-but-not-religious movement is largely made up of people who don’t realize, or are hesitant to admit, that they are mystics.

If you identify with any of the following, you may be a mystic:

  • You have always felt like an old soul.

  • You’ve had a life-changing or near-death experience.

  • You are committed to doing more with whatever time you have left.

  • You have incredible flashes of oneness with others.

  • You may have experienced a dark night of the soul.

  • You’re not sure how to share what you “see” or “know.”

  • No religion seems big enough to hold the mystery.

Mysticism is such a misunderstood and misused word. It conjures images of tarot cards and astrological signs, along with people—often saints—who were somehow able to transcend being human to experience the divine.

It is definitely not just saints who walk the mystic path, though. So do professors, tattoo artists and cancer survivors. If you are drawn to read this and it resonates in any way, you are likely somewhere on the path.

Mysticism is often used only in discussing or referring to things like psychic abilities and matters of the occult. It can be both of those things, or neither of them. Like the great “I AM,” it is about whatever you add to the end of it.

The word “mystic” is from the Greek “mystkos,” which means the pursuit of direct, personal communion with God. It can be found in something as seemingly trivial as breathing into a star-filled sky, or as serious as losing someone you love. It can come from years of inner work — or be a gift of pure grace.

Mysticism is not learned or created. It occurs when we experience how connected we are to the source of all things. Whether those moments are fleeting, or longer, they create a shift in our heart and mind that can be truly transformational.

The path of a mystic is the path of the heart. It is for those who have fallen so in love with the Creator or creation itself that it can be ecstatic at times.

Father Richard Rorh says mystic "simply means one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience. All spiritual traditions at their mature levels agree that such a movement is possible, desirable, and even available to everyone."

Mysticism is found in Judaism in the Kabala; in Islam as Sufism; in Hinduism and Buddhism as Samadhi or Nirvana; in Quakerism as “that of God in everyone”; in Taoism as “the way”; and in Catholicism through St. Francis and Joan of Arc. Personal experience, however, is deeply valued over religious dogma, or being told what to believe or how to practice.

Teresa of Avila gave this advice to her Sisters: “Some books on prayer tell us where one must seek God. Within oneself, very clearly, is the best place to look.”

Because of their heightened senses, mystics have a natural curiosity about the physical and spiritual world. They likely think — a lot — about things like:

  • What happens after we die?

  • Why am I really here?

  • How do I share what I have experienced with the world?

Yet mystics are also comfortable with uncertainty and not knowing. They are not interested in converting others to their way of thinking. They know the universe is infinite, mysterious and far too complex for the human mind to fully comprehend.

Because Mystics have an innate trust in their own morality and are guided by their experience, rather than leaders or society, they are often spiritual rebels. Their heightened awareness may make them feel like they don’t belong to any one group.

Although mystics may not find any one religion that is big enough for them, they are not dabblers. They can go deep in a certain path but feel the need to explore others.

They can have one foot on earth and one in another dimension. They live in both light and dark, as they begin to see them as one.

They may feel uncomfortable sharing these thoughts and experiences with others, even their closest loved ones, because of what people might think.

Mystics thrive in silence, solitude and service. They are nurtured by walking alone in the woods or sitting quietly with a trusted friend. They may enjoy and connect with God through poetry, meditation, wordless prayer, candles, art, books and more.

The highest calling of the mystic is not to become enlightened, but to become nothing, to disappear into all that is — to know that you are your own person yet part of the whole that always was and will be. It may sound lofty and out of reach — but I promise you it is available to everyone and will likely happen when you least expect it.

It happened to me, and so many others I know. It can happen for you. It probably already has.

In closing I would like to offer you The Mystic's Prayer" by Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi seer:

"Give me, Oh God, Deep thoughts High Dreams Few Words Much Silence The narrow path The wide outlook The end in peace."

If you are interested in learning more about mysticism and walking the mystic path, become a member of the FB Community In Spirit Forum and attend our monthly online experiential-discussion group — Demystifying Mysticism — the first Monday of every month from 7 to 8 p.m. ET.