Living on earth right now is pretty hectic I’m sure you’ll agree, and more than ever we need something to get us through this crazy dark night of our soul. Which is why we could do with taking a leaf out of the modern mystic’s manuscript to get us back on track to feeling calm, fulfilled and full of zest.
But before you chime in with your reluctance to join some secret society or your lack of local lodges, let me just say that that you can still be a badass mystic without all the pomp and regimen, you just need to apply these 3 juicy mystical truths to your everyday life.
But first off, what is a “mystic”? Well for that, we need a little history (just a little I promise)…
The word ‘mystic’ comes from the ancient Greek for concealed, and back in the Hellenistic days it was used to describe the secret rituals that went on behind closed doors.
Later, it was used to describe the early Christian mystics like the Gnostics and Hermetics who came up with their own meanings from religious scriptures; reading between the lines to find the little nuggets of wisdom that mainstream literal interpretations failed to explain.
But mysticism is not a religion. In fact, many religions have their own branch of mysticism – there’s been Christian mystics, Jewish mystics, Buddhist, Islamic and Indian mystics, and while their methods and traditions may differ, they usually share a few beliefs in common, and it’s these juicy pearls of wisdom that we’re after…
1. Experience of the divine
Now this is a tricky one – what actually is the divine? Some call it God, the Tao, Brahman, Hu – they’re all essentially the same thing, but a large part of mysticism is believing that we mere humans can experience this “divinity” in all its glory – we have the ability, if you will, to communicate with God.
And this is not some exclusive club (though the secret societies may have you think otherwise) everybody can experience the divine if they really want, not just those special few prophets and channelers of yore.
So how does one experience the divine, you may ask.
When you meditate, work magic, pray, sing, dance, when you listen to nature, the birds, the waves, you put yourself in direct contact with the divine, and I wouldn’t be the first person to suggest that “God” is all around us just waiting to be noticed.
But this all sounds kind of like religion, right? Wrong.
Religion has a set of rules and traditions to live and practice by; it adheres to dogma, whereas mysticism is a blanket term for a messy mismatch of schools, techniques and teachings – as a whole, mysticism doesn’t really have a right or wrong, and it’s almost entirely subjective.
In today’s world of endless choices and combinations, where we can’t even leave the house without being told what type of sandwich we should be eating, we need this fluidity.
We crave the freedom to choose our own truth, feel it, experience it, and practice it in a way that suits us.
And if every person has the ability to experience the divine in their own personal way, then surely it is already a part of us, otherwise how would we hear/see/feel it? How would we universally understand the experience when we are all so different and all experiencing it in completely different ways? It must be already there, constantly accessible and intertwined with our own perception of reality.
And it’s this subjectivity, this feeling of oneness with the divine, that brings us to the next big point on the modern mystic’s checklist for spiritual success:
2. God is within
There’s a bit of divinity inside all of us. The soul, spirit, atman, the self – these are little slivers of God.
You’re probably already aware of this idea from the occult phrase “as above so below”, and you’ll find it in almost every religion, culture and spiritual teaching across the globe. It’s even in the bible – “The Kingdom of God Is Within You” (Luke 17:20-21) – no beating around the bush there!
But how does this help us to live in today’s society?
Well, if you are divine, the possibilities become endless.
When we start to realise that each of us holds a tiny piece of God inside us, we become immortal, peaceful and without limitation.
We begin to change the world around us according to our will.
If we are the divine, we don’t need to ever seek anything outside of ourselves, and when we become open to this idea, positive change and growth will happen inside and out – we begin to shape our reality for the better.
This is essentially the theory behind the Law of Attraction, manifestation, magic and ritual.
If all that sounds a bit fluffy and farfetched, how about a nice extended metaphor or two?
Imagine the Sahara Desert. There are millions upon millions of grains of sand stretching for miles. Still with me? Good. Now let’s say you are one of those tiny grains of sand and you’re somewhere in the top corner of Egypt.
Now, if you move, you’re not likely going to affect another singular grain of sand over in the bottom corner of Morocco, thousands of miles away, are you? BUT! Over time, you’ll gradually push the rest of the sand in that direction, before you know it the wind picks up and carries you a little further, just a little bit each day.
Give it a few hundred years and you’ll probably have moved that second grain of sand a tiny bit just by continually moving the sand in your own circle of influence. You don’t even need to touch it directly but everything is effected by your sandy will – this is what’s known as a ripple effect.
But you’re not a grain of sand, and you definitely don’t have hundreds of years to try this, so let’s go for a different metaphor (I’m sorry, I have a thing for analogies) …
I grew up by the English seaside and one of my favourite things to do was go down the arcades and put 2p coins in the slot machines.
If you’re not familiar with this game it basically entails putting 2p coins in a slot while a mechanical shelf covered in even more 2ps moves in and out – sounds thrilling right? I assure you it is.
See, the more 2ps you put in, the more the pile of 2ps inside the machine avalanches closer to the edge, and eventually, if you time it right and patiently dedicate yourself to one particular machine, the whole pile of 2ps will fall off the edge and into your waiting hands, making you RICH beyond your wildest dreams!
Well, maybe not quite, but you might end up with enough for a portion of chips, plus a pretty good way to think about the influence you have over your reality.
If you can apply these mystic metaphorical teachings to your life, you can create ripples that lead to showers of sand and 2ps, or even better, things like money, jobs and romance, which is probably preferable.
3. You can achieve peace amidst chaos
Ok so I’ve used the word peace here, you could just as easily call it enlightenment, wholeness, integration, nirvana, ecstasy, happiness, the end of all suffering, WHATEVER (I think you’ve probably noticed by now but there are a shedload of labels applied to these concepts).
Whatever you decide to call it, “peace” is achievable through the aforementioned methods, and while it would probably speed up the process to join a monastery or live a life of strict ascetic practice, it’s really not necessary, or practical for that matter.
What we need is a way to implement peace into our everyday lives.
Most of us live in a hugely stressful world. Our realities consist of money woes, 9-5 jobs, social media, never-ending emails, kids, pets, rent, RESPONSIBILITIES, it’s never been so intense.
According to statistics from the American Psychological Association, the stress levels of the Gen Xers and Millennials are much higher than previous generations, meaning that – YUP – our already sky-high stress levels are INCREASING.
So with so many people suffering at the hands of the harsh mistress of anxiety, we clearly need a way out.
This is where it pays to be a modern mystic of sorts.
Back in the day, mysticism overlapped greatly with alchemy – the process of turning spiritual lead into gold. This secret practice was known as ‘The Great Work’, and was basically an attempt to reach enlightenment through the combination of symbolic materials which represented parts of the human mind or soul.
For those who practise magic, this probably sounds familiar as it’s pretty much the same way that spells are cast – you combine some physical ingredients or objects which represent your desired outcome and voila – your wish is granted.
You are bringing your mental intentions into the physical realm.
Granddaddy of psychotherapy, Carl G. Jung was super into alchemy and likened it to his process of ‘individuation’ – the combining of all aspects of our psyche, light and dark, conscious and unconscious, into one whole “Self” in order to end psychological suffering.
There are overlaps here with many traditions and I could write an essay on just this topic alone, but the point here is, you can free your mind of suffering and change your reality, by experiencing the divine within yourself.
This may sound like lofty, spiritual mumbo jumbo but I challenge you to try it. Go and sit under a tree and meditate, do some yoga, listen to the ocean, dance under the light of the moon and tell me you don’t feel it.
The more you do this, the more you’ll feel the stillness of your divine self.
Pretty soon, you’ll be calm and collected even when you’re not doing these things.
Next time your boss tells you to stay late for a meeting or your car gets a flat tyre, you’ll be a vision of zen – well maybe not every time, but you’ll cope a darn sight better than if you hadn’t hung out with “God” that morning.
There’s a reason why meditation of any kind is good for anxiety – not only does it still the busy mind, but eventually it provides a peaceful little window into your true self, and thus to God.
The way of the mystic is finding these moments of peace, feeling one with the divine in whatever way you fancy, and continually striving to better yourself, regardless of whether you’ve got 9873 emails to read and a sink full of dishes to clean.
If we can follow these 3 mystical steps of “enlightenment”, we can soothe our anxieties, function better in a modern world full of pressure and strife, and start encouraging a life of abundance – and who doesn’t want that?