I have been trying for months and months to write a post on Mysticism, an ultimately wordless experience notorious for its tendency to generate millions of mostly inadequate* words. My own summary of the subject is in my Student Handbook, but not everybody has read it (yet ;) ), and anyway, I wanted to do a post I could keep with the others in the "Memories" file here. My strategy for these posts is simple: I want the stranger coming across this journal and quite naturally thinking, "You seem reasonably intelligent -- what's with this Mysticism, Magick, and Thelema b.s.?" (not to mention "Why the 93's?") to have immediate access to brief (hah!) answers. I have posts saved already for the 93's, Magick, and some Thelema stuff, but nothing for Mysticism. Besides which, two posts ago we bumped against the whole Unity-of-Truth-Despite-Chaos-of-Religion
In line with their founder's motto for what he called Scientific Illuminism -- "The Method of Science, The Aim of Religion" -- Initiated Thelemites use the word "Mysticism" in a specific technical sense: not far removed from its historical, though mostly lost now, meaning ("Direct experience of God"), yet absolutely divorced from superstition (hence my two so-far unique LJ interests, cribbed from J.F.C. Fuller: "pyrrhonic mysticism" and "skeptical transcendentalism"). Mysticism, in this sense, means direct "spiritual" experience, rather than beliefs about same; hence religious people, insofar as they desire not to be fools, need not less but more Mysticism. Millennia of the most horrific kinds of pointless cruelty have come from just this: the tendency of the human mind to load insane beliefs onto the sanest possible underlying experience.
Most children, and all sensitive readers, have had something of this experience, by the way, particularly in appreciating (say) beauty or poetry; ditto for artists (even many scientists) immersed in the creative process (one reason Crowley suggested that magicians and mystics were in part trying to learn to do what creative artists do automatically). Religions, unfortunately, tend to be founded by mystics, but carried on by believers, hence the nightmares humanity has endured at the hands of religion. The road from "I have directly experienced reality!" to "God wants me to kill all the unbelievers!" has been traveled far too often...maybe not by the same people, but that's no comfort to the victims. :P
As usual here, vast subject, little room to cover it. Two last paragraphs.
Mysticism itself** has dangers, the principal one being a tendency to prefer the world inside one's noggin (so to speak) over the one outside it (ditto)***, a phenomenon which has led to the too-early deaths of entirely too many mystics.**** Crowley compared the proper use of Mysticism to a quick dip into the pool (then back into the fray with you, my child!); also, to playing a game of chess: one is simultaneously fully engaged in the game, yet fully aware it is a game; one takes it with absolute seriousness, yet recognizes its delightful pointlessness all the same. If handled right, Mysticism becomes a more or less constant state of mind: not something distinct from daily life, but the lens through which daily life is experienced. It is an enormous relief in daily life, too: the reason I can view humanity's chances of survival with alarm, yet delight even in the chaos; can worry (say) that someone I love and admire is dallying with a cruel little egomaniac, yet trust the universe to solve this, like all other, problems...even if that solution doesn't prove a lot of fun for those directly involved. I care deeply, yet remain detached; assert my individual Will, yet also trust everyone else's to serve its purpose. And with that, as always, words fail.
My favorite texts on the subject (having already plugged my own): the Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching*****), Chuang Tzu, and Sun Tzu, and Vivekananda's books (though almost anybody's "holy books" (and plenty of theoretically "non-holy" ones) will do, when read properly); among Crowley's work, Book Four Part I, Eight Lectures on Yoga, The Heart of the Master, The Book of Lies (Falsely So-Called) -- and most especially the stunning short essay, "The Soul of the Desert," which may even be online someplace.
93 93/93 -- AJ
* Or useless, or misleading, or downright dangerously wrong.
** As distinct from the loopy beliefs piled onto it by believers.
*** I'm not being cute with these parentheticals; the distinction is figurative. But there's no room to explain why just now.
**** Same for "astral junkies" among magicians, and (I suspect) many psychedelics users, for the same reason. Each practice can sap one's ability to defend, hence prolong, oneself.
***** Particularly as translated by someone with some actual experience in the field; all too rare among translators, alas, which is why Crowley did his own "initiated paraphrase" of the text (which, predictably, I adore ;) ). Thomas Cleary and (especially) Burton Watson are good, too.