Belief in mysticism is the underlying premise for many religions. Can mysticism exist apart from a religious tradition?
“I believe in mysticism, with an interior goal, and you are your own temple and your own priest. I don’t believe anymore in religions, because you see today there are religious wars, prejudice, false morals, and the woman is despised. Religion is too old now; it’s from another century, it’s not for today.” ― Alejandro Jodorowsky
Living Life Without Religion
This is a bold declaration. It’s an interesting premise that provides a springboard to examine our own beliefs in relation to mysticism. After all, inner work is mysterious. Inner work takes us to the boundaries of our beliefs. These are boundaries we have set for ourselves. Most importantly, examining our own beliefs about mysticism is perhaps one way to understand how we can move beyond our self-imposed walls.
Before we start this inner work journey, let’s define mysticism. Mysticism deals with understanding spiritual things that are not immediately clear. When something isn’t obvious, we consider it obscure, occult or hidden. This is the realm of the unknown, the mysterious even supernatural or paranormal. Many people have an innate desire to explore the unknown.
Here are some starting questions for this inner work.
- Is living life without religion possible for me? Or I can only believe in mysticism if it fits with a religion?
- Can belief in mysticism help me to overcome the critical mass of religion in my culture?
- Do I really embrace the concept I am divine?
- Do I need religion or religious leaders to guide me in finding my divinity?
- Is the path of organized religion correct for me, or is it unnecessary?
- Do I believe some ancient traditions are still viable and valuable in assisting in my awakening my spiritual gifts?
Four Divisions of Mystical Thought
Most importantly, we need to be honest with ourselves. The following four categories are just one way to look at mysticism. It is the stimulus for thought-provoking discussions.
1) The Religious Devote
First, the religious devote. They filter their belief in mysticism through the boundaries of their religion. In this case, religion becomes a personal identity. Life is an act of devotion to the doctrine, often reaching every aspect of life. Dogma is the controlling mechanism as are the words of a religious leader.
Religious devotees have three main concerns:
- Mandatory membership and allegiance to a Supreme Being (God or Gods)
- Determining acceptable and unacceptable behavior and values
- Required belief in the afterlife or life after death with either rewards or punishment
The above three doctrines operate via “mystical mental appropriation.” This is where one reaches out to the power of the mind and gets membership in the afterlife club and receives divine forgiveness to justify their actions. They say I believe in mysticism if it fits within my religion.
2) Living Life Without Religion or Mysticism
The second group is are people that reject the dogma of religion. Sometimes they refer to themselves as Atheists or Agnostics but they may not identify with any group. Professional interest preoccupying their lives. The mystical aspect of life only arises as a topic of concern when someone dies or suffers from a major illness or trauma. They say I believe in mysticism when life forces me to acknowledge the unknown existential crisis of death.
3) The Part-Time Religious Observers
The third group represents the largest growing segment of the world population. They are part of Western organized religion because of social programming. They live somewhere in the middle, between the religious devotee and the atheist. They follow dogma without understanding its origins. They say I believe in mysticism to the extent it quells my fear of death.
Their belief system is often a product of their childhood upbringing. Followers out of family tradition more so than intellectual choice. Their beliefs comfort them and provide a social bond to a community. Concerns center on acceptance in the community and afterlife beliefs.
4) The Spiritual Explorer
The fourth group is what we call spiritual explorers. This group is not anti-religion they are simply interested in the mystical journey but do it without religion. They say I believe in mysticism because of my hands-on experience. I don’t define it.
These are the people who actively involve themselves in a variety of spiritual techniques and paths. Independent research and study are the heart of their practice. Pioneers of their own path, they learn to meditate, delve into Shamanic practices. Often involved in healing arts, showing concern for the environment. They are explorers of the planet and their minds.
Belief in Mysticism
Your belief or disbelief is a matter of your programming and your ability to reason. The programming for this is two distinct forms. One is our innate desire to explore the unknown. The second comes from those who program your cultural narrative. This latter element is typically the domain of religion.
Religious devotees and part-time religious observers of Western organized religion have over 3 billion members. They say I believe in mysticism under the conditions and boundaries of my religion. And for those following Western organized religion, this is enough. They never question the boundaries. In fact, they are programmed to resist anything that questions their sacred ground.
Then, on the other side of the continuum are people content to live life without religion. They resist the urge to entertain thoughts about the unknown. They will tell you, I believe in mysticism to the same extent I believe in the tooth fairy. Not at all.
The last group is the real freethinkers and explorers. They embrace the challenge of the unknown. The creed they follow is science. The god they worship is nature. Their doctrine is logical reasoning and comparative analysis. But, they also explorers of consciousness. They practice science by experimenting with spiritual technologies. So, they can say I believe in mysticism as I discover the evidence in my practical experiments of life.
Living life without religion is not only possible, it is the preferred state of freedom.
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Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia