Belief in mysticism is the underlying premise for many religions. Can you be a mystic apart from a religious tradition?
What is a Mystic?
Mystics are people who seek to understand things that are mysterious. They use various methods to navigate the mysterious realms beyond normal reality. There isn’t just one kind of mystic.
There are mystics that re adept at articulating the mysteries of consciousness and spiritual reality. These are people like Rumi, Hafez and Evelyn Underhill. And there are others that are like spiritual warriors. These are people like Carlos Castañeda and Paulo Coelho.
The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse. ―
A mystic is also frequently a guide. Joseph Campbell is an example of someone who dedicated their life to explaining the mystical path.
The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.
The above are examples of well-known mystics. But there are many other kinds of healers and guides. Mysticism and the mystical journey existed long before organized religion. Living a mystical life was the focal point of many ancient traditions of Shamanism.
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
Think about it this way, you were born without any beliefs. Your life mission was to seek the unknown. We we born with the mindset of a mystic. But social programming makes us forget our natural state. When we undertake inner work, we often discover we a simply uncovering our true nature.
Inner work helps us break down the boundaries of our beliefs. These are boundaries we have set for ourselves. Examining our own beliefs is the best way to understand how these boundaries hold us back.
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. If you are a mystic, these things interest you.
Many people have an innate desire to explore the unknown. This is the most practical definition of a mystic. That’s it. If you are exploring the unknown, you are on the mystical path. You don’t need dogma for this. You need tools to explore consciousness.
Are you ready for this journey? Here are some starting questions for this inner work.
Is living life without religion possible for me? Or I can only be a mystic if it fits with a religion?
- Do I have an insatiable hunger for the unknown?
- Can belief in mysticism help me to overcome the critical mass of religion in my culture?
- Do I really embrace the concept that I am divine apart from religion?
- 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 the awakening of my spiritual gifts?
- Am I already a mystic?
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 Devotee
First, is the religious devotee. 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:
1) Mandatory membership and allegiance to a Supreme Being (God or Gods).
2) Determining acceptable and unacceptable behavior and values.
3) Required belief in the afterlife or life after death.
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.
Many people did not have a choice. Children often do not have a choice. They are systematically indoctrinated into the religious beliefs of their family and culture. But, you don’t have to stay with counterfeit spirituality. Once you begin to see the facts from the fiction, you can create your own path.
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. This fear could open the door. A skeptical mindset is needed if you want to be a mystic.
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.
But this group could become a mystic if they allow their existential fear to lead them to seek their personal truth.
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. I am a mystic because I seek out my own answers.
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 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. A mystic is also often a freethinker. 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.
Life As a Mystic
Living life without religion is not only possible, but it is also the preferred state of freedom. A mystic is someone who is not afraid to say, “I don’t know”. They are constantly discovering new things which opens up more questions.
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Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia