Belief in mysticism is the underlying premise for many religions. Can you be a mystic apart from a religious tradition? What is a modern mystic?
Mysticism is the study and practice of all things mysterious, the investigation of the unknown undertaken by those they call mystics. There isn’t just one kind of mystic.
Some mystics can articulate the mysteries of consciousness and spiritual reality for others. Rumi, Hafez, and Evelyn Underhill were great communicators of these mysteries. Other mystics are spiritual warriors and sorcerers like Carlos Castañeda and Paulo Coelho.
Mysticism is the Underlying Premise
Our awareness is mysterious. How do we become “a singular point of consciousness” living in a biodegradable container? Mysticism is a premise which underlies our very existence.
“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.” ― Carlos Castaneda
A mystic is also frequently a guide. Joseph Campbell is an example of someone who dedicated their lives to explaining the mystical path.
“The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.” ― Joseph Campbell, Psychology of the Future: Lessons from Modern Consciousness Research
The above are examples of well-known mystics. But there are many other kinds of mystics, healers, and guides. Mysticism and the mystical journey existed long before organized religion. Living a supernatural life was the focal point for Shamanism’s ancient traditions.
“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
Mysticism is the underlying premise for all religions, and that’s the problem. Religion likes to hijack all things spiritual. Then they rebrand it for their use.
What is a Modern Mystic?
Think about it this way we are born without beliefs. The dominant cultural narrative has a derogatory term for this state; they call it Atheism. Your life mission was to seek the unknown, but you don’t need a religion to do this.
So, a modern mystic is a freethinker; they reject the status quo and cultural folklore. Getting to the place where we were before we became indoctrinated takes some serious work. There’s a lot of negative programming and beliefs that get in the way.
Inner work helps us break down the boundaries of our beliefs. These are boundaries we have set for ourselves. Examining our thoughts 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 apparent, we consider it obscure, occult, or hidden, and this is the realm of the unknown, the mysterious, even supernatural, or paranormal. If you are living life as a mystic, these things interest you.
Many people have an innate desire to explore the unknown, a practical definition for a mystic. That’s it. If you are researching the mysteries of awareness, you are on the mystical path. You don’t need dogma for this. All you need are the proper 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 can I only be a mystic if it fits with a belief system?
- Do I have an insatiable hunger for the unknown?
- Can belief in mysticism help me overcome religion’s critical mass in my culture?
- Do I 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 awakening 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. Life as a mystic is only possible if you color within the lines they draw. Otherwise, you become a heretic and subject to a range of punishments.
Religious devotees have three main concerns:
The above three doctrines operate via “mystical mental appropriation.” One reaches out to the mind’s power, 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 victims of systematic indoctrination. Families brainwash their children to accept the same biases and prejudices. But, you don’t have to stay with counterfeit spirituality. Once you begin to see the facts from the fiction, you can create a path. You don’t have to believe in imaginary beings to be a mystic. You already are one.
2) Living Life as a Mystic
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 death’s unknown existential crisis.
This fear could open the door. A skeptical mindset is needed if you want to be a mystic. When you ask the question, “what is a modern mystic?” you are also asking if mysticism in the modern world is possible.
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. These people are followers out of family tradition more so than by choice. Their beliefs comfort them and provide a social bond to a community. Concerns center on acceptance in the community and afterlife beliefs.
But someone from this group could become a mystic if their existential fear leads them to seek their “personal truth.” Life as a mystic is just out of reach but within their possibilities.
4) The Spiritual Explorer
The fourth group are the spiritual explorers. This group is not anti-religion; they are merely interested in the mystical journey 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 answers on my own. Mysticism is the underlying premise of our very consciousness.
These are the people who actively involve themselves in various spiritual techniques and paths. Independent research and study are the heart of their practice. Pioneers of their approach learn to meditate and delve into Shamanic practices. People in this group are 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 ability to reason. The programming for this is in two distinct forms. One is our innate desire to explore the unknown. Some call this the life of the mystic. 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 my belief’s conditions and boundaries. And for those following Western organized religion, this is enough. They never question the boundaries. They are programmed to resist anything that challenges 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 that I believe in mysticism to the same extent as the tooth fairy. Not at all.
People in the last group are the 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 were 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.
Modern Mystical Life
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 continually discovering new things, which opens up more questions. What is a modern mystic to you? Does the question spark positive or negative emotion? Is it out of the realm of possibility for you? Or, are you on your way to becoming one?
Are you interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. We offer this curriculum through our individually tailored virtual learning academy and our traditional face-to-face sessions. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey (1). Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions.
(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia