Consciousness seems to me to be like a small house in a primitive forest. Within this house there is light but outside there is only darkness, the darkness of the Great Unknown. It is out of this Great Unknown that everything happens to us that can change our lives: strokes of fate, unexpected meetings and their serious consequences, illness, accidents, good fortune, illumination – and death. It is not human to simply accept the Unknown. We want to know what determines our fate and the fate of the world.
What do you see when you leave a lit house and step out into the darkness? Almost nothing. You cannot even see what you are standing on. Only after several minutes do you manage to make out a strip under your feet and you realize that it is the path. There are areas to your right and left which are darker than the sky and you guess that those must be trees.
Something also shines through the darkness of the Great Unknown, but – contrary to the darkness of the walk in the countryside – we have absolutely no references here by which we can recognize the forms which are outlined. Yet we do it nonetheless. If somebody expects, consciously or unconsciously, to see beings then that person sees beings. Another, who has heard something about godly light sees a luminescence. Consciousness wishes to link its observations with its content, that is what consciousness always does. In this way the various stories about the Great Unknown are created.
Sometimes you are unable to see the link and you think, that cannot be mine. Or not be hers or his. What, for instance, are you supposed to think about The Secret Doctrine by Helena Blavatsky? Did she simply think up the detailed esoteric model of the universe outlined in this book? The things told when individuals are under hypnosis can also be bewildering. The functioning of the human brain has been understood only to a small degree up until now. The unconscious is just as obscure as the cosmos. How are we to know where our insights come from? Are we truly capable of discerning which of the voices we hear within come from us and which come from something else? Wouldn’t realistic caution concerning the ‘source of reference’ do mysticism good?
Realistic departure points
Over the years I have collected a series of departure points which are important for me in finding my own path within mysticism. I shall simply list them one by one.
- Mysticism is an exploration of the intangible. It is in fact a collection of personal stories about a brush with a level of existence which the conscious.
Mind cannot perceive, let alone understand, but within which we recognize something unconsciously.
- Realistic mysticism requires an appreciation of one’s own human limitations in perception and the process of becoming conscious.
- Every story about a mysterious phenomenon is and remains subjective. It is a story about somebody’s personal experience of something which nobody else could know. Other people need not per se attribute any truth to the story.
- One’s mystical experience can – to a degree, in any case – be recognizable to others, yet this recognition proves nothing. It still remains a subjective experience.
- Every explanation in mysticism is what person thinks and not what it is.
- Realistic mysticism does not dismiss explanations as a rule, but when people explain something to others, they do it with the understanding that it is merely a suggestion.
- Personal conviction is not a valid criteria when it concerns mystical experience.
- Realistic mysticism is a mysticism with an understanding of images: one assumes that an encounter with the intangible creates images and that much of the material for these images comes from the unconsciousness, a shadowy area of which we know very little.
- Realistic mysticism avoids naming a ‘source of reference’ for images, inspiration, or visions.
- Realistic mysticism attributes value to a vague and limited transcendental experience, but rejects its exaggeration.
- A mystical experience does not make one different than others, although such a feeling could arise. Everybody can have a transcendental experience because such an experience is inherent in the potential and limitations of human consciousness.
- Realistic mysticism requires non-attachment to images, and particularly to the strong images that affect one’s inner equilibrium.
- Realistic mysticism requires an accurate use of language. One must not say “ it is” but “it seems” or “it feels like”. One does not ask,” Do you believe it?” but rather “Can you recognize anything in this?” or “Does this mean anything to you?”
- Realistic mysticism sees through the fog of exaltation, it is what remains after the hard confrontation with doubts and critical questions, one’s own doubts and questions as well as those from others. Realistic mysticism does not avoid doubts and questions.
Of course the questions remain. The discussion continues.