The Mystical Sphere of Spiritual Life

Nothing fulfills the spiritual quest as resoundingly as mystical experience -- especially God-communion, mysticism's sweetest fruit. Mystic realizations, such as constant feeling-awareness of the cosmic unity of life, or deep ongoing alignment with the indwelling Divine presence, are esteemed in virtually all spiritual traditions as signs of spiritual enlightenment. No wonder, then, that mystic pursuit is so highly prized among spiritual seekers.

The mystic advantage

Many people might consider mystics to be misfits in the workaday world. Little do they know! Mystics enjoy many life-usable advantages over their more mundane-minded fellows.

To mystics, life is One. And to them, Oneness is a first-hand experience -- not just a philosophic belief. It is their OBSERVATION that the medium of pure Being connects all of Life to Itself.

This direct perception of Unity explains why all advanced souls, of any religion, tend to be benign, non-violent, and compassionate. Their compassion isn't a learned behavior, or a philosophy based on religious indoctrination. It isn't even a result of well-honed skills of mental discipline and self-control. True compassion arises out of the mystics' authentic -- experiential -- realization of cosmic truths, subtle UNIVERSAL realities of Life.

More than any mere "believer," mystics acknowledge and respect the Unity of life and its corollary, the law of karma: "As you sow, so shall you reap," or, if you prefer, "What goes around, comes around." Surely, the awareness of Life Unity naturally promotes considerate, sensitive, peaceable living. Their Unity consciousness also makes it relatively easy for true mystics to follow these lofty prescriptions: "Love thy neighbor as thyself," and "Whatsoever ye do unto the least of these, ye do also unto Me."

But the mystic advantage doesn't end there.

The mystic also benefits by making good use of a host of causative factors which are generally considered to be subtle. For example, mystics naturally recognize the awesome, even instant impact of thoughts, assumptions, and attitudes. "As a man thinketh, so is he."

Most mystics have unusually high motivation to take responsibility on the more subtle levels because of their strong desire for intimacy with God. After all, when the Beloved is all-knowing, just cleaning up our outward behavior -- word and deed -- while leaving our thoughts MESSY is obviously insufficient! When you also figure into the equation the fact that God is in everyone, you can see why mystics have much better than average social attitudes, too!

Every mystic knows that harmony starts in the mind; indeed, every PERSON knows that. But, mystics maintain far greater vigilance against inner negativity in all its forms. They strive to create a very clean and attractive INNER environment for themselves, for God -- indeed for all of life. Progressively, they gain and maintain improved mastery over subtle levels of causation, as the superficial control of WORD and DEED matures into the responsible discipline of THOUGHT, ATTITUDE, and BELIEF, as well.

In a "peace talk," a worldly diplomat might think nothing of taking an accusatory, even belligerent tone -- even though such attitudes can only alienate other participants. That shortsighted diplomat might actually feel surprised, even victimized, by the poor results of expressing his sincere but off-putting views. Yet no Self-respecting mystic would be surprised at such an outcome; and surely, no Self-respecting mystic would take such an injurious, self-defeating approach to peacemaking.

Many of us resemble that hapless diplomat, in that we too tend to place insufficient emphasis on subtle levels of causation. And our results are just as disappointing. For example, our logic invariably backfires when we ignore emotional realities while pointing to physical symbols: "Didn't I always work and bring home the money?" "Of course I love you -- I married you, didn't I?" It works no better to defend ourselves by quoting exactly what we SAID -- when in fact our attitude, not our words, was problematical.

At our own expense, we ignore invisible-but-powerful causative factors in our lives -- such as intention, attitude, belief, interpretation, etc. That disregard undermines our practical efforts and limits our spiritual progress. Meanwhile, by keeping an eye on what's truly important, mystics sail on smoother waters.

Let's take a hint from the mystic! Why should we be satisfied to simply aim for minimum levels of social acceptability -- adjusting our actions and watching our words -- while leaving our inner intentions and orientations at dangerously low levels? Wouldn't we do better to follow the mystics' example, and deep-clean our minds and hearts? A more deeply peaceable orientation, mindful of the Unity of life, cannot fail to confer tremendous spiritual advantage all around. Steering by spiritual principle may be better than steering by mortal rules; but mystic vision is the best guide of all!

Benefits of mystic experience







Higher energy

Higher consciousness

Higher perspective / Brighter presumptions
Greater clarity / Improved discernment

Deeper understanding

Healthy space

Higher identification / Higher tone

Divine revelation and guidance (higher intelligence)

1. Higher energy

Albert Einstein saw one of the great truths of the universe when he noted that matter and light are forms of ENERGY. Energy plays a key role in God's creation -- and propels the mystic adventure too. Through mystic practices, subtle energy can be raised, and energy-raising rarifies being -- much as water rarifies when it changes to steam by boiling. When human vibratory energy reaches its spiritual "boiling point," consciousness itself changes state. The change allows us to perceive mystic realities that otherwise remain invisible to us.

Most of the other benefits of mystic experience listed below are direct effects of higher energy.

For further reading on the topic of energy-raising and transformation, see Transformation: It CAN Work

2. Higher consciousness

Higher consciousness is what we experience when raised energy illuminates our minds, brightening all our thoughts and perceptions, and allowing us to more easily tune to the higher frequencies of Divine thought and energy. In fact, we human beings are sensitive to mystic realities only when our consciousness is sufficiently high.

Higher consciousness itself represents the ultimate goal of the mystic quest. REAL soul fulfillment is founded on abiding illumination -- not on fleeting spiritual experiences, such as raptures or visions. In this respect, elevated consciousness is definitely where It's at!

Higher consciousness brings with it many wonderful benefits. It gives us a higher perspective, brighter presumptions, greater clarity, and improved discernment.

Higher perspective. In real estate sales, a favorite mantra is, "Location, location, location!" The spiritual equivalent is, "Perspective, perspective, perspective!"

Spiritual traditions recommend gaining higher ground or spiritual "elevation" in order to see life from a higher perspective. Common spatial metaphors aptly describe the fact that spiritual "ascent" expands our mental vistas, the same way that climbing to a higher vantage point expands our visual scope.

Mystic heights show us panoramic views that can be seen nowhere else. Just as we must fly over the landscape to see all the meanderings of a river, or the full extent of a flood, only from the perspective of higher consciousness can we clearly see and rightly understand certain larger patterns and meanings of life.

We don't need to be spiritually advanced to be familiar with this principle in operation. For example, whenever we take a walk to get over feeling upset, we are intuitively seeking "higher ground." As we leave an upsetting situation, our minds repeat the same concern, over and over. But by the time we count to ten and begin to relax, our spirits begin to rise. It doesn't take long before we're able to see clear over concerns that, just minutes before, had totally blocked our vision! Then at last, we can see the other person's point of view -- or think of a constructive response. Thanks to a small elevation in mood! Mystical experience provides a similar elevation boost -- but TEN TIMES higher!

Brighter presumptions. Our presumptions form our fundamental beliefs and expectations about reality. They can even determine our actual EXPERIENCE of reality, because we tend to interpret all experience in ways that reflect and reinforce our existing presumptions. For example, being turned down for a date might justify one man's negative presumptions -- "I knew it! I'm just a loser." But a similar rejection might leave another man's positive views intact: "That girl obviously doesn't know a good thing when she sees it. I'll find someone who does!" With respect to the self-fulfilling power of presumptions, it has been said, "You can get past anything but your presumptions." Indeed, it is often more accurate to say, "I'll see it when I believe it," than, "I'll believe it when I see it."

While experience cannot force our presumptions to change, they do shift automatically as our state of consciousness rises or falls. As everyone knows, different perspectives yield different presumptions about practically everything (ourselves, others, life, God, etc.). When we're depressed, we tend to expect -- that is, PRESUME -- the worst: "I'll never fall in love again!" "It's impossible for me to lose weight!" "I won't get that job; I may as well not even try." But in a high state of mind, we are more likely to subscribe to positive beliefs, such as, "Where there's a will, there's a way."

The best way to improve our presumptions is to uplevel our consciousness. And because lower presumptions can so powerfully limit us, the effect of higher consciousness on all areas of life is tremendously LIBERATING. Mystic practices serve our liberation by providing the required rise in consciousness.

Greater clarity. The energy increase and higher consciousness resulting from effective mystic practice improves clarity in a much better way than morning coffee. To understand why, we must recognize the important distinction between grosser and subtler energies. Increases in vital energy make us more physically alert and alive, but don't necessarily affect life in positive and lasting ways. When our consciousness is low, excess vital energy could easily be invested in arguing, or even in turbo-charged negativity -- making everyone around wish we weren't quite so energized!

Fortunately, mystic experience raises energy in both quantity AND quality. And obviously, although both ways are beneficial, qualitative enhancement is more essential for spiritual advancement. The special vibrancy of higher consciousness provides a refined form of clarity that contributes greatly to well-being. It gives us certainty about what is truly important in life, foresight into where trend lines are headed, and insights that solve or prevent problems. No matter what Madison Avenue claims, coffee CANNOT do that!

Note too, how quickly clarity disappears when we lower our state by dramatizing negative intentions, bad attitudes, and unethical orientations. For example, a woman may be happy and clear in the morning, but if, in the afternoon, she unfairly blames a coworker for a mistake she herself made, she'll feel darker and thicker -- and relatively clueless -- the rest of the day

Improved discernment. Greater clarity means improved discernment -- increased ability to make finer, more accurate distinctions.

Discernment is a crucial function in life. Werner Erhardt said, "We fail if we fail to make enough distinctions." Certainly, many marriages have failed for that reason! For example, a woman may be stubbornly convinced that she loves her husband, but how OFTEN is she REALLY loving to him? She may take both her love and her husband dangerously for granted. Unless she truly appreciates the difference between the THEORY of love and the PRACTICE of love, that woman is not likely to ACTUALLY love her husband enough to hold their marriage together.

Everyone must make many distinctions in order to lead a truly productive and fulfilling life. It is NEVER enough to say, "That was a good experience," or "That was a bad experience." Invariably, every experience has good and bad aspects.

WHAT was good or bad about it? And in what way? If we cannot distinguish what worked from what did not work about an event or circumstance, we cannot reliably repeat good results, avoid bad ones, or create better experiences in the future

3. Deeper understanding

Deeper understanding results from higher consciousness. When our consciousness is raised, we see the whole world differently. Things we never noticed before are suddenly obvious to us; things we never understood before finally make sense.

The reverse is also true: We may have a flash of insight when our consciousness is temporarily elevated. But if we fail to write the insight down, we may completely forget it within minutes. And more to the point, even if we do write it down, our new understanding may lose much of its significance to us after our consciousness returns to previous levels.

Higher consciousness brings deeper understanding. It unlocks our intuitive awareness of higher truth. Our ability to directly perceive and correctly interpret Divine reality belongs to our spiritual nature. We lose access to it, however, when we rely too heavily on the lower mind thought processes which dominate ordinary levels of vibrancy and consciousness. As our state rises, higher mind knowing naturally re-asserts itself like the sun peeking through clouds. Higher consciousness simply rekindles our God-given bright mind.

God's children all know

For more information about the relationship between the lower mind and the higher mind, click here.

For more information about the relationship between our level of consciousness and our understanding, see Energy and Understanding: The Real Secret of Learning and Growth

4. Healthy space

Healthy space -- detachment -- is sometimes pictured as cold or clinical, but it's nothing of the kind. In many cases, the coldness we associate with "detachment" actually comes from excessive attachment. Consider how frosty it feels when overly attached people "play it cool" to protect their feelings. Consider the chill of "studied indifference." Those forms of "detachment" are reactive dramatizations that represent the very OPPOSITE of real space. Real space is not cold; it is warm. And it is absolutely essential to harmonious living.

We need space for mental and emotional health -- for overall well-being. And there's more: in spiritual practice, healthy detachment expands far beyond soundness of mind and spirit, into truly ecstatic boundlessness and unlimited freedom. It allows spirit to soar into the spiritual skies!

Mystic practice is a time-honored space machine -- the very best obtainable. We gain healthy space when we briefly withdraw from worldly concerns to pray, meditate, or practice other spiritual disciplines. We gain an even more durable and versatile form of space by practicing such spiritual qualities as compassion and forgiveness in daily life. That kind of inner discipline earns us blessed, welcome distance from our lower, reactive patterns.

But when we resist bringing a spiritual orientation into life, our reactive patterns can easily get the upper hand. Then we find ourselves seeking refuge in unhealthy forms of space.

Unhealthy forms of space

a. Running away. People sometimes reactively exclaim, "I can't take this -- I have to get out of here!" People's conclusions about what they "can" and "cannot" take may be realistic, or just plain cowardly -- or, in some cases, may reflect a real limitation they developed BECAUSE of cowardice.

We maximize our capacities when we take a courageous and persevering attitude. Unfortunately, more people err on the side of self-stifling timidity than on the side of invigorating bravery. You can easily verify this statistic by imagining a world in which everyone embraced challenges with relish. Quite different from the world we know, isn't it? How much we've all lost by playing it too safe!

b. Avoidance. Everyone needs solitude at times. And we all have a right to assert our needs when someone leans on us too much. But sometimes a "need" for more space expresses a preference to distance ourselves from situations we find difficult. For example, a man may leave his family because he finds marital obligations unpleasant. A child may suddenly fall ill on the day of a test. These forms of avoidance cater to our weaknesses, and only perpetuate and increase them.

c. Indifference/giving up. Unhealthy space can also come from indifference or giving up. People who prefer pets to people, or who give up on the opposite sex, have a certain space -- an emptiness around their hearts! We can only pity the people who say things like, "The more I learn about men, the more I appreciate cats." Clearly, reactively isolating ourselves in a spirit of social skepticism is no way to have an ABUNDANT and fulfilling life.

d. Forcible exile/banishment. And what about the space people get when their spouse throws them out of the house? Unwanted spaces like that affect people quite oppositely from healthy space. The refugees feel crunched, not expanded; desperate, not peaceful.

The trouble is, the perspective afforded by unhealthy forms of space is gloomy, and indeed, oppressively SMALL. The world may seem far away, but how useful is the distance we've gained? Although unhealthy space gives us the chance to evaluate and re-evaluate, when we're down in the dumps, our judgments and conclusions are not likely to be too bright.

So, we should value not just any old space, but only the healthy space that gives us bright and broad perspective. Similarly, we shouldn't value just any old detachment, coming from any old cause. In fact, detachment created by aversion, avoidance, giving up, or indifference is not detachment at all -- it is, instead, a negative iteration of attachment. It is the hate side, if you will, of an excessively attached love-hate relationship. Unhealthy withdrawal hurts rather than helps our performance in the other spheres of spiritual life.

There may at times be a fine line between healthy retreat for rejuvenation, and reactive running away. But surely, heart and soul can tell the difference. Healthy space proves constructive in its effects, and self-limiting in its duration. It culminates in a renewed desire to re-engage life and other people. Unhealthy space feels compensatory, not constructive, and actually reduces our enthusiasm for returning to closeness.

The world's most useful space: space from our own mental negativity

We often define space as "getting away from people or situations that bring us down or stress us out." We say, "I need relief from this person's bad influence." "I need a break from all the trouble that life brings to me, and creates all around me."

It is certainly true that we occasionally need such relief in order to restore health and build strength. That is a primary function of space. But the irritants we leave behind may not account for all -- or even MOST -- of our distress. MOST of our distress comes from our own minds. Therefore, the kind of space that is MOST valuable is space from OUR OWN PATTERNS of NEGATIVE REACTION to people and life.

We often get confused about that, thinking that getting away from THEM (other people) or IT (the world, life, etc.) holds the real key to recovery. In fact, the only REAL and lasting relief comes from taking in hand our own thought patterns, reactions, beliefs, etc. Meditation CAN help, as long as we remember WHERE most of our problems originate! But any mental peace we taste in meditation can be stabilized only by a combination of mental and physical discipline in daily life activities.

5. Higher identification/higher tone

Higher identification. Who would believe a medical researcher who claimed to have found a single cure for every physical disease, from heart attack to the common cold? Yet there IS a common cause -- and a common cure -- for virtually all of mankind's spiritual ills.

What is this "miracle cure" that can chop down confusion, indecision, powerlessness, low self esteem, self hatred, fear, envy, defensiveness, and the rest -- all in a single stroke? REDUCE EGO-IDENTIFICATION. This precious antidote can be procured by intrepid explorers of mystical heights.

Who would doubt that excessive ego identification is THE bane of human existence? Excessive ego identification causes problems not just in spiritual life, but indeed everywhere -- at work, in intimacy, and even in play. Ego clouds the mind with doubt, negativity, and confusion, making even the most rudimentary problems virtually insoluble, and obstructing evolutionary progress. Consequently, a real reduction in ego-identification yields gains not only in what is called spiritual life, but in virtually EVERY area of life.

How can ego-identification produce such a wide variety of negative effects? The mechanism of the "disease" is simple but devastating: Ego-identification attacks well-being by leaving us no space relative to OURSELVES (or at least, what we consider to be ourselves -- our self-images, our opinions, our feelings, our reactions, our desires, etc.).

It's common knowledge that people have little or no space when it comes to themselves. We suffer it all the time: Without the objectivity of space, we're impatient with ourselves; we give up much too easily; we worry obsessively about our shortcomings; we beat ourselves up for errors we might readily forgive in others. And how tragic, that we can often help somebody else with a problem that we can't seem to solve for ourselves! As if that wasn't bad enough, our ego-identification also blinds us to our own true beauty -- the very beauty we so clearly see and appreciate in our friends. All of these symptoms arise because WE have too little space from OURSELVES.

Meanwhile, the ego LOVES to distinguish "self" from "other." Consequently, it grants us TREMENDOUS space when it comes to most "others" (with the possible exception, of course, of relationships with which we are strongly ego-identified -- people we're romantically attracted to, people we envy, or people in whom we recognize too many of our own bad habits!). Because we generally have so much space from OTHERS, we can potentially be of great help to our friends, offering them an undistorted view of their problems, calm persistence in solving those problems, and an undaunted attitude toward setbacks. And we can easily see past THEIR problems and admire THEIR inner beauty, THEIR strength of character, THEIR uniqueness, THEIR worthiness, etc. -- again, all because we have space!

Ego identification is what makes our attitudes towards ourselves and our friends so DIFFERENT. In fact, we can test HOW ego-identified we are, by looking at exactly how different those attitudes ARE.

Now look what ego-identification and lack of space does when it infects our relationships: It makes us demanding, fearful, and self-protective. We become thick and insensitive. We become dishonest or uncommunicative. And, we become prone to hide. As ego-identified people, we hide by withdrawing from relationship, or simply withdrawing WITHIN relationship. To the extent that we unplug from others, from life, and from God, our energy level plummets. Pretty soon, we're depressed and confused.

Now you can see why so many different human problems actually do share the same cure -- REDUCE EGO-IDENTIFICATION! In order to live and love freely, we must reduce ego-identification as much as possible. Sustained mystic practice helps us do exactly that. By giving us brighter consciousness, higher perspective -- and yes, more space -- mystical experience changes our lives in fundamental and revolutionary ways.

There is a good reason why mystic realization is often called "Self-realization." The most essential benefit of mystic practice is this: It changes the way we view OURSELVES. Mystic upliftment shifts self-identification away from body/lower-mind ego modes, towards greater social affinity and spirit identification. The change in self-identification is the most potent of all the effects of spiritual practice. That, in itself, works to remedy ALL the spiritual ills known to man.

Higher tone. Composers make full use of the various moods of the different musical scales -- some brighter, some darker. Similarly, the scale of human Beingness has an astounding range of keys. How well we choose and play the notes at our disposal defines the quality of our presence and the influence we have on the world around us.

Just as the tone of a musical note depends on its rate of vibration, our own "tone" depends on the vibratory level of our thoughts and actions. High thoughts and intentions, such as happiness, goodwill, love, joy, optimism, and faith, vibrate at high frequencies. That's why they lift people up. Negative thoughts and lower intentions, such as unhappiness, fear, doubt, resentment, anger, sorrow, and despair, vibrate at low frequencies. When we entertain those, we bring ourselves and others down. Because mystic experience so directly uplifts our vibratory energy, our presumptions, and our self-identification, the mystic sphere EXCELS at elevating tone.

Tone never lies. Just as we can't hold back the tone of a bell from ringing forth after it is struck, we can't successfully fake a high tone when our consciousness is low. And it is important to realize that high tone is not simply a matter of increasing energy and intensity. The laws of physics dictate that a guitar string will sound higher when the energy of its vibration goes up. But a human being can just as easily be intensely negative as intensely positive. So we must take care to not only raise our energy, but also to tune our minds to higher, more Godly thoughts. Fortunately, mystic practice usually does both at once, taking advantage of the close relationship between QUALITY of thought and QUANTITY of energy.

Because of that relationship, intense negativity is a self-limiting experience. Low-toned thinking is so compressive that before long it squashes our intensity and leaves us flat. On the other hand, cosmic law allows intensity to naturally increase -- practically without limit -- when it comes to higher, positive thought. This wonderful characteristic of high-toned thought and action is a powerful ally of the Universe forces for good.

6. Divine revelation and guidance (higher intelligence)

Formal mystical practices and esoteric mystical experiences constitute only PART of the mystic aspect of spiritual life. The OTHER part -- and perhaps the greatest mystical experience of all -- is the still small voice.

What this mystical voice brings to the life of spirit is incalculable. The still small voice is the Divine companion within, providing loving inspirations and Godly wisdom -- virtually moment by moment, and as needed.

For more information on the value and purposes of the still small voice, read these articles:

How the Still Small Voice Works

Why Obey the Still Small Voice

How to Use Your Spiritual Power and Influence

Knowing and doing God's will is ultimately a matter of learning to hear and obey the still small voice. All of us have natural talent for this, but many of us are convinced that we don't, perhaps because:





We don't recognize the inner voice; and/or

We dismiss our lofty insights and uplifting inspirations as illogical or too risky; and/or

We've suffered bad results from following egoic whims, while construing those whims as Divine guidance; and/or

We drown out our inner voice with overly busy minds and excessive attachment to our own private plans/desires.

Fortunately, with enough desire and enough practice, all of these errors are correctable. You may find invaluable insight into how to better recognize and obey the still small voice from the following articles:

Taking Divine Direction

Consider the Source: Egoic Urges or Divine Promptings

Doubt vs. the Still Small Voice

Becoming intimate with the still small voice is crucial for mystic devotees. We noted at the beginning of this article that stable mystical realization is a universally accepted measure of enlightenment. Although it is less flashy than other mystical experiences, the ability to continuously hear -- and the willingness to consistently follow -- the voice of inner Divine guidance is by far the single most important form of mystic realization. Without it, human beings are more or less mired in the struggles of an egoically determined life -- and NOTHING we can do can really improve the ego's track record! Ego must simply, someday, be conclusively voted out of power. In that inner revolution, the still small voice becomes our only compass, and the will of God becomes our only purpose. THAT is true enlightenment.

For more reading on this subject, see:

The Right Direction: Divine Direction

The Evolution of Love from Personal to Cosmic

The pursuit of mystic experience

There is no question that the bliss of peak mystic moments far outshines everyday experience -- and makes our mundane problems seem small (or at least smaller!). Consequently, most people who've been to the mystic mountain -- and almost every person has had at least one or two close encounters with it -- feels tempted to chuck ordinary life and head for the nearest cave or monastery.

For practical reasons alone, few of us can abandon all "worldy" ties. But more importantly, the lifestyle of mystic seclusion truly suits very few people. The vast majority of us NEED the stabilizing structure provided by work, pragmatic responsibilities, and social relationships. For us, the time to drop out and tune in is best grabbed in small chunks -- for instance, before breakfast, before dinner, and before bed.

When integrated into life in bite-sized pieces, mystic pursuit fits into anyone's schedule. That's truly fortunate, because the mystic sphere of spiritual life offers many wonderful benefits that every child of God deserves to enjoy!

For more reading on mystic pursuit, see:

On the Mystic Trail

Benefit of the mystic in a nutshell

The beauty of the mystic sphere is how a touch of God changes EVERYTHING. Every area of life benefits directly and immediately. Surely, then, mystical pursuit greatly enriches all the other spheres of spiritual life -- wisdom, practical, and social. In the remaining three articles directly associated with the mystical sphere, we describe the hows and "wise" of these benefits in detail.