Rev. Alesia Matson D.D.
doing, is the first aim of the mystic..."
— Evelyn Underhill
"Mysticism has gone mainstream..."
— Carolyn Myss
For thousands of years mysticism
has been regarded or disregarded as a pursuit or calling for the
"fringe of the fringes." Out of the fractional percentage
of persons who felt a call into the deep disciplines of any tradition
(religion, science, music and athletics among others), only a miniscule
percentage of that small group ever manifested the state of being
that marks the true mystic. And though that select group often left
volumes of written work behind them, the truths in them have remained
impenetrable to the common person in the mainstream of any society.
Until now, that is. In 21st century western culture, mysticism has
indeed hit the mainstream, taking what at times is a rather awkward
place in the ranks of other "self-help" programs and agendas.
Mysticism is deeply concerned with "enlightenment," and
yet "enlightenment" has become a buzzword; "the path
to enlightenment" is a sound-byte clich which, like all
clichs, does an admirable job of shutting down thought in
the mind of the hearer. And so, when the average person who is shopping
around for clues or help for their own struggles sees Mysticism
right alongside 12 Step Programs, Life Coaching, Astrology, Shamanism,
Clairvoyance, Channeling, Crystal Entities, Space Entities, Magick,
Archangels, Intentional Communities etc., it's easy to understand
the basic confusion.
In its simplest sense, mysticism
is a quest, the ultimate goal of which is total Union with the Absolute
(God, by whatever name). It is an organic, whole-life process which
results, when practiced assiduously, in the consummation of the
Love of that God. It is the art of establishing a conscious relationship
with the Divine.
As Evelyn Underhill said, it's about being. Being in love with All
That Is, being still and knowing you are God, being the peace which
manifests in the world, being abundant, healthy, wise, powerful.
It is a level of beingness that transcends mere existenceÑit
is a conscious statement of one's total relationship with All That
Manifests, and All That Does Not.
Mysticism is the state where the personal will is united with emotions
in an impassioned desire to transcend the world of the five senses,
the world of "doingness." Our souls, the parts of us that
never forgot our divine heritage, use emotions to speak with us.
True emotions come directly from Divine Source, they are the true
universal language. When we link our emotions with our personal
will, the will becomes completely surrendered, or suffused in, the
Will of the Divine. We transcend the illusion of "self-hood"
or separation. There is Only One.
A mystic lives in that Truth.
Mysticism is not a thing
about which mystics merely hold an opinion. It's not about adding,
subtracting, rearranging or improving anything in the physical world.
It's not about "doing" anything, except when that "doingness"
springs spontaneously out of the finer levels of "beingness"
a mystic inhabits.
It's not about praying for rain, getting someone to fall in love
with you, casting circles, or winning the lottery. It doesn't even
pertain to the laying on of hands for healing, evoking angels, or
any other kind of miracle, for that matter.
In mystical parlance, these pursuits are labeled "occultism"
in that the will is working in tandem with intellect in an impassioned
desire for "supersensible" knowledge, power, or control.
It is the deliberate exaltation of the will until it transcends
its usual limitations, and obtains for itself or others something
which it/they did not previously possess.
MAKING SENSE OF IT
There's nothing inherently
wrong with occultism or mysticism of course. Nor is there anything
intrinsically "right" about either. Mystics themselves
do sometimes engage in what might seem to be "occult"
practices in the courses of their daily lives. It is worth noting
that the typical mystic does these things in an ecstasy of surrender
while the occultist engages in them for worldly power and/or control.
The confusion arises in that the starting point for both is the
same: an inextinguishable conviction that there are other planes
of being than those which our five sense can report, that there
is something more to life than what sensory indulgences can provide.
It is this firmly held conviction that impels mystic and occultist
alike into the avid search for those otherworldly planes, those
supersensory experiences. Both desire to tear aside the veil that
separates them from Truth. They differ only in intention, not in
their conviction that such Truth does exist.
They are also alike in that both mysticism and occultism require
extraordinary discipline and focus to achieve that end, i.e., to
tear aside that veil. Success in either method bespeaks a superior
human being, one who has mastered baser appetites, transcended limitations,
and arrived at a level of consciousness not shared by the majority
of fellow beings on this planet. If a mystic and occultist were
engaged side by side in their labors for the world to see, it would
indeed be difficult to tell from simple outer examination which
An easy example: The distance runner who runs because he knows that
after miles of agonizing pain in chest, legs, and arms the veil
will drop away, and for an eternal moment he will be enrapt in Oneness
with all creation...
There is also the distance runner who runs to win the Olympic Gold
Medal. Both run. Both endure the same agonies, the same privations.
Both invoke inhuman levels of discipline and focus to achieve their
The first is a mystic by definition. The second, admirable as he
may otherwise be, is an occultist. From an exterior viewpoint, the
two are indistinguishable.
MYSTIC IS AS MYSTIC
In reclaiming the word "mystic"
from its current associations with magic(k), occultism, New Age
occlusion, and overall cultural obfuscation we have to reassert
its ties to the Goal: living in the Unitive state of awareness.
One may at times use occult techniques, trance states, channeled
guidance, hands-on healing, astrological forecasts, and other methods
in order to live actively and practically in this modern world,
but it is always that unity with the Beloved which is the ultimate
proving ground of the mystic.
Rev. Matson is
co-founder of Church of the New Renaissance, a Home for Modern Mystics.
She is the author of "Seven Steps to Higher Consciousness,
A Modern Mystic's Meditation." Her Doctorate of Divinity was
granted for her work on modern mysticism. Her current work includes
spiritual counseling, lifepath mentoring, and teaching classes on
the many facets of mysticism. For more info, visit the church's