Has mysticism a practical value?
Does it contribute only to the ascetic temperament and to a transcendent idealism that have few, if any, roots in the demands of everyday life?
Since mysticism plays a prominent part in the motivation of religion, even in its rituals and symbolism, it ordinarily would appear to be quite distinct from any direct relationship to the material requirements of daily living.
However, if we briefly review the basic concepts of mysticism, we come to see that it does provide access to a valuable source of guidance in worldly affairs.
The Judaic, Christian, Islamic, and even the so-called pagan mystics were generally in agreement on the nature of mysticism, even if they did not all refer to it by that name.
First, mysticism affirms that the fundamental nature of reality is ineffable. We cannot know pure being, the noumenal world, the basic substance of all things, either by means of the senses or the intellect.
In other words, the categories, or faculties, of our ordinary consciousness cannot grasp the innate state of reality.
Mysticism contends that philosophic speculation using reason alone may attempt to understand reality. It may theorise as to its nature, yet falls far short of what reality may be.
This is because reason is of a finite nature. Regardless of its seemingly boundless content and its depth of thought, it cannot embrace pure reality which is infinite.
Regardless of these limitations, mysticism does not completely shut out the possibility of humans experiencing reality.
It leaves open one avenue.
This avenue is through the state of ecstasy.
In this ecstasy, certain phenomena occur. All sense of separateness, apartness and differences of self from the nature of the real disappears.
Simply, this means that the self-consciousness is obliterated. The individualism is actually merged and made one with the real.
What are the mystics striving for in endeavouring to attain this special state of consciousness?
It is first an acknowledgment of the limitations of the ordinary consciousness, the common states of the objective and subjective.
We ordinarily deny ourselves the realisation of the whole, pure being, of which we and all existence are a part.
Our everyday awareness, is like looking through a long narrow tunnel. At one end we see a part of reality, what our senses permit, and we may imagine and dream there is more.
But what lies on either side of the opening of the tunnel and beyond our perception, we know not. No matter how much larger we create the opening of the tunnel as, for example, supplementing our senses with instruments, still we are handicapped.
By such means we can never hope to experience the whole of reality.
We must not therefore rely upon empirical observation and reason as a guide to the nature of reality.
We must use an aspect of consciousness which can realise itself, that is, the very reality of which we are a part. In so doing we are then wholly united with the One—called God, Absolute, Universal Mind, Cosmic, the various terms used by mystics.
Ecstasy is a supreme state of consciousness.
It is an undifferentiated realisation. We may say that it is the full power of human experience unlimited by sense organs and also being a harmony with humanity’s cosmic nature.
It is the focusing of the full light of consciousness on the unity of self, with reality but without the distinction of particulars.
In the ecstasy of which the mystic speaks, the self and all reality are merged—there is but a oneness.
There is then neither self as we distinguished ourselves nor the myriad particulars of the world. There is just reality – a single state of being. The self is not lost but it is absorbed in this reality.
The mystics have well said that reason cannot express this ecstasy that gives awareness of reality.
The more the attempt is made to explain this oneness by means of the category of the senses, the more in-comprehensive it becomes.
It is an experience of a specific state of consciousness which goes far beyond the terms in which the other states of consciousness are able to express themselves.
However, some of the most illumined mystics have affirmed that intuition is the means of attaining this ecstasy by which the experience of absolute reality is had.
They do not relate intuition directly to either the reason or the emotions.
They likewise consider that it is not a phenomenon that is wholly an organic or mental process, but rather a divine function that manifests through a person’s physical and mental being.
To them intuition is thought of as being a kind of super-faculty.
It is natural to us in that it is an intangible attribute of our being but one that is very infrequently fully exercised.
Perhaps another way of explaining the mystical concept of intuition is to think of it as an immanent super-intelligence, this intelligence being part of the whole universal consciousness.
Therefore, intuition is an insight into the Absolute, or Cosmic Reality. It makes possible that ecstasy, that great illumination, or influx of consciousness, by which the self knows its unity with the infinite.
By means of intuition one could acquire the truth regarding the workings of nature and of the cosmos that surpass the reason.
Furthermore, intuition by its self-evident clarity could inspire and guide the reason so that one could demonstrate and objectify the truth.
Thus it is possible for us, by the transcendent means of intuition, to gain a glimpse of the budding state of things, a pristine vision, by which we can reduce reality to natural causes and bring it within a scope that we can experience.
In this regard, then, as a cosmic or divine faculty, intuition is not to be confined to merely acquiring a mystical state of oneness.
It is encyclopaedic.
It has access to values, to relationship, to causal states that our ordinary thinking processes cannot attain.
It must not be thought that intuition supersedes the function of reason.
Almost each hour of our waking state we are called upon to exercise reason, to evaluate, to compare our experiences, to judge their relationship as they affect some activity. We should not resort, nor need we, to intuition in most prosaic matters of the day.
There are two ways in which reason and intuition are to be related. First, when reason fails to find a solution to a problem and the intellectual faculty finds no further recourse, then a resort to intuition should be had.
It constitutes an appeal to an inner higher judgment, a keener sense of relationship than is had by the faculty of reason.
The other relationship of reason and intuition is to use reason as an instrument, a tool to manifest the inspirational ideas of intuition.
This is often difficult because, at first, reason may arrive at a conclusion that is quite contrary to the intuitive impression one may have and, therefore, convey the notion that the latter is impossible of fulfilment.
In other words, reason must not become the judge of the truth of intuition.
Rather, it must rationally try to reduce the intuitive impressions to particulars, conditions, and elements of the world that can be objectively realised.
Though we all possess the faculty of intuition, few know how to call upon it at will. With most, it is a phenomenon that suddenly floods our consciousness from seemingly out of nowhere with an impression that has great clarity.
Further, with most people, the intuitive impression is regarded as fantasy or a day-dream because it seems to conflict with their usual reasoning processes.
It is here where the mystic excels (that is, the true mystic). He or she has the technique which permits him or her to exercise and to understandingly utilise intuition at will. He or she may use it almost as commonly as other people use their reason.
But just as the serious thinker contemplates things as logically as he or she can, so the mystic, too, refers to intuition not in a casual but in an assiduous manner.
He or she does not employ intuition where reason and the sense faculties will suffice. He or she does not resort to a meditative process when empirical observation is all that is necessary.
The technique of mystical intuition consists of not only knowing how to utilise it but when to do so as well.
The real mystic is not, therefore, an idle dreamer out of touch with the world.
Rather, he or she is a practical individual employing a more sensitive faculty and using the full potential of our nature, here and now.