…that deep conviction of the dependence of all human worth upon eternal values, the immanence of the Divine Spirit within the human soul, which lies at the root of a mystical concept of life…From the Preface to Practical Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill
What the author of this Preface called ‘deep conviction’, (human words), the true mystic would identify as ‘mystic experience’ …
I can’t recommend this book to a true seeker because it suggests using mysticism as a tool to improve human life.
The mystic certainly finds his human life much improved but that is simply because the mystic is gifted with a discernment that weeds out worldly priorities and the strife that goes with them.
A worldly life is a world of strife – it is anathema to seekers and mystics …
Nevertheless, I did find the excerpted description of mysticism, above, worthy of note. I hope you do too …
For me one of the greatest problems with Evelyn Underhill is her concentration on Christianity. In which, as such, I am not a believer. Personally, I have no problem with seeking to improve human life, but would prefer to seek the betterment of sentient species in general.
I do believe that the search for enlightenment greatly “improves” human life although as you suggest, that is not perhaps the object of mysticism but a side effect.
I believe that gnosis can come by incremental steps and not necessarily in one blinding flash of light. Or at least that has been, and continues to be, my experience. It has also been my experience that while my inner search has improved my worldly “behavior” it has not (thankfully, perhaps, following St Augustine’s plea) made me any kind of saint.
I have come to a gentle and perhaps slightly melancholic acceptance of life and the way that I believe the universe to be. Perhaps my worldview is best reflected by the Book of Ecclesiastes, or the Tao te Ching.
In any event, meditation and many years of searching have lead me (in my more placid moods) to aa serene acceptance of the way life “is”. While wishing for change, like you I suspect that this will occur not at our will or in accordance with any individual effort.
But over eons of time and in accordance with the unseen patterns of the universe itself. In which I find my own conception of “god”.
Here are excerpts from the over 20 year old interview of the late Freeman Dyson, Professor of physics and mathematics at Princeton University, USA, by Dr Robert Kuhn on the subject of Mind, God, Religion published on ‘Closer To Truth’ on YouTube, 5 January 2023:
(The universe) “has to have some evidence of some sort of purpose.”
“There are some things going on which appear to have a purpose.”
“The universe has a mind of its own and has some sort of share in formulating the rules.”
Dyson also expressed doubt about science ever being able to access the realities being experienced outside science.
He expressed his theory God might be a mind that is collecting human experiences that then make us part of that God after our deaths. He said that was not his belief but he found it attractive.
Dyson came as near to using the word mysticism as any scientist I have read or heard. Mysticism is a much academically, scientifically, philosophically studied phenomena but the word seems to
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Sorry about the abrupt end to this attempt to send you a first draft of a post about the late Freeman Dyson. However it still meets my objective to show you are in good company, Anthony!
(The final draft is awaiting scheduling for publication sometime in the new year. In it I ask if Dyson wasn’t a closet mystic!).
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Yes, superb quotes. My feeling, my intuition is that there are indeed greater mysteries out there than the more narrow minded scientists are capable of admitting to themselves. What arrogance to assume that we are anywhere near a theory of everything. I find the pure physicalists so very depressing – in a sense they lack imagination, which for a scientist must be a rather serious drawback. So many of them are even incapable of seeing the sort of “god” that Einstein believed in.
It doesn’t really matter whether you call it “god”, reality or whatever. There is clearly infinitely more out there, some of which sentient life may eventually come to understand.
Few in this day and age care to admit to any sort of “god” even a pantheistic version which deems god to be in and of everything around us.
Perhaps part of “enlightenment” is to see that such people are in al probability very much mistaken.
“Perhaps part of “enlightenment” is to see that such people are in al probability very much mistaken.”
I don’t think Reality worries whether we believe in It or not, Anthony! Reality believes in us!