A review of Cara Hebert’s article “Am I a Mystic?”, published on GAIA.com
This review précises an article that first appeared in GAIA.com where it can be read in full.
Our review comments appear in bold type. Otherwise everything Cara Hebert writes is supported by my own yearly mystical experiences of Reality from the age of about 15 to my late thirties.
First of all it has to be said, the understanding and clarity of this article is profound, though some hints of individual worldliness may be unhelpful.
However, in all that I have seen, heard and read on the subject, whether religious, laic, secular, or scientific, I haven’t come across such an easily read and understood interpretation of the effects of the mystic phenomenon on mystics.
The author starts off by saying, “Mysticism holds a very loose definition, which can often be complicated, confusing, and nearly impossible to express with mere words.”
She says “direct knowledge of spiritual truth or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience and that Ultimate reality is something that is supreme, final, and the fundamental power in all reality.”
“Unlike Christianity, Islam or Judaism, Mysticism is not rooted in faith, principle, dogma, or even belief. This is because you do not “believe” in Mysticism. Instead, Mystics are born.”
The next claim in the article, that to Mystics the world is “expansive” and “magical”, yet also “intricately and undoubtedly connected”, conforms to my experiences, except nothing seemed “magical”, they were all so natural.
The article says, “Free will does not exist. Instead, there is a greater fundamental power that moves every action and decision toward the accomplishment of a greater plan.”
Very true, except for the free will bit …
Mystics do see divine intervention behind their impulses, as the article suggests, and there is a greater power that moves every action and decision towards a greater plan. But the claim free will does not exist is not true in my experience.
Within their human limits, humans have extraordinary powers of free will. So do beetles within their limits, so do all creatures … I assume a plentiful free will abounds within the individual bounds of all created beings.
The article says, “Because of this natural understanding of the Universe in everything, Mystics feel a need to serve others in order to help guide them through obstacles and critical life decisions.”
No. Not all mystics “feel a need to serve others”. Buddhists, for instance, understand those particular mystics, like me, who feel humanity is a distraction from their path to “Nirvana”. They call these enlightened ones, pratyekabuddhas, or paccekabuddhas, the so-called “silent buddhas” who do not try to share their realization with the world.
Pratyekabuddhas are said to achieve enlightenment on their own, without the use of teachers or guides, by “dependent origination”, (spontaneous rebirth?). For instance, all my experiences were spontaneous.
Traditionally, Paccekabuddhas give moral teachings but not enlightenment. (See unedited descriptions in Wikipedia).
In my experience of the mystical experience of Reality there is nothing to be learned from the study of human beings. Deus sufficit. Or, in mystic parlance, Ultimate Reality is enough.
Another assertion by Hebert is that not everyone can be a mystic, “it is not something that can be learned or taught, therefore those who realize their innate abilities have the responsibility to help those without.”
I agree with everything in this observation except the apparent assertion that Mystics have a responsibility to help non Mystics, thus suggesting Mystics can substitute themselves for Reality! History is filled with martyred mystics who made this mistake.
Finally, Hebert gives 10 ways of telling if you’re a mystic. We précis them here:
1. YOU VALUE EXPERIENCES ABOVE ALL ELSE
Mystics tend to steer clear of strict doctrines and principles. Because of their innate intuition, they have a high level of trust in their own morality and inner self.
Basically, she says Mystics welcome others’ experiences but only rely on their own experiences of Reality to guide their existence, whether this agrees with humanity or not.
True. Reality is enough.
2. YOU QUESTION EXISTENCE
Mystics see and understand more but are not able to fully comprehend how the universe works and why.
Mystics are passengers; not drivers or mechanics, (or physicists!).
Mystics have a curiosity about the world.
Not at all! For Mystics, the world is a spiritual distraction to be avoided.
3. YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY
Mystics understand that there is a plan behind every action In The Universe, and therefore trust that every action has purpose, even if they don’t know what the next moment will bring. Mystics also trust in themselves and their connection to the universe that they will be able to interpret any signs and act accordingly.
4. YOU VALUE INTUITION
Mystics rely on knowledge, language and physical senses the same as others do. However, their intuitive perceptions offer a deeper form of insight.
5. YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH SPIRITUAL HIERARCHIES
Tenuous rituals or traditions have no place in the world of spirituality for Mystics.
6. YOU HAVE YOUR OWN SET OF RULES
Mystics feel a connection to every living thing and therefore are able to look beyond what may be socially accepted. Mystics have an innate trust in their own morality and intuition and are guided by their experience, rather than by leaders or society.
7. YOU VALUE INTERNAL GROWTH
To Mystics, rituals and traditions are meant to trigger internal insight and transformation, not to appease a higher power. This is another reason why Mystics often feel uncomfortable with structured religions. Mystics feel that personal growth toward the universe’s ultimate plan must come from within. It cannot be dictated or ordered. Mystics feel a responsibility to help others to find their way, however, they cannot tell them what is right and wrong.
Not all Mystics “feel a responsibility to help others find their way”. Many have been martyred for making this mistake. See above.
8. YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE A CONDUIT FOR POWER, NOT THE SOURCE
Because of their connection with everyone and everything, Mystics are often humble and more concerned with understanding and emotion than with power. They see their insights into the universe as a borrowed gift – bestowed upon them by something greater, but ultimately temporary.
I see mystic experiences as permanent. They are developing experiences of Ultimate Reality, not something “temporary” or “borrowed”. This is the first time I’ve heard this suggestion of impermanence.
9. YOU BELIEVE LOVE IS THE SOURCE OF LIFE
Similar to No. 8, Mystics believe that love powers everything. Love is not something that originates in you, rather it is something that flows through every being.
10. YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING
And you don’t think you know everything. Mystics acknowledge that the universe is infinite and mysterious and is far too complex for the human mind to fully comprehend. They trust in the universe’s plan and see their journey as one of understanding, not preaching.
Cara Hebert is a writer who received her BFA from Boston University. An avid traveller and citizen of nowhere and everywhere, Cara has lived all over the world including North Carolina, London, Massachusetts, Maine, Georgia, Illinois, and Connecticut.
By David Robertson
I was an atheist for most of my life until about five or six years ago. And I was very anxiety ridden, filled with constant concerns for what I wanted to do in the future. I worked endlessly to try and fulfill these goals that I thought I wanted, and was terrified of the prospect of not being able to achieve them. This stopped me from realising the beauty of just simply living life in a more present way. It didn’t make me happy, it didn’t make me a better person, I was just too busy working towards some non-existent future. This is a story for another time, but I slowly became more interested in spirituality and gradually developed a strong belief in a loving God and that the universe was divine (including myself). As a result, a concern for death and the future became less of a factor.
I started to trust in the divine more and more, and countless opportunities started appearing for me. I also realised my early goals weren’t what I wanted in life. A trust in God gave me the courage to simply jump into the unknown, and I just knew in my heart that things would work out for the best. And in the end, it has. I traveled around India and Nepal without planning much; ended up doing jobs that I quite loved; discovered and pursued a passion for writing that was always hidden a little bit below the surface; found myself teaching English in China; and of course, I found the love of my life. For me, the results of trusting in God and the universe speaks for itself.
I wrote this piece today because my partner is going through quite a stressful time, most of it to do with our future plans over the next year and whether she can achieve them. She asked me at one point, “how can you not be so worried about all of this?” So I guess this post is in part an answer to her question, and I hope she finds something of value in it that can ease her suffering, even if it’s just a little bit.
Read David Robertson’s Trust: Surrendering Yourself to God and the Universe in full.
All human beings have the capacity to listen and know what they are. Those who do, who persist as if drawn; paying attention, accepting, unable to resist; sometimes suddenly, sometimes slowly, but ever surely, will know what they are. After that nothing is the same again. Humans are not the who they think they are.
“Any effort dedicated to making humans better humans is not spiritual. Being human IS the problem. Being better at it is a spiritual oxymoron, a dead end.
“Transcendence: Beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience …”
Oxford University Dictionary
Q: What is the difference between contemplation and meditation?
A: Contemplation and meditation are about the inner work towards personal realisation of Reality.
I can’t answer from experience because my realisation of Reality was different. It didn’t come from special focus/concentration, contemplation or meditation. It was spontaneous.
I remember knowing at about five years of age that my destiny was to find my soul and return it to what I then called “God”.
Ten years later I was called by what I call MER (the Mystical Experience of Reality) to experience Reality for the first of many times, every year, until I was in my late thirties.
So focus, contemplation and meditation were not my path to Reality. Contemplation was a tool subsequently used to inspect Reality and human life.
Meditation, surrendering, never worked if I invoked it. It came as a fruit of my constant rededication to the joyousness of Reality’s love, guidance, defence, encouragement and unending presence.
It’s been an effortless process, though not without its frustrations and futile attempts to take my destiny into my own hands now and again …
Being involved in humanity is not easy for a mystic.
(However, I’m much encouraged that leading scientists are more and more aware of the fundamental centrality of the mystic experience in humanity’s evolution).
Today, constant promptings continue to play a big part in the perennial inner work against lust, anger, greed, attachments and ego, the veils between humans and Reality.
SEEKER? As for you, it seems you’re called, you’re a Seeker.
That which you seek seeks you, so you might as well give in, because Reality doesn’t.
My recommendation would be for you to consider practising complete surrender, one bit at a time. That’ll mean a lot of sitting quietly, waiting, listening, resisting thoughts as they arise, staying blank, avoiding distractions. This is the inner work. It’s constant. It’s what you’re all about. Ultimately, nothing can separate you from your destiny, your joy and acceptance in Reality. You’ll never want to be just human ever again.
Follow this way and you’ll be taken through all the focus, contemplation and meditation you need …
I hope this is helpful.