To call these "end times" is hardly hyperbolic. We are in trouble and the signs are everywhere: extreme political divisions; xenophobic violence; enormous wealth inequity; poverty and homelessness; sexism and ageism; arms buildups and unending wars; and, most frightening of all, escalating climate disruption. Climate change is already resulting in food and water shortages, species extinctions, unlivable lands, climate refugees, and catastrophic weather, flood and fire events. It is also obvious that we are the cause of these dark times. Each of these crises originates in the human psyche—yours and mine. Driven by left-brain beliefs, illusions, addictions, and obsessions, we race headlong toward the collapse of civilization. Fortunately, the solution to these mounting crises also lies in the human psyche, arising from a most surprising source: the right-brain’s natural mystical consciousness. But our survival depends on whether we understand and resolve this paradox in time.
Visionaries of our time, including Thomas Berry, Joanna Macy, and Matthew Fox, describe our collective human crisis as the greatest modern threat of our species. But Fox, who has been one of my own mentors, also offers hope, explaining, "Cosmology teaches us that there is only one work going on in the universe, the 'Great Work' of creation itself - the work of creation unfolding." I believe this Great Work unfolds through us! When we wake up to who and where we really are, and express the divine aliveness of our true self, we join this work and become it. In other words, The Great Work arises from the depths of our own being and we are moved by divinity to participate in its sacred cosmogenesis. In this process, we move from mystic to prophet. And now more than ever we need to be involved in this work.
The Mystics Vision
Whenever humanity teeters on a terrifying cliff edge, mystics offer hope and it always begins with our own personal transformation. The essence of this vision can be summarized in five universal mystical realizations and their potential for a new world.
- The cosmos is conscious, awake, aware, welcoming, and constantly unfolding as Creation itself, infusing everything with an infinitely loving omnipresence and reaffirming humanity’s original pantheism. The world is literally divine, arising from the very substance, nature, and being of God. We live in an infinitely holy place filled with sacred beings, human and otherwise.
- Human beings, driven by left-brain thinking, create and project an illusory world over our divine home, a mental world ugly with stereotypical beliefs, invented conflicts, endless problems, and nonstop fantasy, but we can, just as easily, erase these illusions in the sensory clarity of mystical consciousness.
- How do we transform the world? It begins and ends with this realization: All consciousness is divine consciousness. Dissolving the ego’s perpetual fascination with its false self and imaginary world, we unmask our own divinity and awaken a life divine. Dwelling in divine consciousness transforms our experience of self, work, and the world itself.
- When we fully appreciate who and where we really are—divine beings in a divine world—we will cease harming our sacred planet and our imaginary problems will fade away as, when a movie ends, the lights come on, and we realize we’ve all been in a collective trance. This awakening creates a new kind of activism—mystical activism—based on literally witnessing the sacredness of life on Earth.
- As our individual and collective transformation proceed, we won’t abandon the world of planes, trains, computers, and corporations central to modern life; rather we will transform them with the love and mystical intelligence inherent in the divine mind.
I am not asking you to believe this revelation, but I am confident that you can experience it if you try. With my heart and soul, I beseech you to try. Humanity's renewal is less a matter of faith than of transformed vision. Just as the divine world is never finished, neither is mystical revelation—we will be divinely guided through the death and rebirth of civilization if we pay attention. As the mind clears, so too does the path.
What is Mysticism?
Briefly, mysticism refers to the direct, first-hand experience of the divine. People have been having mystical experiences since the dawn of time, from major figures like Jesus, Buddha, Moses, and Muhammad, whose revelations evolved into world religions, to everyday folks like you and me touched by the power and profundity of these sacred moments.
In general, mystical experiences come in three flavors: big mystical experiences, little mystical experiences and mystical consciousness. Big mystical experiences, known variously as enlightenment, satori, cosmic consciousness, peak experiences, and countless other names, transform an individual's personality and life with their power and profundity. Little mystical experiences arise in states of awe and reverence evoked by great natural beauty, powerful rituals, or profound moments of life. Finally, mystical consciousness arises in spiritual practices that silence thought, intensify sensory perception, and focus consciousness back on itself offering us the direct experience of a sacred, timeless, and loving reality. This intentionally awakened state allows us to explore the same qualities and dimensions of big and little mystical experiences.
Most importantly, in all mystical experiences we discover the agency of Presence, a divine consciousness permeating the universe and blessing us with…
- Transfiguring perceptions of reality as luminous, sacred, and infinitely precious
- Reassurance of Creation's perfection, holiness, and purpose
- A personal experience of immense unconditional love
- Feelings of gratitude and humility for the gift of life
- Personal revelations of insight, meaning, or other sacred teachings.
Here is an example of a big mystical experience and its revelations about the ultimate nature of reality. "Often during my late twenties and early thirties I had a good deal of depression...at the age of thirty-three, I felt I must be going mad. I felt shut up in a cocoon in complete isolation and could not get in touch with anyone…things came to such a pass and I was so tired of fighting that I said one day, 'I can do no more. Let nature, or whatever is behind the universe, look after me now.'…Within a few days I passed from hell to a heaven. It was as if the cocoon had burst and my eyes were opened and I saw…The world was infinitely beautiful, full of light as if from an inner radiance. Everything was alive and God was present in all things; in fact, the earth, all plants and animals and people seemed to be made of God. All things were one, and I was one with all creation and held safe within a deep love. I was filled with peace and joy and with deep humility, and could only bow down in the holiness of the presence of God…It was as if scales had fallen from my eyes and I saw the world as it truly was."
The Patriarchal World of Man
But the mystic’s vision is not where most of us live. We dwell instead in a mental world of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that are woven into complicated stories. These stories tell us who we are, what we should do, think, and be, how the world works, and especially what's wrong with our lives. I call it the World of Man because it is an entirely man-made construction and because it's dominated by masculine values like hierarchy, control, ownership, conflict, competition, and productivity. An endless system of collective beliefs and assumptions, it is the origin and essence of duality. In actuality, the World of Man is a fantasy land of stories and beliefs, an addictive mental template overlaid on the divine world. Favoring thought over perception, we lose Creation and imprison ourselves instead in the imaginary world of the mind.
But it’s even worse than that. The World of Man is synonymous with the patriarchy. The patriarchy is the collective expression in behavior, attitude, and values of ingrained warrior masculinity—men acting synergistically, modeling and reinforcing patterns of non-negotiable strength, self-sufficiency, reactive aggression, and submission to the alpha male hierarchy. The men’s movement of the nineties and recent research summarized by the American Psychological Association have documented the psychological harm of these patriarchal values, conferring gender-based privileges to men but also trapping them in narrow, emotion-constricting roles, and harming women, indigenous peoples, animals, and the Earth herself. Many call this scripting “toxic masculinity.” While the healthy archetypal masculine envisions strength based on maturity, morality, service, and the hero’s journey of psychological and spiritual growth, generations of men have instead been enculturated into dark and exaggerated patriarchal values including unrelenting conquest, ruthless competition, power and superiority, wealth and exploitation, racism and sexism, war and top down control.
The patriarchy represents a mind form imposed on young boys early in life prescribing what men are supposed to be. Like systematic racism, its message is so pervasive as to be invisible to those absorbed in it. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Indigenous cultures created initiation rituals for bringing boys to authentic manhood, rituals intended to reveal their sacred gifts and their place in both cosmos and community. We can, too. Without such elder-managed rituals, however, the need for initiation leads to adolescent acting out, then goes dark, and boys drink the patriarchal kool-aide putting their souls to sleep for years as they join the false masculine.
What Is Activism?
Activism in general may be broadly defined as efforts to promote social, political, and environmental progress to remediate the suffering of humans and other life forms. These efforts include social activism, sacred activism, and the mystical activism of self-transformation. Because activism is not a "one size fits all" process, we must each find the path best suited to our own values, nature, personal wounding, and life experience.
In social activism, our deep beliefs and values inspire us to stand up to injustice and suffering through social, political, and legal campaigns, organized marches and demonstrations, volunteering, letter writing and phone calls to newspapers and elected officials. In sacred activism, religious commitments, spiritual beliefs and mystical experiences deepen and drive our work in the service of humanity and life on Earth. There is yet a third form of activism—the mystical activism of self-transformation. In this awakened state, we discover a world that is literally sacred and beyond the chains of identity and beliefs. We enter the flow of sacred consciousness, caring for the divine world right where we are and generously sharing our gifts of true self and soul with others.
The Mystical Activism of Self-Transformation
How does mystical activism work? Since we create the patriarchal World of Man through consensual thought processes, transcending a thought-dominated consciousness literally erases this mentally created world, first at the individual level—a tremendously rewarding experience, and then for society as more people learn to perceive sacred reality directly. We might even call this “ontological activism” for we are changing our experience of being.
More amazingly, mystical activism is about finding Heaven here. Indeed, the mystics have been telling us about Heaven on Earth for centuries. Jesus said: “The father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth and people do not see it…What you look for has come, but you do not know it." Ramana Maharshi, the famous Hindu sage, added, “This is the Kingdom of Heaven. The realized being sees this as the Kingdom of Heaven whereas the others see it as 'this world.’” Thich Nhat Hanh, the beloved Buddhist monk, told us, "You don't have to die in order to enter the Kingdom of God. It is better to do it now when you are fully alive…The Kingdom doesn’t have to come and you do not have to go to it. It is already here…There is not one day that I do not walk in the Kingdom of God.” Rabbi Faitel Levin confided, "…this reality is transparent to its true being—the essence of this reality is nothing but the Essence of G-d." Li Po, a Taoist poet, wrote, "There is another heaven and earth beyond the world of men." Finally, English poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning joyfully exclaimed, "Earth's crammed with heaven and every common bush alive with God."
How do we make sense of these astonishing claims from Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Taoist sources? Eckhart Tolle explains, “A ‘new heaven’ is the emergence of a transformed state of human consciousness.” As Joseph Campbell, the renowned scholar of religion and mythology, eloquently summed up at the beginning of this article, “This is it. This is Eden. When you see the kingdom spread upon the earth, the old way of living in the world is annihilated. That is the end of the world. The end of the world is not an event to come, it is an event of psychological transformation, of visionary transformation. You see not the world of solid things but a world of radiance.”
If Heaven on Earth is all around us, why don't we see it? The answer is that we never stop to look! As we glance at things in the world, we either ignore them completely or automatically reduce them to the concepts and objects defined by the World of Man: car, tree, person, movie, pencil, bird. We label what we see and quickly move on. Without realizing it, we have imprisoned ourselves in a mental world that instantly replaces perception with conception—ideas, beliefs, explanations, and opinions. Because our thought world provides the illusion of certainty, security, and consensual agreement, we never question it and the prison doors remain closed.
Mystical Activism in the Age of Apocalypse
Here is a surprising and hopeful truth: Crises awaken mystical consciousness. Emergency consciousness evokes the same intense, wide awake, “Oh my God!” here-and-now awareness that returns us to the immediate and timeless present. We let go of beliefs, schedules, life goals, identities, retirement portfolios, and political views. We come home to our senses and, if we sense deeply, to the timeless Presence that reveals Heaven on Earth. In the moment of crisis, we can literally step into God’s consciousness and act from a divine flow of love and compassion. As we dissolve our separation, we become God in action. The primary enemies, of course, are falling back into the left-brain’s catastrophic thinking, turning against one another, or losing hope, which create Hell on Earth. We walk the razor’s edge.
The mystical activism of self-transformation is a here-and-now activism. We transform ourselves not to convince others to believe something or force institutions to change, but to alter our individual and collective experience of reality itself. It’s about being utterly transformed and, as divine humans, letting life happen spontaneously from within the experience of divine consciousness. We wake up, enter the divine realm, and become God in motion. This is a totally different kind of activism—unpremeditated, unpredictable, unprescribed, and unselfconscious. We become divine humans in a divine world, progressively transforming the World of Man into Heaven on Earth one awakened person, one transcendent moment, at a time.
How does mystical activism combat patriarchal violence? As we move into mystical consciousness, we…
- Dissolve our patriarchal beliefs and illusions and experience instead a world of divine immanence
- Act from love and compassion instead of resistance
- We subtly increase humanity’s experience of sacred consciousness by raising our own, reducing the frequency of hatred and violence
- We deepen our grounding in the sacred community
- We re-energize our personal activism in the World of Man
- We find comfort, inspiration, and celebration in the direct experience of Creation.
Repairing the World
An article by Howard Schwartz in the 3/28/11 issue of Tikkun Magazine beautifully described the idea of tikkun olam—repairing the world—and its relation to social and environmental action. The story comes from a myth told by the great Jewish mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria and fits well with the theme of mystical activism.
At the beginning of time, God’s presence filled the universe. When God decided to bring this world into being, to make room for creation, He first drew in His breath, contracting Himself. From that contraction darkness was created. And when God said, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3), the light that came into being filled the darkness, and ten holy vessels came forth, each filled with primordial light.
In this way God sent forth those ten vessels, like a fleet of ships, each carrying its cargo of light. Had they all arrived intact, the world would have been perfect. But the vessels were too fragile to contain such a powerful, divine light. They broke open, split asunder, and all the holy sparks were scattered like sand, like seeds, like stars. Those sparks fell everywhere, but more fell on the Holy Land than anywhere else.
That is why we were created—to gather the sparks, no matter where they are hidden. God created the world so that the descendents of Jacob could raise up the holy sparks. That is why there have been so many exiles—to release the holy sparks from the servitude of captivity. In this way the Jewish people will sift all the holy sparks from the four corners of the earth.
And when enough holy sparks have been gathered, the broken vessels will be restored, and tikkun olam, the repair of the world, awaited so long, will finally be complete. Therefore it should be the aim of everyone to raise these sparks from wherever they are imprisoned and to elevate them to holiness by the power of their soul.
I believe that the universal mystic’s vision helps restore this light-filled experience of Creation. I am proposing that mystical consciousness, our long forgotten but fundamental human capacity for the direct perception of Creation, can be one of the most important resources for healing ourselves and the World of Man. Whatever your activism, may it be further awakened in the holy light mystical consciousness.