The Word Foundation


Harold W. Percival



Section 15


Mysticism is an old practice in religions. Buddhist, Sufi and Christian mystics and mystics who are not followers of any religion seek to get what they call Truth or God, by subduing the body, overcoming the passions and engaging in a life of mystical meditations. Without priestly intermediaries they seek a direct personal communion with God.

Mystics usually hold the carnal body to be a hindrance to their seeing God and so seek to quiet it. They try to rise by interior processes of exaltation to ecstasy. When they are with God, as they call it, they have beatific visions and enjoy the rarest delights. They arrive at this state by what they call meditation, which is really suppressing their thinking. By the passive mental attitude, which is their kind of meditation, they would exalt the doer to the position of the knower and obscure the I-ness or identity of the knower in the ecstasy of feeling; this they call being in the presence of God, union with God, absorption in God. This state is one of experiencing; it is not one of learning or of knowing. It is only exalted feeling, though superphysical. Mystics believe that such “union with God” is the highest “spiritual” state which can be attained. They are mistaken; for the highest ecstasy reached by their kind of meditation is only psychic and not noetic. It has to do with feeling, and usually feeling that is concerned with the senses, such as visions or hearing celestial music. Their periods of ecstasy are followed by utter depression. When they have seen God or have had a revelation from him, as they say, such communion does not give them knowledge. It produces in them only a feeling. If they try to express something of their experiences, their language is obscure and often turgid. So Boehme, Gichtel and mystics generally appeal to the feeling, but their words are neither clear nor ordered and do not stand the test of reason. But one who is really conscious of God or as God, that is to say, of the thinker and knower of the Triune Self or of the Light of the Intelligence, is not in ecstasy but has a conscious serenity of feeling and is conscious as having an insight and knowledge distinct from phenomena. He can express in clear and ordered language something definite of the nature and relation of that of which he was conscious.

Mysticism is different from most of the schools of thought and is morally far superior. In what thinking true mystics do, they try to be honest and not to deceive themselves. Though they are in the world they try to be not of it. Many of them are connected with churches or religious foundations. Some lead retired lives; few are active in the world. Indeed the world has not much use for mystic discipline and mystic meditation without physical benefits. The world wants results, and by this is meant quick material advantages. A true mystic does not care for these, but wants what he believes to be “spiritual” results. Religious institutions often make use of religious mystics; they use the power which comes from the “holy” life of mystics, and their atmosphere of sanctity; in fact, if religious mystics were withdrawn from the churches, these would lose their power. However, mystics do not really think, and they do not know;—they feel. They are going through a series of experiences which their previous thoughts have made necessary, and they receive a training which may be of value in other respects. Their thinking is concerned with feeling and explains their feelings, not for the sake of learning but for the purpose of exalting feeling.

There are people who call themselves nature mystics, nature worshippers or nature lovers. They are quite different from true religious mystics. The distinction is that the mystics live in the senses and in the psychic part of the Triune Self, and they suppress the carnal body, whereas the nature mystics revel in the physical body by means of the four senses. Some of them want to “go back to nature” and live as animals do. Others are not so extreme and want merely “a simple life.” Others worship external nature as God. With many their doctrines are a cloak for immorality. There is little thinking and a great deal of feeling and desiring, and their thinking is an effort to exalt sex and the four senses.