“Each of us is called to be a mystic,” claims Wayne Teasdale in The Mystic Heart: Discovering A Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions (New World Library, 1999). His book led to my initial interest in mysticism. In 2012, I wrote in a review that “Reading his book makes you feel as if you are in the presence of a wise, holy man. Rarely do I desire to meet an author after reading a book, yet that is exactly what I wanted to do. Alas, he died in 2004.” Recently, inspired by a second reading, I began my own mystic journey.
“Mysticism invites us beyond all our human limitations and inadequate forms of knowing — inadequate because ultimately they didn’t go far enough.” Teasdale
I am reminded why I admired Teasdale so much years ago. While his focus in this book is on a universal spirituality as he discusses many commonalities of all religious and spiritual traditions, he reinforces what it means to be a mystic. He encourages us to follow our chosen tradition or practice while honoring all others. I love that inclusivity in a world where too few religious leaders acknowledge any connection and continue to insist on divisions and superiority.
Teasdale is a Catholic monk who embraces Buddhism and Hinduism and has an amazing knowledge of many religious and spiritual paths, including Islam, Judaism, Janinism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Taoism as well as Native American and other indigenous traditions. He talks of the “larger community of humankind in the mystical quest” and encourages us to follow our own path, knowing that each of us is unique. I am amazed to see a Catholic monk so supportive of individual choice. A good lesson for all as he encourages us to follow what “feels” right, not what is dictated.
Like Teasdale, I grew up Catholic. While no longer practicing my childhood religion, I continue to use the term “God” that I grew up with but recognize that Buddha, Allah, Great Spirit, the Divine, Spiritual Intelligence, Universal Mind or another term may be preferred by others. I believe in Panentheism, rather than the theistic God of the church. Teasdale understands this concept, explaining that “Panentheism is simply a capacity to perceive the divine in everything.” Again, an enlightened view.
Teasdale’s universal spirituality affects us all. I love his ideas and incorporate universal elements in my own beliefs. In meditation, I use Gregorian chants and those of Hildegard of Bingen from the Catholic tradition but mostly resonate with Native American flute songs of Kelvin Mockingbird, John Huling and Robert Tree Cody. “We have a much greater heritage than our own tradition,” says Teasdale.
“We need religions, yet we need direct contact with the divine, or the ultimate mystery, even more.” Teasdale
Mysticism is the idea of going within, not to external sources for a connection to God, or the divine. Direct contemplation does not rely on some book, spiritual guru or other to lead us to ourselves. Going within also leads us to a larger sense of “out there.” I was surprised to find that, in my meditation, when I focused on my heart, I could feel an all encompassing sense of love throughout my whole body. Then I felt that same love and peace go outward so that I was surrounded within and without with an all enveloping, loving energy. This may be obvious to others, but even though I have meditated for years, that inner and outer combination had escaped me until now.
Other than that one experience. Thirty years ago, I encountered a mystical, or total surrender moment, in a meditation during which my deceased father appeared. After our interaction, I felt as if I went into a different room where angels with their white, gossamer wings surrounded me with love as I was suspended in time and space, wanting to stay but understanding that I needed to go. There are no words to describe the wonder, and I never enjoyed a similar encompassing moment until now. Letting go of control in order to achieve peace, love and acceptance. Losing all defenses and giving up to a new world, as if my life were being dismantled.
To feel the effects of the divine, to be connected to the stream of life, that flow when all feels aligned, when all feels love. I want to experience that again and again. Yet there is more.
“Mysticism generates inner freedom and outer perspective. Mystics hear the call to continue on their way; they are not content to settle down but must press on to greater and greater discovery.” Teasdale
Teasdale opens to many new possibilities, such as quantum mechanics, and encourages us to do the same. One reason I could experience that being “One” with the universe (a concept I had never quite understood before) was because of my study of physics and energy, always sensing some answers there. Quantum mechanics, surprisingly, provides a spiritual aspect that helps bridge the science and religion gap. I learned so much about the fact that trying to raise my vibrations is not just trying to go upward, as I always assumed, but feeling the energy all around us, not up or down or in any specific direction. Ignoring the old rules of time and space, I finally understood and was able to put into practice something from all those hours of study. Much is written about the spirituality of quantum mechanics and much controversy exists. But on a simple level, I learned new information that impacted my personal meditation and mystic journey.
According to Teasdale, a mystic must be socially engaged, environmentally responsible and cosmically open. I agree. Many of us have made efforts to help those who suffer, wherever they are, and to encourage harmony between all species and the earth, recognizing and honoring the earth itself as spiritual. A work in progress. Being “cosmically open,” however, will be a new and welcome challenge for my journey.
“The mystic does not turn away from the world, from the senses and the reason, in order to escape reality and its demands. Rather the mystic leaves the world to better understand it.” Teasdale