The Mysticism of My Soul
–by Neal Lemery
I search. I search for a relationship with God, for knowledge, for understanding, for being.
Intellectually, I have searched. And, intuitively, I have searched for that experience, to be on a full and complete journey for an understanding, for becoming closer, to find my place in this world, for answers to my deepest questions.
This is my latest experience, in reading and contemplating this book. I was referred by a friend, a spiritual advisor and guide, and have taken myself on a richer path towards understanding.
Here are my notes, my gleanings, from this experience.
Yet, this experience is not yet complete, and perhaps just begun.
How this all plays out will be an experience. I am at the beginnings of being transformed, which is, I believe, the purpose of this book, and why it came into my hands. Nothing happens by chance. This experience, this now, was simply meant to be for me, at this time and place.
Travel with me. I hope you will find this a rich, and ultimately disturbing and rewarding experience.
It is part of where I am at now. Looking inward, and outward, and now, more of a searching experientially, more mystically. I look for the mystery in all of this, and in that, find meaning, and spiritual peace.
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, by Richard Rohr.
Religion and spirituality should be transformative, not mechanical, not form over substance, not structured by reason and logic. Modern Christianity lacks the mysterious, experiential aspects of faith, hope, and love that were essential aspects of the spiritual experience, the spiritual essence of Jesus.
True religion is an experience of paradox, of mystery, not dogma, not rules and forms, not an “us vs. them”, “right vs wrong” view of the world and of our experiences.
The spiritual experience is not found in “churchianity” but in the mystical, the unknowing, the mysterious. When we are in awe, when reason and logic do not provide us with answers, then we are truly having a spiritual experience and living a spiritual life.
Read the Gospels as a celebration of the paradoxes of the spiritual experience.
Fear and distraction are not part of religion. Spiritual masters urge us to go inward, to experience the wonder and awe of God in ourselves, and in our world, and to be simply amazed, confounded, perplexed, and being OK with not having certainty in our experiences. And, to view our fellow humans in the same light, as beings seeking unity with God, and to be in awe of what we do not know, to let that wonderment and uncertainty invigorate us, and ignite our spark of creativity, compassion, and service to others.
Our Western, modernistic, logical thinking as led us into dual thinking: us vs them, right vs wrong, good vs bad, etc. “Maybe” is also an answer, a solution. A literal reading of scripture is not gaining a sense of the message of scripture.
Religion is not science, it is not logic. It is experiential, it is being one with nature, with the amazing, awe inspiring, mysteriousness of what we cannot understand, what we cannot fully explain.
This journey requires opening out hearts and our minds to mystery, to the infinity of the Universe, to the experiences of finding God within ourselves, and within our world, and just experience that. Some things are not explainable, and are not analyzed with our problem solving and logical thought processes. Being in awe is a natural state of existence and of spiritual life.
We find God in disorder and imperfection, in chaos. We don’t have the answers to our questions. We stumble and we fall, but it is our journey in this that we have our relationship with God.
In hope is also unity with God.
Mysticism is moving from belief and belonging systems to actual inner experience.
The law of identity: A = A. A thing is the same as itself. No two things are exactly the same.
The law of contradiction: If A = A, then A cannot be B. B cannot be A.
The law of the extended middle or third: A cannot be both A and B at the same time.
Such thinking is the foundation of Western thought, and of our science, technology, and education.
Yet, mystical spirituality does not follow these “rules” and this way of thinking. This is “duality” thinking, and mysticism calls us to be open to the paradoxes of experience, and to be in awe of the mysterious, and the unknown.
If we read scripture outside of our Greek Logic thinking, and see spirituality as having mystery and “illogical” reasoning, then we are closer to a full spiritual experience and a richer spiritual life.
Joy can simply be joy. It doesn’t have be be explained, or be either “right or wrong”. It can simply just be.
Prayer is not a petition for gifts or answers, it is being open to the mystical, the spiritual, to see with one’s third eye. It is to be in a state of transformation with God. Jesus prayed alone. It is not a ritualized experience, but a heartfelt, heart opening experience.
A relationship with God does not require an intermediary.
One can lead people only as far as you yourself has gone.
Christians do not pray “to” Christ, they pray “through” Christ. Christ is a paradox, a mystery. The experience is not subject to our logic, our Western analysis and problem solving methods.
Our culture, and certainly our politics, are now caught up into dualistic, “right or wrong” thinking and analysis. We are missing the point. Life is paradoxical, and mystical. We should strive to embrace that. It is a journey, not an answer, not a “solution” we are after. We are human beings, not human doings.
Non-duality, being present. There is a lack of control.
“A large percentage of religious people become and remain quite rigid thinkers because their religion taught them that to be faithful and stalwart in the ways of God, they had to create order.” (p. 36)
Instead, the focus is on spiritual transformation. We all have access to God.
We stand in disbelief, we stand in the question itself, we stand in awe before something. We are “in process”, in transformation. We are present in all of this. The question is more important than the answer.
Judgements. We like to make judgements. We are analyzers, problem solvers, practitioners of Greek logic. Yet, we see what we are ready to see. Pure experience is always non dualistic.
Fundamentalism “is a love affair with words and ideas about God instead of God himself or herself. But you cannot really love words; you can only think about them.” (p. 50)
For many people, their religion has been a tribal experience rather than a transformative experience. This shift is called contemplation (early Christianity), meditation or the practice (Buddhism), ecstasy (Sufi Islam), living from the divine spark within (Hasidic Judaism).
The major change in our thinking: how we do the moment. Wisdom is the freedom to do the present.
“All great spirituality is somehow about letting go.” (p 64).
Prayer is returning the gaze of God.
If God is everywhere, then God is not anywhere exclusively, is the message of Jesus.
The imitation of God: to love one another and ourselves exactly the way God loves us.
“We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.” (p. 82).
The three levels of conversion: intellectual, moral, religious (a being in love). God is love.
Accepting ongoing change as a central program for yourself.
Organized religion has historically attached itself to the political and social regime in power. Christianity was invited into the Roman Emperor’s palace in 313 A.D. and hasn’t left.
The ego hates change. The ego self is the unobserved self. Once you see yourself, then you will see the need to change.
Most of the prophets were killed by their own followers.
Inertia resists change.
“If your religious practice is nothing more than to remain sincerely open to the ongoing challenges of life and love, you will find God.” (p. 96).
Healthy religion is always about seeing and knowing something now.
Prayer is resonance with God. Once you are “tuned”, you will receive. Prayer is about changing you, not about changing God.
“Immediate, unmediated contact with the moment is the clearest path to divine union; naked, undefended, and nondual presence has the best chance of encountering the Real Presence.” (p. 105).
Being present is to live without resolution, at least for a while. It is an “opening and holding” pattern. Dualistic Christianity is believing things to be true or false. Instead, be open to paradox, to mystery, to uncertainty. Be open to simply being in the experience.
Allow an infilling from another source: love.
“We must move from a belief-based religion to a practice-based religion, or little with change.” (p. 108).
“When you are concerned with either attacking or defending, manipulating or resisting, pushing or pulling, you cannot be contemplative. When you are pre-occupied with enemies, you will always be dualistic.” (p. 110).
“We are too rational… All that is best is unconscious or superconscious.”
(Thomas Merton, p. 112).
“Small people make everything small.” (p. 114)
“Dualistic people use knowledge, even religious knowledge, for the purposes of ego enhancement, shaming, and the control of others and themselves, for it works very well that way. Non-dual people use knowledge for the transformation of persons and structures, but most especially to change themselves and to see reality with a new eye and heart.” (p. 115).
Faith is more how to believe than what to believe. It is no longer either-or thinking, but now both-and-thinking.
Embrace the paradox.
Opening the door to this thinking, this being present. Through great love and through great suffering. When we are stuck, then we are challenged to change our thinking. These are times when you are not in control, and Greek logic doesn’t work for you.
“If you do not transform your pain, you will surely transmit it to those around you and even to the next generation.” (p. 125).
“Once you accept mercy, you will hand it on to others. You will become a conduit of what you yourself have received.” (p. 126).
“How you love one thing is how you love everything. …How you love is how you have accessed love.” (p. 127)
For mystics, words have become flesh and experience has gone beyond words. Words are mere guideposts now, but some have made them hitching posts.
The challenge of a new mind: “Christianity is to be something more than a protector of privilege, fear-based thinking, and the status quo. We need what Paul calls a ‘new mind’, which is the result of a spiritual revolution.” (p. 133).
The goal: Be a living paradox. Love what God sees in you.
“By and large Western civilization is a celebration of the illusion that good may exist without evil, light without darkness, and pleasure without pain, and this is true of both its Christian and secular technological phases.” Alan Watts, The Two Hands of God. (p. 143).
We don’t live in just light, or just in dark. We live in the shadowlands. We need a bit of darkness and we need a bit of light.
“Most major religious teachings do not demand blind faith as must as they demand new eyes.” (p. 146)
“Western Christianity has attempted to objectify paradoxes in dogmatic statements that demand mental agreement instead of any inner experience of the mystery revealed.” (p. 147).
Instead, Jesus is the template of total paradox: heavenly, yet earthly, the son of God, yet human, killed yet alive, marginalized yet central, victim yet victor, incarnate yet cosmic, nailed yet liberated, powerless yet powerful.
Jesus is the microcosm of the macrocosm.
“Follow me” is a directive to be on Jesus’ journey, to be part of the parade of walking in the paradoxes, the mysteries, to embrace the experience, yet not needing to explain the experience.
“The term ‘Christ’ is a field of communion that includes all of us with him. You do not ‘believe” these doctrines, you ‘know’ them.” (p. 148).
The concept of Trinity breaks down the dualistic thinking pattern. The Trinity is a paradox, a recognition of paradox.
In quantum physics, physical matter is both a wave and a particle. It is both, yet neither. The developing science of quantum physics embraces the paradox.
“We have worshipped Jesus, instead of followed him. We have made Jesus into a mere religion instead of a journey toward union with God. We have created a religion of belonging rather than a religion of transformation. Yet, we are forever drawn into the mystery graciously and in ways we cannot control.” (p. 154-155).
Leadership: “Good leaders must have a certain capacity for non-polarity thinking and full-access knowing (prayer), a tolerance for ambiguity (faith), an ability to hold creative tensions (hope), and an ability to care (love) beyond their own personal advantage.” (p 158)
Seeing wholeness: head, heart, and body, all present and positive.
Dualistic people: cannot accept that God objectively dwells within them. This is a lack of forgiveness.
What you see is what you get. What you seek is also what you get.
How you respond to something is your creation of your own reality.
You desire only what you have already partially found.
—Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, Crossroads Publishing Co, New York, 2009.