It occurred to me lately that most people spend their own lives living from the vantage point of the ego, or simply the concept of self that you think of as you.
What much research and clinical experience have shown us is that we human beings are complicated creatures and that the psyche is composed up of many different layers, which some consider subpersonalities.
Mysticism, quite simply, is the purposeful temporary dissolution of your ego into something greater than yourself during prayer, meditation, or psychedelic journeys.
- For a Christian, that would be Christ and the method would be speaking in tongues or being deep in prayer.
- For a Hindu or Buddhist it would involve meditation, and the detachment from all things.
- For a psychonaught it would be psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, or any number of psychedelic substances.
There are a lot of mystical traditions but at the core, the price of admission is to die to yourself. As it says in the Bible, to die is gain, to live is Christ.
The perennial problem, however, is that religions are founded by prophets and mystics, but then codified by priests and theologians.
So many religious people only know the literary mythos or the legal side of their religion. But in every religion, there is a small group of mystics who see beyond the old us vs them story and realize that we are all one.
This is the core of what enlightenment is about, and when such people arrive at this realization, it changes everything. Instead of fighting about the meaning of this verse or that verse, or even living for earthly pleasures, they turn their focus to union with the divine, or with whatever the All is.
It has taken me a while to understand this because growing up as an evangelical Christian, the gospel was always preached from an ego-centered perspective.
The message was that I was a sinner. That Jesus died for me. That all I had to do was accept him. Then I would be saved. But even in Christianity, that I is not the point.
The point is not that I will be saved, but that Christ will live through me. That Christ will replace the ego. That is why Paul says: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Here is my point. There are two sides to every religion. The side that is focused on the ego and what the self can get out of it: moral justification for beliefs, community, comfort.
And then there is the side that is focused on transcending the self and what the self wants and being one with the divine so that the life of the divine shines through and becomes manifest.
But we live in a very dualistic world, and we conceive of God in dualistic terms. Of myself here on earth and God there in some spiritual realm. If you are serious about your faith you probably want the following from your relationship with God:
- Experience the presence of God
- Find out what his will is for your life
- Hear him speak to you
- Know that you are in right standing with God
Those are all great things, but what I’ve realized is that is all just substance dualism. When you start to experience nonduality or oneness, you realize it is not about what you get out it, because it is simply a realization of who you (the real you) is.
Honestly, I feel that dualism is the child-like way to approach religion and spirituality. Believing in a God who is an individualized perfect being who lives in the sky and can effect change in the physical world, is a comforting and understandable idea that even a child can grasp.
But awakening to the reality that God is not to be found out in the material universe but rather an inner reality inside of you, now that takes a process to get there.
It takes moving beyond trying to find evidence for God out there to trusting that you are already in God and God is in you. There is no logic or philosophy that can make it “safe” to trust what you experience. No way to know that it’s not just all in your brain.
But when you trust and give yourself over and let go of your ego, you will find there is a realm of power and love and confidence inside you that is far greater than anything your ego can produce on its own.
Lastly, I’ll just end with a brief consideration of the afterlife. I think much consideration of heaven has been conditioned by Greek and Zoroastrian mythology. Hell, for example, never is even mentioned in the Old Testament.
But considering heaven from the Christian concept, most people think that their current ego focused selves is what will be in heaven. But what if it is not that way at all?
The biblical descriptions of heaven say that we will be like the angels, that we will have no tears, war, hunger or suffering. Might it be that way simply because our egos will die with our mortal bodies and only the purest part of us, that which is purely of God, can be united with God?
For all we know, hell could simply be the pain people feel when they try to hold on to their ego instead of having it dissolved so they can be with God.
In fact, this is a major Jewish idea of the afterlife. Many observant Jews believe that there will be a time of purification, a maximum of 12 months, where the soul is purified before being able to draw near to God.
Now, I don’t know what the afterlife is really like, or even if there is one, but I do think that all those people who are hoping to exist in heaven as they currently exist on earth, will likely be disappointed.
The Bible says no ear has heard or eye has seen the good things that God has prepared for those who love him. So let’s practice letting go of our ego and embrace a little mysticism here and there. It will make us more well rounded as people no matter what we believe.
And this world can sure use more people who think in terms of unity and oneness than less.