The Mystical Experience
“The mysteries of life become lucid … and often, nay usually, the solution is more or less unutterable in words.” — William James, “The Varieties of Religious Experience”
I don’t remember who came to my door. I don’t remember what he said. I do remember he was angry.
I had just finished reading a book called “Summerhill” by an English schoolmaster, A.S. Neill. Its theme was ‘freedom, not license’. Each student in Neill’s school was free to do what he wanted as long as the conduct didn’t hurt someone else. The community Neill had created was a free, creative, loving, respectful, responsible interaction of unique human beings.
Recently, I’d been involved in disciplinary battles with one of my preschool sons. The battles resulted in increasingly destructive behavior in him and increased frustration in me. I decided to give Neill’s methods a try, with my own children and with other people in my life.
The man at the door wasn’t hurting me. I decided to allow him to vent his anger. I didn’t do it because it was something I ought to do. I did it because I chose to do it. I experienced acceptance of the anger and no desire to retaliate. Suddenly, the anger stopped.
Nothing changed. My house, the door, the living room, the living, peaceful, environment was unaffected. I changed for the worse. My house, the door, the living room, the living, peaceful, environment was now frightening, quiet, inviting, and dangerous.
Perhaps that should have been the end of the story, but it was not.
In Neill’s work, he found that there was a profound, underlying reason for most of our conflicts and disturbances in the world: an invisible force that provides meaning to our apparent world of violent forces. This force is the common source of theological claims of the existence of a violent, wrathful, unjust universe, and the reasoning that since the world is violent, human beings are being violent. Neill discovered that the paradoxical truth was that life is both meaningless in a non-violent, logical, linear sense, and filled with meaning in a powerful, irrational, intuitive way.
With the discovery of the religious power within us, Neill was able to demonstrate that the rational scientific mind cannot comprehend those higher values that people believe are contained in the sacred. Because the non-spiritual truths are viewed by the human mind as inferior to the spiritual, the mind remains satisfied with a world of order and conformity. Therefore, you and I believe that the world is a fairly safe harbor of goodness, but theZen proverb suggests that the inward openness and peace of our spirit is always ready to expose us to the doubts and fears of the mind.
All of our beliefs are safe and secure as long as we do not entertain the slightest doubts about our interpretations. To expose ourselves to the doubt and the fear of judgment, the ego produces, that is, it’s own brand of fear and doubt. Becoming increasingly tortured and terrifying by the ego’s fear, we perfect the ability to diversion attention from ourselves back to the world and to the relationships that matter.
Our fears are a fascinating target for those who are willing to do the mistreatment. They beset us with an obsessive fear of loss, of change, of the unknown, and especially of pain. The ego produces elaborate schemes to avoid judgment and suspicion by manufacturing a fictitious reality in which it is supreme. The reality it produces is entirely negative, it only exists because of the lack of true contact with the whole, the true reality which could be called ‘the spiritual’. To make such a contact, we must break through the Memorized unborn task, the Bhagavad Gita & Ultimately work it all out in the conscious living moment, encounter, encounter.
Struggling with the raw fear which the ego generates, we listen to its whisper. And we let go. And we embrace again the truth of “Nothing is what it seems.”