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Avoid the Esoteric Hype

When I read some posts on Medium or even on Instagram about mysticism, I feel my eyes going crossed. One article boasted that he had an awakening experience every day. A publisher on Insight Timer even said that if I just take this course, I can access a mystical experience--in just a week!

If it were only that easy.

No, the mystical experience can't be had in a weeklong course. It's also not about the sensory experience of kundalini. Sure, a kundalini experience feels great, kinda like orgasm or ASMR, but that's only a sensory experience. It's not a spiritual one.

Spiritual experiences take work. Lots of it. It's also not very pretty. And if we try to rush it too soon, it might actually be traumatic. William Braden wrote in The Private Sea that he rushed his desire to experience this mystical reality through the use of LSD. His mind wasn't ready.

If you only look back 100 years ago, you'll find the work of Evelyn Underhill. In Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, Underhill describes an "awakening of Self" to be "abrupt and well-marked" like these above experiences.

However, this only points to the initial phase of the mystical way. This is the recognition that there is a reality beyond the material world. She writes that you feel "intense joy," probably like kundalini, orgasm, or ASMR, or even a "born again" experience, but it doesn't stop there.

That's just the storefront to the larger store that awaits you. Most of the New Age peeps will stop here because it might feel good, and you get to escape the mundane of everyday life. However, this state isn't sustainable. Like any drug, you need more and more to experience the same "high," but the illusion is that this high isn't God. It's just a glimpse of the union.

Underhill writes that this experience temporarily removes the veil of illusion so that when you return, you realize that there's a lot of work to be done. This is the purgation. This is the detox. This is the drying out of the sensory experiences. St. John of the Cross calls it the Night of the Sense.

You experience an aridity for the things that previously brought you pleasure. Sure, you might find a new "drug" to give you that experience again, but that only takes you further away from your progress. Eventually, you're called to climb that mountain. You realize that you can't go back into Plato's Cave of Illusion. So you endure the aridity until you reach the next phase--Illumination.

Underhill writes that many mystics like John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila wrote about this phase, and many mystics stay there. It is there we experience the Divine Presence, although it's still not complete union.

Most people might never see the Night of the Spirit, which St. John of the Cross describes in Dark Night of the Soul. Underhill describes this as the spiritual death of the human will:

The human instinct for personal happiness must be killed. This is the "spiritual crucifixion" so often described by the mystics: the great desolation in which the soul seems abandoned by the Divine. The Self now surrenders itself, its individuality, and its will, completely.

It's not until this "mystical death" occurs that we experience union. So no, this can't occur during a 7-day course or an LSD trip.

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