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Jesus was a Jewish heretic. Buddha was a Hindu heretic.... Mystical experiences inspired the founders and reformers of religion.


The Complete Guide To World Mysticism
"Jesus was a Jewish heretic. Buddha was a Hindu heretic. The ancient Greek state executed the great philosopher Socrates for his heretical beliefs. Pythagoras was burnt to death along with most of his fellows. Al-Hallaj, the tenth-century Sufi mystic, was crucified by the Muslim authorities. The thirteen-century German mystic Meister Eckhart was prohibited from writing by the Catholic Church and eventually excommunicated a few days after his death. The sixth/seventeenth century mystic Jacob Boehem, known as 'the inspired shoemaker', was chased out of his home town of Gorlitz in Silesia by the Protestant authorities, who even desecrated his grave after his death. The Church of Rome tortured the Italian mystic philosopher Giordano Bruno over a period of eight years before he was burnt at the stake."- Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy

Chapter 1
Mysticism and Religion


"Enlightenment is real, and each of us, whoever we are, can in the right circumstances and with the right training realise the nature of the mind and so know in us what is deathless and eternally pure. This is the promise of all the mystical traditions of the world, and it has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled in countless thousands of human lives. There are enlightened masters still on the earth. When you actually meet one, you will be shaken and moved in the depths of your heart and you will realize that all the words such as 'illumination' and 'wisdom', which you thought were only ideas, are in fact true."

Sogyal Rinpoche, Modern Tibetan Lama


Mysticism is not religion. It is not concerned with beliefs and doctrines, but with a natural state of consciousness which has been experienced by people of all cultures, at all times in history, by followers of every religion and no religion. This mystical awareness is available to everyone, regardless of race, creed or culture. It is the spontaneous experience of a wider reality, beyond the limited horizon of ordinary existence. It does not invalidate the lives we are living, but rather deepens them, filling them with joy and meaning. Mystics discover a richer reality than they could have dreamed of. They are immersed in a blissful love that they know to be the very foundation of life. They are enveloped in a supreme oneness that can embrace all of life's contradictions. Their lives become a journey of spiritual awakening, to rediscover and live within the truth they have glimpsed.

Mysticism is the contemplation of the essential mysteries of life. It confronts the questions that all children ask, but most adults prefer to push away: 'Who am I?', 'What is the purpose of life?' - questions that cannot be solved by the rational adult mind, but only 'dissolved' into the child-like experience of mystic wonder. The mystics do not want us to have blind faith in particular religious creeds, but rather to set out on a personal exploration of consciousness....

Religious authorities may say that God is this way or God is that way, and that this is right or that another way is wrong, but when the donkey brays, the mystics believe the donkey. They dare to trust their own personal experience, rather than an external authority. They question the prevailing beliefs of their culture or religious tradition. They are open to new possibilities, willing to be surprised, to have their world turned upside down, to let go of the safety of mass consciousness and embark on their won spiritual journey to find their own intuitive sense of meaning. This is why they have so often been heretics and non-conformists.

Jesus was a Jewish heretic. Buddha was a Hindu heretic. The ancient Greek state executed the great philosopher Socrates for his heretical beliefs. Pythagoras was burnt to death along with most of his fellows. Al-Hallaj, the tenth-century Sufi mystic, was crucified by the Muslim authorities. The thirteen-century German mystic Meister Eckhart was prohibited from writing by the Catholic Church and eventually excommunicated a few days after his death. The sixth/seventeenth century mystic Jacob Boehem, known as 'the inspired shoemaker', was chased out of his home town of Gorlitz in Silesia by the Protestant authorities, who even desecrated his grave after his death. The Church of Rome tortured the Italian mystic philosopher Giordano Bruno over a period of eight years before he was burnt at the stake.

Ironically, it is by losing themselves in God that mystics find the rugged individualism courageously to follow their visions wherever they may lead, in a world usually hostile to their penetrating insight and spiritual values. The figure of the mystic appears eccentric and challenging to those who want to remain secure in the commonly accepted view of the world that happens to be prevalent at the time. That is why so many mystics have been forced to live precarious lives on the edges of social acceptability.

While some managed to maintain an uneasy alliance with the religious authorities of the day, most mystics were vilified and horribly persecuted for claiming direct personal knowledge of a God whom the religious establishment wished to make accessible only via their hierarchy of priests and theologians. Yet the natural experience of spiritual awakening that lies in the heart of mysticism is the birthplace of all religions, and they find their common ground in this common source. Mystical experiences inspired the founders and reformers of religion as well as its greatest heretics indeed, they have often been the same people. The history of mysticism is the history of their revelations."

The Complete Guide to World Mysticism Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, Piatkus Books (October 1998) pp. 13-16




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