THE DANGERS OF MYSTICISM
Documents throughout the ages testify of certain people who have claimed that the divine for them was not only established as truth in the manner of religious faith, but was rather experienced knowingly by them, and had become very familiar through tested and infallible experience.
Such a claim is seen as presumptuous by all those who trust too firmly in the axiom that all men are ‘equal before God’; this is commonly taken to mean that there could not be any form of experience which was not easily accessible to all and sundry.
But there are witness accounts made by particular people which do prove that the range of experiences among inhabitants of this earth varies greatly; just as an utmost diversity in the ability to experience, is evident within the experience of external things.
If the predisposition someone has from birth, and his gift for nurturing it, are important in external life, a whole series of other circumstances also play a part with regard to spiritual experiences of the soul; all of these must work favourably together if secure experiences within the realm of the invisible are to be attained
The cases where people have experienced the spiritual with perfect clarity and security are extremely rare; yet it would be very foolish to want to ignore, or even deny them, on account of their rarity. The more so, as there are people today who experience in this way and know about their experience with a most wakeful ability of judgement.
Yet one must always differentiate between this actual experience and accounts of the experience in the form of words given by him who experiences.
In these accounts an individual strives passionately to express what can never be said in words; of necessity he creates images and analogies to make what has befallen him comprehensible to others.
Revealed in these efforts is the inner intuition that one’s own experience must somehow have validity and beneficial value for all others; at the same time, the author of the account knows with certainty that this experience is inaccessible to most. Thus he feels obliged to give an account, even if it is difficult for him to make a confession.
One could, were one to follow in the tracks of the images and analogies contained in these confessions, easily suppose that we are talking about essentially the same inner experience, only described in different terms according to the descriptive ability of those who experienced and their own world of images.
But if one looks more closely, it is not too difficult even for those who have never been shaken by similar experiences to discover that we have here accounts of essentially very different experiences, even if the pictures used in their descriptions might lead to the assumption that they are essentially the same sort of experience.
Indeed, one will soon see that we have whole groups of completely different experiences, despite accounts which use the same or similar words. –
The reason for this is that all experience which is incomprehensible to the physical senses can only be expressed through analogy and allusion: – that moreover, the reporter gladly resorts to the images and analogies used by others in order to escape from the distress of his inability to express.
We are talking here essentially of two large groups of people who experience; each of these groups comprises particular types of the individual ability to experience.
On the one hand are those who only experience what is concealed in their own inner beings; here, however, they think they have experienced the ‘divine’, since they do not know the height and depth, width and breadth of the human soul and cannot bring themselves to believe that all this is still within the realm of man.
Experience here takes place mainly through ecstatic rapture and visions, but always in ‘another state’, far removed from normal, waking daily consciousness.
On the other hand are those who genuinely experience objective spiritual reality within the spirit; they shun instinctively every ecstatic rapture and vision, and only count those experiences as valid which they can have with unclouded physical senses, always aware of themselves and their external environment.
The ones who experience in this way are found far more rarely than the ecstatics and visionaries, for this wakeful spiritual experience requires strict inner training and self-control. It assumes that the individual has been able to attain a thoroughly healthy and ordered inner life; that he is meticulous in avoiding all wildly enthusiastic feelings and interpretations so that he might, sober in mind but full of reverence for the essential spirit, keep the genuine experience of spiritual reality free of all the entanglements of the imagination. –
One cannot differentiate strictly enough between these two main groups, if one wants to reach a clear judgement when considering all those numerous accounts of confession from times ancient and modern which seek to bear witness to true or supposedly true experiences of the divine.
It is also not too difficult to gain a secure guarantee in this respect.
Whilst ecstatics and visionaries always present their experiences within an interpretation which sets out to confirm traditional beliefs, even though they always seek to expand or deepen these beliefs, those who give witness to the experience of spiritual reality make it very clearly known that they have been freed from the shackles of conditioned, temporally existing conceptual worlds.
It is true that they frequently have to refer to such temporal concepts, but always only to use what is already familiar to everyone as a means to promote understanding.
They will in no sense give support, by using familiar concepts, to the view of spiritual matters valid at that time and in their surroundings, but will show, with no concern for any dogmatic structure, through the insight they have gained, which stones in that structure have a continuing place and which ones do not, – which ones have been properly hewn and which ones badly cut; for they have no intention of tearing down, but rather that the structure should reflect the reality they know from spiritual experience.
Many errors have arisen through the uncritical mixing of accounts given by the two groups, the inner visionaries and those who genuinely experience, described here.
Although the accounts of ecstatics and visionaries may be worthy of admiration and even high estimation at times, they still remain more or less conditioned by time and subjectivity. Their veiled and clouded statements about subjective experiences, though admittedly not everyday, are by no means free of illusion; they are comparable to those of the poet, yet without the ordering and sifting which sovereign artistic activity brings to bear on them.
With this in mind, the only value of an empathetic acceptance of these accounts can exist in poetic stimulation or in a subjectively coloured heightening of a religious mood.
When observing with a sense of distance, one finds oneself merely before meaningful and rich documents of human error which only possess research value, as they might seem to be as inherently humanly moving, as great and powerful, as shattering, or as grotesque folly.
The admired mysticism of all ages and peoples, nourished by faith, is rooted in this humus soil of subjective error; it gradually overruns every flower of genuine mystical understanding, so that it is no longer possible to speak of ‘mysticism’ if one actually means something different to this tangle of creepers. –
If the devalued word is to regain importance for human understanding, it will be necessary to differentiate quite deliberately between apparent mysticism as described here and the real mystical experience which is a conscious experience of the human spirit in the eternal pure spirit.
This is very possible, even if one has no intention of denying one’s usual reverence to certain so-called ‘mystical’ accounts, which deserve respect already as literary works.
Since ultimately it is a question of penetrating to a deeper, clearer and above all more truthful comprehending of the cosmology of the spiritual world as the Eternal Reality reserved for us, so is all mood-induced empathy for ‘mystical’ confession- literature, conditioned by religious systems and belief in their dogma, almost – if not always – a danger for those who do not know how to differentiate here, and are not strong enough to relinquish ideas they have grown fond of, for the sake of the truth; truth which can only be found where those reveal themselves who, fully awake and sober, have found admission into the world of the spirit. – –
It cannot remain concealed to which group of those with inner experiences I consider myself to belong. For in all my writings I have always vehemently emphasised how much I eschew everything ecstatic and all visionaries. – If one wishes, nevertheless, to classify me as a ‘mystic’, whether for convenience, or because there does not appear to be another word, then I must at least insist that one grasps the distinction between dogmatic-religious and cosmic-spiritual mysticism, the necessity for which I consider to have fully explained.
I counsel those who seek to find confirmation for what my teaching contains in the writings of those ‘mystics’ bound to the dogmatic and religious, to save themselves the effort.
They will at best find there certain overlaps, but will be much more perplexed by a quite essentially different, if not diametrically opposed use of words and images.
Above all they must become clear in their own minds that their need to find confirmation for my words in other places, in itself gives the sternest proof that they are light years away from assimilating within themselves the contents of my writings.
A new spiritual day is breaking, and no earthly power, however securely rooted it might be, can hold it back. But in this generation only those will see it who consciously hurry towards it, with a free and sober disposition, and only these can understand my teaching! – –
I have really no interest in attracting ‘adherents’ and I am grateful to every reader of my work if he takes as little notice as possible of their author.
It has become my life’s work to write down in complete seclusion the things I have to impart to my fellow man; I have nothing else to give than elucidations on earthly man’s relationship with the realm of essential spirit, as found in my books.