THE EXPERIENCE OF RELIGIOUS MYSTERY

Let us focus on the West.  Our religions come one and all from the Levant, from the Near East rather than Europe.  Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are called the great religions of the world.  In all of these, God made the world and God and the world are not the same.  There is an ontological and essential distinction in our tradition between creator and creature.   TAT 11

  This leads to a totally different psychology and religious structure from those religions in which this distinction is not made.  The goal of Western religions is not to bring about a sense of identity with the transcendent.  Their goal is to bring about a relationship between human beings and God, who are not the same.  The typical attitude of the Levant, of the Near East from which our religions come, is the submission of human judgment to that power conceived to be God.  TAT11

In the Western tradition the divine is not within you.  When you turn within, you find a human soul and that human soul may or may not be in proper relationship to its creator.  TAT12

How in this tradition do you get related to God?  The relationship is accomplished through an institution .  This we may term the first mythic dissociation in that it dissociates the person from the divine principle.  The individual can only become associated with the divine through the social institution.  Thus, in the Jewish tradition, God and His people have a covenant regarding their special relationship. 

In the Christian tradition, Christ is the center because He is true God and true Man.  This is regarded as a mystery because of the unity of these two natures.  It is no mystery at all in the Orient, where each of us is conceived to be precisely a piece of God. 

Into how many of us has the weight described by the physicist Erwin Schrodinger been born that “this life of yours that you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is, in a certain sense the whole; only the whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one simple glance.  This … is what the Brahmims express in that sacred, mystic formula that is yet really so simple and o clear:  Tat tvam asi, that is you.”  TAT13

This is the basic insight of all metaphysical discourse, which is immediately known – as knowable to each alone – only when the names and forms, what I call the masks of God, have fallen away.  Yet, as many have observed, including William of Occam, Immanuel Kant, and Henry Adams, the category, or name, or unity itself is of the mind and may not be attributed to any supposed substance, person, or “Ground of Being.”

One way to deprive yourself of an experience is indeed to expect it.  Another is to have a name for it before you have an experience.  Carl Jung said that one of the functions of religion is to protect us against the religious experience.  That is because in formal religion, it is all concretized and formulated.  But, by its nature, such an experience is one that only you can have.  As soon as you classify it with somebody else’s, it loses its character. 

Ornate and detailed religions protect us against an exploding mystical experience that would be too much for us.  TAT 14

*   There are two orders of meditation: discursive meditation and ordered meditation.  In discursive meditation, such as that advocated by Ignatius Loyola, you consider some religious scene – the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin or the story of the Crucifixion – arranging it as one would a stage set in the imagination.  This is a protective prelude to one order of meditation.  Another order of meditation is explosive because it carries you beyond all names, forms, and concepts.  And then you cannot get back.  If, however, you have engaged for several years in discursive meditation first, it serves as an intermediary state by which you can get back.  In places in which meditation has been practiced for a long time – in contemplative orders, for example – this is well understood.  TAT14

(nativity scene) – The many symbols, such as the animals of the Egyptian mystery religions breathing their spirit on the infant Jesus – the bull of the god Osiris and the ass of his brother Set, there in the manger – suggest their early understanding that this was indeed so.  So, too, in the same nativity scene, the Magi wear the hat of Mithra as they pay homage.  TAT14

(parallels)  It is clar that, in Orpheus and Christ, we have exactly the same archetype, with the motif of leaving the pyshical world, still symbolized with a cross in astronomy, for the spiritual.  They leave the Earth, symbol of Mother, to go to the realm of the father.  TAT14

Paul also grasped that the Christian myth of the Fall at the Tree of the Garden and the Redemption at Calvary on the Tree of Redemption are the two aspects of the two Trees in the Garden of Eden.  The first, the Tree of the Fall, represents passage from the eternal into the realm of time.  The second is the Tree of the return from the realm of time to the spiritual.  So that Tree is the threshold tree, the laurel tree, which may be seen in its two aspects, going from the sacred to the profane and from the profane back into the sacred.  TAT15

When man ate of the fruit of the Tree, he discovered himself in the field of duality instead of the field of unity.  As a result, he finds himself out, in exile.  The two cherubim placed at the gate are there representative of the world of the pairs of opposites in which, having been case out of the world of unity, he is now located.  You are kept in exile by your commitment to that world.  TAT15

Christ goes past that – “I and the Father are one” – back into the realm of unity from which we have been expelled.  These are mysteries.  Here is an echo and a translation into another set of images of what we ourselves are experiencing.  What comes forth now with the grain, as particles of that one life that informs all things, is the revelation of the spiritual unity in all its aspects.  Here also  TAT15

There are two orders of religious perspective.  One is ethical, pitting good against evil.  In the biblically grounded Christian West, the accent is on ethics, on good against evil.  We are thus bound by our religion itself to the field of duality.  The mystical perspective, however, views good and evil as aspects of one process.  One finds this in the Chinese yin-yang sign, the dai-chi. 

Remember my earlier statement that the experien ce of mystery comes not from expecting it but through yielding all your programs, because your programs are based on fear and desire.  Drop them and the radiance comes.  TAT16