One of the most important aspects of implementing a continual spiritual practice to further mystical transformation is the awareness of our emotional level of being. Because our consciousness has been conditioned in fear throughout our early development in the current human condition, our emotional life becomes wounded. When this happens, the emotions become enmeshed with our thinking mind. Emotions such as fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, and shame become so synonymous with negative thought patterns that we can lose conscious awareness of our emotions and thoughts.
I believe the life-long journey of personal transformation earnestly begins with the work of observing our emotions as distinct from our thoughts. As we develop this awareness, we will see the interdependence of emotions and thoughts. We will better understand how emotions trigger thoughts and how thoughts trigger emotions.
While I believe it is very important to observe our underlying thought patterns, the awareness of the emotions becomes primary. The emotions provide a link between body and mind, as well as the interaction with the heart. The awareness of emotions becomes our signal of whether we are living from the consciousness of fear or whether we are in the heart dimension of love and creativity.
Mystical experiences come in many varied types. Perhaps, they are as varied as the uniqueness of each individual soul/body. While they are received with different experience and meaning, they all emanate from the unity of the height and depth of infinite and eternal love.
Here, I will briefly discuss a few ways that mystical awareness is experienced. One way is through a deep emotional opening of the heart. This often occurs when we consciously feel deeply held unconscious emotion. The honesty of such an outpouring of both grief and peace opens us to the Spirit’s love beyond the ordinary time/space constraints of the personality. Another way is through the intellect’s spontaneous knowledge of universal truth. In such awareness, we may be gifted with a mystical experience of beauty and awe of the transcendent within our life.
The relational mystical experience is another glorious way we are gifted with the divine. This can happen with the awareness of another individual or a whole group of people within one’s awareness. When activated through the presence of an individual person, we realize that we are only our true self when we are one with the being of another person. We experience transcendent love. The philosophers describe this as intersubjectivity. This means that the human person is an undefinable subject in relationship with other undefinable subjects. Here, the human person is never an object to be used by others out of fear. There is just freedom, joy, love, and creativity as the relational human being elevates each other in love. Twentienth century philosophers Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel, and St. Edith Stein have eloquently described this level of relationality that can open to the mystical.
Relational mystical awareness in a group is experienced as an absolute oneness with all others in one’s surround. The boundaries of the ego completely dissolve and the joy of union with all other persons is experienced while still experiencing our unique being. Thomas Merton provides an excellent example when he describes in “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander” a spontaneous experience of realizing that he is one with and loves all the people at a busy street corner in Louisville, Kentucky.
Lastly for today, I will touch upon the ineffable light mystical experience. This experience seems to transport us to another dimension and enables a profound gratitude within our soul for the mystery of being. Through grace our heart opens to the uncreated light. It penetrates our entire multidimensional being. Our spiritual sensory system, which operates at a higher dimension than our five physical sensory system, experiences and sees a transcendent light that is beyond the physical light spectrum. This uncreated light is visibly seen although not through the ordinary capabilities of the eye and visual cortex of the brain. The Eastern Christian mystics Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas describe very well the nature of this mystical gift.
The center of human intention is within the heart. There, in the Spirit, we are outside of time and space where fear and doubt cannot enter. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you” (Mark 11:23). Jesus is saying that the heart is the center of intention. The heart is the key to human intention because it is only there that we find love and the Spirit.
In this one statement, Jesus conveys the complete context for the consciousness of human intention–there are no limits to what we can intend, we must be beyond fear and doubt, we must be in the heart, we must love, and we must trust in the grace of the Spirit. He continues, “So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). Intention is from the heart in the Spirit with the congruence of the mind, emotions, feeling, and body. This state of being is conveyed in the meaning of the words “believe that you have received it.”
The gift of human intention and spiritual creativity is a glorious gift that is the essence of our true humanity. Jesus teaches its broad scope and its simple unified qualities. However, the complexity of human wounds in a fear based culture often inhibit us from living in the heart dimension where intention is activated. Unconscious patterns of thought and emotion can keep us in the negativity of the fear conditioned false self ego personality. Therefore, at this stage in our humanity, intention and healing work together.
While healing and transforming to our true self in the heart dimension (where intention becomes reality) can be a challenging and winding road, it is imperative to know that intention is ultimately our gift as human beings in divine union. It is where we are all journeying to the fullness of the true self of love and creativity.
Along the journey of transformation, it is very important to understand the difference between mystical experiences and the healing and transformation to the consciousness of the true self in mystical union. The goal of the transformative life is to move beyond the wounded personality to become the true self in divine union. Mystical union is a permanent change in consciousness to the true self beyond fear and negativity. It is the new human living love, joy, and creativity from the heart in the Spirit. We find models for this stage of transformation in the writings and the lives of mystics such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.
I view being a mystic as having healed and transformed to a stage of consciousness where we live from the transcendent power of the Spirit in a fully opened heart dimension. This is the journey that we are all on as human beings. The more that we heal and open to the grace of transformation, the more we will evolve to the mystic self as our true humanity. Mystical union is the true self in divine union.
While being a mystic is best understood as the transformed consciousness of mystical union, mystical awareness is often part of the life long journey to divine union. I refer to mystical awareness as the gift of the soul’s experience of God beyond the rational and intuitive mind. The experience occurs within the heart and overflows to the mind, emotions, and body. The knowledge and gift of this experience of the Spirit is the authentic dimension of transformation. It is this depth of mystical transformation that we seek to harmonize with our spiritual creativity, relationships, and work in everyday life.
When we truly desire the fullness of our heart and soul, we open to the grace of mystical experience. These experiences are truly gifts and therefore we do not directly make them happen. However, I do believe that if we embrace healing and seek the infinite love within our being, mystical experiences can be a normal part of all of our journeys.
The mystical experience points toward the continual state of mystical union. In the new vision of mystical transformation and spiritual creativity, several aspects of transformation are simultaneously present along our journey–1. Healing and self-knowledge in heart, mind, emotions, and body, 2. Meditative and prayer practice, 3. Mystical experience, 4. Living the transcendent immanently through relationships, intention, and creativity within the world, and 5. Never ending journey toward mystical union and the identity with the divine energy of God.
The destiny of mystical transformation is to enable the true self full expression in all areas of life. One of the most important and joyous elements of life is the romantic relationship between a man and a woman. The union of masculine and feminine through spirit, soul, and body reveals the Spirit of love and creativity. The soul mate and marital relationship can be a deep expression of the mystic life.
Fear based cultural conditioning has tried to separate the mystic journey from the soul/body self-giving of romantic love. We desire to move from a disembodied spirituality to the oneness of a spirit/soul/body spirituality centered in the heart. We are unified spiritual/psychological/physical beings and will be for eternity, even though our current physical body will become a spiritual body. The human person lives simultaneously across several dimensions–Spirit, heart, mind, emotions, and body. The true self is a unity of spirit, soul, and body. The true self lives in a transcendent dimension and expresses itself in earthly life.
Mystical love in a romantic relationship is self-giving through all dimensions. The true self loves the very being of the other person from the heart in the Spirit. The true self loves through the mind by appreciating and supporting the gifts and talents of the other. The true self loves through the emotions with empathy and compassion for the other persons struggles and hopes, and the true self loves through the body in affection, sensory communication, and sexual love.
The new vision of mystical transformation and spiritual creativity sees living the transcendent within all of our human dimensions during our journey on earth in the physical dimension of the universe. The relationships of soul mates and spouses is a core of our humanity. Hopefully, as we evolve toward our true humanity, mystics as soul mates, and mystics and marriage will be seen as a normative path in everyday life.
Over the weekend, I was reminded of how physical work can be in service of interior transformation. As I was removing hundreds of staples from a flooring that was being removed, I realized how important it is to remain in the present moment. Negative thought patterns within the mind race forward into the future and focus on the length or tedious nature of a given work. This creates unease and tension in the present. If we bring our attention back to our heart, we avoid fear which clears the mind and relieves tension in the body.
My reflections on this work brought to mind the movie, “Enlightenment Guaranteed.” In the movie, two brothers from Germany travel to Tokyo, Japan and on to a week’s stay at a Zen Buddhist monastery.
As part of their daily routine at the monastery, they did manual cleaning whether the areas needed cleaning or not. They came to understand that this discipline was cleansing their own heart and the fears that reside in the mind. Here, physical labor is at the service of spiritual transformation.
In their trip to Japan, both brothers enter the journey to heal and transform to the true self. They learn to contrast the consciousness of the heart with the fear based and distracted culture in which they were conditioned. As they return to their life in Germany, they will be able to live the journey in their everday lives. The movie represents an excellent understanding of how we gain insight and feeling into our wounded personality and enter the journey of the transformative life to the true self.
Relationships in a fallen human condition are affected by fear. The personality fears being inadequate and as a result fears the loss of love. Because we fear that the self is not good enough, we try to gain power and control, self-esteem, and approval externally from others. The fear based conditioning is transmitted to us in early childhood by culture through the family and societal institutions such as religion, science, education, and media.
The wounded ego personality, both consciously and unconsciously, attempts to fill a perceived emptiness by using the other. The incessant competing for attention and control, lowers everyone’s energy. Joy, love, and creativity is lost.
By healing and transforming to our true self, we find the adequacy and ever-present connection to love within our hearts. Now, we are free to express a self-giving love to others. Relationships move beyond a competitive struggle for needs fulfillment to a cooperative mutual enhancement. Each partner in the relationship supports the other by coming from an authentic internal power and affirmation. The relational spirituality of our true humanity brings love and creativity through all types of relationships–parental, marital, soul mate, romantic, friendship, business, teacher/student, good samaritan, etc.
Forgiveness makes us whole. It brings us out of negativity to reveal our true self of peace, love, joy, and creativity. Forgiveness is at the heart of the love of Jesus. In teaching us how to pray, he says, “And forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). As long as we are still conditioned in a world that has the negative consciousness of the knowledge of good and evil, love is inseparable from forgiveness.
Jesus’ message of forgiving love, as our way to open the heart through the Spirit, culminates in the mystery of his crucifixion. By remaining in love throughout the intensity of inertia that is fear and violence, he opens a way for humanity to definitively choose love over fear. The cycle of trauma as a never-ending loop is broken. We have a choice to not let wounds and traumas forever leave us in fear, anger, guilt, and shame.
With forgiveness, the true self in divine union as lived through self-giving relationships is restored. Relational bonding and connection is the core of our humanity. Forgiveness is necessary for the true self to heal and transform to union with God and others. We are truly one when our life of relationships, work, and creativity are expressions of the dynamic reciprocity of self-giving love between God, self, and other.
Our journey to live a new vision of mystical transformation and spiritual creativity points toward the evolution to our true humanity. We all have been conditioned in our feelings and thoughts by a culture of fear. This underlying and perpetual fear limits our beliefs to a level where we see the constant struggles of the world as the only reality.
The culture of fear and violence pervades all human cultures, systems, and institutions. The state of the current human condition, with its persistent negative pull, is not our true humanity. If our present state of consciousness and culture is not our true humanity, how do we awaken to the existence of our true humanity? We must listen from the heart in the Spirit where fear and doubt cannot enter.
When we are drawn into a peaceful love that is energized with all creative possibility, we can ask if this is our true humanity. If we trust that it is, then we believe that humanity is meant to move beyond the negative inertia of the knowledge of good and evil. When we enter the heart, we come to realize that the fallen knowledge of good and evil infiltrates all aspects of life. We observe the knowlege of this resistance (fear, anxiety, anger, doubt, envy, self-centeredness, non-acceptance, inadequacy, etc.) in our own minds, emotions, and body. This inertia is also observed at the cellular, atomic, and space/time dimensions of the physical world.
Only by entering the dimension of the heart where we touch the love and unity of the eternal beyond all duality, can we journey beyond fear. Here, we will envision a true humanity of free flowing love and creativity.
Loreena Mckennitt is a singer, songwriter, and musician of works that explore the depth of the human journey. The whole of her music provides the feeling, meaning, and message of a unified mystical transformation and spiritual creativity. She seamlessly interweaves the desire for the transcendent within our immanent spiritual life in the world. While Loreena McKennitt’s music is a wonderful mix of different musical, literary, and spiritual traditions, today I will focus on an element in her music that I am the most familiar–the influence of the Christian mystics.
On each of Loreena’s last three albums, is a song that communicates the heart of the mystic journey. First, from “The Mask and the Mirror” is “The Dark Night of the Soul.” The lyrics from the song are from John of the Cross’ poem “The Dark Night.” The music beautifully captures the depths of one of humanity’s greatest mystical poets in a way that is very harmonious to the human journey as spirit, soul, and body in the earthly world.
In her 1997 album, “The Book of Secrets”, she includes the song “Dante’s Prayer” inspired by Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” She captures the element of sadness that is often present within earthly struggles along with the soul’s deepest yearnings of hope and love. In her most recent album, “An Ancient Muse”, “The Never Ending Journey” again conveys the heart and soul of the mystic journey. Here, she includes the influences of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila as she relates the universal mystic vision from the influences of mystics across many spiritual traditions.
I find in both Loreena McKennitt’s music and lyrics an expression of the new vision of mystical transformation and spiritual creativity. As we build the landscape of this vision through thought, daily life experience, self-observation, meditative awareness, relational intimacy, creativity, and artistic expression, Loreena’s gift is an inspiring example of the vision in the musical arts.