Ever since I dropped some pure LSD-25 back in the Village, and saw God in a jar of Mazola Oil, just sitting there, minding its own business, I have been fascinated by the many ways one can pursue god. Peyote, LSD, mushrooms, a few ego deaths and a few rebirths later, I followed every path that came my way until it led me to another. It wasn’t because I was still seeking. The Mazola Oil jar had proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am god, as are you!
Nonetheless, I wandered down almost every spiritual path there is, but I never loitered long enough on any one to claim it as the path for me. I am a spiritual whore, though some might say the word “dilettante” would do. I have merely dabbled in a wide variety of spiritual pursuits, some of them mainstream, most of them unforeseen.
And guess what? They are all the same!
Oh, the garb and gestures may differ from one to another. The rituals and rites may seem strange. The rules and regulations may be downright contradictory. But every religion has at its most fundamental roots, its very core, a mystical element… often decried by the religion itself. It is the mysticism of each religion I find so fascinating, because the deeper I delve into each, the more I experience the singularity of their intent: to have an experience of god, not just an intellectual or faithful belief, but an actual experience of the divine.
Those that have had this experience know there is no separation between us… any of us. There is only one truth, and it belongs to no one religion or path. Once you have experienced this truth, all you have ever read or been told becomes clear.
For example, I fell in love with a Jewish girl when I was in high school. I had such a crush on her I started learning everything I could about Judaism so I could become a convert and win her love. It was to no avail, except for the fact I had learned some things that would prove useful later on.
I learned that the mystical elements of Judaism are found primarily in the Kabbalah. The trappings of Judaism are dropped in order to focus with pinpoint clarity on the eternal light that comes when activity of the mind has ceased. Picture the Hasidic Jew rocking forth and back, repeating mumbled words, trying to hypnotize himself into thoughtlessness. He wears a prayer shawl called a “tallit,” which includes a specified number of fringes and knots to help the aspirant remember the laws of god. The tallit is the spiritual equivalent to prayer beads in other traditions.
The Kabbalah is a set of teachings that explains the relationship between an infinite and mysterious “nothingness,” and a finite “somethingness.” (Think the yin yang of Confucius.) It attempts to define the nature of the universe, the nature of the human being, and the purpose of existence through techniques which revolve around the concept of “ein sof.”
Ein Sof is the nameless being, the non-existent one. God is so beyond human thought and understanding, he may as well not exist. You may not understand or know him through an activity of the mind. That’s why in Judaism, God has no name that can be pronounced. He is without form and resembles nothing. It is within the Kabbalah that we find methods to still the mind and achieve a state of thoughtlessness. Only then is it possible to glimpse god.
In college, I did not want to take a sophomore theology class that was required if you were Catholic. Therefore, that year I registered as a Buddhist. I knew that Father Dineen, the Dean, would call me in eventually and say, “Polizatto! Who do you think you’re kidding?”
“Au contraire, mon frère,” I would answer. “Ask me anything about Buddhism and I will answer.” (I had been pouring over Buddhist texts the previous summer.) After the interrogation, the Dean succumbed and for the next three years I did not have to take any theology classes at Georgetown. But the Buddhist texts I’d read would come in handy.
Then there was that move to New York… a few more psychedelic trips… and I realized that the Buddhist philosophy into which I had immersed myself was more than just words. It was a direct slingshot through my third eye. It was an experience… a mystical experience… and because it was mystical and an experience… I thought no thought, because if I learned anything it was that thinking doesn’t get you anywhere!
There are many sects within Buddhism, just as there are within most religions. Though each may have its own rules and rituals, or none at all, they have in common mystical elements. How do you sum up the mystical elements of Buddhism?
No mind, never matter. No matter, never mind.
Exercises to help a novitiate on his or her way to nirvana include the practice of asceticism, meditation on the breath, mantras, and the cultivation of desirelessness… having no desires… even for enlightenment! Picture the young monk rocking forth and back, counting the malas on his string of prayer beads.
The goal is to first concentrate the mind on one thing (perhaps the mantras)… then let go of that thing until there is nothing… or no thing. Mindlessness… free from thought or even knowledge of your own existence and ego. Free!
My last year in college I lived on a Quaker farm. I went to Meeting every Sunday, and Bible study afterwards, trying to build a dossier of testimonies from the elders that I was indeed a Quaker and a conscientious objector. It was to no avail, but I did learn some very important things.
I learned that what Jesus might have actually said… the words that came directly from his mouth… would probably take up no more than a small pamphlet. If you read the Sermon on the Mount carefully and as metaphor, you might just find that Jesus was trying to give away the secrets to knowing god… the very techniques to opening the third eye and achieving a state of desirelessness. To live in the spirit simply means to breathe. Just breathe in and out… just be… and all will be well. Those that understand the mysticism of Christianity know it is the same mysticism of every other religion.
In Catholicism and Christianity, mysticism is often found in monasticism. Monks and cloister-ordered nuns take vows of silence in hopes their senses will be sharpened to rise above the external and focus only on the internal. In early America, we find the Transcendentalists and Masons. In Catholicism, we find Opus Dei and other secret societies. Picture the devout Trappist monk rocking forth and back as he uses his rosary to help him keep track of the repetitions of Hail Marys and Our Fathers. Repetition of prayer is a method to still the mind, to hypnotize oneself into thoughtlessness.
Is a pattern emerging?
In the Dead Sea Scrolls are instructions of how to live a life that will bring about an experience of pure energy, light and love. I refer to The Gospel of Peace of Jesus Christ, which is part of the Essene Gospel, translated from the original Aramaic manuscript. In it are practical exercises to help focus the mind. All of this in an effort, the same effort of all mystics, to realize “god.” Focus the mind… then get rid of it!
Hindus have the Advaita Vedanta and Jnana yoga. Jñāna is an event of the mind that is recognized when it is experienced. Once again, the goal is to stop thought, and simply be. Perhaps it is a state that can’t be maintained very long, but to experience it just for a moment can last a lifetime. The reason spiritual teachers tell you to practice yoga, whatever kind of yoga that may be, is because the more you practice it, the easier it is to recognize when “it” becomes an experience.
Islam is perhaps the least understood religion among Westerners. Islam is a religion whose mystics follow the philosophy of Sufism. Sufism claims to be the progenitor of Islam itself. The mystical elements of Sufism include a number of exercises designed to perfect the act of worship. The most commonly known Sufis are the whirling dervishes.
Though it is a beautiful sight to behold, the intent of the whirling is to remove oneself from the world and achieve a union with god. Sufis are strong adherents to the principal of tolerance, peace and are against any form of violence. Sufism is “a science through which one can know how to travel into the divine… a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God.”
When a Sufi speaks of “jihad,” he means the “greater jihad,” the internal spiritual struggle, not the “lesser jihad,” which is the kind that carries a nasty connotation, and for good reason. Sufis also put an emphasis on the breath and vibrations. They believe that sound, words and especially music are mystical, and that a cosmic language can be spoken through vibrations. I strongly recommend the book, The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan.
When Muslims gather in prayer, they chant the same three prayers over and over, creating a vibration that might help them concentrate and still the mind. The men gather in the mosque, kneel on their prayer carpets, and chant. Like the Jew, the god of Islam has no name and cannot be given form of any kind. The Muslim rocks back and forth counting the beads on his “misbaha” just like the Hasidim Jew on his fringed and knotted shawl… just like the Tibetan monks with their mala beads… just like the Trappist monk with his rosary beads… just like the Indian sadhu with his japa beads.
There are many religions in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned. They all have a god. The god I like best is the god that is nameless and has no form… the god who may as well not exist. Let us all worship his non-existence. All mystics from all religions pray for an experience of this non-existence. I think the world would be far better off if we could all just agree there is no god but the one which resides in you and me!
The Unapologetic Hippie
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