There have always been mystics. And they have always plumbed the depths and scaled the heights of the soul’s potential. The Greek word for “soul” is psyche. So the mystics are the true psychologists—students of the soul intent on their spiritual quest. Their lives and teachings are a road map that leads scientifically to the summit of being.
- 1 Transforming the soul
- 2 Origins of mysticism
- 3 Common elements of the path of mysticism
- 4 (1) The indwelling presence of God
- 5 (2) Mystical contemplation and prayer
- 6 (3) The threefold path of ascent to God
- 7 The spiritual marriage
- 8 Becoming God
- 9 The universal path
- 10 See also
- 11 For more information
- 12 Sources
Transforming the soul
Mysticism is not merely a belief or a philosophy. Mysticism is an experience that transforms the soul. If you aren’t transformed, you haven’t had the experience. And when your soul is fully transformed, you and God are no longer two but one.
The fifteenth-century mystic Saint Catherine of Genoa experienced the oneness as submersion in the ocean of God’s love. She said:
My being is God, not by some simple participation but by a true transformation of my Being.... I am so placed and submerged in His immense love that I seem as though immersed in the sea, and nowhere able to touch, see or feel aught but water.... My Me is God, nor do I recognize any other Me except my God himself.
The mystical path is a spiritual journey into the heart of God’s love. But the mystic knows that in order to be completely bonded to God’s heart he must transcend the lesser self. Thus the path of the mystic is a path of challenge as well as a path of joy. It is the challenge of working through karma that separates you from God—and then going beyond the pain to the bliss of encountering your Lord face to face.
Origins of mysticism
The word mysticism is thought to be derived from the Greek word meaning to close the eyes or lips. It was first used in connection with the Greek mystery religions. The “mystics” were those who promised to keep secret the rituals of their religion.
Neoplatonic philosophers who later applied the word mystical to their doctrines taught their pupils to shut their eyes to the external world and go within, in profound contemplation, to discover mystical truths. Closing their eyes meant they had to go to a plane of consciousness apart from the concrete mind. They had to go beyond the intellectual mind to levels of both the superconscious and the subconscious where the soul has direct awareness of her identity in God beyond the confines of the physical/intellectual self. The Neoplatonists sought to take their pupils to the compartment of being where the soul speaks to God and where God speaks to the soul.
Philo, the Jewish religious thinker and contemporary of Jesus, used the term mystical to refer not to secret rituals but to the hidden meaning of God’s word. The early Greek Church Fathers Clement and Origen of Alexandria applied the word mystical to the allegorical interpretation of scripture. Origen believed there could be no real understanding of the scriptures without communion with God. For Origen, interpretation of the scriptures was a religious experience. He was the first to use the word mystical to describe a way of knowing God.
In later centuries, Christians used the word mystical to indicate the hidden and sacred presence of Christ in the scriptures, sacraments and liturgy. The influential writings of the fifth- or sixth-century writer known as Pseudo-Dionysius established the word mystical as part of the Christian vocabulary. He didn’t just use it to discuss the interpretation of scripture. He also encouraged the exercise of “mystical contemplation”—leaving behind “the senses and the operations of the intellect” in order to gain union with God. Eventually the term mystical theology was used in the Church to denote knowledge about God gained through contemplation.
Common elements of the path of mysticism
There are several elements common to the mystical paths of the major world’s religions. Among these are (1) the mystics’ pursuit of the indwelling Presence of God; (2) their pursuit of direct intercourse with God through prayer and contemplation; and (3) their pursuit of a threefold path of ascent to God.
(1) The indwelling presence of God
The mystics believed that the soul is meant to be the dwelling place of God and a partaker of the Divine nature. In Christian mysticism this teaching goes back to the words of Jesus and the apostles.
At the Last Supper Jesus promised his disciples: “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.” Paul instructed the Corinthians: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
The divine spark
The mystics speak of the indwelling Presence of God in two senses. First, they believe that all men are by nature like God and that within every soul there is a spark of the Divine.
The fourteenth-century theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart taught: “There is something in the soul that is so akin to God that it is one with Him.... God’s seed is within us.” Saint Germain teaches that the indwelling Presence of God is the threefold flame of the Trinity—of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the eternal flame that burns on the altar of our hearts. It is also called the Holy Christ Flame or the Threefold Flame of Liberty—because without it we would have neither free will nor the individuality in God to exercise it.
So long as we tend this flame we have a unique identity in God and are forever tied to his heart. At the moment of a baby’s first breath, the Holy Spirit reignites this flame in the physical heart. Child-man now has the potential to become God-man. In other words, the child-manifestation may, through the threefold flame, put on and become the full God-manifestation.
The goal of not one but many incarnations is to so fan the threefold flame with our devotion to God that it increases to the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in us bodily as it did in Jesus Christ. Jesus is our Lord and Saviour because the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily. He is our Lord because through him we may have that flame reignited if we have lost it. Through him we may be bonded anew to our Holy Christ Self.
The Ascended Master Saint Germain opened the path of mysticism to the world in the twentieth century when he unveiled the Chart of Your Divine Self. This Chart is a diagram of your soul’s mystical union with God. And it is a sign from the heart of Saint Germain to the mystics of all past ages who reincarnate in this time that the hour of the fulfillment for their reason for being has come.
The indwelling Christ
The second way in which the mystics conceive of the indwelling Presence of God is as the indwelling Christ.
The apostle Paul was the first mystic who recorded the concept of the indwelling Christ being “formed” in us. He wrote to the Galatians: “I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” Paul proclaimed the Christ within as the inheritance of all Christians. He told the Colossians that God would make known to his saints how great are “the riches of the glory of this mystery: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
If you have a Holy Christ Self, then why does Christ need to be formed in you? The Holy Christ Self is above you in higher planes. You can visualize the forming of Christ in you as points of light coming together in concentration, originally dispersed and vapory with no form or shape. As you begin to know who is Christ and what is Christ—his attributes, his works, his words, as he lives daily—there is forming in you your concept of Christ, your image of Christ, the Christ whom you adore and whom you worship, the Christ who is your brother and teacher and friend. Each day that Christ is being formed in you—becoming more concentrated as Light—until the very presence and outline and truly the form of your Holy Christ Self is duplicated here below.
Paul said that Christ lived in him; and he discovered that when Christ lived in him, he no longer lived in himself. He said, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” And so he was no longer “I, Paul.” He was “I, Paul, one with the Christ.”
Origen wrote: “Not just in Mary did [Christ’s] birth begin ... but in you, too, if you are worthy, is the WORD of God born. If you are so pure in mind, so holy in body and so blameless in deed, you can give birth to Christ himself.”
Meister Eckhart taught that the birth of the Son of God within the individual is even more important than the incarnation of the historical Jesus: “It is more worthy of God that He should be born spiritually ... of every good soul than that He should have been born physically of Mary.”
The birth of Christ in our consciousness and in our souls comes when we have a companionship with the Christ Presence. It is a certain awakening within us of a larger sphere of selfhood we have yet to fill in. This we accomplish by the intercession of the Holy Spirit. The babe must grow and wax strong in the spirit of the Lord, until he come to the full stature of his Sonship, his Christhood, in God. When that takes place, the soul is fused, or bonded, to Christ—to Jesus Christ and through him to her indwelling Christ.
(2) Mystical contemplation and prayer
A second premise of the mystics is that the soul can have direct intercourse with God through mystical contemplation and prayer. We would call this meditation and devotional and invocative prayer. Devotion is where you give your whole heart and soul and love and mind to God. Invocative prayer is when you invoke the whole heart and soul and Mind of God to enter your being.
To the mystics, prayer is not just a prescribed set of devotions and petitions to God. It is an interior prayer wherein we speak with God from the very depths of our soul. It is concentration upon God. It is a profound communion free from distractions within and distractions without.
Everyone who maintains this relationship with God is holding the Spirit cosmos and the Matter cosmos together, because in that dialogue and in that union he has come to the point of the center of the Chart of your Divine Self, the point of the Son of God.
The mystics taught that true prayer does not take place just at peak moments of the day or week. True prayer is unceasing communion with God even in the midst of daily activities. Teresa of Avila said we should talk with God about even the smallest concerns of our day. Our conversations with him can take place anywhere.
Unceasing prayer is like being in love. When you are in love, you are always thinking of the beloved. When you are in love with God, you can never take your attention from him. You are consumed by a spiritual passion. Moments apart from him are an agony. Nothing else will comfort you but his love as he rekindles the fiery ecstasy of heart-to-heart communion.
Saint Germain is the great adept who has made the mystical path available to all who will apply themselves by teaching us the path of devotion through the science of the spoken Word.
(3) The threefold path of ascent to God
The third element common to the mystical paths of the world’s religions is the pursuit of the threefold path of purgation, illumination and union.
Some writers consider these stages a step-by-step path, one stage leading to the other. Others believe the stages can take place simultaneously and that not every mystic experiences every stage.
Purgation comes to the soul only after she has experienced her awakening in God. This awakening brings joy to the soul. But when God’s Light suddenly enters the world of the mystic, he becomes acutely aware of his faults and weaknesses. More importantly, he sees that his imperfections (or sins, to use a traditional term) are what separate him from God, and he can no longer tolerate the gulf.
To truly face and conquer the lesser self is arduous. We should not underestimate the challenge. We should know what we are getting into when we want to go all the way back to God in this life.
This is what Paul meant when he said, “I die daily.” Paul saw a part of himself dying daily, and some of those parts he was attached to. Some of those parts he didn’t necessarily want to see die. But by having Christ be formed in him, something else that was not the Christ had to die.
The dark night
► Main article: Dark night
During the process of purgation the soul faces testings, trials and temptations that come in many guises. Some mystics have described a certain element of the purgative process as a “dark night.” The sixteenth-century mystic Saint John of the Cross said there are two dark nights: the dark night of the senses and the Dark Night of the Spirit.
The dark night of the senses takes place during the purgative stage and as a transition into the illuminative stage. The Dark Night of the Spirit takes place before the ultimate union of the soul in Christ in the spiritual marriage.
Most people do not know the experience of being totally filled with God, and therefore to give up the known for the unknown is not easy. To be totally filled with God does not mean that you need to be a nun or a priest or in a convent or in a cloister. It is also possible to be in the world, yet not of it (though this may be a greater challenge), to be filled with God and to become a radiating point of Light, an extension of the heart of Krishna or Morya or Buddha. Your life will be far greater in joy when there is no room in you for anything but God—because God is everything. God is everything that is Real. Everything you could ever want he will bring to you.
During the dark night of the senses the mystic disciplines himself to overcome inordinate desires—desires that do not lead to his union with God. Saint John of the Cross advised: “To come to possess all,” that is, all of God, if you really want that, “desire the possession of nothing,” and God will give you his All. The mystics recognized that one of the primary laws of spiritual progress is that as the soul becomes increasingly detached from the things of this world, she becomes increasingly attached to God.
John outlined a two-step program to help the disciple get through the dark night of the senses. He said that by these two steps alone the soul could conquer all inordinate desires that separate her from God.
First, the mystic should have a “habitual desire to imitate Christ in everything that he does.” He should meditate on Christ’s life “so that he may know ... how to behave in all things as Christ would behave.” Secondly, “Every pleasure that presents itself to the senses, if it be not purely for the honor and glory of God, must be renounced and completely rejected for the love of Jesus Christ, Who in this life had no other pleasure, neither desired any, than to do the will of his Father.”
The path of the imitation of Christ is the path of the Christian mystics. Jesus said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself [his lesser self, the carnal mind] and take up his cross daily.” Taking up your cross daily means not only the cross of your karma but also your dharma, your duty to be who you really are on the path of personal Christhood in the footsteps of Jesus. Let not your head come to rest on your pillow if you have not dealt with the karma of the day with violet flame, with service, with love.
If we refuse to bear responsibility for our words, our actions, our deeds, if we are not willing to suffer the consequences of our ungodly words and deeds, this becomes the boulder of pride and rebellion against the laws of God that utterly prevents our soul’s reunion with God.
Balancing our karma, paying back our debts to God and to every part of life that is God is glorious. Because none of us are truly happy—and our souls can never be—until we have undone the wrongs we have done to any part of life. As long as we are enmeshed in a spiral of negative karma with the outer self—our own outer self and someone else’s outer self—we cannot know true oneness with the Inner Self—of them or us.
Some suffering may be necessitated by the law of karma. But there is a path of a minimum of suffering. That path is the path of the seventh ray and of the violet flame. Instead of encountering all of the old situations and taking a million years to work through the karma physically, that gift of Saint Germain has given us this opportunity to accelerate. Sometimes the most suffering you have to bear is to just sit still in one place long enough to get the action of transmutation rolling at peak alchemical pitch.
Saint Germain tells us that the violet flame is the most physical of all flames. Transmutation goes on at all levels when we invoke it. Not only does the violet flame expel toxins lodged in our physical organs but it also transmutes the karmas and traumas of our present and past lives recorded in the four lower bodies.
Saint Germain unveiled the violet flame to the world in the 1930s. It is the gift of his heart to all who would enter the Golden Age of Aquarius. Through the alchemy of the violet flame—the seventh ray aspect of the Holy Spirit—the unredeemed, unperfected soul can become a partaker of the divine nature here and now in this life.
The writings of the mystics tell us that there comes a moment on the purgative path when the intense suffering abates. The flame of love swallows up some aspect of the lesser self, and the soul moves on to a new level. Suffering ceases when the soul has learned her lessons and a certain block of karma has been balanced. This marks the moment when the soul is ready for the illuminative stage.
The illuminative stage
As mysteries are unlocked, the mystic gains a new perspective on his relationship with God and with his fellow men. He experiences a greater sense of the presence of God. His soul mounts to new heights of joy in communion with the Lord, for now the mystic’s life is focused entirely on God. His sole desire is to be with God and to serve God.
The illuminative stage is often marked by visions, ecstasies, revelations, raptures and other phenomena. However, the Christian mystics often warned, as do the Gurus of the East, that phenomena are not the goal of the mystical path. They said it is dangerous to ask God for such experiences or to expect them because this leaves us open to projections from our own imagination or from the devil.
The unitive stage
The illuminative stage, even with its moments of bliss, is merely a foretaste of the splendid and perpetual union with God that comes in the unitive stage. The Christian mystics say that the soul’s union with God in this life should be the goal of all Christians. They have referred to this union as the spiritual marriage, the deifying, transforming union, or deification.
To the mystics the soul is feminine in nature and is intended to become the bride of Christ. Thus, some mystics referred to the soul as “she” or “her” rather than “he” or “him.” Before the spiritual marriage takes place, some of the mystics passed through a period of a betrothal or engagement. During the mystical engagement, the soul undergoes further tests and purgations in preparations for her marriage, but she also enjoys the delights of God.
Prior to the spiritual marriage mystics also pass through the Dark Night of the Spirit. Saint John of the Cross said that during this period the soul feels that “God has abandoned her, and, in His abhorrence of her, has flung her into darkness.” The soul feels “chastised and cast out, and unworthy of Him.... She feels, too, that all creatures have forsaken her, and that she is condemned by them, particularly by her friends.”
John described the Dark Night of the Spirit as an “inflow of God into the soul.” God is “purging the soul, annihilating her, emptying her or consuming in her (even as fire consumes the moldiness and the rust of metal) all the affections and imperfect habits which she has contracted in her whole life.... God greatly humbles the soul in order that He may afterwards greatly exalt her.”
This is the great mystery that the mystics of all religions have unlocked: In order to be full, you first must be empty. In order for God to dwell in you completely, you must first empty yourself of all that is not God.
The ascended masters teach that the culmination of the Dark Night of the Spirit is the crucifixion. What is crucified in the crucifixion? It is not the outer self. It is the Christ who is embodied in you. Jesus the Christ was crucified. Had he not been the Christ, they wouldn’t have bothered crucifying him.
The crucifixion is the supreme test of your individual Christhood, when your soul is, as it were, cut off from your I AM Presence above. The test is that you must survive in life and in spiritual consciousness on the God-energy, on the Christ-energy, that you have internalized in all of your lifetimes on the Path. You must be able to sustain that God Presence where you are without reinforcement from your I AM Presence.
This is the real explanation of why Jesus suddenly cried out when he hung on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And this is the meaning of the highest and most difficult initiation that we must pass before we can come to the resurrection. We must have internalized that Word that we are—an individual identity in God, but self-sustaining.
Through the purging that comes with the Dark Night of the Spirit, the soul is at last ready to enter into the bridal chamber. The mystics’ description of their love pact with the Beloved has produced some of the most exalted expressions of love ever written. Saint John of the Cross wrote of the personal and intimate contact of the soul with the Divine One:
- All things I then forgot,
- My cheek on him who for my coming came;
- All ceased, and I was not,
- Leaving my cares and shame
- Among the lilies, and forgetting them.
- All things I then forgot,
When the soul is “carried away and absorbed in love,” said John, it is “as if she had vanished and been dissolved in love,... passing out of self to the Beloved.”
The spiritual marriage
The mystics have described their spiritual marriage with Christ very graphically. In 1730 Father Bernard Hoyos heard angels singing: “Behold, the Bridegroom is coming, go forth to meet Him.” In a vision he saw Jesus, the Blessed Mother and many saints. He heard Jesus say:
I espouse thee, O beloved soul, in an eternal espousal of love.... Now thou art Mine and I am thine.... Thou art Bernard of Jesus and I am Jesus of Bernard.... Thou and I are one.
Commentators on the Christian mystics note that male mystics whom Christ espouses sometimes experience Christ as wisdom or mercy because these are considered to be feminine attributes of God. Jacob Boehme, for instance, spoke of the soul’s marriage to the Virgin Sophia (Greek, meaning “Wisdom”).
The most important sign of the mystical union with God is an active love. The unitive way is, of all stages of the mystical path, the most fruitful. Thus the mystic becomes the living instrument of God—the heart, head and hand of God in action.
Teresa of Avila taught that as a result of the spiritual marriage, “the soul is much more occupied than before with everything pertaining to the service of God.”
Teresa herself led a very active life, dedicating herself to the reform of the Carmelite Order. She traveled throughout Spain, establishing seventeen monasteries, wrote several books that have become spiritual classics. In Teresa’s day and culture, these accomplishments were nothing less than remarkable.
The mystical path is truly a practical path. It is practical because we learn how to contact God and find our way back to his heart. It is practical because it deals with the needs of the hour on planet Earth.
The spiritual marriage, the mystics tell us, is not simply a conforming of the soul to the ways and will of God but a total transforming of the soul into God. This is precisely how the mystics describe the divine union. And this is the very heart of the teaching that you only whisper: the soul that is transformed into God is God. This is the conclusion the mystics inevitably reached—but they were reluctant to tell it, for they feared persecution. The apostle Paul was speaking of purgation and union with Christ when he said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
Saint Mary Magdalen of Pazzi cried out to the Father:
By means of the union and transformation of Thyself into the soul and of the soul into Thee,... Thou dost deify the soul. O deification! The soul which has the happiness of arriving at the state of being made God—like a sphere irradiating the rays of the sun—is made luminous and resplendent as the sun itself. We are transformed into Thy very image, from clarity to clarity.
These are the words of the Christian mystics and the teachings of the doctors of the Roman Catholic Church. The goal of deification—of becoming one with God or, as some of the mystics say, becoming God—has been a part of the Christian mystical tradition since the time of Jesus Christ.
The universal path
The world’s major religions have two facets. They have the orthodox system of rules and rituals—an outer religion, a religion of form. As people advance on the Path, they decide this is not enough. They want more. Then there is the inner path of mysticism.
Every one of the world’s religions shows the same inner path—the discovery that God is a living fire. Fire is the key in every religion from Zoroastrianism to Taoism to Christianity.
The fire of the Holy Spirit, the flame—whatever way it is seen—is central on the altar of Being. And the goal of the mystic is to unite with the flame, to unite with God, to be transformed, to be purged, to be illumined and to enter into that total oneness.
If religion doesn’t give you a path of your soul’s reunion with that sacred fire in this life, it is missing the whole heart of the matter. You can engage in rituals for a lifetime but your heart may never have been opened to your Lord. The inner teachings of this mystical path are what we must live and demonstrate so that the world can be freed from religion that has become rote and dead.
The mystical path is a legitimate path. It’s not nonsense, it’s not hysteria, it’s not a manifestation of some kind of a psychological problem. It is legitimate to desire to be one with God. It is your divine birthright. All of the divine love of the universe is surrounding you now, intensifying in your being and telling you that this is the day and the hour when you can transcend yourself.
The mighty angel Justinius, Captain of Seraphic Bands, says:
I ask for you to consider this goal for yourself, the goal of the ascension, and not to postpone it to another lifetime or some undefined future. The ascension is this day. It is every day. And you are ascending moment by moment, erg by erg, as you give back to God the energy that he has given to you—as you give it back in good works, in word and deed, and in the flow of the Holy Spirit that you achieve magnificently by the Science of the Spoken Word in your decrees.
For more information
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Becoming God: The Path of the Christian Mystic
Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Path to Attainment, pp. 224, 229–51.
- Catherine of Genoa, Purgation and Purgatory, The Spiritual Dialogue (New York: Paulist Press, 1979), p. 30; Evelyn Underhill, The Mystics of the Church (Cambridge: James Clark, 1975), p. 166; Arthur Clements, Poetry of Contemplation (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1990), p. 16.
- Hervey Egan, Christian Mysticism: The Future of a Tradition (New York: Pueblo Publishing, 1984), pp. 2–3.
- John 14:23.
- 1 Cor. 3:16.
- Sidney Spencer, Mysticism in World Religion (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1971), p. 245; Meister Eckhart, Sermons and Treatises, trans. and ed. M. O’C. Walshe (Rockport, Md.: Element Books, 1992), vol. III, p. 107.
- In the temple at Jerusalem, there was a veil that divided the holy place, into which the priests entered, from the Holy of holies, into which the high priest entered on the Day of Atonement. This veil was rent at the hour of Jesus’ crucifixion (Matt. 27: 51; Mark 15: 38; Luke 23:45).
- Gal. 4:19.
- Col. 1:27.
- Gal. 2:20.
- Origen, Spirit and Fire: A Thematic Anthology of His Writings, ed. Hans Urs von Balthasar (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1984), p. 270.
- Spencer, Mysticism in World Religion, p. 250.
- 1 Cor. 15: 31.
- Saint John of the Cross, “The Ascent of Mt. Carmel,” I.13.11, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1979), p. 103.
- Saint John of the Cross, “The Ascent of Mt. Carmel,” I.13, in F. C. Happold, Mysticism: A Study and an Anthology (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1970), p. 359.
- Luke 9:23.
- Saint John of the Cross, “The Dark Night of the Soul,” II.6, in Juan Gonzalez Arintero, The Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church (London: Herder Book Co., 1951), vol. 2, p. 195, note.
- Saint John of the Cross, “Dark Night,” II.5.1, in Collected Works, p. 335.
- Saint John of the Cross, “Dark Night,” II.6, in Mystical Evolution, p. 197
- Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34.
- Evelyn Underhill, The Essentials of Mysticism, and Other Essays (New York: AMS Press, 1976), p. 71.
- Saint John of the Cross, “The Spiritual Canticle,” 26.14, in Collected Works, p. 514.
- Arintero, Mystical Evolution, vol. 2, p. 171.
- Jacob Boehme, The Way to Christ (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964), p. 20.
- Teresa of Avila, “The Interior Castle,” in Collected Works, vol. 2, p. 430.
- Gal. 2:20.
- Saint Magdalen of Pazzi, Oeuvres, 4:16, in Arintero, Mystical Evolution, vol. 2, p. 222, n. 64.
- Justinius, March 6, 1977, “The Army of the Hosts of the Lord.”