Mysticism may be considered as the essence of all knowledge.
It may be likened to the perfume of a flower, for it has
a fragrance of its own. We do not see the perfume, but we
see the flower, and so we will not hear many words from
the mystic to explain mysticism, but we can perceive that
mysticism in his atmosphere. Mysticism may also be likened
to honey. Honey is purifying and so is mysticism. It purifies
man of his infirmities, and it is the sweetest of all the
different aspects of knowledge that exist.
To a mystic the outward forms such as rituals and ceremonies
are not of the first importance; yet a mystic will take
part in them, whereas the half-wise man who says, 'I have
advanced too far. I cannot tolerate the outer forms any
more,' will rebel against them. The mystic can tolerate
anything, for he interprets life according to his own stage
of development. He can enjoy the meaning of ritual, which
is something that even the people who are officiating do
not always know. He may interpret a ceremony according to
his own wisdom, and give an interpretation which those who
perform that ceremony or those who watch it would never
even have dreamed of. He sees all that he wishes to see
and he knows all that he wishes to know, in the outer form
as well as in the inner form.
It is a fact that mysticism cannot be defined in words
in the form of doctrines, theories, or philosophical statements,
for mysticism is an inner experience. In order to know an
inner experience one must arrive at that experience. If
we say to a person who has never had a headache in his life,
'I have a headache,' he will never understand it. He will
not know what it is. Therefore, the word mysticism means
nothing. It is through the inner experience that one realizes
its meaning in all its fullness. Naturally, therefore, we
can find many books on psychology or philosophy, but seldom
anything on mysticism. And the few there are on mysticism
are generally about something quite different from what
mysticism really is. The reason is that it cannot be put
into a book. It cannot be expressed in words. But the very
reason why it is so vague is why it is so valuable, for
if there is any knowledge that is worthwhile, if there is
any science which is precious, it is the knowledge and science
which one can get out of one's mystical experiences.
The difficulty is that there are half-mystics and quarter-mystics,
and yet all of them are regarded as mystics, and this causes
confusion. When a person says, 'I am a Christian mystic,
or a Jewish or a Muslim mystic,' he has not yet arrived
at mysticism. Mysticism cannot be divided into different
sects, and the one who says, 'My mysticism is different
from your mysticism,' has not yet arrived there, for true
mystics cannot differ. Because inner experiences cannot
be changed their experience is one and the same. All changes
belong to the outer experiences of life. The further one
progresses on the spiritual path, the more experiences one
has which are similar to those of others in that advanced
stage. All ideas such as that of the inner body or the hereafter
are actual experiences of mystics. They are not speculations.
The power of the mystic belongs to his own experience. The
speculator is never satisfied with his knowledge, he is
always doubting himself and wondering whether he is right
There are seekers after mystical truth who have perhaps
devoted twenty years or more to discovering some key to
mysticism, and they have come back through the same door
by which they entered in, saying, 'I have found nothing.
I have closed my eyes for years, but all in vain. Tell me
what am I to see, what am I to find there?' The reason is
that not only did such a person go on his search with his
eyes closed, but he also closed his soul. Instead of receiving
a revelation he had a double loss. He could have done much
better with open eyes. Although he did not want to fool
himself, which is always worthwhile, yet he did not want
his imagination to make an effort, so his mind and his heart
were closed even before he shut his eyes, and consequently
nothing was open.
Imagination should not be discarded. Imagination becomes
a ladder on the path of the mystic. Besides, if it were
not for imagination there would have been no art, there
would have been no literature, there would have been no
music. These are all an outcome of imagination. When imagination
can produce beauty outwardly in the form of poetry, music,
art, or literature, it can produce beauty of much higher
and greater value when it is directed inward. Someone may
say, 'If there is a God He should appear before me so that
I may believe. I do not wish to take the trouble to imagine
that there is one,' yet if he lived on earth for thousands
of years, he would remain where he is. First his imagination
must help him to form an idea of the deity; then he will
have made an abode for the deity to abide in. As Voltaire
has said, 'If God did not exist one would have to invent
Naturally the mystic begins his work with the ladder
of imagination, and actual experience follows. What experience
does a mystic have? Does he see colors, does he communicate
with spirits, does he wander in the higher worlds, does
he read thoughts, does he recognize objects by psychometry,
does he perform wonders? To a mystic all these things are
elementary, and those who do them are half-mystics, quarter-mystics.
To a mystic who is a thorough mystic it is all child's play.
These things are not beyond his power. The power of the
mystic can be so great and his insight can be so keen that
an ordinary man cannot imagine it, yet for this very reason
a mystic, who looks no different from an ordinary man, cannot
profess to see or feel or know or understand any better.
Naturally, therefore, the real mystic who has arrived at
a certain point of understanding makes the greatest effort
to keep his power and insight hidden from the eyes of all.
It is the false mystic who comes forward and claims perfection
and prophetic powers, and who suggests that he can work
Mysticism changes man's outlook on life. The higher a
mystic reaches, the wider becomes his outlook. It is therefore
very difficult for a mystic to adjust himself to the limited
life of the world. He must continually speak and act differently
from what he feels and knows. It is just like an actor on
the stage: when he has to be a king then he acts as a king
and speaks as a king, and when he takes the part of a servant
he acts that part, but all the time he knows and feels that
he is neither a king nor a servant; that he is an actor.
And thus the feeling of a mystic is one thing, and his outer
affirmation is another.
Is this a right thing to do? Is it not a kind of hypocrisy?
An outspoken person would say, 'I say what I mean,' just
as he might say, 'I tell the truth whether you like it or
not, I don't mind.' But it cannot be helped. In order to
get away from this hypocrisy some mystics have closed their
lips and have not spoken throughout their whole life. They
have retired into the forest in order to get away from it.
But when they live in the midst of the world they can only
adopt this method: feel and know the truth, while speaking
and acting as everybody else does. And if someone says that
is not right, the answer is that in the case of other people
most things are wrong: knowing, acting, as well as speaking.
Whereas in the case of the mystic only one thing is wrong.
The mystic at least feels and knows rightly; that much is
to his advantage.
Imparting mysticism to a seeking soul is an automatic
action on the part of the pupil and also on the part of
the mystic, for what the mystic gives to the pupil is not
his own, it is God's, and the pupil is a kind of vessel
that receives this blessing. If the vessel is not ready
or if it is filled with something else, with every desire
on the part of the mystic to fill it he cannot. Therefore,
the whole training of mysticism is first to clean this vessel,
to make it ready for the mystic to pour into it the divine
knowledge which comes from within.
One might wonder whether life in the West has become
too confused for real mystics to develop there. As there
are tall people and short people in all parts of the world,
so there are wise people and foolish people everywhere.
The mystic is born with a tendency towards mysticism, and
there are many who are born like this in the West. Only,
in the East there are many who are interested in giving
a stimulus to this tendency, whereas in the West it is the
contrary; for when a person shows that tendency people laugh
at him. They think it is something abnormal and they do
not allow this gift with which he was born to develop in
him. That is why one finds far fewer mystics in the West
than in the East. Besides, when a youth has a mystical tendency
in the East he finds a teacher, a guide who can help him
on, whereas in the West this is very difficult. Then generally
nobody in his family knows anything about mysticism, and
so they discourage him or disapprove of his tendency. And
it is the same with his friends. So from all around he is
pulled back instead of finding encouragement on the path.
Nevertheless, a person born with a mystical tendency, however
much he is pulled back, will always sooner or later try
to find what he is looking for. He cannot feel satisfied
because of that innate yearning.
People often ask what is the difference between mysticism
and occultism. In point of fact, occultism is that which
the mystic shows as the result of his experience, as the
outcome of his insight, as the expression of divine law.
Nowadays we often hear occultism spoken of as something
distinct from mysticism, but that is not so. Often a man
who is a half-mystic comes forward, and then if people say
that he is not a mystic, he will call himself an occultist.
He must be something. This gives him a position too.
There is a story that three horsemen were coming from
Delhi, and behind them there was a man riding on a donkey.
Someone on the road addressed them and said, 'Riders, where
do you come from?' Before the three horsemen could answer,
this man on the donkey said, 'We four riders are coming
To give another example: clever and wise are not the
same. It is not right to say that the wise man is not clever,
though his wisdom weighs more than his cleverness. A person
cannot be wise if he is not clever, only his wisdom gives
his cleverness such dignity that it would be an offense
to call a wise man clever. Thus a mystic is an occultist,
but to call a mystic an occultist is to bring him down to
a lower level. It is like calling a wise man clever. Occultism
is the result of the mystic's experience. He fathoms the
laws of the unseen world, and he interprets them in ordinary
language; that is occultism.