THEOSOPHY, Vol. 16, No. 8, June, 1928
(Pages 359-362; Size: 12K)


A MYSTIC is one who, while living in this world of matter, believes in the existence of an immaterial world and seeks contact with it. All mystics begin by being religious in the ordinary sense of that word. Finding life as it is experienced to be incomplete, they search for information relating to the unexperienced portion of existence. The explanation offered in the environment they inhabit is accepted. If in a "heathen" environment, they become believers in the religion there current. If in a Christian community, they become participants in the faith that is provided.

As time goes on, the sense of incompleteness re-asserts itself, and the communicant looks further, but still outwardly. It is discovered that religion is in truth a book of the dead: it does not provide or profess present relations with the unseen. Its attitude in that respect is always negative and passive. In the past there have been men in active intercourse with unseen Powers and Principalities. From these the religion has descended. In the future all true believers will be raised to an estate, after the demise of the body, where such active intercourse with spiritual beings will be natural for them. But for the present, while such things are not impossible, they are improbable, and no one in fact is able at this time to approach the invisible and obtain certain audience.

The religionist is one who either remains at this stage or relapses. The mystic is one who goes forward, impelled by the unresting feeling of something lacking to his experience which may be definitely approached. From then onwards the gulf between the mystic and the religionist steadily widens and deepens.

All mystics begin their entrance into the new field of experience by endeavoring to resurrect the dead. They do not, of course, recognize that this is the fact or they would not do it. But they never have inquired within themselves, any more than do the religionists, as to the source and meaning of the religious impulse or instinct within them. It has never occurred to them, therefore, that the actual origin of the religious feeling is not in any impartation from without, but is really due to the Soul's memory of anterior and other existence and experience, not yet localized in the physical instrument in use -- in other words, the religious feeling is the effect experienced in the body of the Soul's effort at orientation.

The mystic plunges into the states of contemplation and reverie -- in reality a species of indrawing from external forms -- and at once comes in contact with the ghosts and remnants of all the mistaken and misguided ideas and efforts of the past to which he has belonged and of which he once formed a part. As in his ordinary consciousness he has no knowledge and no memory of these old shades, they appear to him, glowing with the fervor and intensity of his own devotion, as an illumination shed upon him from the ideal universe. They are in truth but images and reflections, and have no more reality than the firelight glow and dancing flames one sees in a mirror when there is no other light than that from the open hearth. As the fire rises and falls and the flames change shape on the hearth, so do the images in the glass appear to come and go.

The mystic does not dream that the light he perceives is from himself; he thinks it proceeds from the images. He does not dream that the speech he hears and the ideas he so greedily accepts are in fact but the reflections in the great astral light(1) of his own preconceptions and fancies. He no more questions the authenticity, the verity and the circumstantiality of his experience than does the ordinary man question his dreams, while dreaming.

When he returns from his abstraction, however, he does not, like the ordinary dreamer, say, I dreamed thus and so. Far from it. He begins "searching the scriptures" with which he is familiar, not to check, but to confirm his visions. He turns the matter over in his mind and finds there, what he could not but find, if he only realized the nature of his experience, that the illumination is confirmed by the ideas and opinions he has arrived at in his ordinary state. As his experiences have been vividly real to him; as he has found in his scriptures evidences and confirmations of like experiences and illuminations; and as his waking ideas are correspondent, the mystic is now completely convinced that he has been exalted above others and is in possession of privileged and original sources of knowledge.

As the process is repeated, the mystic becomes more and more sure of himself, more and more assured of his infallibility, and less and less tolerant of anything that might seem to contradict his inspired ideas and utterances. He is now in a position to explain away either by a new interpretation or a new revelation, whatever in the scriptures he accepts that may be at variance with the authority he claims for himself. He will deny point-blank the most obvious facts of daily experience if they seem in any way to contradict his inspiration, and he cannot otherwise dispose of them. He will accept and affirm whatever seems to support his position, and seek to impose upon all who will give attention, statements incapable of proof, upon the sole authority of his assumed exclusive knowledge. He is now ready to found a new sect.

For be it known that the mistaken mystic is the source of all the sects which exist. The mistaken mystic is never the author of a new system of thought, a new philosophy, or a new religion. These are all genuine re-embodiments, the re-birth in a new form of that which has eternally existed. There never was a religious founder who invented a new religion. Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, were all transmitters of the one Truth.

The religious history of the race(2), as far and as widely as it can be traced, shows an unvarying identity in the original presentments of Truth that subsequently degenerated into the systems of dogmas and practices called the great religions. These original presentments were all explanatory of the nature of man and of the universe, and therefore inclusive and explanatory of all the facts of experience.

But the mistaken mystic invariably revives and revivifies old and past errors, mistakes, and falsities. His revelation is always exclusive, inexplicative of all the facts of experience. The history of the varieties of religious experience in all lands and times presents with unvarying monotony the route traversed by the mistaken mystic. India, mother of religions, is filled to-day, as in the past, with sects and sectaries, all due to the personal psychological experiences of mistaken mystics. They can there be studied in all their phases. Sects there are there which are very old and in dissolution. Others flourish securely, fed by the devotion of millions. Still others are in the early stages of their growth, while some present only embryonic quickenings.

Europe and America are filled with almost numberless Christian sects, all tracing back to some mistaken mystic. We have the Orders in the Catholic Church as well as that Church itself. We have Swedenborgianism, the so-called Protestant sects, and their many sub-sects and off-shoots. We have Mormonism and Christian Science. Every one sprang from some mistaken mystic or seer who starved on the then current orthodox religious ideas and dogmas; who pushed out in search of a more living faith, and knowing nothing of his own nature or the nature of this universe, fell victim to the very powers inherent in his own consciousness.

It has been less than half a century -- a single generation -- since H. P. Blavatsky gave to the world the mighty presentation of the ancient eternal Wisdom-Religion which she named Theosophy. It is addressed to the intuition, the reason and the experience of all men. It is a sure and certain guide to nature and to man in all their mysteries. It is instantly applicable to every experience, because it is instantly and conclusively explanatory. It therefore proves itself at every step of the way.

Yet already Theosophy has become but a religion to many -- a thing to be accepted and believed but not practiced. To others it has become but a spring-board from which to leap into the limbo of personal psychological experiences. Thus already there are sects in Theosophy sprung from mistaken mystics who interpret the philosophy from the basis of their personal illuminations, instead of examining these so-called illuminations from the sure basis of Theosophy. Every one of these mistaken mystics is sure of himself, sure of his personal infallibility, sure of his privileged inspiration. Every one of them will explain away or deny point-blank anything in the teachings of H.P.B. that does not fit in with or support his assumptions.

By these signs always, we may know the mistaken mystic.

Next article:
Occultism True and False


COMPILER'S NOTE: I added these footnotes; they were not in the article. If any of them don't paint an accurate enough picture, or are incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot them and point the inaccuracies out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.

(1) "Astral" means the Electro-Magnetic spectrum at every level. The "Astral Body" is the electromagnetic design body that the physical molecules adhere to in the building up of every form, in every kingdom, on the physical plane. The theosophical "Astral Light" is the "Ether" of modern science. It is the source of the idea known as the "Recording Angel" -- because every thought, word, and deed is recorded, stored, and magnetically reflected back to its source at a dynamically proper time: in other words, when conditions naturally warrant or permit it. We call this Karma, or Lawful action and reaction. All of us are also magnets for imprints in the "Astral Light" which were put there by others and which are similiar to us in character. So we constantly affect and infect each other in this way -- for good or for bad.
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(2) "Race" means the whole Human Race here.
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