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Becoming a Mystic

By: Michael Ketterhagen

“Mysticism is when God’s presence becomes experiential 

and undoubted for a person. … 

Mystics don’t say “I believe.” 

 They say, “I know.”…

The only things we know 

at any deep and real level 

are the things we have personally experienced.”

--Richard Rohr, Yes, And … --Daily Meditations

All the major religions, except for specific branches of those religions, believe that God exists. But not all of these religions explain how we humans can “know God.” Not all religions explain or teach their believers how to experience that God directly and personally. Only the mystics in each of these religious traditions talk about experiencing, about “knowing” God. They call that God by different names: Yahweh, El-Shaddai, Allah, Tat Twam Asi, Tao, Christ, Holy Spirit, Great Spirit, Ishvara, or Consciousness.

For many centuries of our current history of human existence, especially the Christian history, one needed to go to the desert to find a mystic. Those desert fathers and mothers taught their visitors/itinerant students how to experience the Source of Life. During the dark ages of Europe such training in the mystical arts moved into the monasteries and convents where many of the leaders and founders of specific religious orders taught their monks and nuns how to experience the one true essence of life. For these Christian seekers, that essence was Lord Jesus Christ.

Other religious traditions had a similar process for “knowing God.” Seekers found an experienced spiritual person who would lead them through certain practices, allowing the seeker to experience union with the Divine.  

But those desert places in the east and south of Jerusalem, those monasteries and convents all over Europe were all isolated places, removed from the ordinary daily life of humanity. Those isolated places, removed from the daily struggles of life, the pain and agony of wars, and the injustices of hunger and poverty, are no longer needed for us to “know God” in our modern world. The Divine Source of Life can now be found and experienced in the “ordinary” living of one’s life, even with all of its pains and sorrows, when one learns to meditate.

The Yoga Tradition knows that true knowledge, called “sri vidya,” is direct experience of what we want to know. Believing that God exists is no longer adequate. We must efficiently and consistently teach our mind how to be still and know that in our stillness is where God is. We will then experience this Divine Source. We can learn to do this in the quiet of our own home.

Recently, the Catholic Church in the United States is encouraging its faithful to spend time in Eucharistic adoration in its church buildings. There is the belief that one can experience God sitting in the presence of consecrated bread placed on an adoration altar in local churches. Spending extended, isolation time in “silent prayer,” they believe, is the way to a transformative life of salvation. The teacher of this experience of union with God, they believe, is Christ himself.

This method has the same goal as the Yoga Tradition’s method of meditation, except there is no specific training that the Catholic Christians are given to hasten the process of “knowing God experientially.” When this desire for “knowing God” is only based on faith and hope, that direct knowledge of Christ, the Lord of Life, is only depending on the generosity of the Divine. Certainly, spending the time will eventually bring the desired response from God, for God is generous. However, there also is a way to prepare oneself by learning the methods that were taught by the desert fathers and mothers and in the monasteries and convents or in the yoga tradition. 

When one “knows” God by personally experiencing the Source of Life and not just “believing in” God, a transformation of confidence takes place within the person. That confidence leads to knowledge of God and one begins to act like God, to act like the Son of God, Jesus Christ. One begins to act like Christ… going out of one’s way “to bring Good News to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, release to the captives, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19).”  

They will become mystics and will “love their enemies, and do good to those who hurt them” because they know through personal experience the immense love and presence of God in their lives. 


I bow to the Divinity within you!

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