High on the Spirit

We are ALL mystics. And I’m pretty confident that we’ve all had mystical experiences, New consciousness1we just may not know it. In fact, Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner has said, “In the days ahead you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.”

(For the full audio version, click here.)

Let me flesh out the characteristics of a mystical experience and perhaps you’ll find that you, too, have had more of these than you recognize.

Ineffable – Mystical experiences are ineffable, indescribable, hard to put into words that are adequate to express how it felt and what happened.

Beyond time and space – There is a sense in mystical experiences that you’ve stepped outside of reality for a moment. That time has stopped, or that there is no delineation of time. Past, present and future all meld into one for the moment. This feeling tends to dispel fear of the future, fear of death.

Knowing or awareness of the sacred – During a mystical experience there is a deep knowing of the Divine. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, one realizes that they have been connected to Something More. It is a gut feeling and may include awe, wonder, mystery, presence, peace, joy.

Unitary consciousness – Mystical experiences take us out of our ego-centered selves to an awareness that all of life is interconnected. We are no more and no less than any other person, animal, or plant. There may even be a feeling of being interwoven to the entire cosmos.

Transformative – If we allow them, our mystical experiences will change our lives. Because we are developing a deeper awareness of our oneness with all things and with the Divine, we become less judgmental, more compassionate and more justice oriented. Mystical experiences may just change us for a few moments, or like Saul/Paul who stopped persecuting the followers of Jesus and eventually became one of the greatest proponents of Jesus’ teaching, it may change us for a lifetime.


In some things I’ve read, the authors seem to suggest that to have a mystical experience, one must practice contemplative prayer or meditation. But, I think what is more to the point is that to live a continuous mystical life, one that is open and aware of the presence of the Divine at all times, a spiritual practice of grounding and connection (like contemplative prayer or meditation) is almost essential.

However, as Barbara Brown Taylor attests in her book “An Altar in the World,” her experiences of the Divine happened while she was busy doing something else. Most of them are not planned, facilitated or forced. They just happen, and if we are aware enough, and perhaps brave enough, to claim them and name them, they will change us, inspire us, motivate us.

The ways we connect with the Divine, the ways we can be “high on the Spirit” are truly infinite. Music, people, animals and nature are just a few examples. The Spirit is everywhere, at all times, we should not be surprised when we catch that glimpse.

When you feel that unity, that peace, that Something More… enjoy it and celebrate it for what it is instead of writing it off as a coincidence, too much wine, something “not real,” or ignoring it and going back to what we were doing. Stay in the zone, the wave, the feeling and allow it to feed you. Let yourself be high in the spirit, in unity with all things, in love with all things, in peace with all things. Let that guide your life, your interactions with others, your outlook.

Love & Light!


The Rise of the Mystics

Pew Research Center has reported that from 2007 – 2014 the “unaffiliateds” (those who claim no religious affiliation), otherwise known as the “nones,” rose from 16% to 23%. This trend has been dubbed, “The Rise of the Nones.”  However, interestingly enough from 1962 to 2009 the number of people who said they’d had a mystical or spiritual experience that had a significant impact on their lives rose from 22% to 48%. At the conference I was at a few weeks ago, Diana Butler Bass suggested we’re focusing on the wrong trend… it isn’t the rise of the “nones,” but the rise of the mystics.

(For the full audio, click here.)

John Shelby Spong, when talking about the future of the church, said that we must end dualistic thinking, end the dichotomy of the Divine and human. It sounds almost heretical, but it is exactly what Jesus was preaching when over and over again when he said that he and God were one, and this ONENESS was the Way. The name of the game is opening oneself to discovering the Divine within and working toward living in that space of unity. That is mysticism.

Biblical mystical experiences abound. Pentecost, this last Sunday, is a great example of a direct mysticspersonal encounter with the Divine. And then there was the burning bush, all the angel appearances, Joseph’s (either one) dreams, the prophets who heard from God, Samuel responding to God’s call by saying “Here I am, Lord,” the resurrection stories… we could go on and on.

Wayne Teasdale, Catholic monk and Hindu sannyasi, in his book The Mystic Heart, has said, “[The] mystical tradition, which underpins all genuine faith, is the living source of religion itself. It is the attempt to possess the inner reality of the spiritual life, with its mystical, or direct, access to the divine… Everything stems from mysticism, or primary religious experience, whether it be revelation or a personal mystical state of consciousness… We need religion, yet we need direct contact with the divine, or ultimate mystery, even more. Religions are valuable carriers of the tradition within a community, but they must not be allowed to choke out the breath of the spirit, which breathes where it will.”


Yet, I think this is precisely what churches are doing – choking out the breath of the spirit – perhaps sometimes unwittingly, but doing nonetheless. Frankly, I think there are three reasons for this:

One, I’m not sure all pastors really believe in it. I think they’ve been convinced that what God wants is for people to simply follow the rules, worship, and be obedient. That’s what they call “making disciples of Christ.” But the disciples Jesus tried to create were mystics, like himself. He tried valiantly to get them past the constraints of Jewish laws, and occasionally succeeded. But this scared the Jewish authorities then, and it scares the church authorities now.

Two, churches are afraid of what they can’t control. You can’t control the spirit and you can’t control people’s experiences. So, it is better if they just don’t believe they were meant to have any. Let them believe all the amazing one-on-one encounters with the Divine ended when the Bible was finished being written. Diana Butler Bass told us a story about a pastor who went on a retreat and had a mystical experience during contemplative prayer that changed her life. After she shared this experience with her congregation, she was fired.

Three, they feel that if everyone can experience God on their own, then what do you need the church for?

Rabbi Rami Shapiro said, “Faith is the human capacity to awaken to the Divine Reality. Faith is a liberating phenomenon.” Here is mysticism again that brings us to faith. But not a faith of specific beliefs and behaviors, faith that liberates.

The experience of Pentecost as they awakened to the Divine Presence was a liberating one! The disciples stop hiding behind locked doors, or feeling the need to follow Jewish law, they go forth into the world and share the message they’ve been given – come hell or high water. It all finally clicks in their heads for good and they are no longer afraid of even death. They have experienced the reality of God with them, they are high on the spirit, and know that the loss of their physical body will not be the end.

Wayne Teasdale insists that “We are all mystics!” Let us rise, experience that oneness, and let it change the world, because that is exactly what it is doing.