Understanding mysticism is undeniably difficult. This is not because it is so complex. It is, in fact, strikingly simple in structure. It is infinitely less complicated than Catholic or Protestant theology. What makes it so hard to grasp is that it is buried in confusion and misunderstanding. People approach mysticism with preconceptions and prejudices that cast a murky cloud over the phenomenon.
Mysticism is not concerned with the supernatural. Miracles are part of popular religion, not of the mystical experience. God is not necessary to mysticism, though some mystics do describe their experience in terms of a relationship to God or Allah or Brahman. Buddha is an example of a major mystic who did not.
Mysticism does not involve having visions or hearing voices. It has nothing to do with the occult, ghosts, extra-sensory perception or out-of-body experiences. It is not concerned with spiritualism or clairvoyance, telepathy or pre-cognition, though it is often muddled in many people’s minds with these phenomena.
Much of the repugnant reaction to mysticism is generated by the fact that the mystical experience is not at all intellectual. It is not rational. Not analytical. It is non-conceptual and non-verbal.
Well, for heaven’s sake! If it is not rational, is it not necessarily worthless? This is an assumption many people fall into because of their overpowering affection for the rational mode of understanding. Of course rationality is absolutely essential to the conduct of human life. Those who think ill of rationality are lost souls wandering in a wilderness. They become victims of their own ungoverned impulses.
The mystical experience is not essential to every day life, but it is a profoundly moving flash of insight into the nature of reality as whole. Einstein put it succinctly: “the experience of all things as meaningful unity.”
You may want to watch a discussion about “Language, Metaphor, and Reality” here.