'Mystics and Magicians'
If you could divest yourself for a few moments from everything that
you own: your personal possessions, history, beliefs, fears, worries
and desires and then with all your strength focus on perceiving the
highest you can conceive within and outside yourself, after a short
while you might get a taste of the same experience that so many
mystics have chosen to talk and write about since time immemorial.
In the 'Cloud of Unknowing', a book written in the late fourteenth
century by an English Christian parson who wished to remain
anonymous, the writer not only describes an art of detachment and
love for 'The Abstract' - for want of a better world -, but he also
distinguishes between four levels or kinds of 'Life' that we humans
can experience as a result of our practices: Common life, Special
life, Solitary life and Perfect life.
Those living the 'common life' are happy to exist in this world, to
consume the same food as plants, and animals do, to be motivated by
feelings of pleasure and pain, and to live by the rhythms of nature.
Identifying totally with the values and instincts of the heard they
perceive and classify the world according to their social and
cultural conditioning but find it very hard to detach from the
material world of appearances. Any real sense of 'I am' is very weak
at this level of awareness.
There are always those few however who perhaps without even knowing
exactly why are moved by a secret yearning for something much bigger
than themselves, something more than what society could ever offer
them. They want 'food' and experiences of a much higher order. These
individuals sacrifice their common life to live a 'special life'. They
do practices which enable them to pursue their secret yearning for the
Abstract and they also seek out others on the same path as them. Many
meditators can be found in this category.
Still fewer are 'called' by the Abstract to abandon the world
altogether and to live a 'solitary life. This is often referred to as
'the calling'. Such people become mystics and do 'work' that their
logical mind could never really understand.
(The Greek word mystic means secret).
At some point they take the decision either to leave for the
mountains or to live in this world but not to be of it. Many of these
men and women are unknown, some are celibate and usually have very few
personal possessions. They do not chase after titles and live their
solitary life in secret. They have real humility and do their
practices alone whilst living and working next to others wherever
they may be, in the countryside, villages, towns or cities but their
motives for being there are entirely different from those who
surround them and they don't talk to others outside their circle
about the spiritual work they do.
Finally those with long experience of the solitary life one day find
themselves living the 'Perfect Life', the work of which is begun in
this human incarnation but which is said to continue even after
mortal death. Some of these individuals come out of their seclusion
and use their talents such as teaching, healing, writing, divining,
creating etc to communicate something new and to open doors for
others into the unknown.
How one is taught to meditate, contemplate and live this 'Perfect
Life' is veiled in a cloud of unknowing – the title of the book-
because ultimately one is taught directly by the Abstract in unique
Having said this we should also remember that the transmission of
oral traditions such as learning meditation usually begins when one
is supervised by a good meditation teacher who has real experience of
these practices, otherwise there is very little chance of succeeding
completely on one's own.
St. John of the Cross, another Christian mystic of the mid sixteenth
century, also wrote about the Perfect Life and the solitary journey
that one must endure to attain it.
In his book "The Dark Night of the Soul" he discusses the pitfalls
that beginners fall into, he describes the soul's suffering and the
purification process it must undergo, and he also communicates to us
his own moments of transcendence by way of a mystical and beautiful
poem on which his whole book is based.
There are thousands of similar accounts discussing the way of the
mystic to be found in the Buddhist, Taoist, Sufi, Shamanistic and
Voodoo traditions to name but a few. No single tradition has ever had
a monopoly on truth nor will it ever have!
What is important is that all of them offer real ways for
individuals to wake up.
Whereas the mystic transcends the world of the senses to move into
the world of the 'Abstract', a magician's work, which is just as
important as that of the mystic, moves in the opposite direction
bringing down Power from the Abstract into the material world of the
A magician learns how to handle 'Intent' and how to create a law
conforming world in conformity with 'Abstract Will'.
Just one example of this could be for instance performing a ritual of
initiation whereby all those involved are made aware of starting a new
beginning so that the remembrance of that event will always empower
them and give them direction wherever they happen to be for the rest
of their lives.
There are two distinct processes at work here and both are equally
important. First of all one must 'see' for oneself that the Abstract
and the Material worlds are connected just as one's material
'mind-body complex' mirrors one's own abstract energetic make-up.
Both the Abstract and Material worlds are equally necessary for our
evolution and happiness and to reject one in favour of the other is
foolish. Indeed we need to maintain a strong and flexible bridge
between the two.
Meditation is an art that enables one to know directly the 'highest'
and 'the lowest' within oneself. It is a vehicle that any aspiring
mystic or magician must first build with awareness and then use it to
connect all levels within himself so that the four lives mentioned:
common, special, solitary and perfect are allowed to operate in
harmony within oneself.
That is why meditation is both a creative and a unifying process and
when its work is done the Kabbalists say:
"The Crown is in the Kingdom and the Kingdom is in the Crown but
after another manner."
-Copyright Byron Zeliotis-