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Is Mysticism an Escape?

Café-Salon Philosophique #37

May 22, 1999

No. of Participants 10

Evening's Topic: "Is Mysticism an Escape?"

The evening began with participants wondering, "Is mental illness, biological or chemical?" "Does nature or nurturance affect our mental state?" Samuel thinks, "People create mental illness by creating problems where none exist. Also, "Is Mysticism an Escape?"

Samuel asked the group if that was what they wanted to focus on - mental illness? No, it wasn't. They wanted to explore mysticism. Aziza defined mysticism as "an inscrutable, invisible energy - an influential force." She continued, "This influential force is like the wind, you can feel it, but you can't see it." "I think that it is a conscious, invisible experience. I also think that only some people know how to tune in to it."

Stephanie defined mysticism as "an external force. It can be part of your intuition. It is also non-rational." Wayne added, "It is nonverbal and not scientific in origin." Samuel says, "Mysticism is a contradiction of terms - something that exists but doesn't exist." "Delving into mysticism is believing that you need to prove that you exist through rationalizing your very existence of being."

Aziza commented, "Men since the dawn of time have been searching for the unknown or unexplained. Always seeking, always wanting to know where the connection is. The problem is we don't use enough of our consciousness."

The next question asked was "What is a Mystic?" "It is when one knows," said Wayne. Peter thinks a mystic is a person who is "objective, intuitive and has a natural wisdom. It is a person who exists with conscious awareness." Stephanie says, "Like Popeye, I am what I am." "Is mysticism really teachable?" asked Wayne. Peter says, "No way!"

Dennis offered, "one needs to have faith, or there is no growth." Peter commented, on "how Western Religions have corrupted and depressed the ways of the people." Miguel believes being mystical is "establishing a set of values based on beliefs. Faith shows progress and rationality." Attilio added, "It is hard for some people to grow because of getting stuck in politics, religion, organizational structures, etc." Aziza finds "faith is trusting the journey, trusting the unknown." Miguel says "the mystic in him brings images into focus through the imagination and intuitive means."

Aziza at times finds mysticism "a bit scary," like what you read by the author, Carlos Castaneda. "It is hard to dismiss, define or to even know what mysticism is." Wayne believes we have to "prove our faith through tests." "Mysticism and faith cannot be proven. One must test one's own convictions to see what works. It is a very personal thing. For scientists, it is a delusion," says Samuel. "We also learn mysticism and faith from each other," added Aziza.

"Teaching can be done without talking. It is the best test for authenticity," said Samuel. Stephanie thinks, "we should be our own teacher." Aziza commented, "we do need guidance from time to time throughout our life." Samuel then asked, "How do you know a good teacher from a bad one, OR one that is honest versus one that is fake?" Wayne answered by saying, "one looks for a teacher when a person feels as though something is missing in life."

"Self introspection is a good teacher also. Bad teachers are those who are trying to sell themselves and everything to people, like spiritual leaders." Dennis feels lucky because he says he's never had a guide. Stephanie doesn't believe in "external gurus or charlatans" because "the answers lie within the self." "A good teacher is a total mirror for reflecting your self," Samuel added.

The group then got into a discussion about whether or not charlatans and gurus were the same, or are they something different? Aziza stated that an authentic teacher is "someone who is enlightened and can lead a person out of the cave, and show others how to become enlightened." Stephanie wondered, "What does it mean to become enlightened? And, are we really here living just to search for meaning in life?"

Samuel then told a tale of Nasrudin called "The Shrine" from the book "Caravan of Dreams" by Idries Shah.

Described by one commentator as "A profound allegory of man's capacity for self-deception, rationalizing power, and tendency to base one creed on another, this story is traditionally said to originate with Haji Bektash - founder of the Bektashi Order of Dervishes.

Another opinion of the story is that "it is intended to show the parallel between real religion and what man understands by it. Real religion is likened to the tomb of a true saint: What man understands by it is equal to the burying of a donkey instead of a saint." Dervishes have been known to press the tale into service in order to ridicule themselves, saying: "All shrines are a hoax." They do this for the purpose of discouraging unsuitable candidates for discipleship.

Mulla Nasrudin's father was the highly-respected keeper of a shrine, the burial-place of a great teacher which was a place of pilgrimage attracting the credulous and the Seekers After Truth alike.

In the usual course of events, Nasrudin could be expected to inherit this position. But soon after his fifteenth year, when he was considered to be a man, he decided to follow the ancient maxim: "Seek knowledge, even if it be in China." "I will not try to prevent you, my son," said the father. So Nasrudin saddled a donkey and set off on his travels. He visited the lands of Egypt and Babylon, roamed in the Arabian Desert, struck northward to Iconium, to Bokhara, Samarkand and the Hindu-Kush mountains, consorting with dervishes and always heading towards the farthest East. Nasrudin was struggling across the mountain ranges in Kashmir after a detour through Little Tibet when, overcome by the rarefied atmosphere and privations, his donkey lay down and died.

Nasrudin was overcome with grief; for this was the only constant companion of his journeyings, which had covered a period of a dozen years or more. Heart broken, he buried his friend and raised a simple mound over the grave. There he remained in silent meditation; the towering mountains above him, and the rushing torrents below. Before very long people who were taking the mountain road between India and Central Asia, China and the shrines of Turkestan, observed this lonely figure: alternately weeping at his loss and gazing across the valleys of Kashmir.

"This must indeed be the grave of a holy man," they said to one another; "and a man of no mean accomplishments, if his disciple mourns him thus. Why, he has been here for many months, and his grief shows no sign of abating."

Presently a rich man passed, and gave orders for a dome and shrine to be erected on the spot, as a pious act. Other pilgrims terraced the mountainside and planted crops whose produce went to the upkeep of the shrine. The fame of the Silent Mourning Dervish spread until Nasrudin's father came to hear of it. He at once set off on a pilgrimage to the sanctified spot. When he saw Nasrudin he asked him what had happened. Nasrudin told him. The old dervish raised his hands in amazement. "Know, O my son," he exclaimed, "that the shrine where you were brought up and which you abandoned was raised in exactly the same manner, by a similar chain of events, when my own donkey died, over thirty years ago."

... Salt is not attacked by ants. Proverb

Dennis also told a story about "a man that wanted to see the Great Guru who lived high up in the Himalayas. The man decided one day to make the long journey to see the Great Guru. He never realized how really long and hard it was going to be. The train ride was long. The descent up the mountain was long, slow and hard. There was little food left, and as he continued on the journey by foot, he became increasingly more tired and exhausted. One time when he was looking ahead into the distance, he saw a great light. He became wobbly in the knees and passed out. Next thing you know, he woke up and was sitting at a campfire with the Great Guru. He said to the Guru, I've traveled a long way to see you." The Guru answered the man, "I know. What questions do you have for me?" asked the Great Guru.

"Guru, what is Life?" The Guru replied, "Life is a wheatfield." "Life is a wheatfield?" asked the man. The Guru replied, "Life isn't a wheatfield?"

Samuel commented on how he was "educated and punished with stories when he was a child, not hit." Today, TV, the media, virtual reality, and the Internet continually bombard the younger generations with false information and images. People believe what they see and hear, are gullible, and are attracted to gurus and charlatans of all kinds who amplify this false information. Why? Who knows!

The group then bounced back to talking about "mysticism." Samuel again stated how, "mysticism is an obstacle for learning about one's self. It is muddying the mirror. Creating problems where none exist." Aziza contended, "Life is a magical experience." Wayne added, "scientists do a lot of predicting and making rules, but they also engage in a form of magic by looking for the end means."

Dennis says, "we need to feel the mystery and magic of the world." Stephanie just wants to "live in the moment. I don't want to have to explain, I just want to be busy living." Wayne thinks, "the world has created attitudes of cynicism."

Samuel concluded the evening's topic by stating, "It is futile to search. We need to be busy living and not confusing ourselves. Just because the masses or the majority do something, doesn't mean that it is right. Life is learning to love wisdom by way of knowing through experience. Not every body uses their power of knowledge. Self-deception, cheating, cynicism, boredom, etc. run rampant. People invent Gods out of all sorts of things. Let them conquer the world of nothing."

Are you mystical or busy living life? Do you know how to live life? Are you self-taught, or do you believe in life guidance? These were the main thoughts of tonight's meeting. May this stimulate your own thoughts on mysticism!

Our next Cafe meeting will be held Sat, June 5, 1999 at the Troubadour Bookstore located at 1638 Pearl St., Boulder, CO. Start time is 6:30 p.m. Hope you can join us then! Invite your friends!

Reported by Alessandra

"Samuel brings awareness to the soul of people and gives the artists who work under his direction the need, dedication, and love for the world of silence and the beautiful art of movement."


- Marcel Marceau, BIP 1961

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LCDS is an independent school for self-discovery through the human Arts.  The school offers seminars and workshops teaching the concepts of Theater, Mime, and Movement.