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You can see smoke, it can be right in front of you yet, to grasp it proves impossible and it seems to vanish through the effort. I’ve sometimes described the spiritual quest as one of trying to catch smoke. You can smell smoke, taste it, and see it – you know it’s there – but you can’t grasp it, it eludes your efforts. It's like having a word 'on the tip of your tongue,' you know it, but just not currently available. So it seems with what might be called spiritual attainment, realization, or awakening. From a deep inner knowing, perhaps memory or intuition, we sense that there’s something more valuable than material existence, something precious beyond our ordinary experience of everyday life. We may even recognize the suffering that accompanies feeling incomplete or deficient.


“A mystic is a spiritual realist, a person for whom the Invisible is a matter of more or less firsthand experience.” Frances Parkinson Keyes


In satsang we discover that we’re oriented in the direction of trying to find ways to know ourselves in such a manner as to bring about the direct experiences of peace of mind, understanding, and happiness, and to have this discovery become the foundation of our life. In other words, we’re learning how to catch smoke. Upon examination we might notice that what we are seeking is to recognize within us the very qualities similar to those reported over the ages by mystics. This is why the testaments, poems, and songs of mystics resonate with us so deeply.


Just what defines the term mystic has been the subject of considerable conjecture over centuries (see Wikipedia ( but it seems that in this modern age it’s important to emphasize that mysticism cannot be confined to any particular religion or philosophy, rather it’s seen as revelation that can be available without ties to culture, beliefs or conditioning. Hence, to be spiritual but not religious – I call it secular mysticism – and you may have noticed, this smoke cannot be captured by thinking alone.













Theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.

~ Meister Eckhart


Religion is nothing but institutionalized mysticism. The catch is, mysticism does not lend itself to institutionalization. The moment we attempt to organize mysticism, we destroy its essence. Religion, then, is mysticism in which the mystical has been killed. Or, at least diminished.

~ Tom Robbins


Mystics seem to have no shame about contradicting themselves left and right. They blithely proclaim that the cure for pain is in the pain itself and that the cry of longing is the sigh of merging. That's because the path of the mystic reconciles contradictory propositions (such as harrowing sorrow and radical amazement) and blesses us with an extended capacity to sit with ambiguity, to treasure vulnerability, to celebrate paradox as the highest truth.

~ Mirabai Starr,


A mystic doesn’t say “I believe.” They say “I know.” A true mystic will ironically speak with that self-confidence but at the same time with a kind of humility. So when you see that combination of calm self-confidence, certitude, and humility all at the same time you have the basis for mysticism in general.

~ Richard Rohr


The mystic and the physicist arrive at the same conclusion; one starting from the inner realm, the other from the outer world. The harmony between their views confirms the ancient Indian wisdom that Brahman, the ultimate reality without, is identical to Atman, the reality within.

~ Fritjof Capra


In the mystic traditions of the different religions we have a remarkable unity of spirit. Whatever religion they may profess, they are spiritual kinsmen. While the different religions in their historic forms bind us to limited groups and militate against the development of loyalty to the world community, the mystics have already stood for the fellowship of humanity in harmony with the spirit of the mystics of ages gone by.

~ Halie Selassie


What does mysticism really mean? It means the way to attain knowledge. It's close to philosophy, except in philosophy you go horizontally while in mysticism you go vertically.

~ Elie Wiesel


Every one of us is a mystic. We may or may not realize it, we may not even like it. But whether we know it or not, whether we accept it or not, mystical experience is always there, inviting us on a journey of ultimate discovery. We have been given the gift of life in this perplexing world to become who we ultimately are: creatures of boundless love, caring compassion, and wisdom. Existence is a summons to the eternal journey of the sage - the sage we all are, if only we could see.

~ Wayne Teasdale


Mysticism, according to its historical and psychological definitions, is the direct intuition or experience of God; and a mystic is a person who has, to a greater or less degree, such a direct experience -- one whose religion and life are centered, not merely on an accepted belief or practice, but on that which the person regards as first hand personal knowledge.

~ Evelyn Underhill


Sacred Activism is the fusion of the mystic's passion for God with the activist's passion for justice, creating a third fire, which is the burning sacred heart that longs to help, preserve, and nurture every living thing.

~ Andrew Harvey


The seeker says, "I do not know." That takes honesty. The master says, "I do not know." That takes a mystic's mind that knows things through non-knowing. The disciple says, "I know." That takes ignorance, in the form of borrowed knowledge.

~ Anthony de Mello


The work of cultivating experiences called "peak experiences" or "mystic moments" or "breakthroughs" until they become more accessible is part of the essential nature of genuine spiritual discipline. These are moments, at the very least, of approaching the experiential verification that there does exist something Higher within and perhaps also outside of ourselves. Moments at the very least of approaching what the religions call God.

~ Jacob Needleman


Thinking gives off smoke to prove the existence of fire. A mystic sits inside the burning. There are wonderful shapes in rising smoke that imagination loves to watch. But it's a mistake to leave the fire for that filmy sight. Stay here at the flame's core.

~ Rumi


Love will push every button, try every faith, challenge every strength, trigger every weakness, mock every value, and then leave you there to die. And then you will be ready to be born at last, to become a soul who is strong enough to take love on. You'll be a romantic mystic who has achieved the elements: you endured the flames of love, you were baptized in the waters of love, and now you can soar like only a mystic can through the skies and skin of a lover's heart.

~ Marianne Williamson


Only heart to heart can speak the bliss of mystic knowers.

~ Hafez


There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.

~ Ludwig Wittgenstein


When I heard the learn’d astronomer; When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

~ Walt Whitman


There's a collective knowing that a dimension of reality exists beyond the material plane, and that sense of knowing is causing a mystical resurgence on the planet today. It's not just children who are looking for a missing piece. It is a very mature outlook to question the nature of our reality.

~ Marianne Williamson


The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.

~ Albert Einstein


Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science but man needs both. 

~ Fritjof Capra


The path of the Mystic is beyond words.

It is a fall into the Heart of Darkness ...

in which the self is sacrificed

over and over again.

The mystic dies into God and yet returns to the World

to offer the self as the ultimate sacrifice.

This offering serves the totality,

it is the giving of formlessness to form

so that form may come to know its own true nature.

~ Amoda Maa Jeevan


A mystic is one who has dropped all dreams, who has thrown away this mirror of the mind and who looks directly into life, without any medium interfering. Then he sees the eternal progression, then in a single moment he sees all eternity, and in a single atom he can see the whole reflected.

~ Osho


All mystical systems are addicted to transcending this reality. This addiction is part of the reason why the world is being destroyed. The monotheistic religions honor an off-planet God and would sacrifice this world and its attachments to the adoration of that God.

But the "God" I met was both immanent and transcendent. This world is not an illusion, and the philosophies that say it is are half-baked half-truths. In an authentic mystical experience, the world does disappear and reveal itself as the dance of the divine consciousness.

But then it reappears, and you see that everything you are looking at is God/Universe, and everything you’re touching is God/Universe. This vision completely shatters you."

~ Andrew Harvey


You know, all mystics - Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion - are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.

~ Anthony De Mello


The great and rare mystics of the past . . . were, in fact, ahead of their time, and are still ahead of ours. In other words, they most definitely are not figures of the past. They are figures of the future.

~ Ken Wilber


Nonduality is another word for oneness. Oneness makes positive statements about the underlying unity of all Existence. “Truth is this and this….” Nonduality comes at it from a different direction. It points to Truth by eliminating what it is not. It is “not this, not that.” Nonduality is the “via negativa” of Christian spirituality. This is the way of Christian mystics. Both Oneness and Nonduality point to the same Truth. For that reason I use the two terms interchangeably.

~ Rev. Marshall Davis


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