For me, mysticism is the doctrine that God and I, and you and I, are all, in an important way, One. Philosophical mysticism is the kind of mysticism that emphasizes the role of thinking, in this Oneness. We’re One through our deepest and most serious kind of thinking. Or through love, which is inseparable from that kind of thinking.
So in response to the common assumption that “mysticism” is vague and irrational, philosophical mysticism aims to show how, if we take seriously the thinking and loving that we do every day, they point beyond the usual assumption that God and I, and you and I, are ultimately separate and distinct.
Involving thought and love in this way, my mysticism is obviously a matter not just of “theory” but of experience. For me, it’s an immensely fulfilling experience which I had barely dreamt of, before it came to me. For my first four or five decades, I inhabited what looks (in retrospect) like a spiritual waste land.
In (my book) The God of Love, Science, and Inner Freedom, I’ve described some of the experience — of pain, despair, love, and thought — that brought me from that waste land to my current frequent experiences of ecstasy. “Philosophy” should surely come out of, and enrich, a person’s experience. In recent years, mine certainly has.
How can God and I be One? We can be One if my effort to be myself, is God. Such a God isn’t identical with my physical body or my habitual fears, desires and ideas. God may involve that body and those fears and so forth, but God is called “God” because he/she/it goes beyond (“transcends”) them.
So when I say that this God is me, I’m not saying that God is physically present in me or that God has the failings that I have. God goes beyond all of that. But a God who transcends those parts of me can nevertheless be present in me as my capacity for inner freedom, or self-determination: for being, or trying to be, something that goes beyond my physical and habitual aspects. In this way there can be, as the Quakers say, “that of God in everyone,” without this God’s being identical to anything merely physical or externally determined.
How can a person experience this presence of God within her? By observing her desires and thoughts, thus creating a space in which they can be reformulated (or reformulate themselves) to be more fully her own. This observing, and the resulting space, reformulation, “her-own-ness,” and opening up to the world, are God’s presence.
For decades I was driven by fears and resentments that I couldn’t name, and that I consequently couldn’t observe, couldn’t get any distance from, and couldn’t reformulate. When I finally found some of this distance, with the help of twelve-step groups, of therapists, and ultimately of my wonderful wife, Kathy, my “self” finally began to assert itself, naming my fears and resentments and thus creating increments of distance, space, and reformulation.
In this way, I discovered my capacity for freedom. Because it took so long coming, I don’t take this capacity at all for granted. Rather, I feel it as a gift — even while it’s effectively identical with (the real) me, which is finally emerging. I’m aware of the great disparity between what I was by “nature” — fearful, resentful, self-protective — and what I can be by freedom; and thus I’m aware of how I “transcend” what I am by that kind of nature.
Consequently, I find it reasonable to think of this entire development as (in a significant sense) super-“natural,” and thus as revealing the presence of something that we can very well call “divine,” in the world.
~ by Bob Wallace www.robertmwallace.com
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