Does a mystic know God? We usually think a mystic is a person who unites or merges or at-ones with God or Ultimate Reality, and comes to know these intimately. But this is perhaps not quite accurate.
Maybe the mystic is not the ego, not the personal identity, not the psychological self, not the particular body-mind. The ego doesn’t unite with God or come to know God, but rather it falls away. The ego “dies.” The personal “self” that we usually think we are dissolves, is annihilated, is transcended, is temporarily forgotten, is negated, is “crucified” (Galatians 2:20).
And this is the veil that falls, that is torn from top to bottom, revealing or unveiling the true Self, the Christ in us at-one with the Father, the Buddha-nature that is at-one with all Reality, the Atman at-one with Brahman, the al-Insān al-Kāmil that is at-one with Allah, the Tao that is at-one with the eternal Tao, the Messiah that is at-one with YHWH, the Beloved that is at-one in Love.
Psychologically speaking, it seems that the individual separate particular person that we usually think we are in our minds is somehow deactivated, becomes inactive, is subdued, or goes offline, which is what contemplative practices seem to be designed to help do. Perhaps the actual neuronal networks in our brains that are typically correlated with the construction of our sense of individual identity really do stop firing. There is a change in the functioning of consciousness itself, an alteration of our conscious state of mind (metanoia?), and we “see” beyond this “self” a truer, richer, more real, more genuine nature of Reality and what the nature of consciousness and being is in that Reality.
It seems this true Self behind the veil of ego is never not at-one in God or Ultimate Reality. It is always at-one with the One, eternally, or perhaps atemporally. It seems impossible for it not to be at-one. But the veil of ego or our particular self-identity obscures this oneness, blocks it from our view, hides it as a treasure deep within the ground of our being. Our ego-self veils the God-Self in us. Our sense of being a separate self seemingly keeps us out of the Presence of God, outside of Love, even while we are fully immersed in them at all times.
So coming to know union with God is perhaps not a uniting of ego with God, but rather it is a transcendence of the ego-self, allowing it to fall away from consciousness, allowing the self-conscious thoughts of the monkey mind to come to stillness, to surrender and descend/ascend beyond the everyday “natural man” thinking mind, to “put off” this ego-mind which reveals the Saint within, as in Mormon scripture (Mosiah 3:19).
This is perhaps the no-self concept in Buddhism (anatta/anatman, or “great death”), the self-sacrifice for “sin” in Christianity leading to at-one-ment (the crucifixion, cross, as well as exorcism), the animal sacrifices or korban offerings for sin in Judaism, the fana passing away or annihilation of self in Sufism leading to baqaa or abidance in God (Islam), self-realization in Hinduism, the transcending the phenomenal nature realizing the true self-nature in Taoism.
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And that which comes to know union in God is simply God. It is not the person, who we usually consider the mystic. The person as an individual separate identity doesn’t come to know oneness in God, because that would be a contradiction of terms; that which is separate is not One. Rather, it is the God in the person that comes to know union in God. It is the Consciousness arising in the person becomes aware of its Self. It is the Divine in them that knows its Self as One in the All.
Only God may know God. God seems to wake up to God’s own Self. Consciousness recognizes its Self. Reality suddenly is revealed to its Self. Consciousness knows itself as One with all of Reality, the Cosmos, this One Great Whole, the Singularity.
This seems to be reflected in the following quotes from contemplatives or “mystics” ancient and modern:
“God cannot be understood except by Himself. If we are to understand Him we can only do so by being in some way transformed into Him, so that we know Him as He knows Himself. And He does not know Himself by any representation of Himself: His own Infinite Being is His own Knowledge of Himself and we will not know Him as He knows Himself until we are united to what He is.”—Thomas Merton, 20th century Christian mystic
“No one sees Him except Himself, no one reaches Him except Himself and no one knows Him except Himself. He knows Himself through Himself and He sees Himself by means of Himself. No one but He sees Him.”—Balyani, 13th century Sufi mystic
“No person can perceive or know God, ever. Only God, the One who is born again in the very heart of the Father, reveals God.”—John 1:18, BHT
“No person has known the Father, except the One who is God. Only this One knows the Father.”—John 6:46, BHT
“No person has knowledge of the Son except the Father; likewise, no person has knowledge of the Father except the Son, and those in whom the Son unveils Him.”—Matthew 11:27, BHT (cf. Luke 10:22)
What do you think? Is it possible for a person to know God, for the separate self to perceive and unite itself with God? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments and let’s talk about it.