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Mysticism, Self-Discovery, And Social Transformation

Mysticism, Self-Discovery, And Social Transformation

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Published by bde_gnas
Mysticism
Mysticism

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Published by: bde_gnas on May 10, 2013
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Mysticism, Self-Discovery, and SocialTransformation
By Beatrice Bruteau
The Kingdom of God is "within you"? or "among you"? Why not both? Why not
necessarily 
both? We tend to think that the inner life is one thing and worldly, oractive, life is something else entirely. But they imply one another. To makemeaningful efforts to improve the world, we must first correct ourselves, and if wehave succeeded in reaching some degree of spiritual insight, we will see that wemust take care of the rest of the world.
 
So, is mysticism the cure for social ills? If the chain of reasoning I am going topresent here iscorrect, that is what it comes down to. We behave the way we dobecause we value the way we do, and we value the way we do because we takereality for granted the way we do. When we come to realize that we have made afateful mistake in the way we have taken our reality for granted, then this entirestructure has to shift. And indeed it cannot make any notable shift in what evennow we consider a desirable direction until this fundamental reorientation hastaken place.We preach "Love your neighbor as yourself," and many of us manage to do thatto some degree, and a few people do it to a large degree, but our cultures, our"civilizations," are not characterized by it because our overall perception of oneanother is not "there is another like myself," let alone "there is 'myself' in anotherguise." We don't see the neighbor as “self” but as another outsider, stranger,foreigner, potential or actual enemy. This is the origin of social ill.What social ills do we suffer from? War, tyranny, oppression, deprivation ofsocial, civil, personal, or human rights. Even poverty, disease, and pollution arerelated to the way our social relations are structured and functioning. The over-allpattern can be generalized as powerful people dominating less powerful orpowerless people.Why do we have this structure? The sociologists tell us that the basic value issocial status. Allother values are in service to this one. Strength isn't valuableunless it is admired and obeyed. Beauty is worthless if it doesn't give you
 
preferment. Wealth has limited value in itself; mostly it buys social standing andrespect. Some forms of social respect cannot be obtained by any means underour control but depend on the accidents of birth, which determine sex and race.Whole populations suffer from the deprivations, material and emotional, derivingfrom such categorizations. But even here human beings have made the choice togive advantage to one category or another.Again we ask why? Why do human beings want high social standing? Why doesthe value have to lie in the
contrast? 
Why do we have to be "better than"someone else? There are biological, evolutionary, and economic points to bemade here; humans aren't the only social animals to organize and valuethemselves this way. Breeding rights have a lot to do with it, quick responsethrough recognized authority in case of crisis and danger, covering all the neededtasks by established castes, and so on. But the human situation is amenable tohuman understanding and freedom and so requires discussion in a moreextensive context.Briefly, then, and here we come to the nub, people want social standing becauseof our sense ofselfhood and self-worth. Those biological, economic, and othersocial dimensions go a long way toward defining who we think we are and whatvalue we have. In particular, the dominant class and the dominant persons in oursociety and our personal life determine—or try to determine—this definition andthis value for us. If they don't let us hold influential positions in our society, orvote, or take certain kinds of jobs, or obtain education or health care, or ownproperty or travel freely, or be named respectfully—or any number of otherinstances of injury, deprivation, slights, or contempt you can easily cite fromaround the world—then the self-image and the self-respect of the despised groupis severely diminished. Only by such means can the dominant individuals andclasses maintain their positions of advantage and their sense of their own value.You know you're good when you're better than the others. And you know you'reworthless when you can't fulfill yourself freely and creatively.So back this social struggle is the real culprit: the assumption that our selfhoodactually is defined by our social standing, the belief that the
contrast value 
of thedifferent ranks of social respectability is the only way to find value. If we were tochange the way we deeply experience and thus conceive our selfhood, all thissuperstructure could — would
have 
to — change.That's what mysticism does. It liberates us from this way of defining and valuingourselves. It enables us to experience that we are not merely finite beings with a
 
very insecure hold on Being. It convinces us, and
repositions 
us, with respect toUltimate Reality. We discover, in a way we cannot doubt, that we are related toInfinite Being. There are various ways of saying this in different theologicalsettings, but the crucial point for our self-discovery and its consequent socialtransformation power is that we are secure in being. We do not have to grasp ataids to our existence, do not have to make ourselves bigger and better thanothers, do not have to try to acquire value, because we already possessabsolutely secure existence and immeasurable value.How can we come to such a convincing, liberating, repositioning experience? Wecan't command it, but we can believe in it, and we can practice to put ourselveswell in the way of being open to it. There is a negative way, then a positive way,and again another negative way.The first negative way, removing false beliefs. Many, if not most, of us werebrought up to believethat our worth and any approval we might receive werehighly conditional. Our value depended on our natural endowment and ouraccomplishment. These constitute our “descriptions." The kind of thing you tell(or hide from) people who ask you about yourself. A useful exercise is to make alist of these descriptions and then imagine yourself with alternatives to them, orsimply without them. If you try this, you will discover that the "real you" is quiteindependent of all these descriptions. You are still you whether they are presentor not. Along with this, you will become able to release yourself from otherpeople's evaluations of you. Their beliefs about you will no longer "stick to" you.A popular form of meditation is useful here. You simply relax deeply and gatheryourself into your central being, beyond the descriptions, and savor the freedom,peace, security, and sense of reality that you find there. To help you stay focusedyou use a word or short phrase that brings you back to this peaceful, confident,happy center. Say it as you breathe, or say it only when you need to refocus.The positive way opens at this point. In your central being, being the real you,free of the descriptions, you notice that you transcend those finite characteristics.There is something about you that is unmodified, ineffable. This is where you areembedded in the Ultimate, the Absolute, the Unconditioned. Consider that theAbsolute Being must be Unconditional Love—that is, communication of life to allwithout stint and without favoritism and without the possibility of withdrawal fromthis commitment. If this is so, then you yourself must be so loved. Your existence,your consciousness, and your capacity for joy testify to it. So give yourselfpermission to believe this, and open yourself to the gift of experiencing it.

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