“Mysticism has been called “the great spiritual current which goes through all religions.” In its widest sense it may be defined as the consciousness of the One Reality — be it called Wisdom, Light, Love, or Nothing. … [T]he reality that is the goal of the mystic, and is ineffable, cannot be understood or explained by any normal mode of perception; neither philosophy nor reason can reveal it. Only the wisdom of the heart, gnosis, may give insight into some of its aspects. A spiritual experience that depends upon neither sensual nor rational methods is needed. Once the seeker has set forth upon the way to this Last Reality, he will be led by an inner light. This light becomes stronger as he frees himself from the attachments of this world or — as the Sufis would say — polishes the mirror of his heart. Only after a long period of purification — the via purgativa of Christian mysticism — will he be able to reach the via illuminativa, where he becomes endowed with love and gnosis. From there he may reach the last goal of all mystical quest, the unio mystica. This may be experienced and expressed as loving union, or as the visio beatifica, in which the spirit sees what is beyond all vision, surrounded by the primordial light of God; it may also be described as the “lifting of the veil of ignorance,” the veil that covers the essential identity of God and His creatures.” — Annemarie Schimmel
“[O]nly the elect few will reach the farthest mountain on which the mythical bird, Sīmurgh, lives — to understand that they have reached only what was already in themselves.” — Annemarie Schimmel
“At a distance you only see my Light. Come closer and know that I am You.” — Rumi
The only truly mystical experience — the transpersonal experience of unio mystica (mystical union) with the ontological basis of all existence — is the experience of the nondual Light in which all attributes of one’s individual existence — space, time, freewill, causality, and the dichotomies of transcendental and phenomenal, transcendent and immanent aspects of consciousness — are dissolved in the ineffable and unimaginable Absolute Oneness of consciousness-in-itself.
We can learn a number of philosophic lessons from such experiences.
The nondual experience of oneness of transcendental subjectivity and phenomenal objectivity teaches that all phenomenal objects of our subjective and intersubjective experience are constituted by our transcendental (inter)subjectivity, they are our own phenomenal self-representations. The dream is the dreamer — transcendental subject. The world is us — transcendental intersubjectivity.
“The difference between empirical and transcendental subjectivity remained unavoidable; yet just as unavoidable, but also incomprehensible, was their identity. I myself, as transcendental ego, “constitute” the world, and at the same time, as soul, I am a human ego in the world.” — Edmund Husserl
“[W]hat is the world, for me? — Constituted phenomena, merely something produced within me… [F]or the ego of the transcendental reduction, all that exists is and must be a constituted product.”— Edmund Husserl
[Transcendental consciousness (ālayavijñāna)] is the consciousness that, based on the latent tendencies of all … phenomena, has the special capacity to [eventually] give rise to these [phenomena].”— Vasubandhu
“The waves of [phenomena] arise from the river-like [transcendental] consciousness (ālayavijñāna).” — Laṅkāvatārasūtra
The nondual experience of oneness of transcendent and immanent aspects of consciousness teaches that the nondual Light is that which we call Transcendence, Absolute, God, Emptiness, Brahman, etc. The Light is the Divine Being of which our individual existence is an emanation-aspect. Tat tvam asi.
Since our dichotomic individual existence can temporarily or even permanently, as Buddhists believe, fold into the nondichotomic Light (nirvāṇa, śūnyatā, tathātā, dharmadhātu, tathāgatagarbha, etc.), does it mean that it once unfolded from it? In other words, was there the Beginning of our individual existence, or together with Buddhists we may consider our existence (saṃsāra) to be the beginningless and potentially endless — eternal — aspect of nontemporal Transcendence (nirvāṇa) capable of self-transcending?
The problem with the notion of the Beginning is causality: nothing happens without a cause, and for each cause there must be its own cause, and so forth into the infinity of time; causality and temporality are inseparable; the Beginning seems impossible. However, causality and temporality do not exclude the possibility of supracausality and supratemporality of Transcendence that we, constrained by causality and temporality, cannot imagine in principle. Hence, the infinite and eternal universe of transcendental subjects and intersubjectively constituted phenomenal worlds in a mysterious way might be created: instead of philosophically struggling with the unthinkable Beginning of our individual existence (the stream of successive states of consciousness) we can think all discrete states of consciousness — all “moments of time” — as the eternal Act of Creation. Thus, if there is the Beginning at all, it is now.
The nondual Light is experienced as the absolute truth, freedom, love, and beauty — as the Absolute Perfection whose glimpse is the guiding beacon that we call “conscience”: conscience is the glimpse of the divine Perfection. Alas, the natural bound of conscience with freedom is eroded in this infernal world so that instead of freedom self-constrained by conscience it is the egoistic selfwill’s demonic arbitrariness of the principle “do whatever you want” that in most subjects of our nexus of transcendental intersubjectivity became the dominating volitional tendency and the manipulating Daemon. To clearly see this fundamental existential problem is the first step to its solution.
Meaning of life
As for the self-transcending, i.e., the hypothetical complete decomposition (parinirvāṇa) of one’s individual existence in the Light, all mystical experiences of transcendent Being demonstrate that it is impossible to self-transcend our individual existence completely, for it is always reestablished even after its complete surrender to the Light. Hence, nirvāṇa is not the goal but the Beacon of Perfection, whereas the goal is:
“Freedom is thus: not being liberated from saṃsāra and yet not being afflicted in it. … [L]iberated [bodhisattvas] are free to act according to their will. Their liberation is not like the liberation of śrāvakas, which resembles a beheading because of their final peaceful stay in parinirvāṇa.” — Vasubandhu
The meaning of life is the eternal ascent of freedom to the Perfection. Those who want to completely abandon their individual existence and attain the Perfection as their actuality (parinirvāṇa) instead of the potentiality of unreachable transcendent Horizon are entirely missing the meaning of their existence which is not an “illusion”, as many believe, but a real and yet relative perspective of Universal Consciousness.
Everything is real in its own way, and at the same time everything is only a [relative] perspective. — Karl Jaspers
It is impossible to reach the Perfection in time and other bounding attributes of our existence, for the Perfection is transcendent to those attributes, but on the eternal path to the Perfection there is the infinity of possibilities. This particular intersubjective phenomenal world of suffering is only one of them and obviously not the best one.
Freewill and karma
“The subject of the categories cannot by thinking the categories [i.e. applying them to objects] acquire a concept of itself as an object of the categories. For in order to think them, its pure self-consciousness, which is what was to be explained, must itself be presupposed.” — Immanuel Kant
“Through this I or he or it (the thing) which thinks, nothing further is represented than a transcendental subject of the thoughts = X. It is known only through the thoughts which are its predicates, and of it, apart from them, we cannot have any concept whatsoever, but can only revolve in a perpetual circle, since any judgment upon it has always already made use of its representation.” — Immanuel Kant
Transcendental subject cannot be experienced and comprehended the way we experience and comprehend phenomena (hence the absurd no-self concept in Buddhism that throws out the “baby” of transcendental subject/self with the water of empirical/phenomenal subject/self), for it is not a “thing” but the emanation-frontier between Transcendence (consciousness-in-itself) and immanent individual existence.
Thus, transcendental (inter)subjectivity is the universal wavefunction-collapsing (let us borrow from quantum mechanics this mathematical idealization of the infinite potential of Transcendence) “membrane/reducing valve” mediating between the transcendent and the immanent aspects of Universal Consciousness; it is that which we call “freewill” and “karma” (“karmic seeds” in Yogācāra Buddhism), and whose elementary processes we idealize mathematically as “elementary particles, waves, etc.”
The experience of absolute freedom of the Light demonstrates that the only possible absolute state of freedom is the Absolute. Hence, within the framework of individual existence freedom can never be absolute, for otherwise it will immediately realize all possibilities and terminate all attributes of individual existence in the Absolute Oneness of the Light. Therefore, freewill of individual existence must always be constrained by the second aspect of transcendental (inter)subjectivity — causal structures (such intersubjective structures constituting the phenomenal world of intersubjective experience are erroneously understood by metaphysical materialists/physicalists as mythical “physical matter”), aka “karmic seeds” or simply “karma”.
“Since there is [transcendental] consciousness (ālayavijñāna) which contains all [karmic] seeds, there are the transformations of consciousness; these transformations proceed depending upon mutual influences.” — Vasubandhu
Freewill and karma are in the beginningless eternal cycle of mutual conditioning: immediate volitional states condition causal structures, causal structures condition immediate volitional states. Thus, we as empirical subjects are what we are and our intersubjective phenomenal world what it is because we have freely and yet evolutionarily led ourselves volitionally into what we are and what our world is. Hence, only we can lead ourselves out from this infernal prison of our minds.
The only project worth working on is karma.
“Long is the way and hard, that out of hell leads up to Light.” — John Milton