Trying to Understand Mysticism
Mysticism is a spiritual discipline aiming at direct communion with God or the ultimate truth. It is not a religion and, in fact, all religions have mystics. There are Christian mystics, Jewish mystics, Islamic mystics, Buddhist and Hindu mystics. Where all the tenets of these religions intersect is where you'll find the mystics.
Mysticism can be defined as the belief that there are two distinct levels, or "planes" of knowledge. The first plane and the most commonly experienced or "knowable," is that of the physical world. To mysticism, this knowledge is sufficient for understanding that which can be seen. The second plane, however, can only be experienced by those who have "prepared" themselves to receive this "hidden" or otherwise "secret" knowledge, and usually only after long periods of study or self-sacrifice.
Mysticism is probably one of the oldest attempts to gain knowledge of what cannot be directly experienced. In the ancient world such knowledge was usually maintained by various "mystery cults," such as those associated with the Egyptian goddess Isis or with Dionysus in Classical Greece.
Mystics also study universal laws, which, by definition, are always true, not merely for a particular era or culture. These truths can be found at the heart of every major religion and this is why a Jewish mystic will have more in common with a Islamic mystic than he would with his mainstream Jewish counterparts (and vice versa).
In the process of studying and applying these universal laws, a student of mysticism will begin to unveil his or her inner senses. That is, the counterparts of his or her objective senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell will awaken, which are often referred to as psychic abilities. This is a side benefit, but not the principle goal of mysticism.
Early on, mystics are taught how to attune with God by contacting the Master Within, i.e., the divine aspect at the heart of every individual. The Master Within should be consulted whenever an important decision needs to be made. This is the single best source of direction for anyone.
Imagine God as a bright light covered with various veils. As you peal away these veils, which represent various beliefs and ideas, the light brightens. Your goal should be to connect with this bright light directly. This is your right and reward as a spiritual being living on earth. To the mystic this represents the ultimate goal: illumination.
Practically every philosophy of our existence can be placed into one of three broad categories: scientific, mystical, or spiritual. Of these, mysticism and spirituality often overlap as components of one's religious heritage while science generally maintains that mysticism and spirituality are only "psychological remnants" from our pre-technological societies and therefore should not form the basis for explanations of events in the world around us.
Science emphatically rejects the concept of a supernatural (which can be defined as anything not existing in the physical, everyday, world) explanation for any observable phenomena. All science is based on the premise that the world around us can be explained in terms of physical laws that do not require the existence of anything, or any being, that cannot be subjected to unbiased testing. This insistence on "hard" data that can be evaluated by others in a different location and at a different time is sometimes referred to as "scientific empiricism."