What does it mean to be a mystic, to live between two worlds, embrace all of life as a spiritual pilgrim, to treat every moment as if it matters, every step as if it is upon Holy Ground? Perhaps I should begin by telling you some of what I know about mystics. I have traveled to distant lands, over the course of decades, traversing diverse cultures and ways of being human, in answering this question of what it means to be living in divine mystery as a transient spiritual pilgrim.
There are so many spiritual pilgrims who have traveled this way before me. I am not the first and shall not be the last. You will meet many of my fellow mystics in the pages of this book. As the English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, “You are going, not indeed in search of the new world, like Columbus and his adventurers, nor yet another world that now is, and ever has been, though undreamt of by many, and by the greater part even of the few.”
Perhaps the most famous, or perhaps notorious, such spiritual pilgrim in the beginning of the 20th century was the rascal sage George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff’s spiritual curiosity led him to travel over decades to Central Asia, Egypt, Iran, India, Tibet, Russia, and Rome. He taught his followers how to attain unity of body, mind and spirit such that they could awaken as if from a hypnotic sleep, to transcend to a higher state of consciousness. He called this discipline “The Work” or “The Method” but most mystics simply call it the “Way.”
His most famous disciple, P. D. Ouspensky, described The Work as a journey seeking the miraculous. In his book on the teachings of Gurdjieff, In Search of the Miraculous, Ouspensky writes: “When leaving Petersburg at the start of my journey I had said that I was going to seek the miraculous. The miraculous is very difficult to define. But for me this word has a quite definite meaning. I had come to the conclusion a long time ago that there was no escape from the labyrinth of contradictions in which we live except by an entirely new road, unlike anything hitherto known or used by us. But where this new or forgotten road began I was unable to say. I already knew then as an undoubted fact that beyond the thin film of false reality there existed another reality from which, for some reason, something separated us.”
In his master work, Tertium Organum, Ouspensky explored the mystic teachings of Immanuel Kant’s critical idealism, emerging concepts of space and time, the mathematical basis of being, the eternal now, the core teachings of Indian philosophy, reality and illusion, dimensionality, the limits of our perception, and the possibility of psycho-transformation. Three generations later I would embark on a very similar journey of becoming. To find these truths I needed to begin by understanding the mystic roots of my own religion of birth, and then travel outside and beyond this foundation to explore the mystic teachings of the world’s major wisdom traditions, traveling as a spiritual pilgrim in order to do so. I set out on the Way.