In his numerous works, especially in The Idealist View of Life and Eastern Religions and Western Thought, the great Eastern Philosopher, Professor Radhakrishnan, advocates the necessity for the revival of the deeply spiritual mystical experience which is the basis of all religions and which is expressed in a pure form in Hinduism. He says: “In spite of all appearances to the contrary, we discern in the present unrest the gradual dawning of a great light, a converging life-endeavour, a growing realisation that there is a secret spirit in which we are all one, and of which humanity is the highest vehicle on earth, and an increasing desire to live out this knowledge and establish a kingdom of spirit on earth.” (Eastern Religions and Western Thought, p. 33). “The different religions have now come together, and if they are not to continue in a state of conflict or competition, they must develop a spirit of comprehension which will break down prejudice and misunderstanding and bind them together as varied expressions of a single truth. Such a spirit characterised the development of Hinduism, which has not been interrupted for nearly fifty centuries.
I was only beginning to enter into the infinite subtlety of Gregorian chant. It was - and remains - the only public prayer I have ever been able to engage in without feeling like a phony and a jackass. But then, one day in 1965 or so, it was simply abolished. With a stroke of his pen, Pope John XXIII - who had such good ideas about other things - declared that liturgy would henceforth be in the vernacular language of the people. That was, effectively, the end of Latin chant.Then all those monks and nuns who had devoted hours and hours a day began to sicken and fall into depressions, but nobody noticed for a long time. Maybe, as I can well believe, the music toned up their systems in some mysterious way. Or perhaps chant really was a language that God understood. Faced with numerous liturgical scholas shrieking away in the new vernacular hymns, Divinity may have covered its ears and withdrawn, leaving the monks to pine. We parish musicians, illiterate in anything written after the 13th century, stumbled around trying to score liturgies for guitar and bongo drums, trying to make sense of texts like "Eat his body! Drink his blood!"It wasn't because the music got so bad that I quit going to Mass, but it certainly was the beginning of my doubts about papal infallibility.
There is a bench in the back of my garden shaded by Virginia creeper, climbing roses, and a white pine where I sit early in the morning and watch the action. Light blue bells of a dwarf campanula drift over the rock garden just before my eyes. Behind it, a three-foot stand of aconite is flowering now, each dark blue cowl-like corolla bowed for worship or intrigue: thus its common name, monkshood. Next to the aconite, black madonna lilies with their seductive Easter scent are just coming into bloom. At the back of the garden, a hollow log, used in its glory days for a base to split kindling, now spills white cascade petunias and lobelia. I can't get enough of watching the bees and trying to imagine how they experience the abundance of, say, a blue campanula blosssom, the dizzy light pulsing, every fiber of being immersed in the flower. ...Last night, after a day in the garden, I asked Robin to explain (again) photosynthesis to me. I can't take in this business of _eating light_ and turning it into stem and thorn and flower...I would not call this meditation, sitting in the back garden. Maybe I would call it eating light. Mystical traditions recognize two kinds of practice: _apophatic mysticism_, which is the dark surrender of Zen, the Via Negativa of John of the Cross, and _kataphatic mysticism_, less well defined: an openhearted surrender to the beauty of creation. Maybe Francis of Assissi was, on the whole, a kataphatic mystic, as was Thérèse of Lisieux in her exuberant momemnts: but the fact is, kataphatic mysticism has low status in religious circles. Francis and Thérèse were made, really made, any mother superior will let you know, in the dark nights of their lives: no more of this throwing off your clothes and singing songs and babbling about the shelter of God's arms.When I was twelve and had my first menstrual period, my grandmother took me aside and said, 'Now your childhood is over. You will never really be happy again.' That is pretty much how some spiritual directors treat the transition from kataphatic to apophatic mysticism.But, I'm sorry, I'm going to sit here every day the sun shines and eat this light. Hung in the bell of desire.
On the first day of November last year, sacred to many religious calendars but especially the Celtic, I went for a walk among bare oaks and birch. Nothing much was going on. Scarlet sumac had passed and the bees were dead. The pond had slicked overnight into that shiny and deceptive glaze of delusion, first ice. It made me remember sakes and conjure a vision of myself skimming backward on one foot, the other extended; the arms become wings. Minnesota girls know that this is not a difficult maneuver if one's limber and practices even a little after school before the boys claim the rink for hockey. I think I can still do it - one thinks many foolish things when November's bright sun skips over the entrancing first freeze.A flock of sparrows reels through the air looking more like a flying net than seventy conscious birds, a black veil thrown on the wind. When one sparrow dodges, the whole net swerves, dips: one mind. Am I part of anything like that?Maybe not. The last few years of my life have been characterized by stripping away, one by one, loves and communities that sustain the soul. A young colleague, new to my English department, recently asked me who I hang around with at school. "Nobody," I had to say, feeling briefly ashamed. This solitude is one of the surprises of middle age, especially if one's youth has been rich in love and friendship and children. If you do your job right, children leave home; few communities can stand an individual's most pitiful, amateur truth telling. So the soul must stand in her own meager feathers and learn to fly - or simply take hopeful jumps into the wind.In the Christian calendar, November 1 is the Feast of All Saints, a day honoring not only those who are known and recognized as enlightened souls, but more especially the unknowns, saints who walk beside us unrecognized down the millennia. In Buddhism, we honor the bodhisattvas - saints - who refuse enlightenment and return willingly to the wheel of karma to help other beings. Similarly, in Judaism, anonymous holy men pray the world from its well-merited destruction. We never know who is walking beside us, who is our spiritual teacher. That one - who annoys you so - pretends for a day that he's the one, your personal Obi Wan Kenobi. The first of November is a splendid, subversive holiday.Imagine a hectic procession of revelers - the half-mad bag lady; a mumbling, scarred janitor whose ravaged face made the children turn away; the austere, unsmiling mother superior who seemed with great focus and clarity to do harm; a haunted music teacher, survivor of Auschwitz. I bring them before my mind's eye, these old firends of my soul, awakening to dance their day. Crazy saints; but who knows what was home in the heart? This is the feast of those who tried to take the path, so clumsily that no one knew or notice, the feast, indeed, of most of us.It's an ugly woods, I was saying to myself, padding along a trail where other walkers had broken ground before me. And then I found an extraordinary bouquet. Someone had bound an offering of dry seed pods, yew, lyme grass, red berries, and brown fern and laid it on the path: "nothing special," as Buddhists say, meaning "everything." Gathered to formality, each dry stalk proclaimed a slant, an attitude, infinite shades of neutral.All contemplative acts, silences, poems, honor the world this way. Brought together by the eye of love, a milkweed pod, a twig, allow us to see how things have been all along. A feast of being.
A Super-Integral Spirituality has all the features of an Integral Spirituality, plus, among other things, an inherent conjunction of each stage with a given state, giving all of its stages a transpersonal or spiritual flavor (at least the possibility of either gross nature mysticism, subtle deity mysticism, causal formless mysticism, or nondual Unity mysticism). These mystical states are, of course, available to virtually all the lower 1st- and 2nd-tier stages, although there are likely some significant differences in 3rd tier, given its inherent conjunction of structures and states.
The LSD phenomenon, on the other hand, is—to me at least—more interesting. It is an intentionally achieved schizophrenia, with the expectation of a spontaneous remission—which, however, does not always follow. Yoga, too, is intentional schizophrenia: one breaks away from the world, plunging inward, and the ranges of vision experienced are in fact the same as those of a psychosis. But what, then, is the difference? What is the difference between a psychotic or LSD experience and a yogic, or a mystical? The plunges are all into the same deep inward sea; of that there can be no doubt. The symbolic figures encountered are in many instances identical (and I shall have something more to say about those in a moment). But there is an important difference. The difference—to put it sharply—is equivalent simply to that between a diver who can swim and one who cannot. The mystic, endowed with native talents for this sort of thing and following, stage by stage, the instruction of a master, enters the waters and finds he can swim; whereas the schizophrenic, unprepared, unguided, and ungifted, has fallen or has intentionally plunged, and is drowning.