Mysticism (direct spiritual encounters with God or a higher power) is replacing traditional religion as we know it. Sitting in church for a few hours a week isn’t answering questions and fulfilling people’s needs like it used to, which is why many are looking for guidance and growth through an individual connection with God. And though some question its authenticity, mysticism may be the key to increasing our physical, mental, and emotional capacities.
A 2009 Pew study found that spiritual experiences defined as a “moment of sudden religious insight or awakening” are happening much more frequently than in the past 40 years. Though mystical experiences are not a matter of belief, they can occur for both believers and non-believers; those who individually seek a connection with a higher power typically spend more time doing so. For instance, meditation, prayer, the study of sacred texts, and devotional activities are found to be practiced for a longer amount of time each week among people who label themselves as non-religious when compared to religiously-affiliated individuals. And since numbers today show that 20% of the population considers themselves spiritual, but not religious, and 30% of people under the age of 30 list themselves as such, more people are seeking mystical experiences than ever.
Mysticism is a worldwide phenomenon, providing insight for believers and non-believers alike. Mystical experiences not only have the capacity to provide moral, ethical, intellectual, and emotional direction, but they can also help to validate traditional belief systems. Those who claim to have had mystical experiences find themselves embracing a greater understanding of life as a whole and an increase in creativity, kindness, and tolerance. They are characterized by others as bridge-builders, solution seekers, peacemakers, and pathfinders, and fill up the people who surround them. Before mysticism, many described their lives as “a sleep and a forgetting,” and only when they felt a unity/marriage of their soul to a higher power did they finally awaken and become enlightened. Several authors have written of their interpretation of the process, including Evelyn Underhill in her book Mysticism, outlining the process that has provided many with with a sense of truth, power, and total reality. Some have voiced concern that mysticism, because individualized, lacks fellowship. Though valid, mystics today can seek yoga studios, Hindu gurus, and other avenues for spiritual guidance.
Although religious practices and beliefs change with the times, mysticism’s Eastern roots may be why its practices are here to stay. When brought to Western cultures, mystical leaders didn’t ask people to convert from their religions; instead, they gradually integrated themselves into practices already in place. Mysticism has become a more prevalent aspect of Christian spirituality; while still maintaining it, mysticism encourages believers to seek a relationship similar to how Christ followed and experienced God the Father. And mystics who don’t depend on religion seek a connection with the Divine through the appreciation of all or several traditions and find guidance and peace, as well. Ultimately, whatever principles one holds, beliefs can change over time, but the one constant that remains is our connection with a higher power. Mysticism is the modern world, and has the capacity to open doors to a better world in the future, too.