What does it mean to be a mystic?
Almost every human being seeks communion with some sort of creative power in the universe, whether it is called God or Goddess, Jehovah, Allah, Great Spirit, or Brahma. Science is no different, pursuing the origin of life through the intricacies of quantum mechanics or Big Bang theory. We all have a draw toward uncovering the mystery of existence, what is often called the Great Originating Mystery.
Is this connection to the unseen reserved for only priests or priestesses, monks or nuns? Are they the select few who get to experience the source of all creation?
What if it was the destiny of every human to be able to interact with the unseen force in the universe that seems to propel all life? Further, what is the goal of such a spiritual experience and how can it be approached?
Although there is no definitive answer to these questions, our ancestors have provided direction through various modalities of mystical participation with the world around us. Known as the Mystery Traditions, these modalities have been shrouded in secrecy and symbolism for millennia. It has only been the last century or so that the disparate spiritual practices of these traditions from around the world have come to light and surfaced in the global arena. I can now observe, study, and even take part in mystical practices from a Thearavada Buddhist in Cambodia. Likewise, a Shipibo medicine woman from the Amazon can touch base with my own spiritual paradigm and worldview. Thanks to modern technology and academia, most every human being has the potential to tap into spiritual practices that had been hidden for centuries.
Now, I'm a project manager at heart. In the daytime, I am coordinating dozens of teams to implement and deliver millions of dollars' worth of product to customers who expect high quality. If I stick to a textbook-style methodology of project management, those teams will fail. In order to stay relevant and provide value, sometimes you have to throw away conventional models, pull up your sleeves, and just find out what works in reality. It seems we are now in a place in our global spiritual culture where we can now do something similar. Likewise, in these Mystery Traditions, if we can uncover the best of what works from these systems, and perfect them, then we will provide a solid framework for the coming generations who seek answers to the mysteries of life.
The first objective, then, is to empower people to become mystics in their own right, rather than making the direct connection to the spiritual realm exclusive.
This is why I have always been drawn to shamanism. Shamanism is not a religion, but moreso represents a set of spiritual practices that is alive in most all religious traditions. A shaman normally serves the community by directly engaging with Spirit (God) through various interactions with the natural world. A good example of this is found all over Christian history, including the Old Testament with Moses and Elijah, as well as post-New Testament via the early Christian Gnostics. Also, Siddhartha Gautama's direct revelation of enlightenment under the tree, which spawned Buddhist philosophy. And so on. In essence, shamanism is the root of all spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. Hence, every religion's origin is truly shamanic, because every religion started as a means of facilitating a direct relationship with God.
My own personal work and training in shamanism has encouraged a direct relationship with the unseen world. Instead of being beholden to some other person for my spiritual experience, I am now enabled to take full responsibility for my own direct mystical revelations. Shamanism does this primarily through its technique of engaging non-ordinary states of consciousness. Within that state of awareness that is not conventional, my mind can move into a space where it can then begin to receive visionary imagery and/or information that contribute to my spiritual purpose.
In my book, Shamanic Qabalah: A Mystical Path to Uniting the Tree of Life & the Great Work, I offer an approach to the Mysteries through the precise symbolism found in Jewish and Hermetic Qabalah (also seen as "Kabbalah") applied with the down-to-Earth techniques of indigenous shamanism. Why I have chosen to mix Qabalah with shamanism is a question which gets asked quite a bit, but my answer is always the same: because they are the same thing, just Qabalah has a refined system that can be more readily understood in a modern context than, say, indigenous symbols and ideas.
At its heart, Qabalah is a system of Judaic mysticism and is the very basis of understanding the Old Testament. "Qabalah" is a Hebrew word that literally means, "to receive," so it is a set of concepts and ideas meant to cleanse the soul to receive the experience of Spirit. Qabalah has evolved from being entirely Jewish-centric, and over time was utilized by many religious traditions across the planet: Christianity, Islam, neo-paganism, etc. Many scholars believe Jesus himself would have been trained in Qabalah, being raised Jewish and even impressing the priests at the Temple, and many of his teachings incorporate Qabalistic concepts if one is trained to spot them. Elements of Qabalah have even been found through the spiritual practices of cultures throughout the world.
In my own training in curanderismo (Peruvian shamanism) I found many references and correlations to Qabalah. So many, in fact, that they could no longer be ignored. Both shamanism and Qabalah are systems that aim to lift the veil of illusion that pervades our senses, to tap into the unseen forces in the universe around us. With the ecstatic and naturalistic techniques offered by shamanism and the precise symbolism of Qabalah, I began opening pathways into my own consciousness that have now made me confident of my own spiritual path...I am a mystic. I have the ability and privilege to connect with the unseen spiritual powers of the universe and gain the guidance I require to continue my own evolution toward liberty and happiness.
"Initiation, the Great Work," I state in the second chapter of my book, "engages with symbols in an unconscious way—via ritual—to reach the subconscious recesses of the mind."
The Great Work is the ability to reach into the subconscious mind and, through connection with the unseen, find one's true purpose as an individual in this life. Qabalah has a rich history of symbolism that cannot be ignored to any practitioner of the mystic arts, whether it be the high ceremonial practices of occult magick or earth-based spiritualities such as Wicca. The problem has been to take these high-brow concepts and make them accessible to those who may not want to go through the rigorous tomes of the Western Mysteries. Therefore, Shamanic Qabalah attempts to integrate academic occultism with the naturalistic execution of indigenous shamanism.
As with any process, if it becomes too difficult, take a step back and go back to basics. Utilize what works for your own individual practice yet be open to new ideas. The Mystery Traditions are chock full of wisdom, but none of it matters if we can't apply it to our everyday lives. The whole goal of having a relationship with the unseen universe is to have a better relationship with the universe that is seen.
Otherwise, what is the point?
In Shamanic Qabalah, I lay the groundwork for a shamanic practice based upon Hermetic Qabalistic symbolism. The backbone for this system is the Tree of Life, a composite symbol that acts as a schema of consciousness, as well as the inner and outer universe. Some say it is a map to God. Within the Tree of Life resides roadways and destinations (referred to as paths and spheres) that designate the stages of spiritual evolution and growth. Shamanic Qabalah teaches one to engage with the Tree of Life, through a shamanic elemental methodology. Whereas the Tree of Life normally appears as an inaccessible and often high-brow concept for some, I hope to make its concepts approachable and useful to anyone willing to give it a shot.
A mystic takes charge of their own spiritual legacy. A mystic needs no authority. It is my hope and wish that Shamanic Qabalah is a guide and reference to propel individuals to that level of confidence. Mysticism is our birthright and hopefully we can all entrust one another lift each other up to provide the best tools and practices at our disposal. We are in this together. The Great Work is all about discovering and living out our individual spiritual destiny, all while supporting others on their own path.