Contemporary American mystic and scholar tells the story of man’s recurrent experience of enlightenment throughout the ages and presents in an historical context the lives and words of over forty famous mystics from various Eastern and Western religious traditions to reveal the antiquity and endurance of the one Great Mystical Tradition and the Unity underlying the diversity of its manifold expressions.
Readers Comment :
“History of Mysticism is a passionate poetic and powerful work destined to be a classic” Greg Bogart author of Astrology and spiritual awakening.
It has already become a classic valuable to seasoned scholars as well as beginning students of mysticism – Napra Trade Journal Review.
The Best on the subject I have ever read – E.H. Naples Florida.
“History of Mysticism is a masterpiece for the ages – S.B. Ellsworth Maine.
Must core reading for anyone interested in this subject – S.R. Nashville Tennessee.
Swami Abhayananda was born Stan trout in Indianapolis Indiana on August 14 1938 after service in the navy he settled in northern California where he pursued his studies in philosophy and literature. In June of 1966 he became acquainted with the philosophy of mysticism and experienced a strong desire to realize god. Abandoning all other pursuits he retired to a solitary life in a secluded cabin in the mountain forests near Santa Cruz California and on November 18 of that same year became enlightened by the grace of god.
He spent four more years in his isolated cabin and subsequently met Swami Muktananda who visited Santa Cruz in 1970. Shortly thereafter he joined Muktananda in India as his disciple and later lived and worked in Mutananda’s Oakland California ashram in may of 1978 he returned to India and was initiated by his master into the ancient Order of Sannyas and given the monastic name Swami Abhayananda which in Sanskrit means the bliss of Fearlessness.
Abhayananda was then assigned to teach the knowledge of the self in New York then in Philadelphia Chicago and Oklahoma City in 1981 he left Muktananda’s organization and went into retreat once again this time for seven years in upstate New York. It was during this time that all of Abhayananda’s books were written and Atma books was founded of publish them.
At present swami Abhayananda is residing in the Olympia area of western Washington state where he continues to teach write and publish his works on the knowledge of the self.
I am one of those who have been privileged by the grace of God to experience the ultimate truth of existence. This mystical experience occurred for me on the night of November 18, 1966 since that time I have easily recognized by their various descriptions of it those who have also directly experienced that absolute truth. And it has become abundantly clear to me that over the course of man’s long history many individuals of differing cultures languages and religious traditions have known that same unitive experience. Contained in this book are the accounts of the lives and teachings of some of the best known of those individuals for whom I feel great empathy and comradely as my own experience is my experience for all who have realized the truth have known that same eternal self.
The material contained herein presents no speculative philosophy it offers no metaphysical hypothesis. Rather it is the collected legacy of those who have experienced first hand the unitive truth underlying all existence. It is a record of the voices of the illumined souls of the past all of whom gave their hearts their very lives to sharing their transcendent knowledge with unborn humanity. And so no ordinary history of people places and events it is the secret history of man’s perennial journey on the ultimate quest where all the travelers arriving from widely diverse paths arrive at the self same unitive truth. It is really the greatest the most thrillingly wonderful story ever told. May it awaken you and inspire you to join the great quest.
Mysticism is that point of view which claims as its basis an intimate knowledge of the one source and substratum of all existence a knowledge which is obtained through a revelatory experience during a rare moment of clarity in contemplation. Those who claim to have actually experienced this direct revelation constitute an elite tradition which transcends the boundary lines of individual religious cultures and languages and which has existed uninterrupted since the beginning of time it is as Aldous Huxley points out the perennial philosophy that resurfaces again and again throughout history in the teachings of the great prophets and founders of all religious.
When we study the many speculative philosophies and religious creeds which men have espoused we must wonder of real amazing diversity of opinions expressed regarding the nature of reality but when we examine the testimonies of the mystics of past and present we are struck buy the unanimity of agreement between them all. Their methods may vary but their ultimate realizations are identical in content. They tell us of a supramental experience obtained through contemplation which directly revels the truth the ultimate the final truth of all existence. It is this experience which is the hallmark of the mystic it goes by different names but the experience is the same for all.
By many of the Christian tradition this experience is referred to as the vision of god yet is must be stated that such a vision is not really a vision at all in the sense in which we use the word to mean the perception of some thing extraneous to ourselves. Nothing at all is perceived in the vision of god rather it is a sudden expansion or delimitation of one’s own awareness which experience itself as the ultimate ground the primal source and godhead of all being. In that vision all existence is experienced as identity.
We first hear of this extraordinary revelation from the authors of the Upanishads who lived over three thousands years ago. I have known that spirit said Svetasvatara who is infinite and in all who is ever one beyond time. He can be seen indivisible in the silence of contemplation said the author of the Mundaka Upanishad. There a man possesses everything for he is one with the one about five hundred years later another a young prince named and Siddhartha who was to became known as the Buddha the enlightened one sat communing inwardly in the forest when suddenly as though a veil had been lifted his mind became infinite and all encompassing. I have seen the truth he exclaimed I am the father of the world sprung form myself! And again after the passage of another five hundred years another young man a Jew named Jesus of Nazareth sat in a solitary place among the desert cliffs of Galilee communing inwardly when suddenly he realized that the father in heaven to whom he had been praying was his very own self that he was himself the sole spirit Pervading the universe I and the father are One! He declared.
Throughout history this extraordinary experience of unity has repeatedly occurred in India in Rome, in Persia, in Amsterdam, in China, devout young men reflecting on the truth of their own existence experienced this amazing transcendence of the minds and announced to everyone who would listen that they had realized the truth of man and the universe that they had known their own self and known it to be the all the eternal. And throughout succeeding ages these announcements were echoed by others who had experienced the same realization. I am the truth! Exclaimed the Muslim al-Hallaj my me is god nor do I recognized any other Me except my god Jnaneshvar Milarepa Kabir and Basho form the east and Eckhart Boehme and Emerson from the west said the same.
These assertions by the great mystics of the world were not made as mere philosophical speculations they were based on experience an experience so convincing so real that all those to whom it has occurred testify unanimously that it is the unmistakable realization of the ultimate truth of existence. In this experience called Samadhi by the Hindus nirvana by the Buddhists fana by the individual suddenly becomes the consciousness of the entire vast universe. All previous sense of duality is swallowed up in an awareness of indivisible unity. The man who previously regarded himself as an individualized soul encumbered with sins an inhabiting a body himself who is manifesting as all souls and all bodies while yet remaining completely unaffected by the unfolding drama of the multiform universe.
Even if before as a soul he sought union with his god now there is no longer a soul/god relationship. He himself he now realizes is the one existence in whom there is neither a soul nor a god but only the one self within whom this imaginary relationship of soul and god manifested. For him there is no more relationship but only the eternal and all inclusive I am not surprisingly this illuminating knowledge of an underlying I that is the soul of the entire universe has a profoundly transformative effect upon the mind of those who have experienced it. The sense of being bound and limited to an individual body and mind set in time and rimmed by birth and death is entirely displaced by the keenly experienced awareness of unlimited being of an infinitely larger unqualified self beyond birth and death. It is an experience which uniquely and utterly transforms one’s sense of identity and initiates a permanently acquired freedom from all doubt from all fear from all insecurity knowledge wish to share it to announce in exuberant song to everyone who will hear that through the inner revelation of wisdom you shall know the truth and the truth will male you free!
If we can believe these man it is this experience of unity which is the ultimate goal of all knowledge of all worldly endeavor the summit of human attainment which all men knowingly or unknowingly pursuer. It would seem then a valuable task to study and review the lives and teachings of those who have acquired this knowledge. In this book I have sought to present just such a study and anthology it is presented in an historical perspective in order to better view the long enduring tradition of mystical thought and to reveal more clearly the unity underlying the diversity of its manifold expression. Naturally it has not been possible to include every single instance of mystical knowledge but I have attempted to tell the story of the lives and teachings as it has manifested throughout the ages. It is a story that begins long, long ago in a past so remote that it is but vague and faint beyond the reach of our straining vision obscure in the hazy mists of time.
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