(In this article, some conceptions presented in a workshop at an international conference is examined in the light of a deeper spiritual perspective)
It was said in this workshop that there are two categories of people: Mystic and the Practical. Mystic is a “dreamer” who is aware of the purpose of his life and lives in his dreams and vision but doesn’t have the capacity to realize his dreams. The practical type is a “doer” who has the capacity to outwardly realize his ideas but may not be aware of the goal of his life. Mystic is oriented toward “being” and the practical man towards “becoming”. Let us look at this conception in the light of a deeper spiritual perspective.
Who is a mystic? Oxford dictionary defines a mystic as “a person who devotes his time to profound thought in order to become closer to God and to reach truths beyond human understanding”. This definition is very inadequate; it doesn’t catch the nature and spirit of a true mystic. This may be the nature of a religious thinker or philosopher but not that of a mystic.
However, those scholars and thinkers who have studied the lives of great mystics in detail and in-depth describe the mystic as someone who seeks an inner union with the Divine within him not merely in thought and feeling but in a concrete inner experience. On two occasion, Sri Aurobindo called himself a mystic. In his message on the occasion of India’s independence, talking about his birthday coming on the same date, Sri Aurobindo wrote “As a mystic, I take this identification not as a coincidence or a fortuitous accident, but as a sanction and seal of the Divine Power”. On another occasion, when someone mentioned Sri Aurobindo as a philosopher, Sri Aurobindo said that he was primarily a mystic and a poet and not a philosopher. In the west or more specifically in the educated and thinking sections of the west, people like Sri Aurobindo, Ramakrishna, St. John of the Cross are regarded as mystics and this is the commonly accepted meaning of the word “mystic”.
Let us divert the term “mystic” from all religious connotations and look at it in terms of human potential. In this more ”secular” perspective a mystic is the one who aims at coming into contact with his highest spiritual potential which lies beyond our rational mind, in a higher dimension of consciousness, which is also the inner source of all higher values like truth, beauty, goodness, harmony, unity, pespection – and the Divine, Who is ultimate Source of all these values and the inner most Origin of our own being and the universe.
In general, a mystic is satisfied with an inner realization or experience of the Divine. But in Sri Aurobindo’s vision, this inner realization has to express and manifest itself in the outer world for an eventual realization of the Kingdom of God on earth. For example, Vedic sages are mystics but also much more. They are not satisfied with their inner realization but made a great attempt to mould the outer life of the society according to their spiritual vision, as much as possible, within the limitations and conditions of the humanity of their age.
However, even a mystic who is satisfied with his inner realization is not just an impractical dreamer. He seeks for a concrete inner realization of his spiritual ideals in his consciousness. While the philosopher is satisfied with concepts and abstractions, the mystic seeks for a much more substantial inner experience and realization. Similarly, a devotee is satisfied with worship, devotion, and adoration but the mystic seeks for an inner union with the Divine within him or in other words to merge his soul with the divine Being. The Mystic is also as much practical and a doer as the outwardly practical man but his pragmatism or “doings” are in the inner realms of consciousness, in the inner realization of his ideals in his consciousness.
From a spiritual perspective, a mystic is supremely practical because he accelerates his evolution towards the highest goal of human life. What the ordinary or outwardly practical man achieves after many hundreds of thousands of years of slow, unconscious evolution, a great mystic realizes this goal within a few years of conscious, self-directed evolution. From this deeper perspective, the outwardly “practical” man is an utterly impractical and ignorant novice, stumbling along blindly in a bullock cart, not knowing where he is going, whereas a mystic travels consciously in a jet plane to his goal with a clear vision of where he is going. From this perspective, in terms of progress towards the goal of our life, who is the more practical—mystic or the practical man? I leave it to the reader to decide.