The essence of mysticism is mystery. It is also secrecy. The word derives from the Greek muo, which means to close or shut, especially to close your eyes, but also to shut your mouth. Both actions are significant, the former indicating withdrawal from the outside world, and the latter a commitment to secrecy: what goes on inside, stay inside.
This vow of silence is crucial in the alchemical arts of both East and West. For example, in Neidan, the inner alchemy of ancient China, talking about your practice is compared to steaming rice in a broken, leaky pot. In other words, the alchemical process can only reach fruition in a hermetically sealed container – talking releases the pressure and dissipates the energy needed for the inner transmutation to occur.
The famous German mystic Meister Eckhart also cautions against talking about the mystery of God:
“Be silent, therefore, and do not chatter about God, for by chattering about him, you tell lies and commit a sin. If you wish to be perfect and without sin, then do not prattle about God. Also you should not wish to understand anything about God, for God is beyond all understanding. A Master says: If I had a God I could understand, I would not regard him as God.”
The practice of mysticism is meditation. Whether or not you close your eyes, or keep them open, the most important thing is shut your mouth and stop talking. After a while, you will find that not only have you stopped talking out loud, but you have also stopped talking silently to yourself in your head. In other words, you have stopped thinking. (There is an interesting parallel here to that seminal moment at infant school where we stop reading aloud and learn to read in our heads).
This state of no-thinking, or no-mind (mu-shin in Japanese) is a peculiar state of inner stillness and quiet, but it is not simple vacuity, rather a pregnant emptiness suffused with mystery, a “cloud of unknowing”.
Mysticism is therefore practically synonymous with meditation, or Dhyana in Sanskrit (transliterated as Ch’an in Chinese and Zen in Japanese). Therefore the Mystic archetype at the head of the Armour of Christ body-mantra represents meditation, or Dhyana Yoga.
The Shaman archetype represents psychedelic journeying. However, not any old psychedelic journeying. The psychedelic experience is radically different when undertaken in a meditative state. Therefore, unlike with the recreational use of psychedelics, where the attraction is chaotic hedonism and an easy high, a true shaman must have a disciplined meditation practice, and have mastered the art of mystical stillness and silence. In other words a true shaman must also be a mystic, a Mystic-Shaman.
A Mystic is a Dhyana Yogi, a master of meditation; a Shaman is a Soma Yogi, a master of psychedelic journeying. But you can’t be a Soma Yogi without also being a Dhyana Yogi – the two are inextricably linked. We might call the combined practice Zen Soma.
This mystico-shamanic foundation is a firm rock on which to build the edifice of our worldly abode, using the four yogas of the Bhagavad Gita as a guide: that is, Karma Yoga (the yoga of action and will), Bhakti Yoga (the yoga of devotion and higher feeling), Jnana Yoga (the yoga of knowledge and spiritual insight) and Raja Yoga (the yoga of Self-knowledge) corresponding to the four archetypes Warrior, Monk/Nun, Philosopher, King/Queen.
This is what an integral meditative psychedelic practice (Zen Soma) is all about: the holistic and balanced psycho-spiritual development of the human being, simply put, “character building”. Not content to stop at the otherworldly peace and tranquillity of the mystic or at the otherworldly spirit journeys of the shaman, both of which can lead to quietism and escapism, we can use these practices to establish ourselves firmly in this world, developing our bodies through martial arts, dance and other physical practices; our hearts through music and the arts; our minds through science and philosophy; and our souls through religious observances.
What better way to become the best you can become?