Saturday, November 26News Written in the Stars

Q&A with John C. Robinson, Ph.D., D.Min. on mysticism and mystical poetry

1. How would you describe mysticism or being a mystic?

Mysticism has various related definitions. I define it as the firsthand experience and revelation of the sacred. All the major religions arise from the founder’s major mystical experience. Awed by the profundity of the founder’s original experience, followers create theology, rituals, practices, and organizations to preserve the revelation and its teachings for others. Lacking the original mystical experience of the founder, interpretation conflicts inevitably produce competing sects and, too often, male-dominated hierarchical organizations replete with all the customary “sins” of the ego.

What I have always found interesting, however, is that spontaneous mystical experiences continue to occur everywhere in the world to people with and without religious beliefs or organizations. Early in my career, I kept running across examples of everyday mystical awareness from friends, psychotherapy clients and religious writers, collecting scores of accounts. Later in workshops, I discovered that nearly everyone can recall a spontaneous mystical experience though it may have been forgotten, dismissed, or fearfully discounted as “crazy” or “sinful.” Indeed, surveys repeatedly find around 50% of people report spontaneous mystical experiences and, consistent with Abraham Maslow’s observation, that rate rises with increased interviewer skills. 

Over the years collecting accounts of mystical experience, I eventually identified three basic types: the big revelatory experiences of formal religions, smaller spontaneous experiences of people with and without religious backgrounds, and mystical consciousness – an intentional alteration of consciousness that reveals the same insights. The first two types are beyond a seeker’s control, but the third is a teachable skill. Based on my own experience, I developed practices for evoking mystical consciousness and wrote eleven books on the the nature and implications of its revelations. In the end, I came to realize that life itself is a mystical process hidden under the dense screen of human beliefs. As we learn to stop thinking, heighten awareness in the present moment, examine the world with intense sensory perception, and feel the tangible Presence of divinity, we discover that reality is infinitely more amazing, beautiful, and divinely-infused than we realized. It becomes Creation – the embodiment of divinity, literally awake, aware, enchanting, loving and joyful. Experiencing the mystical “ground of being” of our own bodies, we discover that we, too, are divine. 

For me, being a mystic means learning to live and act from mystical consciousness and sharing its insights and revelations with others as a kind of mystical activism. It’s clear to me that the world is not what we think; worse, our thoughts create delusional beliefs that produce hatred, prejudice, violence, war, and the suffering of sentient beings and the Earth herself. For me, transcending thought in mystical consciousness is activism. We discover that Heaven in Earth is already here when we’re are awake enough to see it, and seeing the divine world changes everything – how we live, behave and love. It’s all about love. 

As a conscious elder, I’ve learned that aging and death also constitute mystical experiences accessible to anyone, representing a balm for our cultural fear of death. Interestingly, researchers are now confirming this conclusion in studies with psychoactive plants extracts like psilocybin. Death anxiety in terminal illness is greatly diminished in the transcendent consciousness. This discovery is not surprising as indigenous peoples have been evoking mystical experiences from plant medicines from the dawn of time. Clearly, under proper conditions, psychoactive plant extracts also facilitate mystical experiences, providing yet another doorway into transformed consciousness.

 
2. How about mystical poetry? What is mystical poetry?

Mystical poetry is simply poetry written in mystical consciousness. The art and requirements of poetry, however, require that mystical wisdom and revelations be succinct, direct, clear and impactful. It’s not abstract theology or erudition, it’s revelation, and it needs to be communicated effectively. In mystical consciousness, words and verses flow from a transpersonal source and the challenge is to record and edit it well. My goal is to translate mystical experience into words that carry its transcendent consciousness into the mind of the reader, sharing my awakened vision through the transformational power of poetry. 

3. What are your mystical poems about?

My poems fall into nine chapters: Becoming God, Heaven on Earth, Healing the World, The Coming Apocalypse, Listening to the Soul’s Quiet Voice, Aging in Mystical Consciousness, The Dream of Humanity, Ultimate Revelations, and About Me. Each chapter presents revelations that provide a mystical understanding of the specific topic.

The first subject, Becoming God, deserves some clarification. My book of mystical poetry is titled, “I Am God” Wisdom and Revelations from Mystical Consciousness. This reference to being God derives from the fundamental realization that, ultimately, mystical perception is pantheistic – everything is found to be God. That includes the grass, trees, sky, and you. Just as a spoonful of sugar is sugar, and a cup of salt is salt, my being is God’s Being. How could it be otherwise in unity? The key, however, is to experience this realization directly, and the principle obstacle to visionary perception is thought, particularly ideas about who and where we think we are. When we learn to silence thought and shift into mystical consciousness, the self-idea disappears and what’s left is God. To say “I Am God,” therefore, is not egotism or arrogance, for there is no self-idea left to be egotistical and arrogant. In this state of unity, we experience God as our own nature: loving, joyful, generous, ecstatic, immortal, flowing and free. What could be better for humanity that transformed awareness? I believe this awakening is the destiny of our spiritual evolution, transfiguring the world in divinity. 

Equally wonderful is this realization: In the awakened state mystical consciousness, reality becomes Creation. In mystical consciousness, the world grows brighter, more beautiful, infinitely precious, and infused with a loving divine Presence. This experience has been repeatedly shown to heal fear-based behavior and help us live in peace. When we finally experience who and where we really are, human foolishness and cruelty will end. Of course, this revelation always sounds too simple to those defending complex belief systems. Sadly, debates lock us in thought structures that confirm fixed views and block mystical consciousness. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “the doors of hell are locked on the inside.” 

4. Can you talk a little about your spiritual path and how it led you to mystical poetry?

Growing up in the 1950’s with a scientist-father and psychoanalytically-oriented mother, I encountered an atmosphere critical of religion. I had no choice but to hide my innate mystical nature for a career in psychology – at least I was looking at causes of human suffering. But psychology is incomplete, for healing also needs to be spiritual and mystical. I began looking at integrating psychotherapy and spirituality in my practice, and wrote a seminal book on the challenge. Once the flood gates were open, I couldn’t stop writing (you can see my progression at (seehttps://www.johnrobinson.org for details). 

Finishing my last book, Aging with Vision, Hope and Courage in a Time of Crisis, I thought I was done. At the same time, the Covid pandemic was sweeping the country and elders began sequestering themselves for protection. I decided it was an opportunity to withdraw from workshops, webinars, articles and books and live the mystical life I had been writing about for a quarter century. Deep in this “monastery” experience, I found myself writing mystical poetry in the tradition of Rumi, Hafez and Kabir. I couldn’t stop. Hundreds of verses poured forth. I finally shared them with an award-winning poet-friend, Laura Grace Weldon (https://www.lauragraceweldon.com) who generously offered to be my editor and mentor. 

Laura helped me find my poetic voice. Then, one day, she said “It’s time to publish.”

 5. What is the process of writing like for you? Do you just sit down and write or do you plan it out?

Inspiration comes to me through a dream, sudden insight, or discussion with a friend. It’s as if I’m given a new assignment every day. I take that seed of mystical consciousness to my computer, enter mystical consciousness, and start writing. Altered consciousness happens easily now. I shift my attention to the thought-free, highly-sensory present and its tangible experience of Presence. Then, it’s as if right brain consciousness hijacks left brain vocabulary and the train is takes off. In joy, gratitude and wonder, I unpack the inspired insight to discover what it wants to teach me. 

Though I write quickly to keep up with the revelations, each line has to feel right. It’s as if I have the structure of sacred consciousness stored inside and everything I write has to be consistent with it. Any time ego sneaks in, the writing starts to feel wrong, forced or dead. When a poem feels done, I leave it but return in a day or so to ensure it expresses what the revelation intended. Later, I go through the poems again as all poets do. What seemed wonderful at first glance almost always needs further word-smithing, clarification or improvement. I have also come to realize that the ultimate purpose of spiritual and mystical writing is to take the reader beyond words into the direct experience of divinity.

6. What advice would you have for someone who wants to be a writer but doesn’t know what to write?

Write! Write anything. Write more. It doesn’t matter what you write at first, but look for themes or intuitions that carry energy or excitement. You’ll know you found it because you can’t stop writing. When you reach a dead end, and everyone does, stop. Put the work aside and wait. But remember, not everyone is a writer, and that’s ok. But if you are a writer, you really don’t have a choice because you can’t stop yourself. Suddenly you’re writing again. That’s the definition of a writer. Then, it’s a matter of following the call you carried into the world. You won’t see the completed whole until it’s done, but each new next step along the way will grab you and you’re writing again. The other major advice is don’t publish anything until you’ve reread it “a thousand times,” meaning you constantly rework it, finding all the dumb things you missed the first, second and third times. And, always read your work out loud. The clarity and elegance of language is more evident when your speak your words, and the clumsy language sticks out like a sore thumb. Finally, if you’re brave enough, ask others to read your work, not because they’re always right, but because it provides information about how your work will be received or misunderstood.

7. Have you had any mystical experiences in your life? If so, what happened?

Matthew Fox says everyone is a mystic. I agree. Sadly, our culture devalues this incredible gift, a gift that holds the potential for our survival in these perilous times. I was born a mystic, but I needed a long journey to finally understand who and where I really was. For me, it’s not about a big mystical experience but the consciousness in which everything is mystical. I return to that consciousness daily. In fact, mystical poetry has become a mystical practice for me, restoring divine consciousness and revealing the sacred “isness” of being. At 76, my end is in sight, but the journey there and beyond will be amazing.

8. Anything else?

Yes. I am offering your readers a free mystical poem every week. To receive a poem, you are invited to visit and subscribe to https://www.iamgodnet.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/becomingspirit/

 

Naturally, I end with a poem:

A New World

I left the frenzied world of identity, time, and story, 

of achievement and performance.

That world no longer exists for me.

I can be reminded of it, 

but like a flash of light on the retina,

the trace rapidly fades and I return again

to the Garden.

Here there is no war, strife, or urgency.

My awareness abides in

silence, stillness, peace, beauty,

and love.

We change the world by waking up.

Will you join me?

And bring someone with you.