Are you are a spiritual adventurer, eager to explore ancient mysteries? Do you have a curiosity about the invisible power and intelligence that is behind the workings of our universe? Are you curious about life after death? If so, you might consider yourself a mystic drawn into the inner world of mysticism.
Mysticism is the zone in which all of the major religions of the world converge. And there is a mystical stream in every world religion. In Islam, there is Sufism. Judaism offers the Kabbalistic tradition. And the 4th century Desert tradition that is the cornerstone of monastic spirituality in Christianity continues to uphold an unbroken line of mystical practices.
Conventional religion often tends to view mysticism with skepticism. Mysticism is not practical. It is not meant for people who are living a regular life in the world. Mysticism is esoteric and can place us in la la land with few references to the real world that most people need to live in. In instances, this can be true, in which case we might call that “unhealthy mysticism.” However, healthy mysticism exists. It always has.
Sufis, for instance, have always worked in the world, outwardly like anyone else, inwardly like no one. Sufis practice rather powerful interior practices almost all of the time. Christian mystics in the desert wove baskets for a living while living a life of intense prayer and inner transformation. Modern Hindu mystics such as Nisargadatta Maharaj worked a lower administrative position in an office and then sold tobacco leaf cigarettes while in preparation for the powerful teachings on non-dualism he would share with the world. Mysticism is not impractical. It is about living in the world but not being of it. It is about knowing there is a lot more to the spiritual life than what is commonly known. It is different from conventional religion but does not put down conventional religion.
In mysticism, God is always something more. There are no limits to the knowledge and experiences we can have about the divine. It is in this most profound dimension that many spiritual traditions find common ground. In mysticism, prayer and meditation go deeper than words and skills to enter into an abysmal depth that does not belong to any single tradition in particular but a shared experience in human consciousness. Mystical states are states of consciousness that can be actively cultivated to a degree while many states are dependent upon divine grace.
Try this prayer, no matter what your tradition.
Directions: Use the phrase: “Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison”. Say it softly, even whispering it, if you like. There is no right way to do it. There is no need to force the saying of the phrase. If your mind is naturally quiet, then allow it to be so. After you have said it for a while, sit quietly for a few minutes.
The Kyrie could be seen as a sort of mantric prayer from within the Christian tradition. Its roots are in the psalms in which there is a cry for mercy from God, a way of getting in touch with what we might say is the “divine graciousness.” In comparison, Shiva means “auspicious.” The word auspicious means to favor towards success. The Jews, as a people, felt they were favored by God. Kyrie Eleison means “Lord have mercy,” and here, refers to that aspect of God beyond name and form, what is sometimes referred to as the Godhead. While “Godhead” sounds excessively male, in Tantra, for instance, this highest realm is shared by both Shiva and Shakti, sacred masculine and the divine feminine.
The part in this mantric prayer that is rather specific to Christianity is the Christe Eleison, which is Christ have mercy. The Jews do not accept Jesus as the messiah, which is what the word “Christ” refers to for Christians who have accepted Jesus as the messiah foretold in the bible. There is etymology to the word Christ (Greek χριστός, chrīstós) which means “the anointed one”. In my workshops, often consisting of a mix of Jewish and Eastern spirituality practitioners, I suggest that they could use this word to explore their own desire for intimacy with the divine, the desire of knowing what it might feel like to be anointed by the divine love and presence.
Can you find it in your heart to say this mantric prayer without resistances coming up? Perhaps you don’t feel you could accept Jesus as the messiah. Or maybe you don’t think that God favors a person or a people. Or does asking for “mercy” turn you off, triggering bad vibes of being shamed or being made to feel like a sinner? Does the thought of you yourself being anointed by divine love and presence allow you to use these words, “Kyrie Eleison Christe Eleison? Or, do you still feel resistance towards using it. You would need to address your resistances to tap into the power of this particular mantric prayer.
When developing an inter-spiritual perspective, we need to address our resistances in order to share the prayer experience of another culture truly. Otherwise, it is superficial inter-spirituality. For instance, some may not like using the word like “Allah” as it might feel associated with terrorists. We might want to keep in mind that this word, Allah, refers to the Godhead as a presence beyond name and form. Others are resistant to using Krishna, even though the Bhagavad Gita clearly demonstrates that Krishna is not some regional deity but the Absolute Godhead. Inter-spirituality, many feel, is merely acknowledging the similarities within traditions. The more profound work of inter-spiritual dialog, however, is to also recognize differences, prejudices, emphasis, language, and other factors.
With this in mind, what was your experience? If you were comfortable with this mantric prayer, how what sort of resistances do you deal with when praying with words from another culture or tradition?