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Chapter 12: What Is Mysticism?

The first question:

What is mysticism?

Mysticism is the experience that life is not logic, that life is poetry; that life is not syllogism, that life is a song. Mysticism is the declaration that life can never really be known; it is essentially unknowable.

Science divides existence into two categories: the known and the unknown. The known was unknown one day; it has become known. The unknown is unknown today; tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, it will also become known. Science believes that sooner or later a point of understanding will arrive when there will be only one category: the known, all will have been known. The unknown is slowly being reduced to the known.

Mysticism is the declaration that life consists of three categories: one, the known; another, the unknown; and the third, and the most important, is the unknowable - which has not been known and which will never be known. And that is the essential core of it all.

That unknowable can be experienced but not known. It cannot be reduced to knowledge, although your heart can sing its song. You can dance it, you can live it, you can be full and overflowing with it - you can be possessed by it - but you will not be able to know it.

It is like, a river disappears into the ocean. Do you think the river comes to know the ocean? It becomes the ocean, but there is no knowing. In fact, when you become one with something, how can you know it? Knowledge requires division; knowledge is basically schizophrenic. The object has to be separate from the subject; the knower has to keep a distance from the known. If the distance disappears, there will be no knowledge possible.

And that’s what happens in mysticism: the seeker becomes one with the sought, the lover dissolves into the beloved, the dewdrop slips, falls into the ocean and becomes the ocean. There is no knowledge. In such unity knowledge is not possible. In such unity there is only experience, and experience not of something outside you, but something inside you. It is experiencing rather than experience.

The word mysticism comes from a Greek word, mysterion, which means “secret ceremony”. The people who have touched the unknowable gather together to share. The sharing is not verbal; it cannot be verbal. The sharing is of their being; they pour their being into each other. They dance together, they sing together, they look into each other’s eyes, or they simply sit silently together. That’s what was being done with Buddha, with Krishna, with Jesus, in different ways.

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