Esoteric Religion and Mysticism

Lamp of Non-Dual Knowledge and Cream of Liberation: Two Jewels of Indian Wisdom

Both books are highly concentrated distillations of the heart of Advaita Vedanta, presented through a series of questions and answers between Master and disciple.

“With an intense desire for liberation; reaching a guru; hearing from him the non-dual Brahman shining forth as Being-Knowledge-Bliss of the Self; understanding It, though indirectly, yet as clearly as one understands Vishnu, ect.; turning the mind one-pointedly to this Brahman, without taking to enquiry by reflection (manana); always meditating on the non-dual Self of Being-Knowledge-Bliss, attributeless and un-differentiated, is called yoga.  By its practice the mind becomes tranquil and can gradually go to Samadhi. In Samadhi it will experience the supreme Bliss.  Lamp of Non-Dual Knowledge,  p. 49

“Being must itself be Consciousness.  If the Consciousness be different from the Being, it must be nonexistent.  How then can Being be revealed?

“Again, Consciousness must itself be Being.  If different from Consciousness, it must be insentient.  The insentient cannot exist by itself.  Thus Being and Consciousness, being identical, are also Bliss.”  Cream of Emancipation, p. 168

The Gospel in Brief, by Leo Tolstoy

“I knew not the light, and I thought there was no sure truth in life; but when I perceived that only light enables men to live, I sought to find the sources of the light. And I found them in the Gospels, despite the false commentaries of the Churches.  And when I reached this source of light I was dazzled with its splendor, and I found there full answers to my questions as to the purport of the lives of myself and others, — answers which I recognized as wholly harmonious with all the known answers gained among other nations, and, to my mind, surpassing all other answers.

“I knew not the light, and I thought there was no sure truth in life; but when I perceived that only light enables men to live, I sought to find the sources of the light. And I found them in the Gospels, despite the false commentaries of the Churches.  And when I reached this source of light I was dazzled with its splendor, and I found there full answers to my questions as to the purport of the lives of myself and others, — answers which I recognized as wholly harmonious with all the known answers gained among other nations, and, to my mind, surpassing all other answers.

“I sought a solution of the problem of life, and not of a theological or historical question; and that is why I was indifferent to know whether Jesus Christ is or is no God, and from whom proceeds the Holy Spirit, etc.  And it is just as unimportant and unnecessary to know when and by whom such and such a Gospel was written, and whether such and such a parable came from Jesus Himself or not.  For me, the only important concern was this light, which, for eighteen hundred years, has shone upon mankind; which has shone upon me likewise, and which shines upon me still.  But to know more than this, how I ought to name the source of this light, what elements compose it, and what kindled it, I in no way concerned myself.”   pp. 7-8

The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark, by Morton Smith

“Even before I finished transcribing the text, I began to think it was too good to be true.  Here was new information about Jesus, a new miracle story, a quotation from a secret Gospel by St. Mark, and the information that Mark had written a second, secret Gospel, and that Clement’s church, as well as the Carpocrations, had used it!  If the letter was really by Clement I had a discovery of extraordinary importance.”   p. 17

“What most concerned me was the secrecy of Jesus and particularly ‘the mystery of the kingdom of God,’ since that phrase appeared in the text.  Much of Jesus’ secretiveness seemed to be tied up with his role as the Messiah, and the Messiah was certainly connected with the kingdom.  But just what did Jesus have to do with it?  What kind of a Messiah was he?”   p. 69

 Plotinus: The Enneads. Translated by Stephen MacKenna

“At twenty-seven he was caught by the passion for philosophy:  he was directed to the most highly reputed professors to be found at Alexandria; but he used to come from their lectures saddened and discouraged.  A friend to who he opened his heart divined his temperamental craving and suggested Ammonius, whom he has not yet tried.  Plotinus went, heard a lecture, and exclaimed to his comrade: ‘This was the man I was looking for.’

From that day he followed Ammonius continuously, and under his guidance made such progress in philosophy that he became eager to investigate Persian methods and the system adopted among the Indians.” p. 2

“Ever illuminated, receiving light unfailing, the All-Soul imparts it to the entire series of later Being which by this light is sustained and fostered and endowed with the fullest measure of life that each can absorb.  It may be compared with a central fire warming every receptive body within range.”  p. 153

  Jewish Mysticism: An Introduction, by J. H. Laenen. Translated by David E. Orton

 “The first tangible historical evidence of the existence of Jewish mysticism is not found until the second century of the common era.  The precise dating if this beginning is a matter of debate; estimates range from the second to the sixth century. These first mystical pronouncements are called “chariot mysticism” or “mysticism of the divine throne.”  This form of mysticism functioned in closed rabbinic circles which anxiously took care that the contents of their knowledge and their mystical experience did not become known by the public as a whole.  In this form of mysticism the mystic made a visionary journey through the palaces if the seven heavens. The final goal of this journey was the privilege of beholding God, who was seated on his glorious throne in the seventh palace of the seventh heaven.”  p. 18

“The reports of mystical experiences in the various Hekhaloth texts are not all precisely the same in content.  Not only did each mystic experience the heavenly journey in an entirely individual way, but the various periods in which certain groups of mystics were active also produced variations in content, shifts of emphasis and changes of terminology.”  p. 29-30

Mystical Origins of Hasidism, by Rachel Elior

“The Hasidic phenomenon is not easily characterized. It encompasses mystical arousal and spiritual revival; a historical turning-point and a polemical background; an original spiritual world, new conceptual vocabulary, and social phenomena.  It implies both a continuity with kabbalistic tradition and ideological innovation.  It owes its origins to a variety of creative personalities— mystically inspired charismatic leaders and socially innovative and productive religious thinkers who from the eighteenth century on have produced a rich and multifaceted literature that to this day continues to attract followers to the Hasidic way of life.” from the Preface

“Hasidism originated in a mystical awakening that altered conceptions of the relationship between man and God.  It was the product of an eruption of charismatic piety that drew its legitimacy from a consciousness of contact with superior realms.  This awakening occurred in the first half of the eighteenth century in ascetic circles of men known as hasidim  who followed the practices developed by the kabbalistic disciples of Isaac Luria of sixteenth-century Safed….Like their predecessors, these groups ascribed great importance to muystical experiences and recognized the authority of visionaries.”  p. 6 

The Spiritual Instructions of Saint Seraphim of Sarov: A Spirit-Baptizer in the Eastern Christian Tradition. With an introduction based on the Wisdom-Teaching of Adi Da Samraj

“The Conversation of St. Seraphim with Nicholas Motovilov forms the central point of his teaching; it also contains within itself a warning against any purely intellectual interpretation.  His experience occupies the whole mind and soul; understanding certainly, but understanding through the ear, through touch, through smell and through sight. Words alone are not sufficient. Yet St. Seraphim’s words are already much.” from the Introduction

“After these words I looked in his face and there came over me and even greater reverential awe.  Imagine in the center of the sun, in the dazzling brilliance of his midday rays, the face of the man who talks with you. You see the movement of his lips and the changing expression of his eyes, you hear his voice, you feel someone grasp the shoulders; yet you do not see the hands, you do not even see yourself or his figure, but only a blinding light spreading several yards around and throwing a sparkling radiance across the snow blanket on the glade and into the snowflakes which besprinkled the great elder and me. Can one imagine the state in which I then found myself?”  pp. 95-96

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection. Translated by Benedicta Ward

“The prototype of the hermit life was St. Anthony the Great, a Copt and a layman. He was unlettered, the son of well-to-do peasants.  One day in church he heard the saying of Jesus: ‘Go, sell all you have and give to the poor and come and follow me’, as a commandment addressed to himself. He withdrew from ordinary Christian society about 269, and later he went further and further into solitude of the desert. Anthony died in 356 at the age of 105 and he is still regarded as the ‘father of monks’.  He had many disciples and many imitators, and it is from Anthony and this tradition that many of the Sayings of the Fathers come.”  from the Foreword

“Three Fathers used to go and visit blessed Anthony every year and two of them used to discuss their thoughts and the salvation of their souls with him, but a third always remained silent and did not ask him anything. After a long time, Abba Anthony said to him, ‘You often come here to see me, but you never ask me anything,’ and the other replied, ‘It is enough for me to see you, Father.’”  p. 7

Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart.Translated from the Russian text, Dobrotolubiye, by E. Kadloubovsky and G. E. H. Palmer

“Generally speaking, these writings are a spiritual forcing house, into which the faithful enter with their consciousness and their heart, by reading instructions concerning phenomena of spiritual life. A man is there subjected to the palpable influences of the contemplations so evoked. Thus stimulated, he feels that at those moments he floats in another atmosphere, life-giving and light-giving. Those are the moments of joy, and it is at such moments that fresh shoots are born and strengthened on the tree of spiritual life.”  from the Introduction

“When you thus enter into the place of the heart, as I have shown you, give thanks to God and, praising His mercy, keep always to this doing, and it will teach you things which in no other way will you ever learn. Moreover you should know that when your mind becomes firmly established in the heart, it must not remain there silent and idle, but it should constantly repeat the prayer; ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me!’ and never cease. For this practice, keeping the mind from dreams, renders it elusive and impenetrable to enemy suggestions and every day leads it more and more to love and longing for God.” p. 330

The Way of Perfection, by St. Teresa of Avila. Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez.

This book deals with the advice and counsel Teresa of Jesus gives to her religious Sisters and daughters who live in the monasteries that, with the help of our Lord and the glorious Virgin Mother of God, our Lady, she founded.  These monasteries follow the primitive rule of our Lady of Mount Carmel. She directs her counsel particularly to the Sisters at St. Joseph’s monastery in Avila, which was the first foundation and the place where she was prioress when she wrote this book.” p. 30

“O Eternal Wisdom! Between you and your Father these words would have sufficed. Your petition in the garden was like this. You manifested your own desire and fear, but you abandoned them to his will.  Yet, you know us, my Lord, that we are not as surrendered to the will of your Father as you were.  You know that it was necessary for you to pause to consider if what we are seeking is good for us, so that if it isn’t we won’t ask for it. If we aren’t given what we want, being what we are, with this free will we have, we might not accept what the Lord gives. For although what he gives is better, we don’t think we’ll ever become rich, since we don’t at once see the money in our hand.”  p. 327

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