The Mystical as the Highest Rung on the Ladder of Wisdom

mysticism_symbol_1New York Times columnist David Brooks offers an insight in his column from Thursday, May 15, 2014, that has some interesting implications for the spiritual path and life I try to walk.

Brooks is a columnist with whom I seldom agree. But in this piece, he focuses on what he calls the “ladder of wisdom.” He raises the question about how we can know — deeply and truly know — a given subject. He points out that in our attempts to understand a subject (he uses teen pregnancy as a case study), we’d begin by gathering data describing the situation we are interested in. Then we’d turn to academia to read studies that attempt to explain why the data is what it is.

But, Brooks goes on, this is still far from a deep understanding. “You have to enter the realm of fiction, biography and journalism,” he says, where individual and small-group profiles and interviews are the tools of the trade. At that level, we begin to get a clearer picture of the mosaic of human behavior and experience that begins to grant us the insight that appears as the first glimpse of wisdom.

Finally, to gain the deep understanding we seek, Brooks says, nothing will ultimately provide the depth we seek other than personal experience. “The highest rung on the stairway to understanding is intimacy.” In other words, a mystical experience, what A Course in Miracles calls a “holy instant.”

Mysticism is the personal experience of an encounter with the Divine. In a similar way, an intimate encounter with another seemingly separate being is a mystical experience. And because there is only one of of us here, this intimacy, this mysticism, becomes the key to unlocking truly deep understanding of the world around us, a world which we constantly participate in co-creating.


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