Mysticism as Direct Experience of Idealism

I am not the first or only person to “wake up” and realize that all is One and reality comes from unbounded Mind where I find my source. This realization of existence has been experienced and is shared by numerous people throughout the centuries and millennia. It is recognized by modern psychology. They have even discovered through drug research that a person can have immediate experience of this reality. It is experienced in Christian mysticism as well as every major religion of the world.


In 1993 Evelyn Underhill described in her book, Mysticism, the mystical experience this way…

The mystic would say that his long-sought correspondence with the Transcendental Reality, his union with God, has now been finally established: that his self, though intact, is wholly penetrated – as a sponge by the sea – by the Ocean of Life and Love to which he has attained. “I live, yet not I but God in me.” He is conscious that he is now at length cleansed of the last stains of separation, and has become, in a mysterious manner, “that which he beholds.”

Walter Stace noted in 1960 that the two aspects of a mystical experience include a sense of unity, or the loss of self in the One as well as the loss of time and space. Ken Wilber, a respected psychologist in his field, acknowledged this experience in psychology in Psychologia Perennis: The Spectrum of Consciousness:

There exists what I would like to call a psychologia perennis, a “perennial psychology” – a universal view as to the nature of human consciousness…. At the heart of this model, the “Spectrum of Consciousness”, lies the insight that human personality is a multi-leveled manifestation or expression of a single Consciousness….

The core insight of the psychologia perennis is that our “innermost” consciousness is identical to the absolute and ultimate reality of the universe, known variously as Brahman, Tao, Dharmakaya, Allah, the Godhead – to name but a few – and which, for the sake of convenience, I will simply call “Mind” (with a capital “M” to distinguish it from the apparent plurality of “minds”). According to this universal tradition, Mind is what there is and all there is, spaceless and therefore infinite, timeless and therefore eternal, outside of which nothing exists.

On this level, we are identified with the universe, the All – or rather, we are the All. According to the psychologia perennis, this level is not an abnormal state of consciousness, nor even an altered state of consciousness, but rather the only real state of consciousness, all others being essentially illusions. In short, our innermost consciousness – known variously as the Atman, the Christ, Tathagatagarbha – is identical to the ultimate reality of the universe. This, then, is the Level of Mind, of cosmic consciousness, of humankind’s Supreme Identity.

Drug Research

Monistic idealism has also been realized through the usage of certain drugs. In 1799 Sir Humphrey Davey, while under the influence of nitrous oxide, entered a world of ideas. He concluded, “Nothing exists but thoughts.” E. Dunbar had a similar experience in 1905 while on anesthetics:

Then it dawned upon me that the only logical position was subjective idealism, and, therefore, my experience must be reality. Then by degrees I began to realize that I was the One, and the universe of which I was the principle was balancing itself into completeness.

Systematic research was conducted in the sixties on the psychological effects of psychedelics. Stanislav Grof recounts the repeatable experiences of the heightened effects people experience at a certain level of intoxication in Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research:

Transpersonal experiences occur only rarely in early sessions of psycholytic therapy; they become quite common in advanced sessions after the subject has worked through and integrated the material on the psychodynamic and perinatal levels. After the final experience of ego death and rebirth, transpersonal elements dominate all subsequent LSD sessions of the individual.

The common denominator of this otherwise rich and ramified group of phenomena is the feeling of the individual that consciousness expanded beyond the usual ego boundaries and limitations of time and space.

This is one of the most profound and total experiences observed in LSD sessions. Identifying with the consciousness of the Universal Mind, the individual senses that he has experientially encompassed the totality of existence. He feels that he has reached the reality underlying all realities and is confronted with the supreme and ultimate principle that represents all Being. The illusions of matter, space, and time, as well as an infinite number of other subjective realities, have been completely transcended and finally reduced to this one mode of consciousness which is their common source and denominator. This experience is boundless, unfathomable, and ineffable; it is existence itself. Verbal communication and the symbolic structure of our everyday language seem to be a ridiculously inadequate means to capture and convey its nature and quality. The experience of the phenomenal world and what we call usual states of consciousness appear in this context to be only very limited, idiosyncratic, and partial aspects of the over-all consciousness of the Universal Mind.

The last and most paradoxical transpersonal phenomenon to be discussed in this context is the experience of the supracosmic and metacosmic Void, of the primordial emptiness, nothingness, and silence, which is the ultimate source and cradle of all existence and the “uncreated and ineffable Supreme.” The terms supra- and metacosmic used by sophisticated LSD subjects in this context refer to the fact that this Void appears to be both supraordinated to and underlying the phenomenal world. It is beyond time and space, beyond form or any experiential differentiation, and beyond polarities such as good and evil, light and darkness, stability and motion, and agony and ecstasy.

No matter how paradoxical it might seem, the Void and the Universal Mind are perceived as identical and freely interchangeable; they are two different aspects of the same phenomenon. The Void appears to be emptiness pregnant with form, and the subtle forms of the Universal Mind are experienced as absolutely empty.

Please note that I do not recommend doing drugs in order to see behind the veil of reality. It is not necessary to have a mystical experience in order to incorporate its reality into your living mindset. If it’s necessary to see reality as it is before you believe it, the more rewarding path to this is in contemplation of it until it becomes you. However, you can receive the benefits of it sooner by believing it first without seeing it.

Christian Mysticism

The method of contemplation is in fact the method that many great Christians used to see reality in this light as a monistic idealism proceeding from boundless Mind. Meister Eckhart, the great Dominican scholar, in 1327 in Cologne recounts his experience:

While I yet stood in my first cause, I had no God and was my own cause: then I wanted nothing and desired nothing, for I was bare being and the knower of myself in the enjoyment of truth. Then I wanted myself and wanted no other thing: what I wanted I was and what I was I wanted, and thus I was free of God and all things. But when I went out from my free will and received my created being, then I had a God. For before there were creatures, God was not God: He was that which he was. But when creatures came into existence and received their being, then God was not God in himself – He was God in creatures.

The blessed Henry Suso (1295 – 1365) from Buchlein von der Wahrheit states:

When the good and faithful servant enters into the joy of his Lord, he is inebriated by the riches of the house of God; for he feels, in an ineffable degree, that which is felt by an inebriated man. He forgets himself, he is no longer conscious of his selfhood; he disappears and loses himself in God, and becomes one spirit with Him, as a drop of water which is drowned in a great quantity of wine. For even as such a drop disappears, taking the color and the taste of wine, so it is with those who are in full possession of blessedness.

During that time period an anonomous author of the Theologia Germanica (1350) explained it this way:

He who is imbued with or illuminated by the Eternal or Divine Light and inflamed or consumed with Eternal or Divine Love, he is a deified man and a partaker of the Divine Nature.

Saint John of the Cross (1542 – 1591) compared his experience this way:

The spiritual marriage of the soul and the Son of God now remains to be accomplished. This is, beyond all comparison, a far higher state than that of betrothal, because it is a complete transformation into the Beloved; whereby they surrender each to the other the entire possession of themselves in the perfect union of love, wherein the soul becomes divine, and, by participation, God, so far as it is possible in this life.

As fascinating as the Christian experience of reality as monistic ideal, it is not the only perspective of reality in this form. After all, how uniform could reality be if it could not be experienced outside one cultural perspective?

Global experience of Monistic Idealism

This idealistic mystical oneness is what Buddha experienced upon reaching enlightenment. It is the nirvana of Hindu philosophy which is union with the Brahman. This mystical union is also the goal in Jainism and Sikhism as well. Methodologies to reach this state are included in Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Vedanta, Hinduism, and Sufism in addition to Christian mysticism. This constitutes a Highest Common Factor, present in all the major religions of the world.

Aldous Huxley writes of this Highest Common Factor in all religions:

More than twenty-five centuries have passed since that which has been called the Perennial Philosophy was first committed to writing…. The Perennial Philosophy has spoken almost all the languages of Asia and Europe and has made use of the terminology and traditions of every one of the higher religions. But under all of this confusion of tongues and myths, of local histories and particularist doctrines, there remains a Highest Common Factor, which is the Perennial Philosophy in what may be called its chemically pure state…. At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines.

First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness – the world of things and animals and men and even gods – is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be nonexistent.

Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.

Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.

Fourth: man’s life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.

Although I “awoke” to reality with no knowledge of this phenomenon to begin with, it is validating and comforting to realize that I am not alone. Others have awoken before me. This is a scientifically studied and real phenomenon. It is not limited to one culture and one perspective but it remains One truth. Humanity must let go of our separation from the boundless and walk as One. Doing this on a personal level will help you not only find your calling in life but to empower you to reach that calling.

Charley Sanders