Grace and Grit
The essence of mysticism is that in the deepest part of your own being in the very center of your own pure awareness, you are fundamentally one with Spirit, one with Godhead, one with the All, in a timeless and eternal and unchanging fashion. . . .
According to the mystics, when we go beyond or transcend our separate-self sense, our limited ego, we discover instead a Supreme Identity, an identity with the All, with universal Spirit, infinite and all pervading, eternal and unchanging. As Einstein explains: "A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe'; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison."
Indeed, the whole point of meditation or contemplation - whether it appears in the East or in the West, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu - is to free ourselves from the "optical delusion" that we are merely separate egos set apart from each other and from eternal Spirit, and discover instead that, once released from the prison of individuality, we are one with Godhead and thus one with all manifestation, in a perfectly timeless and eternal fashion.
And this is not a mere theoretical idea; it is a direct and immediate experience, which has bee reported the world over from time immemorial, and which is essentially identical wherever it appears. As Schrodinger put it, "Within a cultural milieu where certain conceptions have been limited and specialized, it is daring to give this conclusion the simple wording that it requires. In Christian terminology to say: 'Hence I am God Almighty' sounds both blasphemous and lunatic. But please disregard these connotations for a moment, and consider that in itself, the insight is not new. In Indian thought it is considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world. Again, the mystics of many centuries, independently, yet in perfect harmony with each other (somewhat life the particles in an ideal gas) have described, each of them, the unique experience of his or her life in terms that can be condensed in the phrase Deus factus sum - I have become God."
Not in the sense that my particular ego is God - far from it - rather that, in the deepest part of my own awareness, I directly intersect eternity. And it was this direct intersection, this mystical awareness, that so interested these pioneering physicists. . . .
Notice I was not saying that modern physics itself supports or proves a mystical worldview. I was saying the physicists themselves were mystics, and not that their discipline was a mystical or somehow spiritual endeavor resulting in a religious worldview. In other words, I disagreed entirely with books such as The Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu Li Masters, which had claimed that modern physics supported or even proved Eastern mysticism. This is a colossal error. Physics is a limited, finite, relative, and partial endeavor, dealing with a very limited aspect of reality. It does not, for example, deal with biological, psychological, economic, literary, or historical truths; whereas mysticism deals with all of that, with the Whole. To say that physics proves mysticism is like saying the tail wags the dog. . . .
I had long ago decided that there were two types of people who believed in universal Spirit - those who were not too bright (e.g., Oral Roberts), and those who were extremely bright (e.g., Einstein). Those in between made it a point of "intellectual" merit not to believe in God, or anything transrational for that matter. . . .
There are many ways to explain meditation, what it is, what it does, how it works. Meditation it is said, is a way to evoke the relaxation response. Meditation, others say, is a way to train and strengthen awareness; a method for centering and focusing the self; a way to halt constant verbal thinking and relax the body mind; a technique for calming the central nervous system; a way to relieve stress, bolster self esteem, reduce anxiety, and alleviate depression.
All of those are true enough; meditation has been clinically demonstrated to do all of those things. But I would like to emphasize that meditation itself is, and always has been a spiritual practice. Meditation, whether Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, or Muslim, was invented as a way for the soul to venture inward, there ultimately to find a supreme identity with Godhead. "The Kingdom of Heaven is within" - and meditation, from the very beginning, has been the royal road to that Kingdom. Whatever else it does, and it does many beneficial thing, meditation is first and foremost a search for the God within.
I would say meditation is spiritual, but not religious. Spiritual has to do with actual experience, not mere beliefs; with God as the Ground of Being, not a cosmic Daddy figure; with awakening to one's true Self, not praying for one's little self; with the disciplining of awareness, not preach and church moralisms about drinking and smoking and sexing; with Spirit found in everyone's Heart, not anything done in this or that church. . . .
Meditation is spiritual; prayer is religious. That is, petitionary prayer, in which I ask God to give me a new car, help with my promotion, etc., is religious; it simply wishes to bolster the little ego in its wants and desires. Meditation, on the other hand, seeks to go beyond the ego altogether; it asks nothing from God, real or imagined, but rather offers itself up as a sacrifice toward a greater awareness.
Meditation, then, is not so much a part of this or that particular religion, but rather a part of the universal spiritual culture of all humankind - an effort to bring awareness to bear on all aspects of life. It is, in other words, part of what has been called the perennial philosophy.
Ken Wilber - Grace and Grit