The Divine Within - by Aldous Huxley


  • The viscerotonic temperament is associated with what Dr. Sheldon has called endomorphic physique--the type of physique in which the gut is the predominant feature, and which has a tendency, when external conditions are good, to run to breadth, fat and weight. Characteristic of extreme viscerotonia are the following: slow reaction time, love of comfort and luxury, love of eating, pleasure in digestion, love of the ritual of eating in company (the shared meal is for him a natural sacrament), love of polite ceremony, a certain untempered quality of flabbiness; indiscriminate amiability; easy communication of feeling; tolerance and complacency; dislike of solitude; need of people when in trouble; orientation toward childhood and family relations.

  • The somatotonic temperament is associated with mesomorphic physique, in which the predominant feature is the musculature. Mesomorphs are physically strong, active and athletic. Among the characteristics of extreme somatotonia we find the following: assertiveness of posture and movement; love of physical adventure; need of exercise; love of risk; indifference to pain; energy and rapid decision; lust for power and domination; courage for combat; competitiveness; psychological callousness; claustrophobia; ruthlessness in gaining the desired end; extroversion toward activity rather than toward people (as with the viscerotonic); need of action when troubled; orientation toward the goals and activities of youth.

  • The cerebrotonic temperament is associated with the ectomorphic physique, in which the predominance of the nervous system results in a high degree of sensitiveness. Extreme cerebrotonia has the following characteristics: restraint of posture and movement; physiological over-response (one of the consequences of which is extreme sexuality); love of privacy; a certain over-intentness and apprehensiveness; secretiveness of feeling and emotional restraint; dislike of company; shyness and inhibited social address; agoraphobia; resistance to habit formation and incapacity to build up routines; awareness of inner mental processes and tendency to introversion; need of solitude when troubled; orientation toward maturity and old age.

Which of the three polar types is best fitted to discover the truth about ultimate Reality? The question is one which can be referred only to the judgment of the experts--in this case, the great theocentric saints of the higher religions. The testimony of these men and women is unmistakable. It is in pure contemplation that human beings come nearest, in the present life, to the beatific vision of God.


What are we in relation to our own minds and bodies--or, seeing that there is not a single word, let us use it in a hyphenated form--our own mind-bodies? What are we in relation to this total organism in which we live? What we find really is that we as personalities--as what we like to think of ourselves as being--are in fact only a very small part of an immense manifestation of activity, physical and mental, of which we are simply not aware.

We have this mania, so frequently stressed in all the Oriental texts, of thinking of ourselves and of every object in the world as being separate and self-subsistent, when, in fact, all are parts of a universal One. And unfortunately, the nature of language being what it is, we cannot get around this without making ourselves carefully aware of what we are doing and thinking when we use language. This is the only way of by-passing its intrinsic defects. What we have to do is to be profoundly aware of the language we are using--not to mistake the word for the thing. In the terms of Zen Buddhism, we have to be constantly aware that the finger which points at the moon is not the moon.

Many methods of training the mind-body, of course, have been empirically devised for particular purposes. And if you examine them all, you will find that they are all illustrations of one single principle, which is, that in some way we have to combine relaxation with activity. Going back to what we said originally about the personal conscious self being a kind of small island in the midst of an enormous area of consciousness--what has to be relaxed is the personal self, the self that tries too hard, that thinks it knows what is what, that uses language. This has to be relaxed in order that the multiple powers at work within the deeper and wider self may come through and function as they should. In all psychophysical skills we have this curious fact of the law of reversed effort: the harder we try, the worse we do the thing. And we have therefore always to learn this paradoxical art of combining the maximum of relaxation of the surface self with the maximum activity of the lower selves or higher selves (whichever you like), the not-selves, which we carry about with us and which actually give us our being. And this is the principle which every one of these empirical discoveries in every field of psychophysical skill quite clearly illustrates. We have to learn, so to speak, to get out of our own light, because with our personal self--this idolatrously worshiped self--we are continually standing in the light of this wider self--this not-self, if you like--which is associated with us and which this standing in the light prevents. We eclipse the illumination from within. And in all the activities of life, from the simplest physical activities to the highest intellectual and spiritual activities, our whole effort must be to get out of our own light. Yet we must not abdicate our personal, conscious self.


For those who live within its limits, the lights of the city are the only luminaries of the high sky. The street lamps eclipse the stars, and the glare of the whisky advertisements reduces even the moonlight to an almost invisible irrelevance. The phenomenon is symbolical, a parable in action. Mentally and physically, man is the inhabitant, during the greatest part of his life, of a purely human and, so to say, homemade universe, scooped by himself out of the immense, nonhuman cosmos which surrounds it, and without which neither it nor he could exist. Within this private catacomb we build up for ourselves a little world of our own, constructed of a strange assortment of materials--interests and "ideals," words and technologies, cravings and day-dreams, artifacts and institutions, imaginary gods and demons. Here, among the magnified projections of our own personalities, we perform our curious antics and perpetrate our crimes and lunacies, we think the thoughts and feel the emotions appropriate to our man-made environment, we cherish the crazy ambitions that alone make sense in a madhouse. But all the time, in spite of the radio noises and the neon tubes, night and the stars are there--just beyond the last bus stop, just above the canopy of illuminated smoke. This is a fact which the inhabitants of the human catacomb find it all too easy to forget; but whether they forget or remember, a fact it always remains. Night and the stars are always there; the other, nonhuman world, of which the stars and night are but the symbols, persists and is the real world.


Stoicism antedated the stoics and has survived them. It is the name we give to men's attempt to achieve independence of, and control over, environment by psychological means rather than by mutation and selection or, on the human level, by an ever more efficient technology. Because it depends mainly on the surface will, and because, however powerful and well trained the surface will is, it is not a match for circumstances, the mere stoic has never wholly realized his ideal of happiness in independence and goodness in voluntary detachment. The aims of stoicism are fully achieved not by stoics, but by those who, by contemplation or devotion, lay themselves open to "grace," to the "Logos," to "Tao," to the "Atman-Brahman," to the "inner light." Specifically human progress in happiness, goodness, and creativity, and the psychological equivalent of biological progress in independence and control, are best achieved by the pursuit of man's final end. It is by aiming at the realization of the eternal that we are able to make the best--and the best is a continuing progress--of our life in time.

Specifically human progress in happiness, virtue, and creativeness is valuable in the last analysis, as a condition of spiritual advance toward man's Final End. Hunger, privation, and misery; covetousness, hatred, anger, and lust; hide-bound stupidity and insensitiveness--all these are obstacles in the way of spiritual advance. At the same time it should not be forgotten that if happiness, morals and creativeness are treated as ends in themselves instead of means to a further End, they can become obstacles to spiritual advance no less serious, in their way, than wretchedness, vice, and conventionality. Enlightenment is not to be achieved by the person whose aim in life is to "have a good time," to the puritan worshiper of repressive morality for its own sake, or to the aesthete who lives for the creation or appreciation of formal beauty. Idolatry is always fatal; and even the highest human goods cease to be goods if they are worshiped for their own sake and not used, as they are intended to be used, for the achievement of an ultimate good that transcends them.


An urge to self-transcendence is almost as widespread and, at times, quite as powerful as the urge to self-assertion. Men desire to intensify their consciousness of being what they have come to regard as "themselves"; but they also desire--and desire very often with irresistible violence--the consciousness of being someone else. In a word, they long to get out of themselves, to pass beyond the limits of that island universe, within which every individual finds himself confined.

When the phenomenal ego transcends itself, the essential Self is free to realize, in terms of a finite consciousness, the fact of its own eternity, together with the correlative fact, that every particular in the world of experience partakes of the timeless and the infinite. This is liberation, this is enlightenment, this is the beatific vision, in which all things are perceived as they are "in themselves" and not as they are in relation to a craving and abhorring ego.

We are forever trying to mitigate the results of the Collective Fall into insulated selfhood by another, strictly private fall into animality or mental derangement, or by some more or less creditable self-dispersion into art or science, into politics, a hobby, or a job. Needless to say, these substitutes for self-transcendence, these escapes into subhuman or merely human surrogates for grace, are unsatisfactory at the best and, at the worst, disastrous.

When the shell of the ego has been cracked and there begins to be a consciousness of the subliminal and physiological otherness underlying personality, it sometimes happens that we catch a glimpse, fleeting but apocalyptic, of that other Otherness, which is the Ground of all being. So long as we are confined within our insulated selfhood, we remain unaware of the various not-selves with which we are associated--the organic not-self, the not-self of the personal subconscious, the collective not-self of the psychic medium, out of which our individualities have crystallized, and the not-self of the immanent and transcendent Spirit. Any escape, even by a descending road, out of insulated selfhood, makes possible at least a momentary awareness of the not-self at every level. There are recorded cases in which a single "anesthetic revelation" has served as the starting point of a new attitude toward life.

The stoic thinks to deny himself by making acts of the surface will. But the surface will is the will of the self, and his mortifications tend rather to strengthen the ego than eliminate it. He is apt to become, in the tremendous phrase coined by William Blake, "a fiend of righteousness." Having denied one aspect of his ego merely to strengthen another and more dangerous aspect, he ends up by being more impervious to God than he was before he started his process of self-discipline. To fight self exclusively with the self serves only to enhance our selfhood. In the psychological field there can be no displacing without replacing. For preoccupation with self must be gradually substituted by preoccupation with reality. There can be no effective mortification for enlightenment without meditation or devotion, which direct the attention away from self to a higher reality.

Christ was especially emphatic on the urgent necessity of living in the spiritual present. He exhorted his disciples to model their life upon that of the flowers and the birds, and to take no thought for the morrow. They were to rely, not on their own anxious scheming, but upon the grace of God, which would be given in proportion as they gave up their own personal pretensions and self-will.


Distractions afflict us not only when we are attempting formal meditation or contemplation, but also and even more dangerously in the course of our active, everyday life. Many of those who undertake spiritual exercises, whether yogic or Christian, tend all too frequently to confine their efforts at concentrating the mind strictly to business hours--that is to say, to the hours they actually spend in meditation. It is not an uncommon thing to meet with people who spend hours of each day doing spiritual exercises and who, in the intervals, display as much spite, prejudice, jealousy, greed, and silliness as the most "unspiritual" of their neighbors. The reason for this is that such people make no effort to adapt to the exigencies of ordinary life those practices which they make use of during their times of formal meditation. This is, of course, not at all surprising. It is much easier to catch a glimpse of reality under the perfect conditions of formal meditation than to "practice the presence of God" in the midst of the boredoms, annoyances, and constant temptations of family and professional life. In the practice of the unitive life, the laboratory work of formal meditation must be supplemented by what may be called "applied mysticism" during the hours of everyday activity.

  • Formal meditation: All teachers of the art of mental prayer concur in advising their pupils never to struggle against the distractions which arise in the mind during recollection. Every enhancement of the separate personal self produces a corresponding diminution of the consciousness of divine reality. But the voluntary struggle against distractions automatically enhances the separate personal self and therefore reduces the individual's chance of coming to an awareness of reality. This being so, we must give up our attempt to fight distractions and find ways of circumventing and evading them. One method consists in simply "looking over the shoulder" of the imbecile who stands between us and the object of our meditation or our imageless contemplation. The distractions appear in the foreground of consciousness; we take notice of their presence, then lightly, without effort or tension of will, we shift the focus of attention to the reality in the background. In many cases the distractions will lose their obsessive "thereness" and gradually fade away.

Alternatively, when distractions come, the attempt to practice imageless contemplation or the "simple regard" may be temporarily given up, and attention directed to the distractions themselves, which are then used as objects of discursive meditation, preparatory to another return to the "simple regard" later on. The process of following thoughts and images back to their source, of uncovering, here the purposive and passional, there the merely imbecile manifestations of egotism, is an admirable exercise in mental concentration, as well as a means for increasing that self-knowledge which is one of the indispensable pre-requisites to a knowledge of God.

  • Everyday activity: Active annihilation or, to use the phrase made familiar by Brother Lawrence, the constant practice of the presence of God at all moments of the day, is a work of supreme difficulty. Most of those who attempt it make the mistake of treating field work as though it were laboratory work. Finding themselves in the midst of things, they turn away from things, either physically, by retreat, or psychologically, by an act of introversion. But the shrinking from things and necessary external activities is an obstacle in the way of self-annihilation; for to shrink from things is to assert by implication that things still mean a great deal to one. Introversion from things for the sake of God may, by giving them undue importance, exalt things to the place that should be occupied by God. What is needed, therefore, is not physical flight or introversion from things, but the capacity to undertake necessary activity in a spirit of nonattachment, of self-annihilation in reality. This is, of course, the doctrine of the Gita.

To achieve the active annihilation, by which alone the distractions of common life may be overcome, the aspirant must begin by avoiding, not merely all bad actions, but also, if possible, all unnecessary and silly ones. Listening to the average radio program, seeing the average motion picture, reading the comic strips--these are merely silly and imbecile activities; but though not wicked, they are almost as unannihilable as the activities of lynching and fornication. For this reason it is obviously advisable to avoid them. Meanwhile, what is to be done in the psychological field? First, it is necessary to cultivate a constant awareness of the reality that is everything and the personal self that is less than nothing. Only on this condition can the desired nonattachment be achieved. No less important than the avoidance of unnecessary and unannihilable activities and the cultivation of awareness is emptying of the memory and the suppression of foreboding. Anyone who pays attention to his mental processes soon discovers that a large proportion of his time is spent in chewing the cud of the past and foretasting the future.

Grace is that which is given when, and to the extent to which, a human being gives up his own self-will and abandons himself, moment by moment, to the will of God. By grace our emptiness is fulfilled, our weakness reinforced, our depravity transformed. There are, of course, pseudograces as well as real graces--the accessions of strength, for example, that follow self-devotion to some form of political or moral idolatry. To distinguish between the true grace and the false is often difficult; but as time and circumstances reveal the full extent of their consequences on the personality as a whole, discrimination becomes possible even to observers having no special gifts of insight. Where the grace is genuinely "supernatural," an amelioration in one aspect of personality is not paid for by atrophy or deterioration in another. Virtue is achieved without having to be paid for by the hardness, fanaticism, uncharitableness, and spiritual pride, which are the ordinary consequences of a course of stoical self-improvement by means of personal effort, either unassisted or reinforced by the pseudograces which are given when the individual devotes himself to a cause, which is not God, but only a projection of one of his own favorite ideas. The idolatrous worship of ethical values in and for themselves defeats its own object--and defeats it not only because, as Arnold rightly insists, there is a lack of all-round watchfulness, but also and above all because even the highest form of moral idolatry is God-eclipsing, a positive guarantee that the idolater shall fail to achieve unitive knowledge of Reality.


Knowledge is acquired when we succeed in fitting a new experience into the system of concepts based upon our old experiences. Understanding comes when we liberate ourselves from the old and so make possible a direct, unmediated contact with the new, the mystery, moment by moment, of our existence. The new is given on every level of experience--given perceptions, given emotions and thoughts, given states of unobstructed awareness, given relationships with things and persons. The old is our homemade system of ideas and word patterns. It is the stock of finished articles fabricated out of the given mystery by memory and analytical reasoning, by habit and the automatic associations of accepted notions. Knowledge is primarily a knowledge of these finished articles. Understanding is primarily direct awareness of the raw material. Knowledge is always in terms of concepts and can be passed on by means of words or other symbols. Understanding is not conceptual, and therefore cannot be passed on. It is an immediate experience, and immediate experience can only be talked about (very inadequately), never shared.

The knowers would dearly love to be understanders; but either their stock of knowledge does not include the knowledge of what to do in order to be understanders; or else they know theoretically what they ought to do, but go on doing the opposite all the same. In either case they cherish the comforting delusion that knowledge and, above all, pseudoknowledge are understanding. Along with the closely related errors of over-abstraction, over-generalization, and over-simplification, this is the commonest of all intellectual sins and the most dangerous.

Immediate experience of reality unites men. Conceptualized beliefs, including even the belief in a God of love and righteousness, divides them and, as the dismal record of religious history bears witness, sets them for centuries on end at each other's throats.

The essence of humanity, it is evident, is not something we are born with; it is something we make or grow into. We learn to speak, we accumulate conceptualized knowledge and pseudoknowledge, we imitate our elders, we build up fixed patterns of thought and feeling and behavior, and in the process we become human, we turn into persons. But the things which make us human are precisely the things which interfere with self-realization and prevent understanding. We are humanized by imitating others, by learning their speech, and by acquiring the accumulated knowledge which language makes available. But we understand only when, by liberating ourselves from the tyranny of words, conditioned reflexes, and social conventions, we establish direct, unmediated contact with experience. The greatest paradox of our existence consists in this: that, in order to understand, we must first encumber ourselves with all the intellectual and emotional baggage, which is an impediment to understanding. It is our conditioning which develops our consciousness; but in order to make full use of this developed consciousness, we must start by getting rid of the conditioning which developed it. By adding conceptual knowledge to conceptual knowledge, we make conscious understanding possible; but this potential understanding can be actualized only when we have subtracted all that we have added.

Though it is our duty to "honor our father and our mother," it is also our duty "to hate our father and our mother, our brethren and our sisters, yea and our own life"--that socially conditioned life we take for granted. Though it is necessary for us to add to our cultural stock day by day, it is also necessary to subtract and subtract. There is, to quote the title of Simone Weil's posthumous essay, a great "Need for Roots"; but there is an equally urgent need, on occasion, for total rootlessness. We should not, it goes without saying, neglect the records of dead men's understandings. On the contrary, we ought to know all about them. But we must know all about them without taking them too seriously. We must know all about them, while remaining acutely aware that such knowledge is not the same as understanding and that understanding will come to us only when we have subtracted what we know and made ourselves void and virgin, free as we were when we were not.

We have no more right to wallow in natural piety--that is to say, in emotionally charged memories of past happiness and vanished loves--than to bemoan earlier miseries and torment ourselves with remorse for old offenses. And we have no more right to waste the present instant in relishing future and entirely hypothetical pleasures than to waste it in the apprehension of possible disasters to come. The word Buddha may be translated as "awakened." Those who merely know about things, or only think they know, live in a state of self-conditioned and culturally conditional somnambulism. Those who understand given reality as it presents itself, moment by moment, are wide awake. Memory charged with pleasant emotions is a soporific or, more accurately, an inducer of trance.

The nature of a conditioned reflex is such that, when the bell rings, the dog salivates, when the much worshiped image is seen, or the much repeated credo, litany, or mantram is pronounced, the heart of the believer is filled with reverence and his mind with faith. And this happens, regardless of the content of the phrase repeated, the nature of the image to which obeisance has been made. He is not responding spontaneously to given reality; he is responding to some thing, or word, or gesture, which automatically brings into play a previously installed post-hypnotic suggestion.

"If you look for the Buddha, you will not see the Buddha." "If you deliberately try to become a Buddha, your Buddha is samsara." "If a person seeks the Tao, that person loses the Tao." "By intending to bring yourself into accord with Suchness, you instantly deviate." "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it." There is a Law of Reversed Effort. The harder we try with the conscious will to do something, the less we shall succeed. Proficiency and the results of proficiency come only to those who have learned the paradoxical art of simultaneously doing and not doing, of combining relaxation with activity, of letting go as a person in order that the immanent and transcendent Unknown Quantity may take hold. We cannot make ourselves understand; the most we can do is to foster a state of mind, in which understanding may come to us. What is this state? Clearly it is not any state of limited consciousness. Reality as it is given moment by moment cannot be understood by a mind acting in obedience to post-hypnotic suggestion, or so conditioned by its emotionally charged memories that it responds to the living now as though it were the dead then. Nor is the mind that has been trained in concentration any better equipped to understand reality. For concentration is merely systematic exclusion, the shutting away from consciousness of all but one thought, one ideal, one image, or one negation of all thoughts, ideals, and images. But however true, however lofty, however holy, no thought or ideal or image can contain reality or lead to the understanding of reality. Nor can the negation of awareness result in that completer awareness necessary to understanding. At the best these things can lead only to a state of ecstatic dissociation, in which one particular aspect of reality, the so-called spiritual aspect, may be apprehended. If reality is to be understood in its fullness, as it is given moment by moment, there must be an awareness which is not limited, either deliberately by piety or concentration, or involuntarily by mere thoughtlessness and the force of habit. Understanding comes when we are totally aware--aware to the limits of our mental and physical potentialities. This, of course, is a very ancient doctrine. "Know thyself" is a piece of advice which is as old as civilization, and probably a great deal older. To follow that advice, a man must do more than indulge in introspection. If I would know myself, I must know my environment: for as a body, I am part of the environment, a natural object among other natural objects; and, as a mind, I consist to a great extent of my immediate reactions to the environment and of my secondary reactions to those primary reactions. In practice "know thyself" is a call to total awareness. To those who practice it, what does total awareness reveal? It reveals, first of all, the limitations of the thing which each of us calls "I," and the enormity, the utter absurdity of its pretensions.

Total awareness, then, reveals the following facts: that I am profoundly ignorant, that I am impotent to the point of helplessness, and that the most valuable elements in my personality are unknown quantities existing "out there," as mental objects more or less completely independent of my control. This discovery may seem at first rather humiliating and even depressing. But if I wholeheartedly accept them, the facts become a source of peace, a reason for serenity and cheerfulness. I am ignorant and impotent and yet, somehow or other, here I am--unhappy, no doubt, profoundly dissatisfied, but alive and kicking. In spite of everything, I survive, I get by, sometimes I even get on. From these two sets of facts--my survival on the one hand and my ignorance and impotence on the other--I can only infer that the not-I, which looks after my body and gives me my best ideas, must be amazingly intelligent, knowledgeable, and strong. As a self-centered ego, I do my best to interfere with the beneficent workings of this not-I. But in spite of my likes and dislikes, in spite of my malice, my infatuations, my gnawing anxieties, in spite of all my overvaluation of words, in spite of my self-stultifying insistence on living, not in present reality, but in memory and anticipation, this not-I, with whom I am associated, sustains me, preserves me, gives me a long succession of second chances. We know very little and can achieve very little; but we are at liberty, if we so choose, to cooperate with a greater power and a completer knowledge, an unknown quantity at once immanent and transcendent, at once physical and mental, at once subjective and objective. If we cooperate, we shall be all right, even if the worst should happen. If we refuse to cooperate, we shall be all wrong, even in the most propitious of circumstances.

If I become totally aware of my envy, my resentment, my uncharitableness, these feelings will be replaced, during the time of my awareness, by a more realistic reaction to the events taking place around me. My awareness, of course, must be uncontaminated by approval or condemnation. Value judgments are conditioned, verbalized reactions to primary reactions. Total awareness is a primary, choiceless, impartial response to the present situation as a whole. There are in it no limiting conditioned reactions to the primary reaction, to the pure cognitive apprehension of the situation. If memories of verbal formulas of praise or blame should make their appearance in consciousness, they are to be examined impartially as any other datum is examined. Professional moralists have confidence in the surface will, believe in punishments and rewards, and are adrenalin addicts who like nothing better than a good orgy of righteous indignation. The masters of the spiritual life have little faith in the surface will or the utility, for their particular purposes, of rewards or punishments, and do not indulge in righteous indignation. Experience has taught them that the highest good can never, in the very nature of things, be achieved by moralizing. "Judge not that ye be not judged" is their watchword and total awareness is their method.

Know yourself (gnosce teipsum) in relation to your overt intentions and your hidden motives, in relation to your thinking, your physical functioning, and to those greater not-selves, who see to it that, despite all the ego's attempts at sabotage, the thinking shall be tolerably relevant and the functioning not too abnormal. Be totally aware of what you do and think and of persons, with whom you are in relationship, the events which prompt you at every moment of your existence. Be aware impartially, realistically, without judging, without reacting in terms of remembered words to your present cognitive reactions. If you do this, the memory will be emptied, knowledge and pseudoknowledge will be relegated to their proper place, and you will have understanding--in other words, you will be in direct contact with reality at every instant.


In itself the world is a continuum; but when we think about it in terms of words, we are compelled, by the very nature of our vocabulary and syntax, to conceive of it as a something composed of separate things and distinct classes. Working upon the immediate data of reality, our consciousness fabricates the universe we actually live in. In the Hinayana scriptures craving and aversion are named as the factors making for the pluralization of Suchness, the illusion of discreteness, egoity and the autonomy of the individual. To these world distorting vices of the will the Mahayana philosophers add the intellectual vice of verbalized thinking. The universe inhabited by ordinary, unregenerate people is largely homemade--a product of our desires, our hatreds and our language. By ascesis a man can learn to see the world, not through the refracting medium of craving and aversion, but as it is in itself. ("Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.") By meditation he can by-pass language--by-pass it at last so completely that his individual consciousness, deverbalized, becomes one with the unitary Consciousness of Suchness. In meditation according to the methods of Zen, deverbalization of consciousness is achieved through the curious device of the koan.

Any verbal formula--even a formula which correctly expresses the facts--can become, for the mind that takes it too seriously and idolatrously worships it as though it were the reality symbolized by the words, an obstacle in the way of immediate experience.


There are two main kinds of religion. There is the religion of immediate experience (the religion, in the words of Genesis, of hearing the voice of God while walking in the Garden in the cool of the evening--the religion of direct acquaintance with the Divine in the world), and there is the religion of symbols (the religion of the imposition of order and meaning upon the world through verbal or nonverbal symbols and their manipulation--the religion of knowledge about the Divine rather than direct acquaintance with the Divine).

I take it that the mystical experience is essentially the being aware of and, while the experience lasts, being identified with a form of pure consciousness--of unstructured, transpersonal consciousness, lying, so to speak, upstream from the ordinary discursive consciousness of every day. It is a non-egotistic consciousness, a kind of formless and timeless consciousness, which seems to underlie the consciousness of the separate ego in time.

Now, why should this sort of consciousness be regarded as valuable? I think for two reasons: First of all, it is regarded as valuable because of the self-evident sensibility of value, as William Law would say. It is regarded as intrinsically valuable just as aesthetically the experience of beauty is regarded as valuable. It is like the experience of beauty, but much more so, so to speak. And it is valuable, secondarily, because as a matter of empirical experience it does bring about changes in thought and character and feeling which the experiencer and those about him regard as manifestly desirable. It makes possible a sense of unity, of solidarity, with the world. It brings about the possibility of a kind of universal love and compassion, that kind of ungrudging love and compassion which is stressed so much in the gospel, where Christ says, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."