Mystic: “A person who seeks and or experiences through contemplation, surrender or other means to obtain unity with or understanding of ultimate truth or absolute reality. A person who has experienced a personal (perhaps life changing) encounter with a sense of divine truth or ultimate reality.”
Authoritarian: “A person who is characterized by or favors obedience to external authority, as against individual freedom in the pursuit and experience of truth. A person who believes contact with divine or ultimate reality only comes through the guidance and intervention of external authority figures, rituals or “generally accepted” sources of revelation.
Down through the ages tension has always existed between the authoritarian and mystical viewpoint regarding the source of ultimate truth. On one side. authoritarians point to external sources of authority including “external” God, King, Emperor, constitution, tradition, organization, book (e.g. Bible or Koran), ritual, process (e.g. democratic), method (e.g. scientific), religious authority, guru or spiritual leader as the ultimate source of knowledge or truth. They do not trust or condone the personal experience of the individual as a reliable source of knowledge or way of knowing ultimate truth. In fact they fear the individual’s experience as a descent into chaos, confusion, heresy, sinfulness or simply an undermining of their authority and control.
On the other side, we have the mystics who seek and value a personal and “internal” connection with or understanding of God and truth. Some have experienced such a connection (or revelation) and feel compelled to share these insights with others. Ironically these individuals sometimes become external authority figures to their authoritarian followers. The irony here is that these “awakened” individuals are usually only trying to encourage their followers to seek the same experience of personal “enlightenment”, “salvation” or union with truth rather than holding themselves up as a replacement for that reality.
Authoritarians generally seek positions of authority and become the political, religious and social “establishment.” Mystics are most often the “outsiders” and individualists in society. Spiritual teachers like Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tsu, the Jewish Prophets, Abraham, Moses, St. Paul, St. Francis of Assisi and Ghandi were all mystics who encountered divine truth on a personal level and sought to challenge or change the oppressive authoritarian regimes of their day. They taught their followers a more authentic, internal and personal way of connecting to God and truth.
For more on the different approachs to “Truth” by mystics and authoritarians see the Understanding Reality Course.
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