also see Apophatic Mysticism website
'Wisdom has been my careful study; stupidity, too, and folly.' Ecclesiastes 1;16
Advisement: if you are looking for truth this might not be the best place to look. By definition, someone who practices apophatic mysticism cannot vouch for the ultimate truth of anything.
Relevant to this subject: a page on Chinese wisdom and language resources:
We usually can’t bear to undergo a full dose of unembellished immediacy, one of those thoughtless moments which light up our entire being. The undiluted moment of visceral awareness can rattle us. Transfixed by the astonishing potency and sufficiency of the immediate, we simultaneously endure an unnerving sense of our own vulnerability; in a clear mirror we face the irresolvable ambiguity of our individual existence.
And yet risking that frightening encounter with the mysterious ground of our being is the initiation point of mystical vision. Surrendering to the uncalculated moment of clear consciousness initiates the ability to 'see in the dark.' It allows the mystic to realize 'what is going on' and hence grants her an uncanny ability to resonate with and embrace everything she comes upon.
The apophatic approch to mysticism is not gnostic, there are no complex relationships to learn, no truths to understand, no esoteric secrets to be revealed.
Apophatism is intellectually very simple, although, emotionally, it is quite difficult. The apophatic simply has to give up everything she has imagined about life, she needs to put aside everything which she had taken as certain truth. She surrenders the notion that there is any clear or dependable way to secure her well-being here in this strange world she has found herself inhabiting.
She suspends all of her dos and don’ts.
As a result of this profound surrender, and if she can now avoid falling into the pit of nihilism, she will paradoxically realize an unshakably profound sense of well-being. She will find delight in embracing all beings and all of Being, for no reason at all.
It seems implausible that the human being can be certain about knowing any ontological truth; for example, how can we know whether “everything is one,” or “everything is two?”
This is a position that very few people seem to appreciate, and apart from the ancient Chinese apophatic Zhuangzi, virtually no mystic has clearly expressed it. And no other mystic has so clearly written about the utility of an ontological ignorance.
This realization of our abject subjectivity appears to be, in my experience, the consummate mystical surrender. This ignorance/openness is the very doorway to the mystical experience.
We know, by definition, that we experience; but we are not qualified to give an ontological characterization to whatever it is that generates the experience. More importantly, the mystical experience appears to reach its peak intensity and breadth when we give up all of our notions of what we think is "fundamentally true."
For all we know, "truth" may be plural; "truth" may be changeable. It is through the power of a precious ignorance that we step over the mystical threshold and behold the unspeakable.
"The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religion."
One of the benefits of mystical practice is the realization of non-contingency, what the Buddhists call "the wish-fulfilling jewel." This is also seen in the daoism of Zhuangzi:
"Although you can fit a small thing placed within a big thing, it still can be lost there. But were you to keep the entire world stored within your world, there could be no loss. This not-lose-able is the immutable attribute that is found within all (transient) things; it is their transcendent quality (da qing)."
Closely related to non-contingency (also called "sovereign contentment) is the notion that so-called "negative" events can be usefully exploited.
“As my inmost nature teaches me, whatever is necessary, as seen from the heights and in the sense of a great economy—is also the useful par excellence: one should not only bear it, one should love it. Amor fati: that is my inmost nature. And as for my long sickness, do I not owe it indescribably more than I owe to my health?‿ Friedrich Nietzsche
An approach to mysticism:
My interest is the encounter with the entity/dynamic by which all-embracing love is realized. Any belief or disbelief that enables that encounter is useful to me.
“For psychoanalysis—-and before that the mystics--has taught that only when we can love the world can we have true knowledge of ourselves.‿ Norman O. Brown
"Well I love chocolate, but guess that leaves quite a bit more to work on." Rawley Creed
More on sovereign contentment: the wish-fulfilling jewel
from the Dzogs-chen tradition, part of a story called Rig-pa rang-shar, translated by Herbert Guenther
“The son went to look for the limits of space by traveling over the eight cardinal points, but he did not find either the limits or the center. Having rid himself of his concepts and propositions about the world in its phenomenal presence and interpretation as samsara and nirvana—this is the innermost instruction about submerging into the vortex of the whole’s energy—he did not find any place to go further and so returned home. Out of fear that he might be abducted by terrifying enemies he did not travel again but, holding in his hands the Wish-granting jewel, he stayed at home. Without there being any necessity on his part to toil laboriously in order to achieve anything, whatever he wished for came about spontaneously. He could dismiss the thought of still having something to do and could feel like a person who has finished his work. Without having to look for something to do and then laboriously to accomplish it, whatever constituted his reality was a fait accompli. Through understanding his reality that existed since time before time, all expectations and apprehensions were eradicated—this is indicated by the term thig-le nyag-gcig, the symbol through which the mystery of being expresses itself.‿
thig-le nyag-gcig: “The whole’s uniquely autopoietic dynamics.‿
Autopoiesis: “The characteristic of living systems to continuously renew themselves and to (self)-regulate this process in such a way that the integrity of their structure is maintained (and their maximum potential realized).‿
(I added the parts in parentheses. A Wiki system is an example of autopoiesis.)
"Most briefly, mysticism is the recovery of immediacy."
Margaret Lewis Furse
Kindly Bent to Ease Us (Longchenpa: from the Dzogchen teachings of the Nyingma school) translated by Herbert V. Guenther
Let it be, like one who has finished his work and knows so for certain, Spontaneously present, without expectations or fears.
This is a holistic experience, pure it itself; In it inner calm and wider perspective are united. By stating in the range that is unborn, there is inner calm; By being free from propositions (about its) lucency openness, there is wider perspective. Their indivisibility is their unity by virtue of their being one fact.
Since at this time, mind profound, calm, not harboring any proposition, Sees the meaning (of Being) defying all attempts at verbalization, This dawning of pristine cognition, is utterly without dividing concepts, Is sheer lucency, termed the transcending function of appreciative discrimination.
By seeing this very lucency mind becomes very calm, And the desire to affirm or to negate the without or the within grows less.
Out of this open range an impartial compassion arises, And the person is urged onto and engages in what is wholesome both for himself and others. He delights in solitude and cares little for excitement and haste. Even in his dreams he engages in what is wholesome. Thereby he has taken hold of the way to deliverance.
"According to the Dao’s view
- Nothing is noble nor mean.
According to each being’s view,
- Itself is noble and others are mean."
(And indeed we cannot survive without pretending distinctions.)