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Something that is important to consider as preface, and I will go back to what the word means in a second, is the word mysticism is a Western construct. It is a Western term.


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It was later exported by Western scholars, Christian scholars to understand other traditions talking about access to spiritual entities of realms. For instance, many Buddhist scholars would not like their traditions to be called a mystical tradition. Suzuki, one of the most famous Buddhist scholars who popularized Buddhism in the West was completely against the use of the word mysticism and to qualify Buddhism.

Embodied Realism as Interpretive Framework for Spirituality, Discernment and Leadership

Most indigenous people I know they would say, mysticism, what is that? That is not what we do here, what about healing, about balance, and about something else. Nothing mystical here. With that being said, the term mystical has many different meanings and it is a contested category. Generally speaking what mysticism means is about direct contact or direct access to a reality that is beyond our senses or we go down to a deeper dimension of this world that we can see.

This is the nature of mysticism like the dimensions of consciousness or contact with the divine God in theistic traditions and so forth. With that being said, my personal take on mysticism is like an integral experience of life, the cosmos, in all of its multidimensionality. So not only the dimension of the natural world but also the different kinds of the subtle realms as well everything that is encompassed by the word cosmos.

Different mystics from different traditions would access different dimensions. It is not only a question of access only but it also a kind of creative enactment. This is also part of the participatory paradigm. It is not only about accessing realities that already exists and they do. It is also about cocreating with the kind of generative mystery. By the term mystery, I mean that kind of creative force that is behind the unfolding of creation. I think we participate as human beings because we are part of that creation and that creative force.

In connection with that creative force we can cocreate spiritual insights and practices and even perhaps new realities. I think this has been happening from the beginning of history of humankind. I want to ask you, maybe not so practical question, purely just for my own curiosity. Is there something you can kind of share on that note? My sense is that this is the paradox of knowledge.

Genuine scientists talk about this…the more you know the more you realize the little you know. The more mystical experiences you have, the more explorations, the higher consciousness you can access, the more you realize the infinite dimensions that are out there. The more we realize the little that we know or the little that I know, in particular. Many of the experiences have deconstructed certain belief systems that I have had.

They also impacted my work and certain theories. I have changed my minds about a few things.

For example, I used to hold that many of the entities that some traditions talk about like angels or sages that people would encounter. I would see it as cocreated by human consciousness until I had my own encounters with sages, astral doctors, and different types of disembodied entities made of energy and consciousness that really persuaded me that they are autonomous. They were so much wiser than I was and they were so much more benign and benevolent than even my deeper self.

Most importantly, they had a tangible effect on my experience. I had an encounter with a Daoist sage and I could see him right in front of my face and he was bringing gifts on a purely energetic exchange, a shaktipat. Therefore, there was this effect on my embodied organism. With ayahuasca it was the same, there were astral doctors moving in the room and healing people by putting their hands on their heart centre. They were performing these energetic spiritual surgeries and aligning the centers. It just makes you want to cry and be so thankful to them.

I have had these experiences that helped me reframe my views. It could be some ascended masters or post-mortem scenarios. I do not believe that there is just one post-mortem scenario. I think there are many possibilities. Some people say that religious pluralism is nice and beautiful but when you die you will see who is true. I think the post-mortem existence can be much more complex and diverse than this one and different people can go to different places. While some entities could be ascended masters or people who have died, but there could also be independent realms with their independent entities made of energy and consciousness that are probably not connected to humanity.

The thing is that a lot of the entities that are encountered be it angels or others, they are usually very cultural shaped. There are different interpretations, here, where some say is that just an archetypal manifestation that becomes cultural with encounter but the essence is unknowable? The same entity would appear as angel to a Christian or a Buddhist teacher to another. I am not sure that that is how it works because the qualities are different and the energies are very different and the teachings are different, but who knows, the questions are endless, many possibilities and so much mystery.

It is very exciting that we are all co-inquiring together into all of these dimensions these days. Thank you for sharing that. I was transformed into another realm listening to you. You mentioned at one point just bringing together a group of people from all the scientists, the Western minded as well as the indigenous and co-journeying. I think that really is sticking as a nice final remark is the idea that perhaps we should all, you know, find opportunities to co-journey with the other, you know, to step out of our comfort zones are familiar tribes and to really connect with the other, to find maybe not common ground, but to find the cross pollination.

What gifts do we each have to exchange with one another? With that being said, that does not mean that everyone has to do psychedelics. There are many ways to co-inquire and to co-journey through meditation and through different practices together. The importance is to include people from very diverse backgrounds and worldviews, different cultures, different worldviews, different epistemologies with humility and openness. I think this will be the challenge of our times.

The mystical, the mythical, and the mysterium, the realm of cosmic forces remains enigmatic. We may project our human perception onto the unknown or completely reject it. Yet, our mythical and mystical musings remain alive today through literature, poetry, music and yes, through video games and shows like the Game of Thrones and Harry Potter! There is no separation. The lines between interviewer and interviewee become blurred as we shed our skin with a modern-day mystic: Andrew Harvey. We recorded this conversation a day after a poetry reading by Andrew, here in Toronto to celebrate the release of his latest book, Turn Me To Gold: Poems of Kabir.

Andrew brings in his energy and ecstatic presence as he shares his vision of sacred activism — in response to our meaning crisis or what he sees as a massive transformation of consciousness. Andrew was born in South India in He was educated in England and studied at Oxford University. By , he became so disillusioned with life at Oxford, he returned to India where a series of mystical experiences initiated his spiritual journey. Andrew has studied under many sages and saints from different traditions. He is the author of over 40 books and lectures internationally.

It was amazing. I felt the poetry, your presence, and your energy and you know, I come from a Sufi background so I was sitting there, I was like, yeah, this is what I already know but felt it. That to me is the exact response because we do know this, it is our reality and all the great ones like Kabir, they just wake up this knowledge within us. Kabir is not trying to be a guru, he is trying to empower us with our own authentic awareness because he knows that everyone is secretly divine and has all of this knowledge.

What a boring thing to be a guru.

My God. What a waste of time where you can have all the fun in the world with people like you. What did you feel? We were just talking, I am really raw right now. I mean from last night something happened where to me, you mentioned lion a few times the imagery of a lion and you were the lion last evening. You roared with that power. I felt like the lions in the room all heard it. We heard the cry and a part of me is kind of waking up to this realization of we got to act. Act from sacred consciousness.

Act from that vibrant wholeness within. You will be a lion in your own way. There are tender lions. There are soft lions. There are wild lions. I just do me, my big Me and then hope to wake up the lions in the room. I want to share something with you before we start. Right in the middle of the interview. The moment you said that…It hit so hard with me that I just wept. I had to stop the podcast and I wept for like 30 minutes, so just wanted to share that. What a beautiful… You know, one of the things that hurts me the most is the way the Prophet is seen in the West.

When you get a glimpse of a glimpse of a glimpse of who the Prophet is, how could you not weep for half an hour? Paradise is at the feet of the mothers and the first phrase in the Quran is about Rahman Al-Raheem. Both come from Rahm, the womb. Look at the story of the cat.

You know that wonderful story…he only has two tunis and his favorite cat is sleeping on one of the arms and he cuts off the arm of his tunic so as not to wake up the cat. Those are feminine virtues and until you know that you know nothing about Islam. Wahhabis have no idea about the Prophet. No other teacher was a husband. No other teacher would have said that I love women, perfume, and prayer. You know that. What a life? So terrible! His life. Oh God, yes.

I felt him…Some people see him, some people see him like even in like during the day, you know, and have conversations with him, but. Me too. But people always say to me, why do you say peace be upon him? Are you kidding? I would never talk about the prophet without honoring Islam in that way…it will be very vulgar. People have no conception of this. Yeah, but he would be the first one to say that. He said it again and again and again in the Quran. Nobody loved Jesus more than the prophet. Nobody loved Isiah, Moses, and Noah and all the great ones. He says there are , teachers who have no names who are great prophets and great saints.

Women, men of all religions, shamans. It is much more than a religion, Islam. It has shadows, obviously. I mean homophobia, misogyny, and all the rest of it, but they were not his shadows. Can you imagine what happened with Rumi? Can you imagine? They were freaked out.

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He started dancing with this old man in the middle of Konya after giving good speeches and quoting from the Quran. Finally they had to face that he was radiant with God. You know? Andrew…I feel like we want to do this in service of Kabir, right? I mean this is one of the major reasons why we feel so excited and grateful that you agreed to come on. And this is just the beginning of your book launch, essentially, and last night, I mean, what we experienced with the poetry, I mean, it was so moving. I am still raw from that experience…still processing. When you say raw, I love that word. What you mean by raw?

What does raw feel like inside you?

God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness, and Embodied Spiritual Practice

This is not me talking about Kabir, I want to talk with you. In the Kabir field. To me raw are new feelings. It is pre-language, why do you need to put words to it? Why do you need to? To change one. It is going to change your heart, your body, your whole trajectory. It feels naked.

You mentioned that last evening…is to shed the costumes to shed the house, the houses and to walk in the open. Even the process of us making the podcast is really about coming out in the open. Adrian is coming also from his perspective. Well, how could you not be confused? The possibilities of human extinction are real. How could that not be radically confusing? If you trust at the deepest level, that radical confusion can give birth to the new, a wholly new level of tenderness and vibrant openness and communion, which is a source of tremendous meaning and joy.

I would say all my life. We are into it. Just keep this in the podcast. I love this because this is our field. You know, I can see your beautiful faces. For me, what this pain is the pain of childbirth. We can do this. Thank you, Andrew. Thank you for that. I think. We know that in writing it was quite the experience. You lived with him. You mentioned multiple times that you were living with him. He was inside of you. I went there first when I was 25 and I was overwhelmingly grateful to be in a place as mad as my own psyche.

I just recognized finally that there was a place on earth as gorgeous and crazy as what I was beginning to understand. The mystery really is… So I was out of my mind with joy and I used to go in the early morning to the temples and sit there and just look and breathe everything in. The perfumes, the smells, the amazing adoration of people. It was wild singing wild, holy gorgeous singing. The whole place shook. Between my broken Hindi and his broken English, we communicated totally because we were in the space. Kabir changes everything. I read everything in different languages.

I speak French and Italian and German and some Hindi. I read all of the amazing new books that were coming out on Kabir that are incredible work done by, especially by two great women scholars, Charlotte Vaudeville, who wrote the most astonishing book on Kabir. He is simply the greatest singer that India has produced in the last hundred years. So I plunged into Kabir from a scholarly point of view, from the translations that were coming out.

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Robert Bly is magnificent translations, a lot of Bly in there. I just. I spent 40 years writing books on Rumi, recreating Rumi, going to Konya, plunging into the depths of Sufism, and Rumi is such an amazing universal poet. You have to be ready for Kabir because Kabir is so fierce, so demanding, so real. But in fact, what happened with that, that was the best thing that ever happened. I lived in simplicity with the deer and the hills of our Arkansas and the wonderful raw non-religious people who are just the best people you can possibly imagine.

I was grounded and earthed in a way that had never happened to me before. I was humbled, radically humbled. I realized that in meeting Kabir at that time in my life, I was meeting the very, very best of myself. That the very, very best of myself would now be honed and deeply transformed by this encounter with this lion of truth. It was the most thrilling experience of my life. It unleashed an immense torrent of creativity in me because I started to write as Kabir. This is known in all the mystical systems. The Catholics call this the communion of saints, the Saints are not in Heaven or whatever heaven is.

The saints are all around. And all of us have so much further to go. It becomes intolerable to you. That will make everything worthwhile.

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I had to be cooked by Rumi, to be ready to be eaten by Kabir and I had to go through in solitude in that log cabin, this turbulent astounding relationship with him to be able to be guided by him to present the book in exactly the way that the Kabir field exactly wanted as a musical symphony in four parts that could open up all of the different aspects of the field to divine embodiment. It was an amazing journey. Does make sense to you? Does it ring true? I just want to relate or mention the role of poetry and the role of poet as medium and what does that mean to you?

I feel that poetry and the poet are mere mediums of energy. How beautiful? It speaks above all the language of love and the language of love is the language which we are all, whether we are atheists or non-atheists or wiccans. Pardon me, much more intelligent than my brain. While we certainly recognize the ways in which our desires for food or sex are embodied, to what extent do we recognize our desire for justice as such?

Embodied Spirituality in a Sacred World (Hardcover)

Anger, sorrow, and fear, as well as compassion, hope, and love are common emotions and embodied energies in response to various forms of injustice and the abuses of power, whether those we experience directly or those we witness in our communities and the world. In this Satsang, we will explore how the complex emotions and embodied energies around in justice, including anger, compassion, and resolve, inform our individual and collective identities. How might we take ownership of and channel these various embodied energies in order to sustain purposeful action against injustice and for the dignity, joys, vitality, and rights of humanity as well as the non-human world?

And this is exactly what we do. Each satsang brings different themes and topics, usually presented by Grace, with all discussion welcome and invited. The themes and topics generally touch on aspects of sacred sexuality and embodied spirituality. Payment plans can be arranged by mutual agreement. ALEPH is committed to making our programs financially accessible. In doing so, we try to balance our ability to meet individual requests with our ability to spread our resources among as many participants as possible.

To learn more about financial aid please visit: Financial Aid Form. Faculty Rabbi Diane Elliot , spiritual teacher, dancer and somatic therapist, inspires her students to become clearer channels for Divine Light through awareness and movement practices, chant, and nuanced interpretations of Jewish sacred text. Rabbi Diane also maintains a body-based spiritual direction practice, leads Jewish meditation retreats, and is the author of numerous articles, essays, and poems. Her wise, loving presence creates a safe space for those who wish to explore spirituality individually and in community.

For more information about Rabbi Diane, see www. She integrates her traditional Jewish background with the direct experience of movement to foster personal connection and meaning. She has also supervised students through Goucher College and Antioch University, and currently practices in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her love for movement and somatic healing is inspiring. As a leader of her Renewal chavurah in Charlottesville, VA, Latifa enriches Shabbat and holy day services and celebrations with dance and weaves movement into life cycle events.

Rabbi Ori is a life-long student of yoga and dance as a spiritual path. She has taught Sacred Movement classes at Elat Chayyim and the Aleph Kallah and serves on the core faculty of the Lev Shomea spiritual direction program. She has also taught Movement and Healing classes at Lesley University for the past 22 years.