Image from Anders Sandberg

Mysticism is a broad term referring to a range of practices, traditions, experiences and worldviews that centre upon the direct personal experience of the divine. The divine may be conceptualised in many ways by mystics. Mysticism commonly includes a strong ethic of self-transformation. It is also known as bodhology by particular elements of the Makkian Nondualist Tradition.

Within such traditions, mystics aim to gain greater awareness of the presence of the divine, which may be referred to as God, as the gods, as the Absolute, Brahman, the Supreme, Allah, Shiva, the Dao, the Alpha, the Omega, the Buddha-nature, Shunya, etc. Whether this is conceived as the presence of the divine, as union with the divine or as realisation of a pre-existing union with the divine varies, but the latter is the most common meme.

Mysticism appears in all sorts of traditions, and seems to pre-date organized religions. Some believe it is the foundation of such religions, though opinions on this are divided. Nevertheless, its universality in the present day, and for all of known history, is unquestionable, as it has appeared in all major religious/spiritual traditions, as well as outside them. It is worth noting that it is impractical to attempt to map such a concept or set of concepts onto the psychologies of certain clades mental makeups very different to Terragen norms. Examples include various xenosophonts, divergent Terragen clades such as Bitenic Squid and clades from virchworlds with different numbers of spatial and/or temporal dimensions and clades which otherwise have very different understandings of perception, time and space. With that proviso, mysticism seems like it is commonly accessible to members of all clades in some manner, although inclinations towards it may well very widely. Much of this cannot be disentangled from cultural and other memetic forces at play, and the concept of mysticism itself can often be hard to pin down precisely. This leaves many traditions conceptually 'on the edge' in terms of their fitting into the category.

Common themes found within mystical philosophies and traditions among humans and clades that occupy similar positions on the toposophic landscape include; the unity of all things, love as a unifier of all things or as a natural outgrowth of understanding of the true nature of things, and ethics strongly emphasising non-violence, compassion and humility. It is often the case that a mystic will experience their journey as being not so much a quest undertaken purely for personal benefit, but as being something done for the sake of all mindkind. The perceived transformative effects of mystical experiences and progression are generally thought of as extending beyond the individual to those around them.

Although such themes are common, they are certainly not universal, and there have been mystical traditions and individual practitioners who are more antisocial, callous or even outright violent and destructive. A famous example is that of Master Ananda-ren. As a spiritual aspirant, Ananda-ren went through a number of dramatic mystical experiences which unhinged em hugely, reducing eir ability to empathise, while also giving em great levels of confidence. The details are unknown, but Master Ananda-ren managed to gather millions of devotees to eir orbital ashram over the course of eir teaching period in the 6200s and '300s, until e decided to destroy the ashram, killing all those present, in the name of shedding eir attachments to having followers. E was soon captured by MPA authorities, and eir subsequent fate is unknown.

Examples of mystical tradition which developed on Old Earth include the Sufi branches of Islam, a number of Christian mystical sects, most forms of Hinduism, Daoism and numerous others. These traditions have been very influential on later developments beyond Old Earth.

Over the course of sophont history, and particularly since the proliferation of mindkind across the Terragen Sphere in the years AT, the breadth of mystical traditions has increased drastically, with many profound new ways emerging in which sophonts cultivate and interpret mystical experiences. In many cases, a great deal of the mystical experiences found within one tradition aren't found at all in another, in particular when radically different clades follow the two. This applies to modosophonts, and perhaps also to sophonts of different toposophics. It remains inconclusive whether the term 'mysticism' can really apply to any traditions followed beyond the first toposophic, although certainly there are many transapients who are engaged with and part of modo-including mystical traditions, including the Blessed One, Guru Kahachak, 9 and many others. In what ways transapients understand mystical paths, and in what ways their psychologies influence their experiences, is ultimately beyond understanding at a modosophont level. It is notable that some transapients profess profound interest in the experiences and teachings of modosphont mystics, and some even profess that they 'learn' from them, though their explanations of what they mean by this are typically difficult to interpret.

In the Current Era, mysticism can be observed as a major, if not central, trend in Sophism and Sophism-aligned ideologies and worldviews found within the League and well beyond, in a great deal of Keterism, some forms of Bioism, Zoeticist or not, and in many other great ideologies and diverse folk traditions across the Terragen Sphere.

Development Notes
Text by Kirran Lochhead Strang
after the original Bodhology article by M. Alan Kazlev
Initially published on 24 December 2015.

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