Photo: Chanwei via Unsplash.

All major mystical traditions have recognized that there is a paradox at the heart of the journey of return to Origin. Put simply, this is that we are already what we seek, and that what we are looking for on the Path with such an intensity of striving and passion and discipline is already within and around us at all moments.

The journey and all its different ordeals are all emanations of the One Spirit that is manifesting everything in all dimensions; every rung of the ladder we climb toward final awareness is made of the divine stuff of awareness itself. Divine Consciousness is at once creating and manifesting all things and acting in and as all things in various states of self-disguise throughout all the different levels and dimensions of the universe.

The great Hindu mystic Kabir put this paradox with characteristic simplicity when he said:

Look at you, you madman,

Screaming you are thirsty

And are dying in a desert

When all around you there

is nothing but water!

And the Sufi poet Rumi reminds us:

You wander from room to room

Hunting for the diamond necklace

That is already around your neck!

We are so addicted, either to materialism or to transcending material reality, that we don’t see God right in front of us, in the beggar, the starving child, the brokenhearted woman; in our friend; in the cat; in the flea. We miss it. This world is not an illusion….In an authentic mystical experience, the world does disappear and reveal itself as the dance of the divine consciousness. But then it reappears, and you see that everything you are looking at is God, and everything you’re touching is God. This vision completely shatters you.

Knowing that we are looking for something we already have (and are) does not, of course, mean that the journey is unnecessary, only that there is a vast and sublime joke waiting to be discovered at its end.

One serious explanation of this joke at the heart of the journey is, of course, that our essential self is hidden from us by what the Sufi mystics call “a hundred thousand veils of illusion.”

Placed in this dimension of time and space and matter, we forget who we are; we identify our essential nature with what surrounds us and with what our culture and society and parents and ordinary senses tell us about ourselves.

A massive journey is then needed for us to “dis-identify” with everything we have falsely learned about ourselves so that we can experience, with the “hundred thousand veils” burned away, the glory of our true identity…

About the Author:

Andrew Harvey has taught at Oxford University, Cornell University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, The California Institute of Integral Studies, and the University of Creation Spirituality as well as the at various spiritual centers throughout the United States. He was the subject of the 1993 BBC film documentary, The Making of a Modern Mystic and appears also in Rumi Turning Ecstatic, Marion Woodman: Dancing in the Flames, and The Consciousness of the Christ: Reclaiming Jesus for A New Humanity. He has also worked with the great Iranian Sufi dancer, Banfsheh Sayyad, in producing a film, In the Fire of Grace, which marries Sufi inspired dances to the stages of Rumi’s understanding of the path of Divine love. He is also Founder & Director of the Institute for Sacred Activism, an international organization focused on inviting concerned people to take up the challenge of our contemporary global crises by becoming inspired, effective, and practical agents of institutional and systemic change, in order to create peace and sustainability. (This article is excerpted from his book, The Direct Path: Creating a Journey to the Divine Using the World’s Mystical Traditions.)