Alan Watts, Myth and Ritual in Christianity.
Today we have come to identify philosophy with “thought” that is, with a vast confusion of verbal opinions to the extent that we mistake the traditional philosophies of other cultures for the same sort of speculations. Thus we are hardly aware of the extreme peculiarity of our own position, and find it difficult to recognize the plain fact that there has otherwise been a single philosophical consensus of universal extent. It has been held by men who report the same insights and teach the same essential doctrine whether living today or six thousand years ago, whether from New Mexico in the Far West or from Japan in the Far East. To the degree that we realize its existence at all, we call it “metaphysics” or “mysticism”, but both the insight on which it is founded and the doctrine or the symbols in which it is expressed are so generally misunderstood that it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that a faithful account of it might well be given in the form of a categorical denial of most of the statements that have been made about it both by its contemporary critics and by many of its present-day enthusiasts. For amongst both the opinion prevails that “mysticism” is a retreat from the realities of life into a purely subjective frame of mind which is declared to be more real than the plain evidence of our senses.
By way of “categorical denial” I might begin by saying that a traditional “metaphysic” of this kind involves a far more acute awareness of the plain evidence of the senses than is usual, and that, so far from retreating into a subjective and private world of its own, its entire concern is to transcend subjectivity so that man may “wake up” to the world which is concrete and actual, as distinct from that which is purely abstract and conceptual. Those who undertake this task unanimously report a vision of the world starkingly different from that of the average socially conditioned man – a vision in whose light the business of living and dying, working and eating, ceases to be a problem. It goes on, yes, but it ceases to be the frantic and frustrating pursuit of an ever-receding goal, because of the discovery that time as ordinarily understood is an illusion. One is delivered from the mania of pursuing a future which one does not have.
Yet another consequence of this acute awareness of the real world is the discovery that what has been felt to be one’s “self” or “ego” is also an abstraction without reality a discovery in which the “mystic” oddly joins hands with the scientist who “has never been able to detect any organ called the soul”. That which takes the place of the conventional world of time and space, oneself and others, is properly described by negations “unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, unformed” because its nature is neither verbal nor conceptual. In brief, the “seers” of this reality are the “disenchanted” and “disillusioned” those who are able to employ thoughts, ideas, and words without being spellbound and hypnotized by their magic.