by Marinus Jan Marijs
It is clear that mystics play a central role in the world’s major religions. Christ and Saint Paul in Christianity, Mohammed in Islam. The Rishis wrote the Vedas, the Vedanta and the other Hindu scriptures. Lao Tzu was central in Chinese traditional religion, the Buddha founded Buddhism. And so it continues.
The following list  gives the number of adherents to the different world’s religions today (the numbers are approximate estimates).
Christianity: 2100 million
Islam: 1300 million
Hinduism: 900 million
Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
Buddhism: 376 million
Asian traditional religion: 300 million
African traditional religion: 100 million
Sikhism: 23 million
Spiritism: 15 million
Judaism: 14 million
Baha’i: 7 million
Jainism: 4,2 million
Shinto: 4 million
Cao Dai: 4 million
Zoroastrianism: 2,6 million
Tenrikyo: 2 million
Unitarian-Universalism: 800 000
Rastafari: 600 000
Secular, non-religious, agnostic, atheist, humanist: 1100 million
This last group accounts for about 16% of the world population, but half of this non-religious group is theistic, i.e. believes in a God.
Broadly speaking, more than 5000 million people hold some religious belief that can be traced back to concepts developed by mystics.
The world’s religions were all founded by mystics; the early philosophers were mystics, the Greek mystic philosophers founded mathematics, science, logic, metaphysics, nature philosophy, ethics, state philosophy, aesthetics and pedagogy. The mystics were the founders of the social systems.
The writings of the mystics have had a great influence on the development of language. Not only do they belong to the masterpieces of world literature, but for centuries they were the first and only writings that were read.
The Bible has the first “hyperlinked text,” that is, the first text that complexly references itself throughout the entirety of its structure in a vast series of internal interconnections.
At the bottom of the Biblical verse there is the number of times that this verse is referred to in some way by some other verse in the Bible.
There are 63,779 cross-references in the Bible, showing interlinked verses through the text.
The ideas that mystics had about morality and social behaviour had a great influence on legislation. They also had a great influence on art: literature, poetry, the development of classical music, architecture and painting.
In the western world, between the fourth and seventeenth centuries, most paintings where of religious subjects.
That mysticism is trans-rational is clearly visible in the fact that mystics were able to make great paradigmatic shifts, something which is impossible at a pre-rational level.
Max Plank, Nobel Prize Laureate and a founder of Quantum Mechanics wrote: “The greatest thinkers of all ages where also deeply religious souls.” 
Around 500 B.C. a new type of mystic did emerge, which one could call the high causal mystic. The highest form of mysticism up to that point was low-causal mysticism.
The high casual mystics connection with the Kosmos was deeper and its connection with the totality of humanity was greater. This wasn’t just a theoretical abstraction, but a living reality. This manifested itself in a deeply moral philosophy of an absolute pacifism.
The low-causal mystics (called prophets) such as Zoroaster, Akhenaten, Moses, Isaiah and so on, did stress the importance of moral behavior. But with the high-causal mystics such as Mahavira, Buddha, Lao Tzu and Christ the philosophy of non-violence was absolute.
Within Buddhism is the concept of Metta, Loving kindness and universal, unselfish and all-embracing Love, as in the “Karaniya Metta Sutta”, the Buddha’s “Hymn of Universal Love”:
“Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let non through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.”
One of the great masterpieces of the world literature is the “Tao-Te-King” . In this classic Chinese text, written around the 6th century BCE by the Taoist Lao Tzu, there are several chapters in which the use of violence is condemned:
Chapter 30: “ In the spirit of Tao, a ruler does not try to rule the world by force of arms. Such action would only lead to counter-attacks.”
Chapter 31: “ Even the finest weapons are the tools of misery, creatures (should) suspect and detest them, if you follow Tao, you will therefore not use them. …. And if masses of people are killed, let us weep in grief and sorrow for them, let us celebrate victories like funerals.”
Chapter 42: “I teach what others have already taught: Violent people die no natural death. Henceforth I will use this as my philosophy’s starting point.”
In the “Crito” by the Greek philosopher Plato we find a dialogue between Socrates and his friend Crito regarding the appropriate response to injustice. This conversation took place three days before the dead of Socrates:
“Soc: Are we to say that we are never intentionally to do wrong, or that in one way we ought and in another way we ought not to do wrong, or is doing wrong always evil and dishonorable, as I was just now saying, and as has been already acknowledged by us? Are all our former admissions which were made within a few days to be thrown away? And have we, at our age, been earnestly discoursing with one another all our life long only to discover that we are no better than children? Or are we to rest assured, in spite of the opinion of the many, and in spite of consequences whether better or worse, of the truth of what was then said, that injustice is always an evil and dishonor to him who acts unjustly? Shall we affirm that?
Soc: Then we must do no wrong?
Cr: Certainly not.
Soc: Nor when injured injure in return, as the many imagine; for we must injure no one at all?
Cr: Clearly not.
Soc: Again, Crito, may we do evil?
Cr: Surely not, Socrates.
Soc: And what of doing evil in return of evil, which is the morality of the many- is that just or not?
Cr: Not just.
Soc: For doing evil to another is the same as injuring him?
Cr: Very true.
Soc: Then we ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to anyone, whatever evil we may have suffered from him. But I would have you consider, Crito, whether you really mean what you are saying. For this opinion has never been held, and never will be held, by any considerable number of persons; and those who are agreed and those who are not agreed upon this point have no common ground, and can only despise one another, when they see how widely they differ. Tell, then, whether you agree with and assent to my first principle, that neither injury nor retaliation nor warding off evil by evil is ever right.”
Of all the great high-causal mystics, the pacifism of Christ was perhaps the most radical and noble form of absolute pacifism.
It has been noted that the most famous use of the word ‘pacifism’ is in the sermon on the Mount …. , where Christ says: “Blessed are the peacemakers”. The Latin word for ‘peacemakers’ is ‘pacifists’.
Here below some of Christ’s statements relating to his philosophy of non-violence.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. … . Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. …
You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
“Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Mt. 26:50-52)
In the year 2000 about a third of the world population (more than 2000 million people) see themselves as Christians. While they see Christ as the most superior human being, the majority has great difficulty in accepting his absolute pacifism. The paradigm shift that is necessary to accept this position seems beyond the abilities of most Christians, despite the very clear statements Christ did make on this matter.
Regarding Christ’s absolute pacifistic philosophy, there is a very remarkable historical fact: The Roman empire which existed for more than a thousand years, was unbeatable by military force during its reign. But with the establishment of Christianity in the first three centuries A.D. and through the display of pacifism by the early Christians, the pacifistic spiritual philosophy of Christ ‘conquered’ the Roman empire in the 4th century A.D. when Christianity became the official state-religion of the Roman empire.
The concept of non-violence is further to be found within other mystical philosophies.
Within Hinduism there is the concept of Ahimsa, not to harm anyone, peace and reverence to all beings.
The concept is found in the Upanishads.
Confucius: The Golden Rule: “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.”
Within Judaism: “Thou shall not kill”.
Within Taoism there is the concept of wu-wei:
Non-doing, active inactivity.
The aim of wu-wei is to be connected with the Tao, the Divine, and when the Tao works through the mystic the Tao will bring harmony.
Jainism is a religious system in which compassion to all living beings is the central core.
Non-violence within Jainism is at the heart of its philosophy.
This non-violence philosophy is put forward by some of the most greatest thinkers.
Henry Davis Thoreau 1817 – 1862. Transcendentalist writer, mystic, philosopher and environmentalist.
His “Civil Disobedience” did influence Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
(About his mysticism: Alan D. Hodder; Thoreau’s Ecstatic Witness 2001).
Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910. Russian Novelist, pacifist, moral philosopher wrote about non-violent resistance in his book “The Kingdom of God is within you”, based upon Christian philosophy of non-violence.
This book had a strong influence on Mahatma Gandhi.
Mahatma Gandhi, 1869 – 1948. The political and spiritual leader of India.
He led the campaign for Indian independence.
His philosophy of non-violence was influenced by the “Bhagavad Gita”, Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God is within you” and the “Sermon on the Mount”.
His philosophy did influence Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and many non-violent resistance movements throughout the world.
Martin Luther King, 1929 – 1968. Political activist and leader of the American civil rights movement.
Philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience.
He received the Nobel Peace Prize and was honored for his “exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty”.
Non-violence as a philosophy is by many seen as not pragmatic, not effective when confronted with injustice or oppression.
Early Christianity was a pacifistic movement even when the Christians were fiercely persecuted.
As mentioned above, a remarkable twist of fate took place when Emperor Constantine the Great was converted to Christianity and Christianity became the state religion in the 4th century A.D.
It is quite remarkable that what did start as a small and persecuted group of Christians did conquer the Roman Empire without acts of violence from the side of the Christian.
As been shown here above a great part of the mystics had a non-violent philosophy.
Their ideas had a great influence in the last century:
Mahatma Gandhi and his non-violence movement brought independence to India.
The American Civil rights movement brought with great dignity and in a non-violent way racial equality.
The ending of apartheid in South Africa came also in a non-violent way.
Similar non-violent revolutions happened in the developing world and the former eastern bloc.
With an estimated 100 million people who died in wars in the twentieth century, a non-violence solution for political conflicts is of course extremely important.
Dr. Walter Wink, a professor at Auburn, Theological Seminary in New York City and a Peace Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace made the following statement:
“In 1989, thirteen nations comprising 1,695,000,000 people experienced non-violent revolutions that succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations…If we add all the countries touched by major non-violent actions in our century (the Philippines, South Africa…the independence movement in India…) the figure reaches 3,337,400,000, a staggering 65% of humanity! All this in the teeth of the assertion, endlessly repeated, that non-violence doesn’t work in the ‘real’ world.”
(Walter Wink, as quoted by Susan Ives in a 2001 talk).
In a tradition of 3000 years, non-violence was a central concept in mystical philosophy, be it in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, Jainism or Christianity.
It is remarkable that the most influential thinkers in the non-violence revolution, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King were also mystics or highly spiritual humans.
It directly shows the value of the mystical/spiritual.
Looking at all this evidence, it becomes clear that just a small group of people can make fundamental changes, which have an enormous influence on the whole of humanity.
Le pardon de Kergoat en Quéménéven en 1891 Jules Noël
Konstantin Yegorovich Makovsky (1839-1915)
Church buildings embodying the functions of a cathedral first appeared in Italy, Gaul, Spain and North Africa in the 4th century, but cathedrals did not become universal within the Western Catholic Church until the 12th century, by which time they had developed architectural forms, institutional structures (Wikipedia)
The illustration on top of the page is by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz (1848 – 1921)
 Max Planck; “Where is Science Going?”, Norton, New York, 1932.