Print

The role of Women's mysticism in the coming era is explored in this article by singer-author Mary Devlin

by Mary Devlin 

As we approach the New Solar Age, we read of a forthcoming dimensional shift. Earth, it is said, is changing from a third to a fourth dimensional vibration, a higher plane of existence, where boundaries between space and time blur.

Signs of this shift are apparent. We can see the farthest reaches of the Universe. True, technology has made it possible, but some wonder if such technology could have been developed in a third-dimensional world. The Internet certainly seems to provide a window into another dimension; what else is cyberspace?

Studies of physics, biology, and the human brain have led enlightened scientists such as Stanislas Grof, Fritjof Capra, Rupert Sheldrake, David Darling, William Keepin, and Fred Alan Wolf to theorize on the scientific reality of dreams, past lives, astrology, and other occult phenomena. Still, of all the phenomena associated with spirituality, perhaps the least understood is mysticism.What happens during a mystical experience? The mind becomes dissociated from material reality, and one can experience revelations of supposed spiritual truths, receive telepathic messages, see visions, hear music or voices, or feel as if one is leaving the earthly plane.

In the words of St. Teresa of Avila:

One sees nothing, either within or without, but while seeing nothing the soul understands quite clearly who it is and where it is and sometimes even what he means to tell it. How and by what means it understands it does not know, but so it is, and while this is happening it cannot fail to know it. (St. Teresa of Avila, Spiritual Relations, 6)


The state of mysticism

Some scientists see mysticism as a mental illness. Certainly some mystics have been rather strange. Still, enough psychologists have accepted the reality of the mystical experience, and have theorized extensively about it. The accepted definition of mysticism involves (a) experience of unity with all beings; (b) a powerful influence on the mystic’s way of thinking; (c) distinct knowledge conferred by the experience; (d) time/space distortion, and (e) a sense of sacredness.

Philosopher/psychologist William James wrote that mysticism involved states of consciousness ranging from the non-religious to the religiously profound. James believed that mystical experiences are possible when our "field of consciousness" expands. His ideas parallel those of Patricia Diane Cota-Robles, director of the New Age Study of Humanity’s Purpose and author of several books on consciousness. "Mystic is a word used to describe someone who is reaching a higher level of our natural human potential." Author Carol Huffstickler, a yogini and Kabbalistic scholar, concurs: "I find that visionaries, prophets, and mystics have always been a vital albeit unacknowledged part of the human race. Their business has been to know a ‘Truth’ ahead of others, and impart it in their own unique fashion to the culture of their time."

Some psychotic episodes bear an uncomfortable resemblance to mystical experience. We hear about psychotics who slay their families because "God [or the Devil] told them to."
Schizophrenics sometimes see visions, hear voices, experience time/space displacement. One difference involves the personality of the individual. Is he able to function in everyday life? Does she use common sense? By this standard, the ragged bag lady shuffling along the street talking to unseen companions is probably psychotic, while my own mentor, Marcia Moore, a renowned yogini, undoubtedly was not. She wrote books, gave lectures, organized workshops and other events, while running a busy household. Still, there are psychologists who distrust the mental state even of the Marcia’s of the world. To them, anyone who reports experiences that cannot be verified scientifically should be carefully watched—if not institutionalized.
A large percentage of mystics are women. Neurological studies of male and female brains reveal that women have better communication via the corpus callosum between the left and right brain. Dreams and visions are the domain of the right brain, while verbal communication is ruled by the left. This implies that while men may have as many mystical experiences as women, women might have a slight edge when it comes to remembering, making sense of and communicating their mystical experiences.
In Biblical times, Moses’ sister Miriam, the military leader Deborah, and the tailor’s wife Huldah were revered as prophetesses. The mediums who served as mouthpieces for the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi were all women. Recent scholarship suggests that in the early Christian church, St. Mary Magdalene was Christ’s most intelligent and well-loved Apostle.
Women mystics of the Middle Ages have in recent years been given the attention they deserve. Perhaps the most famous is Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), from Germany. Hildegard, a skilled artist who painted beautiful illuminations of her mystical visions, wrote several treatises on what they revealed. She was also a gifted musician whose songs are popular today among music and meditation enthusiasts.
On the other side of the world, in India, in the 1400’s, Lalleshwari, or Lall, a devotee of the god Shiva, was pursuing her own spiritual path. Fleeing an unhappy marriage, she searched for a guru, finally finding Shrii Siddhanath. Under his tutelage, she attained God-realization, and became one of the most celebrated of spiritual poets.
A century later another great female mystic was born in India. Mira, called affectionately Mirabai, was a devotee of the god Krishna. Also trapped in a loveless marriage, Mirabai became a student of the female guru Jhala Rani. Later Mira left her home and embraced the life of a wandering ascetic. She eventually settled in Vrindvan, the legendary home of the child Krishna, where she is believed to have attained self-realization. Her poems are the result of this enlightenment:

O Krishna, O All-Pervading One,
My love is for thee alone.
When love has once set in, my dearest,
Do not break it off,
But go on increasing thy affection instead.
Joyful visions


The European witch hunts starting in the fifteenth century put an end to the western tradition of female mystics. Yet in the nineteenth century another spiritually-inclined woman, Helena Blavatsky—also fleeing an unhappy marriage—traveled through Egypt, India, and possibly Tibet seeking answers to the meaning of human existence. At some point she received the revelations that led to her famous books, Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, and her founding of the Theosophical Society. Though some have called her a fraud, there is no question that her mystical revelations have greatly influenced the New Age movement.

Later came Alice A. Bailey, whose books, including A Treatise on White Magic and Esoteric Psychology, were supposedly dictated telepathically by the living Tibetan master Djwahl Khul. Marcia Moore, a student of Bailey, knew her well. What Marcia says about Bailey demonstrates psychologist Robert Ornstein’s view that some mystical experiences are filtered through the intellect. "When you read these books," Marcia told me, "you have to be aware of where Djwahl Khul leaves off and Alice Bailey begins." Some passages reveal blatant religious prejudice and anthropocentrism. Yet most of Bailey’s work expresses profound wisdom.

Even though religion has, since recorded history, been patriarchal, we notice a resurgence of feminine energy in spiritual movements recently. Many gurus from Hindu tradition right now are women. Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, Mother Meera, Mata Amritanandamayi and Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati are a few. In the West we have an increasing number of female spiritual teachers: the Christian, Evelyn Underhill; the Buddhist, Joanna Macy; the pagans, Starhawk and Vicki Noble; and from western metaphysics, Marianne Williamson.

Tim Rayborn, Ph.D., an initiate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and author of several articles on religious chant, feels that the feminine energy is especially valuable now. "When you study the women mystics," says Rayborn, "you can see that their visions were joyful and ecstatic. Male mystics, however wise, seem to focus more on suffering." He cites St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. John of the Cross. Rayborn feels that during the current transition, optimism will prove far more valuable than fear.

There is no doubt that woman mystics are taking the lead during these transitional times, contributing to the spiritual well-being of the planet, and to its physical security as well.

According to Carol Huffstickler, mystical practices are vital to our perception of the whole truth during the current transition. "Our real job right now is to understand that lack of (self-)awareness has caused, at the end of this century, deep confusion, gang violence, government shenanigans and cover-ups, and the out-of-control power of multinational corporations," she says. "The most important ‘Truth’... is one that is absolutely and totally unprovable: we are all sons and daughters of the Living God. We will not find this truth in a particle accelerator. We can only prove it to ourselves by direct experience of the other side."

Patricia Cota-Robles agrees. "We lost our course of direction aeons ago," she says, "and now we need to learn how to use our creative faculties of thought and feeling to co-create the wonders of Heaven on Earth."
Perhaps if we put our minds together, we can create the kind of world we want—a peaceful world where everyone pulls together to promote not only physical survival, but the growth of knowledge and awareness as well. Though intelligent and sensitive men embrace the idea wholeheartedly, a unified Earth is a feminine concept. "The greatest gift female Mystics can give to Humanity and the World at this time," says Cota-Robles, "is to model the Truth of who they are, and through example, blaze a Path of Love back to God for everyone to follow."

The Earth is, after all, our Mother.

Author/singer Mary Devlin is well known in the fields of astrology, New Age thought and medieval music and history. As well as writing many books, she is an accomplished vocalist, directing the Sherwood Consort, a vocal ensemble dedicated to medieval and Renaissance music of the British Isles.