The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, it is a reality to be experienced.Aart van der Leeuw
Since the earliest times religion and philosophy have wrestled with what has often been called The Great Mystery of Life.
This great mystery has been expressed in different ways by different cultures. It has been referred to as the relationship between:
However expressed, the great mystery is the fundamental unknown for all of humanity.
The great mystery reflects a belief that reality is somehow divided into two realms. One realm is the familiar world around us. It is the known. It is the world of matter and form. This is the “reality” that we know.
The second realm is opposite to the known world. If the known world has matter and form, then the unknown world is formless and invisible. This second realm is more mysterious. This second world contains things unseen but often felt or intuited.
This is the familiar world of matter and form. We move around inside this world. We understand the basic principles of this world and the laws that govern what happens here.
We find an area within this world and we make it our own. This is our land. This is our water. This is the place of our people. This is our home. This is a world that our ancestors have taught us about. This place has meaning for us. We learn stories about important events and special places that make this realm all the more personal to us. We learn legends, traditions, history, myths all of which give us a familiarity with our part of this world. This is our place. It gives our life meaning and purpose to be connected to this place.
This is the “reality” that we know.
The realm of mystery
The second realm is opposite to the known world.
If the known world is visible, the unknown world is invisible. If the known world is familiar and personal to us, the unknown world is distant and strange. If the known world offers properties and conditions we understand, the unknown world presents us with challenges and mysteries that we do not understand.
If the known world has matter and form, then the unknown world is formless and invisible. It contains things unseen but often felt or intuited.
This unknown world is a mystery. This mystery is alluring; it beckons us to approach. We are invited to get to know it better.
But how do we approach an unknown world?
A Mystery Within A Mystery: How Do We Know About This Unseen Realm?
How do we know about this unseen realm? After all, we cannot see it, hear it, touch it or taste it. Still, somehow, we seem to know that it is there. This is part of the mystery.
We feel a kind of certainty within us that there is more to life than what we experience through our 5 senses. We seem to know, and yet at the same time we do not know how it is that we know.
We seem to be already participating in this unseen world in some unknown way. And yet we have no idea what that experience is about. It is as if there is a part of us that is in contact with this realm and yet it does not understand the nature of this realm. But we are not in touch with that part of ourself that understands this.
We seem to somehow know about the unseen realm and yet at the same time we are ignorant of it. The Great Mystery reveals this dichotomy within us.
The Great Mystery is the attempt to understand the role of the invisible in our daily lives.
Where is this second realm located?
Some traditions see the invisible realm as far away. This world is up in the heavens or down deep in the earth. This distant realm is often believed to be where we go after the body dies.
Other traditions believe this invisible realm is all around us. It interpenetrates the world of matter and form. We dwell directly in this world just as we do the world of matter and form. Many traditions refer to this realm as the spirit world.
For thousands of years humans have tried to resolve this Great Mystery. But people have primarily looked outward to the distant skies and far away heavens for the answers to the mystery.
The answer to the Great Mystery is not to be found in the stars or the sky.
The answer lies within us.
The Great Mystery is the relationship between our inner world and your outer worlds.
The Modern World Divided Reality
The 17th and 18th centuries in Western Europe, sometimes referred to as the age of Reason, rejected the basic premise of the Great Mystery. It rejected the idea that reality embraces the seen and the unseen.
In its place it proclaimed a new reality. It proclaimed that these two realms had nothing to do with one another. Only the outer world of matter and form is real, they said. Since only this world existed, then science and philosophy would place all its attention on this physical alone. This is a reality that can be understood with the mind. With the use of logic and rational thoughts we can understand this world, gain more control over it, and live a better and more comfortable life. And so we did.
The unseen world was relegated to religion and spirituality. This was the realm of faith and belief in something greater than ourself. This was no place for the rational mind. And the physical world was no place for faith and religion. Thus was created the division between science/knowledge and religion/faith.
We are still living with the gap between science and religion today.
This Divided Reality Diminished the Experience of Life.
By separating the two realms of reality, the age of Reason shrank the realm of experience.
People’s experience were basically limited to two areas: life could be lived physically in the outer world or it could be lived in the mind and the world of ideas.
Today, when we talk of the future of humanity, we look to science and technology to see how they can help us. The betterment of the human race is always defined in terms of how technology changes our experience of life. But the most important problems are not technical in nature.
The life of the human race as a shared existence has been replaced by the separate lives of individual humans living in separation and isolation from one another.
Our sense of reality is out of balance. We cling to the material world as the only reality there is. And we are completely ignorant of a hidden reality that still has considerable influence over how we experience our life.
Deep within us there is a fixed reality us that is far greater than anything we know.
The Great Mystery ask us this question: At your very core, who are you?
We have no answers for the Great Mystery. Nor do we know how to go within and experience this core.
And that is what the Great Mystery is trying to tell us.
Something is missing. Something important is lacking in our life. Without this missing piece, our life is not complete.
Our life is not whole.