"All mystics come from the same country and speak the same language," St. Martin of Tours once said. Mystics revitalized early and medieval Christianity; they built a sturdy path as Sufis within Islam; they created a worthy series of devotional resources in Hasidism and Kabbalah in Judaism; they encouraged a "don't know" practice in Zen and Dzogchen Buddhism; and they brought to Hinduism a tradition of inspiring transformation.

Mystics emphasize the active and the practical; they seek a direct experience of the transcendent, usually through a deep and intimate relationship with the Divine. Most of those on this path of action and contemplation claim that they can increase their spiritual sensitivities through silence, simplicity, and solitude.

Mary Jo Weaver, a Catholic, believes that a mystic is simply a person who takes a long, loving look at reality. Reverence and wonder play an important part in this way of life where nothing is excluded from the heart.

"Today I realize that I am the guest the mystics talk about," says Rumi in one of his many Sufi poems translated by Colman Barks. Gratitude is an expression of our thanks for all the blessings of life that we have received through the grace of God. Mystics dig deep within to explore these connections.

"In the coming age," Catholic theologian Karl Rahner has written, "we must all become mystics, or be nothing at all." Those who are fed up with the religious battles of the past look to mysticism as a path that moves beyond the dualism of "us" versus "them" and forges new bonds of relationships between peoples and communities. The separations (dogma, exclusivism, and hierarchy) which tear things apart can be replaced by spiritual openness and hospitality.

"Everyone is born a mystic and a lover who experiences the unity of things," Anglican Matthew Fox has observed. Our experience of community and communion leads to the practices of justice, love, and compassion. Our sense of oneness with the Divine fuels our activism. We become aware that we are here to do our part in the mending of the world.

All these aspects of the mystical life are discussed in the 31 readings on mysticism we have gathered here. We hope these resources will help deepen and enrich your appreciation and understanding of this path which crosses all religions and speaks to the needs of all spiritually independent souls including "nones" and those who are "spiritual but not religious."

Here is "The Mystic's Prayer" by Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi seer, to keep in mind while you explore the readings:

"Give me, Oh God,
Deep thoughts
High Dreams
Few Words
Much Silence
The narrow path
The wide outlook
The end in peace.