Mystics do not distinguish between religion, mysticism and psychology in that they are all aspects of the mystical journey.
Religion is the outer framework: it provides a set of guidelines and rules to make the journey easier. Psychology, in its real sense, is the study of the mind, and it is through levels on consciousness that the journey takes place. According to the ancient historian Plutarch, the admonition “Gnothi se auton” (“Know Thyself”) was inscribed on the Sun god Apollo’s Oracle of Delphi temple in ancient Greece.
The ancient Greeks inherited their religious symbols and gods and goddesses from the Egyptians who were monotheists. Their gods served a similar purpose to archetypes propounded by the psychologist Carl Jung.
Before the days of television and soap operas, archetypes served the purpose of showing human traits in their stereotyped forms. The idea was that people would be able to observe these traits in themselves and gain insight into their own behaviour. The gods and goddesses were of an archetypal nature that went deeper into the soul of humanity than just behaviour patterns.
Throughout the universe there are energy currents. These pulsate through our own bodies, through the Earth, the solar system and the galaxy. Understanding that energy in microcosm in our body helps us to understand the energies in the world. For example, some days have a very charged, positive energy. At these times we feel motivated and energetic. At other times the energy is heavy and we feel lethargic. Sometimes we feel emotional; at other times we may feel inspired to paint or write.
Most people have a better relationship with one type of energy or another. Some people get on very well with the slightly heavy, meditative energy and find that when the energy is positively charged they feel on-edge or even slightly fearful. Other people find the heavy energy disorientating. There are infinite subtleties in the energies and they change not only from season to season, month-to-month and even throughout the day, but also from place to place. Generally, places towards the top of a hill have a more positive energy and places in gullies have a more negative energy. Cities have different energies: New York and Sydney are very positively charged which gives them their reputation of having a ‘buzz’. Venice in Italy and St. Petersburg in Russia is more negatively charged and heavy.
All cultures have their sacred sites, these are places on the Earth where the energy is very strong and has particular characteristics. These places are used to meditate or as part of initiation rites where the initiate is able to experience the energy in its refined form. The gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt were not just psychological archetypes; they were also personifications of these subtle energies. Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of beauty, was taken up by the Greeks as Aphrodite. Temples dedicated to her were built on natural energy lines that would bring up in the initiate feelings of love. Similarly, the Egyptian god Montu was taken up by the Greeks as Ares. He was the god of war and his temples were built on energy currents that would bring about feelings of aggression in the initiate. The initiate would spend periods in a temple (sometimes a few years, sometimes a lifetime) until they were able to observe and understand that particular energy. They would then be sent on to another temple.
There is no need for such temples nowadays. The energy now is so intense that just functioning in the everyday world and the day-to-day interactions with other people immerses everyone in powerful energy currents that would have not have existed two thousand years ago. These energy currents are becoming more powerful and so we see the same affect as adding heat to a pot of soup: the scum rises to the surface, and we see people who are unable to contain the energy acting out their aggression, sex drive, confusion or other archetypal behaviour.
The mystical journey is the journey to understand the actions of these energies on the psyche. As we get to understand them we are no longer controlled by them and we become masters, or mistresses, of own destiny.
Many fairy stories have a theme of a prince who falls in love with a princess and in order to marry her has to go on a journey where he encounters many difficulties. This is the journey of the soul and the end result is that we are the king or queen of our own kingdom. We are not controlled by energies or people and whether it is raining or sunny, overcast or clear, hot or cold, we go through life with the same equanimity. Similarly, if we encounter people who are selfish or try to annoy us we treat them with love and compassion. Although their intention is to instil a feeling in us of aggression or anger they are unsuccessful as we have an understanding of the energy that is generated and we are able to observe it in an objective way.