Mysticism in Early Religion

Part 3 of 12 in the series Spiritual History

The painting above is by the mystic Russian artist Nicholas Roerich (See footer), and it is titled “Abraham and the wisdom of the Egyptians”.

Try to imagine a world in the time of Abraham, somewhere about 2000 years BCE. Early Mesopotamia had evidence of religous practices for 3000 years prior, as had the Egyptian Nile valley and the Indus Valley in India. So it is not surprising that the Biblical accounts that Abraham was blessed by a priest called Melchizedek.

 18 Melchizedek king of Salem (Peace) brought out bread and wine. (Now he was the priest of the Most High God.) Genesis 14:18

What was behind the religions of that period between 5-8000 years ago? A couple of examples will help. Both the Jain and Egyptian spirituality show distinct natural mysticism, with the Egyptian Book of the Dead describing connection with the sun god and all nature.

The deep well of the human Xconscious has common core concepts that were planted there by God. If the Higher Power or Energy (God) is consistent throughout history, it is a logical assumption that the message of Love and the ability to experience has also been consistently known. There are also strong consistencies in the way humans have expressed archetypes to explain God. A well documented example is the recurrent archetype of the Christic savior in a number of religions, including the early Egyptian, Hindu and of course Christian religions.

To explain their seven-fold philosophy, Jains (Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that influenced both Hindu and Buddhist belief in non-harm) tell the familiar story of the blind men and the elephant, and give seven different assertions, each true from one viewpoint yet questionable from another.

​Jain thinking is that both Brahman and Atman were “not two but not one” – this merging of the divine universal with the divine personal experience is called ‘Adviata’.

Yet to the Jains universal life is composed of an infinite number of interacting particles, each particle being in essence a jiva or “life” — an eternal and intrinsically individual consciousness-life.

Sound familiar? Yes, there was already a mystic stream present in ancient religion!

“The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religion.”
Albert Einstein
* Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (09.10.1874 – 13.12.1947) was a Russian artist, philosopher, writer, traveller, archaeologist, public figure, and the founder of international cultural movements such as “Peace through Culture” and “The Banner of Peace”. He is the painter of all of the Featured Images in this series.
Series navigation
Spirituality: Cosmic/Natural Mysticism | Hindu Mysticism