Every tradition or individual mystic has their own understanding of the architecture of the cosmos or spirit world. Although ultimately contained in a unified and reconcilable whole, their mystical accounts differ wildly. (Wildly!!)
What a mystic sees in his travels are not “the truths,” applicable necessarily to others, but are personal reflections, given to him to further his own work. They are completely personal to the seer, and to the extent that they sound similar to the truths of other mystics, it’s because the two individual humans share the same bit of inner landscape, reflected externally in similar ways.
This solitary mystical house of mirrors phenomenon goes on for years and years and years, until the mystic can reach a condition of consciousness that allows for authentic vision.
There is a steep and really really excruciatingly painful maturation process. Authentic vision is something that is earned, through unbelievable hardship, by dedicating oneself to mystical life entirely – breaking attachments, eradicating desire, confronting fear, digesting trauma, navigating the darkness, purgatory, and hellfire, and mastering the martyrdom of spiritual warfare.
At that point, anyone who’s touched into the Mystery will tell you, it’s not really possible to bring any of that down. The human mind can’t begin to transmit any of it, and because of the paradoxical nature of it, others wouldn’t be able to understand it anyway. It wouldn’t serve them to know it as knowledge or information. What is or can be brought down, are tiny bits of ultimate truth, minuscule aphorisms left like breadcrumbs for other mystics. No one is given the full Truth, and no one is capable of bringing even partial truths down here for others.
It would be a waste of time anyway – we don’t incarnate into human lives to discover the heavens. That’s focusing in the wrong direction. Human incarnations are for the purpose of discovering what it means to be human, to explore the rich depths of human experience, to learn how to love as a human, and gathering the attendant lessons available to us here. We can focus on discovering the heavens when we get there. For now, while we are here, let’s be here. There’s plenty of work to do.
For those who are in the business of disseminating their mystical visions to the world, making the humble distinction between what is ultimate truth, and what is personal reflections is of paramount importance. This is often neglected, and no one talks about it, likely because it would get in the way of selling books…
Here is a relevant experience of this from the final years in the life of St. Thomas Aquinas (source: wikipedia)
“On 6 December 1273, another mystical experience took place. While he was celebrating Mass, he experienced an unusually long ecstasy. Because of what he saw, he abandoned his routine and refused to dictate to his socius Reginald of Piperno. When Reginald begged him to get back to work, Thomas replied: “Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me” (mihi videtur ut palea). As a result, the Summa Theologica would remain uncompleted. What exactly triggered Thomas’s change in behavior is believed by Catholics to have been some kind of supernatural experience of God.“
This is precisely what happens after authentic visions – the Mystery cannot be brought down, and the things that can be articulated feel empty and pointless. They don’t serve others in any useful way.
Some mystics historically have been much more eager to write, and publish, and establish schools and followings, and set themselves up as experts, than to remain dedicated to their own work, as it were. It’s unfortunate, but true. Temptations can be very strong, and mystics are not any more immune than anyone else.
Their reports about the spirit world, about planes of consciousness, or any of it, are not trustworthy as ultimate truth; by design, they just aren’t. It is irresponsible to pass them off as truth applicable to anyone else.
Spirit lies, a lot, on purpose… The illusory conditions of human vision are repeated in mystical vision. An honest devoted mystic knows that, and is very very careful about reporting what she sees. Her world is a fluid one – what is true today is not true tomorrow. The visions are not for others, and she knows that.
Matters of cosmology or architecture of the spirit world have no place in spiritual work anyway; they are completely unnecessary and a hindrance. As soon as we are asked to believe something we don’t see or feel, that we can’t experience ourselves, that we can’t test internally, we have left spirituality and mysticism for religious dogma. (That’s where all the fights begin…). Even assuming that one mystic is more clear than another, it becomes a matter of “whom do you believe?” which is again a question of religion, not of spirituality.
Spirituality is concerned only with individual personal experience, and teachings/instructions that don’t require one to believe something one cannot personally feel, try, or discover for himself.
Spirituality and mysticism are intended to meet a person exactly where he/she is, in real life, in actual hardship and pain, in the turmoil of emotional storms and traumas, (or in the mystical experiences), and to help guide them through their actual real life stuff to healing and integration. It is working with all of those things, often in darkness, and transmuting them into lessons of wisdom.
There is nothing to be gained and nothing to be earned that feeds the ego, that’s why the real work of it is not sexy or poetic, but rather ugly, scary, and off-putting for most.