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Robert Atkinson, PhD, is professor of human development and religious studies and director of the Life Story Center at the University of Southern Maine. An internationally known authority on life storytelling and the author of eight books, this essay was adapted from his most recent book, Mystic Journey: Getting to the Heart of Your Soul’s Story (Cosimo Books, 2012). His website is

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  • The Mystic’s Journey Is Our Own Jun 07, 2012

    Great question, Sampatron, "Why do we forget in the first place?" John Keats and Marion Woodman offer some hints. As "sparks" of God, this "world of Pains and troubles" is necessary to "school an Intelligence and make it a soul." Erik and Joan Erikson have said, wisdom is life experience well digested. Another way of looking at it is that this world is to the soul what the womb is to the body. Both experiences are necessary in exactly the way they are designed to prepare us for the next state of being that is to come. So, it comes back to all of the possible answers you suggested: the search, which gives us the life experience, which fulfills our growth potential as "an eternal being dwelling in a temporal body." We forget so that soul-making - finding and identifying with our eternal, Infinite nature - is possible here.

  • The Mystic’s Journey Is Our Own Jun 07, 2012

    Thanks, TheRogue1000, for bringing this back to the heart of soul-making! Without the tension between opposites there would be no archetype of transformation, and therefore no growth or progress in our journey. “Where’s the fun” and “the sheer joy of the journey” get to why the mystic journey is not just for mystics but for all of us, because we all need moderation in our lives, as Karinjoy notes, a healthy balance between the material and the spiritual, the fun and the hard work, the mundane and the ecstatic. Any pair of opposites represents aspects of the whole. To keep a perspective on the whole is one of the goals of the journey. The recognition that opposing states are really one comes as we shift our focus from the temporal to the eternal. It is in the understanding that “the journey has no ending” that we do find a deeper, longer lasting joy which is much different from the fleeting joy found in any temporal moment. The eternal perspective also allows us to see the end in the beginning, even fun in the boring, and not get overtaken by any one state of being. This very complicated journey of the soul, with all its fascinating and mysterious nuances, is explained in much more depth than be covered here in Baha’u’llah’s The Seven Valleys (especially the valley of unity and the valley of contentment), where we can get a better sense of how sorrow is turned to bliss, anguish to joy, and grief to delight. I also focus on opposition as the necessary catalyst for change and provide a much more detailed commentary on how life’s eternal journey leads to both personal and collective transformation in my forthcoming book.

  • Toward a Consciousness of Oneness Apr 15, 2011

    Thanks all, for your thoughtful comments!

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