Mystical Quest is a way of being religious in which many of the adherents apply a form of meditation. The meditation usually includes a specific set of practices that have been found to make one more aware of all that is going on around them as well as inside, both physically and mentally. The religious part of the practices brings in the aspects of ‘ultimate reality’ with which the participants are familiar (Cannon 22-3). This practice is for the purpose of bringing those who practice it into a particularly close experience of ‘ultimate reality.’ Most believe that the experiences one has are not going to be constantly or consistently direct experiences of ‘the divine.’
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Another point of similarity is in how each teaches that in order to transcend the conscious part of the self a focusing on the workings of the body is required. For the Buddhist, one notes the parts of the body that are touching the ground and focusing on each momentarily. The Christian focuses his attention on the body also, but on the hands passing a rosary through them, and also on creating a rhythm with the saying of the prayer and one’s breathing. (This part, of controlled or regulated breathing, is an element in both that helps the person center their thoughts on something other than the world around them.) This part of the practice is not for everyone and it is explicitly stated that it ought to be done with the assistance of a spiritual guide. And both point to the end goal of transcending oneself in the experience as the final capacity to be obtained by a practitioner (Cannon 235, 251).
A final similarity is in the result of much practice and concentration. After a time, one may develop the capacity to not even think about “praying”, or “being Mindful”, and yet be doing it continuously. This might be seen as having attained to a level of insight that only few obtain and/or as an obtaining of “grace” for salvation.
The emphases put on the different aspects of the meditations differs between the two ways. For example, from Theravada Buddhism an emphasis not in the Eastern Orthodox way is that of posture. For the Buddhists one must be in a sitting position or, if incapacitated, may be laying down. The Christian version is to be in a comfortably attentive position, but only with loose recommendations, no prescriptions.
Another point of departure between the two methods is in the conception of what is to be obtained through the encounter with ‘ultimate reality.’ Christianity, according to Bishop Kallistos, seeks a relationship with God, as they know him to be, on a personal basis. Not that a conversation is going to ensue, but that one ought to seek to know God better through the relationship developed. On the other hand, Buddhism (in this example) looks for an opening of awareness onto the oneness of everything that exists, and to find peace in the encounter of selflessness.
As examples of the way of Mystical Quest, as laid out in Cannon’s book, “Six Ways of Being Religious,” each has as its focus the ideal of coming into contact with whatever the religion takes to be ‘ultimate reality’. This is accomplished through a form of ascetic life and meditation which is thought by the adherents to go above and beyond normal human conscious experience. The intended sentiments are for one to come to this way of life seeking a joining of their inner self to whatever is taken to be ‘ultimately real.’
In both of the preceding examples they...