Mysticism is a way of spiritual life, which binds all humanity together. It is not enough for us merely to know what the different philosophers, and the Christians, the Muslims, the Jains, the Buddhists, the Vaishnavites, or the Lingayats propound for the attainment of God. It is necessary to analyse what lies behind these philosophies and these religions. We can then discern that essentially the same kind of spiritual teaching pervades them all.
If we make a comparative study of the philosophies and religions of the world, and especially of the life and teachings of those, who in the various stages of humanity, and in different ages and lands, have walked on the path of God, we shall see that there are certain broad characteristics common in the attainment of God. These for the convenience sake are summerised, by Gurudev, under five heads:
1. Incentives to Spiritual Life
Many are the incentives which prompt us to a life in God. There are philosophical, axiological and physiological.
2. Moral Preparation
If aspirant wish to make any progress in his spiritual endeavour, he must undergo moral preparation. By exercising his will the aspirant has to cultivate virtues and cast off vices.
3. Relation between Saints and God
This is intellectual preparation. Aspirant has to keep before him certain examplars of conduct and attainment, which he must necessarily follow. This he cannot do unless he has defined to himself, both theoretically and practically, the nature and functions of God in relation to the examplars above mentioned. The aspirant is rationally convinced about the supreme value of his goal by acquiring knowledge about Saints and God.
When the relationship between the examplars and God has been defined, he has to tread the path himself, before he can be convinced about the reality of the experiences of those who have gone before them.
5. Mystical Experiences - the crowning phase
After having walked on the pathway for a long time, and through travails and turmoils of body and mind, of nature and society, the aspirant can envisage to himself certain landmarks, certain lamp-posts, which will help him to walk with courage and confidence on the pathway to God, and attain to the highest ideal he has been seeking.
These are not water-tight compartments. Division indicates main event and development stage of the aspirant. As he advances on his pilgrimage, visions of God, serve as further incentives, he attains more moral perfection. Acquires first - hand knowledge of God vis-a-vis spiritual teacher. All this leading to further progress on his path. Subsequently, this leads to more vision of God, and the entire process becomes an auspicious circle acquiring velocity both by aspirants ascending efforts and God's descending Grace.