Everything that ascends must converge.
— Teilhard de Chardin
The spiritual quest has been compared to climbing a mountain. Some question whether we are all climbing the same mountain. I don’t think this can be proven or disproven, but I find the metaphor useful and encouraging. When I read the mystics, regardless of tradition, I find most of them sound remarkably similar underneath the metaphors.
We all start down in the flatlands and travel up into the foothills. What we see depends largely on where we started. But as de Chardin points out in the quote above, as we ascend we come closer together and the landscape looks more the same than where we individually started from.
Meister Eckhart, Richard Rohr, and other Christian mystics sound more like some of the Buddhist and Hindu writers, both ancient and modern, than anything coming out of the Christian churches. Now there are occasional exceptions, Pope Francis sounds more like his namesake saint than his predecessor pope.
Recently I started re-reading “The Enlightened Mind”, an anthology of sacred prose, edited by Stephen Mitchell. It is arranged chronologically, starting with the Upanishads (8th-5th century BCE, Hindu) and the Hebrew Scriptures (7th-3rd century BCE). I may not be there yet, but the landscape they are describing is visible from where I am.
However, some of the Chinese writers I don\’t understand at all. What they describe is too alien. They are standing on a mountain either too far away or too high. I don\’t recognize what they see.