by Charles (Prana) Feldman
Pagans seek freedom from violating taboos. Monotheists seek freedom from sin. Mystics seek freedom from ignorance. Atheists seek freedom from social injustice.
Pagans blame evil spirits and people who are witches for bad things. Monotheists blame the devil and people who rebel against God's covenant. Mystics blame only themselves, because those who don't know are ignorant, and cannot be blamed. Atheists blame the structure of society, and the powerful people who take advantage of others.
Pagans believe that if people violate taboos or practice witchcraft, they bring the wrath of the gods down on people. Monotheists believe that if people rebel against God or are disobedient, they bring the wrath of God upon society. Mystics believe that if people pursue selfish desires, that they themselves will not be fulfilled. Atheists believe that if people are corrupt, they get in the way of social harmony.
Pagans seek freedom to please the gods. Monotheists seek salvation, which is life with God in eternal heaven. Mystics seek unity with God, or nirvana, both of which go beyond duality. Atheists seek the freedom to make the most of life on earth.
We are all seeking freedom. All paths lead to freedom, some sooner than others.
Fanatics of all stripes seem to have incredible faith. This may be due to their focus and concentration on one point alone. Mystics are encouraged to concentrate on one point, but not to push their way on everyone. Fundamentalists suppress doubt, while mystics encourage honest doubt. Suppressing doubt may also contribute to the fanatics' incredible faith. Skeptics encourage doubt and decry blind faith. Skeptics may develop an incredible faith in their own conclusions. Fanatics think nothing of manipulating others to get their way. They believe that the end justifies the means. To the mystics, the means are as important as the ends.
An old idea is that it seems that the wicked prosper, while the good suffer. Mystics believe that we each have our karma, and that those who deliver pleasure or pain to us are just messengers, giving us what we deserve. Pagans and monotheists encourage fear and a victim mode. They believe they are victims of the gods, the devil, and in general, the bad guys. Atheists and skeptics may believe they are victims of religious orthodoxy. Mystics, who internalize their philosophy, don't see themselves as victims. They see themselves as manifestations of God or children of God. Their suffering comes from their own ignorance and desires and samskaras. The way to do away with it is to do away with desires, except the desire to attain God. The world seems real to everyone but a God- or nirvana-realized mystic.