Mystical Travel

Posted on in Healthy Living by Nick Inman

Journeys for Transformation


You finally get to some famous place you’ve always wanted to visit. Then what? You read the information panels, flick through the guidebook, and take the tour. Impressed, you nod at historical dates and gasp at dimensions and statistics. Finally, you take lots of photos and buy souvenirs as proof that you really have been there. You do all of this in the company of thousands of other people who are doing much the same as you. Then you go home and tell your friends where you have been, tick yesterday’s destination off your list, and move on to dreaming about your next trip.

That’s one way to spend a vacation and there’s nothing wrong with it. Sometimes you don’t want to think too hard, you just want to indulge your curiosity, relax, treat yourself to fun, and gather pleasant memories.

But one day you come up against a law of diminishing rewards. The more places you breeze through in this way, and the easier it is to get everywhere on the planet, the less rewarding the experience of tourism is. It’s almost as if you have been there but not really been there.

For this reason, many people are choosing a radically different approach. They travel not in search of sights and sensations, but of meaning. Their intention is to come home not only satisfied, but transformed. I call this “mystical travel,” to distinguish it from “material” travel, although in reality the two can go together and complement each other nicely.

The difference is that when you travel mystically, you go wherever it is you want to go in as full a sense as you possibly can. You try to be as aware of as much as possible, and spend more time in a few select places rather than hurrying through many. Instead of going distant, you go deeper. This can demand more effort, but gives you far more reward on your financial and psychic investment in the trip.

In mystical travel you don’t just cover geography, you visit a place on different levels or dimensions. You don’t have to be religious to do this; it is a matter of being open and receptive rather than believing.

To give you an example, a Gothic cathedral, such as Chartres, is usually described in a guidebook as a particular way of arranging stones to address the religious priorities of 13th-century northern France. It’s a piece of history and architecture that happens to be aesthetically pleasing to modern tourists. All that is true, but it doesn’t capture the motivation of the creators and users of the building, or the experience of sitting in the nave in the 21st century.

When you visit Chartres in a mystical sense you don’t ignore the standard version, but added to that is a meeting of two spirits: yours and that of the building in a unique alignment of time, person, and place. With a little planning and perception you see the cathedral as more than a marvelous piece of medieval architecture; you realize that it is a living building replete with sacred geometry and symbolism in which nothing is there by chance, and nothing is there as mere functionless ornamentation. The whole thing is an enduring piece of spiritual machinery designed to speak directly to the human soul and awaken something in it.

I’m not saying that you have to take a trip across the world to have a transcendental experience; mysticism is available everywhere. Nature is particularly conducive to such experiences. Even lying on a beach, with a little boost of consciousness you can make an effort to be aware of everything that surrounds you, and that belongs to the same universe in which all things are interrelated. You can see or sense the microcosmic (the life in the sea and the sand); the macrocosmic (the cosmos above you, the atmosphere in constant flux); the human society that defines you; the outer and inner aspects of you; and the way in which all these things are woven together and worked on by time. I would argue, however, that there are certain places on earth that have more power to trigger mystical experiences than others. I’ve got no evidence for this because mysticism by its nature goes beyond empirical evidence. But you have nothing to lose by trying it out.

If you are going to travel, you may as well head for somewhere that means something to you (within the constraints of time and money available).

There’s only one small downside. You might not be able to talk about your vacation in the same was as you are used to.

Your experience in a sacred site belongs to the moment that you are there and is personal to you. You won’t be able to capture it in a photograph or take home any proof of it.

But going there and coming back with memories will be the least important aspect of your trip. You will almost certainly get something intangible in return for your effort. You will come to understand a little more about yourself and of the puzzle of existence that encompasses us all.

A Small Selection of Sacred Sites Around the World

» Chartres Cathedral, northern France. Considered the most perfect of the Gothic cathedrals.
» Easter Island, Chile. Famous for its gigantic statues, or moai.
» Great Serpent Mount, Ohio, USA. Ancient earthwork of mysterious purpose, possibly built before the Common Era.
» Jerusalem, Israel. Legendary Middle Eastern city held sacred by the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religions.
» Lascaux prehistoric painted caves, Dordogne, France. The original cannot be visited, but there is a magnificent replica. Other prehistoric painted caves can still be visited on a guided tour by flashlight. Lascaux
» Mount Heng (Hengshan), Shanxi Province, China. One of the five Great Mountains of China, sacred to the Taoist religion. Near the mount is the famous Hanging Temple.
» Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. End point of converging pilgrimage routes, some of which originate in northern France.
» Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England. Inscrutable megalithic monument.
» Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Marble mausoleum beside the Yamuna River.
» Teotihuacan, Mexico. Vast pre-Hispanic archaeological site, “The city where the gods were created,” including the pyramids of the sun and the moon.
» Uluru (Ayers Rock), Australia. Sacred to Aboriginal people, now part of a national park.

Nick Inman is the author of A Guide to Mystical France: Secrets, Mysteries, Sacred Sites (Findhorn Press, 2016).

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