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Philosophy 12: Mystics: Why People Suffer

Posted on 2021 December 26 by Mark Macy

Which statement is closer to the truth?

  1. There’s a lot of pain and suffering in our lives and in our world.
  2. We spend our lifetime free of pain and suffering.

At first glance, from a lifetime of experience, the answer is obvious to us all: (1) is true and (2) is false.

But according to mystics, in the bigger metaphysical picture that extends beyond a lifetime into eternity, (2) is closer to the truth, and (1) is largely an illusion. Mystics see the truth of oneness through spiritual eyes. They see beyond the duality (Earth’s darkness vs. the “inner light”).

So let’s try to unravel human suffering to see if we can find “the truth” that all the great mystics talk about… and why, from the big picture, life on Earth is just “an illusion.”


Lots of things on Earth can make us suffer— accidents, addictions, assaults, crimes, disasters, diseases, disorders, hunger, poverty, poisoning, war…. It’s a long list of obvious things that we’re all familiar with.

There are also things beyond our material world that can make us suffer, but they’re less obvious, less familiar, more mysterious. During our lifetime, for example, our negative thoughts and feelings can cling to the Earth like static lint, getting caught in a sort of shadow around the planet, before drifting back to Earth into susceptible minds. After we die and get settled in paradise, we might choose to reincarnate into a new lifetime of pain and suffering on Earth because our struggle will somehow get us closer to “the truth.” Others might see us as derelicts and eccentrics. They may feel sad, compassionate, or repulsed by our pathetic presence, but we’ve chosen this difficult journey, before birth, for two or three good reasons that we probably don’t even remember. We might begin to sense an “inner light” that makes us realize that other people’s suffering is more problematic than our own suffering, which now starts to seem inconsequential. We might start behaving like a mystic.

There are simple techniques or principles that anyone can use to become a mystic (without all the misery), while gradually shedding the scrappiness, judgment, and insecurities that come bundled up in the human package. Self-reflection is involved, along with the atonement, gratitude, and humility that come naturally through the process. As we adopt one of these simple principles into our daily life, our suffering diminishes and eventually becomes inconsequential, and the suffering of others is more painful to us.

So that’s a roadmap for this trek into human suffering… a basic outline for the article below:

  1. Worldly origins of suffering,
  2. Other-worldly causes, and
  3. Beyond suffering: mysticism.

Let’s start the adventure with a quirky analogy.12a-flyingfishdream-1.png.683d31f36951b01bd990912631962bdc.png

  • If a fish could fall asleep and have a lucid dream about soaring over forests and towns, its first waking thoughts might be…
    … Whoa, why is everything so wet?!
    … Oh yeah, I live in the water. Duh.
  • If we have a dream about our dear, departed grandparents together in paradise, young and vital, smiling and beckoning us to join them, then wake up groaning in a hospital bed, our first waking thoughts might be…
    … Whoa, why all this pain?
    … Oh yeah, I live on Earth. Duh. And I’m in bad shape….

We all suffer to a greater or lesser degree throughout a lifetime.

The reasons are complicated, but let’s try to keep them as simple and as brief as possible.

From the top:

Worldly Origins of Suffering

  • Planet Earth causes suffering for everything living on her. The ways we all treat each other (plants, animals, and humans) are sometimes called symbiotic relationships. They involve not just 1) mutualists (who ensure everyone wins) and 2) commensalists (who ensure no one loses), but three other types who struggle in win-lose dramas: 3) competitors, 4) parasites, and 5) predators. I suspect it’s those three win-lose symbiotic relationships—competitor vs competitor, parasite vs host, and predator vs prey—that cause most of the suffering in our world. They cause pain, inspire dark and hostile motivations, and stir up troubled and confused thinking. Those impure thought-forms spread like a disease into all human groups—friendships, families, businesses, and nations… even religions. As a result…
  • Our societies cause suffering—in the form of chronic stress—with their rules and laws, their crime and punishment, their economic disparities, their pressure to conform, and so on. Peace and happiness in society can be elusive while those win-lose relationships fester with animosity, fear, greed, resentment, and other destabilizing emotions.
  • We humans are biologically built for suffering. We have hormones, brains, and DNA that make us feel pleasure and pain. They can make us healthy or sick, happy or sad, passive or aggressive, loving or resentful, confident or afraid. They can make us sensitive or insensitive to the suffering of others.

All of those familiar conditions of our world are probably the main causes of suffering in our lives, but there are also some imperceptible troubles that come into our lives from beyond, whether solicited or not.

Other-Worldly Causes of Suffering

The source emits a life-energy that creates and nourishes everything in the omniverse with vitality, love, truth, and service. As the pure life-energy leaves the source, it begins to vibrate very fast, then slower and slower as it moves out-beyond to create denser realms like our own material universe (one of the fine, white circles at level 1). As the vibrations get slower, all of the universes and worlds become less pure, more illusory.

Out here in the fringes of the omniverse, where things are most illusory, the brutality of Earth’s symbiosis refracts some of the life-energy, forming a sort of shadow around the planet, which becomes a repository of all the dark, troubled thoughts and motivations of living things like you and me.This pulled-apart view of the all-that-is shows how everything is spiritually nested. Every entity (like a person or planet) has subtler bodies within it leading toward the source, which rests at the center of everything.
Earth’s brutal nature deflects or repels* some of the life energy coming from the source, casting a sort of spiritual shadow around the planet—a repository of all the dark thoughts and motivations spinning off our world. It’s a troubled realm that across the millennia has inspired notions of ghosts, lost souls, demons, and hell.
*While writing this article it occurred to me that Earth’s brutality probably doesn’t “deflect or repel” life-energy, but more likely REFRACTs it like a dark prism to create the shadow. (More about that in a moment.)



This pulled-apart view of the all-that-is shows how everything is spiritually nested. Every entity (like a person or planet) has subtler bodies within it leading toward the source, which rests at the center of everything.
Earth’s brutal nature deflects or repels* some of the life energy coming from the source, casting a sort of spiritual shadow around the planet—a repository of all the dark thoughts and motivations spinning off our world. It’s a troubled realm that across the millennia has inspired notions of ghosts, lost souls, demons, and hell.
*While writing this article it occurred to me that Earth’s brutality probably doesn’t “deflect or repel” life-energy, but more likely REFRACTs it like a dark prism to create the shadow. (More about that in a moment.)

After we die, most of us awaken in a paradise world at level 3, where human relationships have been filtered and cleansed. There are no competitors, predators, or harmful parasites at level 3. Everyone migrates into spiritual communities of like-minded people, and everyone is compelled to serve because mutualism and commensalism are the way of life.

Then we’re generally free of suffering (at least physical pain is gone) until we choose to return to Earth for another lifetime, as most of us do… many times.

That simple overview of Earth’s place in the all-that-is helps to explain how other-worldly conditions can cause us to suffer. Here’s a closer look at 1) Earth’s shadow and 2) the afterlife choices we might make to experience a lifetime of suffering….

Earth’s shadow


I think of Earth’s shadow as a sort of dark mirror image of the

omniverse. It’s formed as life-energy is refracted through the brutal symbiotic relationships of our planet. Love becomes hate, awe becomes fear, vitality becomes weariness, truth becomes falsehood, understanding becomes confusion, and so on. (read more… )



Earth’s shadow is inhabited by what we could call dark thoughtforms, or dense spiritual energies, or simply troubled and confused spirits. Unsettling thoughts spin off the Earth to form the shadow, then feed back to Earth in a cyclical way.

Although we can’t perceive the shadow through our five senses, it’s around us all the time, leaking troubled thoughts into our world, into our societies, and into our minds. Turbulent influences from the shadow can stir up anything from assaults and wars to desolation and mental disorders like schizophrenia.

In 1992 my colleague Maggy Fischbach of Luxembourg received a phone call from her spirit friend Swejen Salter (at level 3 in the diagram), who shed some light on Earth’s shadow.

(read more about that spirit phone call… )

Swejen described a spiritual shadow around our world that plays a strange part in our lives. Here are some of the highlights of her explanation (the notes in parentheses are conjectures based on my research):

  • It’s not a parallel world, not a spirit world, but just a sort of shadow of Earth that’s superimposed over our world like a close copy.
  • It’s inhabited by people like us who’ve died and gotten settled in there (apparently at level -1 or -2 in the above “shadow” diagram), instead of ascending to paradise (at level 3).
  • The shadow people are a little smarter than we are in some ways, a little dumber in other ways.
  • They create the “crop circles” in our world that were making the headlines late last century (showing some technological acumen). (They may get help from “lesser extraterrestrials” like the so-called “greys” and “reptilians.”)
  • They can disrupt an ITC communication bridge to make confusing, unwanted contacts, mimicking the voices of our spirit friends, and stirring up our fears and confusion (suggesting low moral behavior). Afterlife researchers need to be aware of them, since they can influence our work.
  • As long as we stay anchored to the source and to our finer spiritual friends closer to the source (for example, through meditation, prayer, and inner work), the shadow entities can’t really do us any harm.

crop circles12d-cropcircles.png.7122ff6843bc9cdc409efccfa3315493.png

Swejen only talks about the shadow world close to the Earth (probably level -1 or -2 in the shadow diagram above). That shadow world is a bit dim compared to our world, but not really dark. There are also (apparently) some very dark worlds in Earth’s shadow, which we’ve explored elsewhere on this site. (read more about the darkest reaches of ‘the shadow’…)

So, Earth’s shadow is a perennial cause of suffering for us, but we can gradually overcome its effects with various spiritual techniques or principles like the one described at the end of the article.

But enough about the shadow! (After all, we know that when we turn on the light, the darkness disappears. Darkness doesn’t really exist; it’s just the absence of light.)

Let’s focus on things that are closer to the source but can also bring suffering into our world from beyond.

Karma and Soul Purpose

After a lifetime on Earth, we usually get settled into bright paradise living at level 3, and one of the first things we do is review our karma, a sort of ship’s log of our recent lifetime. This is what our spirit friends told our INIT group about karma and reincarnation:

  • The human soul returns to Earth often enough to learn all human life experiences…. Reincarnation is not always a process of reparation in this life for a past life. If people around you are hard hit by fate, do not always assume that they have to make up for past transgressions. Never judge! You may be wrong and are burdening yourself by your judgment. There are people whose grief and sickness were not imposed on them because of past karma. They used their own free will (at the spiritual level) to select a more difficult road (during a physical lifetime) to reach their goals faster. (read more about karma and reincarnation… )

The “sleeping prophet” Edgar Cayce shed some light on this idea of soul purpose (adapted from Your Soul’s Gift, chapter 10, by Robert Schwartz):

  • In a private session, two wealthy sisters from New York City told Cayce that they were desperate to help their brother. “Our brother lives under a bridge. He drinks too much. He has squandered his share of the family fortune. For years we’ve done everything we can think of to help him turn his life around, all to no avail. What can we do? Our brother is beyond hope.” After going into a trance and accessing the Akashic Record, Cayce informed the two women that their brother was the single most highly evolved soul about whom he had ever obtained information. Out of his great love for you, Cayce explained to the sisters, your brother agreed before you were born to play this role so that you might develop greater compassion. Astonished, the sisters returned home with a newfound and deep respect, admiration, and gratitude for their brother, the courageous soul who so lovingly, so bravely enacted his very difficult role in service to them.

Some people on Earth, like this derelict brother, are mystics in disguise.

(Note: The karma and soul plans that we make before a lifetime are soon forgotten as we grow up, then they simmer in the subconscious, gently nudging us toward our higher purpose.)

So as souls prepare to come to Earth for a lifetime, some of them choose a lifetime of suffering. They apparently make that choice with good reason. For example:

  1. Karma. In a previous lifetime they caused lots of suffering, and so they want to make amends in this next lifetime by feeling the consequences of their misbehavior.
  2. Soul plan. Experiencing lots of suffering in this next lifetime on Earth will prepare them for important work they wish to accomplish next, whether in finer realms of spirit or during yet another lifetime on Earth, for example as a powerful healer or a brilliant prophet who can help the world in a big way. Suffering in this coming lifetime will wash away some negative karma to provide fertile ground for their soul mission later on.
  3. Karma and soul plan together. In this next lifetime they’re going to immerse themselves deeply in Earth’s drama with all of its pain, and before they die they’re going to see the light and transform. At least that’s their plan: At some point in their grueling journey they hope to realize that their connections to people, money, and things of this world aren’t working anymore, and they have to open up to the source, because everything else has failed them. In this way, they cleanse their karma, open up to the source, and then bring light to the world as part of their soul plan. They become world servers. The challenge of this lifetime will be to survive the drama in order to forge the connection before they die.

Important: If we know someone who’s suffering badly—especially a loved one—the best thing we can do for them and for ourselves is to think of them as a “#3” (they’re doing soul work while cleansing their karma). But we don’t just hope. The more we can believe their #3 situation is the truth, the more relaxed we’ll be, and the more our refined life-energies will influence them in a favorable way. We need to believe and know that they’re here for a higher purpose. Worst case: no harm is done. Best case: Healing miracles will unfold as we all transcend suffering.

… which brings us to the final section.

Beyond Suffering: Mysticism

Evelyn Underhill concludes her landmark book, Practical Mysticism, with this:


  • Mysticism is the art of union with Reality… growing and stretching into more perfect harmony with the Eternal Order, until at last, like the blessed ones of Dante’s vision, the clearness of his flame responds to the unspeakable radiance of the Enkindling Light.

In other words, people who refine their conscious connection with the source during a lifetime can become “mystics.” The process generally involves some degree of suffering (at least at first) as they become more sensitive to their part in Earth’s drama… then it diminishes.

There are many ways to refine our conscious connection to the source, and most of them involve some form of practiced meditation.


What works best for me is a simple heart meditation, in which I move my awareness—my thinking—from the head to the heart. Mystics in the Far East have long said, “The heart is the seat of the soul.” While doing a heart meditation, the brain sort of closes down as the body begins to relax with refined life-energy. I used to do this heart meditation sporadically, but in recent years I try to do it daily. (see how it’s done… )

In any case, some sort of inner work is necessary to transcend Earth’s drama. As people become aware of the source or “inner light” within them and decide to refine their conscious contact, they’ll probably find techniques that work best for them.

It always involves turning our back on the drama of this world as we turn inward (or “in-beyond” toward the source)

So… that’s the simple truth discovered by all of the great mystics down through the ages:

We have an inner light… a source of vitality, love, truth, and service that rests at the center of us all—at the center of everything. By making conscious contact with the source (sometimes through finer spirit beings closer to the source), we can begin to find our true self and to transform our life.

And that, I believe, is the mystics’ truth.

# # #


Reference Material

Finally, here are some messages about suffering that our INIT group received from Timestream spirit group in the 1990s (along with my interpretation after each message). Much of the information in this article was derived from these messages, which were received by INIT member Maggy Fischbach of Luxembourg through her computer, TV, radio, telephone, and other devices.

1991, from ethereal being “Technician,” referring to Timestream member Richard Francis Burton:

  • When a man has experienced all facets of earthly life, grief, joy, happiness, pain, suffering and exhaustion, when all search for knowledge has been satisfied and he has explored all corners of the Earth, when the wheel of life comes to a halt after many incarnations, then the time has come to look for new horizons.

Apparently suffering is just part of the Earth experience that many souls want to experience before moving on to finer realities and leaving Earth behind for good.

1987, Technician:

  • The grief and suffering people have to bear is closely connected to free will and personal choice which God’s power has granted to each of us as a great gift. Without free will there is no recognition of truth which comes from within. Therefore, blind obedience is not what higher powers want. You are living in a time when truth is easily distorted and false speculations about eternal life are quickly passed out as the only truth. God prefers the seeker and those who question. No efforts are spared to advance human thinking and individual initiative from its low animal instincts to a position of spiritual thinking.

During a lifetime we bring suffering upon ourselves to a large extent, even though the conditions for suffering are deeply ingrained in our world and in our lives. As we seek the truth within, we can slowly transcend the physical suffering now. Then later, in the afterlife, we can transcend mental and emotional suffering.

1992, Swejen Salter:

  • Many animal species exist here which are unknown on earth, such as paradise-like birds and colorful butterflies. The temperature is very mild. Personality and character are not changed by the process of dying. You do not wake up on the third plane with new knowledge. Psychic problems and conflicts are not abolished yet. Though there is no more physical pain here, we still know mental anguish and the pain of the soul.

Again, physical pain on Earth ceases to exist in the afterlife. However, we might continue to feel some degree of mental or emotional anguish, depending on our life choices. Even then there are boundless opportunities to transform. It’s good to do inner work while still on Earth to alleviate some of the mental and emotional anguish before we die… to realize the truth of our oneness with the timeless source.

Connect with the inner light… make conscious contact with the source… live accordingly.

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