A few days ago George posted a comment where he asked what people thought of these statements:
1) the existence of a Divine formless force underlying everything.
2) each person has a true inner self, kernel or spark surrounded by egos or wills clouding their perceptions and ability to know thy inner self and the Divine.
3) using meditation to allow connection or alignment of the inner self with the Divine and thus experiencing direct knowledge of the Divine, rather than thru the intellect with its egos which is inherently limited.
4) our purpose is self knowledge of the inner self, to know who we are, to know thyself.
Taoism appears slightly different, but appears to still require man to know himself to align his/her will or ego with nature, and that this is best achieved by putting the mind into a still passive or meditative state unburdened by the intellect or thought.
I didn't want this question -- are there universal mystical principles? -- to be lost in a string of comments, so dug it out for inspection.
It's a big question, obviously. I used to believe that there was such a thing as the Perennial Philosophy, but now I'm much less sure.
For those willing to wade through some fairly complex ideas about the perennial philosophy, these notes on a book by Jorge Ferrer are worth reading. I resonate with Nigel Wellings' conclusion:
The main reason I agree with these sentiments, especially if the perennial philosophy is taken to be as George describes it in the four principles above, is that some mystic teachings don't emphasize (or even acknowledge) a distinction between "true inner self" and "the Divine."
These are dualistic concepts that don't seem to fit in with nondual philosophies such as Advaita, Buddhism, and Taoism. Here the self is viewed as a fiction or illusion to be seen through, not as a distinct entity that can merge with another entity, the Divine.
So when George says that Taoism is "slightly different," I'd say "very different." I've read a bunch of books about Taoist philosophy, and have practiced Tai Chi for about five years (which embodies Taoism).
In this post I discussed how Taoism is both similar to in some respects, yet also quite different from, the Sant Mat philosophy. I said:
The way I see it – and I understand that everyone has a unique vision of how things are – the Taoist notion of a divine melody pervading the universe is a more genuine reflection of Sant Mat's shabd, dhun, or "sound current."
That is, by and large Taoism lacks the religious dogma and metaphysical baggage that organized spiritual faiths carry along.
Taoism and Sant Mat both teach that mental conceptions obscure a wordless primal reality. However, Taoism (like Buddhism) espouses no-mind, not-knowing. Sant Mat, however, is based on an involved belief system. Once someone has bought into the beliefs, further questioning and conceptualizing is supposed to stop.
So while Taoism has no-mind, Sant Mat has locked-in-place mind. The aspiring Taoist mystic seeks to embrace mystery directly; the aspiring Sant Mat mystic considers that cosmic mysteries will be revealed after traveling a well-defined path.
Thus I think George is correct in identifying the four principles as being parts of many mystical teachings. But not all of those paths adopt all of the principles. And style is as important as substance, in my opinion.
Taoism and Buddhism, for example, take themselves much less seriously than faiths like Sant Mat do. In no small part this is due to the absence of a savior or guru in these more wide open and iconoclastic mystic pursuits.
From the introduction to The Book of Chuang Tzu:
Trying to read the book through logically will only produce faint, ghostly laughter. And the one who will be laughing at you from afar will be the spirit of Chuang Tzu. For if there is one constant theme in the book, it is that logic is nonsense and that eclecticism is all, if you wish to open yourself to the Tao and the Te -- the Way and the Virtue of all.