The essay "Five Ways Leading to the Mystical Union" describes five ways to achieve the state of union with reality and considers the nature of mysticism. According to Evelyn Underhill, mysticism is the state of union with reality. But in order for mysticism to occur there has to be changed in an individual’s life, after the experience beyond human description.
The first way 'The awakening of self' is a stage much higher than religious conversion. A person moves from a stage of physical limitations, placed on them by the world and moves to a state of greater revelation. People find meaning in life.
The second one is 'Purgation of self'. The awakened parson goes higher, on the slow spiritual journey in order to arrive at a higher consciousness of reality. The path involves shedding off older, evil self of the world and embracing God.
The next way 'Illumination' transfers self-centeredness into a God-centered world. Once detached from earthly attachments, the mystic is sure of the existence of God. The mystic and the superior being are not yet one, the relationship can be compared to betrothal but not marriage.
'The dark night of the soul' is the fourth way which is a purification of the spirit before it merges with the absolute. There is no joy but fatigue, deprivation, and darkness. The old temptation of mystics’ desire for earthly desires creeps in, due to exhaustion from friends and family.
And the final way 'The unitive life' comes after years of destruction of selfhood. Here the old self is replaced by the divine self. ...