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The Mystical Experience: Where Human Experience Dissolves into Spirituality and Religion.  The Mystic Don't you think 'The Mystic' sounds pretty dramatic? I'm sure it might conjure up jedi-like imagery, something a bit merlin or those stigmata marks on devoted monks. What springs to my mind are those orange clad sitters who tranquilly await enlightened, but equally, there are shamanic seers, and the Islamic Sufi who can also enjoy mystic experience. Regardless of any cause, be it neurological, or even the psychological, spiritual, drug induced or even a traumatising event, they're all experienced and often called mystic.  No tradition, faith or ethnicity can claim exclusivity of this sort of thing, even though we might think otherwise. It's unique, personal . We can see for ourselves how mystical experience go by a variety of names across the globe, here are a few: moksha is Hindu meaning liberation, gnosis was secret experiential knowledge stemming from antiq

The Mystical Experience: Blending into Religion

The Mystical Experience: Where Human Experience Dissolves into Spirituality and Religion. 


The Mystic

Don't you think 'The Mystic' sounds pretty dramatic? I'm sure it might conjure up jedi-like imagery, something a bit merlin or those stigmata marks on devoted monks. What springs to my mind are those orange clad sitters who tranquilly await enlightened, but equally, there are shamanic seers, and the Islamic Sufi who can also enjoy mystic experience. Regardless of any cause, be it neurological, or even the psychological, spiritual, drug induced or even a traumatising event, they're all experienced and often called mystic. 

Nondualist experience of being with nature

No tradition, faith or ethnicity can claim exclusivity of this sort of thing, even though we might think otherwise. It's unique, personal. We can see for ourselves how mystical experience go by a variety of names across the globe, here are a few: moksha is Hindu meaning liberation, gnosis was secret experiential knowledge stemming from antiquity, nirvana is a Buddhist state of bliss similar sat chit ananda in Vedic tradition. Satori is a temporary zen buddhist state of enlightenment, and theosis is a term found in orthodox christianities describring a state of unity with their concept of God.


Theurgy is interesting; just going on the esoteric basis of working with divinities and altering consciousness, it holds mystical, religious and occult themes! Samadhi is an eastern term meaning a profound absorption into the absolute, for Jewish people devekut signifies their deep unity with HaShem through veneration. Islam has fana, a sufi death of egotism resonating with Advaita Vedanta and then, we have 'theoria,' admittedly, it is quite an interesting form of mystical experience. It's triggered by a sufficient point of philosophical contemplation. All of the above hold qualities and some overlap. 


Profound mystical moments are hard to put into regular words, because human language itself is a limitation.  You could liken it to the task of putting a brand new, totally unseen colour into accurate words. Such a task would involve referencing other existing colours and anything similar to it. It is a 'burden of interpretation.'

depiction of union with the source via meditation


The Challenge of Interpretation:

After a mystical experience fades, it's just as the christian mystic, Meister Eckhart describes, 'the well overflows, and then it runs dry,' and so, as the moment will gradually diminish; we might begin doubting the mystical union. When a shift has taken place as such, those who try to salvage the last dregs of water with their leaking bucket, will likely spill it and make a mess. 


Qualia and the Limits of Language:

It is fair to say that any mystical experience we rationalise will often end up catagorised, mentally stored away, re-interpreted, re-questioned, reframed, processed and reformed. In various religious scriptures, we see textual descriptors or criteria of awakenings, especially in Eastern traditions. There are so many lenses to view these experiences. Which are true? Where is the consensus? We will explore this soon. 


Qualia, the inner subjective experience we have of something, namely, the mystic experience itself for this point of this blog, is rooted in a valid, 'what-was-it-like?' means of comparatively judging something. It's measuring against another object or idea: 'this soup tastes like curry' 'the culprit looked like a camel,' or ultimately, 'my mystical experience was like the religious figure 1, 2 or 3 telling me X Y or Z'. When we strongly try to carry the last of the well water with 'what-it-was-likeness' bucket explanations; we leak all the unexplainable, and we spill the most abstract and lose the finest detail. 

Stupid cartoon I drew of illuminati, men with light bulbs on their heads

To support this we should consider the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which states that speakers of languages with a greater vocabulary for colour, for example, will enjoy a richer intellectually colourful dialogue than basic languages. Imagine having a ton of words for different shades of blue, see what I mean? That's just blue. Even the various sounds and rhythms of a language (accents and pronunciations) will influence how speakers feel about such words (with more connotation and concepts) and what they mean to them as speakers of that language. What makes one mystical insight more valid than another is hard to say, but there are determining factors with interpretation, as we are slowly beginning to explore. 


Similar to mystical experiences are Near Death Experiences (NDEs) which are culturally specific phenomena. I always supposed this cultural specifity was based on an inbuilt psychological defense mechanism evolved to help us face end of life stress. You know, like the explanation for the brains DMT secretion near death? But, we do, as people, tend to season our strange experiences with familiar flavours in order to digest them more easily; it seems there is an element of phenomenal relativism of interpretation here. 

By phenomenal relativism of interpretation, I mean the preconceptions of the world that we utilise in our interpretation of and processing of new and unique experiences. This really would be great to apply to hypothetical paranormal experiences as an example. 

If a UFO was to tour our planets skies, international interpretation of the phenomena would differ:

    ●Westerners, generally construe UFOs through a sci-fi lens, usually as advanced spaceships flown by extra terrestrial beings.

    ●In Japan, on the other hand, these mysterious flying anomalies are yokai, a more earthly, organic spiritual being living parallel to us. 

    ●In Africa, the same Yokai or alien ship would be a star being, once considered to be ancestors who now come back to visit. 


The phenomenal relativism of interpretation is clear. I chose to leave my other examples out, because three does suffice. For further observations on this relativism of interpretation, compare the numerous cultural and historical variants of Jesus Christ across the globe. If you don't believe in Jesus, or see him as a historical cult leader, his depiction show our bias. 

Bosch painting of afterlife tunnel


Shared Themes Across Traditions:

UFOs and NDEs aside, I should say, there are mystics like Teresa of Avila, who would describe mystic experiences as simply 'ineffable,' which is putting it as something impossible to articulate properly in words. Instead of, let's say, trying to play Einsteins theory of relativity on a trombone; some individuals who have mystic experiences might acknowledge that taking up such a difficult challenge is pointless! This is why we have a plethora of mystic experiences, by trying to explain the unexplainable. Countless gods, deities, ancestors, spirits have been reported in the realm mystical experience. Yet, I must add, despite the common themes, they cannot all be correctly interpreted. 


Transformation and a Lasting Impact:

Even though specific details of mystic experiences fade, they still bring new perspectives. This doesn't mean you'll turn into the next mountainside guru living in a constant state of bliss—that's psychologically unhealthy. It's a stereotype. Enlightened people can be grumpy like anyone else. It's unnatural to force yourself to be something you are not. Self-learning is a common theme across numerous spiritual and philosophical practices in which, we might obtain satori. Primarily many spiritual and religious beginnings come with accepting our imperfect biological human nature, and to be aware of our ego. It's not easy. The Mystical is personal, a private gift. 

Art of man leaving body, medieval.


A World of Perception

I guess I painted a picture of a world where our perception is not passively impressed upon us. If our senses are just the recording equipment, and the brain is the organiser, the mystical experience will grip the heart of phenomenal consciousness itself bypassing reason and consistency


What's the deal here? 

The cause of mystical experience is beyond the scope of this blog. All we could conclude here is how we should question how people interpret their own experiences of ineffible occurences. It is like the paraple of the blind men and the elephant; they all touched the beast, each saying it was a different creature!


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