WORK IN PROGRESS
"THE MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES OF ORDINARY PEOPLE"
Have You Had a Mystical Experience?
I am inviting people to share accounts of their mystical experiences. These are sometimes called “Wondrous Experiences,” “Revelations,” “Cosmic Consciousness.” In the title of his 1958 book, William James calls them simply “Religious Experience.” Many of the narratives you send will be selected for inclusion in my book-in-progress, "Mystical Experiences of Ordinary People."
To send the narrative or for further clarification and information please email email@example.com
In the meantime, the following will give you a footing in what I am looking for:
Since my own revelation, I have become convinced that mystical experiences are far more widespread than anyone suspects. They occur to ordinary people like myself, sometimes just once in a lifetime, and sometimes repeatedly. They tell us that we are not only human, we are more than human. They prove that we can access a dimension of reality different from the physical/material dimension we habitually inhabit.
In respect to the contents of my book, let me describe what I mean by a mystical experience. I do not mean seeing ghosts, hearing strange tapping on the ceiling, mind reading, or participation in séances. A mystical experience may come in the form of words, a vision, a sensation, even a dream. Whatever it is called, and in whatever particular manifestation it appears, it is clearly marked by the following quality: The person suddenly and astonishingly gains a knowledge that transcends their normal knowledge of the world. This knowledge is not acquired through the senses or the brain. There is not a cause-and-effect relationship, you cannot insert a "because" or a "therefore" between whatever situation preceded the experience and the experience itself.
A mystical experience need not involve sudden transport into the presence
of God, Allah, Divine Intelligence or into the secret heart of the cosmos.
The experience may involve nature, other people, animals, or any object.
The poet William Blake says he saw the world in a grain of sand, which
may be the poet's shorthand for a mystical revelation. Here is another
account of a mystical experience of nature taken from William James's
Varieties of Religious Experience: "When I went in the morning into the
fields to work, the glory of God appeared in all his visible creation. I well
remember, we reaped oats, and how every straw and head of oats
seemed, as it were, arrayed in a kind of rainbow glory, to glow, if I may
express it, in the glory of God."
Here is another nature experience told to me by a friend: Some years ago
he was sitting on the ground in a park, leaning on his elbow, idly watching a bug climb a blade of grass. Suddenly the bug became huge in his sight and he saw, as if under a microscope, every minute part of its anatomy and knew the innermost nature of the creature. This experience may seem trivial and even humorous, but my friend was never the same person again. He had received knowledge, instantly and forever, that the physical world as we usually perceive it is not the real world. The physical world is just one face that reality presents to our senses.
Another friend told me of an experience in which she felt sudden union with other
people--everyone was she and she was everyone. She took pains to explain to me
that she did not mean that she had an intellectual grasp of human interdependency--the kind that Charles Dickens includes in so many of his stories, in which, for example, a disease among the poor trickles up to infect the houses of the rich. My friend meant that she had an illumination that "I am He."
You can see why sharing experiences such as these is important. They make
brothers and sisters of us all--we are all more than human. In our identity as only human we are Jews, Gentiles, Muslims, Americans, Africans, Italians, short, tall, rich, poor. But as more than human we are offspring of “I Am that I Am.”
We rarely talk about these experiences. Our society is so thoroughly grounded in
scientific materialism that we are predisposed to ignore or dismiss phenomena that have no scientific or rational explanation. We think of them as mental aberrations, as meaningless tricks of the mind, as daydreams or hallucinations or misfiring of the brain's synapses, or as just plain nonsense. We usually share them with few people, and we ourselves tend to diminish their importance--if not push them into forgetfulness.
The completion of the human genome project reinforces the material definition of
the human being. For many, scientists, doctors, and laypeople alike, the genetic map offers the key to who we are--even including such qualities as temperament,
intelligence, talent, and empathy. I feel it is imperative to counter this definition with one that emphasizes our spirituality. I believe that by sharing our mystical experiences with each other we will heighten their importance. When we recognize their importance we will change ourselves. When many of us change ourselves, we will change the world.
This poem by Robert Frost, the splendid agnostic, intimates the deepest reason why mystical experiences are important:
We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone really find us out.
'Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.
But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.
Our mystical experiences are God's way of not hiding too well away. Please send me yours. I will respond to everyone.
WORK IN PROGRESS ARCHIVE:
from "THE ART OF CHANGING YOUR MIND: THE WILL TO BE HEALTHY."©
from "HEALTH AND THE ART OF CHANGING YOUR MIND."©
Back to the top