non-religious mystical experience
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Note: I have posted the same topic on the 'Skeptic's book club' group. It will be very interesting to compare the comments of 'believers' and 'skeptics'.
As I said there, I hope this will be a learning experience for all.
You just found one here, welcome to the club. ;)
I had a very profound -you could call it mystical, non-dual, "ego-death"...- experience 2 years ago with entheogens, when fresh mushrooms were still legal here in UK.
The most exhaustive medical study ever done about entheogens and mystical experiences was published last year, with some astonishing (positive) results:
Griffiths, R.R., Richards, W.A., McCann, U., & Jesse, R. (2006). Psilocybin can occasion mystical experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance.
For me, it was a very personal choice. I am extremely curious by nature, and after having been documenting myself on the use of entheogens for introspective purposes for several years and carefully weighting the pros and cons, I decided to investigate those realms of consciousness.
As a result of that experience... well, I can barely begin to explain how this has had an impact on my life. There's definitely a "before" and an "after" that experience. While being the same life, it has got a completely different taste. You notice beauty all around you.
You begin to notice the small "miracles" happening all the time around you. The silliest things. Doing the washing up can be a profound experience. You notice the myriad zillions of things happening at every second, the kind of small things you didn't use to notice "before".
While I wouldn't advise neither for or against the use of entheogens to "get there", I certainly don't see the point in meditating for 30 years to get to that level of "understanding". But that's only me, I respect that all of us have got a different path in life. Siddartha by Herman Hesse is very good at telling you that. Herman Hesse certainly had some mystical experiences, as it certainly shows he knew what he was writing about.
Only some months ago, I experienced an sponteneous kundalini awakening. Yes, I know, kundalini and the chakras, that's rubbish pseudomysticism... Well, I respect everybody's view on that... because that was exactly my view before I personally experienced it. :-)
This is an ongoing process, where I am feeling my heart chakra everyday piercing my back to the point it almost hurts sometimes, usually while I'm experiencing profound sense of connection with everything. It's alright. I am honestly just a "passive" and intrigued observer of myself these days.
I was agnostic before all these experiences. I still am agnostic nowadays. For me, this means that I realize that thinking rationally about anything metaphysical is just pointless, so I don't pose myself that question of what's beyond this. Actually, biologically speaking, this very well could be just a product of our brain. So you could call me skeptic, yes. Not that it makes any difference to me though. I tend to avoid the "mystical supermarket" and "new agish" kind of books. Not for me.
I also realize that we barely know anything about THE most important question us humans face:
* What is Consciousness? *
In my humble opinion, Consciousness is ALL there it is and nothing else. Atman is Brahman. Brahman is Atman, according to The Upanishads, yes.
As a result of all this, I have been passionately interested in discovering more and more of the world around me: philosophy, science, literature, art... It feels as if before, even though I was leading your normal happy life, I was completely blind to all of it.
I have also discovered photography as a beautiful way of capturing precious instants of time and space.
Better than explaining it here with words, you can probably see the way I see the world around me if I invite you to my picture gallery:
I think I have gained one deep level of understanding though: I *know* everything is fine _just the way it is_. Whatever it has to happen, it will happen anyway. I think I have learned something else too. The key to it all: To ACCEPT. Whatever comes your way.
I guess that's what finding meaning is all about, as Victor Frankl very well put it in his (highly recommended) Man's search for Meaning.
While these "mystical experiences" were relatively rare just decades ago, I have a feeling that this is going to be happening more and more from now on. We might be evolving as humans. Who knows.
So join the club, tell us about your (religious or not) mystical experiences! ;-)
Thanks for posting such an excellent message! It has taken me a few days to take it all in.
I checked out your photos on Flickr. All I can say is: Just Beautiful. Keep it up!
You have really covered everything important, I think. You and I agree that there is definitely a 'before and after' the mystical experience, which is the main thing. (I do not want to hear one more person tell me 'enlightenment' is merely an intellectual/poetic insight that the 'ego' is only an illusion, easily dropped.) What you had to say about 'seeing' virtually everything as miraculous after mystical experience really resonated with me. When the Buddha was asked to describe himself, he replied he was 'Awake'.
Thank you for your invitation to 'join the club'. I am delighted to hear there IS one! I will keep this (my spiritual life-story) as short as I can.
Years ago, I had half a dozen of the most profound, perfect 'nirvana' (loss of ego) experiences - bliss/ecstasy transcending all thoughts, feelings and pleasures - through basic meditation (focusing entirely on a single mantra).
These experiences were to me as 'religious' (i.e., supernatural) as they were perfectly natural. Though I recognized at the time the natural side (the 'skeptic' side of myself did, anyway), they had totally awakened my 'spiritual' half. For four years I focused intensely on the question: 'Am I an immortal soul?' This was all my experience seemed to really verify. (Questions about God, etc, I was not egotistical enough to think my personal experience could answer, though for a while I certainly thought there WAS. But if 'my' God existed, He was simply a Meditator, totally above his creation, always in unchanging, perfect Eternal Bliss.)
To cut a long story short, after a LOT of thinking, questioning, arguing with myself (I was lucky enough to have a Raja Yoga group near where I lived who taught the same thing I had experienced, that all living creatures were immortal souls; their literature gave me good argument material), the skeptic in me finally won out. Though I had never wavered in my 'faith' that I was a 'soul', there was always a niggling little doubt (I often tell people it was like the tiniest pebble grating inside my shoe) that I was unsatisfied about.
After four years of thinking, I finally realized the only thing I could really be sure of was that IN THIS BODY AND MIND I had experienced something I could not have experienced outside of this body and mind. That pretty well finished off (logically) any supernatural, 'higher' realities.
Now, I still have that niggling little pebble telling me that I may be wrong - and that keeps my mind always open. The difference is, whereas before I was unhappy about it being there, now that I have returned to the skeptical position I have held my whole life, I do not much mind it. It only bothered me while I was trying to maintain a belief I was not truly comfortable with.
Now that I am back on the side where REAL EVIDENCE counts far more than 'faith', I can accept that my 'believing' side will always be there. However much I may shake my head in wonder whenever I find myself again attracted to the 'soul' idea, I recognize that there will always live in me a tiny, intermittent hope for a (blissful) afterlife.
I think I will leave it there. As I said when I first posted this topic, I really would like to hear from other's thinking their way out of (or into) belief positions. Anyone who reads carefully what I have written here, should easily see why it is important to me.
When I started this group, I knew that sooner or later we'd be having these interesting convos.
Stanislav Grof, the "father" of transpersonal psychology has got a book that I would like to recommend to anyone going through a life experience like this: The Stormy Search for the Self.
I read him saying that at least 60% of the population has had "peak experiences". I had other "peak experiences" before, though not as profound as this one. So I am assuming they must not be that rare.
Incidentally, you might want to check one of his conferences that I found at video.google.com:
Psychology of the Future - Part 1
Psychology of the Future - Part 2
Psychology of the Future - Part 3
Psychology of the Future - Part 4
Psychology of the Future - Part 5
Ken Wilber was initially associated with Stanislav Grof, though now he is on a path of his own. These are the researchers that are taking these kinds of experiences seriously -and I might even say, "scientifically"- enough to be building the next "paradigm" in the study of Consciousness.
With some meditation practice (30 years), Ken Wilber can be seen stopping a couple of neurons or three -or even all of them (!?)- in a quite astonishing video, experiencing Nirvikalpa Samadhi.
Ken Wilber stops his Brain Waves
Keep the experiences coming.
Interview with Stanislav Grof
Another interesting book where he discusses his theories is The holotropic mind : the three levels of human consciousness and how they shape our lives
One thing I am concerned about. In attempting to be as calm and objective as possible, I may have given you the impression that I am unhappy about my current 'belief' position. This is absolutely not so.
What I was saying is that after a long struggle, I finally got to the deeply skeptical position that is absolutely right for myself. And no matter how irritated I may be about it at times, I can honestly say I am far from unhappy about the fact that there is a little 'believer' in me.
One of the things I am always trying to explain to people is that inside every believer there is a skeptic (to some degree), and inside every skeptic is a believer (to some degree) - this fact may be disconcerting, even disturbing, to some, but in my experience there is nothing the 'believer' and the 'skeptic' have to fear from each other.
That is what I meant when I said that this subject is important to me. I would like everybody to see - after thinking about it - there is always more to this business of living than simply adopting one position against another.
It is intriguing (and saddening) to me that at the moment science and religion seem to be at each other's throats, especially when both claim to be passionate about the highest (i.e., 'whole') truth.
Thanks again for the links and posts!!
8talltrickster Første besked:
In a flash, I heard the words, "Group Soul Reincarnation" and there was an instantaneous “knowing” that I wrote a book, and it had a significant impact on the people of my generation. Past tense. Wrote a book. Had an impact. For a split second, I knew the future, and now my life’s mission was handed to me: I would write a book that had an uplifting message for the masses, and the message would revolve around the hidden impact rock music has on our psyches. YIKES!!!
It seemed ludicrous to think that I could write a book about something I didn't even know what I was going to write about, but something amazing happened that night. This knowing left me in a state of absolute bliss for several months I had to write. And write I did.
Two years later I read about Abraham Maslow's description of a peak experience, and concurrently, discovered near-death researcher PMH Atwater's description of a Future Memory Episode. Both accurately described my experience.
I went on an incredible spiritual journey with a rock band that I never personally have met, but they now know who I am because I did write the book, and it will be published later this fall.
I discovered how my ego kept me locked into past patterns of illusion due to my trauma from childhood and my teenage years. I projected my wounding onto the band and fans at concerts big time, but was totally unaware I was doing this until a crucial concert where I stood in the second row and had some intense anger arise directed toward the lead singer.
It's as if my soul decided to sign up for some very bizarre assignment, and help shed light on a male dominated musical genre, and link it to group reincarnation. I believe some fans from bands may have been together with the band members in another lifetime, and are reunited in this lifetime to heal a trauma we endured in a past life...and at the same time, we also might be following the band to help use the music to heal our trauma from this lifetime...at least it really looks that way to me right now based upon my experiences.
The band I followed (which you'd probably know since they were very big in the 70's and 80's and still tour) seems to have unconsciously left clues in their music, lyrics, album and song titles, even in the first initials of their names, as to who we were in other lifetimes. For me, an alchemical lifetime came up as a very strong possibility.
Anyway, I'm rambling. Thanks for posting this question, and allowing me to share some of my experiences/insights. Not very many people get this kind of thing, so glad you are open to it. Lately I'm really beginning to understand that we are all ONE. I believe this is the path human consciousness is evolving towards, and hopefully, more people will begin to raise their level of awareness about themselves, and know that we are more than just the physical body.
talltrickster, as a music lover myself, that was a very interesting example of how "mysticism" can be found in the most mundane situations. Certainly, there has been many music groups in tune with mystical experiences.
Personally, I could think of Dark side of the Moon by Pink Floyd as very moving in that sense.
(Roger Waters) 2:04
All that you touch
All that you see
All that you taste
All you feel.
All that you love
All that you hate
All you distrust
All you save.
All that you give
All that you deal
All that you buy,
beg, borrow or steal.
All you create
All you destroy
All that you do
All that you say.
All that you eat
And everyone you meet
All that you slight
And everyone you fight.
All that is now
All that is gone
All that's to come
and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.
"There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark."
I'm not sure how to share my own experience...the whole thing defies translation into verbal language on the one hand. Whenever I try to speak of it, it sounds rather mundane. I'm working on it. Maybe I will share it later.
knowthyself - your photos are gems, quite beautiful in more than mere asthetic sense.
I recently joined this group and think I'm really going to enjoy it. Alex Gray, great! I just clicked onto this discussion about non religious mystical experience and there's Stanislav Grof on the last post. Yay!
I have this little book at home that I haven't catalogued yet that is a collection of anonymous accounts of consciouness experience compiled by the William James association or society, I'm just a little busy right now and can't recall the title. Most of the accounts were not of a religious nature, some were but were categorized as such. It would provide a wonderful resource for the topic of this conversation. I'll add the title as soon as I get home.
I will contribute more to this conversation later, I'm neglecting some school work right now, but for now the something that comes to mind is a Buddhist parable/story/koan. It involved a student monk who had a vision during medition of a golden shining Buddha accompanied by bodhisattvas. He related this vision in detail to his guru, and what should he do? The guru simply told him: "If you see it again, don't worry, just continue meditating, it'll go away." I think consciouness experiences constantly become clouded or coloured by how we experience them and by our own interpretations. The experiences themselves cannot be related, merely touched upon and even then, they become something else.
Now, to completely contradict what I've just written, later (I haven't the time right now) I will write about a few experiences I've had myself but have tried to reduce to the most objective terms possible.
Great group! Will post more soon....
I was able to read more of the postings and the rock band experience was interesting. I have witnessed a similar phenomenon at early raves. The BPM (beats per minute) often matched the human heart beat often causing regression in dosed-up (in the earlier raves with LSD) crowds dancing (the rythms reminding them of mothers heartbeat whilst in the womb). Hence pacifiers becoming a common symbol at raves, often worn and used whilst dancing. Some ravers claimed to go back beyond the womb as well. This also concides with the LSD research that Grof did in that, there too LSD seemed to be a catalyst for memories of the womb.
Anyhoo, see you for now,
often people confuse the two
When faced with actual inner experiences, things we thought we "knew"
disappear... in fact in some instances, there is "danger" if they do not
for example we can be scuba diving, and know we are in shark infested water. As
we are diving we come across a dark object in the water. We panic, we have a
heart attack and die.
Our "knowing" about shark infested water made a piece of debri take the form of
a shark. Much like in spiritual "travels" our dogma can shape our experience.
Thus we can make a friend into satan, where there merely exists a friend. Our
knowing lead to our death in diving, in spiritual "diving" it could lead to
other mishaps. Thus it is good that our "knowing" can disappear.
If our knowing does disappear, we can see debris, not a shark... and hopefully
not have a heart attack.
This goes with concepts such as good and evil and much more besides. What we
think we know or knew is often horrendously shattered when we actually go
I can read about apples all day long
I will never know what one tastes like, until I eat one.
The map is not the territory.
However, this is an old thread, the material requires thought and labor to articulate. Before I post, I'm wondering whether there still people here who are thinking about this topic?
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