ARE MYSTICS PSYCHOTIC?

Are you a Who or a What?

Questions and Answers.

 

QUESTION: Are mystics psychotic?

ANSWER: A neuroscientist called Persinger suggested in the late 1980’s that the mystic experiences of Reality are psychotic incidents, mentally created if I understand him rightly. So far as I know there hasn’t been any research of significance on the theory. However, Dr Persinger did help develop an electronic helmet which he said reproduced the presence of God.*

Q: Does it?

A: I doubt there’s any mystic experience in history that would claim to be able to invoke any god, certainly not by physical means.

By the way, the use of the culturally and socially ambivalent word God suggests the good doctor has not had the personal mystical experience of Reality himself, nor read the literature on it that goes back 8,000 years if the dating of the Yoga Visistha epic is anything to go by.

Scientists of today, physicists, metaphysicists, psychologists, even theologians and philosophers seem far more receptive to the fundamentals of the phenomena of mystic experience than to any suggestion of psychoticism.

There seems to be a growing awareness of scientific experiment versus mystical experience. Scientists now appear to be on the brink of realising humans might not be the centre of existence, that only mystical experience explains anything of the ultimate reality of which humans are only a part.

Anyway, much of this is not known by the general public. What’s your interest?

Q. To be honest I’m not interested, It’s science fiction to me. I just heard someone discussing you.

A. Sounds like a dismissive discussion! (laughs). How about you? Are you happy with who you are? Do you have any interest in what you are?

Q. What I am? What do you mean, what I am?

A. Sorry, didn’t mean to pry … If you don’t know it doesn’t matter …

Q. No! What do you mean by that, by what I am? Isn’t that rather rude? Aren’t you just supposed to explain, teach, or something?

A. Some mystics are inclined to teach I think, but no, I’m not a teaching mystic – not a priest, monk, guru, prophet or master.

In buddhism, there’s a tradition of the enlightened staying behind to teach.** Other enlightened buddhists don’t teach. They’re called to continue their pilgrimage without human distractions, to what buddhists call Nirvana. If I was a buddhist I would be the latter I think. Anyway, spiritual Reality is caught, not taught. It is counterproductive for you to be “taught” what is only eventually available to you when you are ready and only Ultimate Reality knows that. You’re in good hands. All is well.

But if you have spiritual questions that my experiences might help in developing yours I will always be available.

However, while you’re still a Who not a What you won’t have any spiritual questions to ask yet.

By the way, I’m not being rude. Humans often take facts as insults. I’m being far more serious than that.

* Read More: For more information, see our post where philosopher and author Douglas Lockhart discusses psychoticism and mysticism. Dr Nicki Crowley also discusses the subject from a psychological point of view in Are Mystics Psychotic? Part II. For even more on this subject, check out the PSYCHIATRY category of this blog.


** A pratyekabuddha, or paccekabuddha, is the so-called “silent buddha” who does not try to share his realization with the world. Pratyekabuddhas are said to achieve enlightenment on their own, without the use of teachers or guides, by “dependent origination”, (spontaneous rebirth?). Traditionally, Paccekabuddhas give moral teachings but not enlightenment. (See unedited descriptions in Wikipedia).

Mysticexperiences.net

 

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TWO SPIRITUALLY WRONG ASSUMPTIONS?

Some books on MER are predicated on humans having to make spiritual efforts. That is not my experience. All my spiritual experiences were given. I did not know such things existed. I did not, could not, cannot ask for them. They dominate my life without my effort.

Another assumption of such works is that MER exists solely for human improvement. This is not my experience.

While it is axiomatic that humans who have the Mystical Experience of Reality will automatically conform to Reality so becoming “better” in human terms, the value in becoming better humans is only of value to the human condition, not to Reality.

In my Experiences, Reality has its own agenda without dependence on human goodwill or “help”.

All is well.

MYSTICISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS

What Does Mysticism Have To Teach Us About Consciousness?

By Robert K.C. Forman, The Forge Institute and Program in Religion, Hunter College, CUNY.

Originally published in Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1998, pp. 185–201.

Excerpts:

“A key strategy for understanding a complex phenomenon is to look at its simplest manifestations. The gene structure of E. coli, for example, has contributed significantly to our understanding of gene functioning in more complex organisms.

“Mystical experiences may represent the simplest form of human consciousness and thus, by the same token, may provide valuable insights into the nature of human consciousness.”

“Not everyone who meditates encounters these sorts of unitive experiences. This suggests that some may be genetically or temperamentally predisposed to mystical ability; borrowing from Weber, the “mystically musical.”

“One might suggest that the mystic’s awareness is categorically different than other peoples’, i.e. that it is connected to the world in an ontologically deep way that the rest of ours is not.

“I find this unconvincing since every mystic I have read says he or she began as an “ordinary,” i.e. non-mystical, person and only came to realize something of what he or she “had always been.”

“Whichever explanation we opt for, however, it is clear that there is some ability the mystics have been able to develop — through meditation or whatever — that most of us have not.”


Publisher’s note: Dr. Forman’s thoughts seem to be predicated on the mystical experience of Reality (MER) being a human emanation. Also that it’s directed to the human condition. In my mystical experiences over several times a year for 15 years, neither of these limited anthropologic conclusions are evident.

I am more inclined to accept there are fields of non-human consciousness some humans experience spontaneously, as in my case, not necessarily by will, and that the brain is a receptor of an outer, non-human consciousness.


smiling bobDr. Robert K. C. Forman is a long-term TM-practitioner and a critic of the constructionist approach to mystical experience. He was a professor of religion at the City University of New York, author of several studies on religious experience, and co-editor of the Journal of Consciousness Studies. (Wikipedia).

MYSTICISM VERSUS RELIGION AND SCIENCE?

I read Thomas Merton* many years ago and came to the conclusion he had not had the Mystical Experience of Reality (MER). He was not a mystic.

If he had the MER he would have avoided use of the word “God”. The name is so adulterated with cultural layers of linguistics, logic, reason, mythomania, politics, faith, hope and belief that the word “God” now confuses all credulity, sense and understanding.

Also, based on his mystic experience he would not have expressed himself in the religious terms of his or any other “church”. I had the feeling he was in the church because there was no better life on offer in those days for a Seeker, a human who is called. But religious terms, even human terms, are not the terms of the Reality experienced first hand by the mystics.

Non religious scientists avoid this confusion by using the mind and experiment to get closer to truth. They are fundamentalists. They prefer to use the word “reality”, with a lower case “r”, avoiding religious/cultural accretions.

Mystics on the other hand use the word Reality, with a capital “R”, the meaning of which is only penetrated by experiencing Reality at first hand.

All these approaches are historically well documented. Current state of play is that religions are dead or dying; science, say some scientists, is at a dead end; only mysticism might have the answers say other scientists.

mysticexperiences.net


merton_thomas* Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. was an American Catholic writer and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion.  — Wikipedia.

 

MYSTIFIED AND SCEPTICAL ABOUT MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES OF REALITY?

The wonderment and disbelief of the uninvited

Reader “GG” wrote to us as follows:

“Those of us who dwell on the outside of your perplexing alter ego and who were casually introduced to it, as was I, are, rather, somewhat mystified and, I might add, skeptical.

“We do not doubt your revelations or refute the existence of this world, although, judging from our previous discussions, that noun may not apply: it is an essence, I gather, rather than a place. And we outsiders who are mere listeners about this phenomenon can only — as some say in the vernacular — give our head a shake.

“Perhaps this can be a launching pad for your weekly missive: the wonderment and disbelief of the curious but uninvited.”

Mysticalexperiences.net’s answer:

Charles T. Tart PhD’s., book, The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together is a summation of his 50 years of research on consciousness, altered states of consciousness (ASCs) and parapsychology. He is one of the founders of the field of Transpersonal (spiritual) Psychology.

Dr Tart’s’ and other scientists’ work convinced him “there is a real and vitally important sense in which we are spiritual beings, but the too dominant, scientistic, materialist philosophy of our times, masquerading as genuine science, dogmatically denies any possible reality to the spiritual. This hurts people, it pressures them to reject vital aspects of their being.”

The long list of eminent authors and scientists who write to support Dr Tart’s work is a testimony to science’s growing acceptance and resolve to discover what experiences of phenomena like MER mean in general and to the human condition in particular.

These testimonials and the full text of Dr Tart’s relaxed, very readable introduction to his book can be found on his website.

mysticalexperiences.net


profile_charles_tartCharles T. Tart is internationally known for his more than 50 years of research on the nature of consciousness, altered states of consciousness (ASCs) and parapsychology, and is one of the founders of the field of Transpersonal (spiritual) Psychology. His and other scientists’ work convinced him that there is a real and vitally important sense in which we are spiritual beings, but the too dominant, scientistic, materialist philosophy of our times, masquerading as genuine science, dogmatically denies any possible reality to the spiritual. This hurts people, it pressures them to reject vital aspects of their being.

MYSTICS AS INTERMEDIARIES?*

 

An excerpt from the Conclusion to the book, PATHS BEYOND EGO, by Dr. Roger Walsh and Dr. Frances Vaughan:

“Carl Jung spoke of the importance of gnostic intermediaries, those people who transmit a wisdom tradition by imbibing it themselves and then translating it into the language and concepts of another culture.

“Perhaps the transpersonal movement can function as a collective gnostic intermediary, whereby the timeless wisdom of traditional transpersonal disciplines can be translated. tested, and winnowed, and then can inspire and transform contemporary culture.

“Yet the transpersonal movement is more than a gnostic intermediary. For in addition to translating knowledge it is actively involved in creating knowledge. New techniques are being devised, data generated, and both ancient and contemporary claims are being tested scientifically, philosophically, clinically, and experientially.

“The long-term effects of this enterprise may be far more than we can imagine. Already we have seen a shift to a more generous view of human nature and possibilities.

“We have moved from a perspective that encompassed only a single, healthy waking state of consciousness to a recognition of multiple states; from viewing normal development as our ceiling to seeing it as a culturally determined limit; from denying lucid dreaming to exploring it in the laboratory; from regarding meditation as a regressive escape to appreciating it as a developmental catalyst; from dismissing mystical experiences as pathological to recognizing them as beneficial; and from devaluing non-Western psychologies and philosophies to appreciating that some of them are, in their own unique ways, highly sophisticated.

“These shifts and more may make transpersonal studies an essential cornerstone in the emerging paradigm. These shifts also may change each of us, for what we do reflects our beliefs about who and what we are.

“The transpersonal vision of our possibilities may therefore call forth our individual and collective efforts to actualize them. This actualization may be crucial for the survival of our planet and our species …”


rogerwalsh1ROGER WALSH, M.D., Ph.D. DHL. graduated from Australia’s Queensland University with degrees in psychology, physiology, neuroscience, and medicine, and then went to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar. He is now at the University of California at Irvine where he is a professor of psychiatry, philosophy, and anthropology, as well as a professor in the religious studies programme. He is a proponent of the development of “transpersonal psychology” that includes phenomena such as MER (Mystical Experiences of Reality).

vaughanbw-210-expFRANCES VAUGHAN, Ph.D. is an author, educator and retired psychologist in Sonoma County, CA.


*COMMENT: If my experiences of these “transpersonal” psychological experiences of Reality (MER) are anything to go by, there were no indications they were meant to make me an intermediary to the human race.

Any direction I got regarding humans was to avoid them as a distraction, counterindicative to an understanding of the existence of the greater Reality being revealed.

Keith Hancock
Publisher
Mysticexperiences.net

IS MYSTICEXPERIENCES.NET MANIPULATIVE?

 

Q: Is this web page manipulative?

A: What makes you think that?

Q: Sometimes the page frustrates with explanations and ideas, answers that
are interesting but don’t address the point.

A: Most questioners really want agreement with their own conclusions.

Do they have the spiritual experience to see the whole picture?

Any answer to such wrong questions would be unhelpful if not downright misleading.

Also, many questions are not spiritual.

They’re based on human experience, needs, wants, attachments, morality and ethics, logic and reason, all veils between the human condition and spiritual Reality.

Many questions are from people who simply want to be better people, (according to the passing standards of the day).That’s not what Reality is about. That would be a spiritual digression …

The best way is to get people to experience the answer, at which point the question is irrelevant.

Q: Can you do that, get people to experience spiritual answers?

A: Not in my experience, no. But you can get them to the point where it might happen.

My own experiences were spontaneous. There used to be claims such experiences could be humanly induced. You don’t hear much about such claims nowadays.

Q: Then how do you answer questions?

A: I leave out a lot of what humans expect in an answer. I am provocative without explanation. The provocation of raised but unanswered questions can focus sincere Seekers’ thinking and contemplation.

I concentrate on the Reality aspect of the question too, not the human …

These unanswered enigmas make the questioner think a great deal more widely and deeply about spirituality and Reality.

This method can be fraught though. Many people just aren’t used to prolonged thinking, certainly not of the contemplative or meditational variety.

Others really prefer to accept what they’ve been told and learned from childhood.

So this method deliberately seeks to eliminate the merely curious, the social seekers, the spiritually negative, the uncalled, to sort the sheep from the goats.

Experience of Reality only comes to those who are ready for it, whether they seek it or not.

The real Seekers, what the Christian bible calls “the Blessed” who hunger and thirst after righteousness, are the ones who respond immediately, who are “caught, not taught”. They lighten my existence, humble and uplift me.

So, if raising what has been called “Cosmic Consciousness” by sharing the experience of Reality with deliberately provocative simplicity is manipulation, then yes – beware, this web page is manipulative.

Mysticexperiences.net

THE MYSTIC.

Q. “What do mystics bring to the human table?”

A. “Not all mystics concern themselves with the human condition, which is not in the hands of mere humans. Reality is in charge and doing fine.

“The knowledge that being human is transitory, transforming, and that there’s not much humans can do to hasten or hinder the process, not at this stage anyway, if ever, does not lend itself to mystical evangelism. Reality is and is enough. You have to experience it like a mystic to know it. It’s caught not taught,

Q.  “This is what you were taught by your MERs?”

A.  “What I deduce from my MERs, yes.”

Q.  “Who are you?”

A.  “Wrong question!”

YEAR LATER:

Q. “Alright, What are you?”

A. “Good. The word Who? can be applied to humans.  But mystics are ‘Whats’ because much of a mystic’s humanity is transcending from being merely human. To a mystic, humanity is temporary, a process from “Who” to “What”.

Q.  “A process to God?!”

A.  “There is no such thing as God or gods in Reality, or in a developed human’s logic, reason or experience.”

Q.  “But there is this Reality thing then, and mystics are that?”

A.  “In process, to the fulness of realising Reality, yes. But they are not Reality. Inso far as Reality reveals itself in the MERs some experience of human lust, anger, greed, attachments and ego are removed and  Reality becomes the mystic, rather than the mystic becoming Reality.”

Q.  “What is this Reality thing?”

A.   “Reality is everything, everything known and unknown. It is beyond general human experience, beyond all gods, religions, political ideologies, ‘isms’,  God, or currrent consciousness. It is the very basis of Reality beyond our minds or brains, materiality, or spirit.  Its essence prevails throughout all existence in everything. It is benign, joyous, accepting beyond all human knowing or need of faith, hope or belief or even being human. In MERs it reveals itself and is that which Seekers seek.

“One tradition is that Reality creates Seekers who then proceed to enlightenment at varying paces. I don’t know. MER however is caught, not taught. The real MERs are spontaneous, sudden, not sought. Then the Reality of existence begins to clarify.  And the process goes on.

“Mystics are, as a philosopher-writer friend says, “hundreds of years ahead.”  It’s what all humans are becoming. In Reality where everything is perfect, there are no names no mystics. The term is human, temporary.

“Everything is known, everything is understood. All is well.”

KH. Mysticexperiences.net      Continue reading “THE MYSTIC.”

ARE MYSTICS PSYCHOTIC? Part One of Two

Philosopher/author Douglas Lockhart adds his thoughts on the subject of “Are Mystics Psychotic?”

This is the question that divided Freud and Jung.

Freud saw all anomalous psychic/mystic experience in psychotic terms (he was, after all, dealing mostly with actual psychotics), whereas Jung saw the same experiences as indicative of a mental territory not in itself psychotic, but experienced in psychotic terms due to mental/physical breakdown.

Mental illness allowed both men to see into this ‘other’ territory, but each interpreted what they saw in alignment with their personal traits of mind.

Freud hated anything that smacked of religion; Jung realised he was looking into an area of mental experience not available to psychiatric scrutiny except in the mentally disturbed.

It wasn’t that the territory was in itself psychotic, but that a territory about which we knew next to nothing except through the pronouncements of mystics became partially visible in psychotic experience.

The barrier between psychic levels slipped open for psychotics, their incapacity to bear its contents and demands revealing a further aspect of their descent towards possible madness.

A further complication in all of this is ‘religious projection’ in alignment with the fixed canon of beliefs that the deeply religious carry.

Through contemplative activity, however, that too can open the door between psychic territories, but it is one fraught with the problem of theological notions reshaping the experience to conform to expectations. (Link to “Gnostic” post).

Mix all of this together and you end up with reductionist science’s quite understandable, but quite mistaken, view of what is actually taking place.

I’ve argued this point at numerous junctures in my work due to the seriousness of the accusation.

In relation to all of this I recommend “The Pearl Beyond Price” by A.H. Almaas. (Diamond Books, Berkeley, California, 1988).

Almaas turned up recently with a key paper  – “Experience, Self, and Individual Consciousness” – in volume 23, No. 1-2 of The Journal of Consciousness Studies, and is worth taking a look at.

Almaas’s book deals with the Integration of Personality into Being, follows an Object Relations Approach, and is probably one of the most advanced texts dealing with mysticism and its psychological variables that I’ve stumbled across. I think he’s Sufi in orientation, but he’s Sufi with a difference.

The papers in response to his paper were deadly serious and full of surprises. The book is a bit of a read, but this guy knows what he’s talking about, and it has led to an open discussion on mysticism and the nature of the self among the most unlikely bunch of professionals one could ever imagine.

As far as science’s take on mysticism and psychosis is concerned, it’s to be expected that some scientists will automatically interpret anything experientially anomalous in psychotic terms.

It started with LSD experience being interpreted as a psychosis-producing substance, and that led to mysticism being put in the same box due to an inability to tell the difference between religious projection and mysticism proper. LSD does not automatically produce mystical experiences, but it does open the door to a territory where mystical experience can occur.

My books are concerned with all of this; they’re an attempt to straighten out the field’s distortions and add to the growing realisation that a whole new paradigm is in the offing.

We may of course destroy the planet before it can take root, but that’s not for me to determine.

There again, this straightening out process doesn’t only apply to the sciences; it applies equally to the religious area and to those under the thrall of mysticism either negatively perceived, or not fully appreciated as to its subtleties.

Detection of the subtle differences between Indian, Tibetan and Christian mysticism are quite stark in places, and we have to find out why that is.

It’s my opinion that the human mind developed as a direct result of anomalous experiences, and at the end of his life even Freud had concluded that he ought to have been paying attention to such experiences.



IMAG0027-1Douglas Lockhart writes extensively on the dilemmas facing modern Christians, and on the philosophical dilemmas Christians and non-Christrians face in their daily lives. He is the author of Jesus the Heretic (1997) The Dark Side of God (1999) and Going Beyond the Jesus Story (2011), books dealing with the historical origins and development of Christianity (and much else). He has also just completed a three volume work titled The Perennial Philosophy Revisited in memory of Aldous Huxley’s paradigm-changing contribution to an understanding of the spiritual evolution of humankind.

ARE MYSTICS PSYCHOTIC? Part Two of Two

 

Psychosis or Spiritual Emergence? – Consideration of the Transpersonal Perspective within Psychiatry

by Dr. Nicki Crowley

‘Fool’s gold exists because there is real gold’ ~ Rumi

As we progress into the 21st century, psychiatry is broadening its repertoire to further understand the problem of madness.

Psychosis as an altered state of consciousness (ASC)

Our deepening understanding of brain, mind and consciousness leaves us no option but to expand the neurobiology of psychosis to incorporate the concept of consciousness; its nature, levels, dimensions and dynamics, and the impact this function plays in the development of challenging, abnormal states of mind.

Psychosis has been defined as ‘any one of several altered states of consciousness, transient or persistent, that prevent integration of sensory or extrasensory information into reality models accepted by the broad consensus of society, and that lead to maladaptive behaviour and social sanctions. Our deepening understanding of brain, mind and consciousness leaves us no option but to expand the neurobiology of psychosis to incorporate the concept of consciousness; its nature, levels, dimensions and dynamics, and the impact this function plays in the development of challenging, abnormal states of mind.

Psychotic phenomena such as delusions and hallucinations, described and classified in ICD10 and DSM VI 3, follow clinical observations, which in western society are understood as symptoms of illness. This is based on the assumption that we understand the nature of ‘reality’, and that there is a narrow band of ‘normal’ perception, outside of which there is little useful potential. That certain dramatic experiences and unusual states of mind could be more than part of a purely pathological mental state, and hold some potential for personal growth and transformation is the subject of this paper.

Spiritual emergency, consciousness and the transpersonal perspective

Observation from many disciplines, including clinical and experimental psychiatry, modern consciousness research, experiential psychotherapies, anthropological field studies, parapsychology, thanatology, comparative religions and mythology have contributed to the concept of ‘spiritual emergency’ a term that suggests both a crisis and an opportunity of rising to a new level of awareness or ‘spiritual emergence.’

This term was first coined by Stan and Christina Grof who founded the Spiritual Emergency Network at the Esalen Institute in 1980. Its remit was to assist individuals and make referrals to therapists for people experiencing psychological difficulties associated with spiritual practices and spontaneous spiritual experiences. Grof describes a spiritual emergency:

‘There exist spontaneous non-ordinary states of consciousness, (NOSC) that would in the West be seen and treated as psychosis, and treated mostly by suppressive medication. But if we use the observations from the study of non-ordinary states, and also from other spiritual traditions, they should really be treated as crises of transformation, or crises of spiritual opening. Something that should really be supported rather than suppressed. If properly understood and properly supported, they are actually conducive to healing and transformation’.

In order for psychiatry to appreciate the relevance of this perspective to the medical diagnosis and treatment of psychosis, it is necessary to move beyond our materialistic, biomechanical focus on brain function and start to expand on the concept of consciousness – that fundamental yet intangible core aspect of ‘aliveness’, within which is held our perceptual awareness of experience. Medicine, psychiatry and traditional psychotherapies hold the assumption that consciousness is a by-product (or epiphenomenon) of the brain and cannot persist independently of it (the productive theory of consciousness). The transmissive theory of consciousness holds that consciousness is inherent in the cosmos and is independent of our physical senses, although is mediated by them in everyday life. So the brain and the psyche can be thought of acting as a lens through which consciousness is experienced in the body.

This forms the basis of the transpersonal perspective, which received its initial articulation by thinkers and scholars in the field of psychology, Carl Jung, Robert Assagioli, Ken Wilbur and Stanislav Grof amongst others. They recognised the limitations of the field of psychology and sought insights and teachings from the spiritual traditions and certain philosophical schools of the east.

The term ‘transpersonal’ is used here to refer to psychological categories that transcend the normal features of ordinary ego-functioning, that is, stages of psychological growth, or consciousness, that move beyond the rational and precede the mystical. At the root of the transpersonal perspective is the idea that there is a deep level of subjectivity or pure spirit that infuses all matter and every event. A common metaphor throughout the spiritual wisdom traditions refers to this consciousness, or living spirit, (be it called Brahman, Buddha-Mind, Tao, or The Word) as having been breathed into all being at the moment of creation as a manifestation of divine nature. It is necessary for sentient life, because experience and awareness are possible only through the activating power that flows from this Source.

Transpersonal theory is a way of organising our experience of ‘reality’; it is not that reality itself. It relies on the phenomenological observations of inner subjective experience and instead of merely pathologising those which do not fit into expected socio-cultural models, attempts to set them in the context of the wisdom of the world’s spiritual traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Primal Religions) with some of the philosophical (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Kierkegaard) and psychological (Jungian, Humanistic, Existential) schools of the West.

Spiritual Emergence and the Transpersonal Levels

Spiritual emergence can be seen as a natural process of human development in which an individual moves beyond normal feelings and desires of the personal ego into the transpersonal realms of increasing relatedness to a Higher Power, or God. It is an acclimatisation to more subtle levels of consciousness.

In The Atman Project 7 Ken Wilber has described three levels of transpersonal experience, in ascending order: Subtle, Causal and Atman. At these levels people have access to a fluid creativity from a higher order of inspiration than that of the personality.

The Subtle level is that level of conscious awareness which includes extrasensory perceptions indigenous to the body, as well as those apparently separated from it such as out-of-body experiences and psychokinetic phenomena (objects moving without a physical catalyst.) The experience of this level is thought to be related to a system of energy centres in the body called chakras in Sanskrit, that are of a more subtle order than physiological organ systems, and subsequently activate a higher order of perception than that possible from our five physical senses. Experiencing awareness of dimensions beyond physical, objectified reality is often the basis for accessing a deeper, revitalised inner meaning of oneness in connection to others.

People have experienced Causal level consciousness as ‘peak experiences’ secondary to spiritual practice, inspired by music, taking mindaltering substances or following emotional trauma, childbirth or during intense sexual experiences. It is described as a state of perfect ecstasy, untainted by any distracting thoughts, desires or moods. The Causal level includes the awareness of Subtle and material dimensions, going beyond them to a fuller realisation of union with ‘God’, where there is said to be no sense of time, only eternity.

The Atman level is beyond the Causal, but including all dimensions below it. This dimension of consciousness is said to be so completely immersed in the Highest Power that nothing else exists in awareness. It is described as bringing perfect ecstasy beyond emotion. Indications of the Atman level exist in mystical religious texts where it is referred to as being beyond description.

Experience of these transpersonal realms does not necessarily precipitate a crisis. These intense intra-psychic experiences can phenomenologically appear similar to pathological psychotic states, but given the appropriate context, sensitive guidance, and opportunity to integrate the experience, individuals can reach higher levels of awareness and functioning following such an experience.

This transpersonal perspective affords us an opportunity to build a modern scientific theory of ‘madness’ around a radically expanded view of consciousness, and allows us to differentiate extraordinary states of consciousness that are more adaptive than the ordinary state, from alterations that restrict one’s ability to function in the world.

 

The Future

Although scientific technology has furthered the success of some medical specialities, of concern for Psychiatry is the singular lack of resolution of depression, anger and violence amongst our patients, indeed in society as a whole. Despite the fact that modern science has all the knowledge necessary to eliminate most diseases, combat poverty and starvation, and generate enough safe and renewable energy, we remain living in an often violent, disparate world.

The problems we are facing now are not merely economic, political or technological in nature. They are reflections of the emotional, moral and spiritual state of contemporary humanity 20. One of the few hopeful and encouraging developments in the world today is the renaissance of interest in ancient spiritual traditions and the mystical quest. People who have had powerful transformative experiences and have succeeded in applying them to everyday life show very distinct changes in their values. Perhaps this development holds potential for all of us, since it represents a movement away from destructive and self-destructive personality characteristics and the emergence of values that foster individual and collective survival.

In 1999, The Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK) founded a Special Interest Group in Spirituality and Psychiatry, to serve two needs: the creation of an enabling forum where psychiatrists could meet and explore the relevance of spirituality to mental healthcare, and to acknowledge the fact that user-led surveys had indicated that they felt the lack of spiritual dimension within psychiatry, and to work towards alleviating this. (http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/college/sig/spirit) The recent development of the Spiritual Crisis Network in the UK also indicates renewed interest and motivation. (http://www.spiritualcrisisnetwork.org.uk/)

In Conclusion

Psychiatry must meet the challenge to broaden its repertoire. We can now include recent findings in medical and neuroscientific research, together with the ancient wisdom of the perennial philosophy, and consider the implication that has for understanding an expanded cartography of the psyche, which includes the transpersonal dimension.


Dr. Nicki Crowley, MB ChB MRCPsych., qualified from the University of Birmingham Medical School in 1993, with an interest in neuropsychiatry and complementary and alternative medicine.  She subsequently specialised in psychiatry, training with both the Royal College of Psychiatry (UK) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry between 1995-2003.  She gained entry onto the GMC specialist register in 2003 and has worked as an NHS Consultant since then. 

THIS PAPER WAS AWARDED THE ESSAY PRIZE FOR 2005 BY THE EXECUTIVE OF THE SPIRITUALITY AND PSYCHIATRY SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP, ROYAL COLLEGE OF PSYCHIATRISTS, UK. The above text is an extract from Dr Crowley’s paper.

THE MYSTIC

“What do you bring to the table?”

“Perspective.”

“So what does that make you?”

“I am.”

“You think you’re God?”

“God? What’s that?”

“That big?!”

“Are you one of those mystics?”

“That sounds like an archaic human word …”

“It’s a name for a kind of human”.

“Name? That’s another unused human word. Where I come from there are no names, everything is perfect. Everything is known, everything is understood. All is well.”

“What? How’s that?”

“It’s what humans are becoming …”.

KH. La  Penita. 2015.

 

“TWO KINDS OF MYSTICS?” BUNKUM?

According to the late Erich Neumann, the Jungian student and psychologist* there are two kinds of mystics, those who return and shed a positive light on everything, and those who are “negative mystics” who reject the world and cast a negative light on everything they touch… they reveal themselves to be “prophets of disintegration.”  He says such people, if not properly integrated become nihilists.

Neumann here gives evidence of his ignorance of any personal experience of Reality, the mystical experience. He sounds like an anthropological apologist.

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