THE ART OF TRANSCENDENCE: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE COMMON ELEMENTS OF TRANSPERSONAL PRACTICES

We must close our eyes and invoke a new manner of seeing … a wakefulness that is the birthright of us all, though few put it to use.

– Plotinus

By Dr. Roger Walsh MD., PhD.,& Dr. Frances E. Vaughan PhD., from The Journal of Transpersonsal Psychology, 25:1 – 10, 1993.

When historians look back at the twentieth century, they may conclude that two of the most important breakthroughs in Western psychology were not discoveries of new knowledge but recognitions of old wisdom.

First, psychological maturation can continue far beyond our arbitrary, culture-bound definitions of normality (Wilber, 1980; Wilber et al., 1986). There exist further developmental possibilities latent within us all. As William James put it, “most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness …. We all have reservoirs of life to draw upon, of which we do not dream.”

Second, techniques exist for realizing these “reservoirs of life” or transpersonal potentials. These techniques are part of an art and technology that has been refined over thousands of years in hundreds of cultures and constitutes the contemplative core of the world’s great religious traditions. This is the art of transcendence, designed to catalyze transpersonal development (Walsh, 1990; Walsh & Vaughan, 1993). As such it is based on two fundamental assumptions about the nature and potentials of the mind.

The first assumption is that our usual state of consciousness is suboptimal. In fact, it has been described in terms such as clouded, distorted, dreamlike, entranced and largely out of control. This has been recognized by psychologists and mystics of both East and West (Huxley, 1945; Mikulis, 1991; Tart, 1986). For Freud (1917) it was the culture-shaking recognition that “man is not even master in his own house … his own mind,” that echoed the Bhagavad Gita’s despairing cry two thousand years earlier:

Restless (the) mind is,
So strongly shaken
In the grip of the senses:
Gross and grown hard
With stubborn desire …..
Truly, I think
The wind is no wilder.  (Prabhavananda & Isherwood, 1944)

In the words of Ram Dass (1975), “we are all prisoners of our own mind. This realization is the first step on the journey to freedom.” Or as Pir Vilayat Khan put it even more succinctly, “The bind is in the mind.” The second asswnption is that although the untrained mind is clouded and out of control, it can be trained and clarified, and this training catalyzes transpersonal potentials. This is a central theme of the perennial philosophy.

For Socrates:

In order that the mind should see light instead of darkness, so the entire soul must be turned away from this changing world, until its eye can bear to contemplate reality and that supreme splendor which we call the Good. Hence there may well be an art whose aim would be to affect this very thing (Plato, 1945).

Likewise, according to Ramana Maharshi (1955), “All scriptures without any exception proclaim that for salvation mind should be subdued.”

Although practices and techniques vary widely, there seem to be six common elements that constitute the heart of the art of transcendence: ethical training, concentration, emotional transformation, redirection of motivation, refinement of awareness, and the cultivation of wisdom.

The purpose of this paper is to provide a synoptic introduction to the art of transcendence and its common elements in the hope of stimulating appreciation, research and practice of them.

SIX COMMON ELEMENTS OF TRANSPERSONAL PRACTICES

Ethics

Ethics is widely regarded as an essential foundation of transpersonal development. However, contemplative traditions view ethics, not in terms of conventional morality, but rather as an essential discipline for training the mind. Contemplative introspection renders it painfully apparent that unethical behavior both stems from and reinforces destructive mental factors such as greed and anger. Conversely, ethical behavior undermines these and cultivates mental factors such as kindness, compassion and calm.

Ultimately, after transpersonal maturation occurs, ethical behavior is said to flow spontaneously as a natural expression of identification with all people and all life (Radhakrishnan, 1929). For a person at this stage, which corresponds to Lawrence Kohlberg’s (1981) highest or seventh stage of moral development-a stage that Kohlberg felt required transcendent experience-“Whatever is … thought to be necessary for sentient beings happens all the time of its own accord” (Gampopa, 1971).

Attentional Training

Attentional training and the cultivation of concentration are regarded as essential for overcoming the fickle wanderlust of the untrained mind (Goleman, 1988). As E.F. Schumacher (1973) observed of attention, “No topic occupies a more central place in all traditional teaching; and no subject suffers more neglect, misunderstanding, and distortion in the thinking of the modem world.”

Attentional training is certainly misunderstood by Western psychology, which has unquestioningly accepted William James’ century-old conclusion that “Attention cannot be continuously sustained” (James, 1899/1962). Yet James went further: “The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgement, character and will. No one is compos sui if he have it not.

An education which would improve this faculty would be the education par excellence …. It is easier to define this ideal than to give practical direction for bringing it about” (James, 1910/1950). Here, then, we have a stark contrast between traditional Western psychology, which says attention cannot be sustained, and the art of transcendence, which says that attention can and must be sustained, if we are to mature beyond conventional developmental limits.

Being able to direct attention at will is so important because the mind tends to take on qualities of the objects to which it attends (Goldstein, 1983). For example, thinking of an angry person tends to elicit anger while thinking of a loving person may elicit feelings of love. The person who can control attention can therefore control and cultivate specific emotions and motives.

Emotional Transformation

Ethical behavior and attentional stability facilitate the third element of the art of transcendence: emotional transformation. There appear to be three components to emotional transformation.

The first is the reduction of destructive emotions such as fear and anger, a process which is well known in mainstream Western therapy. Of course, what is implied here is not repression or suppression but rather clear awareness of such emotions and consciously relinquishing them where appropriate.

The second component is the cultivation of positive emotions such as love, joy and compassion. Whereas conventional Western therapies have many techniques for reducing negative emotions, they have virtually none for enhancing positive emotions such as these.

In contrast, the art of transcendence contains a wealth of practices for cultivating these emotions to an intensity and extent undreamed of in Western psychology. Thus, for example, the Buddhist’s compassion, the Bhakti’s love, and the Christian’s agape are said to reach their full flowering only when they unconditionally and unwaveringly encompass all creatures, without exception and without reserve (Kongtrul, 1987; Singer, 1987).

This intensity and scope of positive emotion is facilitated by a third component of emotional transformation: the cultivation of equanimity. This is an imperturbability that fosters mental equilibrant and as such it helps emotions such as love and compassion to remain unconditional and unwavering even under duress.

This capacity is analogous to the Stoics “apatheia,” the Christian Father’s “divine apatheia,” the Buddhist’s equanimity, the contemporary philosopher Franklin Merrell-Wolffs “high indifference,” the Hindu’s samatva which leads to a “vision of sameness,” and the Taoist principle of “the equality of things,” which leads beyond ”the trouble of preferring one thing to another.”

Motivation

Ethical behavior, attentional stability and emotional transformation all work together, along with practices such as meditation, to redirect motivation along healthier, more transpersonal directions. The net effect is a change in the direction, variety and focus of motivation as well as a reduction in its compulsivity.

Traditionally it is said that motivation becomes less scattered and more focused; the things desired become subtler and more internal. Desires gradually become less self-centered and more self-transcendent with less emphasis on getting and more on giving. Supportive findings from contemporary research suggest that psychological maturity is associated with a shift from egocentric to allocentric (concern f{}r others) motivation (Heath, 1983).

Traditionally this motivational shift was seen as “purification” or as “giving up attachment to the world.” In contemporary terms it seems analogous to movement up Maslow’s (1971) hierarchy of needs, Amold Toynbee’s process of “etherealization,” the means for, and result of, a life-style of voluntary simplicity (Elgin, 1981), and the means for reaching the philosopher Kierkegaard’s goal in which “purity of heart is to will one thing.”

In addition to redirecting motivation, the art of transcendence involves reducing its compulsive power. The result is said to be a serene disenchantment with the things of the world which no longer exert a blinding fascination or compulsive pull.

This is the Buddhist nibbidda and the yogic viraga and is the basis of the Athenian philosopher Epicurus’ claim that the way to make people happy is not to add to their riches but to reduce their desires.

This claim is explicitly formulated in the Buddha’s Third Noble Truth which states that the end of craving leads to the end of suffering. The reduction of compulsive craving is therefore said to result in a corresponding reduction in intrapsychic conflict, a claim now supported by studies of advanced meditators (Walsh, 1993; Wilber et al., 1986).

This is not to imply that redirecting motives and relinquishing craving is necessarily easy. In Aristotle’s estimate, “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self’ (Schindler & Lapid, 1989).

Refining Awareness

The great wisdom traditions agree that in our usual untrained state of mind, awareness-both perceptual and intuitive-is insensitive and impaired: fragmented by attentional instability, colored by clouding emotions, and distorted by scattered desires. Accordingly, we are said to mistake shadows for reality (Plato) because we see ”through a glass darkly” (St. Paul), a “reducing value” (Aldous Huxley), or “narrow chinksn (Blake).

The fifth element of the art of transcendence, therefore, aims to refine awareness. Perception is to be rendered more sensitive, more accurate, and more appreciative of the freshness and novelty of each moment of experience. Likewise, intuitive capacities, usually blunted or blinded, are to be cultivated (Vaughan, 1979). One of the primary tools for this is meditation.

Meditators notice that both internal and external perception becomes more sensitive, colors seem brighter, and the inner world becomes more available. These subjective experiences have recently found experimental support from research, which indicates that meditators’ perceptual processing can become more sensitive and rapid, and empathy more accurate (Murphy & Donovan, 1988; West, 1987; Shapiro & Walsh, 1984; Walsh & Vaughan, 1993).

As the psychiatric historian Henrie Ellenberger (1970) observed, “The natural tendency of the mind is to roam through the past and the future; it requires a certain effort to keep one’s attention in the present.” Meditation is training in precisely that effort. The result is a present-centered freshness of perception variously described as mindfulness (Buddhism), anuragga (Hinduism), the “sacrament of the present moment” (Christianity), the “draught of forgetfulness” in which one forgets the past and comes anew into each present moment (Steiner), and characteristic of self-actualizers (Maslow, 1971).

Refinement of outer perception is said to be accompanied by a refinement of inner intuitive capacities. Contemporary researchers report finding “introspective sensitization” (West, 1987) whereas ancient wisdom traditions speak metaphorically of the development of an inner perceptual organ or the opening of an inner eye: the eye of the soul (Plato), the eye of the heart (Sufism), the eye of the Tao (Taoism), the third eye (Tibetan), or the Western philosophers’ nous or intellectus. For an excellent review see Hustom Smith (1993).

When we see things clearly, accurately, sensitively and freshly, we can respond empathically and appropriately. Thus, both ancient wisdom traditions and modern psychotherapies agree with Fritz Perls (1969), the founder of Gestalt therapy, that “Awareness per se-by and of itself—can be curative.”

Wisdom

The sixth quality cultivated by the art of transcendence is wisdom. Traditionally, wisdom is regarded as something significantly more than knowledge. Whereas knowledge is something we have, wisdom is something we must be. Developing it requires self-transformation.

This transformation is fostered by opening defenselessly to the reality of “things as they are,” including the enormous extent of suffering in the world. In the words of the Psalms, this is the recognition that “our lives are only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, our years come to an end like a sigh” (Psalm 90 HRS). “Who can live and never see death?” (Psalm 89 HRS).

In our own time it is existentialism that has emphasized this recognition most forcefully (Yalom, 1981). With its graphic description of the inevitable existential challenges of meaninglessness, freedom and death it has rediscovered aspects of the Buddha’s First Noble Truth which holds that unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) is an inherent part of existence. Both existentialism and the wisdom traditions agree that, in the words of Thomas Hardy (1926), “if a way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst.”

Whereas existentialism leaves us marooned in a no-exit situation of heightened awareness of existential limits and suffering, the art of transcendence offers a way out. For existentialism, wisdom consists of recognizing these painful facts of life and accepting them with authenticity, resoluteness (Heidegger), and courage (Tillich).

However, for contemplative traditions this existential attitude is a preliminary rather than a final wisdom and is used to redirect motivation away from trivial, egocentric pursuits toward the contemplative practices that lead to deeper wisdom.

Deeper wisdom recognizes that the sense of being marooned in a no-exit situation of limits and suffering can be transcended through transforming the self that seems to suffer (Vaughan, 1986). This transformation springs from the development of direct intuitive insight-beyond thoughts, concepts or images of any kind-into the nature of mind, self, consciousness and cosmos.

This insight is the basis for the transrational liberating wisdom variously known in the East as jnana (Hinduism), prajna (Buddhism), or ma’rifah (Islam), and in the West as gnosis or scientia sacra. And with this liberation the goal of the art of transcendence is realized.

Discussion

These, then, seem to be six essential, common elements, processes or qualities of mind that constitute the heart of the art and technology of transcendence. Of course, different practices and traditions focus more on some processes than on others. For example, Indian philosophy divides practices into various yogas (Feuerstein, 1989).

All of them acknowledge ethics as an essential foundation. Raja yoga emphasizes meditation and the training of attention and awareness; Bhakti yoga is more emotional and focuses on the cultivation of love; Karma yoga uses work in the world to refine motivation, and Jnana yoga hones the intellect and wisdom.

However, the capacities of mind developed by the art of transcendence are highly interdependent and the development of one fosters the development of others. This interdependence has long been recognized by both Eastern and Western philosophers who held that “every virtue requires other virtues to complete it” (Murphy,1992, p. 558). Therefore, to the extent a tradition is authentic-that is, capable of fostering transpersonal development and transcendence (Wilber, 1983)-to that extent it may cultivate and balance these elements of the art of transcendence. Hopefully it will not be long before this art is better appreciated, and its study and practice are widespread.


rogerwalsh1ROGER WALSH 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 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.

 

 

 

REFERENCES / SUGGESTED READING

ELGIN, D. (1981). Voluntary simplicity. New York: William Morrow.

ELLENBERGER, J. (1970). The discovery of the unconscious. New York: Basic Books.

FEUERSTEIN, G. (l 989). Yoga: The technology of ecstasy. Los Angeles: J. Tarcher.

FREUD, S. (1917). A general introduction to psychoanalysis. Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishers.

GAMPOPA. (1971). The jewel ornament of liberation. (H. Guenther, transl.). Boston: Shambhala, p. 271.

GOLDSTEIN, J. (1983). The experience of insight. Boston: Shambhala.

GOLEMAN, D. (1988). The meditative mind. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher.

HARDY, T. (1926). Collected poems of Thomas Hardy. New York: MacMillan.

HEATH, D. (1983). The maturing person. In Walsh, R. & Shapiro, D. J. (Eds.), Beyond health and normality: Explorations of exceptional psychological well-being (pp. 152-205). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

HUXLEY, A. (1945). Tire perennial philosophy. New York: Harper & Row.

JAMES, W. (1899/1962). Talks to teachers on psychology and to students on some of life’s ideals. New York: Dover.

JAMES, W. (1910/1950). Principles of psychology. New York: Doubleday.

KONGTRUL, J. (1981 ). Essays on moral development. (Vol. I ). The philosophy of moral development. New York: Harper & Row.

KONGTRUL, J. (1987). The great path of awakening. (K. McLeod, Transl.). Boston: Shambhala.

MASLOW, A. (1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York: Viking.

MIKULUS, W. (1991). Eastern and Western psychology: Issues and domains for integration. Journal of Integrative and Eclectic Psychotherapy 10: 229-40.

MURPHY, M. (1992). The future of the body: Explorations into the further evolution of human nature. Los Angeles: 1. Tarcher, p. 558.

MURPHY, M. & DONOVAN, S. (1988). The physical and psychological effects of meditation. San Rafael, CA: Esalen Institute.

PERLS, F. (1969). Gestalt therapy verbatim. Lafayette, CA: Real People Press.

PLATO. (1945). The republic. (F. Cornford, Transl.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 516.

PLOTINUS. (1964). The essential Plotinus. (E. O’Brien, Transl.). Indianapolis: Hackett, p. 42.

PRABHAVANANDA, S. & lsHERWOOD, C. (Transl.) (1944). The Bhagavad Gita. New York: New American Library.

RADHAKRISHNAN. (1929). Indian philosophy (Vol. 1, 2nd ed.). London: Alan & Unwin.

RAM DASS. (1975). Association forTranspersonal Psychology Newsletter, Winter, p. 9.

RAMANA MAHARSHI. (1955). Who am I? (8th ed.) (T. Venkataran, Transl.). lndia.

SCHINDLER, C. & LAPID, G. (I 989). The great turning: Personal peace and global victory. Santa Fe: Bear & Co.

SCHUMACHER, E. (1973). Small is beautiful: Economics as if people mattered. New York: Harper & Row.

SHAPIRO, D. & WALSH, R. (Eds.) (1984). Meditation: Classic and contemporary perspectives. New York: Aldine.

SINGER, I. (1987). The nature of love (3 Vols.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

SMITH, J. (1993). Educating the intellect: On opening the eye of the heart. In L. Rouner (Ed.), On Education. University of Notre Dame Press.

TART, C. (1986). Waking up: Overcoming the obstacles to human potential. Boston: New Science Library/Shambhala.

VAUGHAN, F. (1979). Awakening intuition. New York: Doubleday.

VAUGHAN, F. (1986). The inward arc: Healing and wholeness in psychotherapy and spirituality. Boston: New Science Library/Shambhala.

WALSH, R. (1990). The spirit of shamanism. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher.

WALSH, R. (1993). Meditation research: The state of the art. In R. Walsh & F. Vaughan (Eds.) Paths beyond ego: The transpersonal vision. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, Inc.

WALSH R. & VAUGHAN, F. (Eds.) (1993). Paths beyond ego: The transpersonal vision. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, Inc.

WEST, M. (Ed.) (1987). The psychology of meditation. Oxford: Clarenden Press.

WILBER, K. (1980). The Atman project. Wheaton, IL: Quest.

WILBER, K. (1983). A sociable God. New York: McGraw-Hill.

WILBER, K. ENGLER, J. & BROWN, D. (Eds.) {1986). Transformations of consciousness: Conventional and contemplative perspectives on development. Boston: New Science Library/Shambhala.

YALOM, I. (1981). Existential psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.

The authors would like to thank all those who contributed to the writing of this article, especially Sonja Margulies, Ken Wilber and Bonnie L’ Allier.

Mysticexperiences.net

Advertisements

GURU OR NO GURU?

 

An excerpt from a memoir of Dom John Chapman, Order of Saint Benedictine, Abbot of Downside Abbey, by Dom Roger Hudleston, O.S.B., in the paperback, “Spiritual Letters”, first published 1934, current pubs., 2003 and 2004 by Burns & Oates, London, New York:

“A good Director, he held, must be a nurse, no more. He should confine himself to the task of teaching his penitent how to walk alone and unaided. That done, he should be ready to retire into the background; only emerging on rare occasions when unusual circumstances or some particular crisis called for his attention. Directors of this kind would be of no danger to simplicity or humility, while an over dogmatic or too eager Director, giving unsuitable or unnecessary advice with relish and impressiveness, would harm both his penitent and himself.”

First published in 1935, the timeless spirituality of these letters are straightforward expressions of a committed truth seeker impatient of religious cant and “stupidity”, steeped in “omnivorous” scholastic reading and analysis.

As a notable Church establishment figure, Dom Chapman’s knowledge of and acceptance of mysticism is a surprising discovery.

Mysticexperiences.net

SEVEN “GIFTS” OF CATHOLICS

Is this where we went wrong?

These seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (MER?) are excerpted from an article by Frank X. Blisard in the December 1 1960 edition of Catholic Answers magazine:

1. “Wisdom is both the knowledge of and judgment about “divine things” and the ability to judge and direct human affairs according to divine truth (I/I.1.6; I/II.69.3; II/II.8.6; II/II.45.1–5).

COMMENT:  So, is this the very heart and soul, of where religions get it wrong? Is this where the devil, so to speak, thwarts MER by diverting the truly divine into the merely human fabrications of “faith, hope and belief”?  These three myths signify that those who practise them are ignorant of Reality. When you have experienced MER you don’t need “faith, hope and belief”, you know.

2. “Understanding is penetrating insight into the very heart of things, especially those higher truths that are necessary for our eternal salvation—in effect, the ability to “see” God (I/I.12.5; I/II.69.2; II/II.8.1–3).

3. “Counsel allows a man to be directed by God in matters necessary for his salvation (II/II.52.1). ***

COMMENT:  No one needs salvation. Salvation is an irrelevant manipulative human concept, nothing to do with a sinless Ultimate Reality. It is an oxymoron, an ignorant unspiritual presumption.

As for “the ability to to see God”, I expected to see “God” in my MER experiences, though I was disappointed when I didn’t. I was however humbled by the joy of Ultimate Reality’s acceptance of me; and by the awe of its revelation of Existence.

But if by “God” this “gift” means Reality, then there is nowhere Ultimate Reality isn’t and we ARE Reality – whether Reality is seen, known, realised or not. In so far as we are chosen then we experience Reality AS us, and we are Reality.

4. “Fortitude denotes a firmness of mind in doing good and in avoiding evil, particularly when it is difficult or dangerous to do so, and the confidence to overcome all obstacles, even deadly ones, by virtue of the assurance of everlasting life (I/II.61.3; II/II.123.2; II/II.139.1).

COMMENT: Seekers not yet fulfilled will find fortitude a necessary discipline perhaps, but not those who have experienced MER, to whom fortitude is no longer relevant. There are no obstacles of manmade “spiritual” inventions, not even human darknesses like “evil”, in Reality. 

5. “Knowledge is the ability to judge correctly about matters of faith and right action, so as to never wander from the straight path of justice (II/II.9.3).

COMMENT:  “Judge”, “faith”, “right action” and “path of justice”, are clear intentions to direct the experience of MER into mere human concerns. This is purely ignorant human religious devilry, however innocent; an attempted coup against Ultimate Reality. 

6. “Piety is, principally, revering God with filial affection, paying worship and duty to God, paying due duty to all men on account of their relationship to God, and honoring the saints and not contradicting Scripture. The Latin word pietas denotes the reverence that we give to our father and to our country; since God is the Father of all, the worship of God is also called piety (I/II.68.4; II/II.121.1).

COMMENT:  The Reality experienced in MER cannot be reduced to any concept of “fillialness”, “piety”, “worship” or “duty”, “(national) patriotism”, or “saints”. These are man-made words; mindstuff. The god that requires such obeissance is insignificantly small, a human fiction. There are no names or descriptions in Reality.

7. “Fear of God is, in this context, “filial” or chaste fear whereby we revere God and avoid separating ourselves from him—as opposed to “servile” fear, whereby we fear punishment (I/II.67.4; II/II.19.9).” 

COMMENT: Fear of Reality is another oxymoron, a spiritually ignorant human supposition. MER is humbleness (not humility),  joy, bliss, acceptance, belonging, complete oneness in everything that exists. Fear is a product of human darkness. It does not exist in Reality.

Mysticexperiences.net

TWO APPROACHES TO MYSTICISM: PERENNIALIST vs. CONSTRUCTIVIST

By David Robertson

I used to be very much interested in a life of academia. I quite liked the idea of spending my days, researching and writing about my passions, either at a university or perhaps even a think tank. However, there were a few things that disillusioned me from pursuing that path (for the time being at least) – but maybe this is a story for a later post. Nevertheless, I’m always interested what professors have to say about any given issue, and a year or two ago I was delighted to find that mysticism is a topic of intellectual debate.

This was surprising to me because although the followers of the numerous mysticisms of the world offer profound insights on the nature of humanity, the soul, the mind, the universe and God, it has never really been considered an intellectual pursuit in a conventional sense. Across the mystical traditions within the world’s religions, undergoing the mystical experience – union with God, cosmic consciousness, Self-realisation, annihilation, whatever the label – has never been achieved using the everyday mind.

Thinking about the experience, rationalising it, analysing it, using your will to acquire it, has never been a means by which to participate in the ultimate experience a human being can have. For lack of better words, it’s always been regarded as a natural, spontaneous, occurrence or a gift from God’s grace. Different mystical traditions and teachers have debated about how to achieve the mystical experience, but it’s fairly unanimous that you can’t think your way to it.

Which is why I found it interesting that there is so much academic debate about the mystical experience, and whether it is a genuinely true phenomenon or if it’s just an interesting happening of the mind that differs considerably from culture to culture.

This division has generally been labelled perennialist and constructivist. Perennialists hold that the mystical experience is a real union with the divine, or an experience of universal consciousness, or some sort of Absolute Principle. This perspective has been taken from the term Aldous Huxley gave for mysticism: the Perennial Philosophy (also the name of a favourite book of mine!). Whereas constructivists argue that the differences in reports from various religions and cultures suggest that they are social constructions imposed on a neurological phenomenon. In other words, our mind creates an incredible experience and we attribute that to God or other cultural concepts to explain it.

In the current discourse, the latter school has become dominant among academics. Unsurprising, due to the secular nature of modern universities whose professors typically don’t like to include in their work anything that isn’t within the realm of the physical universe. A bit of a shame, since many universities now don’t offer much relating to spirituality or religion, depriving students of quite a useful and fascinating realm of intellectual pursuit. Seeing that secular approaches are the current trend in academia, it doesn’t suggest to me that the perennialist school is inherently wrong or outdated, it’s just not popular.

Anyway, both schools of thought see the experience as real in a certain sense, but it is the origin of the mystical experience where the divisions arise. At the end of the day, as hinted, it largely depends on one’s individual beliefs to determine which school one belongs to. If you believe in God or something beyond the physical, you’ll be more inclined to accept the perennialist school, whereas if you’re an atheist, the constructivist school has a greater appeal. As to anyone who has read any of my other posts (or seen the name of this blog) I fall into the perennialist camp.

My perspective, by no means unique, is that both sides of the debate have quite valuable things to say. Constructivists argue that the mystical experience is only a phenomena of the mind because each purported mystic reports the event almost exclusively in terms of the culture and religion in which he or she has been raised – Christians will relate the experience to God and Christ, Hindus to Brahman and other gods, Buddhists to Nirvana and so on. This has the effect of “verifying” the truth of their religion, but it’s really just a product of their culturally conditioned minds, and suggests that instead of witnessing an objective reality, they are experiencing something more subjective and relative.

This is quite a valid point, though to me it is a little misguided. Firstly, it seems to ignore the fact that all mystics have reported the state of being as beyond words, incomprehensible, greater than any experience imaginable. Since this is the case, when the mystic attempts to translate this phenomena into speech, he or she will inevitably have to use inadequate terminology to convey it in a language that others (and probably himself included) can understand. For example, a Sufi is going to relay and understand his experience in the context of Islamic terms and concepts, rather than something culturally inappropriate.

Secondly, regardless of whether there is a divine reality or not, the relativism involved in the constructivist approach denigrates the commonalities between human beings, and alludes to us being incapable of having shared experiences because of cultural differences. There simply seems to be something universal about the experience.

And finally, the idea that the mystical experience is a culturally subjective illusion potentially undermines the messages that often come from those who have had it. Ideas of unity and love, of harmony in the universe, as well as desires to do good for humanity, and to break down social constructs that pit us against each other. In essence, even if the mystical experience is ultimately an illusion (which I don’t believe it is), it is certainly just about as benign as they get. So with these points in mind, apart from my belief, this is why I’m more inclined towards the perennialist school.

So that’s about it, here’s a gloss over the academic debate about mysticism and the mystical experience. It’s not my typical post, a bit more “academic” than I usually like. But I’ve been meaning to write about this since I began my blog. Please let me know if you’re interested on some articles regarding this and I can email you some of the sources below!

Sources

Randolph T. Dible II, The Philosophy of Mysticism: Perennialism and Constructivism

Michael Stoeber, The Comparative Study of Mysticism

Adam Tyson, The Mystical Debate: Constructivism and the Resurgence of Perennialism


mmexport1513206371215 David Robertson is the Publisher of Perennial Follower, perennialfollower.wordpress.com

REALISATION FROM “WITHIN”? NO!

Any suggestion that mystical realisation of Reality is “within you” would be limiting if true. There was no suggestion in my experiences that the mystical experience of Reality (MER) is limited to coming from “within”.

We are equipped to receive it but not gift it to ourselves, or to anyone else.

If this “within you” description were true the conclusion would be that human existence, probably only human existence, is necessary to experience MER. That isn’t my experience of the mystical experience of Reality (MER). It’s OUT there and it applies to everything known and as yet unknown, including humans.

The bible puts it well when it refers to the veils lifting (2 Corinthians 3.16). Does this mean yes, that our ability to experience spiritual Reality is real, but latent, can only be triggered from outside ourselves? Yes, that’s my experience. It’s not within the gift of any human to achieve MER by their own efforts exclusively. Humans didn’t invent MER.

My experiences suggest that human beings are developing an ability to evolve into an Ultimate Reality that already exists as the foundation of all existence – of which humans as they are now are not necessarily a significant part.

Also significant to note is that this experience only comes to individuals, which is an important point in view of humanity’s current tribal, totalitarian, community and political instincts that work to the contrary.

The Jesus of the Christian bible evidently mistakenly believed MER is about making better humans. Is this why, when this premise failed even in his day (even with his disciples exhibiting complete ignorance of Jesus’ spiritual significance, Luke 9:46), humanity was only left with teachings of morality and ethics for the human spirit, not the Real, spiritual “holy” spirit of MER?

MER, as Jesus said, comes and goes like the wind, from where, and to where, nobody knows … ( JOHN 3:8), the implication being that there’s not much humans can do about it.

Is that why Jesus’ mission failed, because he still misinterpreted his own spiritual experience and thought it could be evangelised, prosyletised from his own MER?

My experience is that the mystical experience of Reality (MER) is caught not taught. If this is generally true, is this why Jesus’ mission was eventually limited to being merely anthropomorphic, no more than the teachings of morality and ethics of the Boy Scouts or social service clubs?

MER is a gateway to an existence more important than being or remaining merely human; in my experience of the phenomena.

The good news is that seeking or even studying this “Holy Spirit”, MER, even if we don’t experience it yet, makes us better human beings – axiomatically, automatically. MER reveals that all is well. We are loved, guarded, guided, helped, directed and protected. We are not abandoned. We are not left to our own devices “within us”.

Mysticexperiences.net

IS THIS BLOG COMING TO ITS NATURAL END?

This Blog is coming near to its end I think. It seems to have fulfilled its primary purposes.

I started it because I wanted to clarify and understand my experiences of what I call, The Mystical Experience of Reality. I wanted to research and write about others’ experiences of the phenomenon.

It’s done all that and a lot more I hadn’t expected.

In fact, I had no idea that what I thought was my personal spiritual “condition” was so universal and had spiralled into such an important place in physics, theology, and philosophy.

The condition of MER, is now internationally, historically widespread, known, and studied in depth. So much so I’m almost at the stage of NOT putting the 100 or so posts from the Blog, all the comments and contact material, into an edited, coherent narrative like a book.

Oxford University entrusted its thousands of case histories on the phenomenon to Wales University. The archive there has grown to over 6,000 cases. They have sent me a questionnaire to add my experiences. There doesn’t seem any immediate need to do anything more. It’s not as if MER, or what Christians might call the Holy Spirit, can be evangelised. The experience is caught, not taught.

The physicists seem to have come to the conclusion their approaches by ‘experiment’ are never going to match the scientifically unreachable ‘experience’ of the mystics. It does, after all, seems to come and go like the wind, to and from where and for what certain purpose nobody knows …

I’m still getting some encouragement to produce the book, enlarged with added material, detailed commentary and references, but I remain unconvinced. As my wife says, “The Blog says it all for those who’re interested.”

I’ve also concluded the ego is now the only thing that would compel me to organise and write the Blog into a book. Thankfully, my ego seemed to have lost that part of ego years ago, when my MERs began.

And anyway, most importantly, the human race has not been abandoned. It is in good hands with or without such a book. All is well.

So I’ll not let the idea of a book bother me for now. I’ll just never say never …

KH. Nanaimo. February 2017.

THE END OF MATERIALISM?

Are we at the beginning of the next stage of human evolution? materialismDr. Charles T. Tart explains why he wrote his seminal book: The End Of Materialism – How Evidence Of The Paranormal Is Bringing Science And Spirit Together, published by New Harbinger, USA (2009).

EXCERPT

“The main thrust of The End of Materialism is to give readers the kind of data that allowed me to reach a personal resolution where I can be both devoted to science and trying to develop and practice my spiritual side. If two living people, for example, can occasionally demonstrate telepathic communication under tightly controlled laboratory conditions, something we have considerable evidence for, is the idea of prayer, an inherently telepathic kind of communication with someone/something beyond us inherently nonsensical? I don’t think so!”

Tart says The End Of Materialism is perhaps his most important work. One of many testimonials for Tart’s book reads as follows:

“Prescient! This book represents the next step in the geotransformational processes that are altering modern concepts of borders, social structures, wealth and governance.”  – John B. Alexander, Ph.D., Society for Scientific Exploration


profile_charles_tartDr. Charles 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.” He says this hurts people, it pressures them to reject vital aspects of their being.

 

SCIENTIFIC CASE HISTORIES OF SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES

 

Between them, Oxford University and The University of Wales have archived more than 6,000 case histories of first hand spiritual or religious experiences.

Now the collection is archived with The Religious Experience Research Centre at the University of Wales.

Please go to the link on our Home Page to find their questionnaire about any experiences you may have had and how to register them with this important, groundbreaking international archive.

 

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS – 3 of 3

 

Q: How to communicate about such things if what one experiences in MER is altogether beyond communicating?

A: MER’s source, purpose, penetration and utility is ineffable – deliberately defying all human access and meddling. It is spontaneous, comes for no apparent logic or reason known to man and cannot be induced, evangelised or proselytised, in my understanding.That’s been my conclusion for a long time. Very frustrating for the merely curious.

Q: In my experience of what you call MER, all thinking ceased in terms of thinking about anything of my own volition. There was, suddenly, and with little warning, complete and utter emptiness within which perception continued, but it was perception without cognitive hooks; that is, perception did not trigger thought or internal dialogue at any level. If I were to attempt a description, I would describe it as an internal/external silence that had nothing to do with absence of sound. A ‘thought’ could arise, I remember, but it was alone and by itself in relation to what was required in any given moment, otherwise there was nothing. It was not my thought; there was no personal aspect, no sense of self, no sense of identity. Thought was not even an option; it was no more than an occurrence. There was just a continuum of silence carrying its own curious signature. I think this is where Merrell-Wolff made the mistake about High Indifference; it’s got nothing to do with ‘indifference’, which is a value-laden term with strong ego connotations. It has to do with experience, any experience, in terms of pure cognition rather than reflective, reflexive cognition: one simply becomes the stream of experience beyond the needs of conscious identification. What I perceived had nothing to do with trees or street; it was everything at once, and that included insights into things utterly beyond my conscious mind’s capacity to grasp. There was no sense of ‘grasping’ anything mentally; just a seeing into the very nature of existence. There was, I realised later, the possibility of a wholly new type of consciousness developing on the planet within which the limited perspective of the human mind had altogether vanished. That, I suspect, is somewhat near to what you mean by MER being experientially ‘nonhuman’, although I may be quite wrong in thinking so.

A: I had no sense of consciousness, or of being humanly conscious, in my experiences of MER. This makes me wonder if I was even human when I had them. What I was getting from the MERs was certainly not anything that could in any way be associated with or understood by the humankind I knew then or since.

I like your, “There was, I realised later, the possibility of a wholly new type of consciousness developing on the planet within which the limited perspective of the human mind had altogether vanished”. This conforms with some Sufi traditions about humanity’s evolutionary future. A philosopher friend of mine told someone else I’m hundreds of years ahead. I presume he mean’t because of my MER experiences. I just hope humans know more in a few hundred years than I do now …

Q: I refuse to teach; it attracts the needy to their detriment. I’m quite willing to talk when such talk is permissible and appropriate, but not at any other time except in the most general of terms. And so my life continues as it has always done, in the moment as best I can.

A: I’ve come to the conclusion real spiritual teachers can only relate to genuine Seekers, those who are readied almost despite themselves, who have begun to shuck the veils of humaness, presumably under the influence of the source of MER? This is another conundrum – what makes a Seeker, why them? Are they the ones who “hunger and seek after righteousness and truth” (whether they like it or not if my own experience of being a Seeker is anything to go by).

mysticexperiences.net