06/02/2013 by syrbal-labrys

Recently, a pagan blog I read has had some interesting discussions about the nature of belief in that heterodox spiritual sphere that the Roman Kremlin hoity-toity knickers’ knotters of the Vatican City would like to exorcise. I yanked the below bolded questions because they reminded me of reading and writing about William James and the nature of mysticism.

First let me preface this with saying I’ve had what I’m told are mystical experiences while still loosely in the Christian fold, and outside it. They have similarities AND differences; and not every experience is the same. Also, in the article, there is the matter of whether these experiences are truly external or internal psychological states. And that in itself ignited one of my personal peeves — an American habit of “either/or” that I consider an unnecessary distinction. I think BOTH can exist and I consider both to be important for human development.

1. Is the experience “sacred” to you? Is it similar to other things that you consider sacred.

Yes, the experience is sacred to me but mostly because it supercedes EVERY other experience in life.

2. Does the experience evoke a sense of awe or reverence or of being overwhelmed?

I would call it overwhelming, but not as much awe or reverence as a permeating kind of joy.

3. Do you experience a presence, a strangeness, or a sense of “otherness”, something or someone distinct from what you identify as your conscious waking self.

Definitely a sense of Other. Let me say that a mystical state is not the only experience of an “otherness”….but there is an inexplicable strength of “real” that makes all else pale in comparison.

4. Does the experience feel beyond your conscious control?

Absolutely. And not necessarily in a pleasant way; while I am grateful (mostly) for those experiences, I often felt a blend of creeping dread and sorrow afterwards. The first because my immediate response … from what I’d be taught…was that I was unworthy and now must surely be death-bound, and the second because reality itself was so inferior and miserable. I’ve never done drugs, but I’d guess this is what “coming down” would feel like?

5. Are there aspects of the experience that surprise you or challenge you in some way?

Yes, the surprise is that it was NOT what I’d expected of the deity in question — both more and less in some cases. I usually came away with more of what I’d call an affirmation, a common thread in my experiences was that “You are enough.”…not merely ‘me’ in the personal sense, but humanity over all.

6. Is the experience difficult to explain using everyday language? Is it mysterious or ineffable?

Very difficult, though not always equally difficult. Some of the pagan oriented experiences felt, for instance, like being joined on a piano bench for a “duet”….others were more overwhelming in content and more difficult to describe even in metaphor.
7. Does the experience sometimes require effort on your part to evoke?

Mostly no. Most of mine have been spontaneous and not initiated by me.

8. Does the experience sometimes not respond to your effort to evoke it?

I actually seldom attempt that direct contact. But when I do attempt it, I’d say it is usually not responsive. My attempts being a much more subtle contact that some of the spontaneous events in my life.

9. Does the experience tend to occur when you are in a more receptive state?

I don’t really ever consider myself in a receptive state, I am fairly guarded and things like hypnosis and guided meditations fail miserably with me. So, I guess that would be a “no.”

10. Has the experience ever occurred regardless of your level of receptivity?

Yes. Even when in some fashion, “inviting” the experience I wonder if I am ever “receptive” in a real sense, so I find the strongest experiences did not rely on any readiness on my part.

11. Does the experience humble you? Does it move you to bend your knees or bow your head or remove your shoes or “kiss the earth” (Rumi)? Does it move you to worship?

I don’t know if “humble” is the correct word, in some cases I began ON my knees. If there was a commonality in both Christian and pagan manifestations? It is that my often already bowed head was LIFTED, quite distinctly, as if someone but a hand beneath my chin and lifted my face to look at me. This was quite startling in both cases. I came away in almost every case, with a sense that hope was in work…that quite conversely, relying on prayer and any gods was not the best human plan. That I/we should consider humanity sufficient to challenges. It did not move me to worship in any traditional sense, it moved me in almost every case, to action. For me, I think, that WAS the message — that possibly “worship” is not meant to occur in tabernacles or groves, but in making daily life sacred and worthy.


2 thoughts on “Mysticism?

  1. I also find that my most startling experiences have happened when I was not in the least “prepared”. That kind of argues for an independent phenomenon, although I agree with you that the inner/outer dichotomy is naive in us at best.
    Terri in Joburg

    • syrbal says:

      That “independent phenomenon” thing is the basic grounding of my spiritual beliefs…the only thing that keeps me from dismissing ALL religious experience.

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The name of this blog, and my Dreamwidth blog, Herlander Refugee, is taken from a 1915 feminist novel "Herland". It makes my heart sing that modern women are experimenting with creation of a new "Herland"! Yes, comments are closed. Anyone who just MUST reach me can do so at syrbal6 at gmail dot com.

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