7674Re: An easy way to facilitate mystical experience?
- Mar 15 2:35 PM
I bogged down on ‘Shi’ur Qomah in the light of neuropsychological research’ and started working on another paper about how St. Paul and his trip to heaven (2 Cor 12:1-10) can be explained as an out of body experience. See my beginning draft at the bottom of this email—lot’s more to come, what’s here is maybe a quarter of the paper.
I am also doing some research on dreams and mystical experience. I’ve been reading Catherine Shainberg’s Kabbalah and the Power of Dreaming which purports to tell you how to achieve enlightenment via merging the conscious and the dreaming mind. I hate the way she writes but the content of the system is interesting. I am making notes and doing some commentary which I will pass on to you later when I have finished analyzing the exercises in more detail.
As to my own experiences, I haven’t had anything huge, which causes me to gnash my teeth cause I want it so bad. What I have had for the last 15 years or so is a sense of inner radiance. When I pay attention to it, it is a blissful sense of giving off light. I did a paper on it a while back called ‘The Inner Radiance of the Saints’ with examples from various saints and mystics who report something very similar. Not to say I am a saint or even a mystic, but I feel like I have made a little progress on the path. I can send you The Inner Radiance of the Saints if you like.
Here are some recent experiences:
While waiting for my wife who was undergoing minor surgery, I fell into an altered state; my mind was awake but my body was asleep and drenched in deep feelings of peace. A similar state occurred several times while I was waking up in the morning. My mind would be awake but my body would still be immobilized, filled with a deeply enjoyable peace. I do not normally wake up with this sense of peace, even when I am conscious but my body is still mostly asleep. At times I could induce this altered state while I was falling asleep at night by practicing the shi’ur qomah meditation and remembering the feelings of peace.
I was in my car driving to see a friend. During the ride I had a powerful feeling of the rightness of the universe and a sense of oneness with it.
While waking from a dream, I had an intense feeling of the depth and beauty of the characters in a TV show I had been watching the night before. This feeling slowly expanded out to include the entire world. Everything and everybody was miraculous.
While walking thru my bedroom, I had an inner image of the yin-yang symbol. I was outside of it, looking at the whole created field of opposites, filled with bliss. This lasted for about half a minute. What was different from just looking at a picture of the yin-yang symbol was the sense of the bliss of creation. Overcoming the opposites is one frequently noted aspect of mystical experience.
I too am interested in how music triggers apprehensions of transcendence. There is a an overview article in Music and Altered States: Consciousness, Transcendence, Therapy and Addictions edited by David Aldridge and Joerg Fachner. I have looked a little at Helen Bonney’s Guided Imagery and Music (GIM). Stanislof Grof, the premiere psychiatric researcher on psychedelic drugs, combined Bonney’s technique with prolonged fast breathing to produce his holotropic breathwork, a method he claims can produce psychedelic experiences without the drugs. The anthropological literature tells us that music is frequently used to modulate the content of psychedelic drug sessions. Shamanic spirit journeys are done in association with rhythmic drumming. The anthropologist Felicitas Goodman has combined body postures with drumming to produce similar spirit journey content across persons without drugs. This work is accessible via books and thru her foundation the CUYAMUNGUE INSTITUTE.
You might be interested in Sufi music and mysticism, given that you are living in Saudi Arabia now. What are you up to at the University? Library Science?
Beginning Draft of In the Body or Out of the Body— 2 Cor 12:1-10—
Paul’s Ascension to the Third Heaven and Out-of-Body Research
Dan Washburn Feb 2, 2014
In order to avoid boasting Paul refers to himself in the third person in 2 Cor 12:2-4. He says, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows.” Paul couldn’t tell if his trip to heaven happened in the body or out of the body. It felt as real as everyday life to him. With this information we can very likely identify the type of altered state of consciousness that Paul was in during his ascension. It was not a dream, or a lucid dream, or a hallucination, or hypnogogic imagery, or a drug-induced psychedelic state. It was an out of body experience, similar to those that have been studied by psychologists, parapsychologists, and medical Doctors over the last hundred years. Out of body experiences frequently feel as real as everyday life.
William G Roll became a professional parapsychologist starting in the late 1950s. He was on the staff of the Parapsychology Department at Duke University and was a founding member and president of the Parapsychology Association. In his autobiographical essay “My Search for the Soul” he describes his first out-of-body experience at age 16.
…I get up one night and find myself looking at my body, which is still on the bed. It’s more strange than frightening. I discover that I can repeat the experience if I wake up with a peculiar tingly sensation in my chest and face. My consciousness, when I find myself out of the body, is otherwise the same as my ordinary, waking self. There is nothing numinous about these episodes, and I never venture into distant places. The farthest I get is the front yard. But the experience is as real as getting up in the morning and going to school. … [Through reading] …I discover that many others have had [Out of Body Experiences]. Unlike mine, the journeys include visits to distant family or friends and exploring other-worldly realms. … There is a similarity between my OBEs and those I read about. Both are preceded by sensations of mild electric-like shocks in the body and both are as vivid as everyday life, if not more-so.”
Sometime ago I talked to a prominent Washington DC interior designer at a literary party about her many out-of-body experiences. “On a scale of one to ten, from faint to very vivid,” I asked her, “how would you rate your experience of being out of the body?” “Like going to the grocery store,” she replied.
Along with seeing one’s body lying in bed, people who have out of body experiences report that they can move through physical objects, such as walls. This can be used as another piece of evidence that one is no longer in the physical body. My next door neighbor, a materials expert who has worked in physics labs and on space satellite projects, has had two out of body experiences. During the first he was floating up near the ceiling, looking down on his body. After a time it occurred to him that he could go elsewhere. He rose upward through the ceiling, seeing all the layers of material between rooms as he went, and hovered over the city. He became excited and was pulled him back into his body.
If Paul suddenly found himself out of the body and transported to the other-worldly realm of the third heaven, which he experienced with all the vividness of every-day waking consciousness, without seeing his body from the outside during the process and without transitioning through any physical object, he would be hard-pressed to say whether he was in the body or out of the body. Rising in the air is not a clue to out of body status, since Enoch and Elijah were both taken up in the body.
You will notice that Paul does not say, ‘Whether it was in the body or in a vision’ or ‘Whether it was in the body or in the spirit.’ He says, ‘Whether it was in the body or out of the body.’ This implies that he was familiar, by personal experience or contemporary account, with people leaving their bodies to view distant or other-worldly scenes. ( Accounts in ascension literature see gooder, revelations in the spirit, pauls own travel in the spirit)
But why was he talking about this aspect of his experience at all? Why does he say twice, ‘Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows.’ Paula Gooder in her review of the literature on 2 Cor 12.1-10 says, “The reason for this stress on Paul’s confusion about his bodily state is unclear, unless he is taking sides on a debate about whether ascent is bodily or not.” (Gooder, Paula R, Only the Third Heaven? 2 Corinthians 12.1-10 and Heavenly Ascent, 2006, T&T Clark, London/New York, Library of New Testament Studies 313, p. 181) Jean Danielou cites two passages that help answer the question about why Paul emphasizes his uncertainty. Remember that Paul was also caught up to paradise. (2 Cor 12:3-4) “And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows--was caught up to paradise.” Danielou’s first citation is from Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. V, 5:1)
Enoch of old, having pleased God, was translated in the body, foreshadowing the translation of the righteous …. The Elders … say that those who have been translated are taken to Paradise, and remain there until the consummation of all things, being the first to enter upon incorruption.
The Elders, Irenaeus tells us, “were the disciples of the apostles.” So if he is correct that this teaching goes back to the Elders, the tradition that those translated such as Enoch and Elijah are waiting in paradise for the final consummation, goes back to apostolic and sub-apostolic times. Irenaeus says in the same place that, “Elijah, too, was caught up [when he was yet] in the substance of the [natural] form; thus exhibiting in prophecy the assumption of those who are spiritual, and that nothing stood in the way of their body being translated and caught up.” Danielou’s second citation is from the Clementine Recognitions (I, 52):
Others who, following the example of Enoch, pleased God have been translated to paradise to await the Kingdom. But as for those who have not been able completely to fulfill the rule of righteousness their bodies are dissolved, but their souls are kept in the blessed regions, in order that at the resurrection of the dead they may obtain their reward, purified by the dissolution of their bodies.
When Paul tells an audience that he has been caught up to Paradise, they naturally are going to want to know whether, like Enoch and Elijah, he was translated there physically, or whether he went as a spirit phantom. If he was translated, it is a sign of the beginning of the final consummation. One of the righteous has been pulled up bodily into heaven, can the rest of us be far behind. The Greek word Paul uses in 2 Cor 12:2,4 ‘to be caught up,’ harpazo, is the same as he uses in 1 Thes 4:17: “ Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with [the resurrected dead] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…” Paul, however, says he cannot tell whether he was in the body or out of the body.
Translation would put Paul on a par with Enoch and Elijah. He wants to boast about his status but it interferes with his theology that weakness really means strength in Christ. Downplaying boasting is the reason he is referring to his trip to heaven in the third person. However, the ploy is only a tease, since he then goes on to say that he could boast if he wanted to and that he was given a thorn in his flesh to keep him from being conceited about the surpassingly great revelations that have been given to him. Saying that he doesn’t know if the ascent was in the body or out of the body is a parallel theme, since it lets him both imply translation and deny it at the same time, hence boasting and not boasting at the same time. Maybe he went to heaven, or not, maybe his journey was in the body and he is on the same spiritual level as Enoch and Elijah, or not.
How frequent are out of body experiences? In my lifetime I have personally talked to 6 people who have had out of body experiences. A former boss of mine when I was in the telecommunications industry; a graduate student studying to be a composer, a housewife I met at a seminar; an evangelical Christian computer programmer I encountered in a bookstore, the interior designer who told me that being out of the body was like ‘going to the grocery store’; and my next door neighbor.
Possibly I can include myself as a seventh. When I was a young boy, I had to have a tooth removed. I remember breathing the ether and falling asleep. The next thing that happened is that I woke up slowly revolving around and around in total blackness. I was completely conscious, wondering what was happening. For some unknown reason, I thought, the dentist is spinning the chair around and around. I soon fell asleep again and woke up without a tooth. Ardeema and the void. Muldoon and ether/spinning.
Not only was Paul having an out of body experience, he was also having a mystical experience. William James specified four criteria for a mystical state of consciousness. 1. Ineffability: ”He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not able to tell.” In other words, what he heard was ineffable. 2. Noetic quality--a sense that the experience is profoundly true: Paul refers to his ascension as a revelation from God, hence it conveyed a feeling of understanding deep truth to him. 3. Transiency: Although Paul does not specify a time period, we can assume that his ascension was an experience that did not last for a long time, possibly a few minutes, at most a few hours. 4. Passivity—the sense that one’s own will is in abeyance or that one is being grasped or held by a superior power: When Paul says that he is caught up to the third heaven, that he is caught up to paradise, he indicates that he is being grasped or held by a superior power.
(Out of body experiences and mystical experience frequently conjoined in NDEs.
Trips to heaven in out of body research/near death research)
Some contemporary Christians condemn voluntary out-of-body travel because they associate it with sorcery, witchcraft and the occult. It opens one to demons who will try to pollute the truth of the gospel with evil lies. Galatians citation One should rely only on the pure truth of revealed scripture, not any personal experience of the world of spirits, to guide one’s life.
There are several things wrong with this warning. With over fifty(?) Christian sects in existence, there is obviously no pure truth of revealed scripture discernable to all people. The Reformation was about wresting the interpretation of the scriptures out of the hands of those who wanted to assert a one pure truth and putting it into the hands of individuals, so that they can grow in their own way, from their own experience, in their own spiritual understanding.
As to sorcery and witchcraft they can be defined as the use of spirits and spells to hurt other people in the pursuit of one’s own goals. A love spell that binds someone to you, puts chains on their soul. A holy man who heals you by means of spirits and spells—in the case of Jesus, by means of the Holy Spirit—is not practicing sorcery or witchcraft. Are all the people who pray to saints and angels for healing and protection practicing witchcraft? They are invoking the spirits of the dead and supernatural powers. Hence it is quite possible to consort with spirits and powers in a sacred, not a demonic, way. Paul did not say reject the spirits, he said test the spirit (citation). Because out of body travel is unusual, it is not by definition a road to ruin, it is quite possibly a road to the Kingdom of God. Paul found it so.
Hi Dan, so good to hear from you again. Sounds like retirement is treating you well! Glad to know. Have you completed work on the 'Shi'ur Qomah in the Light of Neuropsychological Research' article?
Update about me: I have moved from the Far East to the Middle East and I am now living in Saudi Arabia. I am about as close to Mecca as a non-Muslim can get. Tantalizingly close to see the ultimate cubical shrine but I can't get at it. I took up a position at a newly founded university near Jeddah and the job is great! Living on a compound (similar to how most Americans live when working on the oil refineries) so life is pretty much as one finds it in N.America; however, alcohol is not permitted here and I haven't had a drink in a month. That's something of a feat after having lived in Japan! I am looking forward to exploring some of the nearby areas such as the city of Petra in Jordon and also Istanbul in Turkey. I will keep you updated. For now, I can say that I attended the national museum in the capital of Saudi and I passed a few cubical markers on the way throughout. The faces of the cube were inscribed with passages from the Koran. I believe that Muslims would see that as a reference to the Ka'bah shrine but to my mind it was a reference to cubical spiritual centers around the world. Anyway, it was just something I observed that I hadn't expected to see there.
I have been thinking about your post, How to induce a mystical experience. How has it been working for you? I am definitely a dreamer (I frequently recall my dreams, often in vivid detail) but they have not been tools to mystical experience for me. Instead, my dreams tend toward the introspective side, sometimes offering me a glimpse of things about myself or my attitudes or beliefs that I missed. But I agree that the pre-dream stage is crucial to many altered states. I have yet to achieve out-of-body experiences but based on my research that is most likely to happen in the pre-sleep stage.
That said, I did have one mystical experience during the pre-dream state but it was connected to music. And in my experience, music is my mystical inducer. The sound washes over me, enveloping me in a wall of vibration and this creates the right sensory stimulus to sense something larger than just "me". This particular time, I had stayed up all night and was tired. I wasn't at home (where I might have just gone to sleep completely) but I felt I was in a relatively "safe" environment (crucial to letting one's guard down enough to permit an altered state of consciousness). I was in my friend's sandwich shop which he was preparing to open. The door was still locked so no other customers were there (i.e., no one was disturbing me). But the clincher was the music he had playing over the shop speakers. It was new and alien to me, some type of Indian music with unfamiliar stringed instruments and note progressions (maybe it was a sitar but I have no idea now). I believe that this combination of factors joined together to take me out of myself and open my awareness to something larger than me: (1) fatigue but not able to just go to sleep completely; (2) safe and relatively free from disturbances; and (3) some musical catalyst to propel me into a new state.
There have been other times in my life when music also accompanied me as I experienced heightened or hyper awarenesses of the world around me. It can be an unfamiliar style of music (as I mentioned above) or, alternatively, it can be music presented in a non-standard way (ceiling speaker in a store playing "overhead", music playing in a passing vehicle with a fleeting phantom effect that combines to change my mood and how I perceive where I am at that instant, etc.). This delivery of song can at times lift me outside of my immediate environment and I experience a rich glimpse of things greater than my own limited vision. I suppose it is the urban equivalent of a grand panorama one finds overlooking the plains, canyons, or any expanse where you can spy the curvature of the earth itself.
Incidentally, I just looked up the etymology of catalyst and perhaps it is germane to the discussion. While the use of the term in chemistry today carries the sense of change caused by an agent which itself remains unchanged, the original use is the Latinized form of the Greek word "katalysis", meaning complete dissolution or dissolving. In a way, that is exactly what I am suggesting: for me, music and a few other factors combine to dissolve my immediate view into a larger expression of that which is around me. In other words, most of my mystical experiences re-confirm that I am just a part of the all.
How about you? What are the factors that most lead you to a mystical sense of life?
Great to hear from you, as ever~
I have been reading Ralph Hood’s Handbook of Religious Experience and came up with an idea for easily facilitating mystical experience.
Pp 338-9 (Cognitive Theory and Religious Experience) talks about pre-sleep thoughts being the main determinant of dream content. There is also a reference to pre-sleep instructions being effective.
In the article on The Facilitation of Religious Experience pp 579ff, re the psychedelic Marsh Chapel Experiment and Tim Leary’s two psychiatrist drug study, there were dramatic differences in religious experience based on whether the sessions had a religious context or not. So the content of psychedelic experience is way more likely to be mystical when the setting of the session and its directed imagery is religious.
Dreams have been a traditional altered state route for prophetic, ecstatic, and psychic content. Joel 2:28 I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions
Theoretically then, if someone listens to a pre-sleep tape/cd/mp-3 that instructs them to have mystical experiences during their dreams with unitive feelings, a deep sense of truth, indescribable ineffable beauty, awe, serenity, compassion, bliss, transcendence of space and time, fusion of the opposites, and a profound feeling of sacredness, their dreams should begin to reflect these instructions. If you also instruct them to remember their dreams, they should begin to carry these experiences in the dream altered state over into waking consciousness.
Experiments could be done by altering the instructions given to different groups.
Alternatively, in the sleep laboratory one could give instructions for a mystical experience during REM sleep and then wake the subject to get a dream report.
I have been spending a good deal of my time since retirement thinking about the facilitation of mystical experience.
Hope everything is going well with you
All my best
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