Yesterday David Lane left this comment on a recent blog post:
Yes, good point you make here about the epistemology of "knowing" in fundamentalist religion versus mysticism. Here is a link to something I wrote that dovetails with your point:
Because I always enjoy what David has to say, I clicked away and found an interesting six page PDF-file essay, "The Politics of Mysticism."
Download Politics of Mysticism
Here's some excerpts -- the formatting is a bit screwed up, since I copied text from the PDF file. No big deal, since you really should read the whole thing.
Perhaps the most problematic issue confronting transpersonalists is the veracity of inner experiences. For many involved in new religious groups mystical encounters, like near-‐‑death and out-‐‑of-‐‑body excursions, offer evidence of their respective guru'ʹs rightful position or succession. This has been especially acute in several Sant Mat related groups, particularly Kirpal Singh'ʹs Ruhani Satsang, where mastership disputes are often resolved by resorting to one'ʹs inner meditation experiences. But there is a rub in all this that for the most part lies uninspected by those newly initiated.
No doubt a religious devotee may use such experiences as proof for the authenticity of his/her guru or group, but what he/she fails to realize is that there are thousands, if not millions, of people who also claim personal revelations which convince them of the truthfulness of their chosen path. Even Elvis has hundreds of devotees who reported seeing his radiant form at the end of a long dark tunnel when they underwent a near-‐‑death experience. So if someone in Memphis can see Elvis in their meditation, are we then supposed to believe in the spiritual mastership of Elvis? Don'ʹt get me wrong, I am the first to admit that the King had some great songs during his career, but just because a crew of devoted fans have glimpses of him in the alleged after-life does not constitute documented proof of his spiritual attainment.
...What is the primary difference between a fundamentalist Christian and a mystically inclined yogi, especially when it comes to evaluating their ultimate truth claims? Both think they have uncovered the truth. The former by the revealing "ʺWord"ʺ of the Bible; the latter by the manifesting inner "ʺWord"ʺ of the higher regions. Yet, in both cases, the neophyte is subject to doubt, to skepticism, to deception, since revelations of truth (both inner and outer) are manifold. The Muslims have their Koran; the Sikhs have their Guru Granth Sahib; and the Christians have their Bible. And, for the mystics, yogis, and sages who turn inward what do we find? The Hare Krsnas'ʹ see Lord Krishna; the Saivites see Lord Shiva; and Ruhani Satsangis (depending upon your affiliation) see Sant Rajinder Singh, or Sant Baljit Singh, or Sant Sadhu Ram.
But, as the argument goes, the devoted mystic will say that his or her experiences are authentic (because of the utter certainty of the encounter) and the experiences of others, especially if they belong to a rival group which splintered off after a succession dispute, are misguided, secondary, or illusory. So what we actually have in effect here in in terms of truth claims is not essentially different than that of a fundamentalist.