Following up on my previous post about John Dewey's marvelous little book, "A Common Faith," here's some of what Dewey has to say about mystical experiences. I've boldfaced some passages that particularly appeal to me.
Dewey's main point, which I totally agree with, is that by themselves, mystical experiences prove nothing about God or the supernatural.
The possible causes of those experiences must be carefully studied before any conclusions can be drawn about them, especially given the wide variety of mystical experiences, many or most of which have no commonality.
It is more to the point, however, to consider the region that is claimed by religionists as a special reserve. It is mystical experience. The difference, however, between mystic experience and the theory about it that is offered to us must be noted.
The experience is a fact to be inquired into. The theory, like any theory, is an interpretation of that fact.
The idea that by its very nature the experience is a veridical [truthful] realization of the direct presence of God does not rest so much upon examination of the facts as it does upon importing into their interpretation a conception that is formed outside them.
In its dependence upon a prior conception of the supernatural, which is the thing to be proved, it begs the question.
History exhibits many types of mystic experience, and each of these types is contemporaneously explained by the concepts that prevail in the culture and the circle in which the phenomena occur.
There are mystic crises that arise, as among some North American Indian tribes, induced by fasting. They are accompanied by trances and semi-hysteria. Their purpose is to gain some special power, such perhaps as locating a person who is lost or finding objects that have been secreted.
There is the mysticism of Hindoo practice now enjoying some vogue in Western countries. There is the mystic ecstasy of Neoplatonism with its complete abrogation of the self and absorption into an impersonal whole of Being.
There is the mysticism of intense aesthetic experience independent of any theological or metaphysical interpretation. There is the heretical mysticism of William Blake. There is the mysticism of sudden unreasoning fear in which the very foundations seem shaken beneath one -- to mention but a few of the types that may be found.
What common element is there between, say, the Neoplatonic conception of a super-divine Being wholly apart from human needs and conditions and the medieval theory of an immediate union that is fostered through attention to the sacraments or through concentration upon the heart of Jesus?
...There is no reason for denying the existence of experiences that are called mystical. On the contrary, there is every reason to suppose that, in some degree of intensity, they occur so frequently that they may be regarded as normal manifestations that take place at certain rhythmic points in the movement of experience.
The assumption that denial of a particular interpretation of their objective content proves that those who make the denial do not have the experience in question, so that if they had it they would be equally persuaded of its objective source in the presence of God, has no foundation in fact.
As with every empirical phenomenon, the occurrence of the state called mystical is simply an occasion for inquiry into its mode of causation. There is no more reason for converting the experience itself into an immediate knowledge of its cause than in the case of an experience of lightning or any other natural occurrence.
Yes,as far as I understand what he says I agree I think.
Feelings, experiences etc are real experiences.
One has not to ''make''something out of it..he says right?
I understand that.
But what happens,happens... it makes me spiritually happy..
A feeling a belonging to somehing greater then me..
I am a part of the whole..that is what I happen to feel..
So the discovery about all this,is not just ''something''
Posted by: s* | January 17, 2019 at 06:42 AM
What Dewey is saying is exactly what studies through neuroscience is showing. My often quoted examples from Kevin Nelson's 'The God Impulse' is but one researcher among many who has extensively researched many of the experiences we posit under the title of spiritual or mystical. His findings reveal how all the many varied states we experience and term spiritual, arise and occur in the brain. He also has some interesting findings on self and consciousness.
'Believing in experiences outside the brain is faith'.
Imagine if it was generally acknowledged that spiritual experiences were not interpreted as signs or messages from particular God's or of supernatural origins but as normal and natural human experiences. It would close many doors that maintain that my religion/beliefs are true and right and yours are wrong or evil. It would be one huge area where conflict and separation was eliminated.
But I dream. We still can't agree on many everyday facts.
Posted by: Turan | January 18, 2019 at 02:36 AM
s* has something there about being spiritually happy and belonging to something greater.
I wonder that the experiences which arise when that particularly active part of our brains (mind or thinking) is quieter and less active, the feelings and experiences that are usually unheard become apparent enabling our natural connections to life and our environment to be seen and felt.
Posted by: Turan | January 18, 2019 at 02:49 AM
Consider hearing different sounds all day and night with or without meditation with its source somewhere inside than outside which I may categorise as some mystical experience than may be interpreted in a different manner. As far as some lightning or else is concerned it could be agreed to an extent as not a mystical experience.
But how vivid are such out of body or inside body experiences during meditation or even during sleep, their intensity, extent and duration may differ from person to person and therefore these parameters well may define the exact nature of such experiences. Meaning whether such inner experiences were hallucinations or something more real than this world - perceived in a state of more consciousness and light. If any among us who has such an intense inner experience sometimes or now can explain it further.
Posted by: Meditator | January 18, 2019 at 09:30 AM
Any good scientist would prefer investigation to conclusive statement or conjecture.
Hence, the necessity to duplicate such experience for oneself, and with some level of control, is the minimum condition to make any scientific comment about such witness.
For those who have not done so and have nothing to report, what is left but third hand anecdote and fourth hand conjecture?
By one's very distance from it, the capacity to make any truthful statement is remarkably limited.
What we can do is define the rules of objective, scientific assessment of one's own experience as well as the means of working with those who claim such experience.
For example, the testimony of those children who recall details of another life which ended before theirs, with details that could not have been gained by conventional means. A small but statistically significant number of these testimonies legitimately defy any conventional explanation.
Now the test becomes the veracity of the Atheist confronted with such evidence.
It still boils down to our personal experience being confronted with something confounding. Do we deny it or if hand? Do we investigate with an open mind? And do we attempt something like controlled experimentation within our own experience to try to duplicate and see more closely something that parallels the reports?
The test always boils down to our own personal choice to live with open investigation and critical assessment of our own thinking in the pursuit of truth.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | January 20, 2019 at 09:17 AM
Posted by: mike williams | January 24, 2019 at 04:54 PM