Mystical Experience

mystical experience

“All the greatest and most important problems in life are fundamentally insoluble… They can never be solved, but only outgrown. This “outgrowing” proves on further investigation to require a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest appeared on the horizon and through this broadening of outlook, the insoluble lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms, but faded when confronted with a new and stronger life urge.” – Carl Jung

 

Mystical experience, what exactly does it mean, more specifically, what exactly does it mean to you? Some weeks back I posted that question in the forum. I was curious to find out what others considered the phrase “mystical experience” to mean based on their own mystical experiences. I was hoping for a sincere “gloves off” discussion about mystical experience. Now, after checking my expectations at the door, I’m questioning how anyone other than the person who has had a mystical experience can truly relate to what is essentially a personal understanding.

There seem to be as many variations on what exactly a mystical experience is as there are people who communicate them, and why shouldn’t there be? What compels a person to leave the safe harbor of fundamental dogmatism and voyage into the unknown? Perhaps even the motivations and desires of the initiate are as subjective as the experiences that assist their journey. That said, what remains of an individual’s witness to the transforming power of Jesus that can be considered communally beneficial and doesn’t rely on abstraction?

 

God Logic Explained

Before I share my view of this transforming process I suppose it would be beneficial to briefly explain my former religious attitude. For lack of a better phrase I have selected “God logic” as the expression that conveys the religious state of mind that I found myself dwelling in for years.

The subtle guise of God logic is at work in minds of the religious in many forms.  In prayer for example, when one prays, waits a few seconds, then begins to rationalize the answer to one’s own prayer by constructing a logical course of action based on scripture references. Add to that some feeling of relief or peace caused by the understanding that it’s in God’s hands now because I have prayed.

In God Logic we have the perfect religious recipe, the authority of scripture applied rationally in the fullness of understanding and individually confirmed by emotion… God becomes property of the soul, neatly and logically compartmentalized, conveniently accessible in time of need, want, or whenever socially necessary.

When a person makes use of God logic they have a very well defined image of God, who He is, and how He operates.  His “Will” is discovered by transposing moral precepts from biblical narrative into one’s life via self directed rational discourse. Ultimately God logic is self righteousness in disguise, a form of religious pretense without genuine humility in the presence of God. Often times the practitioner is paraded blindly though life unaware that there is any problem whatsoever in their “spiritual walk,” even when sin dominates their thoughts and life. You see, when a person learns to rationalize the written word of God they will also rationalize sin in the same manner.

When one summits the high and mighty peak of God logic the only certainty to come is a deep, swift fall into an experience of sin that will forever shatter the religious soul in merciless ways. Overcoming the religious peaks and valleys of God logic can awaken ones spirit in ways not yet conceived of by those who are entangled in its snare.

“The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” — Albert Einstein

 

Mystical Experience as Process

We humans seem to have an innate desire for certainty when it comes to apprehending our personal standing with God. This desire for certainty is the driving force behind a multiplicity of religious practices, doctrinal beliefs, and all shades of mystical experience. What purpose does mystical experience serve if it does not, at a minimum, fulfill the void of uncertainty?

The demise of God logic can be a drawn out process! Subtle questions arise, slowly at first leading you to wonder if the beliefs that you value are correct. As the process unfolds soon you are questioning everything that you thought you knew about God, self, life, etc… at last coming to a place of absolute self humility that has truly permeated the essence of being.

In hindsight, it appears as though something new was being formed through a process of unlearning. An awareness that watches all that arises within. This deep-seated awareness allows the intellect to guard the heart from being passionately dominated by whatever blows past. From the vantage point of continuing watchfulness, patterns emerge as varying states of consciousness are realized. Motives, reasoning, the wandering mind, emotions and alike become subject to the authority of discernment and responsible at every stirring to will.

I experience the mystical as a natural consequence of obedience to the teachings of Christ. By applying the concepts of faith, repentance, humility, love to the very essences of my being, I find that life is becoming more mystical every day. I choose to walk by faith, avoiding pretense and treasuring truth. God, the Father of spirits who inhabits eternity and regards mankind with love cannot be confined by the shadows of mental constructs no matter how logical they may appear.

Whether or not individual experience of a living faith in God is considered mystical is subjective. Certainty in that life altering transformation based on faith in Jesus has occurred outside of one’s own cognitive abilities is unmistakable, if not mystical. Although I’m not the same person I was when I started this journey it is evident that I am not complete. There are still questions that compel me deeper into the Kingdom of God.

 

Rolling in the Deep

In The Interior Castle, St Teresa uses a metaphor of passing through the chambers of an inner castle to express her mystical experience. Her metaphor is still one of my favorites because it is simple and scalable, representing a process that can only be expressed by experience and from a vantage point deep within.

St. Teresa of Avila describes her experience in mansion five as having the faculties suspended. When I experience a suspension of faculties in prayer what remains is an awareness of the first intuitions that bring to life those very same faculties. The physical senses still function although they are usually the first to fade from view as prayer deepens. The reasoning mind, imagination and other higher faculties of the soul are still completely intact, but there is an ever increasing distance between their function and the content that stimulates their activity.

In a mansion five state of consciousness ‘freedom’ is a word barley broad enough to convey the experience, peace that passes understanding is the sentiment. To proceed deeper would be to draw closer to the source of intuition rather than gazing upon the intuitions directly. I wonder what’s beyond the wall of first intuitions?

 

Pax Vobiscum
-C.M. Gregory

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5 Responses to Mystical Experience

  1. seth says:

    I feel like I should say something, Gregory, but I hardly know what. Clearly you have drunk deeply from the fountain.

  2. kim says:

    Beautiful, just Beautiful, I am so glad I found this website.

  3. Juan del la Cruz says:

    I tend to over think the mystical experience. It’s better just to rest in it for me, to be strengthened by it, to love and be loved, to be held by the Beloved.
    Look to the world outside. Be the heart, eyes, ears and hands of Our Lord. That is where God is. You will encounter Christ in a more intense way in the day to day, not in your meditation room.

  4. Hello Gregory,

    I am attracted to your idea of “mystical experience” as process. When thought of in that respect, one can avoid the problems associated with “momentary” glimpses of the Divine along the spiritual path. Personally, I believe these experiences are like people climbing out of a dark hole and finally glimpsing the sunlight, only to crawl back in the same hole.

    Obviously, St. Theresa was no stranger to these experiences, as well as ecstasies, but she was careful to spend abundant time discerning their validity. As her “Interior Castle” points out, it was the progression of the soul toward God that was of primary importance. And, in her writings, she clearly noted the conditions of growth required.
    Among them, obedience, humility, detachment, and prayer in solitude. You mention many of her “conditions” in your post.

    From my reading of and about her she also seems to be a big believer in determination and discipline along the spiritual path. I’m afraid these are two “d” words we often choose to avoid these days, and yet, Theresa saw them as extremely important for God’s work to be done.

    This was a wonderful post, Gregory. I thorougly enjoyed reading it.

    Steve

  5. Karina says:

    Thoughtful post Gregory,

    I couldn’t help but smile as I read your description of “God logic,” as I see myself there, praying for transcendence, while I also see so many in the church there, unaware of it. Your description of this “unlearning” (or, as I’ve called it, “debrainwashing”) process is so clear for its end point as questioning everything and finding oneself in “a place of absolute self humility.” What grace it is then when we’re blessed with the mystical, be it through “experiences” in a dramatic sense, or in the everyday sense (sitting in awe while observing a leaf, listening to the river and breathing in its peace, or gazing at the stars), or in the natural sense you describe as applying Christ’s teaching in our lives.

    A “suspension of faculties”: hmmm, interesting. I hadn’t recalled this notion from the fifth chamber of St. Teresa’s castle, as I had been contemplating her point within this chamber of maintaining community within one’s prayer life. But what a beautiful description it is in contrast to “God logic.” Thank you for illuminating a path out of these shadows of conventional thought.

    Blessings,
    Karina

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