Belief, Consciousness, Human Nature, Knowledge, Life, Living, Religion, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self-Knowledge, Spirituality, Transformative Experience

What is a Mystical Experience Like?

“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was myself. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”  ― Zhuangzi, 

SUMMARY: While it is nearly impossible to adequately communicate the content of a mystical experience to a non-mystic who has never had one, somethings perhaps can be said about the experience that might shed some light on it.

(About a 9 minute read)

Suppose you came across a community of people living in the Amazon rain forest who had never before seen — or even heard more than a rumor or two — of people like you or of your culture and civilization.

Further suppose, upon learning their language, you discover it is beautifully suited to expressing the interrelatedness of all things, but there is neither any word for “god” nor any words that can be used to express the concept of god.  In short, the people have no concept of metaphysics at all.

The world, to them, is not much more than what it appears to be, and the closest you can come to telling them about god more or less translates into “Big Hidden Man/Woman”, which makes them wonder whether you’re talking about a transgendered human of inordinate size who hides behind bushes and trees.

Continue reading “What is a Mystical Experience Like?”

Belief, Consciousness, Cultural Traits, Culture, Enlightenment, God, God(s), Human Nature, Ideas, Intuition, Knowledge, Mysticism, Observation, Religion, Satori, Self, Self-Integration, Self-Realization, Spirituality, Transformative Experience

What Do Mystics Mean by “God”?

“Theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.” ― Meister Eckhart

SUMMARY:  Mystics naturally speak of the experience that distinguishes them from other folks using words and terms derived from their individual cultures.  Hence, they typically speak of having experienced “god”, but upon examination, their notions of god often tend to have more in common with other mystics than they do with common cultural notions of god.  Central to virtually all theistic mysticism is the notion that god — or ultimate reality — is an all-encompassing oneness or One, despite any appearances to the contrary.

(About a 10 minute read)

I first became interested in mysticism about 40 years ago.  I was a sophomore at university and seriously concerned with finding an objective basis for values.

At the time, I believed — like many people still do — that unless an objective basis for values could be found, “anything was permissible”.  No evil, however great, could be objectively opposed.  And that frightened me.

Unfortunately, the more I learned, the less there seemed to be any possibility of an objective basis.  But then I came across the writings of various mystics.

Continue reading “What Do Mystics Mean by “God”?”

Belief, Buddhahood, Buddhism, Christianity, Consciousness, Cultural Traits, Culture, Enlightenment, Ideas, Islam, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Knowledge, Meditation, Memes, Mysticism, Religion, Religious Ideologies, Satori, Self-Integration, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Zen

“Help! She’s Going About It All Wrong!”

SUMMARY:  The importance of having the right beliefs in order to attain spiritual enlightenment is grossly over-emphasized both in Western and Middle Eastern cultures.

(About a 5 minute read)

I have a friend who, in my esteemed opinion (esteemed by me, at least), is going about it all wrong.  By “it”, I mean spiritual enlightenment, of course.  She’s going about it all wrong.

Not that I myself am an authority on spiritual enlightenment.  The closest I ever came to it was that time I saw Terri’s breasts in the moonlight.  My friend — who is not Terri — has never shown me her breasts despite incessant hours of begging on my part and hence, I don’t know yet if she’s a reincarnation of the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, or not. But even if she is, she’s going about it all wrong.

Continue reading ““Help! She’s Going About It All Wrong!””

Belief, Cultural Traits, Culture, Education, Free Spirit, Human Nature, Knowledge, Learning, Life, Living, Love, Memes, Mysticism, Quality of Life, Satori, Self-determination, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Thinking, Transformative Experience

New Eyes

SUMMARY:  A look at maximizing our freedom by freeing us from our cultural assumptions so that we might pick and choose which aspects of our culture are of value to us and which aspects are not.  Life experiences (including travel), education, love, and mystical experiences are all considered as means of freeing us.

(About a 6 minute read)

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust

My first wife, Jana, was born in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia under the Soviet occupation.  At age 9, she escaped with her family to West Germany.  Two years later, they immigrated to the US.

Her mother and father, both being doctors, were able to send her back to Europe to attend a private Swiss boarding school for her high school education.  After high school, she lived in England for awhile, before returning to the US to attend university, where I met her.

By the time I met her, she was a confirmed traveler.  But travel was much more to her than an exciting adventure.  It was a way of learning new things, new ways of doing and thinking.  Or, as Proust might have it, travel was Jana’s way of gaining “new eyes”.

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Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Buddhahood, Enlightenment, Goals, Human Nature, Life, Living, Love, Meaning, Mysticism, Purpose, Quality of Life, Satori, Self, Self-Integration, Self-Realization, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love, Values

More to Life

SUMMARY:  Many of us at one time or another in our lives feel that life is passing us by, that we are not getting as much out of it as possible.  For most of us who feel that way, there are ready remedies in entertainment, consumerism, and so forth — at least at first.  But for others, the desire for something more cannot be solved in such ways.  In this post, I look at what I consider the ultimate solutions to the problem of wanting more from life.

(About a 9 minute read)

It’s a curious fact that when a person is down and out, they can be too down and out to want to think there is more to life than their current fate.  The thought of a better life can be too painful to contemplate under the circumstances.

But for most of us, there are times in our lives when we are discontent, profoundly discontent, and in search of something more.  That sort of feeling is usually accompanied in my experience by boredom with life as it is, and perhaps a sense it will never get much better.

At which point, many of us instinctively turn to entertainments, to consumerism, to self-improvement books and articles, to politics, or religion.  Sometimes we switch jobs, buy a bigger house, take a vacation, or even — and I have seen this happen — get married or plan children out of boredom and to escape that feeling there should be something more to life than what we have.

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Beauty, Buddhahood, Consciousness, Enlightenment, Free Spirit, Human Nature, Ideas, Life, Living, Love, Memes, Mysticism, Quality of Life, Religion, Self, Self-Integration, Sense of Relatedness, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love, Wisdom

The Dance of the Cosmic Dancer

SUMMARY: The image of a cosmic dancer appeals to many people and is open to many interpretations, including the notion presented here that it represents the state of consciousness of a spiritually enlightened person.

(About a 7 minute read)

The great mythologist, Joseph Campbell, enjoyed attributing his own thoughts to others.  Thus, he interpreted Nietzsche’s “Cosmic Dancer” to be someone who dances between opinions and points of view, rather than resting heavily on any particular opinion or point of view.

Although Nietzsche himself never quite saw it the same way, Campbell’s image is an attractive one.  Not only is there truth to be found in an ability to see things from many points of view, but in both intellectual and spiritual terms, it is the very opposite of fanaticism.

Images have a way of taking on a life of their own.  What is created to symbolize one thing can soon come to symbolize many things.  Some long time ago, I posted on this blog one possible interpretation of the cosmic dancer image (You can find that post here, if you’re interested).  Since then, the post has gotten at least a few hits a month, mainly — if the search terms are any indication — from people looking for a definitive interpretation of the term “cosmic dancer”.

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Agape, Attachment, Consciousness, Enlightenment, Human Nature, Ideas, Life, Living, Love, Mysticism, Parental Love, Quality of Life, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self Interest, Self-Integration, Self-Realization, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love

Unconditional Love

SUMMARY: There is a relatively rare form of love that is more of a perception — or way of perceiving the world — than it is an emotion.

(About a 6 minute read)

There is a kind of love that — even if it were unpleasant — would be worth experiencing.

This is what I call, “unconditional love”.  Buddhists, I believe, call it , “loving-compassion”, and Christians call it “agape”.  Many people around the world consider it the “highest” or most “pure” form of love.

Some other folks call it “altruistic love”, but I find that term misleading, not because there isn’t an element of altruism in it, but because altruism is so poorly understood, largely perhaps because it is so difficult to explain.

Many folks who have never experienced it do not believe it exists, or even reason that it logically cannot exist.

Unconditional love would be worth experiencing even if it were unpleasant (at least in my opinion) because it brings with it great insight into people and things, compassion, and a feeling or sense of renewal or rebirth — among other things.

But what is it?

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