teaches Reality is One (absolute monism), and the mystic strives to
experience this Oneness. Two
ways of doing this through meditation (Figure #7a) are: 1) by gradually
shrinking consciousness with the goal of eliminating all thought, and 2)
by gradually expanding consciousness, steadily including more and more
in one's thoughts. Paradoxically
both paths—mentally contracting and expanding—arrive at the same
place: where nothing and everything are experienced as the same, zero
equals infinity, all distinctions have broken down, and time seemingly
Such experience of this Oneness
has been likened to swimming in an infinite cosmic ocean.
It typically involves an impossible to describe feeling of
elation, awakening, joyous-ess, and sense of immortality.
It produces an awakening—the exact moment this occurs is called
satori to use the Zen Buddhist term—that elevates this person above
ordinary people and places him or her on an enlightened, higher plane of
existence. Such a person is
said to have
cosmic consciousness —also the
title of a famous book (which appeared in 1901) written by Richard Bucke.
The book documents such mystic experience throughout history,
describing instances of it in people such as the Buddha, Jesus, Paul,
Mohammed, Francis Bacon, William Blake, Walt Whitman, and many others.
After enlightenment such people become convinced the normally
perceived world is an illusion, one that arises because of our point of
view and our need to describe Reality so as to make sense of it.
The Hindu term maya refers to the inappropriateness of equating
our description and conceptualization of Reality, with Reality
itself—confusing the map of the terrain with the terrain itself.
Under the spell of maya, people see themselves as separate from
nature, from the ultimate reality.
The illusion of time passing originates
in similar fashion. Mathematician
(1906-1978) described it as follows:
"[It] arises from the confusing of the given with the real.
Passage of time arises when we think of occupying different realities. In fact we occupy only givens. There is only one Reality." Psychologist Carl Jung's (1875-1961) conception of
synchronicity (Figure #7b) not
only wreaks havoc with a linear conception of time, but also with
causality. It refers
to events that occur either simultaneously or nearly so in meaningful
fashion, but yet have no evident cause and effect connection. Jung's
followers believe such events occur much more often than would be
expected if they were due to random chance coincidence.
They feel that synchronicities provide evidence of a collective
unconscious: connectedness at a higher (normally unperceived) level.
Mystical states, as altered states of consciousness, are
difficult to understand since no one agrees on exactly what
consciousness is. Generally
it is thought of as a process not a
by religious tradition to reside in the soul or spirit
and identified with self awareness.
physicists (like Wolfgang
Pauli who collaborated with Jung) feel the physical world has no
existence independent of human consciousness.
Jung and Pauli attributed to human
consciousness unlimited reality-structuring capabilities—linked with
Chinese Taoist mystical practice
centers on finding the way (tao). Enlightenment
comes by overcoming natural tendencies to describe and conceive in
dualistic (yin and yang) fashion and recapture the original unity.
Chinese thinkers have sought to explain
all natural phenomena and human behavior in terms of a representation
involving the dynamic interplay of yin and yang—the archetypes of
complementary, polar opposites.
More generally the term complementarity refers to having
two equally good, complementary but mutually exclusive, even
contradictory descriptions or explanations for some phenomena.
Clearly, understanding the reality of something can involve
simultaneously embracing both of these complementary
representations—often allowing opposing beliefs to peacefully coexist
together inside one’s head! A
modern quantum physics complementarity example involves conceiving of
light as both a particle and a wave.
#7B: Mysticism is to be distinguished from occultism in
that, unlike the former, the latter is concerned with magic,
witch-craft, sorcery, alchemy, astrology, numerology, strange rites,
secret formulas, etc. and is sometimes associated with malevolent
supernatural beings. Mysticism
and magic come together in shamanism: an ancient form of mind/body healing that attempts to restore health to
people by helping to put them back into balance with their natural
surroundings and all life. Occultism
is associated more with educated, Western cultures, shamanism more with
indigenous peoples. More
recently the New Age Movement has provided an umbrella for those
interested in these ancient practices, along with those having more
modern roots such as parapsychology, the power of positive thinking,
etc. (Some even see positive thinking = God!)
While many associate magic with
entertainment (see Figure #7c), in many cultural settings its long-time,
continuing practice has more in common with religion.
Both meet similar needs: providing some understanding of, or
control over, nature, offer-ing security vs. the unknown, helping people
cope with death, and giving spiritual guidance.
More recently, some see certain New Age practices —as others
have seen aspects of religion—as recipes for success.
Thus the enthusiasm for the belief that you create your own
successful reality by thinking positive thoughts.
Critics see the associated "ask, believe, and receive"
mentality as a variation of "wishing
makes it so"—something to be deplored as a simplistic, fairy
tale, magical, childhood fantasy way of dealing with problems!
#7a and #7b
Two Types of Meditation,
to Experiencing a Mystical State:
everything / infinity
according to Pauli and Jung, these are the Major Principles Behind
Figure #7c: How Magicians Fool Us
Magic tricks often work by the
magician’s use of misdirection: drawing the audience’s attention
away from the essential element the trick depends on.
They often use cognitive illusions and visual illusions.
The former refer to mental lapses magicians exploit--including
change, failure to see what is obvious, and willingness to assume one
unrelated event causes another. The
latter involve the magician exploiting how the human visual sys-tem
works at the neuronal level in the brain’s visual cortex. ).