great psychologist, William James provided a description
of the mystical experience in his famous collection of
lectures published in 1902 as The Varieties of Religious
Experience. In Lectures 16 and 17 he stated:
- "...propose to
you four marks which, when an experience has them,
may justify us in calling it mystical...:
- The handiest of the marks by which I classify a state
of mind as mystical is negative. The subject of it immediately
says that it defies expression, that no adequate report
of its contents can be given in words.
2. Noetic Quality
- Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical
states seem to those who experience them to be also
states of knowledge. They are states of insight into
depths of truth unplumbed by the discurssive intellect.
They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance
and importance, all inarticulate though they remain;
and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of
authority for aftertime.
- Mystical states cannot be sustained for long.
- Although the oncoming of mystical states may be facilitated
by preliminary voluntary operations, as by fixing the
attention, or going through certain bodily performances,
or in other ways which manuals of mysticism prescribe;
yet when the characteristic sort of consciousness once
has set in, the mystic feels as if his own will were
in abeyance, and indeed sometimes as if he were grasped
and held by a superior power.
Source: James, William.
The Varieties of Religious Experience. (Full
text available on-line; click here).
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