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Modern Interpretations Of Mystical Experience Essay

1849 words - 7 pages

Humankind has long endeavored to achieve as much understanding of its surroundings possible and this has culminated in the creation of culture, religion and belief"”the endless array of definitions and rules, postulations and expectations that function to provide clarification of the multitude of events present in our world. There are, however, some experiences that remain resistant to clear understanding, experiences in which a human being is overwhelmed by something inexplicable that seems to comprise the universe in its entirety; a presence that seems to comprise all of reality, an experience often labeled as mystical in nature. Often mystical experience is associated with religious belief and practice and a person having such an experience within the religious context may view it as evidence supporting claims of religious doctrine and serving as proof of the presence of an ultimate divine reality. In addition, the appeal of the mystical experience is such that people actively seek it out, using religious tools such as rituals and practices aimed at focusing the mind and triggering a mystical response. These responses, although they tend to occur within the framework of the respondent's given cultural and religious background, still have much in common that can transcend societal boundaries and as such provide the substrate through which people of all cultures and faiths may connect at what seems to be the most fundamental level of our existence.It is difficult to adequately define any given mystical experience because our only access to them, barring a personal mystical experience, is offered by the wide variety of descriptions available from unverifiable first person accounts. These descriptions are tangled within the context of the particular cultural and religious beliefs in which they occur, and these beliefs tend to bias their interpretations and color their descriptions. Robert S. Ellwood, in his book "Mysticism and Religion", presented this definition of mystical experience: "Mystical experience is experience in a religious context that is immediately or subsequently interpreted by the experiencer as a direct, unmediated encounter with ultimate divine reality. This experience engenders a deep sense of unity and suggests the experiencer was living on a level of being other than the ordinary." The experience can authenticate one's belief in religion and God and so it serves to justify those beliefs. All religious or spiritual people do not have this type of experience"”it is often elusive and difficult to induce even to a person who actively searches for it.In addition, Ellwood described three characteristics of mystical experience, the first of which he called "ecstatic intensity" which describes the greatness of the magnitude of feeling one has during the experience itself. According to Ellwood, the sheer driving intensity of the mystical experience reinforces its validity and also ensures one will always...

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