a prolongation of the peak experience of unitary consciousness or unifying vision could not have been sustained at the same level or lives of fruitful activity in the world would have been impossible. With proper discipline for successful repetition of mystical experiences, a general change in level of consciousness may be induced, but this is not the same as a continual peak experience.132 Such changes and other permanent effects of the experience in the expcriencers' lives are considered in the last category below. The mystics' own descriptions of internal unity usually include references to transiency.133 Similarly, the actual experience of external unity is not described as permanent.1"*4 Transiency is a characteristic of the immediate mystical state of consciousness which is felt by the experiencer to be on a different 3a/el or
131Pratt speaks of the rhythm between contemplation and activity (ibid., p. 433).
132Underhill states that "the greatest of the contemplatives have been unable to sustain the brilliance of this awful vision for more than a little while." (Mysticism p. 331.)
133C. Butler in his Western Mysticism (Grey Arrow Editionr London« Arrow Books, 1960) includes transiency as a characteristic in his description of mysticism and gives specific examples from the writings of St. Augustino (pp.165 167), St. Gregory the Groat (pp. 140-141), and St. Bernard of Clairvoux (pp. 165-167}.
134por example, Jacob Boehmo's experiences as dimension from his usual state. The transient nature is realized by contrast when the experience is over.
Closely related to transiency is the suddenness of appearance and disappearance of these levels or dimensions of consciousness which are different from usual. The unexpected character of coming with an element of surprise no matter how well prepared one is or how hard one has tried to gain the experience enhances the sense of striking change from ordinary consciousness. Although Suzuki135 combines both suddenness and transiency in the same category (listed as momentariness), we consider transiency the universal and most important of the two elements.
Category IX: Persisting Positive Changes in Attitude and/or Behavior
If a person goes through the kind of experience characterized by the eight categories above, his attitude and/or behavior are changed.136 He cannot remain indifferent related in Brinton's biographical chapter were temporary although the impact and insight gained were so great as to have a lasting influence on his life. (Howard H. Brinton, The Mystic Will [New York: Macmillan, 1930], pp. 47-52.)
Bucke's own experience of cosmic consciousness happened only once. "The illumination itself continued not more than a few moments, but its effecte proved ineffaceable» ...There was no return that night or at any other time of the experience." (££• cit., pp. 7-8.)
to the experience. The profound personal impact is a ' strong motivation for action, even if the result is only a rearrangement of the life in order to cultivate more mystical experience.13^ Positive effects of the mystical experience in the life and personality of the experiencer is the criterion of whether or not to call the experience truly mystical by many commentators and also by mystics themselves1.39 Such a value judgment, as well as the fact that the phenomena observed extend over a longer time than just the few minutes or hours when the primary experience occurred, makes this category stand apart from the preceding eight. However, the "fruits for life" or "value for life" is included in the typology with this acknowledgment in order to distinguish the experience as defined above from an experience which might resemble the typology but result in negative effects in the individual's life.
13 7compare this necessity for action to Wach's fourth universal characteristic of genuine religious experience— that it results in action. He distinguishes, however, the "right" action from any action. (Wach, Comparative Study of Religions, pp. 36-37.)
138James uses such a pragmatic approach ae a guide in evaluating all kinds of religious experience (og. cit.. pp. 21-22, 321). Pratt bIbo judges the value for life by the practical fruits, (oja. cit., pp. 466-477). Zaehner points to Ruyebroeck's condemnation of quietism on the basis of what it produced (Mysticism. Sacred and Profane, pp. 173-174).
Quietism and unhealthy self-indulgence are examples of this possible potentiality for effects in a negative direction.139 We seek a typology of a healthful, life-enhancing mysticism, and thus, the present category describes positive effects.
These effects can be divided into four main groups of persisting changes in behavior and/or attitude: (1) toward self, (2) toward others, (3) toward life, and (4) toward the mystical experience itself. The duration of the change must also be considered. Diminishing afterglow effects may persist for days or even weeks, but usually fade away in time unless the experience is repeated. Changes which remain even after the experience is only a memory are the most significant.
(1) Increased integration of personality is the basic inward change in the personal self. This may come about as a fruit of a radical experience of death and rebirth or conversion; or from the profound depth of the experience, insight may be gained which can subsequently be utilized in a gradual reorganization of the personality and growth
I39h. N. Wicman and R. Westcott-Wteman, Normatlvq Psychology of Rellgta^ (New Yorkt Crowell, 1935), pp. 186-188
in maturity. Undesirable traits may be faced in a way that enables them to be dealt with and finally reduced or eliminated. Issuing from personal integration, the sense of one's inner authority may be strengthened, and the vigor and dynamic quality of a person's life may be Increased. Creativity and greater achievement efficiency may be released. There may be an inner optimistic tone with consequent increase in feelings of happiness, joy and peace.140
(2) Attitudes and behavior toward others may change in such ways as more sensitivity, more tolerance, more real love.141 The effectiveness of such change is measured by the response in others who may remark on the development of a more positive relationship, or have the tone of their lives changed. . Another result of increased personal inte-
Such positive changes toward self are emphasized in discussions by Jones, the Wiemans, and Underhill. R. Jonee especially notes the optimistic tone and heightened dynamic quality in the life of a person who has been opened to the utilization of resources of vital energy through transcendent experience (The Inner Life, pp. 171, 180). The Wiemans give a balanced presentation of both tho potential evils and value« of mystical experience. (o£. cit., pp. 186-91). Underhill 1« one of the most enthusiastic describers of the life-enhancing power of mysticism. (Mysticism, pp. 413-46; Essentials of Mysticism, pp. 12-14.) "
Underhill, Mysticism, p. 437
gration may be to be more authentic as a person by being more open and more one's true self with others.
(3) The third area of change is in attitude toward life and what one works for in life. One's philosophy in life, sense of values, sense of meaning, and purpose in
life may be changed. Vocational commitment may be strenghtened or changed completely. The need to serve others may be felt. As a result of the experience of a new dimension in life, more appreciation for life and the whole of creation, a stronger sense of the preciousness of life, or an increased sense of reverence may emerge in a new way.143 More time may be spent in devotional life and meditation.
(4) The experience itself is regarded as valuable and what has been learned is thought to be useful.144 A
positive experience is remembered as a high point, and an
Clark stresses extravagance in behavior, (i.e., acting in on imprudent way for self-benefit) as a characteristic effect of mystical experience, (££. ci£., pp. 274-275),
143Wieman and Westcott-Wieroan, clt.. pp. 190-191.
attempt may be made to recapture the experience or, if possible, to gain new experiences as a source of growth and inspiration. However, the experience is seen neither as a means to an end nor as an end it itself, but as a balance of both.*-45 Mystical experiences of others are more appreciated and understood although even among mystics theological, philosophical, or cultural bias can lead to value judgments of preference for their own particular interpretations. The Continuum of Mystical Experiences
Many writers on mysticism have noted a difference in degree in the experience. For example, Pratt distinguishes mild and extreme types of mystical experience.146 Johnson divides his fifteen examples into three groups ranging from the slighter to the more profound.147 Stace regards the extrovertiVe type of experience as on a lower level than the introvertive.148 Thouless and Underhill differentiate various stages in the growth of the mystic life on a continuum from the prayer of quiet in which the self is awakened
Was this article helpful?