compel to action.
Rather than attempting to define religion and religious experience in order to differentiate precisely the relationship between religious and mystical experience, we have indicated the nature of the problem and the error of loosely speaking of religious and mystical experience as if the two were always synonymous. Our attention will be focused upon the nature of the mystical experience, whether the experience be religious or not.
The Universality of the Characteristics of Mystical Experience
Many of the well-known commentators on and analysts of mystical experience have made the presupposition that there are certain fundamental characteristics of the experience itself which are universal and are not restricted to any particular religion or culture, although particular cultural, historical and religious conditions may influence
^Joachim Wach, The Comparative Study of Religions. (Columbia Paperback Editionj New York» Columbia University Press, 1961), pp. 30-36. See also his important work, Types of Religious Experience« Christian and Non-Christian (Chicago« The University of Chicago Press, 1951), pp. 32-33.
both the understanding and the description of the essential mystical experience.
James lists four common or universal characteristics of mystical experience: (1) ineffability, or the feeling that the experience cannot adequately be expressed with words; (2) noetic quality, or the certainty that the knowledge gained as insight is true; (3) transiency, or the impcrmanence of the mystical state; (4) passivity, or the feeling that one is not acting but, rather, being acted upon.^ His examples range from persons with no particular religious allegiance to monks and nuns, but the cases in his series possess these common characteristics. Pratt provides a broad and universal definition of mysticism as a consciousness of a Beyond, or the sense or feeling of the presence of a being or reality, via other means than sense perception or reason.6 Re distinguishes between mild and extreme types. The mild is characterized by (1) ineffability, (2) noetic certainty, especially of the presence of the Beyond, and (3) joy and calm.7 The extreme
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