Leary and Clarkgit pp 25456


The purpose of this chapter 1» to define what we mean by the term, mystical state of consciousness. A typology of basic characteristics of mystical experience in the broad sense is developed. The broad sense means a basic typology which is universal and holds true for mystical experience in different cultures and religions. Before defining the typology in detail, we shall discuss mystical experience with regard both to its relationship to religious experience and to the universality of its occurrence.

Mystical Experience in General

The Relationship between Mystical Experience and Religious Experience

A simple identification of religious experience and mystical experience fails to take into account the many definitions of religion. Religions vary in their emphasis upon mysticism, although there la a tendency, especially among psychologists of religion who have been interested in the dramatic and Intense phenomena of the myatlcal expert*

ence, to make the mystical element the most important characteristic of religion.1

All religious experience ia not necessarily mystical in the sense of our definition of mystical experience as given below. Pratt, for example, divides religion into four kinds or aspects, of which the mystical is only one, the other three being the traditional, the rational, and the

practical or moral. Even when quite emotionally meaningful, participation in a particular religion by such practices as observance of religious laws, intellectual belief in a certain creed or theology, institutional membership, and attendance at rites and rituals, may not result in or be the product

^William Jarae3 reflects this attitude by his preference for religion which is an "acute fever" rather than a "dull habit" (op. cit., p. 8).

J. B. Pratt, The Religious Consciousness: A Psychological Study (New Yorki Kscmillan, 1921), p. 14. Compare a similar discussion of the elements of religion by R. H. Thouless, An Introduction to the Psychology of Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956), pp. 12-15. Pratt includes all four divisions in his definition of religion, which is as follows» "the serious and social attitude of Individuals or communities toward the power or powers which they conceive a» having ultimate control over their interest» or destinies" (pp. cifr.. p. 2). Eote Thouless'» similar definition of religion« "a felt practical relationship with what is believed in as a superhuman being or being»" which are "felt to be greater than man or may be looked up to by him* (9Pt P.

of mystical experience.

On the other hand, all mystical experience is not necessarily religious. Again, of course, much depends on how one chooses to define religion. If one makes the concept of a "personal God" central in the definition of religion, many forms of mystical experience could not be considered religious. The phenomena of mystical experience, for example, may occur outside the framework of any formal rel/.gion, with no reference to any articulated theology.

The problem is by-passed or merely indicated, rather than solved, by broadening the definition of religion to include any experience which would qualify as mystical by our criteria. Tillich, for example, considers as religious an experience which gives ultimate meaning, structure, and aim to human experience or in which one is concerned 3

ultimately. Wach gives a similar definition of religious experience as a total and intense existential response to what is experienced as Ultimate Reality (i.e., nothing finite)

3Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology (Chicago» University of Chicago Press, 1951), Vol. I, pp. 11-14. It is Tillich'« opinion that what is truly ultimate can be best symbolised by Jesus who is called the Christ, in Christian theology (pp. 15-18) .

and adds the practical criterion that the experience must

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