September 18, 2011
Whatever I say in this post -- and as a blogger I never know what that is until I say it -- it won't be anywhere near as good as what David Chapman has said in his "Are Mystical Experiences Metaphysical Evidence?"
So the best thing you could do is stop reading what I've written, and read Chapman now. The second best thing would be to click on the links I've given after you peruse this post.
But if you've ever believed that a mystical experience means something beyond the obvious, that someone has had some sort of experience, I strongly urge you to read Chapman's post.
Today, tomorrow, some day. Whenever. Just do it.
His post is that good. Chapman is an excellent writer, thinker, and interpreter of meditational/mystical phenomena, Buddhist or otherwise.
This is how he starts off:
Here is an extraordinary spiritual teaching:
- Mystics, across many different cultures and religions, all describe their insight experiences similarly.
- This couldn’t happen unless their accounts were accurate.
- So we must believe what they say.
What is extraordinary about this teaching is that it [is] so widely accepted, and yet so obviously false. As I’ll explain:
- If mystics all gave similar descriptions of their experiences, it could just mean that they are all mistaken in the same way.
- But, in fact, mystics from different cultures give wildly different descriptions, which generally reflect their cultural background.
This is one of the points I made in my previous post, "Atheism challenges personal spiritual experiences." Chapman says:
What mystics really care about is the metaphysical aspect. That, many claim, is essentially the same in all cultures. Mystics report:
- The discovery that they have no real self; the discovery of their True Self.
- Direct perception of the transcendent reality behind appearances; direct perception of fact that there is no transcendent reality behind appearances.
- Total separation from the world; total unity with the world.
- Finding that they are utterly insignificant in the presence of the glory of God; finding that they are God; finding that God has removed himself from the universe; finding that there never was a God.
- A perfect conceptual understanding of religious doctrine; a perfectly non-conceptual understanding of the reality beyond doctrine.
Uh, wait. It is not obvious that these are all the same…
Yeah, that's putting it mildly. The meaning of mystical experiences is all over the map. No consistent conclusions can be drawn from the widely divergent descriptions of these experiences.
Read all of Chapman's post to learn what meaning he derives from this meaninglessness. And take a look at the comments on his post. They're almost as interesting as what Chapman says.