first assignment: Modern European Mysticism and Psychological Thought

Hebrew University of Jerusalem/Coursera
January 19, 2014

The lectures and readings reveal several ways in which mystical experience, mystical practices and proximity to the sacred may grant abilities not previously possessed in the subject undergoing these experiences.

How does this come about? The subject may detect a subtle awareness of changes body language, facial expression, voice tone and/or even word or narrative repetition that provides a subtext to thoughts people may be thinking but not explicitly saying. Though not mentioned, this may be especially valuable, and valid, if the expression is at great variance to a normal baseline one may have perceived in the past. Perception may be transformed, such that the subject sees more deeply into a situation that what may appear from a more superficial view. Dreams were mentioned in the lecture, such as dream yoga, where a subject has dreams of future events or even dreams of other people’s thoughts and dreams.

In mystical transformation, we understand that awareness is heightened, sensitivity is raised, and mental/intellectual faculties sharply tuned or focused, such that the person undergoing the transformation achieves a much higher state of mental acuity than before or outside the transforming experience. And it may not be a conscious awareness. In Rollenback, we have four examples of such an experience, with an Alaskan shaman, a modern Hindu, Paul on the road to Damascus, and St. Augustine. In a closer example, the subject was not consciously aware of the transformative experience while undergoing it, but he kept a detailed log of his experiences in the form of daily journaling. Then, reviewing those journal entries, after the fact, he was able to detect patterns of an increased awareness and the resulting calmness of mind that were perhaps inexplicable given the circumstances at hand.


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