Mystical Experiences

MontyMonty Shipmate
edited October 2021 in Epiphanies
I’ve had a few mystical experiences in my life, where I’ve felt a great oneness with reality. These have never been my aim, they have just happened by God’s grace, and have sort of confirmed my faith.

Ive read of these experiences being described as experiencing ‘ultimate reality’. Is that God?

Are mystical experiences a meeting place between people of different faiths? And different religions a working out of these experiences in the world?

Oh, and I know I’ve just done it here, but should I share these experiences with others or are they meant just for me. Would sharing them be a sort of spiritual bragging?
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Comments

  • I don't know about "ultimate reality". My experiences are part of my reality, and they are as real as heartburn. I see them as akin to Thomas' desire to put his fingers in the wounds. It shows my spiritual weakness, my need for some sort of experience to cement my faith. Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.
  • I am someone who is kind of "religious but not spiritual"(to reverse the usual cop-out). So no, mystical experiences are not a part of my life. The closest I've ever come, I think, is one time in high school when I endeavoured to take Communion with an open mind about its being the body of Christ, and walked home from mass with a much-elevated feeling of well-being. But that coulda just been psychological.

    I do tend to be drawn to Christian ideas and imagery, in a recreational kinda way, which I think provides a measure of comforting continuity in my life. I suspect this probably describes a number of the not-quite-believers who post on the Ship.
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    I have had some mystical experiences. As a Christian I mostly believe they are from God, but there could be a psychological aspect. But I have also known Christians who would like a mystical experience, but have never had one and can feel left out when others discuss their experiences. Has anyone heard a good, non-judgemental reason for that? I like Simon Toad's reminder that it is blessed to believe without seeing, but it doesn't cover all circumstances of people who do not have mystical experiences.
  • Martin54Martin54 Deckhand, Styx
    The closest I ever got was approaching Northampton Market on foot and feeling a rising wave of goodwill to everyone. Luckily it passed.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited October 2021
    (((martin54))) I don't believe it passed at all. :heart:
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    I am cynic who believes mystical experiences are essentially imbalances in our brain chemistry.
  • MontyMonty Shipmate
    edited October 2021
    Mili wrote: »
    I have had some mystical experiences. As a Christian I mostly believe they are from God, but there could be a psychological aspect. But I have also known Christians who would like a mystical experience, but have never had one and can feel left out when others discuss their experiences. Has anyone heard a good, non-judgemental reason for that? I like Simon Toad's reminder that it is blessed to believe without seeing, but it doesn't cover all circumstances of people who do not have mystical experiences.

    Hi @Mili

    That’s exactly why I don’t share them with others (alright, I know’ I shared it here, but you don’t know me). I wouldn’t want others to feel as though they were any less spiritual or that I was super spiritual. In my mind spirituality is not in any such experience but in doing the will of God.

    As I heard the other day consistency is better than intensity.



  • Caissa wrote: »
    I am cynic who believes mystical experiences are essentially imbalances in our brain chemistry.

    I think things can be both/and, it doesn't have to be an either brain chemistry or mystic. If God exists, and can act in the material world.
  • Martin54Martin54 Deckhand, Styx
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    (((martin54))) I don't believe it passed at all. :heart:

    No, the tears now agree with you Simon. But it has had much competition, distraction in the 25 years since.
  • Mili wrote: »
    I have had some mystical experiences. As a Christian I mostly believe they are from God, but there could be a psychological aspect. But I have also known Christians who would like a mystical experience, but have never had one and can feel left out when others discuss their experiences. Has anyone heard a good, non-judgemental reason for that? I like Simon Toad's reminder that it is blessed to believe without seeing, but it doesn't cover all circumstances of people who do not have mystical experiences.

    If you mean "non-judgemental reason for why some people don't get them," yes, of course--I'd put it down to the fact that God does not deal with every person in the same way, and doubtless knows that this modality is better for this person, and that for that one. Mystical experiences are not a sign of superiority in any way. They are just a thing that happens (or doesn't). If you absolutely HAD to attach some moral significance to them, you might consider that those having mystical experiences are just possibly weaker in faith, on the principle of "You have seen me and believed. Blessed are those who have NOT seen and yet have believed."
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    I agree with you Lamb Chooped, and that God speaks to people in different ways, but I know some people that would really love a mystical experience and to feel a deeper connection with God, or clearer guidance in their life, but have never had that. Sometimes they have a strong faith and sometimes not.

    My childhood church was wary of mystical experiences altogether and my maternal family has a strong history of bipolar so I tended to keep quiet about experiences I had. On the other hand I have attended churches very open to the mystical, and see that can be an issue for people who don't have mystical experiences. People can get judgy that they musn't have enough faith and they might be pressured to make things up. I now attend a less mystical focused church again, but one where such experiences aren't as feared.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Admin
    edited October 2021
    I once felt called to give spoken ministry in a Quaker meeting, it was a very wierd and not particularly comfortable experience. When I think about it is a bit like looking at this https://www.illusionsindex.org/i/young-woman-or-old-woman

    I can see it as a religious mystical experience, but I can also post hoc explain it as a combination of expectations, the social situation etc etc. And both feel true.
  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited October 2021
    I’ve been going to a charismatic church for years and have never had a mystical experience, prophetic word or spoken in tongues. It does not bother me in the least, I am quite secure in my faith. I figure God doesn’t think it would be helpful for me. However I do think I would be able to tell the difference between mystical experience and psychosis; because I’ve had psychosis.

  • MiliMili Shipmate
    That's encouraging Heavenly Annie. Even though mental health stigma is much reduced these days and we have much better treatments, some of my family members still get jumpy if I or others talk about unusual experiences. It's hard to write about, but I was aware that my siblings, cousins and I were watched for signs of bipolar. It made me fearful of becoming mentally ill, but on the positive side meant I was inspired to learn to understand mental health better and not exclude people for health reasons.
  • Mili wrote: »
    I agree with you Lamb Chooped, and that God speaks to people in different ways, but I know some people that would really love a mystical experience and to feel a deeper connection with God, or clearer guidance in their life, but have never had that. Sometimes they have a strong faith and sometimes not.

    I know, we have some of these people on the Ship, and I dearly wish I could give them what they want--but then, I can't even give myself what I want, as my "mystical experiences" come when God wants and not when I do, and consist in things that I often don't want them to, if you know what I mean? Since I can do nothing about it, I just have to figure God knows what is best both for them and for me, at this moment. I do think that there is no correlation between mystical experiences (or miracles! either) and level of faith (weak, strong). Except that just possibly, on special occasions with particular individuals, God might drop either a mystical experience or a miracle on the head of someone very weak in faith, because he happens to know that is the best way to get that particular person started. Something like that happened to Paul, and also to my husband. But it's not by any means the norm, and has serious drawbacks. (Such as my husband staying in Christian infancy longer than necessary, as he kept expecting God to pull a miracle/wonder out every time he hit a rough patch, and being cross when God refused--rather than learning to walk by faith. So glad those days are over!)
  • I too have had mystical experiences, given to show me the way. I told nobody about the first one for a long time. It was personal. I was so hurt when I finally told a friend who immediately tried to psychoanalyse me to explain it away. I remain sure that it was real. I asked for guidance, and received it in many different ways, this being one of them.

    Jesus told some people to keep quiet about their experiences with him, others he didn’t. I only share them now if I feel as if it is something I am being prompted to do by the Holy Spirit, and always prayerfully.

  • Martin54Martin54 Deckhand, Styx
    ((( @Heavenlyannie )))
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited October 2021
    There's such a long history of stigma and distrust in the church and in secular society around mysticism that many of us hesitate to share anything about mystical experiences and it's an open secret that many Catholic women mystics censored or redacted their own memoirs and written accounts of such graces, or were forced to recant or suppress their own writings.

    When I was 30 years old and at a difficult crossroads in my life, I decided to do a 30-day retreat at a very quiet convent where I would hear Mass once a week and see a spiritual director from time to time. It was a challenging retreat and much of the time I was bored or filled with dread. To help myself cope, I planted and watered an Acacia sapling that is now a flourishing tree in the convent grounds. The silence was at times oppressive and yet after about 10 days, I found myself listening to a stillness within. In contemplative prayer and meditation, I found myself in a place I had not known existed within me, somewhere beyond language and sensation, a wordlessness about which I could say nothing. It was at once excruciatingly painful and lonely and filled with warmth and light. I kept a journal of dreams filled with images of flowing water, mirrors, flames that did not burn when touched and a luminous darkness that was like music. I didn't talk about this to the director because I didn't have any words for it and it was so subtle and intangible. The more attention I paid in prayer, the more real my desire for God felt, but what I experienced of the Divine was Absence or unknowability.

    Several months after the retreat, I noticed that something had shifted inside me and some old preoccupations had simply dropped away. There was more spaciousness within and a stillness I hadn't known before. A new fearlessness and tenderness for others. Prayer still felt impossible but was also a necessity.

    There followed an exploration of the Catholic tradition of mystical writings and came across A Mirror for Simple Souls written by the French beguine Marguerite Porete, a guide to the contemplative life drawing on descriptions of wordlessness, radiant mirrors, shining fountains and the soul's emptiness (akin to spiritual annihilation) that was at the same time a soul overflowing and abundant with Love. In 1310, Marguerite Porete was burnt to death at the stake for heresy and her work destroyed, lost until a copy of A Mirror was discovered in the 1940s. Since then I've thought often about how to reclaim erased experiences of mystical graces in a more receptive and imaginative faith community.
  • I’ve been going to a charismatic church for years and have never had a mystical experience, prophetic word or spoken in tongues. It does not bother me in the least, I am quite secure in my faith. I figure God doesn’t think it would be helpful for me. However I do think I would be able to tell the difference between mystical experience and psychosis; because I’ve had psychosis.

    I appreciate your experience has been different, but I also want to express that I have known people who have had profound and personally meaningful spiritual experiences in the context of psychosis.

    I think this can be not unlike the spiritual awareness people sometimes report in the context of serious illness or other times of crisis - it maybe that at times God reaches out in this way to people in distress, or whose experience of the world is radically different to other people’s some of the time.
  • Oh, I have felt closer to God during a mental health crisis; at the worse time in my life my faith was strengthened and I knew that I could trust in God when I couldn’t trust anything else in my life, not even my own mind. But I do not consider that a mystical experience but an affirmation of God’s presence. There was no revelation but there was peace and security. Perhaps some people see that as mystical and our difference is merely a matter of expression?
    When I had psychosis I did not know what reality was and it was very disorientating and scary; that’s not how I experience God.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    I guess it's important to distinguish between charismatic spirituality as a phenomenon and spiritual experiences as a whole. For instance I would have a hard time attending a charismatic church because I think 99% of charismatic phenomena is fake - not necessarily intentionally as I know many worshippers really believe that they really are speaking in tongues etc. But I would compare it to Victorian spiritualists who really believe that ectoplasm is coming out of their mouths (not suggesting any kind of morally bad thing by the comparison to 'occult' stuff). I just don't believe that what they think is happening is actually happening. I think that very occasionally supernatural phenomena happens but almost always when it wasn't sought out.

    All of this to say that I'm wondering where to draw the line between spiritual experiences and mystical experiences? I definitely believe in the existence of 'thin places', and places that carry particular spiritual atmospheres. But I wouldn't say that it's the same as an experience with the supernatural so much as a purely internal experience.
  • A few weeks after our son was stillborn, a Respected Christian said to me something, the jist of which was that Matt 17:20 tells us that if we have faith, anything is possible, and so if I had faith I could have prayed and had a healthy baby.

    So I was in pretty bad place in the immediate aftermath of that, and whilst praying I had a "Voice of God" experience in which God told me that I would have another baby, and the name we were to call the baby.

    It was ... amazing. I felt flooded with peace. But it was a figment of my imagination because the next pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 11 weeks, and then I failed to get pregnant for a couple of years, then miscarried at 7 weeks.

    This did not knock my faith in God, but it did knock my faith in my own ability to discern God. Any future mystical experiences will involve me with my fingers stuffed in my ears saying "La la la I can't hear You!"



  • A few weeks after our son was stillborn, a Respected Christian said to me something, the jist of which was that Matt 17:20 tells us that if we have faith, anything is possible, and so if I had faith I could have prayed and had a healthy baby.
    Fuck that bullshit. That's spiritual abuse.

    And it's no wonder you had the reaction you did to it, being grieving and in a very weird place hormonally. I do hope said Respected Christian was in fact a Christian, because s/he is going to have a damn hard time explaining that crap to Christ.

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Indeed it is abuse. What the Respected Christian should have said was that if you have faith, anything is possible, so let's pray for your comfort and support.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Sometimes, 'anything is possible' is just not true. Or, maybe in a technical sense - but not in the sense that makes looking for it a good idea. I think that applies well to mystical experiences and the like. I think of things like Bethel trying to raise the child from the dead, which yes may be something God *could* do - but what benefit would it bring if you believe said child is in Heaven* anyway?

    *I don't know Bethel's exact view on the post-death experience before the Second Coming but I'd be surprised if it was something other than Heaven
  • Gee D wrote: »
    Indeed it is abuse. What the Respected Christian should have said was that if you have faith, anything is possible, so let's pray for your comfort and support.
    Actually, I think the Respected Christian should have gone with “I’m so sorry,” and stopped.

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Yes, he could have done that, but I was hoping that the RC would have given some pastoral care and support. That's assuming that RC was clergy of course.
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    Your experience is awful @NEQ. You really wonder if people who say things like that are socially oblivious or want to hurt others.
  • Mili wrote: »
    Your experience is awful @NEQ. You really wonder if people who say things like that are socially oblivious or want to hurt others.

    I think there are people who are convinced not only that "truth hurts" but that they have such an accurate grasp on truth that it is vital that they share it.
  • Gill HGill H Shipmate
    edited October 2021
    That is a horrible experience and yes, the best thing would have been to express how sorry they were and then shut up and listen to you. And I say that as someone who operates in a charismatic context.

    I’ve had a random woman I just met lay hands on my stomach and command my womb to produce fruit (simply because, in answer to her question, I said we didn’t have children). Some people just need a good whack from the Heavenly Clue Stick.
  • How invasive and presumptive, Gill H. People are so thoughtless and rude.
    How awful, NEQ. I’ve heard similar comments about mental health and lack of faith and agree about some people being so certain of their own truth that they don’t think about how what they say might hurt others. More listening and less talking is needed.
  • You ain’t wrong.
  • Martin54Martin54 Deckhand, Styx
    A few weeks after our son was stillborn, a Respected Christian said to me something, the jist of which was that Matt 17:20 tells us that if we have faith, anything is possible, and so if I had faith I could have prayed and had a healthy baby.
    Fuck that bullshit. That's spiritual abuse.

    And it's no wonder you had the reaction you did to it, being grieving and in a very weird place hormonally. I do hope said Respected Christian was in fact a Christian, because s/he is going to have a damn hard time explaining that crap to Christ.

    Seconded.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    Yes, he could have done that, but I was hoping that the RC would have given some pastoral care and support. That's assuming that RC was clergy of course.

    Saying 'I'm so sorry' and shutting up often IS the best pastoral care and support.
  • Mili wrote: »
    Your experience is awful @NEQ. You really wonder if people who say things like that are socially oblivious or want to hurt others.

    I think there are people who are convinced not only that "truth hurts" but that they have such an accurate grasp on truth that it is vital that they share it.

    Indeed. And they feel that the harder the truth, the better. I've had the sense that with some people, if it's not a hard truth, it's somehow less true. The hardness validates and elevates its status as a truth. What an awful universe they inhabit.

    Returning to the question of mystical experiences, as an Anglican high-ish up the candle, I view them as being in bad taste. ;) That bit of flippancy out of the way, that might explain why I have had a few - God is telling me to open myself to an experience that makes me uncomfortable. I was once profoundly shaken while taking communion, completely exposed and vulnerable, and it took me a long time to unpack it, and I still haven't done so to my satisfaction. You can't schedule this sort of thing - it just happens, quite inexplicably. A few other occasions it has been in chance interactions with someone else. I helped a young man at a noon communion, and there was such a calm, simplicity, and centredness about him and intimacy in our connection that I'm convinced that he was a conduit of Grace for my benefit. As I left, I thought, What just happened here?!? On another occasion I was summoned to the hospital where a close friend was in palliative care. I was rushing on foot to a major street to catch a cab, and en route, my priest was at an intersection (some distance from his own neighbourhood) and drove me to the hospital, where my friend died a few hours later.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    @Pangolin Guerre that is very similar to my experiences too. Some people just radiate holiness - and invariably they are not church leaders in any way or in positions of power - that it can be almost overwhelming to interact with them.
  • Yes, I had a profound mystical experience. No, angels are not beautiful ladies with wings, they can be very overwhelming and unlike anything, you may have ever experienced before. I feel no need to share this story as it happened as an answer to prayer . I believe was to both comfort and encourage me in a difficult time in my life. That said, I have shared the story twice with others who also had a mystical experience to assure them no, I do not think that you are crazy for if you are we both are.
  • Penny SPenny S Shipmate
    edited October 2021
    There was a programme recently about Julian of Norwich's book. It, too, like The Mirror, only just survived.
  • Martin54Martin54 Deckhand, Styx
    Mili wrote: »
    Your experience is awful @NEQ. You really wonder if people who say things like that are socially oblivious or want to hurt others.

    I think there are people who are convinced not only that "truth hurts" but that they have such an accurate grasp on truth that it is vital that they share it.

    Indeed. And they feel that the harder the truth, the better. I've had the sense that with some people, if it's not a hard truth, it's somehow less true. The hardness validates and elevates its status as a truth. What an awful universe they inhabit.

    Returning to the question of mystical experiences, as an Anglican high-ish up the candle, I view them as being in bad taste. ;) That bit of flippancy out of the way, that might explain why I have had a few - God is telling me to open myself to an experience that makes me uncomfortable. I was once profoundly shaken while taking communion, completely exposed and vulnerable, and it took me a long time to unpack it, and I still haven't done so to my satisfaction. You can't schedule this sort of thing - it just happens, quite inexplicably. A few other occasions it has been in chance interactions with someone else. I helped a young man at a noon communion, and there was such a calm, simplicity, and centredness about him and intimacy in our connection that I'm convinced that he was a conduit of Grace for my benefit. As I left, I thought, What just happened here?!? On another occasion I was summoned to the hospital where a close friend was in palliative care. I was rushing on foot to a major street to catch a cab, and en route, my priest was at an intersection (some distance from his own neighbourhood) and drove me to the hospital, where my friend died a few hours later.

    It's just dasein. The spiritual is what our psychopharmacology makes it. Whether God is the ground of being or no. I clicked on a link @croesos made in another house and burst in to tears. Because it's terribly beautiful. Suggests divine anachronistic genius. It's all about what we bring to the party.
  • Is that the BBC Janina Ramirez one? That was very interesting (not currently available to view, alas). Ramirez also wrote a short book on Julian of Norwich which is on my book list. I have her book on powerful medieval women, Femina, on pre-order.
  • Is that the BBC Janina Ramirez one? That was very interesting (not currently available to view, alas). Ramirez also wrote a short book on Julian of Norwich which is on my book list. I have her book on powerful medieval women, Femina, on pre-order.

    It is available on YouTube, at least in the UK. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VptjqJN8wy0&ab_channel=yawpbonk

    I actually came to comment about Julian, and will do so later.
  • It was indeed that programme. It was eye-opening to me, as I had thought the book would have been around continuously since it was written.
    I wonder how many others have been lost, whether deliberately or by accident.
  • I'm with Doublethink. The physical and psychological and the mystical are not mutually exclusive.

    Politics - whether gender politics or ecclesial politics - also features. Witness the 'Balaamite' controversy over Byzantine hesychasm - yet another bone of contention 'twixt East and West.

    Hildegaard of Bingen was shown unusual deference by the Pope though.

    We often get edited highlights. The Treherne who wrote 'mystical' nature poems also wrote an anti-Catholic treatise. St Theresa of Avila had it in for 'Lutherans' as she called all Protestants.

    As I've said on these boards before, it doesn't matter how uplifting the church service or meeting, how transcendent the experience - we've still got to get up in the morning, we've still got to wash our socks ...

    Brother Lawrence peeled potatoes to the glory of God.
  • St Baithéne reputedly gathered in the harvest with one hand raised to heaven. Hagiography is silent on how those having to share the task with him felt about this.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    Thunderbunk - thank you so much for that - it's also available here (NZ). The Cathedral in the Square in Christchurch which is being rebuilt after the 2011 earthquakes has a sign on the side saying, "All shall be well".

    Thanks too Galilit.

    When I moved back to my family home so I could do my B.A the church got a new Vicar who introduced me to both Revelations of Divine Love and Brother Lawrence's book. I wish that Vicar was still alive so I could tell him how much they meant to me.
  • There have been instances in my life where the inexplicable or unexplainable has happened. Coincidence or conscience or communion with God? I don't know and dont want to know. It is enough that it has happened: God can work in anyone and through/in anything whether he does or not is up to him.
  • Martin54Martin54 Deckhand, Styx
    edited November 2021
    I certainly 110% rationally don't believe in ghosts, demons and therefore angels beyond theophanies of message any more. But if the only way that God could try and prove His existence to me involved incontrovertibly, no-question-about-it supernatural apparent entities - I have no idea how - or some other Gideon's fleece, I don't know if I'd want it. Again.
    Simon Toad wrote: »
    I don't know about "ultimate reality". My experiences are part of my reality, and they are as real as heartburn. I see them as akin to Thomas' desire to put his fingers in the wounds. It shows my spiritual weakness, my need for some sort of experience to cement my faith. Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.

    I have 'seen' and no longer believe. Mainly. 99.99%
  • While I don't think I have had mystical experiences, I have had what I regard as spiritually uplifting experiences. One was a visit to the island of Iona, west of Scotland. Another, which seems spiritually uplifting in later consideration, was at the top of a modest mountain (or hill) in upstate New York, surrounded by mists, so that within one minute I might be able to see the next hill over, or it might be entirely hidden.

    As for ghosts: I don't believe I have ever encountered one, but if do, I hope my mind is not so ossified, fragile or dishonest as to crack or to deny what I have myself experienced.
  • Martin54Martin54 Deckhand, Styx
    HarryCH wrote: »
    ...As for ghosts: I don't believe I have ever encountered one, but if do, I hope my mind is not so ossified, fragile or dishonest as to crack or to deny what I have myself experienced.

    Yehh-airse...
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