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the single phenomenon, as Sir Isaac The most important mystical expeNewton did, and as, in a no less striking riences are something like that. They way, Sir William Rowan Hamilton did occur usually, not at the beginning of in his discovery of Quaternions. Liter- the religious life, but rather in the ripe ary and artistic geniuses supply us with and developed stage of it. They are the many instances in which, in a sudden fruit of long-maturing processes. Clemflash, the crude material at hand is shot ent's 'harmonized man' is always a perthrough with vision, and the compli- son who has brought his soul into cated plot of a drama, the full signifi- parallelism with divine currents, has cance of a character, or the complete habitually practised his religious inglory of a statue stands revealed, as if, sights, and has finally formed a unified to use R. L. Stephenson's illustration, a central self, subtly sensitive, acutely geni had brought it on a golden tray as responsive to the Beyond within him. a gift from another world. Abraham In such experiences, which may come Lincoln, striking off in a few intense suddenly or may come as a more gradminutes his Gettysburg address, as ual process, the whole self operates and beautiful in style and perfect in form as masses all the cumulations of a lifetime. anything in human literature, is as They are no more emotional than they good an illustration as we need of the are rational and volitional. We have a way in which a highly organized person, total personality, awake, active, and by a kindling flash, has at his hand 'aware of his life's flow.' Instead of seeall the moral and spiritual gains of a ing in a flash a law of gravitation, or lifetime.
the plot and character of Hamlet, or the There is a famous account of the uncarven form of Moses the Law-giver flash of inspiration, given by Philo, in a block of marble, one sees at such which can hardly be improved. It is as times the moral demonstrations of a follows:
lifetime and vividly feels the implicaI am not ashamed to recount my own ex- tions that are essentially involved in a perience. At times, when I have proposed spiritual life. In the high moment God to enter upon my wonted task of writing on is seen to be as sure as the soul is. philosophical doctrines, with an exact know
I stood at Naples once, a night so dark ledge of the materials which were to be put
I could have scarce conjectured there was earth together, I have had to leave off without any
Anywhere, sky or sea or world at all: work accomplished, finding my mind barren
But the night's black was burst through by a and fruitless, and upbraiding it for its self- blaze — complacency, while startled at the might of Thunder struck blow on blow, earth groaned and the Existent One, in whose power it lies to bore, open and close the wombs of the soul. But Through her whole length of mountain visible. at other times, when I had come empty, all
There lay the city thick and plain with spires, of a sudden I have been filled with thoughts,
And, like a ghost disshrouded, white the sea.
So may a truth be flashed out by one blow. showered down and sown upon me unseen from above, so that by Divine possession I To some the truth of God never comes have fallen into a rapture and become igno closer than a logical conclusion. He is rant of everything, the place, those present,
held to be as a living item in a creed. myself, what was spoken or written. For I have received a stream of interpretation, a
To the mystic He becomes real in the fruition of light, the most clear-cut sharp
same sense that experienced beauty is ness of vision, the most vividly distinct view real, or the feel of spring is real, or sumof the matter before me, such as might be mer sunlight is real: He has been found, received through the eyes from the most
He has been met, He is present. luminous presentation.
Before discussing the crucial ques
tion whether these experiences are evi- auto-suggestion. It should be added, dential and are worthy of consideration however, as I have already said, that as an addition to the world's stock of mystical experience is not confined to truth and knowledge, I must say a few these extremer types. They may or may words about the normality or abnormal not be pathological. The calmer and ity of them. Nothing of any value can more restrained stages of mysticism be said on this point of mystical expe- are more important and significant, and rience in the abstract. One must first are no more marked with the stigma of catch his concrete case. Some instan- hysteria than is love-making, enjoyces are normal, and some are undoubt- ment of music, devotion to altruistic edly abnormal. Trance, ecstasy, and causes, risking one's life for one's counrapture are unusual experiences, and, try, or any lofty experience of value. in that sense, not normal occurrences. They usually indicate, furthermore, a pathological condition of personality, and are thus abnormal in the more tech- We come at length to the central nical sense. There is, however, some- question of our consideration: Do
mysthing more to be said on this point. It tical experiences settle anything? Are seems pretty well established that some they purely subjective and one-sided, persons — and they have often been or do they prove to have objective refcreative leaders and religious geniuses erence and so to be two-sided? Do they
have succeeded in organizing their take the experient across the chasm that lives, in finding their trail, in charging separates 'self' from 'other'? Mystical their whole personality with power, in experience undoubtedly feels as if it had attaining a moral dynamic, and in tap- objective reference. It comes to the indiping vast reservoirs of energy by means vidual with indubitable authority. He of states which, if occurring in other is certain that he has found something persons, would no doubt be called path other than himself. He has an unescapaological. The real test here is a prag- ble conviction that he is in contact and matic one. It seems hardly sound to commerce with reality beyond the marcall a state abnormal if it has raised gins of his personal self. ‘A tremendous the experient,' as a mystic experience muchness is suddenly revealed,' as often does, into a hundred-horsepower William James once put it. man, and by his influence has turned
We do not get very far when we unmultitudes of other men and women dertake to reduce knowledge to an into more joyous, hopeful, and efficient affair of sense-experience. “They reckon persons. This question of abnormality ill who leave me out,' can be said by the and reality is thus not one to be settled organized, personal, creative mind as off-hand by a superficial diagnosis. truly as by Brahma. There are many
An experience which brings spacious- forms of human experience in which the ness of mind, new interior dimensions, data of the senses are so vastly transability to stand the universe, – and cended that they fail to furnish any the people in it,- and capacity to real explanation of what occurs in conwork at human tasks with patience, en- sciousness. This is true of all our expedurance, and wisdom may quite intelli- riences of value, which apparently spring gently be called normal, though to an out of synthetic or synoptic activities of external beholder it may look like what the mind, that is, activities in which the he usually calls a trance of hysteria, a mind is unified and creative. The vibra state of dissociation, or hypnosis by tions of ether that bombard the rods VOL. 128 — NO. 5
and cones of the retina
If we expect to talk about knowledge, sion for the appreciation of beauty in and seriously propose to use that great sky or sea or flower, but they are surely word truth, we must at least begin with not the cause of it. The concrete event the assumption of an intelligent, creawhich confronts me is, very likely, the tive, organizing centre of self-consciousoccasion for the august pronouncement ness, which can transcend itself and can of moral issues which my conscience know what is beyond, and other than, makes; but it cannot be said that the itself. In short, the talk about a 'chasm' concrete event in any proper sense between subject and object — knower causes this consciousness of moral obli- and thing known is as absurd as it gation. The famous answer of Leibnitz would be to talk of a chasm between to the crude sense-philosophy of his the convex and the concave sides of a time is still cogent. To the phrase, curve. Knowledge is always knowledge “There is nothing in the mind that has of an object, and mystical experience
, not come through the senses,' Leibnitz has all the essential marks of objective
, added, 'Except the mind itself.' That reference, as certainly as other forms of means that the creative activity of the experience have. mind is always an important factor in Professor J. M. Baldwin very well experience, and a factor that cannot says that there is a form of contemplabe ignored in any of the processes of tion in which, as in æsthetic experience, knowledge.
the strands of the mind's diverging dualUnfortunately, we have done very isms are 'merged and fused. He adds: little yet in the direction of comprehend 'In this experience of a fusion which is ing the interior depth of the personal not a mixture, but which issues in a mind, or of estimating adequately the meaning of its own sort and kind, an part which mind itself, in its creative experience whose essential character is capacity, plays in all knowledge-func- just this unity of comprehension, contions. It will be only when we have suc- sciousness attains its completest, its ceeded in getting beyond what Plato most direct, and its final apprehension called the ‘bird-cage' theory of knowl- of what Reality is and means.' It really edge, to a sound theory of knowledge comes round to the question whether and to a solid basis for spiritual values, the mind of a self-conscious person has that we shall be able to discuss intelli- any way of approach, except by way gently the ‘findings' of the mystic. of the senses, to any kind of reality.
The world at the present moment is There is no a priori answer to that pitiably 'short' in its stock of sound question. It can be settled only by estheories of knowledge. The prevailing perience. It is, therefore, pure dogmapsychologies do not explain knowledge tism to say, as Professor Dunlap in his at all. The behaviorists do not try to recent attack on mysticism does, that explain it, any more than the astrono- all conscious processes are based on mer or the physicist does. The psychol- sense-stimulation, and all thought as ogist who reduces mind to an aggre well as perception depends on reaction gation of describable 'mind-states' has to sense-stimulus. It is no doubt true started out on a course that makes an that behavior psychology must resort explanation forever impossible, since to some such formula; but that only knowledge can be explained only means that such psychology is always through unity and integral wholeness, dealing with greatly transformed and never through an aggregation of parts, reduced beings, when it attempts to as if it were a mental shower of shot.' deal with persons like us, who, in the
richness of our concrete lives, are never student of mystical experience to disreduced to behavior beings.' We have cover what a meagre stock of knowledge interior dimensions, and that is the end the genuine mystic reports. William on’t’! Some persons —and they are by James's remarkable experience in the no means feeble-minded individuals Adirondack woods very well illustrates are as certain that they have contact the type. It had, he says, “an intense with a world within, as they are that significance of some sort, if one could they have experiences of a world out only tell the significance. . . . In point side in space. Thomas Aquinas, who of fact, I can't find a single word for all neither in method nor in doctrine leaned that significance and don't know what toward mysticism, though he was most it was significant of, so that it remains a certainly a harmonized man,' and who mere boulder of impression. At a later in theory postponed the vision of God date James refers to that 'extraorto a realm beyond death, nevertheless dinary vivacity of man's psychological had an experience two years before he commerce with something ideal that died which made him put his pen and feels as if it were also actual.' The inkhorn on the shelf and never write greatest of all the fourteenth-century another word of his Summa Theologiæ. mystics, Meister Eckhart, could not When he was reminded of the incom- put his impression into words or ideas. plete state of his great work, and was What he found was a 'wilderness of the urged to go on with it, he replied, 'I Godhead where no one is at home' have seen that which makes all that I that is, an Object with no particular, have written look small to me.'
differentiated, concrete characteristics. It may be just possible that there is a It was not an accident that so many of universe of spiritual reality upon which the mystics hit upon the via negativa, our finite spirits open inward as inlets the way of negation, or that they called open into the sea.
their discovery 'the divine Dark.'
Whatever your mind comes at,
I tell you flat,
God is not that.
Mystical experience does not supply Come from that mystic ocean
concrete information. It does not bring Whose rim no foot has trod
new finite facts, new items that can be Some call it Longing,
used in a description of 'the scenery But others call it God.
and circumstance' of the realm beyond Such a view is perfectly sane and ten- our sense-horizons. It is the awareness able; it conflicts with no proved and of a Presence, the consciousness of a demonstrated facts in the nature either Beyond, the discovery, as James put it, of the universe or of mind. It seems, that we are continuous with a More of in any event, to the mystic that there the same quality, which is operative in is such a world, that he has found it as us and in touch with us.' surely as Columbus found San Salvador, The most striking effect of such exand that his experience is a truth-telling perience is not new fact-knowledge, not experience.
new items of empirical information, but But, granting that it is truth-telling new moral energy, heightened convicand has objective reference, is the mys- tion, increased caloric quality, enlarged tic justified in claiming that he has spiritual vision, an unusual radiant found and knows God? One does not power of life. In short, the whole perneed to be a very wide and extensive sonality, in the case of the constructive
mystics, appears to be raised to a new but when the mystic finds God, he cannot level of life, and to have gained from give us any'knowledge' in plain words somewhere many calories of life-feed- of everyday speech. He can only refer ing, spiritual substance. We are quite to his boulder, or his Gibraltar, of imfamiliar with the way in which adrena- pression. That situation is what we lin suddenly flushes into the physical should expect. We cannot, either, desystem and adds a new and incalculable scribe any of our great emotions. We power to brain and muscle. Under its
cannot impart what flushes into our stimulus a man can carry out a piano consciousness in moments of lofty intuiwhen the house is on fire. May not, tion. We have a submerged life within perhaps, some energy, from some Source us, which is certainly no less real than with which our spirits are allied, flush our hand or foot. It influences all that our inner being with forces and powers we do or say, but we do not find it easy by which we can be fortified to stand to utter it. In the presence of the subthe universe and more than stand it! lime we have nothing to say - or, “We are more than conquerors through do say anything, it is a great mistake! Him that loved us,' is the way one of Language is forged to deal with experithe world's greatest mystics felt.
ences that are common to many perMystical experience - and we must sons, that is, with experiences that refer remember, as Santa yana has said, that to objects in space. We have no vocab“experience is like a shrapnel shell and ulary for the subtle, elusive flashes of bursts into a thousand meanings' – vision, which are unique, individual, does at least one thing. It makes God and unsharable, as, for instance, is our sure to the person who has had the ex- personal sense of 'the tender grace of perience. It raises faith and conviction a day that is dead. We are forced in to the nth power. 'The God who said, all these matters to resort to symbolic “Let light shine out of darkness," has suggestion and to artistic devices. shined into my heart to give the light Coventry Patmore said with much inof the knowledge of the glory of God,' sight: is St. Paul's testimony. 'I knew God In divinity and love by revelation,' declares George Fox; What's worth the saying can't be said. ‘I was as one who hath the key and doth I believe that mystical experiences open.' 'The man who has attained this do, in the long run, expand our knowlfelicity,' Plotinus says, 'meets some edge of God, and do succeed in verifyturn of fortune that he would not have ing themselves. Mysticism is a sort of chosen, but there is not the slightest spiritual protoplasm, which underlies, lessening of his happiness for that.' as a basic substance, much that is best But this experience, with its overwhelm- in religion, in ethics, and in life itself. ing conviction and its dynamic effect, It has generally been the mystic, the cannot be put into the common coin of prophet, the seer, who has spotted out speech. Frederic Myers has well ex- new ways forward in the jungle of our pressed the difficulty:
world, or lifted our race to new spiritual Oh could I tell, ye surely would believe it!
levels. Their experiences have in some Oh could I only say what I have seen! way equipped them for unusual tasks, How should I tell or how can ye receive it, have given supplies of energy to them How, till He bringeth you where I have been?
which their neighbors did not have, and When Columbus found San Salvador, have apparently brought them into he was able to describe it to those who did vital correspondence with dimensions not sail with him in the Santa Maria; and regions of reality that others miss.