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Religious Experience versus Mystical Experience

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by Sunstone, Jan 4, 2014.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    I've fallen into the habit of distinguishing between religious experiences and mystical experiences.

    To me, a religious experience involves to some significant degree -- or in some significant way -- the symbols and/or concepts specific to a religion. For instance, an experience of seeing the Virgin Mary in the sky. The Virgin Mary is a symbol specific to only two religions that I know of -- Christianity and Islam.

    Another point to make about religious experiences is that they seem to depend on familiarity with a specific religion. So, for instance, someone who has never once heard of Shiva is very unlikely to have an experience they identify as being an experience of Shiva.

    A mystical experience, on the other hand, does not to any significant or crucial degree involve the symbols and/or concepts specific to a religion. For instance, an experience of the oneness of all things. That concept -- that there can be an experience of the oneness of all things -- seems to transcend all religions, rather than be specific to any one religion. That is, it is not only found in many or most religions, but is also found outside of any religion.

    I am not saying there's no overlap between religious and mystical experiences, but merely that it would seem valid or useful to distinguish between the two.

    Do you think the distinction between religious experiences and mystical experiences might be a valid or useful one? Why or why not?

    EDIT: Just to be clear, I am not trying to assert that the distinction I'm making between religious and mystical experiences is the only legitimate way to sort or categorize those experiences. I'm certain there are many possible ways of doing that, and to insist that only one of those ways is valid strikes me as akin to asserting that a car cannot be categorized as both a "vehicle" and a "status symbol" because -- for some obscure reason -- it can only be either a vehicle or a status symbol, but not both.
     
    #1 Sunstone, Jan 4, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2014
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  2. psychoslice

    psychoslice Veteran Member

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    Yes i feel that all religions at its center point to the mystical experience, or you could call it the kernel within the religion. Mystics like Jesus pointed to this kernel through parables, this was because the people who were not ready could not understand what he was pointing to, to realize your are ONE with GOD can be dangerous to the ego. But the person who is almost ready are more like gunpowder, where as those who are not ready are more like wet wood.
     
  3. Sees

    Sees Dragonslayer

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    I think the distinction is helpful but sure people will describe a blur between them.

    Mystical in my opinion has kind of been taken over full-speed ahead with "oneness"...with people describing said experiences or states of mind as being a sense of great peace and clarity highlighted by seeing/realizing your self as "one" with all. It's a drop in the bucket of spiritual, mystical, transcendental, blah blah experiences.

    Will add more in a bit....
     
  4. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    One perfection of Siva is exactly that ... not describable, formless, beyond words. It is only called Siva because we don't know what else to call it, I suppose.

    Absolute Reality, the great cause, or whatever you want to call it, indeed is found outside religion as well.

    But here it is just words... "to know it you have to experience it."
     
  5. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    I think any map of the territory can be useful depending on how it is applied, but I've never abided this distinction. I was introduced to the concept via William James, and the specific window dressing of the experience was not an important facet of how he defined religious experiences. I will use religious/mystical/spiritual experience interchangeably, generally under the understanding proposed by William James. They're experiences that are strange moments that seem out-of-time or otherworldly, are difficult to put to words, bring about an ecstatic sense of knowing, and tend to be spontaneous or uncontrollable (though may be induced with proper techniques).
     
  6. NobodyYouKnow

    NobodyYouKnow Misanthropist

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    To my way of thinking, the difference between a Religious Experience and a Mystical Experience can be outlined by the schools of Vedantic thought.

    In a Religious Experience, one is still separate from God. They still worship God and find their own personal association with their 'deity of choice' and we call that Dvaita or Duality.

    In a Mystical Experience, one loses all association and definition, in effect 'becoming' what they worship or 'becoming God'. We call that Advaita, Non-Duality or Brahman absolute.

    This is the way I think of it.
     
  7. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Not necessarily. I was raised agnostic/atheist on the prairies of western Canada. In the teenage years I had mystical experiences. Only much later did I realise or come to discover these same experiences matched an existing religion.

    But I think the point is well taken for those raised in a religious environment, although sometimes mystical experiences are way outside their religious experience, which must cause quite the disturbance. :)
     
  8. Windwalker

    Windwalker Integralist
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    I think there is a distinction to be made, but not really as you presented it. Mystical experience does very much include a particular religion's symbols. There are basically different types of mysticism beginning with psychic-level mysticism, to subtle-level mysticism, to causal-level mysticism, to nondual mysticism. The subtle level is very much where encounters with various deity forms arises, visions of Krishna, Jesus, Mary, Kali, Tara, Sophia, etc, etc.

    To give you a reference please see the descriptions of these in this explanation of these stages of meditation here paying particular attention to the subtle level: Stages of Meditation | Integral Life

    Now as far as distinguishing religious experience from mystical experience, I would say that the experience of religion is most recognizable as a relationship with the external forms; the rituals, the rites, the community, the shared experience, etc. One's identity becomes bound with these forms, and being true to these practices and ways is part of the practice of being faithful and true to one's lineage. Many people never have an internal, mystical experience being part of a religion, but they do benefit from what the externalized forms offer in way of community and belonging, a sense of identity and grounding with culture, etc.

    Does this help clarify? BTW, I very much have mystical experiences all the time in meditation that involves deity forms. That is very much a mystical experience, beyond just the religion's teachings. It's direct, immediate, and non-scripted to put a word to it.
     
    #8 Windwalker, Jan 4, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2014
  9. NobodyYouKnow

    NobodyYouKnow Misanthropist

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    I so wish I could frubal you again. It must be a common thing among us Shaivas. lol

    How can I have darshan of Lord Siva when I am not a Hindu? well, if I wasn't one then, I am most certainly one now.
     
  10. nazz

    nazz Doubting Thomas

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    Well just because I'm the contrarian I am I am going to disagree with the parameters of your division ;)

    One element of mysticism is the direct apprehension of the Divine. So any personal encounter of that sort would qualify as a mystical experience.

    OTOH, a religious experience need not include that. It might just be the way someone feels while participating in a religious rite or ritual.
     
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  11. NobodyYouKnow

    NobodyYouKnow Misanthropist

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    I missed this:

    ....or one can see a picture of Siva without knowing anything about Him, see the image as being larger than life and kinda go 'Oh my dear God' and mean that both figuratively and literally, then drown in a pool of tears....but it doesn't happen all that often.
     
  12. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Yeah, that too. :) Like ... "Excuse me, Mr. Shopkeeper, but can you tell me what that picture is about?" ... "Oh, .... interesting."
     
  13. cafecorridor

    cafecorridor Member

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    Example of a religion that expects you to just believe - Christianity
    Example of a religion that expects you to experience God - Hinduism

    The former is a dogma based religion while the latter is a mystical religion.
     
    #13 cafecorridor, Jan 4, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2014
  14. nazz

    nazz Doubting Thomas

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  15. cafecorridor

    cafecorridor Member

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    Elucidate :D
     
  16. NobodyYouKnow

    NobodyYouKnow Misanthropist

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    All I can say is that Hinduism first expects you to believe and then experience (either indirectly or directly).

    I guess the same can be said about Christianity as well, but I am just taking a stab in the dark there...even though I was a Christian for a while, but it never got that far...something about 'why can't I just experience the Father directly?' kinda threw me right off track.

    In the end and as it turned out, I had to experience God through the Divine Mother anyway - yeah, so that 'intervention' is always there....it is inescapable.
     
  17. cafecorridor

    cafecorridor Member

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    ZERO scope of personal experience in a monotheistic religion.
     
  18. NobodyYouKnow

    NobodyYouKnow Misanthropist

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    Who, you or me? lol

    I was looking for absolute monism in a monotheistic religion. How I came to be involved in a pantheistic religion, I will never know.
     
  19. cafecorridor

    cafecorridor Member

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    Everyone :)

    Pantheism makes a lot more sense to the rational mind than the idea of a God outside the Cosmos. No wonder the eastern religions have taken the west by storm.
     
  20. NobodyYouKnow

    NobodyYouKnow Misanthropist

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    The problem I find with pantheism, is it splits the Whole up into a lot more 'Parts' than necessary and I have the most difficult of times accepting this.

    I am a reductionist by nature, so coming to the realisation of Brahman through one God, is much easier than trying to reconcile many. That is my biggest 'downfall' in Hinduism.

    It was hard for me to even incorporate Mother into my worship and prayers, but I had to overcome my attachment to the concept of a Monotheistic deity somehow...

    Eventually, that strain became too much to bear and I found a Monotheistic reconciliation and that started me down the path of Tantra.
    [​IMG]

    So, there is the explanation.
     
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