Rational Mysticism: Dispatches from the Border Between by John Horgan

By John Horgan

John Horgan, writer of the best-selling the top of technological know-how, chronicles the main complex learn into the mechanics—and meaning—of mystical reports. How do trances, visions, prayer, satori, and different mystical reports “work”? What induces and defines them? Is there a systematic reason behind non secular mysteries and transcendent meditation? John Horgan investigates a variety of fields — chemistry, neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, theology, and extra — to slim the distance among cause and mystical phenomena. As either a seeker and an award-winning journalist, Horgan consulted a variety of specialists, together with theologian Huston Smith, non secular inheritor to Joseph Campbell; Andrew Newberg, the scientist whose quest for the “God module” was once the focal point of a Newsweek hide tale; Ken Wilber, widespread transpersonal psychologist; Alexander Shulgin, mythical psychedelic drug chemist; and Susan Blackmore, Oxford-educated psychologist, parapsychology debunker, and Zen practitioner. Horgan explores the amazing similarities among “mystical technologies” like sensory deprivation, prayer, fasting, trance, dancing, meditation, and drug journeys. He participates in experiments that search the neurological underpinnings of mystical studies. And, eventually, he recounts his personal look for enlightenment — adventurous, poignant, and infrequently unusually comedian. Horgan’s conclusions resonate with the arguable climax of the tip of technology, simply because, as he argues, the main enlightened mystics and the main enlightened scientists turn out within the comparable position — confronting the imponderable intensity of the universe.

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Although previously Smith believed that “God is love and that none of love’s nuances could be absent from His infinite nature,” he was now feeling that divine love first- 28 r a t i o n a l m y s t i c i s m hand. The afterglow persisted for months. “I really was a better person,” Smith said of this period. ” But Smith also recalled some less exalted aspects of the Miracle at Marsh Chapel. ” As the psilocybin began working its magic on Smith, he caught the eye of a colleague who seemed to be similarly transported.

22 r a t i o n a l m y s t i c i s m Smith, mature mystical knowledge must manifest itself throughout one’s life. ” Smith would be “profoundly suspicious” of anyone who claimed to be enlightened but did not exhibit these basic human virtues. In fact, Smith sees enlightenment as “an ideal” that can be approached but never fully attained by any mortal. After he voiced this opinion in his televised dialogue with Bill Moyers, Smith received letters proclaiming the enlightenment of various spiritual masters, such as the American guru Da Free John and the Indian swami Sai Baba.

A Talmudic legend about four learned rabbis who are allowed to visit paradise makes this point: One rabbi dies outright, one goes mad, and one becomes a heretic. A single rabbi leaves heaven with a blissful, peaceful heart, his faith confirmed. Even after the most positive mystical experiences, we are left with the task of reconciling those visions with what our reason tells us about the world. For example, if there is a God, and if He loves us, as Huston Smith felt so strongly during the Good Friday experiment, why did He create a world with so much evil and injustice and suffering?

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