Re-interpreting Mystical Experience

Editor’s Note: If you’ve ever thought of trading your current set of beliefs (or non-beliefs) for mysticism, this discussion will give you pause. It’s written by an expert – a former long-term yogi who is now an atheist.

=====================

By “Scott”

What creates feelings of ecstasy and a sense of contact with universal oneness? What’s the link between these feelings and spiritual disciplines, meditation practices, and religious frameworks?

There is no question that mystical experience is a powerful and can be a valuable experience. But society tends to explain mystical experience as something mysterious, religious, or supernatural. Most people have neither sufficient knowledge nor the confidence in their own minds or bodies to question or understand mystical experiences. Nor are most people aware of the role of psychology and physiology in mystical experience.

In this post, I try to answer generally what is mystical experience. Then I describe two feelings common of mystical experience. Next, I describe the reported physiological (bodily) and psychological (emotional/mental) effects. And lastly, I list eight bodily and mental processes that can drastically alter our perceptions and that can produce mystical experience.

Santa Teresa de Avila

What is mystical experience?

Two feelings–ecstasy and a contact with universal sense of oneness–are common denominators of mystical experience.1 The reports of mystical experience often include effects that are both physiological and psychological.

Psychological effects that are reported can include visions, out-of-body sensations, or unconsciously expressed behaviors such as speaking in tongues, feelings of being possessed by a spirit, crying from happiness or feelings of extreme exhilaration or profound calmness. Consider this example:

But as I turned and was about to take a seat by the fire, . . . the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed, it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love . . . it seemed to fan me, like immense wings.

No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, ‘I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me.’ . . . yet I had no fear of death.2

Physiological changes in heart or breathing rate, or in body temperature and so on are often reported. Sometimes chemical or neurological imbalances in the brain can produce mystical experience. Consider for example:

Lucinda has temporal lobe epilepsy and says things like,

“during the seizure, I experience God—I see the meaning of the universe, the true meaning of the universe, for the first time in my life. I understand my place in the cosmic scheme of things.”3

Body/brain alterations and mystical experience

Generally speaking, physiological and psychological changes (such as those reported in mystical experiences) can be expected whenever basic bodily or mental processes are altered drastically. Many effective alterations include4:

1) Drugs–mind-altering chemicals–man- or plant-made, such as psychedelics, alcohol, opiates, and anesthetics–directly affect body and brain processes and are perhaps the easiest route to unusual perception or mystical experience.

2) Alterations in breathing–holding the breath, slowing the breath, or deep, rapid breathing are ways of altering the oxygen/carbon balance in our blood and brains, often produce bodily and perceptual alterations.

3) Fasting–lack of nutrients, abstaining from certain foods, can alter our bodily and mental perceptions. Progressive starvation (nutritional deprivation) can lead to altered states of consciousness (including hallucinations or death).

4) Deprivations–frustration, repression, or extreme denial such as loss of sleep, fatigue, unexpressed sexual or intimate feelings, including self-inflicted pain or suffering, can break down physical and psychological stability and can produce mystical states.

5) Fever–delirium and hallucinations it is well known, can be produced by lengthy or high fever or body temperature.

6) Excitement, exertion–these conditions create changes in the breathing, heart rate, oxygen and blood balance in the body that can alter perceptions.

7) Combinations of the above–for example, combining fasting, loss of sleep, and extreme sexual abstinence (celibacy or chastity) can produce altered states of consciousness.

8) Random or unknown–seemingly for no known reason an altered state or mystical experience can be produced. However, not knowing reason doesn’t excuse interpretations that we then claim to “know” the reason is some god, spirit, or supernatural power.

Mystical experiences can be powerful and valuable.

It is possible for us to develop greater self-awareness and trust in our own capabilities without interpreting or concluding that mystical experience is:

1) Evidence of the supernatural or some god or spirit.

2) A hoax or delusion.

Through better understanding of drastically altering body/brain processes and what mystical experiences are–psychologically and physiologically–we can appreciate these powerful and valuable experiences. We need not dismiss or assume mystical experience is something mysterious, religious, or supernatural. By developing better self-awareness and self-trust we can avoid pitfalls of using interpreters of mystical experience–whether these interpretations are filtered through holy books, gurus and presumed enlightened masters or other second-hand, so-called authorities.

=================

scottBio: “Scott” was a monk at the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) ashram for 14 years before leaving to complete his education and enter the business world. Raised Roman Catholic, he got into eastern religious practices and was influenced in his 20’s by reading The Autobiography of a Yogi by SRF founder Paramahansa Yogananda. He is now a member of The Clergy Project and a successful business consultant. He discusses the hidden, and sometimes-dangerous side of meditation practices, systems and groups at SkepticMeditations.com. This post is republished with permission from his blog.

Notes
1 I’m indebted to Andrew Neher’s excellent book, Paranormal and Transcendental Experience: A Psychological Examination, p 106, for his simple and elegant explanation of these two common feelings.

The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, William James, The Project Gutenberg EBook, retrieved 23 Apr 2017 http://www.gutenberg.org/files/621/621-h/621-h.html

3 Read my post God in a Seizure: Epilepsy & Mysticism, http://skepticmeditations.com/2014/12/11/god-in-a-seizure-epilepsy-mysticism/

4 I’m indebted to Andrew Neher’s excellent book, Paranormal and Transcendental Experience: A Psychological Examination, p 19, for his list of things that can drastically alter body and brain processes.

>>>>photo credits: By Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43527951

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  • Kevin K

    Very nice overview. I agree completely that the experiences reported are “real”, and if you try to dismiss them as lies or delusions, you’re going to be met with powerful pushback. And should be.

    Attributed those experiences to an external-supernatural source is where the rubber meets the road.

    Sadly, I have lost the citations that I once collected on religious conversion experiences, a good percentage of which are dramatic and near-instantaneous. It’s fascinating stuff, as is the scientific explorations using functional MRI (fMRI) and other imaging devices of religious experiences.

    The brain is pretty wacky.

  • Machintelligence

    From Paul Krassner, in “Realist” magazine ca 1965: I went on my eleventh LSD trip yesterday, I saw God, otherwise it was nothing.
    *Not an exact quote but pretty accurate.
    So much for religious experiences.

    • rabbit

      Nothing = no thing

  • Ficino

    My parents were into SRF, and I dabbled in it decades ago. Thank you for this discussion!

  • http://skepticmeditations.wordpress.com/ Scott SkepticMeditations

    A former SRF yoga monk, whom I respect and consider a friend, claims to experience kundalini. He interprets certain sensations within his body as a supposed Hindu-yogic, coiled up energy that by spiritual yogic practice is raised up within his “astral” spinal column. He says he follows his own “path”.

    I’ve challenged my ex-monk friend on his interpretations of his kundalini, “mystical” experiences. I said to him that I also frequently get subtle, sometimes overpowering, sensations within my spine, brain, and body during meditative practice or stillness. I just no longer interpret my experiences through the lens of Eastern mystical tradition or “spiritual” paths or teachers.

    So-called spiritual or mystical experiences can be valuable. Life-changing for some people. The harmful effects occur when these experiences are thought to be superior or more valuable than other experiences. I witnessed monks and church members cut off from the world, relationships, and family to meditation and accumulate spiritual experiences in their practices. Religious interpretations or “paths” can lead some to find meaning, but they also destroy meaning, in an attempt to chop of the heads of others to make themselves taller–to exalt or make some people or experiences superior to others.

    Human nature preyed on by stories and story tellers that make us feel special.

    • Ficino

      “in an attempt to chop of the heads of others to make themselves taller”

      A wry smile from me. This is almost exactly part of a statement that Yogananda attributed to Sri Yukteswar.

      BTW – can you tell us why your friend is no longer an SRF monk?

      • http://skepticmeditations.wordpress.com/ Scott SkepticMeditations

        @Ficino:disqus: You asked why, well…My former-SRF monk friend, Bruce, left SRF for reasons, like me, that are complicated as life gets.

        He fled from the SRF Order not once, but twice!

        His book, Flights of a Runaway Monk (https://www.amazon.com/Flights-Runaway-Monk-Bruce-Manaka/dp/1598008692) is available from Amazon and probably goes into depth of why. I’ve not read his book. I can say that Bruce is an amazing artist and person.

        I lived in the Order during most of the years Bruce was in, and witnessed the first time he left. By the time he left the Order a second time, I’d left before him by about a year or so.

        During the early 2000s, approximately one third of monks and nuns in the SRF Order left. He and I were part of that exodus. My blog post, Mind Controlling Yoga Groups (http://skepticmeditations.com/2015/11/22/mind-controlling-yoga-groups/) briefly outlines and interprets what happened with me and others during the 1/3 exodus of monks/nuns from the Order.

        Hope this helps

  • rabbit

    Have you ever had a mystical experience? They defy explanation and, in my experience, demonstrate the lack of need for belief in anyone supernatural or otherwise. Most people who have had them do not want to talk about them with anyone who has not. It’s a little like Maslow’s Peak Experiences, but not quite. What you experience, usually for less than a second, is seamlessness. No this. No not-this. Nothing more. Nothing less. Afterwards, you can never be the same (and you probably won’t follow anybody’s religion.) Many poets have had them. Rumi (who was,definitely very religious) did, so I’m wrong about that part. I guess it depends on the context that the experience occurred within (mine was random).

    • adam

      “Have you ever had a mystical experience?”

      I have had many.
      Mine were chemically induced, so the explanation is simple.
      Mine lasted hours.

      And yes, life changing.
      It allows for a perspective that is not part of ‘normal’ human experience.

      • Scooter

        “Mine were chemically induced”
        I see now the reason for many of your incomprehensible comments.

        • adam

          No, you dont,

    • http://skepticmeditations.wordpress.com/ Scott SkepticMeditations

      @@GottuBkiding:disqus : I agree, except most people, I think, have had or do have a mystical experience to some degree or another. It’s just how people interpret or through what lens or worldview they filter their experiences.

      Three things come to my mind as I write this:
      1) Your brain allows you to architect your emotions. Emotions are culturally made. I recommend listening to this podcast (https://theartofcharm.com/podcast-episodes/lisa-feldman-barrett-how-emotions-are-made-episode-616/)

      2) If emotions (fundamental feelings and sensations) are culturally made. How much more are mystical experiences (which are bundles of emotions and sensations) likely to be culturally made? I believe those who are argue for this line of reasoning are called “constructivists”.

      3) Mystical experience can be caused by anything and nothing. For example, Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Carmelite monk, had his pivotal life-altering ecstasy of mystical experience while starring at a leaf from a tree. The story was recorded in a book compiled after his death, the classic Christian text, The Practice of the Presence of God. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brother_Lawrence). I was given this book by the SRF Order house-brother for my first Xmas in the Order.

      “Mystical” experience is one of those almost meaningless terms because it can mean anything. The “mystical” experience (sensations, emotions, feelings, and interpretations) is what you, your culture, your worldview make it.

      • rabbit

        I’m sure all religious people have had what they call mystical experiences, and that is fine (I went on a quest for silence after my experience and found nobody in any religion who had the faintest idea what I was talking about. The closest was Zen, which is not, strictly speaking, a religion.) but that which Ron Krompos’s quote describes is what I experienced and it had nothing to do with any sort of cultural construct (or chemical). I’d say it was the opposite, but in the context of that experience that would make no sense either. Certainly, describing it in words would necessitate using English, a cultural creation, which is why I am not going to. Everything true and real and complete about it, which is everything about it, would be left out. I wish everybody had the sort of experience I had, but I don’t think so, which is why I don’t talk about it much. You and I are not talking about the same thing. This is why I say Rumi had the same sort of experience:
        Where Everything Is Music’

        Don’t worry about saving these songs!
        And if one of our instruments breaks,
        it doesn’t matter.
        We have fallen into the place
        where everything is music.
        The strumming and the flute notes
        rise into the atmosphere,
        and even if the whole world’s harp
        should burn up, there will still be
        hidden instruments playing.
        So the candle flickers and goes out.
        We have a piece of flint, and a spark.
        This singing art is sea foam.
        The graceful movements come from a pearl
        somewhere on the ocean floor.
        Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
        of driftwood along the beach, wanting!
        They derive
        from a slow and powerful root
        that we can’t see.
        Stop the words now.
        Open the window in the centre of your chest,
        and let the spirits fly in and out.
        NEXT Poem
        From Rumi – Selected Poems
        .
        Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne
        Links

        • http://skepticmeditations.wordpress.com/ Scott SkepticMeditations

          @GottuBkiding:disqus: In my [blog] post , I try to answer generally what is mystical experience. And started with “…most people aware of the role of psychology and physiology in mystical experience.” The infinite number of personal interpretations of these experiences, by individual persons or groups, was not my intent for my post. That’s not to demean or devalue your experiences or anyones, whether or not they label them “mystical”. My intent of my post was to show there are psychological and physical explanations and similarities among many of these experiences. Hope that helps.

          • David Cromie

            These ‘experiences’ seem to be psychotic, for the most part, rather than ‘mystical’.

          • http://skepticmeditations.wordpress.com/ Scott SkepticMeditations

            @DavidCromie:disqus: Writing “These” ‘experiences’…is too vague for me to comment on. However, the lines between psychotic and mystical experiences are blurry at best. You may be interested in reading this technical paper on the topic–
            Psychotic and Mystical States of Being: Connections and Distinctions, by Caroline Brett. Free text here:
            http://www.yogapsychology.org/art_psychoticandmystical.html

  • http://www.suprarational.org/g.a.i.l.11.pdf Ron Krumpos

    The best description of mystical “experience” I have read is by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in his book An Idealists View of Life:

    “It is a condition of consciousness in which feelings are fused, ideas melt into one another, boundaries are broken, and ordinary distinctions transcended. Past and present fade away into a sense of timeless being. Consciousness and being are not different from each other. In this fullness of felt life and freedom, the distinction of the knower and known disappears. The privacy of the individual self is broken into and invaded by a universal self which the individual feels as his own. The experience itself is felt to be sufficient and complete. It does not come in fragmentary or truncated form demanding completion by something else. It does not look beyond itself for meaning or validity.”

    • rabbit

      Exactly

  • http://fluidmind.org/ Dan Delaney

    Thank you for the wonderful article, Scott!

    Last year I did a qualitative sociological study of 15 ex-ministers (all now openly non-believing naturalists) for my masters thesis. One of my participants said that she had always had experiences of the kind so often described by mystics—a dissolving in the mind of the boundary between where you end and everything that is not you begins. She was really pissed when a colleague of hers insisted on calling her a “mystsic”—especially when he introduced her with that label at a conference. Here’s how she put it:

    “He and I did a week-long conference together, . . . and I shared [my experiences], and he said, ‘Oh, you’re a mystic.’ . . . He labeled me as a ‘mystic’ at that conference. Which really bothered me. . . . And I’m like, don’t give me that label. I don’t want that label. . . . Because to me, that’s like a hierarchy of special super-spiritual people. Right? I have an experience that is very similar to an experience he has had. . . . But his was an experience of ‘God.’ Mine was something happening in my fucking brain. Right? Like, it was not an experience of God. I never even thought of it as an experience of God, even when I was an adolescent.”

    You would probably enjoy a book entitled _Religious Experience Reconsidered_ by Ann Taves. She was interested in looking at such experiences “as-is” rather than pre-categorizing them as “religious” or “spiritual.” Here’s the way she described what she was doing:

    “The focus of the book is on experiences deemed religious (and, by extension, other things considered special) rather than ‘religious experience.’ This shift in terminology signals my interest in exploring the processes whereby experiences come to be understood as religious. . . . Rather than abandon the study of experience, we should disaggregate the concept of ‘religious experience’ and study the wide range of experiences to which religious significance has been attributed.”

    • http://skepticmeditations.wordpress.com/ Scott SkepticMeditations

      Thanks @fluidmindorg:disqus
      The borders between normal, mystical, and psychotic experiences are fuzzy at best.

      If you are interested, I recommend you read ‘Psychotic and Mystical States of Being: Connections and Distinctions’ by Caroline Brett (http://www.yogapsychology.org/art_psychoticandmystical.html).

      Brett’s paper is a PhD-type dissertation that gives a compelling demonstration of how psychotic and mystical experiences are fundamentally indistinguishable from each other in most ways.

      I’m not pushing to prove that all mystical experiences are “psychotic”. Just that they seem to be quite similar. Culture, I suspect, plays a major role in how the experience is interpreted, valued, or devalued.

      • rabbit

        That’s why I don’t like to talk about my experience with people who haven’t had one. I’m far from stupid and it isn’t pleasant to be called nuts, however circumspectly.

    • rabbit

      You’re right. If it’s like what happened to me, it has nothing to do with any sort of being. There is one aspect that had a little to do with creation stories–naming things. In my experience, there were no “things” and no “not things”. It was more than self dissolving. It was everything–everything being undivided. Seamless. Naming things imposes separateness upon them, or our limited senses delineate them, and then we name them, or something. The world we experience is an illusion. Even the other animals around us experience a different one. Was it like that for you? Mine just lasted a second. I had another one that was just a second too. I didn’t do anything to earn it, and it kind of messed up my life. I don’t like to talk about it for the reasons you state, but it sounds like you had something similar.

  • Matthew Hullinger

    I enjoyed reading this article. I do have a few questions if you would be so kind to answer.

    I’ve had many mystical experiences when I was a Pentecostal, some of which are difficult to explain but I associate them with a self induced trance like state that you can enter into when deeply meditating or praying. My question though is, do you believe these actually reveal truths that the person experiencing them does not know or are they simply another method of confirmation bias of the wants and desires of the person experiencing them?

    For example:

    When I was a Pentecostal and I wanted to do something I would pray fervently until I had one of these experiences. It is obvious to me now that when faced with a choice, there was the side I wanted to do and the side I didn’t want to do. Every time my mystical experience would guide me towards the thing I wanted to do. Would you believe this to be true in most cases?

    Often times I have spoken with people who use psychedelic drugs to reach these states and in the end I find their only real reason is their want to use psychedelic drugs. How prevalent do you see this when it comes to mystical experiences? What I mean is do you think most people seek the experience and not really the answers they might or might not reveal?

    My own personal philosophy that I practice rejects these types of experiences altogether. Coming from Pentecostalism, the experience now has a negative value to me that I never want to experience again. Would you say that this mindset is healthy? Can I live a full and rich life without mystical experiences?

    • rabbit

      Of course, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath. Your subconscious is powerful and often aware of important things your everyday consciousness can miss. (Try driving while thinking about everything you are doing–or, better yet, don’t). Pay attention to nagging feelings (intuition). Take these feelings into consideration and think about them before making important decisions.

  • carolyntclark

    The pic of Bernini’s sculpture suggests Teresa in orgasm. “Saint Teresa’s love of God and her desire for spiritual union with him found expression in a vision in which an angel pierced her heart with a golden spear and sent her into a trance. The erotic intensity of her vision is vividly suggested in this image by Teresa’s swooning expression and languid pose, and by the deep folds of drapery, which convey her agitation.”
    During my nun years we were encouraged and counseled to strive to achieve this mystical union, dissolving into the presence of God. As much as I tried, I was never successful, nor do I personally know anyone who was.

    • Matthew Hullinger

      I had a lot of mystical experiences but nothing along those lines. Perhaps I wasn’t praying hard enough. lol

      • rabbit

        If it were induced by fasting, perhaps the experience would have taken the form of a feast. (I think we’re on the same page–winks) This isn’t the kind of experience I had either.

    • http://skepticmeditations.wordpress.com/ Scott SkepticMeditations

      @carolyntclark:disqus : Yes, the Bernini sculpture of St. Teresa has been described as sensual. Of course, it is the artists depiction of a “mystical experience” as described by the saint. I believe the Teresa’s description in her writings is quite sensual, if not sexual.

      Having been an ordained SRF monk who took vows of celibacy I can identify with the necessary transfer of sexual desire to a god, spirit (in an ideal situation) in an intimate or even sexual context.

      Realistically though, there is much repression of human desires in these mystical/religious interpretations. For the normal human desires for intimacy when suppressed for so-called spiritual ideals often leads to unhealthy, dysfunctional, or harmful behaviors. Celibate priests molesting children, is one extreme example. In my Order, we had several sexual scandals where monks were “seduced” by members or jumped the walls to spend time with sexual escorts.

      To me, the mystical experience iconography is a reminder of authoritarian traditions telling us to give up human desires for superior “divine” world in this or a future life. Mystical experiences are not some superior experience, in my opinion, as pleasant and life-changing as they sometimes can be. They also can be damaging to one’s life.

      • carolyntclark

        I’ve known many, many priests. I disagree that celibacy has anything to do with pedophilia.Priestly celibacy is attractive to many females who make themselves available….and priests can find satisfaction in those relationships. Child predation is an aberration even practiced by married men.

        • http://skepticmeditations.wordpress.com/ Scott SkepticMeditations

          @carolyntclark:disqus: I’d like to see if I understand you. You wrote (my words in parentheses to try to elaborate):

          I’ve “known many, many priests” (males who’ve taken religious vows of celibacy, abstinence from sex) and who found (sexual) satisfaction in the “many females who make themselves available” to (celibate) “priests who can (and do) find satisfaction (physical, sexual gratification) in those (female, sexual) relationships”.

          Understood you?

          • carolyntclark

            yes exactly, Scott. Taking a vow of celibacy, does not mean that priests are faithful to that vow. As shocking as it may seem, there are priests who have secret mistresses.
            There are gay priests who engage with gay partners, other priests or secular men.
            While both of these are contrary to their ordination, they are consensual relationships. Not abusive, not criminal.
            Pedophile priests are in another class. Abusive, criminal acts against manipulated minors.

          • http://skepticmeditations.wordpress.com/ Scott SkepticMeditations

            @carolyntclark:disqus: Thanks for clarifying.

            What is shocking to me is that you seem to think these behaviors might be a “healthy” expression for anybody, and by contrast show that it is indeed superior or not abusive/criminal (eg. like pedophilia).

            My experiences in the monastic order, and stories and examples of monastics who take these vows of celibacy, is that there has to be a degree of internal conflict, living a double (“hidden”) life, fear of being found out or outed for their “human/hidden” relationships and sexual expressions.

            It’s not my concern what consenting adults do in the privacy of their rooms. But, what you describe is an indictment of the system of priesthood, celibacy, or any unlivable ideals or vows.

            The systems that include these unlivable vows like celibacy are a sham and harmful to society.

          • carolyntclark

            I’m not evaluating sex or celibacy or judging the ethics of breaking vows. My point is just separating non-criminal sex from pedophilia which is criminal behavior.

  • ElizabetB.

    I’ve always enjoyed reading about mystical experiences, or about feeling at one with everything, but never experienced more than something like Wordsworth’s “My heart leaps up when I behold/ A rainbow in the sky.” I love reading Rumi, and have returned to Brother Lawrence many times — but so far, just everyday un/consciousness. Wish I could upgrade from time to time! Many thanks for your interesting work!

  • mason

    Life is just a momentary glimpse of the wonder of this astonishing Universe, and it is sad to see so many dreaming it away on spiritual fantasy. -Carl Sagan

  • Jim

    Meditation brought about many “spiritual” experiences for me. I always just thought of them as part of biology but those experiences led me towards the agnostic line of thinking, not the atheist way. I do prefer atheist blogs, though. Christianity gets away with too much, and those who use it as a means towards harming others while under guise of compassion.

    • http://skepticmeditations.wordpress.com/ Scott SkepticMeditations

      Christianity is one expression of these “spiritual” systems. Glad you saw through it.

      My desires for spiritual enlightenment (god/whatever) lead me to Eastern “spiritual” systems. Supposedly, the systems of Eastern spiritual enlightenment, of mystical experiences, encompass the best of Christianity, and/or the “spiritual” or “divine” essence or all religions.

      What I found, eventually, after decades, was these “spiritual” systems are double binds. Self-referential, circular systems that we humans allow to take control and bind the mind so we no longer trust ourselves, humanity, and hand over authority and power to teacher, guru, or spiritual tradition.

  • Kin Yalbets

    Reconciling mystical spiritual experience and perceptions with empirical reality is the fundamental purpose of yoga. Union of those two realities is the essence of incarnation and the avatar and the purpose of devotion. If your religious practice isn’t practical or is causing you or others harm … well I would definitely try something different. Goodness, virtue, and percipience are core principles of religious practice. Find your burning bush, it may just be the flowers.

  • Mark

    I’m sorry, but WTF! Obviously every aspect of consciousness can be influenced, enhanced and/or twisted by anything and everything from chemicals to ultra self delusion. It remains, nevertheless a mystery! No answers… any apparent answers can be summarily explained and dismissed. WTF? Knowing all of that helps not at all. That’s the mystery. The real answer is to stop trying to find the answer! There is none… only the questions! Learn to enjoy them… and keep your head clear enough to ask them. And maybe learn what faith really is all about.