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首页 » 英文宗教小说 » The Varieties of Religious Experience 宗教经验种种 » Lectures XVI MYSTICISM
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Over and over again in these lectures I have raised points and left them open and unfinished untilwe should have come to the subject of Mysticism. Some of you, I fear, may have smiled as younoted my reiterated postponements. But now the hour has come when mysticism must be faced ingood earnest, and those broken threads wound up together. One may say truly, I think, thatpersonal religious experience has its root and centre in mystical states of consciousness; so for us,who in these lectures are treating personal experience as the exclusive subject of our study, suchstates of consciousness ought to form the vital chapter from which the other chapters get theirlight. Whether my treatment of mystical states will shed more light or darkness, I do not know, formy own constitution shuts me out from their enjoyment almost entirely, and I can speak of themonly at second hand. But though forced to look upon the subject so externally, I will be asobjective and receptive as I can; and I think I shall at least succeed in convincing you of the realityof the states in question, and of the paramount importance of their function.

First of all, then, I ask, What does the expression "mystical states of consciousness" mean? Howdo we part off mystical states from other states?

The words "mysticism" and "mystical" are often used as terms of mere reproach, to throw at anyopinion which we regard as vague and vast and sentimental, and without a base in either facts orlogic. For some writers a "mystic" is any person who believes in thought-transference, or spirit return. Employed in this way the word has little value: there are too many less ambiguoussynonyms. So, to keep it useful by restricting it, I will do what I did in the case of the word"religion," and simply propose to you four marks which, when an experience has them, may justifyus in calling it mystical for the purpose of the present lectures. In this way we shall save verbaldisputation, and the recriminations that generally go therewith.

1. Ineffability.--The handiest of the marks by which I classify a state of mind as mystical isnegative. The subject of it immediately says that it defies expression, that no adequate report of itscontents can be given in words. It follows from this that its quality must be directly experienced; itcannot be imparted or transferred to others. In this peculiarity mystical states are more like statesof feeling than like states of intellect. No one can make clear to another who has never had acertain feeling, in what the quality or worth of it consists. One must have musical ears to know thevalue of a symphony; one must have been in love one's self to understand a lover's state of mind.

Lacking the heart or ear, we cannot interpret the musician or the lover justly, and are even likely toconsider him weak-minded or absurd. The mystic finds that most of us accord to his experiencesan equally incompetent treatment.

2. Noetic quality.--Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those whoexperience them to be also states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truthunplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance andimportance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious senseof authority for after-time.

These two characters will entitle any state to be called mystical, in the sense in which I use theword. Two other qualities are less sharply marked, but are usually found. These are:-3. Transiency.--Mystical states cannot be sustained for long. Except in rare instances, half anhour, or at most an hour or two, seems to be the limit beyond which they fade into the light ofcommon day. Often, when faded, their quality can but imperfectly be reproduced in memory; butwhen they recur it is recognized; and from one recurrence to another it is susceptible of continuousdevelopment in what is felt as inner richness and importance.

4. Passivity.--Although the oncoming of mystical states may be facilitated by preliminaryvoluntary operations, as by fixing the attention, or going through certain bodily performances, or inother ways which manuals of mysticism prescribe; yet when the characteristic sort ofconsciousness once has set in, the mystic feels as if his own will were in abeyance, and indeedsometimes as if he were grasped and held by a superior power. This latter peculiarity connectsmystical states with certain definite phenomena of secondary or alternative personality, such asprophetic speech, automatic writing, or the mediumistic trance. When these latter conditions arewell pronounced, however, there may be no recollection whatever of the phenomenon, and it mayhave no significance for the subject's usual inner life, to which, as it were, it makes a mereinterruption. Mystical states, strictly so-called, are never merely interruptive. Some memory oftheir content always remains, and a profound sense of their importance. They modify the inner lifeof the subject between the times of their recurrence. Sharp divisions in this region are, however,difficult to make, and we find all sorts of gradations and mixtures.

These four characteristics are sufficient to mark out a group of states of consciousness peculiarenough to deserve a special name and to call for careful study. Let it then be called the mysticalgroup. Our next step should be to gain acquaintance with some typical examples. Professionalmystics at the height of their development have often elaborately organized experiences and aphilosophy based thereupon. But you remember what I said in my first lecture: phenomena are bestunderstood when placed within their series, studied in their germ and in their over-ripe decay, andcompared with their exaggerated and degenerated kindred. The range of mystical experience isvery wide, much too wide for us to cover in the time at our disposal. Yet the method of serial studyis so essential for interpretation that if we really wish to reach conclusions we must use it. I willbegin, therefore, with phenomena which claim no special religious significance, and end withthose of which the religious pretensions are extreme.

The simplest rudiment of mystical experience would seem to be that deepened sense of thesignificance of a maxim or formula which occasionally sweeps over one. "I've heard that said allmy life," we exclaim, "but I never realized its full meaning until now." "When a fellow-monk,"said Luther, "one day repeated the words of the Creed: 'I believe in the forgiveness of sins,' I sawthe Scripture in an entirely new light; and straightway I felt as if I were born anew. It was as if Ihad found the door of paradise thrown wide open."[226] This sense of deeper significance is notconfined to rational propositions. Single words,[227] and conjunctions of words, effects of light onland and sea, odors and musical sounds, all bring it when the mind is tuned aright. Most of us canremember the strangely moving power of passages in certain poems read when we were young,irrational doorways as they were through which the mystery of fact, the wildness and the pang oflife, stole into our hearts and thrilled them. The words have now perhaps become mere polishedsurfaces for us; but lyric poetry and music are alive and significant only in proportion as they fetchthese vague vistas of a life continuous with our own, beckoning and inviting, yet ever eluding ourpursuit. We are alive or dead to the eternal inner message of the arts according as we have kept orlost this mystical susceptibility.

[226] Newman's Securus judicat orbis terrarum is another instance.

[227] "Mesopotamia" is the stock comic instance.--An excellent Old German lady, who had donesome traveling in her day, used to describe to me her Sehnsucht that she might yet visit"Philadelphia," whose wondrous name had always haunted her imagination. Of John Foster it issaid that "single words (as chalcedony), or the names of ancient heroes, had a mighty fascinationover him. 'At any time the word hermit was enough to transport him.' The words woods and forestswould produce the most powerful emotion." Foster's Life, by Ryland, New York, 1846, p. 3.

A more pronounced step forward on the mystical ladder is found in an extremely frequentphenomenon, that sudden feeling, namely, which sometimes sweeps over us, of having "been herebefore," as if at some indefinite past time, in just this place, with just these people, we were alreadysaying just these things. As Tennyson writes:

"Moreover, something is or seems That touches me with mystic gleams, Like glimpses offorgotten dreams-"Of something felt, like something here; Of something done, I know not where; Such as nolanguage may declare."[228]

[228] The Two Voices. In a letter to Mr. B. P. Blood, Tennyson reports of himself as follows:-"I have never had any revelations through anaesthetics, but a kind of waking trance--this for lackof a better word--I have frequently had, quite up from boyhood, when I have been all alone. Thishas come upon me through repeating my own name to myself silently, till all at once, as it were outof the intensity of the consciousness of individuality, individuality itself seemed to dissolve andfade away into boundless being, and this not a confused state but the clearest, the surest of thesurest, utterly beyond words--where death was an almost laughable impossibility--the loss ofpersonality (if so it were) seeming no extinction, but the only true life. I am ashamed of my feebledescription. Have I not said the state is utterly beyond words?"Professor Tyndall, in a letter, recalls Tennyson saying of this condition: "By God Almighty!

there is no delusion in the matter! It is no nebulous ecstasy, but a state of transcendent wonder,associated with absolute clearness of mind." Memoirs of Alfred Tennyson, ii. 473.

Sir James Crichton-Browne has given the technical name of "dreamy states" to these suddeninvasions of vaguely reminiscent consciousness.[229] They bring a sense of mystery and of themetaphysical duality of things, and the feeling of an enlargement of perception which seemsimminent but which never completes itself. In Dr. Crichton-Browne's opinion they connectthemselves with the perplexed and scared disturbances of self-consciousness which occasionallyprecede epileptic attacks. I think that this learned alienist takes a rather absurdly alarmist view ofan intrinsically insignificant phenomenon. He follows it along the downward ladder, to insanity;our path pursues the upward ladder chiefly. The divergence shows how important it is to neglectno part of a phenomenon's connections, for we make it appear admirable or dreadful according tothe context by which we set it off.

[229] The Lancet, July 6 and 13, 1895, reprinted as the Cavendish Lecture, on Dreamy MentalStates, London, Bailliere, 1895. They have been a good deal discussed of late by psychologists.

See, for example, Bernard-Leroy: L'Illusion de Fausse Reconnaissance, Paris, 1898.

Somewhat deeper plunges into mystical consciousness are met with in yet other dreamy states.

Such feelings as these which Charles Kingsley describes are surely far from being uncommon,especially in youth:-"When I walk the fields, I am oppressed now and then with an innate feeling that everything Isee has a meaning, if I could but understand it. And this feeling of being surrounded with truthswhich I cannot grasp amounts to indescribable awe sometimes. . . . Have you not felt that your realsoul was imperceptible to your mental vision, except in a few hallowed moments?"[230]

[230] Charles Kingsley's Life, i. 55, quoted by Inge: Christian Mysticism, London, 1899, p. 341.

A much more extreme state of mystical consciousness is described by J. A. Symonds; andprobably more persons than we suspect could give parallels to it from their own experience.

"Suddenly," writes Symonds, "at church, or in company, or when I was reading, and always, Ithink, when my muscles were at rest, I felt the approach of the mood. Irresistibly it took possessionof my mind and will, lasted what seemed an eternity, and disappeared in a series of rapidsensations which resembled the awakening from anaesthetic influence. One reason why I dislikedthis kind of trance was that I could not describe it to myself. I cannot even now find words torender it intelligible. It consisted in a gradual but swiftly progressive obliteration of space, time,sensation, and the multitudinous factors of experience which seem to qualify what we are pleasedto call our Self. In proportion as these conditions of ordinary consciousness were subtracted, thesense of an underlying or essential consciousness acquired intensity. At last nothing remained but apure, absolute, abstract Self. The universe became without form and void of content. But Selfpersisted, formidable in its vivid keenness, feeling the most poignant doubt about reality, ready, asit seemed, to find existence break as breaks a bubble round about it. And what then? Theapprehension of a coming dissolution, the grim conviction that this state was the last state of theconscious Self, the sense that I had followed the last thread of being to the verge of the abyss, andhad arrived at demonstration of eternal Maya or illusion, stirred or seemed to stir me up again. Thereturn to ordinary conditions of sentient existence began by my first recovering the power of touch,and then by the gradual though rapid influx of familiar impressions and diurnal interests. At last Ifelt myself once more a human being; and though the riddle of what is meant by life remainedunsolved I was thankful for this return from the abyss--this deliverance from so awful an initiationinto the mysteries of skepticism.

"This trance recurred with diminishing frequency until I reached the age of twenty-eight. Itserved to impress upon my growing nature the phantasmal unreality of all the circumstances whichcontribute to a merely phenomenal consciousness. Often have I asked myself with anguish, onwaking from that formless state of denuded, keenly sentient being, Which is the unreality--thetrance of fiery, vacant, apprehensive, skeptical Self from which I issue, or these surroundingphenomena and habits which veil that inner Self and build a self of flesh-and-bloodconventionality? Again, are men the factors of some dream, the dream-like unsubstantiality ofwhich they comprehend at such eventful moments? What would happen if the final stage of thetrance were reached?"[231]

[231] H. F. Brown: J. A. Symonds. a Biography, London, 1895, pp. 29-31, abridged.

In a recital like this there is certainly something suggestive of pathology.[232] The next step intomystical states carries us into a realm that public opinion and ethical philosophy have long sincebranded as pathological, though private practice and certain lyric strains of poetry seem still tobear witness to its ideality. I refer to the consciousness produced by intoxicants and anaesthetics,especially by alcohol. The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power tostimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and drycriticisms of the sober hour. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands,unites, and says yes. It is in fact the great exciter of the YES function in man. It brings its votaryfrom the chill periphery of things to the radiant core. It makes him for the moment one with truth.

Not through mere perversity do men run after it. To the poor and the unlettered it stands in theplace of symphony concerts and of literature; and it is part of the deeper mystery and tragedy of life that whiffs and gleams of something that we immediately recognize as excellent should bevouchsafed to so many of us only in the fleeting earlier phases of what in its totality is sodegrading a poisoning. The drunken consciousness is one bit of the mystic consciousness, and ourtotal opinion of it must find its place in our opinion of that larger whole.

[232] Crichton-Browne expressly says that Symonds's "highest nerve centres were in somedegree enfeebled or damaged by these dreamy mental states which afflicted him so grievously."Symonds was, however, a perfect monster of many-sided cerebral efficiency, and his critic givesno objective grounds whatever for his strange opinion, save that Symonds complainedoccasionally, as all susceptible and ambitious men complain, of lassitude and uncertainty as to hislife's mission.

Nitrous oxide and ether, especially nitrous oxide, when sufficiently diluted with air, stimulate themystical consciousness in an extraordinary degree. Depth beyond depth of truth seems revealed tothe inhaler. This truth fades out, however, or escapes, at the moment of coming to; and if anywords remain over in which it seemed to clothe itself, they prove to be the veriest nonsense.

Nevertheless, the sense of a profound meaning having been there persists; and I know more thanone person who is persuaded that in the nitrous oxide trance we have a genuine metaphysicalrevelation.

Some years ago I myself made some observations on this aspect of nitrous oxide intoxication,and reported them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and myimpression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal wakingconsciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilstall about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousnessentirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply therequisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types ofmentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account ofthe universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quitedisregarded. How to regard them is the question--for they are so discontinuous with ordinaryconsciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they cannot furnish formulas, and open aregion though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accountswith reality. Looking back on my own experiences, they all converge towards a kind of insight towhich I cannot help ascribing some metaphysical significance. The keynote of it is invariably areconciliation. It is as if the opposites of the world, whose contradictoriness and conflict make allour difficulties and troubles, were melted into unity. Not only do they, as contrasted species,belong to one and the same genus, but one of the species, the nobler and better one, is itself thegenus, and so soaks up and absorbs its opposite into itself. This is a dark saying, I know, when thusexpressed in terms of common logic, but I cannot wholly escape from its authority. I feel as if itmust mean something, something like what the hegelian philosophy means, if one could only layhold of it more clearly. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear; to me the living sense of itsreality only comes in the artificial mystic state of mind.[233]

[233] What reader of Hegel can doubt that that sense of a perfected Being with all its othernesssoaked up into itself, which dominates his whole philosophy, must have come from theprominence in his consciousness of mystical moods like this, in most persons kept subliminal? Thenotion is thoroughly characteristic of the mystical level and the Aufgabe of making it articulatewas surely set to Hegel's intellect by mystical feeling.

I just now spoke of friends who believe in the anaesthetic revelation. For them too it is amonistic insight, in which the OTHER in its various forms appears absorbed into the One.

"Into this pervading genius," writes one of them, "we pass, forgetting and forgotten, andthenceforth each is all, in God. There is no higher, no deeper, no other, than the life in which weare founded. 'The One remains, the many change and pass;' and each and every one of us IS theOne that remains. . . . This is the ultimatum. . . . As sure as being--whence is all our care--so sure iscontent, beyond duplexity, antithesis, or trouble, where I have triumphed in a solitude that God isnot above."[234]

[234] Benjamin Paul Blood: The Anaesthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy, Amsterdam,N. Y., 1874, pp. 35, 36. Mr. Blood has made several attempts to adumbrate the anaestheticrevelation, in pamphlets of rare literary distinction, privately printed and distributed by himself atAmsterdam. Xenos Clark, a philosopher, who died young at Amherst in the '80's, much lamentedby those who knew him, was also impressed by the revelation. "In the first place," he once wrote tome, "Mr. Blood and I agree that the revelation is, if anything non-emotional. It is utterly flat. It is,as Mr. Blood says, 'the one sole and sufficient insight why, or not why, but how, the present ispushed on by the past, and sucked forward by the vacuity of the future. Its inevitableness defeatsall attempts at stopping or accounting for it. It is all precedence and presupposition, andquestioning is in regard to it forever too late. It is an initiation of the past.' The real secret would bethe formula by which the 'now' keeps exfoliating out of itself, yet never escapes. What is it, indeed,that keeps existence exfoliating? The formal being of anything, the logical definition of it, is static.

For mere logic every question contains its own answer--we simply fill the hole with the dirt wedug out. Why are twice two four? Because, in fact, four is twice two. Thus logic finds in life nopropulsion, only a momentum. It goes because it is a-going. But the revelation adds: it goesbecause it is and WAS a-going. You walk, as it were, round yourself in the revelation. Ordinaryphilosophy is like a hound hunting his own tail. The more he hunts the farther he has to go, and hisnose never catches up with his heels, because it is forever ahead of them. So the present is alreadya foregone conclusion, and I am ever too late to understand it. But at the moment of recovery fromanaesthesis, just then, BEFORE STARTING ON LIFE, I catch, so to speak, a glimpse of my heels,a glimpse of the eternal process just in the act of starting. The truth is that we travel on a journeythat was accomplished before we set out; and the real end of philosophy is accomplished, not whenwe arrive at, but when we remain in, our destination (being already there)--which may occurvicariously in this life when we cease our intellectual questioning. That is why there is a smileupon the face of the revelation, as we view it. It tells us that we are forever half a second too late-that'sall. 'You could kiss your own lips, and have all the fun to yourself,' it says, if you only knewthe trick. It would be perfectly easy if they would just stay there till you got round to them. Whydon't you manage it somehow?"Dialectically minded readers of this farrago will at least recognize the region of thought of whichMr. Clark writes, as familiar. In his latest pamphlet, "Tennyson's Trances and the AnaestheticRevelation," Mr. Blood describes its value for life as follows:-"The Anaesthetic Revelation is the Initiation of Man into the Immemorial Mystery of the OpenSecret of Being, revealed as the Inevitable Vortex of Continuity. Inevitable is the word. Its motiveis inherent--it is what has to be. It is not for any love or hate, nor for joy nor sorrow, nor good norill. End, beginning, or purpose, it knows not of.

"It affords no particular of the multiplicity and variety of things but it fills appreciation of thehistorical and the sacred with a secular and intimately personal illumination of the nature andmotive of existence, which then seems reminiscent--as if it should have appeared, or shall yetappear, to every participant thereof.

"Although it is at first startling in its solemnity, it becomes directly such a matter of course--soold-fashioned, and so akin to proverbs that it inspires exultation rather than fear, and a sense ofsafety, as identified with the aboriginal and the universal. But no words may express the imposingcertainty of the patient that he is realizing the primordial, Adamic surprise of Life.

"Repetition of the experience finds it ever the same, and as if it could not possibly be otherwise.

The subject resumes his normal consciousness only to partially and fitfully remember itsoccurrence, and to try to formulate its baffling import--with only this consolatory afterthought: thathe has known the oldest truth, and that he has done with human theories as to the origin, meaning,or destiny of the race. He is beyond instruction in 'spiritual things.'

"The lesson is one of central safety: the Kingdom is within. All days are judgment days: butthere can be no climacteric purpose of eternity, nor any scheme of the whole. The astronomerabridges the row of bewildering figures by increasing his unit of measurement: so may we reducethe distracting multiplicity of things to the unity for which each of us stands.

"This has been my moral sustenance since I have known of it. In my first printed mention of it Ideclared: 'The world is no more the alien terror that was taught me. Spurning the cloud-grimed andstill sultry battlements whence so lately Jehovan thunders boomed, my gray gull lifts her wingagainst the nightfall, and takes the dim leagues with a fearless eye.' And now, after twenty-sevenyears of this experience, the wing is grayer, but the eye is fearless still, while I renew and doublyemphasize that declaration. I know--as having known--the meaning of Existence: the sane centreof the universe--at once the wonder and the assurance of the soul--for which the speech of reasonhas as yet no name but the Anaesthetic Revelation." --I have considerably abridged the quotation.

This has the genuine religious mystic ring! I just now quoted J. A. Symonds. He also records amystical experience with chloroform, as follows:-'After the choking and stifling had passed away, I seemed at first in a state of utter blankness;then came flashes of intense light, alternating with blackness, and with a keen vision of what wasgoing on in the room around me, but no sensation of touch. I thought that I was near death; when,suddenly, my soul became aware of God, who was manifestly dealing with me, handling me, so tospeak, in an intense personal present reality. I felt him streaming in like light upon me. . . . I cannotdescribe the ecstasy I felt. Then, as I gradually awoke from the influence of the anaesthetics, theold sense of my relation to the world began to return, the new sense of my relation to God began to fade. I suddenly leapt to my feet on the chair where I was sitting, and shrieked out, 'It is toohorrible, it is too horrible, it is too horrible,' meaning that I could not bear this disillusionment.

Then I flung myself on the ground, and at last awoke covered with blood, calling to the twosurgeons (who were frightened), 'Why did you not kill me? Why would you not let me die?' Onlythink of it. To have felt for that long dateless ecstasy of vision the very God, in all purity andtenderness and truth and absolute love, and then to find that I had after all had no revelation, butthat I had been tricked by the abnormal excitement of my brain.

"Yet, this question remains, Is it possible that the inner sense of reality which succeeded, whenmy flesh was dead to impressions from without, to the ordinary sense of physical relations, was nota delusion but an actual experience? Is it possible that I, in that moment, felt what some of thesaints have said they always felt, the undemonstrable but irrefragable certainty of God?"[235]

[235] Op. cit., pp. 78-80, abridged. I subjoin, also abridging it, another interesting anaestheticrevelation communicated to me in manuscript by a friend in England. The subject, a gifted woman,was taking ether for a surgical operation.

"I wondered if I was in a prison being tortured, and why I remembered having heard it said thatpeople 'learn through suffering,' and in view of what I was seeing, the inadequacy of this sayingstruck me so much that I said, aloud, 'to suffer IS to learn.'

"With that I became unconscious again, and my last dream immediately preceded my realcoming to. It only lasted a few seconds, and was most vivid and real to me, though it may not beclear in words.

"A great Being or Power was traveling through the sky, his foot was on a kind of lightning as awheel is on a rail, it was his pathway. The lightning was made entirely of the spirits ofinnumerable people close to one another, and I was one of them. He moved in a straight line, andeach part of the streak or flash came into its short conscious existence only that he might travel. Iseemed to be directly under the foot of God, and I thought he was grinding his own life up out ofmy pain. Then I saw that what he had been trying with all his might to do was to CHANGE HISCOURSE, to BEND the line of lightning to which he was tied, in the direction in which he wantedto go. I felt my flexibility and helplessness, and knew that he would succeed. He bended me,turning his corner by means of my hurt, hurting me more than I had ever been hurt in my life, andat the acutest point of this, as he passed, I SAW. I understood for a moment things that I have nowforgotten, things that no one could remember while retaining sanity. The angle was an obtuseangle, and I remember thinking as I woke that had he made it a right or acute angle, I should haveboth suffered and 'seen' still more, and should probably have died.

"He went on and I came to. In that moment the whole of my life passed before me, includingeach little meaningless piece of distress, and I UNDERSTOOD them. THIS was what it had allmeant, THIS was the piece of work it had all been contributing to do. I did not see God's purpose, Ionly saw his intentness and his entire relentlessness towards his means. He thought no more of methan a man thinks of hurting a cork when he is opening wine, or hurting a cartridge when he isfiring. And yet, on waking, my first feeling was, and it came with tears, 'Domine non sum digna,'

for I had been lifted into a position for which I was too small. I realized that in that half hour underether I had served God more distinctly and purely than I had ever done in my life before, or than Iam capable of desiring to do. I was the means of his achieving and revealing something, I knownot what or to whom, and that, to the exact extent of my capacity for suffering.

"While regaining consciousness, I wondered why, since I had gone so deep, I had seen nothingof what the saints call the LOVE of God, nothing but his relentlessness. And then I heard ananswer, which I could only just catch, saying, 'Knowledge and Love are One, and the MEASUREis suffering'--I give the words as they came to me. With that I came finally to (into what seemed adream world compared with the reality of what I was leaving), and I saw that what would be calledthe 'cause' of my experience was a slight operation under insufficient ether, in a bed pushed upagainst a window, a common city window in a common city street. If I had to formulate a few ofthe things I then caught a glimpse of, they would run somewhat as follows:-"The eternal necessity of suffering and its eternal vicariousness. The veiled and incommunicablenature of the worst sufferings;--the passivity of genius, how it is essentially instrumental anddefenseless, moved, not moving, it must do what it does;--the impossibility of discovery withoutits price;--finally, the excess of what the suffering 'seer' or genius pays over what his generationgains. (He seems like one who sweats his life out to earn enough to save a district from famine,and just as he staggers back, dying and satisfied, bringing a lac of rupees to buy grain with, Godlifts the lac away, dropping ONE rupee, and says, 'That you may give them. That you have earnedfor them. The rest is for ME.') I perceived also in a way never to be forgotten, the excess of whatwe see over what we can demonstrate.

"And so on!--these things may seem to you delusions, or truisms; but for me they are dark truths,and the power to put them into even such words as these has been given me by an ether dream."With this we make connection with religious mysticism pure and simple. Symonds's questiontakes us back to those examples which you will remember my quoting in the lecture on the Realityof the Unseen, of sudden realization of the immediate presence of God. The phenomenon in oneshape or another is not uncommon.

"I know," writes Mr. Trine, "an officer on our police force who has told me that many timeswhen off duty, and on his way home in the evening, there comes to him such a vivid and vitalrealization of his oneness with this Infinite Power, and this Spirit of Infinite Peace so takes hold ofand so fills him, that it seems as if his feet could hardly keep to the pavement, so buoyant and soexhilarated does he become by reason of this inflowing tide."[236]

[236] In Tune with the Infinite, p. 137.

Certain aspects of nature seem to have a peculiar power of awakening such mystical moods.

[237] Most of the striking cases which I have collected have occurred out of doors. Literature hascommemorated this fact in many passages of great beauty--this extract, for example, from Amiel'sJournal Intime:-[237] The larger God may then swallow up the smaller one. I take this from Starbuck'smanuscript collection:-"I never lost the consciousness of the presence of God until I stood at the foot of the HorseshoeFalls, Niagara. Then I lost him in the immensity of what I saw. I also lost myself, feeling that I wasan atom too small for the notice of Almighty God."I subjoin another similar case from Starbuck's collection:-"In that time the consciousness of God's nearness came to me sometimes. I say God, to describewhat is indescribable. A presence, I might say, yet that is too suggestive of personality, and themoments of which I speak did not hold the consciousness of a personality, but something in myselfmade me feel myself a part of something bigger than I, that was controlling. I felt myself one withthe grass, the trees, birds, insects, everything in Nature. I exulted in the mere fact of existence, ofbeing a part of it all--the drizzling rain, the shadows of the clouds, the tree-trunks, and so on. In theyears following, such moments continued to come, but I wanted them constantly. I knew so wellthe satisfaction of losing self in a perception of supreme power and love, that I was unhappybecause that perception was not constant." The cases quoted in my third lecture, pp. 65, 66, 69, arestill better ones of this type. In her essay, The Loss of Personality, in The Atlantic Monthly (vol.

lxxxv. p. 195), Miss Ethel D. Puffer explains that the vanishing of the sense of self, and the feelingof immediate unity with the object, is due to the disappearance, in these rapturous experiences, ofthe motor adjustments which habitually intermediate between the constant background ofconsciousness (which is the Self) and the object in the foreground, whatever it may be. I must referthe reader to the highly instructive article, which seems to me to throw light upon thepsychological conditions, though it fails to account for the rapture or the revelation-value of theexperience in the Subject's eyes.

"Shall I ever again have any of those prodigious reveries which sometimes came to me in formerdays? One day, in youth, at sunrise, sitting in the ruins of the castle of Faucigny; and again in themountains, under the noonday sun, above Lavey, lying at the foot of a tree and visited by threebutterflies; once more at night upon the shingly shore of the Northern Ocean, my back upon thesand and my vision ranging through the Milky Way;--such grand and spacious, immortal,cosmogonic reveries, when one reaches to the stars, when one owns the infinite! Moments divine,ecstatic hours; in which our thought flies from world to world, pierces the great enigma, breatheswith a respiration broad, tranquil, and deep as the respiration of the ocean, serene and limitless asthe blue firmament; . . . instants of irresistible intuition in which one feels one's self great as theuniverse, and calm as a god. . . . What hours, what memories! The vestiges they leave behind areenough to fill us with belief and enthusiasm, as if they were visits of the Holy Ghost."[238]

[238] Op cit., i. 43-44Here is a similar record from the memoirs of that interesting German idealist, Malwida vonMeysenbug:-"I was alone upon the seashore as all these thoughts flowed over me, liberating and reconciling;and now again, as once before in distant days in the Alps of Dauphine, I was impelled to kneeldown, this time before the illimitable ocean, symbol of the Infinite. I felt that I prayed as I hadnever prayed before, and knew now what prayer really is: to return from the solitude ofindividuation into the consciousness of unity with all that is, to kneel down as one that passesaway, and to rise up as one imperishable. Earth, heaven, and sea resounded as in one vast world-encircling harmony. It was as if the chorus of all the great who had ever lived were about me. I feltmyself one with them, and it appeared as if I heard their greeting: 'Thou too belongest to thecompany of those who overcome.'"[239]

[239] Memoiren einer Idealistin, Ste Auflage, 1900, iii. 166. For years she had been unable topray, owing to materialistic belief.

The well known passage from Walt Whitman is a classical expression of this sporadic type ofmystical experience.

"I believe in you, my Soul . . . Loaf with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat;. . .

Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice. I mind how once we lay, such a transparentsummer morning. Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all theargument of the earth, And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own, And I knowthat the spirit of God is the brother of my own, And that all the men ever born are also my brothersand the women my sisters and lovers, And that a kelson of the creation is love."[240]

[240] Whitman in another place expresses in a quieter way what was probably with him achronic mystical perception: "There is," he writes, "apart from mere intellect, in the make-up ofevery superior human identity, a wondrous something that realizes without argument, frequentlywithout what is called education (though I think it the goal and apex of all education deserving thename), an intuition of the absolute balance, in time and space, of the whole of this multifariousnessthis revel of fools, and incredible make-believe and general unsettiedness, we call THE WORLD;a soul-sight of that divine clue and unseen thread which holds the whole congeries of things, allhistory and time, and all events, however trivial, however momentous, like a leashed dog in thehand of the hunter. [Of] such soul-sight and root-centre for the mind mere optimism explains onlythe surface." Whitman charges it against Carlyle that he lacked this perception. Specimen Daysand Collect, Philadelphia, 1882, p. 174.

I could easily give more instances, but one will suffice. I take it from the Autobiography of J.


[241] My Quest for God, London, 1897, pp. 268, 269, abridged.

"One brilliant Sunday morning, my wife and boys went to the Unitarian Chapel in Macclesfield.

I felt it impossible to accompany them--as though to leave the sunshine on the hills, and go downthere to the chapel, would be for the time an act of spiritual suicide. And I felt such need for newinspiration and expansion in my life. So, very reluctantly and sadly, I left my wife and boys to godown into the town, while I went further up into the hills with my stick and my dog. In theloveliness of the morning, and the beauty of the hills and valleys, I soon lost my sense of sadnessand regret. For nearly an hour I walked along the road to the 'Cat and Fiddle,' and then returned.

On the way back, suddenly, without warning, I felt that I was in Heaven--an inward state of peaceand joy and assurance indescribably intense, accompanied with a sense of being bathed in a warmglow of light, as though the external condition had brought about the internal effect--a feeling ofhaving passed beyond the body, though the scene around me stood out more clearly and as ifnearer to me than before, by reason of the illumination in the midst of which I seemed to be placed.

This deep emotion lasted, though with decreasing strength, until I reached home, and for sometime after, only gradually passing away."The writer adds that having had further experiences of a similar sort, he now knows them well.

"The spiritual life," he writes, "justifies itself to those who live it; but what can we say to thosewho do not understand? This, at least, we can say, that it is a life whose experiences are provedreal to their possessor, because they remain with him when brought closest into contact with theobjective realities of life. Dreams cannot stand this test. We wake from them to find that they arebut dreams. Wanderings of an overwrought brain do not stand this test. These highest experiencesthat I have had of God's presence have been rare and brief--flashes of consciousness which havecompelled me to exclaim with surprise--God is HERE!--or conditions of exaltation and insight,less intense, and only gradually passing away. I have severely questioned the worth of thesemoments. To no soul have I named them, lest I should be building my life and work on merephantasies of the brain. But I find that, after every questioning and test, they stand out to-day as themost real experiences of my life, and experiences which have explained and justified and unifiedall past experiences and all past growth. Indeed, their reality and their far-reaching significance areever becoming more clear and evident. When they came, I was living the fullest, strongest, sanest,deepest life. I was not seeking them. What I was seeking, with resolute determination, was to livemore intensely my own life, as against what I knew would be the adverse judgment of the world. Itwas in the most real seasons that the Real Presence came, and I was aware that I was immersed inthe infinite ocean of God."[242]

[242] Op. cit., pp. 256, 257, abridged.

Even the least mystical of you must by this time be convinced of the existence of mysticalmoments as states of consciousness of an entirely specific quality, and of the deep impressionwhich they make on those who have them. A Canadian psychiatrist, Dr. R. M. Bucke, gives to themore distinctly characterized of these phenomena the name of cosmic consciousness. "Cosmicconsciousness in its more striking instances is not," Dr. Bucke says, "simply an expansion orextension of the self-conscious mind with which we are all familiar, but the superaddition of afunction as distinct from any possessed by the average man as SELF-consciousness is distinct fromany function possessed by one of the higher animals.""The prime characteristic of cosmic consciousness is a consciousness of the cosmos, that is, ofthe life and order of the universe. Along with the consciousness of the cosmos there occurs anintellectual enlightenment which alone would place the individual on a new plane of existence-wouldmake him almost a member of a new species. To this is added a state of moral exaltation, anindescribable feeling of elevation, elation, and joyousness, and a quickening of the moral sense,which is fully as striking, and more important than is the enhanced intellectual power. With thesecome what may be called a sense of immortality, a consciousness of eternal life, not a convictionthat he shall have this, but the consciousness that he has it already."[243]

[243] Cosmic Consciousness: a study in the evolution of the human Mind, Philadelphia, 1901, p.


It was Dr. Bucke's own experience of a typical onset of cosmic consciousness in his own personwhich led him to investigate it in others. He has printed his conclusions In a highly interestingvolume, from which I take the following account of what occurred to him:-"I had spent the evening in a great city, with two friends, reading and discussing poetry andphilosophy. We parted at midnight. I had a long drive in a hansom to my lodging. My mind,deeply under the influence of the ideas, images, and emotions called up by the reading and talk,was calm and peaceful. I was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment, not actually thinking,but letting ideas, images, and emotions flow of themselves, as it were, through my mind. All atonce, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped in a flame-colored cloud. For aninstant I thought of fire, an immense conflagration somewhere close by in that great city; the next,I knew that the fire was within myself. Directly afterward there came upon me a sense ofexultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectualillumination impossible to describe. Among other things, I did not merely come to believe, but Isaw that the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a living Presence; Ibecame conscious in myself of eternal life. It was not a conviction that I would have eternal life,but a consciousness that I possessed eternal life then; I saw that all men are immortal; that thecosmic order is such that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of eachand all; that the foundation principle of the world, of all the worlds, is what we call love, and thatthe happiness of each and all is in the long run <391> absolutely certain. The vision lasted a fewseconds and was gone; but the memory of it and the sense of the reality of what it taught hasremained during the quarter of a century which has since elapsed. I knew that what the visionshowed was true. I had attained to a point of view from which I saw that it must be true. That view,that conviction, I may say that consciousness, has never, even during periods of the deepestdepression, been lost."[244]

[244] Loc. cit., pp. 7, 8. My quotation follows the privately printed pamphlet which preceded Dr.

Bucke's larger work, and differs verbally a little from the text of the latter.

We have now seen enough of this cosmic or mystic consciousness, as it comes sporadically. Wemust next pass to its methodical cultivation as an element of the religious life. Hindus, Buddhists,Mohammedans, and Christians all have cultivated it methodically.

In India, training in mystical insight has been known from time immemorial under the name ofyoga. Yoga means the experimental union of the individual with the divine. It is based onpersevering exercise; and the diet, posture, breathing, intellectual concentration, and moraldiscipline vary slightly in the different systems which teach it. The yogi, or disciple, who has bythese means overcome the obscurations of his lower nature sufficiently, enters into the conditiontermed samadhi, "and comes face to face with facts which no instinct or reason can ever know."He learns-"That the mind itself has a higher state of existence, beyond reason, a superconscious state, andthat when the mind gets to that higher state, then this knowledge beyond reasoning comes. . . . Allthe different steps in yoga are intended to bring us scientifically to the superconscious state orSamadhi. . . . Just as unconscious work is beneath consciousness, so there is another work which isabove consciousness, and which, also, is not accompanied with the feeling of egoism . . . . There isno feeling of I, and yet the mind works, desireless, free from restlessness, objectless, bodiless.

Then the Truth shines in its full effulgence, and we know ourselves--for Samadhi lies potential inus all--for what we truly are, free, immortal, omnipotent, loosed from the finite, and its contrasts ofgood and evil altogether, and identical with the Atman or Universal Soul."[245]

[245] My quotations are from Vivekananda, Raja Yoga, London, 1896. The completest source ofinformation on Yoga is the work translated by Vihari Lala Mtra: Yoga Vasishta Maha Ramayana.

4 vols. Calcutta, 1891-99.

The Vedantists say that one may stumble into superconsciousness sporadically, without theprevious discipline, but it is then impure. Their test of its purity, like our test of religion's value, isempirical: its fruits must be good for life. When a man comes out of Samadhi, they assure us thathe remains "enlightened, a sage, a prophet, a saint, his whole character changed, his life changed,illumined."[246]

[246] A European witness, after carefully comparing the results of Yoga with those of thehypnotic or dreamy states artificially producible by us, says: "It makes of its true disciples good,healthy, and happy men. . . . Through the mastery which the yogi attains over his thoughts and hisbody, he grows into a 'character.' By the subjection of his impulses and propensities to his will, andthe fixing of the latter upon the ideal of goodness, he becomes a 'personality' hard to influence byothers, and thus almost the opposite of what we usually imagine a medium so-called, or psychicsubject to be. Karl Kellner: Yoga: Eine Skizze, Munchen, 1896, p. 21.

The Buddhists used the word "samadhi" as well as the Hindus; but "dhyana" is their special wordfor higher states of contemplation. There seem to be four stages recognized in dhyana. The firststage comes through concentration of the mind upon one point. It excludes desire, but notdiscernment or judgment: it is still intellectual. In the second stage the intellectual functions dropoff, and the satisfied sense of unity remains. In the third stage the satisfaction departs, andindifference begins, along with memory a self-consciousness. In the fourth stage the indifference,memory, and self-consciousness are perfected. [Just what "memory" and "self-consciousness"mean in this connection is doubtful. They cannot be the faculties familiar to us in the lower life.]

Higher stages still of contemplation are mentioned--a region where there exists nothing, and wherethe mediator says: "There exists absolutely nothing," and stops. Then he reaches another regionwhere he says: "There are neither ideas nor absence of ideas," and stops again. Then another regionwhere, "having reached the end of both idea and perception, he stops finally." This would seem tobe, not yet Nirvana, but as close an approach to it as this life affords.[247]

[247] I follow the account in C. F. Koeppen: Die Religion des Buddha, Berlin, 1857, i. 585 ff.

In the Mohammedan world the Sufi sect and various dervish bodies are the possessors of themystical tradition. The Sufis have existed in Persia from the earliest times, and as their pantheismis so at variance with the hot and rigid monotheism of the Arab mind, it has been suggested thatSufism must have been inoculated into Islam by Hindu influences. We Christians know little ofSufism, for its secrets are disclosed only to those initiated. To give its existence a certain livelinessin your minds, I will quote a Moslem document, and pass away from the subject.

Al-Ghazzali, a Persian philosopher and theologian, who flourished in the eleventh century, andranks as one of the greatest doctors of the Moslem church, has left us one of the fewautobiographies to be found outside of Christian literature. Strange that a species of book soabundant among ourselves should be so little represented elsewhere--the absence of strictlypersonal confessions is the chief difficulty to the purely literary student who would like to becomeacquainted with the inwardness of religions other than the Christian. M. Schmolders has translateda part of Al-Ghazzali's autobiography into French:[248]-[248] For a full account of him, see D. B. Macdonald: The Life Of Al-Ghazzali, in the Journal ofthe American Oriental Society, 1899, vol. xx., p. 71.

"The Science of the Sufis," says the Moslem author, "aims at detaching the heart from all that isnot God, and at giving to it for sole occupation the meditation of the divine being. Theory beingmore easy for me than practice, I read [certain books] until I understood all that can be learned bystudy and hearsay. Then I recognized that what pertains most exclusively to their method is justwhat no study can grasp, but only transport, ecstasy, and the transformation of the soul. How great,for example, is the difference between knowing the definitions of health, of satiety, with theircauses and conditions, and being really healthy or filled. How different to know in whatdrunkenness consists--as being a state occasioned by a vapor that rises from the stomach--andBEING drunk effectively. Without doubt, the drunken man knows neither the definition ofdrunkenness nor what makes it interesting for science. Being drunk, he knows nothing; whilst thephysician, although not drunk knows well in what drunkenness consists, and what are itspredisposing conditions. Similarly there is a difference between knowing the nature of abstinence,and BEING abstinent or having one's soul detached from the world.--Thus I had learned whatwords could teach of Sufism, but what was left could be learned neither by study nor through theears, but solely by giving one's self up to ecstasy and leading a pious life.

"Reflecting on my situation, I found myself tied down by a multitude of bonds--temptations onevery side. Considering my teaching, I found it was impure before God. I saw myself strugglingwith all my might to achieve glory and to spread my name. [Here follows an account of his sixmonths' hesitation to break away from the conditions of his life at Bagdad, at the end of which hefell ill with a paralysis of the tongue.] Then, feeling my own weakness, and having entirely givenup my own will, I repaired to God like a man in distress who has no more resources. He answered,as he answers the wretch who invokes him. My heart no longer felt any difficulty in renouncingglory, wealth, and my children. So I quitted Bagdad, and reserving from my fortune only what wasindispensable for my subsistence, I distributed the rest. I went to Syria, where I remained abouttwo years, with no other occupation than living in retreat and solitude, conquering my desires,combating my passions, training myself to purify my soul, to make my character perfect, toprepare my heart for meditating on God--all according to the methods of the Sufis, as I had read ofthem.

"This retreat only increased my desire to live in solitude, and to complete the purification of myheart and fit it for meditation. But the vicissitudes of the times, the affairs of the family, the needof subsistence, changed in some respects my primitive resolve, and interfered with my plans for apurely solitary life. I had never yet found myself completely in ecstasy, save in a few single hours;nevertheless, I kept the hope of attaining this state. Every time that the accidents led me astray, Isought to return; and in this situation I spent ten years. During this solitary state things wererevealed to me which it is impossible either to describe or to point out. I recognized for certain thatthe Sufis are assuredly walking in the path of God. Both in their acts and in their inaction, whetherinternal or external, they are illumined by the light which proceeds from the prophetic source. Thefirst condition for a Sufi is to purge his heart entirely of all that is not God. The next key of thecontemplative life consists in the humble prayers which escape from the fervent soul, and in themeditations on God in which the heart is swallowed up entirely. But in reality this is only thebeginning of the Sufi life, the end of Sufism being total absorption in God. The intuitions and allthat precede are, so to speak, only the threshold for those who enter. From the beginningrevelations take place in so flagrant a shape that the Sufis see before them, whilst wide awake, theangels and the souls of the prophets. They hear their voices and obtain their favors. Then thetransport rises from the perception of forms and figures to a degree which escapes all expression,and which no man may seek to give an account of without his words involving sin. "Whosoeverhas had no experience of the transport knows of the true nature of prophetism nothing but thename. He may meanwhile be sure of its existence, both by experience and by what he hears theSufis say. As there are men endowed only with the sensitive faculty who reject what is offeredthem in the way of objects of the pure understanding, so there are intellectual men who reject andavoid the things perceived by the prophetic faculty. A blind man can understand nothing of colorssave what he has learned by narration and hearsay. Yet God has brought prophetism near to men ingiving them all a state analogous to it in its principal characters. This state is sleep. If you were totell a man who was himself without experience of such a phenomenon that there are people who attimes swoon away so as to resemble dead men, and who [in dreams] yet perceive things that arehidden, he would deny it [and give his reasons]. Nevertheless, his arguments would be refuted byactual experience. Wherefore, just as the understanding is a stage of human life in which an eyeopens to discern various intellectual objects uncomprehended by sensation; just so in the propheticthe sight is illumined by a light which uncovers hidden things and objects which the intellect failsto reach. The chief properties of prophetism are perceptible only during the transport, by those whoembrace the Sufi life. The prophet is endowed with qualities to which you possess nothinganalogous, and which consequently you cannot possibly understand.

How should you know their true nature, since one knows only what one can comprehend? Butthe transport which one attains by the method of the Sufis is like an immediate perception, as ifone touched the objects with one's hand."[249]

[249] A. Schmolders: Essai sur les ecoles philosophiques chez les Arabes, Paris, 1842, pp. 54-68,abridged.


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