“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion“. (Dalai Lama)
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” (John Muir)
“The deepest level of truth uncovered by science, & by philosophy, is the fundamental truth of unity. At that deepest subnuclear level of our reality, you & I are literally one.” (John Hagelin)
In a paper I am currently writing on the limits of material reductionist science as the only mode to approach studies of consciousness, I am focusing on the need for, and value of, investigating mystical experiences. Not only as an additional source of knowledge and understanding of consciousness, but more for the transformational and humanitarian effect of these experiences.
So what exactly is a mystical experience? Well according to Wikipedia they are closely related to mysticism but emphasizes the role of the experience itself which is one of a brief, spontaneous moment of ecstasy, or an altered state of transcendent consciousness experienced as an insight into an ultimate reality often described as a feeling of unity or interconnectedness with all things and all life. These mystical experiences are often ascribed religious or spiritual meaning and have a transformational effect on those who experience them.
The most fundamental aspect of the mystical experience is the deep, profound sense of fundamental unity. A sense of interconnectedness. In Buddhism this is known as dependant origination which is translated from the Sanskrit word Pratītyasamutpāda. Most, if not all of the Eastern non-theistic spiritual and religions traditions emphasize this Fundamental Truth of Unity which also happens to be supported by many areas of science including quantum physics (Niels Bohr, David Bohm, Nicholas Tesla, John Hagelin, Einstein and many others).
The separation, the “reality” we all see and experience in our daily lives is an ILLUSION which Einstein pointed out when he said “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” (Einstein)
And as I state in a short bio on my blog…
“Among other things, I believe that our seemingly obvious and self-evident experience of separateness or individuality is a pervasive form of collective human psychosis and mass delusion. Our perceived separateness from others, is an illusion and the basis of many of man’s individual and collective problems. The single most important message from most of the world’s spiritual, philosophical and even scientific traditions is one of UNITY. We are all truly a global and Universal community of One. We are all interconnected and the logical, psychological and behavioural result of such a realization is compassion. Our future may depend on us realizing, thinking, acting, communicating and relating to our fellow human beings and all life, with this as our guiding principle. ” (Johnny Stork’s Blog)
The point I am arguing for in the paper is that once someone has a mystical experience there is no turning back psychologically. You know longer see or experience the word the same way. You no longer accept the illusion of separateness and the realization of your interconnectedness transforms how you view yourself in the world and how you relate to others.
When you KNOW at the deepest level of your being you are FUNDAMENTALLY CONNECTED to everything and everyone else, how can you ever harm another? How can you offend, abuse, exploit, insult, judge or cause any harm or distress to anyone or any living thing? You cannot because you KNOW that what you do to others you are also doing to yourself.
Behaviourally and psychologically the end result of such a realization of unity is compassion – you “feel” the suffering of others and you desire to relieve them of that suffering. You act to relieve them of their suffering and since you KNOW you are fundamentally connected, you are acting to relieve suffering in yourself.
Imagine a world where we all knew this Fundamental Truth of unity where we all acted compassionately towards others? This is my argument in the paper. It is also the root of the humanitarian African philosophy known as Ubuntu – “I am because you are” or “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity“.
Studying the neurological, psychological, behavioural and most importantly the phenomenology (personal experience) of the mystical experience not only sheds light on the study of consciousness from the perspective of material science, but also sheds light on one of the most significant transpersonal and transformational experiences we can have as conscious beings and which fundamentally changes how we related to others in the world in a very positive way.
Is this not a good thing? Wouldn’t we all benefit as a species if more of us had the capacity for mystical experiences and if science shed more light on the mechanics, the neurology and most importantly the transformational, transpersonal, psychological and behavioral effects uf such experiences? Wouldn’t we have a better chance of surviving on this planet and living in harmony if we all had Ubuntu? I think so but of course don’t take my word for it as the Dude stated so succinctly in The Big Lebowski – “Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man” (Jeff Lebowski – The Big Lebowski)
“The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religion.” (Albert Einstein)