Mysticism, Sacred and Profane: An Inquiry into Some Varieties of Praeter-Natural Experience

Mysticism, Sacred and Profane: An Inquiry into Some Varieties of Praeter-Natural Experience

Mysticism, Sacred and Profane: An Inquiry into Some Varieties of Praeter-Natural Experience

Mysticism, Sacred and Profane: An Inquiry into Some Varieties of Praeter-Natural Experience

Excerpt

It should be said at the outset that this book owes its genesis to Mr. Aldous Huxley. Had The Doors of Perception never been published, it is extremely doubtful whether the present author would have been rash enough to enter the field of comparative mysticism. Mr. Huxley left us no choice. For however much we may be disposed to make allowances for enthusiastic exaggeration in Mr. Huxley's account of his experiences when under the influence of mescalin, we cannot escape the fact that there underlies Mr. Huxley's attitude to praeternatural experiences a conviction that they must all be basically the same and that what he experienced under mescalin can therefore be related to the highest concepts of religion which the mystic claims to realize at least in part. The Beatific Vision, Sac-cid-ānanda, the Dharma-Body of the Buddha, these tremendous words all became 'as evident as Euclid' to Mr. Huxley when under the influence of the drug.

In The Doors of Perception Mr. Huxley seemed to assume that praeternatural experiences, conveniently described by the all-embracing term 'mysticism', must all be the same in essence, no matter whether they be the result of intensive ascetic training, of a prolonged course of Yoga techniques, or simply of the taking of drugs. In making these assumptions, of course, Mr. Huxley was doing nothing new. We have been told ad nauseam that mysticism is the highest expression of religion and that it appears in all ages and in all places in a more or less identical form, often in a religious milieu that would seem to be the reverse of propitious. This view has recently been reaffirmed by Professor A. J. Arberry who writes: 'It has become a platitude to observe that mysticism is essentially one and the same, whatever may be the religion professed by the individual mystic: a constant and unvarying phenomenon of the universal yearning of the human spirit for personal communion with God.' Similarly Dr. Enid Starkie, in discussing Rimbaud's ecstasies, writes: 'In his experience of God Rimbaud reached, without orthodox beliefs, the stage which mystics seek to attain, where there is no longer possibility for belief or disbelief, for doubt or for reflection, but only pure sensation, ecstasy and union with the Almighty.' And again we are told: 'In Les Illuminations is found expressed, as nowhere else--except perhaps in the poems of Saint John of the Cross--man's . . .

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