Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Unusual Phenomena Associated with a Transcendent Human Experience: A Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Unusual Phenomena Associated with a Transcendent Human Experience: A Case Study

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: This case study, which incorporates one experiment and a naturalistic investigation, examines unusual phenomena associated with a transcendent human experience, in the broad category of near-death and nature mysticism type experiences. The human experience is documented predominantly through spoken normal recall, as well as written and clinical hypnosis descriptions of the event, medical records and eyewitness testimony. The unusual phenomena associated with this human experience include a crucifix-shaped natural formation and face-like structures appearing on a tree strongly associated with the human experience and pertaining to a specific geographical site connected with the human experience. A number of possible explanations for the finding are explored, including paranormal explanations and chance. The finding is deemed to provide some evidence suggestive of highly sophisticated intelligence in connection with the behaviour of living earth systems.

Transcendent experiences, also termed religious, mystical, peak or exceptional human experiences, are significant events within the broad philosophical traditions of humanity (Bucke, 1901; James, 1902; Maslow, 1969; Ouspensky, 1931; White, 1997). There is a voluminous literature in the arena of mysticism and transcendent experience, with considerable debate in recent times as to how such experiences are best studied and understood (Evans, 1989; Forman, 1999; Katz, 1978; Schuon, 1984; Stace, 1960). Definitions of mystical experience are wide-ranging but the most common characteristic features of such experiences are: (a) a sense of noesis, a strong sense of knowledge and significance associated with the experience, (b) a sense of ineffability, of the experience being beyond words, (c) the transient nature of such experiences, (d) the preponderance of feelings of unity and harmonious relationship to existence, nature or the divine, (e) loss of ego functioning, (f) alterations in space and time perception, and (g) a lack of control over the event.

Broadly, theoretical approaches to the study of mysticism range from perrenialist perspectives, which recognize the fundamental universality of the mystical experience as an event of pure consciousness (Huxley, 1945; Merrell- Wolff, 1973; Nasr, 1989; Wilber, 1995), to constructivist perspectives, which view such experiences as conditional on the conceptual and cultural context of the experience (Heim, 1995; Katz, 1978, 1983; Paden, 1992). In adopting a middle ground view (Forman, 1993, 1998), which recognizes the reality of an unmediated, pure consciousness event, that may then be interpreted or constructed in accordance with particular conceptual, linguistic or cultural frameworks, this author is of the view that each of these perspectives offers valuable insights into the study of mysticism and transcendent experience.

Mystical or transcendent experiences have been frequently reported in modern times (Hardy, 1979; Thomas & Cooper, 1980), often having considerable impact on the lives of those who experience them (Ahern, 1990; Sutherland, 1995). By far the most common and well-studied events in this broad category are near-death experiences (NDE's), which are reported by about 4% of the adult population (Gallup & Proctor, 1982; Knoblauch, Schmied & Schnettler, 2001) and have been interpreted according to various theoretical frameworks (Blanke, Ortigue, Landis & Seeck, 2001; Jansen, 1997; Moody, 1975; Ring, 1980; Van Lommel, Van Wees, Meyers & Elferrich, 2001). Other commonly reported experiences include accounts of greater love and insight, experiences of union with divinity or nature, psychic experiences and encounters with various forms of energy or intelligence. Such experiences can occur spontaneously, through trauma or injury, through the use of various psychoactive substances and within the context of spiritual or religious practices.

Among the challenges of research in this area, particularly in reference to the perspectives presented by subjects in their recollection of such events, is the highly subtle nature of transcendent experiences. …

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