The unsophisicated reaction to the terms, "mystic" or "mystical" brings images of anti-scientific, occult kooks, mediums, etc. Quite the contrary, we are here addressing a specific category of experience having nothing to do with the forementioned psuedo-occult phenonea.
Aside from anthropomorphic idols and personified images of deities, there exists a rare but ageless, universal experience of the divine that goes beyond all words or images. Because the core of this experience exists in all human eras and cultures, it cannot be said to be a conditioned product of any one culture or time. For once we penetrate the thin veneer of cultural myth, common aspects of this experience emerge in those who had it:
* An experience of being enveloped in radiant light.
*A timeless feeling of eternity, of being removed from time and space.
*A feeling of harmony and unity with nature and the cosmos.
* Experiencing oneness with the Divine.
* A noetic certainty of cosmic purpose that goes beyond all words and images.
*The feeling that mundane reality is illusory compared to this true Reality now.
Though few have undergone this extrodinary experience, it can be triggered by being enrapt in the beauty of nature, or an ecstatic moment in music, or intensive religious rites, or fasting and acetic practices. However, optimal life-changing beneficence can be attained only through years of self discipline.
If the core of such experience is not entirely a product of cultural conditioning or of the particular times, might we not still consider it a rare form of species-specific psychosis? Agreed upon symptoms of psychosis include: hallucinations, delusions, loss of self control, incomprehensible communication, and behavior that is consistently maladaptive, or self destructive.
Let us briefly examine the lives of some known mystics to see if they had the symptoms mentioned above. St. Teresa of Avila, a 16th century nun, was said to be practical, industrious, humorous, and attractive. She journeyed far to found many convents. She left five volumes of books and letters standing high in the literature of mysticism.
Teresa's comtemporary mystic, St. John of the Cross, was also a prolific writer of note. He was of keen intellect and considered among the greatest poets of Spain. Earlier on, the 13th century mystic, Meister Eckhart, was another brilliant thinker who left voluminous writings significant to scholars today.
Eckhart's teachings are thought coincidentally similar to the 9th century Hindu mystic, Sankara. Sankara was a prodigy who left home at an early age, and before his death at age 32 had spread his now famous teachings throughout most of India.
None of the sample mentioned hallucinated or wrote of personified deities. And each exhibited extrodinary self discipline and control. They were excellent communicators, and their lifestyles were that of personal growth and benevolence to others. These are in fact the opposites of the psychotic behaviors mentioned above. If there are psychotic mystics, the forementioned examples show they don't have to be.
Then, aside from otherwise exemplary behavior, perhaps just the ecstatic experience in itself is a seizure-like psychotic episode for the few moments contact with reality is lost. This question brings up an even bigger question: Is true reality really lost during the intensive mystical experience? Or is a more truthful reality - a noumenon beyond our unaided senses and reason - being revealed? Let's examine this question more deeply.
THE NATURE OF REALITY:
Galileo was the first scientist to reveal the illusion of such "secondary qualities" as color, sound, taste, smell, heat, and cold. He stated these sensations exist only within our senses and not outside ourselves. Animals with other sensory hookups will sense these qualities differently - often more accurately. He also spoke of more stable "primary qualities" - e. g. extension, solidity, motion and number.
With today's scientific instruments to extend and amplify our senses we know color outside our eyes and brains mainfests only in different electromagnetic wave frequencies; and visible light itself covers only a narow spectrum of electromagnetism per se. We know sound outside our ears is really different vibrations of air. Taste and smell are but the textures of molecules. And heat and cold are but the sensations of different molecular frequencies.
In the light of today's science, what now is the status of Galileo's "primary qualities?" Solidity is relative to temperature and can become liquid or gaseous according to the object's melting point. And even the most "solid" object is composed of charged particles floating in electrostatic space. Aso, an object's seemingly stable extension in Euclidian geometry can be seen in Non-Euclidian terms as stretching or shrinking relative to its speed or mass in the universe.
Moreover, according to Godel even the numbers of mathematics are not ultimately accurate. According to Einstein even time and space are relative. And quantum theories reveal the very stuff of reality as charges and ripples in multidimensional space.
THE MISTICAL EXPERIENCE REVISITED:
Now that we glimpsed the reality beyond our unaided senses and reason, we find the mystical experience may not have lost touch with true reality after all. The mystic often experiences light - the purest form of energy. Unlike our mundane sense of reality the mystical experience exists outside relative space/time to perhaps glimpse eternity. No wonder "normal " reality then seems illusory.
So what now of the truths that go beyond words and images? Science has abandoned three-dimensional models and now explains the ultimate realities of the micro- and macro-cosmos and invisible forces in equations that connot be put into words. So even objectively there are no ultimate words or images.
And what of the feeling of harmony, oneness, and unity? Physicists are now strongly on the trail of the grand unified theory of everything - the ultimate equation that will unite relativity and quantum theories and cover all nature's forces as one unified whole. And we are part of that whole, emerging from the same energy ground, made of the same sub-particles and stardust, genetically and ecologically tied to it all .
So the tie-in of the most profound subjective experience with the most far reaching objective knowledge may be more than anological. It may be homological since we are an intergal part of that whole. There may be rare times when the human being can actually experience his or her source of being. Subject and object may, in their ultimacy, be but two sides to the same door....