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How to determine the reality of mystical experiences?

  1. Jan 14, 2006 #1
    Here is a video about mystical experiences(near death experiences, meditation experiences, religious experiences, epilepsy, etc.) their relation with the brain and reality:


    Plz watch it all, but if u cant be bothered, then fast forward to 25.00 minutes and watch the part where they discuss whether these experiences are real.

    My question is:
    What do you think is the best way to determine the reality of these mystical experiences?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 14, 2006 #2
    what do you mean by "the reality of"?
  4. Jan 14, 2006 #3

    Les Sleeth

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    Very interesting interview. Thank you for posting it.

    That's a tough question to answer. To decide what is real is to say what one knows, so it is an epistomological question . . . how do we know if we know? I typically answer that knowing is not really some absolute thing, but is rather a sense of certainty.

    In humans, one's sense of certainty is strengthened by repeated experience. If I see a pink car drive by with a group of singing pygmies juggling machetes only once, then I would probably find it difficult to feel that I "know" I saw that. But each day they drive by again deepens my conviction that I really am seeing a car full of juggling pygmies.

    Because consciousness is so susceptible to conditioning and self-deception, we've developed a check system that requires the observation of others. That's a good thing for all that which can be observed by everyone who wants to look.

    But just because some come to believe nothing is real except what can be externalized/objectified for observation by the masses doesn't mean everything that is real can be externalized/objectified. On the other hand, just because something can't be externalized/objectified, it doesn't mean we can't still apply the rule of developing our sense of certainty through repeated experience.

    If we take seriously Newberg's statement that the mystical experience is consistantly reported as more real than everyday experience, and that people long after the experience continue to believe it was more real, then it give us reason to consider that an "inner" experience can give one a peek at another aspect of reality, one not available to normal sense-bound perception.

    So to answer your question, I say the only way to determine if the mystical experience is real is to learn how to achieve it and then practice experiencing it until certainty is realized.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2006
  5. Jan 15, 2006 #4
    I knew someone would say that :biggrin:

    I meant in what sense these experiences are real. Are they just creations of the imagination, or are they glimpses of a deeper level of reality that we dont have acces to in everyday life, or something else. How can we best find this out?
  6. Jan 15, 2006 #5
    Its certainly true, people who have such experiences for just a few seconds can have the rest of their lives changed by them. Unfortunately i havent had one myself, but they must be very powerful and i always wonder why that is.

    I agree.
  7. Jan 21, 2006 #6


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    I'm not sure there really is a way to determine the reality of these experiences. That is to say, I'm not sure there is a way to determine if such experiences are purely mental constructions (like a hallucination or visual illusion), or whether they correspond to something that exists independent of the experience of it (like a normal, waking, everyday visual experience of a building, say).

    Newberg mentions the experiential sense of reality as being one criterion for judging the reality of a perception. I cannot put any great faith into this criterion. The sense of reality an experience bears may be useful for making reality judgments in everday life in ecologically valid situations, but only as a heuristic. Sense of reality itself is a mental construct, and can be generated even when the experience with which it is associated is, in fact, not real (e.g. the Son of Sam example).

    Because "sense of reality" is dissociable from "actual reality," the former cannot be trusted as a hard and fast indicator of the latter. This is especially true in situations where brain function is markedly different from normal, everyday brain activity, such as mental illness and drug use. This is not surprising-- sense of reality, like many other perceptions, is just a useful heuristic generated by the brain and valid across most normal ("ecologically valid") situations. Evolutionarily speaking, this makes perfect sense-- in order to assist our survival, our sense of reality need only be a useful and accurate guide for us in those situations our ancestors were historically most likely to find themselves in. It need not be an exhaustive and perfect indicator in order to do its job well enough to help us survive and reproduce, and thus be passed down along the generations.

    It is worth noting then that the brain signatures of experienced meditators are discernably different from those of the average human. Furthermore, the dedicated practice of meditation that induces these different brain signatures is not "ecologically valid" to the extent that it is a highly controlled process that most people do not undergo in their day to day lives. As such, for the reasons outlined above, we must come to doubt even more the utility of using "sense of reality" judgments in meditative experiences to tell us something about "actual reality," independent from the mind/consciousness of the meditator who is undergoing the experience. There does not seem to be much reason to suspect that the utility of the "sense of reality" experience generalizes to the mystical experience, and there does seem to be some reason to doubt it.

    An analogy might be helpful. Many visual illusions occur as a result of the failure of some kinds of 'assumptions' the visual system in our brains make about the way the world typically works. These assumptions serve as heuristics for evaluating the world, and they work very well in just those situations in which the average human typically finds himself. However, they sometimes fail in unusual ("ecologically invalid") situations, simply because the very unusualness of the situation itself entails that we didn't need to be able to judge these situations accurately in order to survive and reproduce. In these unusual situations, our visual systems' 'assumptions' about the way the world is break down, and thus lead to incorrect judgments. For instance, see this illusion.

    Things to notice: (1) our visual judgment about this figure is false; (2) our judgment fails here because this is an unusual figure, the likes of which we usually do not come across, and thus we have not evolved in such a way that we can judge it accurately; (3) nonetheless, the illusion is very compelling; (4) if you were to show this illusion to millions of humans around the world, doubtlessly they would all succumb to it and judge the top square to be darker than the bottom one.

    Applying this to the mystical experience, we see that unusual situations can readily lead to false judgments, and dedicated meditation is an unusual (at least, not a typical or universal) human activity; that compelling judgments (like the strong "sense of reality" judgment for mystical experience) can easily be false, so the degree to which an experience is compelling is not a hard and fast indicator to the degree to which it is true (especially in unusual conditions); and that reproducing compelling judgments across a wide number of people is still no guarantee that those compelling judgments are true, especially for unusual conditions.

    The one direct parallel we are missing is with (1), the actual falsity of the judgment. In the case of this visual illusion, we can demonstrate to ourselves that our visual judgments are false simply by manipulating the manner in which the figure is presented to us. I do not see how the mystical experience could be manipulated in some way or another to demonstrate either its truth or its falsity. Nor can we appeal to concensus judgments to decide the truth or falsity of the experience's reality, for the reasons outlined above.

    So it seems to me that we really have no way to judge whether mystical experiences are purely constructs of the mind, or whether they correspond to something that exists independent of the mind. But we do have good reason to be skeptical of any claims that are made for their veridicality, and (perhaps less so) we also have reason to be skeptical of any claims made against their veridicality. If the null hypothesis is that the mystical experience is not veridical (does not correspond to some fact of reality independent from the mind itself), there does not seem to be good reason for rejecting it, even if one has the experience oneself.
  8. Jan 22, 2006 #7
    What you say here is true, but it is true of any and all experiences that we may have mystical or everyday waking experiences. There is simply no way to tell except by further examination and testing, just as your example of optical illusions.

    One test is, is the experience and observation self-consistent over time and circumstances.

    Another test is, is it verifiable, can it be repeated by ourselves and others.

    A third test, which I think is the clincher, is, Does or can the experience give us new information or knowledge which we had no way of knowing before the experience AND is that information or knowledge consistent and logical with what we already know. Is this knowledge verifiable itself?

    These tests are applicable to sensory inputs as well as mystical inputs.
    If reality, physical or subjective, can be verified at all, by any means, then it doesn't matter what the source or system used to gain or have the experience and make the observation.
  9. Jan 22, 2006 #8
    I remember a few times in my life, and it's only happened when I was playing sports, I was in a state commonly referred to as "in the zone". If you ever had this experience yourself, you will understand my point. I have never claimed it was a religious phenomenon, but to me it was mystical. To me, I was having some sort of unexplainable ability to basically play at a higher level of consciousness. (Like the basketball hoop appeared larger than it actually was, and the ball was smaller). I could not miss. Reflecting on it now I can't think of any important reason why, at those moments, it happened. It was never a game on the line, clutch performance. But to me the experience was unexplainable, but it was a phenomena that was witnessed by other people. As they would not be able to testify to what went on in my head, they could testify that I never showed that ability before and, during that time, I could not miss. I know other athletes have claimed having similar experiences. Now do we just chock it up to good luck, since I wasn't undergoing a brain scan at the time? Take my word for it, ask anyone who knows me, I suck at basketball. This might be an example of a verifiable mystical experience.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2006
  10. Jan 22, 2006 #9
    Is it known which part of the brain produces a sense of reality?

    Isnt that the 'perception of reality', and not our 'sense of reality'? For instance suppose our ancestors had to survive and reproduce and they came across something that they didnt need for this objective... i dont think they would have felt that that something wasnt real or less real than the things they did need for survival(food). We dont have such experiences now either, where we observe one part of the world as real and another (evolutionary useless) part as dreamlike unreal.

    In the video it sort of mentioned these 3 levels of realness that can be experienced:
    -not real (dreams)
    -real (waking consciousness)
    -super real (mystical experiences)

    What would be the evolutionary reason for each of these?
    Or for any difference at all in experienced realness?

    Also when u look at dreams, u dont feel that they are 'unreal' while u are having them. That feeling comes only after u wake up and 'know' that it wasnt real. Similarly when u watch a fictional TV show u also know that it isnt real. So this sense of reality comes from some kind of knowledge rather than a feeling.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2006
  11. Jan 23, 2006 #10


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    I don't think that these tests establish the "reality" of the phenomenon. It could be that we, humans, are all wired-up in a similar way. Imagine that, by drinking 20 beers, we all see pink elephants appear. This is repeatable and verifiable. That doesn't establish the reality of the pink elephants, it just means that a certain amount of alcohol makes us see pink elephants and that this is a repeatable property of the structure of our brain under alcohol impregnation.

    I think that this is indeed an indication. I regularly get publicity for a medium in my post box, and I have to resist the temptation to write down 20 random numbers of 30 digits each on small pieces of paper, put them each in an enveloppe, and then go and see Doctor Mombo or what's his name, and ask him to write the numbers on the backs of the (closed) enveloppes. If he correctly predicts each of them, I might be convinced that his abilities are "for real".
  12. Jan 23, 2006 #11

    Les Sleeth

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    I would agree with you that there may be no way to know if one's interpretation of an experience is accurate, and I am totally convinced there is no way to prove anything to others. However, I also think you have to keep in mind that you are guessing about what the experience teaches one. From your perspective, all sorts of things are possible, but that is not the case with an experienced meditator. With enough experience certain possibilities are eliminated. For example, there is a quality to hallucination (having done so many times, I know) that I can contrast to my normal conscious state. And in terms of a mental construct, that is not what the experience is like (I know because I am regularly mental).

    The deepest experience is a new species of experience, so a big problem I have trying to explain the nature of my experience is that people have little in the way of a similar experience which they can rely on to understand me. It's all Greek to them, which allows them to speculate all sorts of stuff, while for me I am limited by what I've learned.

    You know, it doesn't matter to me really if the "mystical" experience is that of God or not. The main reason I practice is for how the experience opens my consciousness, and the happiness and peace it gives. Opening my consciousness was the main reason I became interested in meditating. I used to rely on peyote for that opening when I was younger, but meditation (at least the kind I do) it has far surpassed any potential I'd imagined for opening consciousness. That expanded experience, repeated often enough, gets bigger and bigger; further, it lasts longer and longer. Over time, some expansion remains, and that "permanent" expansion also continues to grow.

    Now, how does one try to describe what things look like from the "expanded" experience to a consciousness that is still relatively constricted? To that constricted consciousness, everything appears tiny, and often their focus is on minutia. But for me, the more I've been opened up, the more I focus on the big picture. So too often conversations with people speculating on the "mystical" experience turns into a frustrating exercise of me saying "look big" while they demand reductionist or rationalistic details. It's hopeless IMO unless someone acquires their own opening experiences.

    Well, if you are going to say "we" (I assume meaning, outside observers) have reason to be skeptical of "any" claims, then I might agree since the inexperienced and observing "we" is guessing. However, I am not guessing about "any" claims. Some claims, possiby, but "any" claims, no.
  13. Jan 23, 2006 #12


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    I'm not aware of any studies that have been conducted that have looked specifically at "sense of reality" feelings/judgments, though it would be a very interesting line of research.

    I don't know if there's a meaningful distinction to make between those two terms.

    True. I may have overstated my case in speculating about some evolutionary utility for 'sense of reality' judgments. Certainly these types of feelings are typically not very fluid or input-dependent. Rather, they tend to change only as a function of gross differences in brain function.

    But if one's 'sense of reality' is really more inert and relatively less useful in this way, the evolutionary argument implies that we should not have great faith in its utility as an indicator of actual reality. If there was no evolutionary forge that could sharpen and fine-tune 'sense of reality' judgments such that they faithfully co-vary along with the actual veridicality of one's perceptions or thoughts, we seem to have little to no reason to believe that 'sense of reality,' in and of itself, really does tell us much about 'actual reality.'

    Note also that, if anything, it makes most sense for our sense of reality to have a heavy liberal bias. For the average person, in the majority of settings one is likely to come across, the perceptual system does quite a good job at depicting the world. It is rare for one to experience illusions, whether by a failure in the mechanics and computations of a normally functioning perceptual system (e.g. in a typical visual illusion), or because of a gross change in brain function (e.g. ingestion of a hallucinogen), etc. Even those illusions that do occur tend to be relatively innocuous-- e.g., even if one were on a hallucinogen, it would be quite rare to have a stable visual experience of a bridge over a chasm where, in fact, no bridge existed. So there is relatively little harm in judging the illusions we typically experience in waking life to be veridical.

    The only time one typically massively hallucinate things that have no immediate basis in the external world is during dreams. But, of course, there is no potential danger in mistakenly believing dreams to be real.

    On the other hand, great harm would be more likely if one mistakenly believed a veridical percept to be illusory. If I think that tiger running after me is just a figment of my imagination-- or even if I merely have second-thoughts about whether it's real or not for a split-second-- I'm in trouble.

    So, evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense that there should be a heavy liberal bias in creating reality judgments. The costs of judging typical illusions to be real are relatively small, whereas the costs of judging typical veridical percepts to be illusory are relatively large.

    Putting that together, it seems that our 'sense of reality' judgments may be biased (tending to make one kind of judgment over another) and have low discriminatory power (being relatively unresponsive to actual changes in that which they 'measure'). Certainly, they seem to be better characterized as "useful heuristics/motivators for guiding advantageous behavior" than as "fine-honed tools for making accurate judgments across most or all cases."

    The advantage to experiencing waking consciousness as real is that (1) typically, our waking perceptions are indeed veridical, and (2) it might be that experiencing the world as "not real" has some undesirable or strange effect on one's motivations and actions.

    There is no obvious evolutionary advantange conferred from experiencing dreams as real or unreal, or from experiencing mystical experiences as hyper-real. It seems likely to me that the variations in one's sense of reality in these scenarios is not an accurate indicator of their actual reality, but rather is more of an accidental by-product of gross changes in brain function.

    By way of analogy, in everyday waking life the degree to which one experiences one's vision to be accute or vivid may accurately track actual visual acuity. There are clear advantages for being able to have a diagnostic sense of how good one's vision is in such cases. Now, note that for many people the visual experience during dreaming seems less accute or vivid than normal, whereas the visual experience during a psychedelic trip seems more accute or vivid than normal. In these two cases, the sense one has of the accuteness or vividness of vision does not necessarily indicate anything useful or veridical or have any clear purpose; rather, the mechanism behind this visual sense/judgment has just been manipulated by more widespread changes in brain function. The normal meaning one might derive from this sense is not applicable in these cases due to a very different context.

    One's sense of reality may be crucially informed by propositional knowledge, both conscious and perhaps unconscious as well. This does not change the fact that the 'sense of reality' we're talking about is very much a feeling. Nor does it imply that this feeling is only informed by propositional knowledge.

    For instance, consider familiarity. The sense of familiarity one has with a given person, place, or thing is very much a feeling (albeit subtle in most cases). This feeling can be influenced by propositional knowledge-- for instance, you might only feel familiar with someone after having been reminded of a previous meeting. Nonetheless, the feeling of familiarity is not driven only by knowledge-- it can in fact be generated by apparently meaningless brain activity, such as when an episode of epilepsy causes feelings of deja vu.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2006
  14. Jan 23, 2006 #13
    All I know is that I KNOW. I have verified it over and over again by verifying what I learn and seeing the results of what I have learned about myself. I have changed. My life has changed. I know that which I did not before and had no way of learning other than through meditation.

    I have seen it in others (my wife meditated for quite a while) and I have read and heard about it from many others.

    I have while meditating asked a question and received an answer with deep understanding that I was able to later verify as true.

    I can not prove it to you or anybody else who has never meditated. I don't have to prove it to anyone who has meditated. They too KNOW.
  15. Jan 23, 2006 #14


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    That's just not a good argument, Royce. One could look at the figure I linked to and say they KNOW the top square is darker than the bottom-- until the illusion is revealed to them and they are shown to be wrong. Again, that's not to say that mystical experiences are illusions-- it's only to say that the degree to which they are compelling is no sure indicator that they tell us something about the world.

    And just to be perfectly clear-- I do not contest that mystical experiences occur, or that they can be invaluable on a personal level, or that they can tell us an awful lot of novel things about the mind and modes of consciousness. But when it comes to the further question of whether they accurately represent something about the external world, there is plenty of room for skepticism. The degree to which it seems compelling that these experiences really do tell us some deep truth about the world is no counterargument to what I've stated.
  16. Jan 24, 2006 #15

    I don't think it's really fair to put yourself in that kind of position.
    Where you assume everyone who doesn't meditate or are "opened" are somehow "dumber" or more narrowminded than you.
    I have never meditated in my life, and you will probably automatically put me in the "them" category in your mind from reading that.
    I don't blame you for it, we all do that, but the thing that bothers me is that you say people can't be openminded and think of the "big picture" withotu meditating.

    And if you ARE saying that we can do that without meditating, then what's the point of doing it?

    I don't think this has to do with meditation or mystical experiences at all.
    I think this has to do with something you have created in your mind, something in your childhood perhaps, something to make you think that there is a mystical world out there, when there really isn't.
    And so you put yourself in another position, you seperate yourself from the common human, to acheive this mental state that doesn't really exist.

    I think to answer the validity of mystical experiences, we must not go through scientific experiments, spiritual meditation or any of that, we need to dig deep into the psyche of the people who have this experience, and then find out what causes them.

    What Les Sleeth has been saying also, is that "I can't explain or tell you how to do it, you have to do it yourself" is analogous to "there's an invisible elephant over your head, but you can't see it."
    There's absolutely no evidence to show that there is an elephant over my head, just as there is no indication that Les Sleeth is more open minded than many people.

    Lastly, there is an empirical difference between a mental state created in the mind, and a mental state created by outside influence.
    Saying that they are two and the same doesn't work, because then many people wouldn't agree on it to be the same.
    So you may say "but we can't prove that the others see what I see."
    And that is correct, but it doesn't prove anything.
    You can't prove that what they are seeing IS different, so assuming either one as true is false by default.

    I believe that open mindedness and self control comes from learning things. Not from meditation.
    When we become open minded we become mature, we learn to seperate the things that matter, from the ones that don't.
    We learn through reptition, the things that are important to us, like taking care of your loved ones, while others learn through repitition that their loved ones will hurt them, so they are mean to people they meet.

    What is my point?
    There is no "open mindedness".
    Each perception in this world is as unique as it is valid.
    Each perception is created through painstaking repitition and tasks, learned via experiences and thoughts we have in our real life.
    Who's to say one life experience outweighs another?
    So then how can you say that you see the bigger picture, while us lowlifes see nothing but details and the immediate future in front of us.
    It's not fair.
  17. Jan 24, 2006 #16
    I agree with everything that you write here and, in fact in moments or rationality I have told myself the same thing but not so eloquently.

    My last post was meant as an observation not an argument.

    "...accurately represent something about the external world," This quote is, I think, where many people have trouble with meditation. It is not about the external; world. It's all about the internal world of our minds, hearts and souls. The only aspect of it that has any claim to reality outside of my mind is that it is virtually universally consistent over many cultures and ages by many different people. I find it impossible to believe that self induced hallucinations and/or delusions would be so consistent over such a wide range.
  18. Jan 30, 2006 #17
    Anything that affects human behavior is 'real'. Every human being is part of the 'external world' and every thought or imagination requires electrochemical activity. Everything is REAL except for empty space - if there is such a thing.
  19. Mar 1, 2006 #18

    Les Sleeth

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    Where did I say anything about dumber? Let me ask you, if you lift weights every day for 30 plus years, do you think someone who never has can give you lessons about lifting weights? Do yo think they will be able to keep up with you in a workout? What kind of moron would you be to lift weights for 30 years and not learn more than someone who has never practiced?

    Similarly, meditation develops a certain kind of "muscle" that cannot be developed without training. Only huge, self-absorbed egos think they are just as accomplished without training as someone is who has dedicated their life to learning something.

    I did not say that. But think about it. IF there is a variety of mediation which can open the mind, and IF someone practices EVERY SINGLE DAY, then after some period of time it only makes sense that the serious practitioner will learn things about and realize a level of openness that the casually-interested person will not.

    Besides, my judgement isn't the result of something "automatic" at all. It is the result of originally believing everyone could see the big thing just a well as me, and then constantly being frustrated they lacked the skills to see like that. Only after years of trying did I finally decide the unpracticed mind simply cannot see like the practiced mind. There is no belittling judgement there, it's just the reality of practice versus not practicing.

    ? I haven't said anything of the sort. I am saying you can't do it without meditation (or certain drugs, but the drug thing is mostly temporary). Medidtation IS opening!!!!! Do you get it? All union meditation is is practicing a very, very serious type of opening up.

    All speculation. Geez, I can speculate you are a Martian. Where's your evidence.

    Don't put words in my mouth. I did not say I couldn't tell you how to do it. I said that to know the inner experience you have to practice and experience for yourself. If you have never tasted a peach, can you have me eat one for you and then say you "know" what a peach tastes like from merely listening to my description (i.e., without your own experience)? It is ridiculous to think you can know anything without experiencing it for yourself.

    So please, understand what you are talking about before acting like I said something I didn't, and then mounting some big apologetic refuting points I never said or meant.

    Why not just be honest and admit you don't know what the heck you are talking about since you have never practiced meditation? Why are you throwing around all this speculative crap? And CRAP is exactly what it is since you are doing nothing more than talking in the dark.

    More speculative crap. Give us an opinion based your personal experiences.

    Each perception may be unique, but each isn't necessarily valid (e.g., hallucinations).

    No, perception is instant . . . good interpretation may require painstaking repetition. But what has this to do with practicing being open?

    Oh really? Will you allow an untrained person to remove a brain tumor from your head? How can it be that proper training and practice mean nothing to development and competence? You just don't want to allow or admit that someone might be able to develop their openness far beyond what you are capable of without practice.

    What does fairness have to do with it? Is it fair that my friends started practicing racquetball when they were kids, some of them were taught by great players, and now when I get on the court with them they kick my ass? Is the issue fairness? Or is it just the reality of what practicing solid principles can achieve?
  20. Mar 5, 2006 #19
    I couldn't play the video. Maybe you can tell me what software I need to play it.

    In lieu of that, I have a question and some comments on your question.

    My question is, in what sense is an epileptic seizure a mystical experience? Mysterious certainly ... but mystical ?

    To comment on your question, I think that perhaps the only way to determine the reality of a mystical experience is to have one. People who report having religious epiphanies or near death experiences could be lying. How to tell for sure if they are or aren't? I don't know.

    But lets assume that these experiences are really being experienced by the people who say they are experiencing them. Presumably, in order to have a near death experience one must be near death, or actually be technically dead for a while. Afaik, the reports of these experiences are characterized by certain perceptions of the experiencer that are common to all such reports --- and, also afaik, these perceptual phenomena have a rather mundane physical explanation.

    Continuing with religious epiphanies, it would be difficult to understand exactly what the experiencer of such an experience is experiencing unless one were actually a religious zealot who, for example, might be brought to a state of exquisite, tearful rapture on noticing that the face of the Virgin Mary was reproduced on the outer surface of the grilled cheese sandwich she just made. No matter that there is no evidence wrt what the holy Mary actually looked like (or if she was actually a virgin for that matter), and no matter that the configuration on the charred bread looks like Linda Ronstadt to most non-Christians (it's something of a Rorschach thing). To the believer it is, I have no doubt at all, quite real and quite moving --- which makes religious zeal of any sort a very scary and dangerous practice imho.

    Meditation seems to be in a different class than religious or near death experiences. I think that the nearest most of us get to a meditative state is some approximation of what one poster referred to as "being in the zone". For him it happened occasionally while playing basketball. For me, it's with music. Sometimes, when the circumstances are just so, I get caught up in the music, in the moment so to speak, in a way that's indescribable and essentially, for me anyway, unrepeatable. I'm certainly not thinking about what I'm playing, or even the music itself, while in this state. There's no me (or I) involved ... just this flow that has a life of its own. Maybe it could be called a hightened state of concentration or something like that. But that doesn't seem to do it justice. The fact is, when it's happening I'm not even aware of it --- and after it happens I mostly don't remember it. Maybe the meditation person (Les Sleeth ?) can offer something on whether his meditative experience is anything like this. (I should note that it took years of practicing and tedious repitition of many technical skills for me to be able to sound good while playing 'in the zone'.)

    As for other sorts of mystical experiences like past lives, alien abductions, whatever --- there's no hard evidence for this stuff, but who knows. If you really believe something, even if it isn't true in any objective sense, is what you believe real ? Well, to the believer it would be "just as real as real can be" (to borrow the linguistic style of the legendary Ed Grimly).

    It seems to me that the only thing worth pursuing (in the sense of being desirable) in this discussion is the meditation thing --- the experience of meditative states. What exactly is happening in these states? Can it be objectively studied in terms of, say, changes in brain imaging patterns or the 'chemistry' of certain areas of the brain?

    Of course, epileptic states are certainly worth studying using the same sorts of objective probes that might be used to study meditative states --- with the goal being to reduce, rather than increase, the incidence of epileptic seizures.

    Finally, I suspect that all of the stuff that's being called mystical isn't mystical. There are different levels of understanding (different levels of mystery) wrt so called mystical experiences.
    It would seem that the practicioner of meditation has a better 'understanding' of what he's doing wrt meditation than, say, the religious zealot has wrt his emotional attachment to some religious icon.
  21. Mar 5, 2006 #20
    U need the flash8 plugin to view it. U can get that on the macromedia site.

    Well one thing we can say for sure, is that they are not lying (at least not all of them). It would be some kind of freak phenomenom for people all over the world started telling the exact same lie.

    With near death experiences this actually is surprising, because the more research is done into them, the more strange the findings get. Some researchers have even concluded that an explanation should be sought in the 'trancendence of consciousness' idea, because other 'mundane' explanations no longer seem sufficient to explain them. Some examples:

    Meditation studies are very interesting yes, here are some examples:

    So they can be studied objectively, but i dont see how this could tell anything about the reality of the experiences. Some people will say "see, it is all just brainactivity", while others might say that that kind of activity suggests more is going on.

    However, unlike meditation, near death experiences have a verifiable aspect to them (the OBE part), which could tell something about the reality of the experience - if it were proven that they occured during a period with no brainactivity.
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