Sometimes, very rarely though, it happens that unexpectedly our mind behaves strangely and, for a while, we experience something that is called a mystical experience. It won’t expand consciousness or raise it higher even though it may seem so. On the contrary, it will flush it away. To be exact, it is not consciousness at all we experience but its pure absence. No wonder it feels strange and “mystical”. It is impossible at the time to understand that the mystical experience is a “trip” in the same way as, say, the “acid trip” caused by LSD. Mystical experiences are confusing, sporadic and infrequent changes of the psyche, where the ego seems to disappear and the relationship with one’s environment becomes strange and abnormal. This complete loss of subjective self-identity that has also been called as ego-death, ego-loss, ego-disintegration, or ego-dissolution, is actually part of decommissioning the “machine”, that has provided security for our growth by distorting reality. This mystical occurrence, totally unknown to our culture, comes from the very ancient stage of hominins growth. Yet it’s a natural incident produced by the body itself to turn a child into an adult by disabling all protective mechanisms of the childhood. However, there is one problem: it doesn’t work properly! It only works for a while, and even then only for a few people.
The mystical mindset is also know as non-ordinary state of consciousness, transcendental consciousness, pure consciousness event (PCE), cosmic consciousness experience (CCE), or Unio Mystica for its strong sense of oneness. However, the altered state of consciousness (ASC) is maybe the most well-established term in the study of the psyche. It is a collective term for non-everyday mental states such as hallucinations, trance states, hypnosis states and dreams. Research has defined a neutral and impartial common denominator for phenomena, which hopefully reduces their ideological and / or belief stigma. The scientific name refers to the exceptional nature of the phenomena, but not to what they are about. The phenomena may not even be related, but they have something in common. There are theories, but there is no consensus.
I would argue that, in fact, the mystical experience a throwback to the typical adulthood of our original species, the Heidelbergs.
It is similar to the psychedelic experience, but occurs naturally through the body’s own mechanisms. In the life cycle of human species, it used to be the final stage of growing up, but the mystical experience known to humans is only a shrunken version of the original change; the change should happen to everyone and it should be permanent.
The misunderstood adulting
Mystical experience is a phenomenon that appears at the dawn of adulthood. That gives the impression that it is a change related to our becoming adults. The term adulting is commonly understood as the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks. Sometimes it is understood as “a post adolescence when the light in your eyes fade away and dies”. In fact, this happens because we do not grow into adults, but remain mentally adolescent despite aging. What then happens in real adulting can be described as a loss of the self, the will and the ability for logical reasoning. We get estranged from our parents and also other relationships become more or less unimportant. Moral will be totally questioned. Time and place become relative. The ugly, dirty and broken things will strangely become just as fascinating as the beautiful, clean and intact things used to be.
People who experience this usually feel light and happy and have increased interest in their environment. Obviously this is a perfect world and the fault has only been in yourself when you just couldn’t see it all. This happens without warning or clear explanation. However, it implies something important for the whole human species, as it is a message of our own body and as such part of the psychic system of growing up. This should signify the seal of our growth, the official approval of reaching adulthood. But since growing up is more like a process for us and not a sudden event, we do not recognise it as such.
If adulting worked properly, many learned things would disappear: learning and memory would be replaced by instincts. We would experience the world independently without any artificial and simplifying observational aids. A long time ago adulthood used to start with a mind-boggling, unimaginable step from teenager to adult mind. Now that childhood stretches into a lifelong growth cycle of varying lengths, childhood becomes mere preparation for future trials, and growing up becomes a project that must meet the goals set in childhood, whether set by parents or the child himself.
It is a common misconception that human alone is capable of experiencing states of higher consciousness. The confusing fact is that animals know it, too! We understandably refuse to believe such. We think arrogantly that we have the exclusive right to understand the higher mysteries of the world. In practical terms, human is likely the only creature who has problems with “the higher consciousness”, as he pleases to express it. Our special status in evolution is based on our ability to speak with God and establish religions. We do not realise that animals are on the same level as our gods.
I fear the animals regard man as a being like themselves, seriously endangered by the loss of sound animal understanding; they regard him perhaps as the absurd animal, the laughing animal, the crying animal, the unfortunate animal.Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science : Third Book, 224.
This misunderstanding has led to the conclusion that the “higher consciousness” would not have become known to us until about 30,000 years ago. However, because it’s in fact the original state of mind of all human species, these experiences are millions of years of age. The awareness, which is the cornerstone of our civilisation, is intended only for the temporary protection of children. It does not let us see the world as such, but corrects and shapes the information we collect with our senses. The “real world”, we have imagined, is a structure in our minds.
Explaining the real adulthood is difficult because nature have had no intention of bringing anything back from adulthood to adolescence, whenever this may happen. There are no “documents”. There is no evidence either. The things happening on the other side are not created to be explained. All writings are inevitably weak descriptions of what has happened. Even the highest possible culture and civilisation is stupidly childish compared to what one can experience without cognition. As a person grows up, he or she leaves behind everything that interests him or her at a young age. That’s for sure. And that is exactly what we are trying to fight against in any way we can.
In religions mystical experiences are called revelation, enlightenment, awakening, rebirth, glorification, or salvation. All those terms refer to the sudden opening of the mind to a new kind of reality. In Eastern philosophy terms such as Bodhi, kenshō, satori and prajñā are similar. Behind the terminology all names refer to, after all, one and the same thing: growing into adulthood for a moment. And also the fact that growing into adulthood is difficult: it is difficult to achieve, it’s difficult to stay in that state, and furthermore, it’s difficult to tell about it.
It is not surprising as such that the change of psyche has produced strange doctrines and practices along with several fine terms. Many believe that they can lead to a higher reality, that mystical experience is only possible when one has prayed enough, obediently followed the straight and narrow path, selected the right doctrine, and meditated upon instructions. The purpose is to control people’s behaviour, first for their own sake and then for the benefit of others. The fact is, however, that institutions, doctrinal traditions, gurus, masters, priests, or teachers have virtually no effect on the experience in itself, no matter how fascinating it may be. There is no way to consciously change the natural psyche, and it cannot be consciously pursued; it is independent of human will and action, even though it is claimed otherwise. There are no higher realities, there are only sick people who need treatment.