Mysticism describes an interest in unusual experiences. Mysticism is often
related to spirituality when unusual experiences are attributed to spirits,
noumenal entities that are usually hidden but reveal themselves to special
people in special circumstances. In a deeper sense, mysticism describes an
interest in transcendent experiences that move an ordinary human toward an
extraordinary understanding. There may be a deep conviction that there is a
universal consciousness that is hidden from ordinary humans, but can be accessed
by a few using extraordinary means.
The theme of liberation from ordinary human life appears in different forms
at all times in all places when human groups form. Some transcendent experiences
are contrived through dance, drumming, costumes, drama, yoga, meditation,
ritual, and drugs. Some special experiences are spontaneous.
Salience refers to the feeling of importance given to events as they occur.
Feelings of increased salience may elevate even ordinary experiences into the
mystical realm. If you were lucky enough to go on a happy LSD trip, then you
will know about super-salience that turns the most ordinary objects into
treasures that fascinate. Increased salience occurs when brain function changes
spontaneously as in temporal lobe epilepsy.
Transcendence is marked by feelings of euphoria, peace and by the absence of
disturbances. You could argue that an authentic mystic devotes his or her life
to sustained transcendence through a disciplined lifestyle and specific
practices. If you are a regular person, working hard to attain material goals
and comforts, then you cannot be an authentic mystic.
Chemicals that induced a state of euphoria or altered the contents of
consciousness have always been highly prized. Euphoria is described as a
spiritual experience and is one goal of religious rituals and practices. Plants,
fungi and food fermentation have generously provided brain chemicals and a few
are derived from animals such as bufotonin, extracted from toad skin. Only
recently have humans manufactured mind-altering chemicals in factories in large
quantities, distributed worldwide. Some of these factories are legal others are
not. Many, if not all humans, alter their consciousness and behavior by
consuming chemicals to alter they way their brain works. The brain, as the organ
of mind, is the receiving set for the wisdom of the universe. If the receiver is
out of tune, not working properly, the wisdom of the universe is either not
received at all or the message is garbled.
Mind altering drugs that
are used all over planet earth fall into three categories:
1. Drugs that intoxicate and disconnect the user from his or her daily
routines and normal dysphoria (alcohol, opium, heroin).
2. Drugs that energize and excite participants to dance, sing, make love or
war (caffeine, ephedra, cocaine, amphetamines).
3. Drugs that change the nature and operation of the mind and cause novel
experiences, sometimes awakening spiritual interest and insights (peyote, magic
mushrooms, LSD and other ergot alkaloids).
Drugs that produced unusual experiences have been called “psychedelics” or
“hallucinogens”. A hallucination is an experience originated within the brain
that is similar to or indistinguishable from an experience originating from
outside the brain.
Deeply imbedded in the nature of consciousness is the ability of the brain to
project and internal event into the world outside. Indeed, in the final
analysis, all events internal and external are brain events. If a person takes a
known psychedelic agent, LSD, he or she expects to have unusual experience and
will report these experiences appropriately as, for example, an “acid trip.” If
a psychedelic chemical is produced in the brain or is present as an unknown
entity in food or drinks, then the unusual experiences will be reported as real
experiences, happening out there in the real world.