This is an article I wrote while getting my Ph.D. It was published in a juried journal:
In July 1986 while on vacation in California, business executive Anne Turney, 34, looked out over the Pacific from a cliff near Big Sur. Without warning, she suddenly felt her whole being expand, becoming one with everything -- the rocks, the sea, the trees, all of life. She later said, "I felt myself melting into this Allness, and there was an accompanying sense of freedom and an overwhelming love. I felt I could actually die, right then and there, and that death would be like finally coming Home. Then I saw my body, spread out into the shape of the cross and staked to the cliff. I was pouring myself out, giving everything I am to this All. The whole thing lasted only a few minutes, I think, before I returned to a sense of myself as an individual."
Anne later reflected that this experience was a moment of knowing. More than anything else, she said, she has come to think that it provided her with "the certain Truth of who we are as human beings. We are not separate from God, and we are meant to realize this union." As a result of the experience, an intense desire for God was uncovered within her, a longing that she has sought to realize and to foster in a variety of ways since then.
What happened to Anne very likely resonates with others who have had similar mystical experiences. This paper is an examination of these experiences. I look specifically at two issues, which I designate overall as epistemology and hermeneutics. Because the epistemology of mystical experience is rather complex, I want to lay out here something of the overall flow of that part of the paper. First, in what sense are mystical experiences moments of knowing? Do they unveil what is hidden? Here I set the stage by delineating two basic epistemological stances and two types of mystical experiences. One of these types of experiences is staunchly disputed by constructivist philosophers, and I contrast their argument with postconstructivist claims regarding the possibility of transcultural phenomena. The postconstructivist scholar, Robert Forman, whose argument I briefly describe, however, remains strictly subjective and posits no 'givenness' about mystical experiences whatsoever. William James offers an intriguing epistemology that is not only open to both constructivist and postconstructivist claims, but in some ways goes beyond them both by positing that mystical experiences may indeed unveil what is hidden. I then briefly examine Jamesian notions regarding how a field model of reality might explain how mystical experiences connect the mystic to God.
The second issue concerns how pastoral theologians may come to better understand mystical experiences. The hermeneutics of Paul Ricoeur offers an engaging lens in this regard, and I offer a preliminary translation model based on his thought. I conclude with a word about how mystical experience as a part of the psychology of religion may contribute to the work of pastoral theology.
The Epistemology of Mystical Experience
The whole of human life is one vast exercise in knowing. From those mysterious moments on the cusp between slumber and wakefulness to the equally mysterious moments just before we lose consciousness and enter a world of dreams, every movement we make is based on knowing something. Our senses, volition, thoughts, emotions, perceptions, intention, and more -- indeed, all aspects of what it means to be an embodied self -- work together to provide a certainty that allows us to function. In my subjective experience, I awake to a piercing sound and perceive an object outside of me next to the bed. In a tremendously complex exercise involving eyesight, hearing, mind/body connection, muscle movement and more, I groggily construct "alarm clock," fill that construction with a certain meaning (ugh! time to get up!), and reach out to muzzle its hideous clamor. For better or worse, this is the ordinary way of knowing.
Non-ordinary ways of knowing, on the other hand, can mean a host of different things -- from paranormal/pathological experiences of all types to religious experiences, some of which are said to be mystical. Anne's experience in California illustrates well this second epistemological stance with which I am concerned. Her sense of nonseparateness at the heart of reality and her sense of having been given certain insight into the way things are constitute the most crucial components in this paper's working definition of mystical experience.
The Greek mystery cults gave us the adjective mystikos, providing us today with an etymological foundation linking the mystical with knowing, for the cults involved a higher and secret form of knowledge. Although knowledge is apprehended in various ways, three forms are fairly common in the Christian mystical literature: ecstasy - literally a "going-out" from oneself that enables a type of cognition such that divine things may be known; illumination - an apprehension of the Absolute or another order of reality, and a "lifting of consciousness from a self-centered to a God-centered world"; and infused contemplation - a "supreme manifestation of that indivisible power of knowing" in which one grasps Reality itself.
Scholars generally agree that in a mystical experience either the mystic is 'given' certain knowledge during the experience itself or the experience itself is free of all content and the mystic comes to 'know' something after the experience. In both instances this knowledge is said to transcend all human ways of knowing. Richard H. Jones delineates these two types of mystical experiences as either "nature-mystical " or "depth mystical." The former occurs when sensory and some kind of conceptual awareness remain present, as in Anne's visual conception of her body in the shape of a cross. While a perception of a subject merging with an object (or with all of reality) may be present, a sense of differentiation within the whole remains detectable. In nature-mystical experiences, knowledge is obtained during the experience itself. In contrast, in the "depth-mystical experience" the mind is completely stilled or emptied. The mystic has no sense of differentiation and her or his mind is free of all conceptual and sensory content whatsoever. Knowledge comes only after the depth-mystical experience is over.
The claim of 'depth-mystical experience' is philosophically controversial. Philosophers liken this type of experience to a PCE, Pure Consciousness Event, and define them both as claims of unmediated, contentless awareness -- states of consciousness empty of thought and
containing no subject/object dichotomy. One part of the epistemological debate with which I am concerned in this paper centers on mystics' claim -- based on their own experience -- that PCE's do exist, versus philosophers like Steven T. Katz who maintain that PCE's cannot possibly exist because all experience is constructed and has a conceptual element.
Katz expresses a certain frustration with adherents' assertion that unless one is already a mystic, there is little chance of true understanding.
A body of literature [is created] which is primarily enthusiastic, committed, and personal rather than sober, careful, and reasonable. Thus, generally, the studies produced under these inspirations have the dubious distinction of preaching to the converted while dismissing the 'unenlightened' as poor souls who must still await their entrance into this enchanted mystical paradise. At the same time such approaches usually limit, a priori, all serious conversation about the subject and certainly preclude it altogether between the mystic and the non-mystic.
Serious conversation is by no means precluded amongst philosophers, of course, and whether mystics are paying attention or not, Katz goes on to assert that their cultural, social, and language milieu not only determines how the mystic will attempt to describe and indeed come to understand the experience, but actually determines and constitutes the experience itself. His position is that Jewish, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist mystics will have experiences of Jewish, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist mysticism, respectively, because they have been preconditioned to expect it.
There are NO pure (i.e., unmediated) experiences . . . This 'mediated' aspect of all our experience seems an inescapable feature of any epistemological inquiry, including the inquiry into mysticism . . . Yet this feature of experience has somehow been overlooked or underplayed by every major investigator of mystical experience whose work is known to me . . . [T]he Christian mystic does not experience some unidentified reality, which he then conveniently labels God, but rather has the at least partially prefigured Christian experiences of God, or Jesus.
He carries this view as well into the mystics' reporting of the 'givenness' or 'suchness' of a mystical experience:
Closely allied to the erroneous contention that we can achieve a state of pure consciousness is the oft used notion of the 'given' or the 'suchness' or the 'real' to describe the pure state of mystical experience which transcends all contextual epistemological coloring. But what sense to these terms have? . . . Analysis of these terms indicates their relativity . . . Phenomenologists seem especially prone to this fruitless naivety -- all intuit the 'given' but their intuitions differ significantly . . . [T]here is no evidence that there is any 'given' which can be disclosed without the imposition of the mediating conditions of the knower. All 'givens' are also the product of the processes of choosing, shaping and receiving.
Katz' analysis is straightforward and perhaps convincing so long as it is kept in mind that he is focusing on nature-mystical experiences. Other philosophers and probably most mystics today would agree with his basic premise that experience in general is indeed constructed. It is particularly interesting to note that the unreasonable dogmatic position of which Katz accuses adherents of mysticism is clearly seen as well in his position on depth-mystical experiences. In steadfastly maintaining that all experience is constructed, then, as noted above, he must completely dismiss any possibility of an unmediated experience. In these instances, apparently, mystics are the 'unenlightened' poor souls, victims of a most naïve self-deception.
Postconstructivist philosophers like Robert Forman are open to the possibility that mystics have, within the limits of language, accurately described the depth-mystical experience as one which is in some sense beyond any system of concepts, including linguistic. If this is the case, then of course there is indeed nothing within the experience to structure. Forman and others, who describe their position as postconstructivist, decontextualist, or as a perennial psychology, agree that some kind of innate human capacity produces or enables depth-mystical experiences.
Before describing Forman's position, it may be helpful to say something about a postconstructivist philosophical stance toward mysticism in general. R. L. Franklin points out that constructivists correctly maintain that as historical beings we are conditioned by our culture. What is often overlooked is that the culture that forms our belief system presents reality to us
in a pre-formed way, which both makes understanding possible and yet restricts it. Surely, too, our belief system mediates not only our thinking but also our experience itself, yet the relation between them is a two-way process in which each continually affects the other. Our whole belief system is potentially involved in our judgment about what we see in front of us. But an experience we do not expect may challenge the beliefs that produced the expectation. (italics mine)
Constructivists argue that the mediated aspect of experience means that mysticism is no indicator of any kind of ultimate reality. Postconstructivists like Franklin counter that while any one culture may indeed produce a certain flavor of mysticism, the experience of "passing beyond discursive thought into nonseparateness would remain a transcultural phenomenon."
Forman's brand of postconstructivism, which he calls perennial psychology, argues that mysticism is an expression of our own consciousness, of awareness itself. He writes that
Those constructivists who have suggested that remembering a PCE necessarily signifies that one was using language, thinking thoughts, or remember something in particular were wrong. They have misunderstood the nature of awareness's self-recollection. While we often employ these processes to think about ourselves, awareness's merely tying itself together through time is of a wholly different order -- and it is that other order that is tapped by . . . mystics.
This awareness of our own consciousness is "separate from all sensation, perception, and thought, and thus separate from the cultural aspects of human experience." He also asserts that this ability to become aware of our own consciousness is sui generis, reflexive and self-referential, and an immediate and direct form of knowledge. It is an innate human capacity, arising from deep structures within the psyche which enable it. One is reminded quite strongly of Rudolf Otto's use of Friesian conceptions of Ahndung as a built-in psychological capacity to distinguish the divine. For Forman, however, this unique capacity is kept within the bounds of subjectivism. He makes no claims for it to serve as a bridge to an objective other.
The epistemology of William James does offer a bridge to an objective other, and it is to his work that I now turn. James acknowledges that mystical experiences are shaped by our cultural, linguistic, social, and historical milieu. Indeed, according to G. William Barnard, James often stresses that our minds construct sensory data into recognizable forms so that what we perceive attains meaning. We are "co-creators" of the world we experience. This creative
action takes place with the help of "selective interest . . . which insures that we create a livable and coherent world by deciding which aspects [of experience] to notice." Such things as cultural assumptions and memory, personal desires and interests, and the spacio-temporal aspect of the mind all play an important role in which aspects of the chaos of experience we choose to help us construct reality.
For James, however, this is not the end of the epistemological story. Unlike the constructivists, a radical empiricist understanding of mysticism is also open to the objective otherness present in many mystical experiences. While the world is "malleable, waiting to receive its final touches at our hands," it is also given to us. We can change it somewhat, but we do not create it per se. The constructivism advocated by Katz and others has
difficulty accounting for any mystical experiences that appear to contradict the mystic's theological and cultural assumptions, since these experiences are understood as completely constituted by those very assumptions. James's 'incomplete constructivism,' however, can easily account for [them], since it postulates the existence of an extra 'something' that is operative within mystical experiences in additional to the mystic's psychological and cultural categories, 'something' that the mystic finds (or that finds the mystic), . . . 'something' that has . . . the power necessary to transform the mystic's self-understandings and tacit worldviews. This 'something' is malleable; it can and does appear to mystics in forms that they are most easily able to comprehend, but it also can and often does appear to mystics in ways that they never imagined, in ways that confound the mystics' personal expectations and cultural assumptions, in ways that surprise and disturb them.
Having established an openness to the possibility of a 'given' in mystical experiences -- perhaps they do indeed unveil what is hidden -- how human beings are able to connect to this
other distinct realm of being remains an issue. James approaches this question from his position
of radical empiricism, seemingly trying to keep everything within the subjectivity of our own experience. In his psychological writings, James had already stood firmly opposed to Hume's atomistic conceptions by arguing that experience is more like a stream of consciousness. Each moment of experience is not so much individual and disjointed, but is rather intrinsically flowing into the next, connected by "vaguely felt transitive relations." He then moves outside total subjectivity in a jump from psychology to ontology, positing that this connectivity in our consciousness is also an "inherent ontological quality of the universe itself." The connectivity is our link to the given.
Our ability to know a distinct realm of being is also seen in James's notions of "pure experience." The psychological/ontological "connectivity" mentioned above functions to link moments of experience. And, for James, in its deepest or highest reality, experience is both subjective and objective, neither completely mental nor completely physical, but arising from a prior non-dual reality. His epistemology attempts to show that the distinction between subject and object is a "post-facto" operation based on the consequences of the experience. For example, take my experience of waking up and, however groggily, reaching out to silence the alarm clock. In one sense the alarm clock is an external item in the environment. In another sense, though, it is a perception in my mind -- through my eyes, ears, and fingers. The question James asks is this:
How can physical objects simultaneously be mental perceptions? His answer is that, like one point can be on two lines simultaneously if it is situated at their intersection, experience is both a "field of consciousness" and the physical object, yet remaining one thing. My flow of consciousness -- with its cognitions, feelings, categorizations, movements , etc. and ending in the present moment -- intersects with the box-shaped object with numbers that shine in the dark, which is also here in the present moment. Since there are consequences, obviously, to this intersection, James would say that we can classify the experience as at least partially objective. The distinction between subjective and objective experience is not made from some inherent quality, but rather from the context or function of the experience. In this way James notes that since mystical experiences often carry significant consequences, we cannot simply dismiss them as totally subjective. Plus, when the overall subject/object distinction itself is called into question, the mystics' claim of nonseparateness, i.e., the mystics' claim to know a distinct realm of being, is fortified.
This non-dual foundation of experience has important ramifications in Jamesian thought. Throughout the whole body of his work, Barnard notes James's continuing attempts to address issues of unity within diversity, the many and the one, etc. After all, how are differences to be accounted for when working from a foundation of non-dualism? How can a Christian mysticism viewing God as 'wholly other' explain the mystical experience of unity? And how can monistic traditions in which All Is One account for ordinary experiences of subject/object dichotomy?
In response to these questions, Jamesian epistemology posits the field model of self and reality. This theory begins with the notion of the compounding of consciousness, which means that simpler states of consciousness combine to form complex states of consciousness. For example: As I move to turn off the alarm clock buzzer, I feel irritated, I think "I don't want to get up yet!", I realize I'm too groggy to hit the "off" button with precision, and I feel the air on my arm and realize it's cold outside the covers. All of these separate awarenesses, feelings, movements, and thoughts are simple, diverse states of consciousness, but they are experienced as a unity. When this unity-within-diversity present in our consciousness was added to his already formulated nonduality of pure experience, James concluded that reality was more than logic alone. He realized that the immediate feeling of life "has no problems with a oneness that is also a manyness, or with the philosophical dilemma of how something could possibly be itself and yet still manage to be connected with something else."
From this base, James began to envision reality as fields of energy. And he began to see individuals not as monads with an essential unchanging core, but as constantly moving, porous fields -- fields of behavior, hopes and anticipations, thoughts, backgrounds of memories and cultural expectations, emotions, intentions, etc. While these fields retain enough autonomy to avoid being engulfed into a stultifying oneness, through the field of the subliminal self they also offer us another whole world of "intuitions, passions, fantasies, paranormal cognitions, and mystical ecstasies." The field model of reality offers a way to think about mystical experiences as moments when our 'normal' mode of awareness suddenly opens up through the subliminal self onto a broader interpenetrating field of the divine. This model accommodates the paradoxes of mystical experience as well. It leaves room for the wide variety of experiences which are no doubt culturally determined, while
remaining open to the very real likelihood that each mystical experience is also shaped, in ways that we may never be able to determine, by a wide variety of transcultural and transnatural influences as well. A field model of reality would . . . be receptive to, and even encourage, a wide variety of theoretical approaches to mystical experiences, respecting and valuing the countless different ways in which we each choose to explore the unseen worlds that surround and interpenetrate our being. (italics mine)
A Preliminary Hermeneutical Model for Mystical Experience
Pastoral theologians who come to understand mystical experiences through a Jamesian lens may find not only that it provides an epistemological framework allowing them to move inside the constructivist/postconstructivist tension with some intellectual integrity, but that it also provides one way of discerning more clearly what may be happening in a mystical experience. Pastoral theologians here labor within the world of ideas. Ever aware of the human tendency toward self-deception, and laboring also within the world of practical pastoral work, pastoral theologians also endeavor to gain an understanding of the meaning of a mystical experience for a particular individual. They strive to help interpret the mystical in such a way that its overwhelming emphasis on subjective experience is balanced to some extent by rational analysis.
I want to now briefly address this task of interpretation. Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutics offer a promising beginning for a translation model for mystical experiences, especially when one encounters his sense that the task of hermeneutics is that of "unveiling what was veiled."
Let me begin, however, with an important caveat. As much as this particular phraseology reminded me of mysticism, Ricoeur's work does not appear to deal with mystical experience of any kind. My sense is that while he respects a certain mystery at the heart of experience, he is not concerned to examine it per se. Drawing on a huge array of thought from the social sciences and the humanities, Ricoeur's focus is clearly more this-worldly -- the philosophy of language, texts, and ethics. It is with this in mind, then, that I reiterate that "promising beginning" is key to what follows. Although I believe this translation model is beneficial, I am aware of using Ricoeur's work in a limited and incomplete way. For instance, it is not in any kind of one-to-one correspondence but rather in a fairly loose sense that I am proposing a link between Ricoeur's text and 'mystical experience,' between his reader and 'the mystic', etc.
One of the most important overall uses of Ricoeur's hermeneutics applied to mystical experience would seem to be the crucial role he gives to reason and to meticulous intellectual analysis. In his study of Freud, for instance, Ricoeur identified two types of language: language of force and language of meaning. The language of force included Freud's sense that human beings are subject to certain internal drives that determine our behavior. The language of meaning pointed toward the understanding of symbols and symbolic acts. But even when Ricoeur is moving inside the language of symbol, myth and poetry, he insists on rigorous methodologies, rarely if ever resorting to human intuitive capacities. This provides a helpful balance in interpreting mystical experience. Despite thoroughgoing inquiry such as James and others have provided regarding epistemological foundations for mysticism, pastoral theologians require an exacting interpretive method to help people avoid the dangers of a radical and perhaps dangerous subjectivity. I will look briefly at some specifics below, but before that, three preliminary areas of convergence must be delineated.
First, in Ricoeur's hermeneutics, texts have immense power to disclose whole new worlds -- and the worlds they make known have the power to transcend the immediate situation of the text itself and of the reader. Indeed, the relationship between the text and the reader is a reciprocal one. Readers interpret the text, but texts also interpret readers by confronting them with new possibilities, new concepts, news ways-of-being in the world, etc. which the reader may then appropriate or not. If the new world is appropriated, the reader is then empowered to transcend her or his immediate situation.
Second, in his interest in what kind of world the texts open up, Ricoeur has paid close attention to genre. In developing a hermeneutic of revelation, he lists five types of biblical genre, each of which in its own way provides a doorway to an aspect of revelation. Prophetic discourse, for instance, carries within it the implication of a Voice behind the voice, while in wisdom literature, the sage "knows that wisdom precedes him" and that he "participates in wisdom," which is held to be a gift from God.
Third, understanding how a text opens up a new world is accomplished, for Ricoeur, through an analysis of metaphor. Metaphors allow multiple meanings to address the reader who can choose to stay within its local, immediate meaning or move into its broader, world-disclosive meaning.
In linking Ricoeur's thought with mystical experience, the correspondence between the world-disclosive power of a text and the world-disclosive power of a mystical experience is easy to discern. Genre, too, can be easily linked to forms of mystical experience -- this could be Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, etc., or it could be the difference between nature and depth-mystical experiences. In any case, the genre would set certain limits regarding what kind of world a mystical experience might disclose. The metaphor as a means of disclosing a world points us toward the how of mystical experiences. Field theory provides an interesting correspondence with its basis in Jamesian understanding of diversity (multiple meanings) within unity (one word/one story, etc.) The paradoxical nature of the whole question of diversity within unity also fits well with metaphor, which can point toward paradox in its notions of both the similarity and the dissimilarity between phenomena.
Beyond the more preliminary links between text, genre and metaphor, Ricoeur's discussion of understanding and explanation provide the intellectual rigor required to avoid the dangers of overly subjective interpretations. In his terms, the analysis of understanding and explanation help us elude a vicious hermeneutical circle. In terms of pastoral theology and of psychology of religion, avoiding overly subjective interpretations of mystical experience through a systematic methodology is a guard against self-deception -- idolatry and pathology, respectively.
When a reader (mystic) has reoriented her life toward the world disclosed in the text (mystical experience), she is said to have personally appropriated it, i.e., she has understood it. But she can only set about the task of understanding by first intentionally distancing herself from the text through the use of more objective methods. She must begin the explanatory process within a hermeneutic of suspicion. Several points are helpful.
First, Ricoeur held up Marx, Nietzsche and Freud as thinkers who help us identify a false consciousness. In identifying the ideology of domination, Marx brought to light the illusions we bear regarding class struggle. Through Nietzsche the "intentions" in a strong will are revealed. And in Freud we can see how desire for religion, for instance, may be compensation for pleasures we deny ourselves when trapped by cultural restrictions. Together these three "masters of suspicion" point us toward the positive contribution that doubting can make. They also provide some criterion from which one can judge when false consciousness ends. Specifically, Capps notes that through Ricoeur's analysis of Marxian thought, we know false consciousness is ended when "what we do is commensurate with what we say, and when our work is commensurate with who we are." Through Freud the analysis of false consciousness precedes that of Marx. We must first ask, "Is what we say and do a reflection of what we truly desire?" There is a sense in which, then, Freud's critique of false consciousness would help us discern the world-disclosive power of a mystical experience by looking at the fruit of how we have reoriented our lives toward it and asking whether this reorientation truly reflects our deepest desires.
Second, Ricoeur stresses that meaning is found through structures, and he uses illustrations from Claude Levi-Strauss's structuralism to suggest looking for patterns which may evidence the text's disclosive power. Margaret Lewis Furse's study of William Hocking offers what seems to me to be an interesting parallel for mystical experience here. She notes Hocking's attention to the pattern of alternation in the lives of mystics, who, in moments of mystical experience are aware of the "whole," but who must continually drop back when the experience is over and focus attention only on the "parts." Our existence impedes us from having both the particulars and whole simultaneously, except perhaps in the following way. When we do a structural analysis and discover this pattern of alternation, we may then be empowered to recover our "spiritual integrity by bringing the whole down among the parts, and treating it as a thing of time and space like ourselves."
Finally, in Capps' translation model for pastoral actions he augments Ricoeur's hermeneutics with E. D. Hirsch's approaches to understanding a text. One of these approaches, schematism, recommends establishing a range of expectations or predictions and then testing the experience against them. Although validation based on established criteria is primary, it is an open system in that it also allows for the expectations to be adjusted if necessary.
Anne Turney's mystical experience, while extraordinary, is not unusual. Nearly half -- 43 percent of all Americans and 48 percent of all British people -- report having had one or more mystical experiences. While this alone might offer ample reason for pastoral theologians to concern themselves with the study of mystical experience, other aspects also come to mind in considering how this topic may contribute to our work.
The psychology of religion seems to have approached mystical experience mostly from an objective biological lens or as some kind of psychopathology. Theologically, although mystical theology has made its contributions, for the most part it has seen itself relegated to the sidelines. Yet, increasingly, neuropsychological study is exploring the frontier of human consciousness. And theology -- in a need to move toward relevancy both in support of the church and in today's intellectual marketplace -- is being urged to engage contemporary issues of embodiment and transpersonal spiritualities. These current impulses point toward the notion that the pastoral theological study of mystical experience might be a most fruitful endeavor in future discourse with other disciplines.
The study of mystical experience also affords the pastoral theologian with a particularly fascinating psychological lens through which to look at issues of divine-human encounter. Even if they were open to the possibility of an ultimate transcendent being, the more radical constructivist philosophers would have us believe that connecting to this objective divine Other is beyond human capacities. I have been impressed, however, with how other thinkers, using an empiricist approach in which the deepest aspects of human experience and psyche are meticulously examined, come to the conclusion that consciousness itself is endowed with some kind of ability to engage that which is beyond the human. The two I have encountered this term -- Otto's Ahndung and James's field model of self and reality -- are intriguing conceptualizations, ones that seem to have much potential for a powerful harmonization with aspects of quantum physics as well as with the neuropsychological study of consciousness.
At its heart this paper has looked at an intellectual synthesis of science and religion, reason and faith. The desire for this synthesis no doubt arises from the human quest for knowledge, the desire to allay a dark ontological anxiety with a sense of certainty's light, and the intuition that mystical experience may indeed provide a brilliant window into ultimate reality. I think it appropriate then to conclude, from a faith perspective, with the words of Evelyn Underhill who writes of mystics coming back to us
from an encounter with life's most august secret, as Mary came running from the tomb; filled with amazing tidings which they can hardly tell. We, longing for some assurance, and seeing their radiant faces, urge them to pass on their revelation if they can . . . But they cannot say: can only report fragments of the symbolic vision, not the inner content, the final divine certainty.
Theologians and philosophers offer intellectually engaging and appealing proposals, and we do indeed sense a necessity to interpret the mystical through a rigorous and rational methodological analysis. In the end, however, what we seek will likely be satisfied only in an openness to following in the footsteps of the mystics or in simply delighting ourselves in the twists and turns of the quest itself, gradually realizing the hues of grace which vividly color those angles and curves of life.
List of Works Consulted
Ashbrook, James and Carol Albright. The Humanizing Brain: Where Religion and Neuroscience Meet. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 1997.
Barnard, G. William. Exploring Unseen Worlds: William James and the Philosophy of Mysticism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.
Capps, Donald. Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.
Dupre, Louis and James A. Wiseman, O.S.B. Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism. New York: Paulist Press, 1988.
Forman, Robert K. C. The Innate Capacity: Mysticism, Psychology, and Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Franklin, R. L. "Postconstructivist Approaches to Mysticism." Robert K. C. Forman, ed. The Innate Capacity: Mysticism, Psychology, and Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Furse, Margaret Lewis. Experience and Certainty: William Ernest Hocking and Philosophical Mysticism. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988.
Gerkin, Charles V. The Living Human Document: Re-Visioning Pastoral Counseling in a Hermeneutical Mode. Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1984.
Jones, Richard H. Mysticism Examined: Philosophical Inquiries Into Mysticism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 1-2.
Katz, Steven T. Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.
Ricoeur, Paul. Critique and Conviction: Conversations with Francois Mazouvi and Marc de Launay. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
___________. Essays on Biblical Interpretation. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980.
___________. "The Critique of Religion." Charles E. Reagan and David Stewart, eds. The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: An Anthology of His Work. Boston: Beacon Press, 1978.
___________. "Toward a Hermeneutic of the Idea of Revelation." Harvard Theological Review 70 (January-April 1977): 1-37.
Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness, 12th Edition. New York: A Meridian Book, 1955.
Wulff, David M. Psychology of Religion, Classic and Contemporary. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997.
 Interview with the author, October 14, 1999.
 Louis Dupre and James A. Wiseman, O.S.B., Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), 4.
 Ibid., 202.
 Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness, 12th Edition (New York: A Meridian Book, 1955), 169, 233-234.
 Ibid., 329-330.
 See Richard H. Jones, Mysticism Examined: Philosophical Inquiries Into Mysticism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 1-2.
 G. William Barnard, Exploring Unseen Worlds: William James and the Philosophy of Mysticism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 136.
 Some mystical experiences, certainly those of Buddhist flavor, are not described as PCE-like contentless experiences. Content is part of the experience, but the Buddhist mystic maintains an attitude of non-attachment toward it. The similarity is in an eventual awareness of nonseparateness.
 Steven T. Katz, Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 2.
 Ibid., 27-33.
 Ibid., 26.
 Steven T. Katz, Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 58-59.
 Robert K. C. Forman, ed., The Innate Capacity: Mysticism, Psychology, and Philosophy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), viii.
 R. L. Franklin, "Postconstructivist Approaches to Mysticism" in The Innate Capacity: Mysticism, Psychology, and Philosophy, ed. Robert K. C. Forman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 232.
 See R. L. Franklin, "Postconstructivist Approaches to Mysticism" in The Innate Capacity: Mysticism, Psychology, and Philosophy, ed. Robert K. C. Forman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 234, in which Franklin writes: "The nonseparateness of theism is a dualist, I-Thou relationship of total love; it is a being-there-with, for both the soul and God remain. The advaitin goal is a monistic merging, a just-being-there in which we find we are the One. And Buddhism, with its intense sense of the inadequacy of language here, rejects all talk of a self, even of One Self."
 R. L. Franklin, "Postconstructivist Approaches to Mysticism" in The Innate Capacity: Mysticism, Psychology, and Philosophy, ed. Robert K. C. Forman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 242.
 Robert K. C. Forman, "Introduction" in The Innate Capacity: Mysticism, Psychology, and Philosophy, ed. Robert K. C. Forman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 27.
 Robert K. C. Forman, "Preface," in The Innate Capacity: Mysticism, Psychology, and Philosophy, ed. Robert K. C. Forman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), viii.
 Interestingly, Forman specifically distinguishes his argument from that of Otto and others, who, he says, were making philosophical, not psychological, cross-cultural claims regarding reality. Although Forman is correct that Otto's analysis of the history of religion included philosophical claims, he seems to have overlooked Otto's use of Ahndung as very much a claim for a perennial psychology.
 G. William Barnard, Exploring Unseen Worlds: William James and the Philosophy of Mysticism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 123.
 G. William Barnard, Exploring Unseen Worlds: William James and the Philosophy of Mysticism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 123-124.
 Ibid., 125.
 Ibid., 125-126.
 G. William Barnard, Exploring Unseen Worlds: William James and the Philosophy of Mysticism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 139. One is reminded of process theologian John Cobb's notion of reality being akin to a filmstrip, which connects individual 'frames' in such a way that we experience reality as flowing and uninterrupted.
 James did not, of course, stress the neurophysiological aspects of this connectivity of consciousness. His theory is close to the position taken by James Ashbrook and Carol Albright in The Humanizing Brain: Where Religion and Neuroscience Meet (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 1997), xxxiv, in which, based on current brain research, the authors argue that the human brain is a "reflection of the universe that birthed it," and that through it we are indeed connected to God or to the "really real."
 Maintaining that experience arises from a more basic non-dual reality, and placing the distinction between subjective and objective experience in the context or function of the experience itself may be another way in which Jamesian epistemology bridges the chasm between constructivism and postconstructivism. The non-dual reality posits a given and the specific context or function of the experience will depend on our construction of it.
 G. William Barnard, Exploring Unseen Worlds: William James and the Philosophy of Mysticism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 144.
 Ibid., 208.
 G. William Barnard, Exploring Unseen Worlds: William James and the Philosophy of Mysticism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 200.
 Ibid., 201.
 Ibid., 207. The field model of reality seems to bear many similarities with process theology's and quantum physics' notions of reality as energy fields vibrating at different rates and manifesting in different ways as patterns of probability.
 G. William Barnard, Exploring Unseen Worlds: William James and the Philosophy of Mysticism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 211.
 Paul Ricoeur, "The Critique of Religion," in Charles E. Reagan and David Stewart, eds., The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: An Anthology of His Work (Boston: Beacon Press, 1978), 215.
 This sense is derived from an interview with Ricoeur published in Critique and Conviction in which he is asked whether it is possible to perceive something of what lies beyond the language within which he says he lives. His answer is basically Yes, that perhaps in reflecting on the experience of death something fundamental may express itself. He likens this, though, to the experiences of mystics, of which he has no experience at all, he says. He then quickly moves on to talk about areas that have been of interest to him. Paul Ricoeur, Critique and Conviction: Conversations with Francois Mazouvi and Marc de Launay (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 145.
 My main source is Donald Capps, Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984). This work applies Ricoeur's thought to pastoral actions.
 Charles V. Gerkin, The Living Human Document: Re-Visioning Pastoral Counseling in a Hermeneutical Mode (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1984), 50
 Donald Capps, Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 28.
 Paul Ricoeur, "Toward a Hermeneutic of the Idea of Revelation," Harvard Theological Review 70 (January-April 1977): 25.
 Donald Capps, Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 26-27.
 Paul Ricoeur, "The Critique of Religion," in Charles E. Reagan and David Stewart, eds., The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: An Anthology of His Work (Boston: Beacon Press, 1978), 216-217.
 Donald Capps, Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 32-33.
 Margaret Lewis Furse, Experience and Certainty: William Ernest Hocking and Philosophical Mysticism (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988), 57-58.
 Donald Capps, Pastoral Care and Hermeneutics (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 56-57.
 Robert K.C. Forman, "Introduction," in The Innate Capacity: Mysticism, Psychology, and Philosophy, ed. Robert K. C. Forman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 3. Forman is reporting a study by David Hay which summarized several large-scale studies. He notes that these experiences are not at all a phenomenon among people who are less well educated; more than half of all college graduates have had mystical experiences, according to the study. Hay's report appeared in Religious Experience Today (London: Mowbray, 1990), 79. These results are somewhat higher than those reported by Greeley and McCready. See David M. Wulff, Psychology of Religion, Classic and Contemporary (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997), 509-510.
 Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness, 12th Edition (New York: A Meridian Book, 1955), 450.