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Mysticism Defined by Charles S. Grob

  Grob's article, "The Psychology of Ayahuasca", outlines experiences that come about while under the influence of a South American plant. These experiences appear to be very similar if not identical to those experienced by those having a mystical experience.

1. Alterations in Thinking. To varying degrees, subjective changes in concentration, attention, memory, and judgment may be induced in the acute state, along with a possible diminution or expansion of reflective awareness.

2. Altered Time Sense. The sense of time and chronology may be altered, inducing a subjective feeling of timelessness, or the experience of time either accelerating or decelerating. Time may be experienced as infinite, or infinitesimal in duration.

3. Fear of Loss of Control. An individual may experience a fear of losing his hold on reality or his sense of self-control. In reaction, increased resistance to the experience may occur, causing an amplification of underlying anxiety. If there is a positive cultural conditioning and understanding of the experience, mystical and positive transcendent states may ensue.

4. Changes in Emotional Expression. Along with reduction in volitional or conscious control, intense emotional reactivity may occur, ranging from ecstasy to despair.

5. Changes in Body Image. Alterations in body image are frequently reported, often associated with dissolution of boundaries between self and others and states of depersonalization and derealization where the usual sense of one's own reality is temporarily lost or changed. Such experiences may be regarded as strange and frightening, or as mystical, oceanic states of cosmic unity, particularly when sustained within the context of belief systems conditioned for spiritual emergent encounters.

6. Perceptual Alterations. Increased visual imagery, hyperacuteness of perceptions and overt hallucinations may occur. The content of these perceptual alterations are influenced by cultural expectations, group influences and individual wish-fulfillment fantasies. They may reflect the psychodynamic expression of underlying fears or conflicts, or simple neurophysiologic mechanisms inducing geometric patterns and alterations of light, colors and shapes. Synesthesias, the transformation of one form of sensory experience into another, such as seeing auditory stimuli, may be experienced.

7. Changes in Meaning or Significance. While in a powerful altered state of consciousness, some individuals manifest a propensity to attach special meaning or significance to their subjective experiences, ideas or perceptions. An experience of great insight or profound sense of meaning may occur, their significance ranging from genuine wisdom to self-imposed delusion.

8. Sense of the Ineffable. Because of the uniqueness of the subjective experience associated with these states and their divergence from ordinary states of consciousness, individuals often have great difficulty communciating the essence of their experience to those who have never had such an encounter.

9. Feelings of Rejuventation. Many individuals emerging from a profoundly altered state of consciousness report a new sense of hope, rejuvenation and rebirth. Such transformed states may be short-term, or conversely, may lead to sustained positive adjustments in mood and outlook.

10. Hyper-suggestibility. While in the throes of altered state experience, individuals experience an enhanced susceptibility to accept or respond uncritically to specific statements. Nonspecific cues, reflecting cultural belief systems or group expectation, may similarly assume directives of weighty importance.

Source: Ralph Metzner, editor. Ayahuasca: Hallucinogens, Consciousness, and the Spirit of Nature, (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1999).


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