Sharing Mystical Experiences

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A while ago, Ona talked about how, in secular western society, people still have mystical experiences, we just never talk about them:

It’s funny how alone and weird these [mystical] experiences can make us feel. For many people in the world (outside of secular western culture), having a meaningful dream, getting divination, making offerings to the ancestors, or having a communication from a spirit are just accepted parts of human experience. What I’ve found is that many people in our modern secular western culture also have these experiences, but there’s this public agreement that it’s crazy and weird, so no one talks about it or people feel ashamed and alienated by it. But I’ve run into person after person who once they realize I’m not going to call them crazy admits to all kinds of spiritual or mystical experiences… and these are conversations I’ve had with very “normal” or even “square” people – businessmen, college educated professionals, down-home working men, suburban housewives, etc. Often they say they’ve never told anyone before, because they were afraid people would think they were nuts…

This happened to me twice in the past week, with two new friends. Both are “normal” people — one’s a historian, the other is a psychologist, and neither is involved in paganism or mysticism or even particularly involved in mainstream religions. With both of them, I was uncomfortable bringing up my background in energy healing, and downplayed it, simply saying that I “do energy healing.” And both responded by sharing mystical experiences of their own that I never would have heard if I hadn’t opened that door.

One gets psychic intuitions and communication from “ghosts,” which I put in quotes because they could just as easily be non-human spirits, psychic intuitions coming through as visions, or something else. And I feel guilty dissecting the experience as I tell you about it, because I think that’s part of what isolates us: In secular western society, we want to explain these experiences in terms of accepted models, rather than accepting the experience on its own terms.

The other friend had a profound healing experience. She had just gotten out of a traumatic relationship, went to a spa for a few days, and in addition to the massages and baths, got energy healing with great results. She doesn’t normally talk about this, but once she knew I would accept her experience, she was eager to share.

I don’t know that there is a moral to these stories, except that I’ve now seen for myself that Ona is right. (Was there ever any doubt?) Lots of people have these mystical experiences, we just never talk about them publicly. Which is sad and isolating, particularly for people trying to make sense of mystical experiences they’re having right now. And it makes me want to be more open about my own experiences, now that I know that I’m fairly likely to discover the other person has their own to share.

I wish there was some symbol we could wear on a necklace to signal to other mystical-experience-havers that we want to share, but that wouldn’t stand out to non-mystical-experience-havers. Any ideas?

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2 Responses to “Sharing Mystical Experiences”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I’ve had thoughts like this too. For example, yesterday’s Dear Prudence chat on featured this question and this less-than-classy response:

    “I have always been able to see ghosts. It’s not a big thing, and it’s not something I advertise–it’s just something most women in my family are able to do and is accepted as normal. Now I have a four-year-old daughter who can do the same thing; she chats about seeing my father, who passed away before she was born, as well as my husband’s grandmother. The problem is my in-laws, who, like many people, think it’s a load of hooey. My daughter will often sleep over there and tell them about the people she sees, and they say things like “Oh, that’s silly! There’s no such things as ghosts!” Do I tell my daughter that I believe her, but that maybe we shouldn’t talk about ghosts at grandma’s, or do I tell my in-laws that this is something our family believes in and they should respect (my husband is torn, too.)”

    Emily Yoffe: “I’m assuming your daughter thinks it’s normal to talk about seeing ghosts because that what her mother, aunts, and grandmother do. Surely she is rewarded by all of you when she stars babbling about what her late grandfather is telling her. You need to examine how you are imposing this “gift” on your little girl. You also need to be aware that other people — like your in-laws — are going to find this strange and disturbing. However, if you get your own reality show and outearn the Kardashians, I’m sure the in-laws will come around.”

    Ouch. I can’t help but think every time I see something like this, “Oh no, don’t ask that on a general public forum!” Ditto anytime someone asks a question along these lines on Metafilter, because most folks there are practical atheists and immediately scorn it. You have to watch your audience VERY CAREFULLY because 95% of the time you will get a nasty reaction and “you’re just a crazy bitch” response.

    I’ve had a similar thought about “maybe we could wear a symbol.” I kind of think of us as “club members” and maybe there could be a membership pin? Says “WTH” for “weird things happen?”

    • Wow, Yoffe was harsh, and totally dismissed the woman’s experience. Yes, that’s what I’m talking about (for why most people don’t talk about these things). Thanks for posting that link. And, since I think this is your first comment, let me say: Welcome to our little community, and let me know if you have any questions / requests.

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