Wednesday, July 25, 2007

C.S. Lewis on Mysticism

[thought it would be a nice followup on my 'Filtration' post]

"I do not at all regard mystical experience as an illusion. I think it shows that there is a way to go, before death, out of what may be called this world - out of the stage set. Out of this; but into what? That's like asking an Englishman, Where does the sea lead to? He will reply, To everywhere on earth, including Davy Jones's locker, except England. The lawlessness, safety, and utility of the mystical voyage depends not at all on its being mystical - that is, on its being a departure - but on the motives, skill, and constancy of the voyager, and on the grace of God. The true religion gives value to its own mysticism; mysticism does not validate the religion in which it happens to occur. I shouldn t be at all disturbed if it could be shown that a diabolical mysticism, or drugs, produced experiences indistinguishable (by introspection) from those of the great Christian mystics. Departures are all alike; it is the landfall that crowns the voyage. The saint, by being a saint, proves that his mysticism (if he was a mystic; not all saints are) led him aright; the fact that he has practised mysticism could never prove his sanctity." C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

Passing reference was made to drugs in cahoots with 'diabolical mysticism'; Huston Smith, researcher into the religious significance of entheogenic and psychodelic substances also put the emphasis on whether altered states led to altered traits.


At 7/26/2007 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree - a good litmus test for the positive effect of religious experiece is "whether altered states led to altered traits."

- Isaac

At 7/26/2007 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think altered traits is a good measure of any experience - which is where I might differ (admittedly, selectively...), from some of the more LWMO who say "what Torah permits, it permits; and therefore where it is silent...". Obviously not every sort of experience, repeated ad infinitum or explored in exhaustive depth and dimension will contribute to a better life.

I would contend that we've lost even the proper concept of a yard, let alone the concept of a yardstick - let alone actually having a yardstick as such - in Galut, and that this is part of why w/rambam there is the screening out of the "halakhic gauntlet" those modes of knowing (or even the *reality* of certain phenomena/entities that are acknowledge by most other sources), that are not communally, halakhically 'experiencable', accessible, communally verifiable -let alone asking what is *of value* to halakha.


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