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Why Are Mystical Experiences Important?

Mystical Experiences and Social Isolation

Albert Einstein defined a mystical experience this way: 

"The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religion."  -  Albert Einstein

Whilst full blown dramatic mystical experiences in the classic sense are comparatively rare, it is arguably becoming increasingly important to pursue them in today's Western society. Some of the classic feelings of a mystical experience include a feeling selflessness, vastly increased empathy for others and perhaps a feeling of unity between what is normally perceived as "self and "other." These feelings a very desirable in today's world where we are invited to engage in narcissism and ego worship almost on a minute by minute basis by social media outlets which operate under the promise of building connections with people whilst simultaneously creating a phenomena of widespread isolation in which groups of people sit around staring at their phones, posting selfies for a cyber audience of people they barely know whilst at the same time ignoring all of the real human beings sat next to them. This trend is demonstrably damaging the fabric of society as young people grow up ill practiced at engaging meaningfully with people in their proximity as well as arguably having some quite damaging effects on one's mental health caused by the never ending parade of non realistic portrayals of other peoples lives that can easily shed one's own life in a very negative light. 

It can be argued that the pursuit of mystical experiences, regardless of whether this is meant in the secular sense that Sam Harris often portrays or in the more traditional religious sense, could contribute to healing this some of the damage cause by our self imposed isolation. In other words the effects of experiencing a feeling of selflessness, overwhelming empathy or ultimate interconnection could help to redress the imbalance caused by our unconscious narcissism. 

The main problem posed by the mystical solution is the comparative rarity of such experiences as well as the difficulty presented by maintaining the demanding contemplative and meditative practices that traditionally constitute the pursuit of mystical understanding. Modern life is stressful and time consuming and constantly seduces us into the neglect of our spiritual practices in exchange for the easy comfort found in the TV, phones & easy access to junk food (I am just as guilty and probably more so than everyone else in this regard). 

The only realistic solution to this problem is persistence and the setting of realistic meditation (or whatever practice you happen to do) goals. Ten minutes of regular daily meditation will have a much greater effect than neglecting to practice and trying to do sporadic marathon meditations at random times and is much much safer than trying to use the shortcut of psychedelic drugs to achieve results quickly. If you have reached a stalemate then it can be helpful to look into the practice of other people in traditions such as Mystical Christianity, Yoga, nature retreats, secular meditation and the practices of less well known religions such as Jainism or indigenous shamanic/animist religions. The important thing in today's today's increasingly self isolated world is to keep practicing and encourage other people to do the same.

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Why Are Mystical Experiences Important?
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