In the highest states of mystical ecstasy every object springs to life and the whole of Nature becomes alive. One incredible living, feeling Ocean of Being connects the mystic with every object in the universe. Mystical ecstasy is not an altered state of consciousness. It is not normal human consciousness in a state of rapture, or intense absorption in the contemplation of one object, or of quietude in which the mind reflects only a serene and silent state of awareness. It is in no way akin to the mental conditions produced by LSD, nitrous oxide, hypnosis or biofeedback or any other artificial method or chemical reagent.
There is no class of books that has been preserved with such love and care and regarded with such veneration as the gospels of every faith. They are considered sacred because what they deal with has been extremely rare and the subject they discuss is unfamiliar to the discursive intellect. The teachings contained in the various scriptures took time to spread, for the seeds had to take root in the soil of the human mind. This is the reason why scriptural teaching has persisted and will continue to persist as long as the need exists in the subconscious depths of the human psyche. It is only in the genuine mystical experience that Revelation can occur. The ideas expressed and the language used in Revelation are inspired. They emanate from a higher dimension of consciousness, manifested only in an extremely limited number of cases through the course of history. This fact has been known for the past thousands of years. That is the reason why the gospels of a faith are held to be sacrosanct.
The present-day documents on the, so-called, altered states of consciousness only confuse the issue. What state of mind do they actually try to represent? If it is mystical experience, most of them deplorably fall short of the actual position. Mystical vision has nothing to do with sorcery, magic, miraculous happenings, weird adventures in the realm of the paranormal, bizarre visionary experiences or fantasies of any kind. In the genuine illuminative state there is no clouding of the intellect, no riot of colors, no encounters with strange creatures, no weird or bizarre scenes, but only an indescribable state of glory, happiness and love, coupled with the direct experience of an All-Pervading Extended Consciousness or an Almighty, Omnipresent Cosmic Being. The only sources available to gain correct and precise information about this state are the religious scriptures and the writings of the great mystics of the world.
Since illuminated consciousness, and not altered consciousness, is the goal of human evolution, it is of utmost importance to make a distinction between the works of mystics and the fanciful, highly colored or sensational narratives of those who wish to create an applauding gallery for themselves or who mistakenly believe that they have the experience without making any attempt to confirm their belief. The distinction is necessary to protect the readers from mistaking one for the other. It is also very necessary to protect the image of the true mystical vision from distortion by the ambitious or the dabbler or the uninformed. It does not matter if the wrong portrayal is from a capable writer or the book has sold in millions of copies, it will die its own death if not based on the genuine experience. Nature has her own methods for sifting the true from the false. In course of time the human mind itself rejects what is not true or of lasting worth to it.
It is a unique experience of which the overwhelming impact has been described by most mystics in diverse ways. The Cloud of Unknowing, a well-known classic of spiritual life, compares it to a beam of ghostly light, piercing the cloud of unknowing that interposes between man and God. Augustine, quoted by Eckhart, likens it to being struck by lightning, when one hears inwardly the affirmation “Truth” to put a seal of authenticity on the experience. St. Paul fell in a swoon on the road to Damascus and Moses experienced it as a fire in the bush. Mohammed saw himself carried on a winged horse, called Buraq, to the near Presence of God, and the experience had an overwhelming effect on his whole life. In one instant of Grace, Buddha realized that he was enlightened. A long period of life spent before that in austerity and religious practices brought forth no result comparable to this flash.
According to the papyri found in Egypt, Jesus is reported to have said: “Let him not who seeks cease until he finds, and when he finds he shall be astonished. Astonished he shall reach the Kingdom, and having reached the Kingdom he shall rest.” One of the Upanishads compares Brahman to a thunderbolt upraised ruling all the elements of creation. The Sufi Bullah Shah, sings, “To ascend the gallows is the Pathway that leads to the love of the Lord. If you desire to have His vision, be ever prepared to wager your life for His sight.”
The Bhagavad Gita graphically describes the impact of the vision in these lines:
“If the splendor of a thousand suns were to blaze out together, in the sky, that might resemble the glory of the Mahatman. There Pandava (Arjuna) beheld the whole universe, divided into manifold parts, standing in one in the body of the Deity of Deities. Then he, Arjuna, overwhelmed with astonishment, his hair standing on end, bowed down his head to the Shining One, and with joined palms spoke.”
In every case of illumination, mere visionary experience is not sufficient. It must be attended by certain objective signs to confirm it.
Why has mystical vision such a powerful impact on the mind of the beholder that he often becomes intoxicated with the love of God, prefers solitude to even the most joyous company, renounces the ordinary pleasures of life to revel in a delight before which all the pleasures of the earth seem stale to him? What is there in this experience that it often overcomes earthly desires and ambitions and transmutes an individual into a passionate lover, prepared to face severest trials and tribulations, agonizing torture and even death cheerfully for the sake of the beloved?
How can we explain the amazing psychological transformation that brings unity in the multiplicity of the universe, shows One in All and All in One, or, in other words, the whole universe contained in the One Almighty Source of all? So far as I know, no rational explanation has been provided for this vision covering all the facets of the experience. It has to be remembered that in the mystical ecstasy the intellect remains active. There is no blunting of the rational faculty. This is repeatedly mentioned in the Upanishads. Reason has to be satisfied that the experience is not a delusion. This means that the vision is real. But, then, how can we account for it?