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Mysticism and Cognition

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30 July 2004, 10:50 AM
Mysticism and Cognition
Currently I'm reading a Phd dissertation on Mysticism and Cognition based on the experience of John of the Cross. It is very interesting book. The author of the book is Birgitta Mark.

Birgitta in her book delves into the writings and subsequent interpretations of the mystical experience of John of the Cross, connecting evidence of and hypothesis within his writings. The author shows how mystical experience covers three aspects of a person's general experience: mystical ideas, mystical states of consciousness and mystical development. She explores the state and theory of mysticism, and examines the credibility of evidence for mystical experience, including the current theories of consciousness and neuronal activity and their influence on mysticism. The above summary is excerpted from the publisher of the book. The book is published in 2000 by Aarhus University Press in Denmark.

For those of you who interested generally in mysticism and particularly in the mysticism of John of the Cross this book is very valuable.
31 July 2004, 08:55 PM
I am very interested in exploring topics such as this. Please keep posting. It's difficult to find people who are interested in developing these charisms and graces. I'm grateful (great-full) for your presence Smiler Anything relating to Carmelites or Cistercians holds my attentiion. Ditto for midieval mystics and desert fathers.
We moderns feel we have surpassed them, which I feel is a tad bit too much self-absorption Wink



01 August 2004, 05:22 PM
Yes MM, it is very interesting to delve into the depth of spiritualism. Although I didn�t finish read the book I will attempt to mention the core of the book.

According to the author the point of departure for a definition of mystical experience should be an understanding of mystical consciousness which has to be based on an understanding of consciousness. Furthermore she pointed out a general understnading of consciousness is prerequiste for an understanding of the specific mystical consciousness. With respect to this issue she relied on the neurologist S:A Greenfield�s theory of consciousness. Greenfield aims to explain consciousness (CO.) both at the neurological and the cognitive levels of analysis. The fundament of the theory is the hypothesis that shifting groups of neurons of varying size procure CO at different times. The point of departure for the theory is the more general observation that although the brain doesn�t function as one homogenous mass of neurons, different groups of neurons often can do the same job. The importance of this for a theory of CO is that CO is not an event occuring in one particular region of the brain and is not generated by one particular group of neurons specialized in CO. An indefinite number of neuronal groups in various brain regions will contribute to CO at one time. Shifting groups of neurons will thus be temporarily specialized in the generation of CO. Another important aspect of Greenfield�s theory is that the prevailing CO at one particular time is focused on an epicenter. The notion of an epicenter serves to connect the neurological and the cognitive level of analysis. In neurological terms, it implies that a small group of neurons works as an epicenter is determined by the number of neurons and the number and strength of the synaptic connections of the group of neurons constituting the epicenter. At the cognitive level of description, an epicenter is the central focus of that which one is conscious of at any time, and the strength of it is dependent on the cognitive value of the epicenter and the number of associations related to the epicenter.

The above short description of CO is largely based upon the author�s formulation of the theory on page 18 of the book.

What I found very interesting in this book is the connection between the state of mystic and the theory of CO. Greenfield�s theory of CO has numerous and varied implications for an understanding of mystical experience. According to Birgitta with respect to the quality of a mystical state, a particular focus of CO, an epicenter, itself constituted by a small group neurons, serves to aggregate a larger group of neurons (activated by the associations) forming a gestalt (What Greenfield means by this terminology is: The quantity of CO at any one time depends on the size of the particular group of neurons.) generating CO at a particular time. The content of a mystical state is thus contingent on the focus of CO. Furthermore Birgitta contend � The quality of CO is further affected by the degree of connectedness of a sequance of CO and the relative smoothness in the shift from the CO of one thing to that of another thing. The quantity and the duration of a particular CO is contingent on the size and the maintenance of the neuronal gestalt generating CO. This in turn is conditioned by the strength of the epicenter (detrmined by the amount of associations it triggers and the cognitive value it has for the person concerned) and the degree of arousal at the particular time.

What it is that makes mystical states so special? Addresing this question Birgitta pointed out that the core of the matter with respect to the quality of mystical states lies in the personal history of a mystic with a strong stress on the religious, conceptual background. It is the accumulated experience of a person that constrains the potential content of a mystical state. At the cognitive level, Birgitta argue, an explanation of what is special to the quality of mystical states therefore needs to take the combined ordinary and mystical developmental background of the mystic into account.

MM, I know presenting Birgitta�s book on this way is very narrow and crude. My hope is based upon your own previous knowledge on the subject you will have understanding on the issue. The best way of understanding Birgitta�s book is reading the entire book. Next time I will try to compare her assesment with my own expereince.
02 August 2004, 02:26 AM
I hope science never takes all the mystery out of it. That would ruin the fun. Mystics "light up" areas of the brain which might not be used as often
by others. I haven't been able to maintain an alpha
state for any length of time in years. I was talking to my dentist about it, and he mentioned the "relaxation response." I can't make it stop!

The "Cloud of Unkowing" is a wonderful state if it does not become a prison. The old spiritual directors warned of this, and I wish I had headed
their warning. These blissful states can become highly addictive and could easily be worshipped, which is idolatry.

It was a blue moon last night, the first one since 2001. Very exalted state walking under it in a sense of wonder, through a garden in what used to be a millionaire's estate. Noone around but rabbits, geese and a nighthawk which circled me several times to let me know we are one. Rapture!!!
Peace!!! Bliss!!! Then a reminder that it's not just for me or anything that is not for sharing God's peace with others, which I rushed across town to do. They can witness the glow and tell when you've been with the Presence. Smiler

We probably know as much about the brain as Magellan knew about the globe, but it's fun to watch the people in white coats uncover Mystery.

Christian mystics are becoming very interested in science. The Hare Krishna people even more so, and
it's good to see that knowledge doesn't have to be percieved as a threat to anyone's theology. Smiler



02 August 2004, 05:54 AM
Although the state of mystic mind is beyond our ordinary mind, it has a profound impact on our brain system. Science at this level can deduct something which converge with the partial state of mystic. Even for us who are on the journey of mysticism this clarification is helpful. Just like knowing the function of kundalini in our body is important, knowing how our brain changes in a state of mysticism is equally important.
05 August 2004, 03:36 AM
Gary Giardina
MM aND Grace with absolute respect I suggest that science's hypothesese and or actual facts seem ludicrous compared with the actual accrued understanding of the broad term mysticism and its various applications.Though understanding of the brain's chemical activities and its hemispheric sites of demarcated tasks is noble the area of existentilism we're discussing is beyond resolutely fascinating and crucial for its implications of the definition of connectedness itself considering telepathy is the ultimite destination of these activities once this cloud state is transformed.Wouldn't it be a greater goal to affirm those concerned would create a welcome atmosphere to the general public's perceptions and understandings of such phenomenona and demystify the hocus pocus and without rhetorical ambiguity confirm the near exponential human gift it is and its potential mammoth contribution to a blessed league of spiritualists- telepathists- and existentialists whose mutuality of purpose is the eclipse of knowledge for the sake of good's control of evil.The smug pseudo intellectualism that is invariably knowledged enough to profess quasi accuracy should be exchanged for the easily known expositive of such matters and not the preposterous sci-fi mentality of entertainment that has cajoled a deflective public who occasionaly are concerned.Deflective meaning the presumed destination of this niche of human activity which involves communicative telepathy and its various implications could easily be exposed and utilized for its certain inspired victory and not the evasive subtext of rhetorical bombast it sometimes seems that likens itself nothing beyond white witchcraft types giggling behind a cauldron or maniacally attempting various impositions for their brand of erotic semi sadistic glut.Succinctly said clear away the distracting tripe of insincerity and a long over due exposition of these human abilities would easily occur without the priority of ego struggles that merely cover up its essential qualities without ever attempting the easy optimization of its usage and its sociological contribution.How such a blessing from God got so invariably abysmalized seems the realm of "show business" and affluent sources who treated it originally like a "Party favor" and currently house it like a pet treated anywhere from an advanced attatchment to an ominous derigible that either distills its intentions or meglomaniacally glowers its egoism.No chips intended yet semi imploring that 2004 years of existence is beyond suggesting that the possessors of knowledge are destined to identify their sources inspired or not and communicate with the general public what they previously thought they couldn't handle which might cause the type of armoring required for what many spiritualists cautiously advise is the ultimite convergence of good and evil and the easing of the earth's final destination involving matters beyond.Take care and God bless.No twisted parallels.Straight forword.Gary V. Giardina.
05 August 2004, 05:55 AM

My professor freind is teaching his class with a book called Consciousness: an Introduction by Susan Blackmore. Do you know the book?


05 August 2004, 11:40 AM
No, I don't know. I have never seen either quoted in those few books I read about consciousness.