4 Ecstasy I
In the past, I have spoken of "Epiphany": epiphany as a mode of experience, a moment of recognition that projects the mundane literal consciousness upward into super-personal atmospheres. I have also spoken of the “intuitive response”, the psychic "re-centering" of conceptual elements, rearranging themselves in a magical way to make problem-solving possible. We have previously suggested that the process of "psychic 're-centering'" is very similar to, if not identical to, epiphany. We have noted that all epiphanic and intuitive, re-centering realizations come "in a flash". We have also noted that the Intuitive re-centering of concepts, directed toward an end condition, brings into play pre-conscious mind states, again, similar to (or identical to) the pre-conscious mind states associated with the collective unconscious, including the ancient racial memories of elves and fairies (including Santa Claus).
Today's presentation on "Ecstasy" will attempt to create a link between the epiphanic experience, and the ecstatic experience; I will try to show how ecstasy is an extension of the epiphanic experience, with some extra bells and whistles added in. Furthermore, it will suggest that these ideas lead to the following conclusion: that the intuitive epiphany may be the path to ecstasy.
So how can we tell what ecstasy is? If it is, indeed, a state of transcendent, super-literal, spirit consciousness, it is pointless to try to "define" it in words; however, there are attendant characteristics of the experience which are the same every time, and which may, therefore, be used to describe the "effects" of ecstasy in approximate, or generalized, language.
Now, to begin with, it is necessary to emphasize the fact that the epiphanic mode of experience proclaims the positive validity and importance of -- SURPRISE! The ability to accept surprising developments (and cherish them as gifts from God) is a powerful way to keep positive in a world in which most people dwell many hours a day on the negative. I had a friend in L.A. who used to say, of unpleasant surprises, "A flat tire on the freeway is an invitation to experience life." All this guy's clouds were silver-lined, and all the beatings he received from the rod of the shepherd were accepted with thanksgiving.
Another friend of mine affirmed the element of surprise in the Aesthetic response: which he likened to walking in the woods and suddenly seeing a deer, just inches from your hand; you may never see that deer again, but the memory of that surprise will leave an indelible impression on your mind and leave you open to being pleasantly surprised again. It just goes to show how the unexpected may contain the unopened flower of eternity. It also goes to show how the unknown entity, that we so terribly fear, may turn out to be our best friend. The underlying conclusion here is that Epiphany, Re-centering, Intuition, and the Aesthetic Response are all experiences of upward consciousness shifts, and are, thereby, intimately linked to ecstatic mind states.
Once again, being prepared for the experience can only soften the blow SOMEWHAT--an epiphany, ready or not, will always come as a surprise, because shifting consciousness levels always results in an awakening—a homecoming to a home you’ve never seen before. Epiphanies put us in contact with higher vibrational rungs on Jacob's ladder. Hence, it is very reasonable to associate an epiphany with a traumatic opening of the spiritual eyes, an enriching of the holistic experience of life, the most extreme instance of which is "Ecstasy".
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Ecstasy may refer to:
• Ecstasy (emotion), a trance or trance-like state in which a person transcends normal consciousness
• Religious ecstasy, a state of consciousness characterized by expanded spiritual awareness, visions or absolute euphoria"
From the World English Dictionary:
Origin: 1350–1400; Middle English extasie < Middle French < Medieval Latin extasis < Greek ékstasis displacement, trance, equivalent to ek- ec- + stásis stasis
[C14: from Old French extasie, via Medieval Latin from Greek ekstasis displacement, trance, from existanai to displace, from ex- out + histanai to cause to stand]"
[Sidebar: It is interesting how the original word communicates a sense of "displacement". As you will remember, we have repeatedly suggested the idea that spiritual experience involves moving from one consciousness level to another; therefore, this movement, through different states of awareness, is very appropriately described by the term "displacement". In ecstasy, we feel a sense of movement from one density of ego-resolution to another, from one perspective to another, and even from one time frame to another.
The term "trance", a transcendence of “normal” consciousness, also finds its way into many definitions of ecstasy. Several people have noted that I appear to go into trance when I conduct. It is certainly true that, during performances, I enter a super-personal state that allows me to see into the orchestra's collective mind, and it is certainly true that all my cognitive senses are working at an accelerated rate--the type acceleration characteristic of "re-centering". Thus, “trance” may be defined as a “displacement” of psychic attention from one level of consciousness to another, presumably a higher, or more inclusive state of awareness. Indeed, it turns out that the idea of a more “inclusive” state of awareness is the same thing as an “expanded” state of consciousness--a state of consciousness in which we can simply TAKE IN MORE STUFF. By removing (or displacing) our inner vision to a vantage point higher up the ladder, we can see farther and farther into distant cosmic terrains.]
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Religious ecstasy is only one type of an altered state of consciousness characterized by greatly reduced external awareness and expanded interior mental and spiritual awareness, frequently accompanied by visions and emotional (and sometimes physical) euphoria. Although the experience is usually brief in time, there are records of such experiences lasting several days or even more, and of recurring experiences of ecstasy during one's lifetime. Subjective perception of time, space and/or self may strongly change or disappear during ecstasy, sometimes called enlightenment.
The adjective "religious" means that the experience occurs in connection with religious activities or is interpreted in context of a religion. Marghanita Laski writes in her study "Ecstasy in Religious and Secular Experiences," first published in 1961:
"Epithets are very often applied to mystical experiences including ecstasies without, apparently, any clear idea about the distinctions that are being made. Thus we find experiences given such names as nature, religious, aesthetic, neo-platonic, sexual etc. experiences, where in some cases the name seems to derive from trigger, sometimes from the overbelief, sometimes from the known standing and beliefs of the mystic, and sometimes, though rarely, from the nature of the experience.
Ecstasies enjoyed by accepted religious mystics are usually called religious experiences no matter what the nature of the ecstasy or the trigger inducing it."
Exclusive and inclusive views
Religious people may hold the view that true religious ecstasy occurs only in their religious context (e.g. as a gift from the supernatural being whom they follow) and it cannot be induced by natural means (human activities). Trance-like states which are often interpreted as religious ecstasy can be deliberately induced with techniques or ecstatic practices; including, prayer, religious rituals, meditation, breathing exercises, physical exercise, sex, music, dancing, sweating, fasting, thirsting, and psychotropic drugs. An ecstatic experience may take place in occasion of contact with something or somebody perceived as extremely beautiful or holy. It may also happen without any known reason. The particular technique that an individual uses to induce ecstasy is usually one that is associated with that individual's particular religious and cultural traditions. As a result, an ecstatic experience is usually interpreted within the particular individual religious context and cultural traditions. These interpretations often include statements about contact with supernatural or spiritual beings, about receiving new information as a revelation, also religion-related explanations of subsequent change of values, attitudes and behavior (e.g. in case of religious conversion). . . .
Yoga provides techniques to attain an ecstasy state called samādhi. According to practitioners, there are various stages of ecstasy, the highest being Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Bhakti Yoga especially, places emphasis on ecstasy as being one of the fruits of its practice.
Sufism (the mystical branch of Islam) has theoretical and metaphorical texts regarding ecstasy as a state of connection with Allah. Sufis practice rituals (dhikr, sema) using body movement and music to achieve the state. Zila Khan also practices this through Music Therapy and her performances.
[Sidebar: The presence of all these nuanced differences in mind state, and all the different triggers that can shift the devotee's mind state from one level to another, makes me wonder how much time we actually spend OUT of ecstasy: if we, like the photon, constantly wink into and out of existence, then we must be in a constant state of ecstasy, we just don't know it!
Back to Wikipedia:]
"In the monotheistic tradition, ecstasy is usually associated with communion and oneness with God. However, such experiences can also be personal mystical experiences with no significance to anyone but the person experiencing them. . . .
In hagiography (writings about Christian saints) many instances are recorded in which saints are granted ecstasies. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia religious ecstasy (called "supernatural ecstasy") includes two elements: one, interior and invisible, in which the mind rivets its attention on a religious subject, and another, corporeal and visible, in which the activity of the senses is suspended, reducing the effect of external sensations upon the subject and rendering him or her resistant to awakening. The witnesses of a Marian apparition often describe experiencing these elements of ecstasy."
Now, those of you who have been following my sermons for the past few weeks will have doubtless already guessed that I am raising "Ecstasy" to the very peak of discernible consciousness levels, and am equating it, the ultimate ecstatic moment, with death.
Might it be that all these depressed, suicidal eccentrics, longing for death, are NOT WRONG--that we ALL should be pining after death, as a man dying in the desert might thirst for water, as a scarecrow might yearn for LIFE?! If the moment of death is a moment of birth into a new life, how may we resist pining after it? On a more modest level we may speak of the ineffable longing of sehnsucht, the joy of not having, which is only justified by the future translation of the devotee's consciousness into a higher realm. The joy of sehnsucht borders on the ecstatic, but keeps us grounded with at least one foot in the material plane, whereas death paints the big picture, and in death, by projecting ourselves into our own deaths, we touch the essence of who we are.
My personal life is fraught with pains and frustrations of the past pursuing me around every corner of my current progress, and it is difficult to hold on to a positive attitude; indeed, many people would attribute my current obsession with death as a negative activity. This has turned out not to be so, since thoughts of my death have propelled me into a future in which I exist beyond my physical limitations, and above my petty mundane trials. I thank God for the rod of the Shepherd that punishes each wrong turn with unequivocal directives, and comfortable healing moments of stasis.
Let us pray: Jesus, thank You for our lives and the crosses each of us must bear through this chaotic earthly landscape or paradox and disappointment; the commissions we accepted before the world began are dear to our hearts because we know we have been enlisted by you to perform a certain thing to the Glory of the Father. Still, we stand outside the gates of Heaven and wait patiently, pining after the face that will eventually open the door and let us in. Amen.