Mysticism/Psych Course 4: Magic, Mysticism, and Psychology

The second video of the class* outlined the differences between magic, mysticism, paranormal and their relation to and psychology.  The text of the summary below is taken verbatim from the transcript or from the slide behind Professor Garb on the video.

  • Cover for Mysticism, Empowerment, Experience and ResponseMagic: changes the actual world
  • Mysticism: changes onlyone’s perception of the world, but empowers one’s mind
  • Psychology: changes only one’s perception of the world.
  • Paranormal: maybe the ordinary mind has different abilities than the transformed mind after the mystical experience
  • Do we have different abilities after the mind is transformed by mystical experience of life?
  •  J. B Hollenback’s thesis  in Mysticism, Empowerment, Experience and Response:  The transformed empowered mind is capable of different operations/more operations than the ordinary mind. Mystical processes can transform our perception and thus grant us subtle abilities that we previously didn’t possess.
  • Authors of the Impossible by Jeff Kripal: There is evidence that mystics have paranormal powers and this view is certainly shared by the mystics themselves.  The scientific establishment, the psychological establishment for example, is not  open to a lot of evidence as to paranormal abilities. A lot of research which has been overlooked.
  • Mystics feel that their experience of the world is different, is radically different.
  • The, mystics themselves and believers in mysticism certainly feel that mystics have paranormal powers and is not the same as magic. It’s not about changing the world, it’s about changing ourselves and how we interact mostly with other people.
  • Three possibilities
    1. All mystical systems describe the same shared reality
    2. Mystical systems, by transforming our perception, differ from each other in the ways they change our interpretation of reality
    3. Mystical systems, by transforming our perception and empowering our minds, differ from each other in the ways they recreate our reality.
  • Controlled comparison, when rather than trying to compare all the mystical systems, to limit the comparison and then we can navigate between the extremes of universalism or atomization.  ->  Take a controlled area of comparison  from about the 16th century onward, to the modern period and to one continent, to Europe.

I started to warm up even more to Porfessor Garb. he is funny, which is not appearant form the notes above. Part of what I am taking out when summarizing he lectures are the examples and jokes. Here are the instances, when I laughed out loud during the lecture:

  • [Talking about Hollenback’s thesis] “It takes about 600 pages to do it, but it’s a very powerful thesis, really.”
  •  [Talking about controlled comparison] “It’s not saying, of course, God forbid, or whatever it is if one isn’t in a theistic system.”

And of course using Harry Potter as a shared  cultural reference helps a great deal to feel relevant to the student and helps understanding the points he is trying to make.

As for the substance of the lecture, I found it quite useful. I have to admit I have a bit of aversion to the (claimed) practitioners of magic and even mystics, particularly contemporary ones. That is one the reasonI didn’t delve into the forums of the class, where lots of people seem to be talking about their experiences. I am not ready to be interested in that yet. But the professor talking about how mystics perceive the world and why they do it that way helps me getting ready to get the full experience. Of the class, not the mystics’ way.

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Modern European Mysticism and Psychological Thought” course I am taking.

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