Mysticism/Psych Course 9: Summary of first week

Now that the first week of professor Jonathan Garb’s Modern European Mysticism and Psychological Thought course is over here are some personal reflections. (Actually by now we are in the third week, but I am slow to catch up with blogging the course.)

  • When I signed up for the course over a year ago it sounded more of a Kabbalah course and it had a different title. So when the title and the topic changed I was disappointed. But now I am not as I enjoy learning more context and background for the class. In the first week I didn’t learn anything new about Kabbalah’s content, but a lot about the context it developed. That’s a big plus.
  • Professor Garb’s videos are informative, easy to follow and well architected. Even if for nothing else it is worth the efforts.
  • As it transpired from the class forums some of my class mates were disappointed that the assignment for the class had to be short and didn’t leave a lot of space for personal reflection opinion or creative thinking. It was more like a measurement to see whether we got one of the concept of the class. This didn’t bother me at all.
  • For the record here is the question and my answer, for which I got 16 out of the possible 20 points from my peers:
    Q: According to J. B. Hollenback (Mysticism: Experience, Response and Empowerment), how does mystical practice grant one abilities that he or she didn’t previously have? Your answer should include a general description of what occurs in mystical transformation, and at least one example.
    A: Hollenback explains that during a mystical experience the mind is transformed and the changed mind empowers and enables the mystic to perceive the world differently and/or perceive more/different aspects of the world, compared to the mind’s ordinary state. For example, Moses must have had a mystical experience when he encountered God in the burning bush (Exodus 3:2). In Exodus 3:1 we learn that Moses went “to the farthest end of the wilderness, and came to the mountain of God.” This journey, far into the desert , which is often identified as the locale of mystics, and then going to the mountain of God are clear indication that something mystical is about to happen. In other words Moses’ mind was transformed by this time and he became ready to see something that otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to: “the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed”. Moses in his mystical state was more aware of things, such as the state of the bush. Maybe he saw flames that he wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise and other time he would have seen a non-burning bush.
  • On the first days of the course I read  the students’ discussion forums, but since then I barely came back, so my points are based on limited observations.
    • The most popular forum topic is the personal introduction topic as of this time with 241 posts. There were no numbers released (as far as I know) on the total number of students taking this course. The Creativity/Innovation/Change course I took couple of months ago, started with 125000 students and I am pretty sure this has much less, probably one or two order of magnitude less.
    • The other “getting to know you” forums are mostly about specific regions of the world or study groups or individuals’ introductions.
    • Browsing through the topics of the “Week 1: Lecture Discussion” forums it is clear that the majority of the students are seekers who had one or other kind of mystical experiences. There are  “ordinary folks” and quite a few academic types too. The little I dipped into the conversations was fun. I wish I had more time for it.
    • The breadth of the topics discussed is impressive:  Entheogens, Mystic or Mentally Ill, Should a mystic be afraid of persecution?, Shamanic Trance, Déjà vu, Mysticism and Alternative Healing Modalities, Science and Mysticism, Marc Chagall, Literal “orbs of light”, Freemasonry, Jung’s Red Book…

And now onto the blogging the lectures of the second week. Hopefully by the end of the third week I will catch up.


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