Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Determining the Truth of Mystical Experience
1. We know something is true first because we experience it. We know gravity because we fall down. We know a flower because we experience the characteristics of a flower.
2. We know something is true secondly because of logical and thematic consistency. We observe that everything falls down. We are able to extend our experience of gravity to a universal truth because of the consistency with which two masses attract each other. We know a flower is a flower and not bee for example because of characteristic consistencies between other examples of the same type; flowers belong to plants, all flowers are used for pollination, each flower has petals, stamens, pistils. Something that is a true flower is something that has all the characteristics of what a flower is defined to be.
3. Truth builds on truth. We understand the general concept of force because of understanding the experience of acceleration of gravity. We understand that truth of the pollinator because we understand the truth of the flower.
4. Therefore there is truth in mystical experience because it is experience. (see #1)
5. The truth of mystical experience is true because of how it reflects logical and thematic consistency with other sources of truth including other experience. (see #2) Mystical experience that is consistent with Biblical truths is considered to be Christian mysticism. The consistency to other truths imparts the value of truth onto/into the experience. Mystical experience that is not consistent with outside truth may be considered suspect if not false. St Peter had the mystical experience of a sheet of animals lowered down out of heaven and commanded to kill and eat. The truth of the mystical experience was not that there are sheets of animals floating around in the sky. The truth was in the fact that God made all things good.
6. Mystical experience illuminates new truth by building on other truth. (see #3) If a person starts with the truth that God is love. And then experiences the love of God, then they come to the truth that God loves them. This experience combined with the truth that all persons are equal can then be used to understand the truth that God loves others as well.
7. There is a lot of consistency between religions which would lend credence to valuing those commonalities as true. This is the same basis by which we validate scientific truths.
8. Any mystical experience that demonstrated logical and thematic consistency with common truth might also be considered true. (see #2)
9. There may be a third way of evaluating the truth of a mystical experience and that would be based on its predictive ability. This is also the way scientific truths are validated. But not all mystical experiences are of this nature.