JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

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JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Jun 01, 2014 6:13 am

[Updated to add: Joe sent me a short overview of his book, about 1050 words (or 6 pages of nice large 18pt monospace font, or 1 page of 10 pt), which I've appended to a post downthread in pdf and doc formats, specifically on page 2 of the thread. The only reason I'm not linking to it here is because, naturally, he talks about more of his book in the interview, so you might as well go through it! 8-) But we did provide a much shorter introduction to his book later if you want to hunt for it.]

Joe and I work on the same Christian apologetics web journal (christiancadre.blogspot.com), and today his publisher has finally released a project he has been working on for many years, The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant For Belief. (The hyperlink goes to the Amazon version, for help in concentrating any early sales in ranking, but it's available at other sellers, too. It's a paperback by the way, not an ebook yet.)

Theistic arguments often overlook the question of mystical experience due to difficulties in the necessary subjectivity involved, plus the obvious problem (for anyone with a modicum of experience in the topic) that the resulting doctrinal spread is practically as wide as all religions everywhere. Consequently such events seem of little use to most apologists of specific theistic religions or philosophies, where not outright self-contradictory or competitive or even hostile evidence: anti-religionists and even outright anti-theists may appeal to them as objective evidence (since the experiences objectively happen) against claims of special religious truths by any religion.

But the experiences do objectively happen, whatever their explanation(s) or subjective content, and so during the past century a body of work studying the experiences by scientific methods has been quietly grown and polished and continues to be grown through controlled studies on a regular basis.

Joseph Hinman has worked hard to collect and summarize typical studies for lay readers, creating an introduction to the field for people largely ignorant of the science of the topic (like myself). A former atheist, Joe was first led to study the field by mystical experiences of his own. Later he decided some version of trinitarian Christian theism made the most sense to him, and has become (again like myself) a Christian apologist, but he also recognizes that the data from this field is spread too widely to point to more than a few characteristics of God (which could be considered one of the meanings of his chosen title for his study: only a trace can be detected by this method, but it is a trace.)

So he doesn't push for various doctrines in the book; and so similarly, readers of many kinds of belief (or even non-belief or anti-belief) may find this book useful in at least opening up the topic for further discussion. Along the way, Joe also includes introductions to related topics like Plantingian rational warrant and Kuhn's theory of paradigm shifts, and extensively discusses important rebuttals to interpreting the evidence in favor of being an objective trace of God (plus counter-rebuttals of course since this is that kind of book).


Note: Joe is dyslexic, so while strong efforts have been made (including by myself as an invited proofreader for two chapters) to eliminate problems a few may still exist, especially in first printed editions. The reader may blame us as proofers for missing those. I'll be trying to go back and proof any problems which show up downthread as the interview progresses, too.

Note: a live podcast interview (not with anyone on this thread) is also now available! http://www.cyiworldwide.com/deeper-wate ... eph-hinman
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Cole » Sun Jun 01, 2014 6:17 am

Hey Jason!

That sounds absolutely like something I've been looking for. Thanks! I will be ordering me a copy right now. :D
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Jun 01, 2014 6:34 am

Edited to add: thanks, Cole! :)

So, having introduced the book, why did I invite Joe to this forum for an interview (aside from wanting to help a friend of course)?

The question of mystical experiences worldwide throughout history (and its related topic in near-death experiences, though that isn't the topic of this book), has been broached several times here on the forum in past years. Joe knows the limits of how far to argue for what the evidence he discusses suggests about the existence and characteristics of God, but the evidence as such does strongly suggest God acts in a wide and largely religion-neutral fashion toward saving sinners of many kinds from sin, even if not immediately into what we as Christian universalists (of various sorts) would regard as doctrinal accuracy or even immediately into whatever we would regard as moral propriety. Not everything in a person's life is immediately fixed (by whatever standard we ourselves may regard as being fixed), but people's lives and their relationships with other people are demonstrably improved on a regular basis.

That's hardly evidence solely in favor of some kind of Christian universalism (or even solely in favor of a loosely pluralistic non-Christian 'universalism' promoted by groups like the so-called Unitarian Universalists); Joe himself is an Arminianistic annihilationist along the lines of C. S. Lewis, but a Calvinist could say such results are indicative of the special election of those people, and obviously the extra-religious inclusivism suggested by such results doesn't preclude other people being tormented forever (by God or otherwise) or eventually annihilated completely out of existence (by God or ditto). But it does at least suggest a pre-religious inclusivism along the lines accepted by, for example, Lewis. And that fits Christian universalism, too, as far as it goes, and certainly doesn't count against us! ;)

Another interesting and useful aspect of Joe's book, that I think readers here will appreciate, is his exposition on Kuhn's theory of paradigm shifts -- though of course any minority belief would appreciate that section. 8-) (I'm hoping Chris Date (@theopologetics) and his friends at the anni journal Rethinking Hell will find Joe's work worth commenting on and interviewing, too.) But I'll let Joe talk more about that himself below as part of the interview.


This interview thread is open to any comments and questions as I go along. Since Joe is a guest (and particularly my guest -- and since I have just not-incidentally tagged a Calv anni friend of mine, too, for attention), I will be more picky about emotional misbehaviors here than I usually am. So play nice; challenges are one thing (though keep in mind Joe isn't here to debate or even discuss Christian universalism, presumably ditto Chris if he shows up), name-calling is another. TEST ME ON THIS AT YOUR PERIL!
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Jun 01, 2014 6:40 am

So, @Joe Hinman (tagging his account here to alert him the interview is starting, but I'll send a direct email, too), let me start by asking you to talk a little about how you got involved in studying mystical religious experiences in the first place. If I remember correctly, you had mystical experiences of some sort (you don't have to go into details) back years ago when you were an atheist, right? Is that what got you interested in the topic at first?
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Sun Jun 01, 2014 8:07 am

If I remember correctly, you had mystical experiences of some sort (you don't have to go into details) back years ago when you were an atheist, right? Is that what got you interested in the topic at first?


Hi Jason, glad to be here.

First terminology: general umbrella of "spiritual" or "religious experience." That includes mystical but much more. Mystical experience proper is beyond word, thought, or image. It's about undifferentiated unity of all things. It's the sense that it's all one and it fits together in a great whole and everything is good and meaningful. Even that is putting it into words, it's beyond words. It's what Abraham Maslow called "peak experience."

People who think God is telling them to put their baby in the oven or something, or exercise demons from their dog, that is not mystical experience. It's in words. Mystical experience is not in words. There's a secondary kind of mystical experience called "sense of the numinous" or "sense of the Holy" (Rudolph Otto). That is a sense of the special nature, a quality of cleanness or sublimity that evokes a sense of awe and reverence. It's often accompanied by an all pervasive sense of presence and love. People who have that often think of it as God's love.

This that I'm about to say is not in my book. There are personal experiences in my book not of my own. I do hint at having had them but I don't discuss it at all. The book does not have much in the way describing experiences. It's really an intellectual discussion.

I did not have the undifferentiated unity in moving from atheism to Christianity. I had spiritual experiences and miraculous ones that amazed me. Experiences that I didn't think were possible. After I got saved, (what I call "born again experience" which was not mystical) I had the experience charismatics call "baptism of the Holy Spirit" with speaking in tongues. That was similar to the sense of the numinous. I think that was part of it. But it wasn't really what I would call the full on mystical experience. That came about a year or two after I first had the "born again" experience. That was with the undifferentiated sense of unity and sense of the numinous.

That latter experience started me seeking to study mystical experience. I had no systematic way to study it. My reading was all framed by Evelyn Underhill and writers of the mystical movement of the early 20th century, Dean Inge. Baron von Hügel. That stuff was so framed by its own tradition I still didn't have a good understanding of what mystical experience was. I got saved in 1979. Little by little throughout the 80s I studied it in spurts. I discovered W.T. Stace and read some of his stuff and read about his theories. That gave me my first systematic understanding of it. Meanwhile I was proceeding with my Christian life, and praying and trying to cultivate prayer. I had a friend who led me to the Lord, she was really a mystic. She didn't say "I am really a mystic." I didn't think of her that way. I read the stuff she suggested but she didn't put it into a framework that defined the experience. I related everything to the charismatic world. I was actually getting grounded in a mature mystical understanding but did not know it. That's why Stace seemed to right to me. In 90's I got away from it. I was in graduate school I had a Masters degree in theology from a major seminary (Perkins at SMU). It's not that they said "stop being a mystic" and I said "Ok sure." It just sort got replaced by an intellectual outlook, an arrogant outlook, a self aggrandized outlook.

By 2007 when I started writing the book, mystical experience was something I felt like was part of my past. I still liked it, I still thought it was worthwhile and I wanted to write about it. I also felt like it's something I used to do. I went through a crisis where my whole life fell apart, and I started praying again. I had some more amazing experiences. I was getting back into the spiritual life. I had been arguing with atheists on the net since 1998. During the course of that time I had seen lots of arguments they make about "religion is mental illness," "religious experience is emotional instability." So I had looked up some studies that contradicted those ideas. I also had studied Abraham Maslow. He was a figure I discovered way back in my atheist days as an undergraduate. I was a sociology major, so he was important to me. I found his book on peak experience and he said things that refuted the kinds of things atheists were saying about religious experience and religion in general. He himself was an atheist. I thought it would be important to read his book.

In the interest of sharpening my message board apologetic, I read Maslow and researched enough to discover Hood and the M scale. Then about 2008 It hit me "hey why don't I write a book about this huge volume of studies I'm finding that say religion is good for you. NO one out there seems to know about it outside of psychology of religion." I would find atheists saying things about how science proves religion is primitive and silly and blah blah and then I would see psychologists of religion were saying "that's all nineteenth century stuff, now we know religious experience is a healthy thing and religion is not primitive or the result a pathological state." They specifically said Freud is out of date. It was in actively researching that book that I constructed the frame work of understanding mystical experience that the book assumes. It's very much influenced by William James, and Ralph Hood who is the biggest William James fan ever. Maslow still figures prominently and so does W.T. Stace.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Jun 01, 2014 9:03 am

Thanks, Joe, that was a great detailed answer!

I expect many people will be surprised to learn that there is such a thing as a serious study of mystical experience, and that even atheists or agnostics can make scientific studies of it and come away agreeing that there is a quantifiable result of the experience (or various modes of it rather, which you've given us some ideas about already) which is mentally healthy and leads to results which even as atheists or non-religious they would agree are beneficial not only to those who have such experiences but for other people who don't have such experiences.

This is related to the M-scale you mentioned. Would you talk a little more about what this scale is, how and why it was developed, and its purposes in scientific study?

(Note: while I'll continue the interview, other members can ask questions at any time from this point on.)
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Jun 01, 2014 9:12 am

Joe Hinman wrote:Mystical experience proper is beyond word, thought, or image. It's about undifferentiated unity of all things. It's the sense that it's all one and it fits together in a great whole and everything is good and meaningful. Even that is putting it into words, it's beyond words. It's what Abraham Maslow called "peak experience."


I'm sure lots of people here will be particularly interested in that part. ;)

(That isn't a question for Joe, just highlighting something for members in passing. :) )
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Cole » Sun Jun 01, 2014 9:55 am

I can definitely relate Jason. Christ said to trust in God but trust in Him also. So, when my faith is in Christ I trust in the Father. This is what I believe Jesus did. He said, "Not My will but Yours be done" It was by the joy set before Him that He endured the cross. When I stop trying to figure it out with reason and let go faith arises and I come into a faith union with Christ. It's a love union like a marriage. Sometimes it's more intense than other times. But when my future is secure and the past is gone then I'm free to live in the NOW. It's in this present moment that I experience this wonder and joy when I enter into the "Beautiful". It stirs a sense of longing. It's like I just know that there is a God of love. Either/or becomes both/and. Saints and sinners unite. This where it's no longer us and them but we can love the enemy. Now, keep in mind that if it's both/and then it has to be BOTH either/or AND both/and. It's unity and division. This is what I see in the Trinity. Three separate persons and one God.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Sun Jun 01, 2014 10:57 am

Jason: This is related to the M-scale you mentioned. Would you talk a little more about what this scale is, how and why it was developed, and its purposes in scientific study?


Joe: The M scale or "mysticism scale," invented by Ralph Hood Jr. professor of psychology at U.Tenn. Chattanooga, is a means of establishing a control mechanism so we know what is and what is not a mystical experience. For example in his book on brain chemistry and religious experience John Hick talked about these researchers that claimed they have manufactured religious experience in the laboratory. Thus it's just a product of brain chemistry. but they didn't' establish how to tell what is and what is not a mystical experience. So researcher said his respondent dreamed she was having sex with Jesus so that's a mystical experience. Is it? So the M scale is a means of determining.

There are other such scales that were made. The problem is old and Maslow made his own scale to control for other kinds of experience. But Hood's scale is the most validated. That means it has the most corroboration form other studies. He made other language versions of it and administered it to people around the world in various coteries and got the same answers. So people all over the world in many different faiths are having experiences that they all understand as experiences of God, they are same kinds of experiences. They score the same on the M scale. That's how they determine they have the same kinds of experiences, because the point is scale designed to reflect certain kinds of experiences.

Remember in the last question I spoke a guy named W.T. Stace? He was philosopher from England. He wrote in the 40s and 50s. He took all of the writings of the great mystics and distilled from those what he thought would be the profile so to speak of mystical experience. That became the basis for Hood's scale. Hood did his scale to valuate Stace's theory and so validating it created a means of establishing a control for comparing religious experiences to non religious experiences. He's assuming that a religious experience conforms to Stace's theory.


How does he know Stace got it right? That's the importance of applying it to people around the world. They did it in Sweden, UK, India, Iran, Japan and U.S.A. They have the same kind of break down. People who say they had experiences of God and their lives are made better by it also describe, via the way they answer the questions, the kinds of things that Stace's theory predicts they would experience.

Now later Hood did another one where he took out the names and the doctrines and had a sort of neutral version. So you are not asking "did you experience Jesus" but "did you experience a supreme being?" He also did one where uses the names appropriate to the tradition, "did you experience Buddha?" The experiences are the same. The names change with reference to the tradition, and the explanations of the meaning changes with reference to the tradition, but the thing experienced (undifferentiated unity, presence of love, whatever) are the same the world over.

The whole body of studies that I use are not all using the M scale. It began in the 70s but didn't catch on until the 90s. It's now the standard method of determining a mystical experience in psychology of religion. There have been other scales and they are not far off from the content of the M scale, or from the outcome. But the M scale has the best validation, and has been applied in a more diverse set of countries and so on. It's hailed as the best. Two other scales that are widely used are by Greely (1974) and another by Alexander and Boyer (1982). In terms of the whole body of research for the 50 year period back to the 60s, there's general agreement along the same lines. But the M scale really nails it.

A lot of atheists have argued "how do you know they are not lying?" Since this is like a survey you asked questions and rate them on a scale according to their answers. These atheists imagine these peasants in Iran are asked to do this and they going to say "Let's lie to them, ok we'll do it in such a way as to validate Stace." Well, they would never have heard of Stace, they would not know anything about what they are supposed to be validating. Had it not validated Stace one might be able to argue they did lie, but then no one would care. But the 32 items on the test are complex, to get them all exactly the way you must in order to validate, would require a complex understanding of Stace's theory. I think you would be hard pressed to find even American College students who have heard of Stace. Even philosophy majors might not have heard of him. He's not exactly a household name. The idea that peasants in Iran, Japan and India will know enough to fraudulently validate the claim is silly. The idea that it happen by coincidence is just out of the question. It's 32 items. So several hundred peasants in 3 different countries are going to accidentally get 32 items a certain way to validate this guy's theory? Pretty safe to assume not.

That means we can study mystical experiences scientifically. We can't study the actual nature of the experience in people's heads but we can study the effects of having the experience. Now we have a means of saying what is and what is not the experience.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Sun Jun 01, 2014 11:15 am

It's in this present moment that I experience this wonder and joy when I enter into the "Beautiful". It stirs a sense of longing. It's like I just know that there is a God of love.


I like that. Never realized it but I have that experience with time too. It's like now and eternity are qued to each other. Past and future are irrelevant.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby redhotmagma » Sun Jun 01, 2014 1:29 pm

Hey Joe, thanks for coming on. I've not read much on or from mystics, though I've had a couple mystical experiences, including a major one that brought me into the understanding of Universalism. I did not believe that any of that stuff was for our time prior to that day a few years ago. I certainly do now :)
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Cole » Sun Jun 01, 2014 1:49 pm

Hey Joe!

Yes, I have experienced it after doing yoga. I also experience it when I have faith that my future is in the hands of an infinitely wise, all loving, holy God. When my future is secure I have hope. I no longer fear the future or death. The past is over and gone and forgiven. So, I can live in the present without anxiety or frustration.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Jun 01, 2014 1:59 pm

Yay for Tennessee scholars! :mrgreen:

A set of further questions:

1.) In administering such tests, is data biased to be from people already nominally religious (e.g. only that kind of data is collected), or have atheists, agnostics etc. also been included in polling techniques? If not, why not; if so, are there any expected or unexpected correlations or discorrelations? For example I might expect atheists and agnostics to also have such experiences, but some atheists and other theists might not expect atheists to have such experiences. Obviously there's a question of willingness to report in any case, but can you give us an idea of results or restrictions to the methodologies?

(Ultimately I realize the answer would be read-and-find-out. ;) But if you can think of a promotional answer, that's okay.)

2.) If members were interested, would there be any sense in you providing an example of such testing here on the forum? I put it that way because I realize there might be control issues or other factors which preclude even making the attempt, but if possible I'd like to give readers an idea of what it's like to take such a test. (I keep wanting to say "the" test, but part of the point of your book is that there's a surprisingly large body of research through multiple related tests.)

I do have other questions if #2 doesn't work out, don't worry. :ugeek:
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Jun 01, 2014 2:01 pm

Note to members: while I've done what I can to make the interview visible on the forum, it is after all tucked away here in the Books category; so if anyone reading the thread wants to ping or pm other members you think would be interested, go ahead! I have a couple of people already in mind myself... @Sobornost and @johnnyparker for example.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby DaveB » Sun Jun 01, 2014 2:18 pm

I do find this fascinating. It also imo resonates with Hick's An Interpretation of Religion, a book I like very much. His theory, that the experience with the Real is an experience shaped by culture and belief, leads to his form of pluralism, which gets a little sticky, for me, when the fact of competing truth-claims is brought up.
I have a copy also of William Alston's Perceiving God, which I have started a couple of times but not finished.
I'll be very interested in following your presentation, Joe.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Cole » Sun Jun 01, 2014 2:28 pm

Also Joe,

I wanted to tell you that now that I have learned better in how to let go and have faith and live in the NOW I no longer take medication for being bipolar. I've been off of it for a little over a month now and I'm focused and doing better than I ever have. No major anxieties or worries. :D
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Jun 01, 2014 2:32 pm

Incidentally, Kristen Rosser presents a far more personal review of the book at her weblog here: http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com/2014/05 ... od-by.html
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Cole » Sun Jun 01, 2014 3:34 pm

Hey Jason!

I would agree with a lot of that. Bill Wilson from A.A. explains his experience of God that transformed his life in the Big Book of A.A. Such ecstatic experiences happen when someone is real depressed and insecure. When the insecurity is suddenly released it produces an ecstatic experience or mountaintop experience. This is what has happened to me on many occasions. It's a dark night of the soul that you go through with a confusion of the mind. As Bill Wilson has stated, for most people the change comes gradually and therefore they aren't aware of it on such an intense level. The psychological change for some people is like a roller coaster. For some it's instantaneous for others more gradual. Bill Wilson was also a big fan of William James' - Varieties Of Religious Experiences.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby BPW » Mon Jun 02, 2014 5:48 am

I'm pretty unfamiliar with the term mystical experience or exactly what it means so sorry if this question shows I am completely misunderstanding what you are writing about and just let me know if it is totally off base. . .

How are these mystical experiences different from enlightening moments people have on LSD? I'm specifically thinking about when LSD has been used in conjunction with therapy in a controlled environment. It sounds like the experience and results are very similar.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Jun 02, 2014 6:09 am

Hey, BPW! (That's Baptist Preacher's Wife, Joe.)

Joe has already kind of answered this a little above, but when he gets around to talking in more detail about the M-scale (per my question, plus some planned followups) you should have a good beginning to that answer.

Joe suffers from a chronic leg infection, which is acting up more than usual right now (my bet would be due to the stress/excitement of the book being published), so he's having to go to the doctor every day for treatment. This is likely to delay his side of the interview somewhat.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Mon Jun 02, 2014 6:20 am

JasonPratt wrote:Yay for Tennessee scholars! :mrgreen:

A set of further questions:

1.) In administering such tests, is data biased to be from people already nominally religious (e.g. only that kind of data is collected), or have atheists, agnostics etc. also been included in polling techniques? If not, why not; if so, are there any expected or unexpected correlations or discorrelations? For example I might expect atheists and agnostics to also have such experiences, but some atheists and other theists might not expect atheists to have such experiences. Obviously there's a question of willingness to report in any case, but can you give us an idea of results or restrictions to the methodologies?


Atheists have mystical experiences. They don't have them as much, because such experiences do tend to lead unbeliever who have them to God. My own case was not mystical per se [editor note: by criteria like the M-scale which Joe will talk about soon], but the sense of numinous was clearly involved in the conversion part. The surprising thing is when atheists have them the experiences are the same. They work just like the other religious people (I say "other" on purpose) in that atheists explain it with their own doctrine and put the name from their own tradition it (no name, or "void.") They do have the same experience and they respond to it in the same way.

It is as though the constructs we use to understand things are the lens and the thing the lens focuses upon is colored by the lens. Atheists are doing that no less than the religious types.

(Ultimately I realize the answer would be read-and-find-out. ;) But if you can think of a promotional answer, that's okay.)


ha! if you said that you would have no interviews.

2.) If members were interested, would there be any sense in you providing an example of such testing here on the forum? I put it that way because I realize there might be control issues or other factors which preclude even making the attempt, but if possible I'd like to give readers an idea of what it's like to take such a test. (I keep wanting to say "the" test, but part of the point of your book is that there's a surprisingly large body of research through multiple related tests.)


Problem is I never learned to score it. I didn't need to all I did was report Hood's findings. I didn't administer it myself. I've looked at the question I feel I would score high on it, but I didn't score for myself. I'm just writing the book not applying for a job as a mystic.




I do have other questions if #2 doesn't work out, don't worry. :ugeek:


ha! I always know i can count on Jason to come up with more questions!
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Mon Jun 02, 2014 6:29 am

BPW wrote:I'm pretty unfamiliar with the term mystical experience or exactly what it means so sorry if this question shows I am completely misunderstanding what you are writing about and just let me know if it is totally off base. . .

How are these mystical experiences different from enlightening moments people have on LSD? I'm specifically thinking about when LSD has been used in conjunction with therapy in a controlled environment. It sounds like the experience and results are very similar.


Good question. There is a huge body of literature (a sub field) that deals with drugs and religious experiences. I'll give you a link to such a site later.

I don't advocate drugs of any kind. I did them before I was a Christian. That's part of my conversion story. The sense of God's presence when I prayed took away my desire for drug high. I just said 'what do I need this stuff for, I can feel God's presence, that's much more than just a high and they can't bust me for praying."

Having said that here's a link to a site, the Council on Spiritual Practices. They are pshrinks who deal with religious experience. On that sight you can read much about both mystical experience and drugs and religious experience.

http://csp.org/experience/docs/unitive_consciousness.html

William James theorized that there is a continuum from very mild experiences that are really little more than just "insightful moments" all the way up to Moses on the mountain top or whatever. There's a continuing range in between. Most of the experiences that are strong enough to warrant notice and produce conversions are sort of in the middle range. I did know a guy whose conversion experiences amounted to shedding a tear in church. That was what from the outside, there was more going on in his heart.

There's more to these experiences than that, or they would not be worth talking about. The review by Wordgazer of my book shows her experience. She talks about her mystical experience.

http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com/2014/05/book-recommendation-trace-of-god-by.html

I don't remember what year it was or exactly how old I was when it happened. The kids were young: that much I remember, so I must have been in my mid-40s. It was summer-- I remember that, too.

I was standing in our tiny back yard behind the kitchen door, under a sky filled with stars. I think it was about 10 or 11 pm. I was alone. For some reason more stars were showing than usual; maybe some of the street lights were out. It was very quiet.
I looked up into the stars and thought of God.

And then. . .

Something indescribable fell away from my ordinary sense of things. Perhaps it was the careful, reasoned categories I was accustomed to use to frame my thoughts. I had a sensation of being lifted up and up, though I also knew I was still standing solidly in the night-sweet grass. Over the horizon the moon swept up; it was a gibbous moon, about two-thirds full. And I saw.

Saw that all things were part of a serene and purposeful whole. Saw that I myself was a valued and necessary part of that whole, as were the trees, the grass, the stars, the moon, and the minuscule flying creatures that brushed my face. Felt a tender, loving purpose guiding it all towards some unknowable but beautiful end.

"All is well. All is one. I am here."

It wasn't a message spoken in words, but an indescribable knowing that was frankly impossible to doubt or question. I didn't question it. I breathed quickly, flutteringly-- completely astonished yet completely at ease, completely accepted and accepting.

Slowly, slowly the feeling faded, drained away. I was left there in the dark grass again, myself again, and I turned and drifted back through the door and into bed and sleep.

But I have never forgotten, and I have never been the same. The memory of joy-- joy present in part now and expectant of fullness in time to come, has ever since held in peace the foundations of my soul.


[Editor's note: that's the introduction to Kristen's review, not the full review itself. The rest can be read at the link.]
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Mon Jun 02, 2014 6:34 am

DaveB wrote:I do find this fascinating. It also imo resonates with Hick's An Interpretation of Religion, a book I like very much. His theory, that the experience with the Real is an experience shaped by culture and belief, leads to his form of pluralism, which gets a little sticky, for me, when the fact of competing truth-claims is brought up.
I have a copy also of William Alston's Perceiving God, which I have started a couple of times but not finished.
I'll be very interested in following your presentation, Joe.


Both of those guys are among my favorites. I read different books in researching for my book, but by the same same authors. Hick had been a favorite of mine since way back in the 70s (undergraduate days). He figured prominently in my early conversion. I was looking for intellectual Christians, since I was an undergraduate who fancied himself a big intellectual. I first found him in the 'arguments for God' articles in philosophy anthologies.

Alston is great. I see him as a bigger name and bigger thinker than Hick, but that's saying something because I see Hick as great. I discovered Alston in Seminary. It was William Abraham who put me on to him. I read a book about epistemology and religious experience by him for the book I wrote. I can't think of the title off hand.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Mon Jun 02, 2014 6:43 am

A bit more about drugs and religious experiences. Many atheists argue that this is proof that religious experience is just a matter of brain chemistry. They point to the Good Friday Experiment by a guy named Walter N. Pahnke. He gave psilocybin to the experimental group and the control group just went to church. The experiential group had way more mystical experiences than did the other group.

The problem is his data was contaminated. Everyone in his sample had mystical experiences a child. That opens the door to the possibility that they were just being refreshed in memory rather than having new experiences created by the drugs. There are a lot of differences in drug induced and "natural" mystical experiences. That leads Hood (the M scale guy) make the argument about "receptors." He uses that answer against all the arguments that Mystical experience is just induced by brain chemistry. The answer is that the drugs open the receptors that God created us with so we can sense his presence. So it's just triggering the experience not creating the experience.

Other differences include time duration, drug induced lasts a lot longer. The quality is different. With my experience my actual prayer life included feelings of love for God and God's love for me. A pot smoking high did not.

I talk about all of this in the book. I even go into detail on the Good Friday follow up study. Chapter seven is about drugs and placebos.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Cole » Mon Jun 02, 2014 7:27 am

Hey Joe!

I know exactly what the lady is talking about. I struggled with intense shame and fear most of my life. I went to a Dr. Phil seminar back before he was popular. We played this game where we had to dress up and sing what was called our "stretch song". Well they made us do it until we did it right. My song was "Walking On Air". When I finally let go of all the intense shame and fear and started dancing I became focused in on the moment. The whole place went up in an uproar. After the song was over everybody came out and lifted me up in the air and they played the song "Hero". When we were through I went outside by the pool and laid down in a chair. Running up the side of the building were the most beautiful lights I have ever seen. The wind was gently blowing across the water making tinny waves. The peace and joy was intense. God just seemed real to me. I was looking people in the eye and communicated better than I ever had. That night when I went to bed and I woke up the next morning the intense fear and shame were back.

Really what the Holy Spirit is - is love, joy, peace. It's having hope and loosing your fears of living in the moment. It's an experience you have when your ego deflates and you become more humble and filled with a childlike wonder.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Jun 02, 2014 10:34 am

Joe,

Well instead of guest-scoring (so to speak), could you give readers an idea of the questions (generally and particularly) which are asked for evaluating the M-scale, and how those questions are important?

I think doing so will help address questions of how various scientists are testing for any distinctions between mere chemical reactions and something more than chemical reactions, as well as opening up a way to discuss how results from such tests can be used as the co-determinate evidence you were talking about earlier.

You might also thus open up a line of discussion on why you don't recommend using the content of the experiences to build doctrinal sets, and/or how the results of the experience point toward something other than an omnidirectional moral mush (which obliterates the idea of good or leads to the idea that Satan and God are equal or are equal aspects of the same yin-yang or whatever).
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Mon Jun 02, 2014 11:10 am

JasonPratt wrote:Joe,

Well instead of guest-scoring (so to speak), could you give readers an idea of the questions (generally and particularly) which are asked for evaluating the M-scale, and how those questions are important?


I've seen the whole thing on line before. Now of course when I need it I can't find it. I did find some of the questions from the M scale in an article explaining the Johns Hopkins study, which was about drugs evoking mystical experience and used the M scale as a measure of mystical experience.
It talks about a couple of the questions:

“I have had an experience which I knew to be sacred” was
changed to “I had an experience which I knew to be sacred.” The Mysticism Scale includes four
items for each of eight dimensions of mystical experience. Each item was rated on a nine-point
scale (–4
=
this description is extremely not true of my own experience; 0
=
I cannot decide;
+
4
=
this description is extremely true of my own experience). Scores on the Mysticism Scale
were calculated as the sum across items for each of three empirical factors (Introvertive, Ex-
trovertive, and Interpretation) and total sum across all items (maximum possible score across
items
=
288).
Details of the chosen psilocybin session.
Participants completed several additional questions
about their chosen psilocybin session, including three questions from the Persisting Effects
Questionnaire (see Griffiths et al. 2008, 2011) that assessed possible long-lasting effects of the
psilocybin session. Participants were also offered an optional opportunity to provide a written
description of their psilocybin experience (82 percent provided a written response)


the article about the Johns Hopkins study: http://www.heffter.org/docs/2013pdf/Mystical%20experience%20questionnaire.pdf


other sample questions from another source:

“I have had an experience which was both timeless and spaceless”

“I have never had an experience which was incapable of being expressed in words”

http://www.mysticalexperience.org/surveys.htm


I think doing so will help address questions of how various scientists are testing for any distinctions between mere chemical reactions and something more than chemical reactions, as well as opening up a way to discuss how results from such tests can be used as the co-determinate evidence you were talking about earlier.

You might also thus open up a line of discussion on why you don't recommend using the content of the experiences to build doctrinal sets, and/or how the results of the experience point toward something other than an omnidirectional moral mush (which obliterates the idea of good or leads to the idea that Satan and God are equal or are equal aspects of the same yin-yang or whatever).


Doctrine is a specific set of information that must be encoded in exact terminology and relates to the discourse of a tradition. The nature of mystical experience is beyond words. I'm not saying that some basic doctrines are reinforced by it, in the way that general revelation backs general belief: God is love for example. But when I say "doctrine" I mean specifically theological prescriptions such as the doctrine of the incarnation or the doctrine of the Trinity. Something that is beyond words can't be used to communicate exacting verbiage.

Mystical experience is about knowing God. It's experiencing God's presence and reality, it's not a communication of doctrinal positions. Often such experiences contradict cherished doctrines. Trying to base doctrine on something that is fundamentally beyond doctrine would be a mistake.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby DaveB » Mon Jun 02, 2014 11:22 am

Would you suggest I get your book??
That's what's called throwing a softball... :D
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Jun 02, 2014 11:53 am

Eh, I already answered that question for Joe in the introduction. :mrgreen:

Joe Hinman wrote:But when I say "doctrine" I mean specifically theological prescriptions such as the doctrine of the incarnation or the doctrine of the Trinity. Something that is beyond words can't be used to communicate exacting verbiage.

Mystical experience is about knowing God. It's experiencing God's presence and reality, it's not a communication of doctrinal positions. Often such experiences contradict cherished doctrines. Trying to base doctrine on something that is fundamentally beyond doctrine would be a mistake.


Okay, but I think people may want to know how you connect this position, with using the results of such experiences as co-determinate evidence for the existence of God. And by "God" you're certainly talking about something with one set of characteristics and not another. For example you're talking about the ground of all reality and not about an object within overarching reality.

How does your argument using experience-results as evidence, not amount to discovering characteristics (and thus basing doctrine by reference to one rather than another set of characteristics) of something "fundamentally beyond doctrine"? If it's fundamentally beyond doctrine, how can that not mean it's fundamentally beyond any ability to infer facts about it (including by means of appeal to a co-determinate as evidence, the "trace" of it?)


(Note: that's what I call throwing a softball. :twisted: )
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Sobornost » Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:00 pm

Hi Joe –

Nice to meet you :) Well I’ve been called here by my friend Jason who is a complete gentleman. I’ve had my mind on other things but since he’s’ called me and I do possibly have something to contribute to your fascinating discussion here, I am here like the genie in the lamp.

First of all I’ve been a person on this site who has talked quite a lot about the Christian mystics – so it’s appropriate that I do try and give some thoughts.

ON a personal note I had lots of broadly mystical experiences in my adolescence at precisely the time when I was in a rather authoritarian fundamentalist charismatic mileu – and my peers did not help me in any way to cope with these. A canny spiritual director who knew something about the human heart and with some broader knowledge of medicine would have been able to help. I actually have temporal lobe epilepsy – and I’m very happy to take the medication that stops the visions and the involuntary emotional bombardments that are a part and parcel of temporal lobe complex partial seizures. So that’s me for you 

I’ve read and greatly enjoyed William James’s classic on mystical experience. Also in my late adolescence I read some of the countercultural stuff like Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception and the fraudulent books of Carlos Casteneda linking experimentation with drugs and mystical experiences (very uneasy :? ). I think these self validating experiences of oneness are perennial; perhaps they occur more in religious people but they are not confined to religious people (I remember the writings of an Atheist named Richard Jeffries often came up in studies of mystical states).

I remember profiting from reading R.C. Zahener’s book Mysticism Sacred and Profane which is an answer to Aldous Huxley. He helpfully surveys the mystical literature across religions and distinguishes an amoral perception of everything being one and of being one with everything,, to other mystical states where the person having the experience is not sucked into an amorphous oneness but rather has a perception of the ‘personalising energy’ of universal compassion coursing through and sustaining all things (which is found across the religions and not confined to Christianity, Judaism and Islam). My reading in world religions – especially regarding religion and violence – has confirmed Zahener’s misgivings about the validity of ‘everything is one’ experiences – that he terms pan-en-henism. This for example is a state that is striven for with harsh and brutal discipline in the samurai Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen – and actually turns people into highly efficient amoral killers for whom life and dearth are one. I remember Zahener drawing parallels between Rinzai Zen writings and the ramblings of Charles Manson.

I feel a little unesay with identifying mysticism with Maslow type peak Julian of Norwich and William Law – my two favourites – are not focussed on this.

Julian had a series of near death experiences as a young woman which supplied her with a powerful fund of images and experiences to work with. I think the great women doctors of the spiritual life often work like this – they keep their roots in experience (often bodily experience) and work creatively with images and intuition rather than with purely rational categories (Catherine OF Genoa, Metchild of Magedeburg and Hildegard von Bingen also spring to mind). But what matters with Julian is her reflections upon her experiences over a life time as much as the experiences themselves. She enquires after them for greater and more compassionate understanding of the lot and the perplexities of her fellow ‘even Christians’. She is concerned that her experience should be interpreted in the language of Holy Church and not to contradict this – but she is able to come up with stunning insights into the reach of the love of God in Christ for us poor creatures. And her visions enabled her to reach out to her neighbours in their affliction with illness, war, famine with a message of comfort and edification.

William Law – although counted a mystic – is on record as saying that he never had any special experiences. His writings are to do with the inner work of trying from self to God over a life time. (He was almost certainly influenced by Mother Julian and in turn influenced George MacDonald). It’s interesting that he had so many run ins with his dear friend John Wesley who loved Law but did not comprehend him. Two points of contention were over Laws’ purgatorial universalism and his specific interpretation of God’s wrath – very different from Wesley’s. Btu another thing that affronted Wesley was Law’s stress that states of inner assurance were not to be idolised as fruits of the spirit. Wesley took great exception to this – which is surprising (or perhaps not so surprising ) because Wesley’s private correspondence reveals that he lacked the experience of settled assurance that he preached (Wesley was a depressive). I’m rambling but I think another emphasis of the mystics that I see as good sorts(including Catherine of Genoa who von Hugel majored on) is an understanding that peak experiences may come but they also go (and they are no mark of begin special) and that there will be a place and a time for lack of feeling, and for patience in dry prayer – sitting faithfully turning the will away from self towards Love especially when we fell nothing. I know that dry prayer in Quaker meetings saved my sanity and perhaps my life after too much high octane religion and too much confusion because of epileptic states when I was young. So I’m a fan of it :D
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby DaveB » Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:22 pm

Good stuff Dick.
I might add that in that part of my journey when I was studying/practicing Zen, I learned a good lesson: that is, that people tend to find what they are told they will find, when it comes to meditation or other consciousness-changing methodologies.
For instance, in sitting meditation, a beginner might be told that "as you become aware of sensations in your foot, or your abdomen, or neck, scalp, etc. - try to feel what the sensation is telling you about emotions you may have packed away, these emotions will block parts of your body" - well if you are told to look for it, you'll interpret whatever sensation you come across, that might be just a random sensation, as something meaningful.

I think Hick, and perhaps Joe (?) would say that many 'mystical' experiences are somewhat like that - as water takes the shape of the bowl it is poured into, the same water will appear in different shapes. Likewise our experiences are formed and interpreted by the 'vessel' that 'has' them.

Well I'll wait to read Joe's book before I go further on that.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Sobornost » Mon Jun 02, 2014 1:47 pm

Yes Dave just because I slagged off the Rinazi sect of Zen above I don't think that all types of Zen meditations lead down this road. In fact it is a Soto Zen priest that has blown the lid on just how much Rinzai Zen contributed to Japanese genocide in Manchuria during the second world war. One lesson here is that mystical experience divorced from moral discipline can result in evil (I understand that in Burmese Zen schools where Zen is gentle and pacific it is never taught outside of the Eightfold Path of moral discipline). I have found it ironic that so many of the Zen teachers snapped up by sixties hippies like Alan Watts have turned out to be Japanese War criminals in denial about Emperor worship.

A lesson that William Law always drove home is that if a person turns to God wihtout having first at least begun to turn away from self then they can become far worse than they were in their natural state.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby DaveB » Mon Jun 02, 2014 1:52 pm

Oops - I had missed your earlier reference to Zen. :oops: Thanks for clearing that up!
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Tue Jun 03, 2014 4:46 am

JasonPratt wrote:Eh, I already answered that question for Joe in the introduction. :mrgreen:

Joe Hinman wrote:But when I say "doctrine" I mean specifically theological prescriptions such as the doctrine of the incarnation or the doctrine of the Trinity. Something that is beyond words can't be used to communicate exacting verbiage.

Mystical experience is about knowing God. It's experiencing God's presence and reality, it's not a communication of doctrinal positions. Often such experiences contradict cherished doctrines. Trying to base doctrine on something that is fundamentally beyond doctrine would be a mistake.


Okay, but I think people may want to know how you connect this position, with using the results of such experiences as co-determinate evidence for the existence of God. And by "God" you're certainly talking about something with one set of characteristics and not another. For example you're talking about the ground of all reality and not about an object within overarching reality.



Right. Yes I am influenced by the theology of Paul and Hans Urs Von Balthasar, John Macquarrie, and others who say God is the ground of being. But that's another book. I don't go into that too much in the Trace of God. I agree with Balthasar and not Tillich that God is consciousness (except a certain reading of Tillich might imply that God is conscious. Tillich says God is "the ground of consciousness," depending upon how one takes that...)

How does your argument using experience-results as evidence, not amount to discovering characteristics (and thus basing doctrine by reference to one rather than another set of characteristics) of something "fundamentally beyond doctrine"? If it's fundamentally beyond doctrine, how can that not mean it's fundamentally beyond any ability to infer facts about it (including by means of appeal to a co-determinate as evidence, the "trace" of it?)


(Note: that's what I call throwing a softball. :twisted: )


You are saying the argument for co-determinate is a soft ball? The first chapter is about why we have to have arguments and why we cannot just make observations directly of God at work. God is not given in sense data because he's the foundation of sense data, of all there is, not a thing in creation to be given in sense data. If you think it has to be direct empirical knowledge to be "hard ball" whatever that analogy means in terms of philosophy, how are you going to get that in dealing with something that is not subject to empirical data? God is beyond our understanding. One might think to do "hard ball" one would need to understand. The God correlate as Tillich called it, co-determinate is associated with Schleiermacher, the best we will get. Is that soft ball?

The first thing you have to do is find a means of demonstrating what the co-determinate is, or could be. If you already know then you must already know God exists and you don't need the argument. To see how I do that, you need to read the book. Chapters 1 and 2.

I'll give you a hint, I make two major God arguments. (1) Co determinate and; (2) argument from epistemic judgement.

(1) says we have a set of criteria which we can take to be the trace of the divine, for historical and other reasons. Then these characteristics are found in mystical experience. The result of the experience is life transforming. I use this term to group all the different results into one label. That label is meant to imply positive dramatic long term changes. Your life changes for the better and that can be broken down into different categories distilled from the findings of two studies, Wuthnow and Nobel.

Wuthnow:

*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
•Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style

Noble:

*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion

That's from that council on spiritual practices page that I already linked to.

All of that together I germ "life transforming." That is what religion promises. That's the nature of religion to offer life transformation and these experiences are religion delivering on that promise. Therefore we should be able to assume that this is the Trace, it's the effect of God on human lives.

The second argument is epistemological. I set up a criteria through which we understand that our experiences are real. We understand the reality of our experiences according to a criteria that we employ naturally. That is:

regular
consistent
shared (inter-subjective)
enables navigation.

If the phenomena is regular, every time I try to walk through walls I bounce off, I always bounce off in the same way, the wall appears to be solid. I eventually learn "I can't walk through walls." I check my experience against that of others. no one I have ever met can walk through walls. Of course we don't spend a great deal of time worrying about it. We conclude these things immediately but that's basically the process we observe, and when a phenomena is regular and consistent and shared by others, we assume it's real.

We also assume it's real if the enables us to navigate in the world. We do what works. Think of Dr. Phil's annoying and shallow little question "how's that working for ya?" There is a point to it, if it's not working why are you still doing it? Although I do want to punch him when I hear him say that.

So religious experience meets this criteria. I find that it's regular and consistent and so many others. Every time I pray if I really seriously put attention into it I'm not dashing off "thanks for the food," I feel a presence of holiness. I say that because it's also the same kind of feeling. It's both regular and consistent. Then, not that my very experience is shared, but I find other believers describing similar sounding feelings when they pray. So I assume it is a shared experience in kind.

That is borne out by these studies. They are not just anecdotal, they giving us quantitative analysis which establishes scientifically that these are the effects of religious experience. Something is being experienced it's not a trick of the mind, and it fits the criteria we use to judge reality.

As for "navigation" the studies also show that the effect of the experience is enable one to navigate in live in the sense that one is able to cope with the vicissitudes of life. One is better able to make decisions in a clear headed mature way by having the mental capacity, wisdom and understanding of life to do so. These are the result of those experiences.

Since the experiences fit the criteria we use to decide reality, we should trust that they are indicative of a reality. We are not imposing wishful thinking. Since the experiences fit the criteria for epistemic judgement we should assume we are experiencing a realty beyond ourselves.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Tue Jun 03, 2014 4:48 am

DaveB wrote:Would you suggest I get your book??
That's what's called throwing a softball... :D


suggesting you get my book? so if I order you to get my book is that hard ball?

get my book, please. whatever sports analogies apply. I'm really more of a football fan. :D :mrgreen:
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Tue Jun 03, 2014 5:03 am

Sobornost wrote:Hi Joe –

Nice to meet you :) Well I’ve been called here by my friend Jason who is a complete gentleman. I’ve had my mind on other things but since he’s’ called me and I do possibly have something to contribute to your fascinating discussion here, I am here like the genie in the lamp.


ok

First of all I’ve been a person on this site who has talked quite a lot about the Christian mystics – so it’s appropriate that I do try and give some thoughts.

ON a personal note I had lots of broadly mystical experiences in my adolescence at precisely the time when I was in a rather authoritarian fundamentalist charismatic mileu – and my peers did not help me in any way to cope with these. A canny spiritual director who knew something about the human heart and with some broader knowledge of medicine would have been able to help. I actually have temporal lobe epilepsy – and I’m very happy to take the medication that stops the visions and the involuntary emotional bombardments that are a part and parcel of temporal lobe complex partial seizures. So that’s me for you 


Good then you have a clear idea of what I'm taking about.

I’ve read and greatly enjoyed William James’s classic on mystical experience. Also in my late adolescence I read some of the countercultural stuff like Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception and the fraudulent books of Carlos Casteneda linking experimentation with drugs and mystical experiences (very uneasy :? ). I think these self validating experiences of oneness are perennial; perhaps they occur more in religious people but they are not confined to religious people (I remember the writings of an Atheist named Richard Jeffries often came up in studies of mystical states).


William James is a sort of hero for me. I read the Varieties way back, maybe as an undergrad. My early exposure to mystical experience was through Underhill's major book, Mysticism and due to the influence of the woman who led me to the Lord I read some Madme Guyon.



I remember profiting from reading R.C. Zahener’s book Mysticism Sacred and Profane which is an answer to Aldous Huxley. He helpfully surveys the mystical literature across religions and distinguishes an amoral perception of everything being one and of being one with everything,, to other mystical states where the person having the experience is not sucked into an amorphous oneness but rather has a perception of the ‘personalising energy’ of universal compassion coursing through and sustaining all things (which is found across the religions and not confined to Christianity, Judaism and Islam). My reading in world religions – especially regarding religion and violence – has confirmed Zahener’s misgivings about the validity of ‘everything is one’ experiences – that he terms pan-en-henism. This for example is a state that is striven for with harsh and brutal discipline in the samurai Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen – and actually turns people into highly efficient amoral killers for whom life and dearth are one. I remember Zahener drawing parallels between Rinzai Zen writings and the ramblings of Charles Manson.


I was attempting to do a William Barett type piece, what he did for existentialism in Irrational Man I was attempting to do for mystical experience. So my engagement with it in the book is not as nuanced as the writers we are talking about. It is nuanced and hopefully not ponderous but the nuances are about the studies not the classic writers.



I feel a little unesay with identifying mysticism with Maslow type peak Julian of Norwich and William Law – my two favourites – are not focussed on this.


I think the M scale studies establish that if it fits the Stace criteria it's mystical. Anything else we might term "spiritual" or "religious" experience. The quantitative researchers are using the umbrella term: Spiritually Transformative Experiences (STE).

Maslow links Peak experience with religious experience although he also shows that's not limited to religious people. He shows its related to the kinds of experiences of the mystics. There's no reason to exclude it from the mystical category. It's not part of mystical theology, because mystical theology seeks to explain mystical experience through a theological understanding, rather than a psychological one. That's talk about the experience not the experience itself.

Julian had a series of near death experiences as a young woman which supplied her with a powerful fund of images and experiences to work with. I think the great women doctors of the spiritual life often work like this – they keep their roots in experience (often bodily experience) and work creatively with images and intuition rather than with purely rational categories (Catherine OF Genoa, Metchild of Magedeburg and Hildegard von Bingen also spring to mind). But what matters with Julian is her reflections upon her experiences over a life time as much as the experiences themselves. She enquires after them for greater and more compassionate understanding of the lot and the perplexities of her fellow ‘even Christians’. She is concerned that her experience should be interpreted in the language of Holy Church and not to contradict this – but she is able to come up with stunning insights into the reach of the love of God in Christ for us poor creatures. And her visions enabled her to reach out to her neighbours in their affliction with illness, war, famine with a message of comfort and edification.

William Law – although counted a mystic – is on record as saying that he never had any special experiences. His writings are to do with the inner work of trying from self to God over a life time. (He was almost certainly influenced by Mother Julian and in turn influenced George MacDonald). It’s interesting that he had so many run ins with his dear friend John Wesley who loved Law but did not comprehend him. Two points of contention were over Laws’ purgatorial universalism and his specific interpretation of God’s wrath – very different from Wesley’s. Btu another thing that affronted Wesley was Law’s stress that states of inner assurance were not to be idolised as fruits of the spirit. Wesley took great exception to this – which is surprising (or perhaps not so surprising ) because Wesley’s private correspondence reveals that he lacked the experience of settled assurance that he preached (Wesley was a depressive). I’m rambling but I think another emphasis of the mystics that I see as good sorts(including Catherine of Genoa who von Hugel majored on) is an understanding that peak experiences may come but they also go (and they are no mark of begin special) and that there will be a place and a time for lack of feeling, and for patience in dry prayer – sitting faithfully turning the will away from self towards Love especially when we fell nothing. I know that dry prayer in Quaker meetings saved my sanity and perhaps my life after too much high octane religion and too much confusion because of epileptic states when I was young. So I’m a fan of it :D



That's really interesting. I say that sincerely not to brush it off. There was a time when I was really into studying those kinds of figures. Your level of knowledge is very impressive. I just don't want people to buy The Trace of God expecting to find a lot of in depth of analysis of the writings of those people. I didn't go into that aspect. The reason is because my mission was to popularize the body empirical work that demonstrates the goodness of religious experience.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Tue Jun 03, 2014 5:11 am

Sobornost wrote:Yes Dave just because I slagged off the Rinazi sect of Zen above I don't think that all types of Zen meditations lead down this road. In fact it is a Soto Zen priest that has blown the lid on just how much Rinzai Zen contributed to Japanese genocide in Manchuria during the second world war. One lesson here is that mystical experience divorced from moral discipline can result in evil (I understand that in Burmese Zen schools where Zen is gentle and pacific it is never taught outside of the Eightfold Path of moral discipline). I have found it ironic that so many of the Zen teachers snapped up by sixties hippies like Alan Watts have turned out to be Japanese War criminals in denial about Emperor worship.

A lesson that William Law always drove home is that if a person turns to God wihtout having first at least begun to turn away from self then they can become far worse than they were in their natural state.



I am not prescribing religious experience as a panacea to solve all problems. I'm not writing a spiritual hand book. I'm not trying to lead people into a deeper spiritual life. I think we can benefit from knowing about the validity of these experiences. My main purpose is apologetic and I want to make known the fact that there is a huge body of scientific work that shows us that religious experiences make your life better and refer to a reality that's there. Although I do hope aspects of the book can suggest a deeper spiritual life.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Tue Jun 03, 2014 5:18 am

DaveB wrote:Good stuff Dick.
I might add that in that part of my journey when I was studying/practicing Zen, I learned a good lesson: that is, that people tend to find what they are told they will find, when it comes to meditation or other consciousness-changing methodologies.
For instance, in sitting meditation, a beginner might be told that "as you become aware of sensations in your foot, or your abdomen, or neck, scalp, etc. - try to feel what the sensation is telling you about emotions you may have packed away, these emotions will block parts of your body" - well if you are told to look for it, you'll interpret whatever sensation you come across, that might be just a random sensation, as something meaningful.


I don't deal with a level of personal meditation or "inner life." I do have a chapter on placebos. It's on both placebo and drugs. I think in a general sense I establish that mystical experience is not a self fulfilling prophesy or the result of placebo. That's not exactly what you are saying. It's true in cultivating "inner life", one must learn to focus upon the source of the life not the epiphenomena.

I think Hick, and perhaps Joe (?) would say that many 'mystical' experiences are somewhat like that - as water takes the shape of the bowl it is poured into, the same water will appear in different shapes. Likewise our experiences are formed and interpreted by the 'vessel' that 'has' them.

Well I'll wait to read Joe's book before I go further on that.


Good analogy, water conforming to the shape of a basin. Lots mystical author use that in various ways. I think about in relation to culture, mystical experience adapting to the various forms of culture in being a universe experience.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Jun 03, 2014 5:28 am

Joe,

I think you and Sobor (real name Dick) will get along famously. :D Thanks for the comments, Sobor!

Re: softball, the analogy is about pitching easy or hard questions for the 'batter' to hit. Dave was joking about pitching the softest possible question (do you suggest he should buy the book). I was joking in return about what I consider to be an easy set-up question for you to reply to (because even what I consider my softball questions are detailed, i.e. I was poking fun at myself). That's all.


Let's talk about Kuhn's paradigm theory for a while. You write in some detail about this early in the book, when discussing rational warrant for belief. I expect at least some forum readers won't be familiar with it, but I also expect a lot of members (and guests) will be VERY familiar with what the theory describes, having gone through it themselves on some important topics (which may or may not be related to the forum's reason for existence. ;) ) In fact anyone converting from one belief to another will likely have gone through this, depending on how strongly they held the initial belief.

Would you introduce the idea for us?

(Obviously other developing discussions can continue, too.)
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Tue Jun 03, 2014 6:23 am

JasonPratt wrote:Joe,

I think you and Sobor (real name Dick) will get along famously. :D Thanks for the comments, Sobor!

Re: softball, the analogy is about pitching easy or hard questions for the 'batter' to hit. Dave was joking about pitching the softest possible question (do you suggest he should buy the book). I was joking in return about what I consider to be an easy set-up question for you to reply to (because even what I consider my softball questions are detailed, i.e. I was poking fun at myself). That's all.


I know. I was trying to be funny. My brother always warned me not to try that. :mrgreen:


Let's talk about Kuhn's paradigm theory for a while. You write in some detail about this early in the book, when discussing rational warrant for belief. I expect at least some forum readers won't be familiar with it, but I also expect a lot of members (and guests) will be VERY familiar with what the theory describes, having gone through it themselves on some important topics (which may or may not be related to the forum's reason for existence. ;) ) In fact anyone converting from one belief to another will likely have gone through this, depending on how strongly they held the initial belief.

Would you introduce the idea for us?


Kuhn based his theory upon the works of Swiss child psychologist named Jean Piaget (pee-air-jjjjay) (with that grating French sound you can't write). That theory says children learn by setting up models of how they think things work, "paradigms". Then these paradigms get worn down as they are contradicted by reality over time. As long as they can absorb the contradictions or "anomalies" into a paradigm they will keep it. When they can no longer do it, there are too many contradictions, they have set up a new paradigm.

Here's a link to my page on my first website (Doxa) that explains Kuhn. This is one of the first pages I put up on the web. It was written while I was still in doctoral work. Although it's not on a level I would have written for a professor. I was trying to be a popularizer for my website. I think it hits most of the highlights: In the section on Science and religious belief: Kuhn. Please read the link to gain some understanding of Kuhn.

But why does he come up in The Trace of God? In chapter 1 I'm explainingwhy we need to make arguments for God rather than just go out and get scientific "proof" of God. I explain why the atheist demand for scientific proof of God is really an unfair demand. In so doing I present Kuhn as a means of understanding the limitations in science. The atheist is expecting this relative construct of human thought to give us definitive information about the basis of reality (God).

Kuhn shows us that all of those things that atheists take as "facts" will be seen as anomalies in another generation.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Sobornost » Tue Jun 03, 2014 11:45 am

Hi Joe –

That makes sense. I really wasn’t trying to derail you conversation with my bonnet full of wild bees.

Yes of course I agree with your broad aim entirely. And I have to apologise if I came over as a spanner in the works man – it’s just me being an Englishman :lol: .

Obviously you and Jason have an apologetic purpose in your discussion here to find a middle space between Jason’s metaphysical apologetic and your work which is based on sifting subjective data for the same purpose. Atheists – well not all Atheists but certainly the Dennet and Dawkins crowd – want to dismiss all religious experience as a form of mental illness, as a malignant meme. Freud said something similar – but his methodology had less claims to objectivity. I personally think the whole New Atheist project is absolute tosh and certainly in the UK it seems to be pretty widely derided now even by atheists and agnostics. There was a hilarious article by an agnostic comedian in a UK paper imagining Richard Dawkins grabbing the microphone from Martin Luther King when he was making his famous ‘I have a dream speech’ and shouting testily at the crowd, ‘Stop listening to this rubbish. What you really need to do is read a good biology text book (and I’d recommend one of my own of course)’.:-D

We all come from different perspectives at things. And I appreciate the Wuthnow and Noble indicators of religious experience you’ve cited. Yes I’d agree that these are excellent criteria for evaluating healthy religious experience that is life transforming in a most excellent way. It may be because of early experience – but not just this – but I guess I come at this from a slightly different perspective of being aware of varieties of religious experience not all of which are healthy and some of which can destroy people. And I think my main concern in life has not been so much an apologetic one but a pastoral one of discernment in these matters.

So I’ll just outline some stuff and then I’ll let you proceed apace (Jason can tag me if he thinks I might have something useful to say).

Mystical experience proper is beyond word, thought, or image. It's about undifferentiated unity of all things. It's the sense that it's all one and it fits together in a great whole and everything is good and meaningful. Even that is putting it into words, it's beyond words. It's what Abraham Maslow called "peak experience."


This definition of the mystical as a state of experience of undifferentiated unity – it sounds very much akin to the via negative mysticism that we find in the tradition of Dionysus the Areopagite though the Cloud of Unknowing. This is certainly one form of religious experience. But there are others which are to do with sensual visionary experiences – via positiva ones of seeing the world in a grain of sand a heaven in a wild flower for example.

And something that’s always interested me is the fit between the type of person having the experience and the type of experience itself. William James’ chapters on the experiences of those who are ‘Sick Souls’ and the experience of those who are Healthy Minded in their appropriation of religious experience are wonderful on this score.

Atheists may say that religious experience is the result of mental illness. That’s really overstating the case. But people of different temperaments – some of which can become pathological if taken to extremes – have slightly different types of religious experience. So sometime the two can be linked. I’m thinking of George Fox and his terrible struggles with scrupulosity– a condition that a number of lovely people here struggle with. And the basic sanity of his conclusions from his struggles with scrupulosity and all of the temptations to blaspheme and utter profanities that seemed to assail him. He didn’t; accuse himself in the end – He cried to God ‘Lord why is it that I am assailed by these when I have nothing but love for thee, And was given the reply so that you may have a sense of all conditions and be able to minister unto all conditions’. That’s a healthy response. But I also remember many examples of pathological masochism detailed by James in his chapter on saintliness for example.

I note also – of interest to many people here – that Jonathan Edwards actually wrote some very beautiful stuff on his own via positive mystical experiences of apprehending God in nature – and these experiences built him up. However, the work that he is most known for here is Sinners in the hands of an Angry God. Delivered in a monotone to a congregation in this men got down on all ground and barked like animals and woman and children screamed in terror. Since his revivals seemed to lead to burn out in the areas of his visitation I see this as purely negative emotional stimulation. I’m well acquainted with the Calvinist literature of seventeenth century England and how total depravity teaching often completely undermined people and induced pathological states from which some recovered, some went mad beyond retrieval and some killed themselves. That’s one example of negative religious experience and I often worry about Calvinist sermons with dreary and threatening musical back tracks on the internet today. MY experience is that they often have a devastating effect on people.

That’s just one example of religious experience or experience induced in the name of religion actually being, at least for some (and not just a few), a cul de sac of destruction (although for a few it might be the door to transformation. I’ve used it because lots of people here have issues with it. I would always want to draw a distinction between good and bad religious experiences – and what is purely emotional stimulation leading to unhealthy states of consciousness and what actually leads to the love that builds up
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Cole » Tue Jun 03, 2014 12:37 pm

Joe,

I just wanted to tell you that I received my copy of your book. Looks like it's going to be good. Thanks! :D
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby redhotmagma » Wed Jun 04, 2014 3:19 am

I don't want to derail the thread, but Joe I was tooling around your site a little bit. Your article on kephale as source is exactly how I see it, and just to tie into this thread, was revealed to me in a vision, and has become a defining point for my theology. Its very exciting for me to see some historical backing for this.

Also your models of revelation article is wonderful, and very much how I view these things, as far as I've skimmed the article. ( I have my first book by Keryni sitting on my counter, waiting for some vacation time to dig in. )

This is the article for other readers on revelation
http://www.doxa.ws/Bible/Models_rev.html

Jason thanks for bringing Joe here, the timing of me coming back on this site after almost a year, and being introduced to Joe's work is serendipitous for me.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Wed Jun 04, 2014 5:12 am

Michael_Cole wrote:Joe,

I just wanted to tell you that I received my copy of your book. Looks like it's going to be good. Thanks! :D


great. glad you like it. thanks for buying it. At least that's one. A small step for Joe, let's hope not the only step for Joe.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Wed Jun 04, 2014 5:15 am

redhotmagma wrote:I don't want to derail the thread, but Joe I was tooling around your site a little bit. Your article on kephale as source is exactly how I see it, and just to tie into this thread, was revealed to me in a vision, and has become a defining point for my theology. Its very exciting for me to see some historical backing for this.

Also your models of revelation article is wonderful, and very much how I view these things, as far as I've skimmed the article. ( I have my first book by Keryni sitting on my counter, waiting for some vacation time to dig in. )

This is the article for other readers on revelation
http://www.doxa.ws/Bible/Models_rev.html

Jason thanks for bringing Joe here, the timing of me coming back on this site after almost a year, and being introduced to Joe's work is serendipitous for me.


that's cool. do you know about the egalitarian movement? It's mostly evangelicals women and men, they seek to uphold an evangelical framework but view the teachings of the bible in a more fair less gender biased light. They have a big movement. There are a lot scholars that support it.

I have a whole section on Doxa (my web site) defending the egal position:

This section contains lots of articles
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Wed Jun 04, 2014 5:34 am

Sobornost wrote:Hi Joe –

That makes sense. I really wasn’t trying to derail you conversation with my bonnet full of wild bees.

Yes of course I agree with your broad aim entirely. And I have to apologise if I came over as a spanner in the works man – it’s just me being an Englishman :lol: .


No no I didn't take it that way. I just thought some readers "out there" might think it's about the mystics if I followed my inclination and began talking about them.

Obviously you and Jason have an apologetic purpose in your discussion here to find a middle space between Jason’s metaphysical apologetic and your work which is based on sifting subjective data for the same purpose. Atheists – well not all Atheists but certainly the Dennet and Dawkins crowd – want to dismiss all religious experience as a form of mental illness, as a malignant meme. Freud said something similar – but his methodology had less claims to objectivity. I personally think the whole New Atheist project is absolute tosh and certainly in the UK it seems to be pretty widely derided now even by atheists and agnostics. There was a hilarious article by an agnostic comedian in a UK paper imagining Richard Dawkins grabbing the microphone from Martin Luther King when he was making his famous ‘I have a dream speech’ and shouting testily at the crowd, ‘Stop listening to this rubbish. What you really need to do is read a good biology text book (and I’d recommend one of my own of course)’.:-D


ahhahaah he probably would too. I've been saying this for years, let's see Dawkins ride the bus with the freedom riders.

We all come from different perspectives at things. And I appreciate the Wuthnow and Noble indicators of religious experience you’ve cited. Yes I’d agree that these are excellent criteria for evaluating healthy religious experience that is life transforming in a most excellent way. It may be because of early experience – but not just this – but I guess I come at this from a slightly different perspective of being aware of varieties of religious experience not all of which are healthy and some of which can destroy people. And I think my main concern in life has not been so much an apologetic one but a pastoral one of discernment in these matters.


That was my perspective too. I only discovered these studies doing apologetic. The book should be of interest to more than just the apologetics crowd.

So I’ll just outline some stuff and then I’ll let you proceed apace (Jason can tag me if he thinks I might have something useful to say).

Mystical experience proper is beyond word, thought, or image. It's about undifferentiated unity of all things. It's the sense that it's all one and it fits together in a great whole and everything is good and meaningful. Even that is putting it into words, it's beyond words. It's what Abraham Maslow called "peak experience."


This definition of the mystical as a state of experience of undifferentiated unity – it sounds very much akin to the via negative mysticism that we find in the tradition of Dionysus the Areopagite though the Cloud of Unknowing. This is certainly one form of religious experience. But there are others which are to do with sensual visionary experiences – via positiva ones of seeing the world in a grain of sand a heaven in a wild flower for example.


Have you read Stace? Hood et al don't rule out a person as a mystic merely because they have sensual oriented phenomena. They tend to assign that to the larger umbrella of STE. James talks about people with physical phenomena. For Hood it's based upon validating Stace. I'm not sure of all of Stace's reasons for limiting it to that, but I think was part of the literature for a lot longer, even Underhill uses that same criteria.

And something that’s always interested me is the fit between the type of person having the experience and the type of experience itself. William James’ chapters on the experiences of those who are ‘Sick Souls’ and the experience of those who are Healthy Minded in their appropriation of religious experience are wonderful on this score.

Atheists may say that religious experience is the result of mental illness. That’s really overstating the case. But people of different temperaments – some of which can become pathological if taken to extremes – have slightly different types of religious experience. So sometime the two can be linked. I’m thinking of George Fox and his terrible struggles with scrupulosity– a condition that a number of lovely people here struggle with. And the basic sanity of his conclusions from his struggles with scrupulosity and all of the temptations to blaspheme and utter profanities that seemed to assail him. He didn’t; accuse himself in the end – He cried to God ‘Lord why is it that I am assailed by these when I have nothing but love for thee, And was given the reply so that you may have a sense of all conditions and be able to minister unto all conditions’. That’s a healthy response. But I also remember many examples of pathological masochism detailed by James in his chapter on saintliness for example.

I note also – of interest to many people here – that Jonathan Edwards actually wrote some very beautiful stuff on his own via positive mystical experiences of apprehending God in nature – and these experiences built him up. However, the work that he is most known for here is Sinners in the hands of an Angry God. Delivered in a monotone to a congregation in this men got down on all ground and barked like animals and woman and children screamed in terror. Since his revivals seemed to lead to burn out in the areas of his visitation I see this as purely negative emotional stimulation. I’m well acquainted with the Calvinist literature of seventeenth century England and how total depravity teaching often completely undermined people and induced pathological states from which some recovered, some went mad beyond retrieval and some killed themselves. That’s one example of negative religious experience and I often worry about Calvinist sermons with dreary and threatening musical back tracks on the internet today. MY experience is that they often have a devastating effect on people.

That’s just one example of religious experience or experience induced in the name of religion actually being, at least for some (and not just a few), a cul de sac of destruction (although for a few it might be the door to transformation. I’ve used it because lots of people here have issues with it. I would always want to draw a distinction between good and bad religious experiences – and what is purely emotional stimulation leading to unhealthy states of consciousness and what actually leads to the love that builds up


Those are great comments. I wont add anything and I don't disagree with anything. I appreciate your contribution.

I will say this about the definition of "beyond word, thought, or image." Stace uses that and Underhill before him (he may have gotten it from her). I talk about this in the book, really it does need to be overhauled. For example there two kinds of experience, introvertive and extroversion. The intro is without words thought or image, can't be described. The extra is usually keyed through nature and is triggered by scenes of nature.

Pretty much all the examples one finds are extrovertive since introvertive can't be described. Then there's the sense of the numinous which usually accompanies the undifferentiated sense of unity, that is the sense of the holy, a special nature to things. That is keyed through visual sense too.

Then the noetic aspects, when one feels that one has gained from the experience a rational knowledge, such as "God is love." All of these are exceptions to the definition and they illustrate its inadequacy. But that is part and parcel of the experience as a whole, describing it is always problematic. The nature of mysticism is always bound up with language problems.
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby JasonPratt » Wed Jun 04, 2014 11:57 am

I'm busy at 'work' work today (and probably tomorrow, too), so I'm only passing through today -- I may not be able to continue the interview until Friday. Hopefully people will be comfortable continuing to ask Joe questions about the work in his book.

As a quick sidequestion meanwhile, are there more direct connections between mystical experience and Kuhn's paradigm shifting?

Also, the whole topic of paradigm shifting is, I think, super-important not only for minority beliefs (such as ourselves, or for that matter Christians of any kind in other cultures around the world), but also for understanding and working through apologetics and evangelism -- and for understanding how people deconvert out of Christianity, too! (Generally more people leave Christianity than are born out of it in the Western world.)

So I wouldn't mind if someone started a new thread on that soon before I get around to doing so ;) , and if Joe guest-contributed to that discussion that would be nifty.

(Not even kidding guys, Joe has access to a lot of material I think would be interesting to a wide variety of people here, even if maybe for different types of person. I know several people here who would love to hear about his work with Mexican social revolutionaries, just to give one example! :lol: If you wanted to start a thread a week on various topics here, which of course just happened to promote the book along the way :mrgreen: , I think you'd enjoy the audience, Joe.)
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Cindy Skillman » Wed Jun 04, 2014 3:03 pm

Joe,

I've been reading some and scanning some here, and I'm wondering . . . some of the language is a bit over my head I'm afraid . . . what exactly IS a mystic? How do you define it? Sometimes people tell me I am one, but I never thought so. I'd be curious to know more about the definitions of mysticism.

Thanks! Cindy
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Thu Jun 05, 2014 3:36 am

Cindy Skillman wrote:Joe,

I've been reading some and scanning some here, and I'm wondering . . . some of the language is a bit over my head I'm afraid . . . what exactly IS a mystic? How do you define it? Sometimes people tell me I am one, but I never thought so. I'd be curious to know more about the definitions of mysticism.

Thanks! Cindy


I really answered that above. A mystic is one who has mystical experiences. I think in the traditional sense you have to have them for at least 30 minutes and more than once (they usually last 30 minutes if it's the Undifferentiated unity). But the modern researchers in social science call all their respondents who have such experiences mystics weather they have more than once or not.

Mystical experience is an experience of the undifferentiated unity of all things, it's one, accompanied by the sense of the numinous (the sense of the Holy--special quality to the experience that gives it an aspect of the sublime). It can be either beyond words, thoughts, or images, or it can be keyed to experience of nature. A lot of people experience such things when out in nature or looking at the stars at night.

It's easy to fool yourself into thinking that woolgathering or being amazed by beauty or experiencing the sublime is mystical.
Joe Hinman
 
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Re: JRP interviews Joe Hinman on THE TRACE OF GOD

Postby Joe Hinman » Thu Jun 05, 2014 3:38 am

JasonPratt wrote:I'm busy at 'work' work today (and probably tomorrow, too), so I'm only passing through today -- I may not be able to continue the interview until Friday. Hopefully people will be comfortable continuing to ask Joe questions about the work in his book.

As a quick sidequestion meanwhile, are there more direct connections between mystical experience and Kuhn's paradigm shifting?

Also, the whole topic of paradigm shifting is, I think, super-important not only for minority beliefs (such as ourselves, or for that matter Christians of any kind in other cultures around the world), but also for understanding and working through apologetics and evangelism -- and for understanding how people deconvert out of Christianity, too! (Generally more people leave Christianity than are born out of it in the Western world.)

So I wouldn't mind if someone started a new thread on that soon before I get around to doing so ;) , and if Joe guest-contributed to that discussion that would be nifty.

(Not even kidding guys, Joe has access to a lot of material I think would be interesting to a wide variety of people here, even if maybe for different types of person. I know several people here who would love to hear about his work with Mexican social revolutionaries, just to give one example! :lol: If you wanted to start a thread a week on various topics here, which of course just happened to promote the book along the way :mrgreen: , I think you'd enjoy the audience, Joe.)


I'm not just a guest I'm also a member. I am not a mystic but I play one on tv.

I have been meaning to start posting here anyway. I will. just show me to the Kuhn link. Also if there are any fans of the Legion of super heroes about.
Joe Hinman
 
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