Saturday, November 23, 2013

Inducing mystical experiences: potatoes, not mushrooms

It helps,
putting my hands on a pot, on a broom,
in a wash pail.

I tried painting,
but it was easier to fly slicing

— رابعة العدوية القيسية

This snippet of poetry comes from Daniel Ladinsky's playfully luminous Love Poems From God. Rābiʿah al-Baṣrī was an 8th century Muslim Sufi poet and saint.  She left behind no writings, but like the Christian desert ascetics of the 4th and 5th centuries, her sayings and stories were kept alive.

My class has been arguing about the validity of mystical experiences.  Not so much does anyone have them, the conversation centered more around whether mystical experiences that are deliberately sought out are "real"?  Is it a mystical experience if you took psilocybin (with the intent of triggering a mystical experience) or mescaline or LSD or...?  What about fasting?  or meditation?  or the sleep deprivation of long vigils?

Or working in the kitchen?  Doing the dishes as Teresa of Avila or slicing the potatoes?

Is it acceptable to put yourself in the way of God?


  1. Oh how I would love to be in your class - such rich discussions! When I was deciding on a topic for a final paper a few weeks ago, my professor suggested that I focus on mysticism in different religions - I think he knows me well!

    1. I will miss them terribly when the semester ends. I love listening in on their discussions. It's a seminar class and I feel much like a cook, I put together a bag of ingredients, ask a provocative question or two, and then stir up and watch it come together into something altogether new.

    2. Did you decide to do the paper on mysticism? I would love to know how you dug into it!!

    3. I have the outline done and have to meet with my prof to get the go-ahead before I proceed any further. He is an amazing man - a Jesuit in his 80s who can teach for two hours without a break while the rest of us are exhausted from trying to keep up!! He has stretched my mind and heart further than I ever anticipated.

    4. Here is the title that my prof and I decided on this afternoon: "Parallels to Ignatian Spirituality in World Religions". I am going to have fun writing this - lots of work as well but I am learning lots.

    5. Oh that sounds marvelous! Will you share when you're done? A guest post?