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Mystical Peak Experiences and Their Value

by Linda Pendleton

Mystical experiences sharpen our sixth sense and enhance our communication with Spirit. So it is useful to establish a clear understanding of mystical experiences, also known as peak experiences.

The late Joseph Campbell, preeminent scholar, and the world's foremost authority on mythology, defines a peak experience this way in the 1988 televised program, the Power of Myth. "The peak experience refers to actual moments of your life when you experience your relationship to the harmony of being."

In the book, Psychic Exploration, A Challenge for Science, former Astronaut Edgar Mitchell recounts his dramatic new perception of our world while orbiting Earth aboard Apollo 14, in 1971. He relates his sense of spiritual exaltation which contradicted his years of scientific objectivity: "It began with the breath-taking experience of seeing planet Earth floating in the vastness of space. The first thing that came to mind as I looked at Earth was its incredible beauty." He describes this as a peak experience in which the presence of divinity was almost palpable and that he knew that life in the universe was not an accident based on random process. He states, "This knowledge came to me directly-noetically. It was not a matter of discursive reasoning or logical abstraction. It was an experiential cognition. It was knowledge gained through private subjective awareness."

The view of our home planet and the universe in which we are imbedded changed Edgar Mitchell's entire perspective of reality - and it appears he is not the only astronaut to come away from the experience with a whole new outlook on the meaning of life. Too bad, then, that all of us could not take a trip away from this small blue planet and out into the far reaches of space to invigorate our own sense of connectedness to the whole. Would it change our world view?

Although we probably will never have that same peak experience afforded those who travel into space, we often do have experiences on a spiritual level and those may be considered peak experiences - as they may be life changing.

More than a hundred years ago, William James, psychologist and philosopher, identified the characteristics of noetic mystical experiences as insight, awareness, revelation of greater truths and a transcendence of space and time.

The word "noetic" comes from the ancient Greek nous, for which there is no exact equivalent in English. It refers to "inner knowing," a kind of intuitive consciousness - direct and immediate access to knowledge beyond what is available to our normal senses and the power of reason. ~ The institute of Noetic Sciences

In the 20th century, American Psychologist and Philosopher, Abraham Maslow, coined the term peak experience to describe mystical experiences. The experience can vary in intensity and he believed everyone was capable of peak experiences. He also believed peak experiences had therapeutic value and could reaffirm the worthiness of life and change the individual's view of their inner world.

I believe many spiritual experiences could be labeled peak experiences or mystical experiences. And that includes contact with spirit, whether spontaneous or by choice. Any contact or communication with spirits can be awe-inspiring, confirming, healing, unifying. Realizing that one is not alone and that there is a connection to the Divine is empowering. Accepting that we are all spiritual beings, whether in the physical body as a spiritual being, or on the other side as a spiritual being; we are all one and the same.

When we begin to acknowledge that we are connected to one another, to the Divine, we have laid the groundwork to sharpen our higher spiritual sense. We are powerful transmitters and receivers. If we learn to think of communication with spirit as an exchange of energy, a radio signal, or an open telephone line, it becomes a normal event, and there is nothing paranormal about it. I personally like Joseph Campbell's explanation of a peak experience as the moments in our lives when we experience our "relationship to the harmony of being."

Have you ever had a mystical or peak experience?

Did it result in positive changes or new understandings?
Have you had a mystical experience that changed your life or your view of life?
Have you experienced a holistic connection during the end of life of a loved one? Or during grief?
What spiritual experiences have you had, either large or small that resulted in healing?