Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"The Supreme State"

This is a paper I wrote for a class in High School.

The Supreme State

Nietzsche mentions states of mind which transcend our day to day experiences in his essay. [1] He mentions the feeling of "complete oneness with the essence of the universe" [2] but he doesn't describe the nature of that experience. This "vision of mystical oneness" [3] is an awareness of the unity of all objects in the universe. [4] It is an experience and not an idea; it is a deeply felt and complex understanding. Discussing this complex experience in words is a formidable task because this experience is beyond words. The experience of oneness with the universe is known as "the mystical experience of the collective" [5]and the one who experiences it constantly is is called is a mystic. Thus the mystical experience which Nietzsche mentioned is an awareness or an understanding that everything in the universe is one substance.

Nietzsche mentions mystical experience throughout his writing on the polarities of personality in Greek art. He relates mystical experiences to art and its creation. He gives examples of situations where a person may occasionally experience "complete oneness with the essence of the universe." [6]Nietzsche talks about the intellectual and the ecstatic aspects of man's personality. He says that a person while in the ecstatic mood will experience oneness with the universal power. Nietzsche says:

"Each of his gestures betokens enchantment; through him sounds a supernatural power, the same power which makes the animals speak and the earth render up milk and honey." [7]

Nietsche is writing metaphorically here. He is saying a man in this state of oneness is filled with delight and enchantment. While in this state he feels the power of the universe within himselfe and therefore it works through him. He is saying this power is "supernatural" because it is beyond the normal every day experience of most people. This power is the power which dwells in all creatures and objects.

One may wonder "what is the universe according to the mystical viewpoint?" From a mystical viewpoint all sentient and insentient objects, all people, and all the experiences are pervaded by universal power. This universal power is the life force of everything that exists. An analogy is used to describe this. Imagine a row of light bulbs are powered by the same electricity. Similarly every object and creature derives its existence and has its root in one source.

Einstein used the ideas of unity when he made his unified field theory. [8] His theory states that the forces that work in the atom and the forces which work on the cosmic, galactic scale are part of a "deeper reality which under girds both." [9] This "deeper reality" is believed to be an underlying energy which encompasses all forces of nature. Einstein's theory leads to a far reaching viewpoint where "the entire universe appears as one elemental field." [10] When Einstein says that the universe is "one elemental field" he implies that everything is connected by an underlying power. This underlying power has name in most cultures and religions the Chinese call it Chi, the East Indians call it Shakti or Brahman, the Christians call it God, and others call it universal consciousness. In this discussion we will use the terms universal power or God.

Mystics experience this universal power as a living conscious force. One may ask "What is a mystic and what is his state of mind?" A mystic is one who always experiences the living power of the entire universe within himself as well as within every sentient and insentient object. He has acquired a constant awareness of equality or as Lincoln Barnett says; "A knowledge of the ultimate immutable essence that undergirds the mutable illusory world." [11] He is saying that this knowledge is an awareness of the universal principle which is the substratum of all activity in the universe. This awareness is a connection to the conscious universal power which is within us and the universe.

This "mystical experience" is not just a dry understanding or awareness. It is accompanied by a sense of delight, joy and peace. "Utter peace and wild delight, every pleasure state known to man's normal consciousness are inadequate to this description of this joy." [12]

The mystic revels in his awareness of unity. He sees that creatures, people, and objects are pervaded by his own soul. As a result of this feeling he experiences a deep sense of peace, clarity and joy.

Here is a poem by Christian writer and theologian George Macdonald "All about us, in earth and air, wherever eye or ear can reach, there is a power ever breathing itself forth in signs, now in a daisy, now in a wind-waft, a cloud, a sunset; a power that holds constant and sweetest relation with the dark and silent world within us. The same God who is in us, and upon whose tree we are the buds, if the yet the flowers, also is all about us-- inside the spirit; outside, the world. And the two are ever trying to meet in us; and when they meet, then the sign without and the longing within, become one in light; and the man can no more walketh in darkness, but knoweth whither he goeth." [13]

Macdonald is describing the mystical experience. He says that everything is pervaded by God or the universal power. God exists outside all about us as the universe and God exists inside us as spirit. When one experiences that God is within him as well as outside he knows who he is. He knows that his souls is one with that power, that God who is within every human being. The mystic feels, "I am one with the universe and the universe is in me."

There are countless people who have acquired the "vision of mystical oneness." [14] In all traditions, cultures, and times there have been mystics. Buddha, Swami Muktananda, Jesus, St.John of the Cross, Lao-Tzu, St. Theresa of Avila, Plato, Aristotle, Gandhi, Alfred Einstein, William Blake, are just a few of the mystics of the past.

The feeling of "complete oneness with the essence of the universe" is not limited to mystics alone. It can be experienced by anyone. Anyone can experience it because "In each human being dwells an infinite power, the root of the universe." [16]

Since that universal power is within everything in the universe it is also within every human being as well. An eastern mystic speaks to that conscious power in a poem:

"Although You are everywhere, You dwell most specifically in the heart of a human being. I have come to know that You alone exist in conscious beings as well as inert matter." [16]

He is saying that the universal power is in the entire universe and it exists also within every single human being.

One may ask "If God is in everything and God is in my own heart why don't I experience him?" Eastern mystics say that we are "caught by the veil of Maya" which is the "illusion hiding the reality (universal power) that lies beneath material surfaces." [17] Instead of perceiving unity and equality in the universe we perceive everything as separate from ourselves and others. We don't recognize the universal principle which is within us and everything else as a result of this "illusion."

One may wonder "Do mystics just sit around and 'experience' this state or do they bring it into their daily lives?" If we look into the lives of mystics of the past such as Jesus, Buddha, St. Theresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, Gandhi and many others, we will see that they lived lives of spreading this state to others. They related their experience of universal oneness and brotherhood to others. They taught that man should live life while respecting others as his own self. The mystics were living examples of the potential that man can achieve by understanding that his own self and the world are the same.

This mystical state is the source of great inspiration in all activities of life. Evelyn Underhill said that artists, scientists and musicians use various ways to transcend their minds to bring new inspiration to their art. She says that "the mystic experience is the key to them all." [18] This is so because the mystical experience is a connection to the universal "creative power." Einstein said that "The cosmic religious experience is the strongest and the noblest and mainspring of scientific research."[19] He is saying that the mystical experience gives some scientists great inspiration and insight into the source of the universe. Thus the experience of unity with the universe is an awareness which is useful and dynamic in worldly life.

In looking at my own experience I can see that I have experienced glimpses of the mystical state. It happened once when I was backpacking. When I was walking I felt a sense of being connected to the world around me. It wasn't like a dream or a hallucination; it was a vivid clear and conscious experience. I felt that the trees, the rocks, the ground, and the sky were all part of me.

The experience was natural, simple, and clear. I felt a deep sense of stillness of mind; it was a clarity of mind which I had never experienced before. I felt that the soul within me was also the "soul" within the objects around me.

The experience lasted for a few moments and then I felt normal again. This "glimpse" of the mystical state was the most simple and clear understanding I have had of myself and the world. Out of this experience and a few others like it, has grown an interest in mysticism and God. I briefly experienced a state of unity which mystics experience all the time.

The subject of mystical experience is a complicated one. It involves using a wide range of terminology and ideas to describe the experience. Perhaps the discussion of the mystical experience is so complicated because it is so "simple" that it can't be put into words. It is an awareness, and understanding, of the universe as one divine principle, nothing more.

1. Friedrich Nietzsche, "Appolonianism and Dionysianism" in "A world of Ideas", p. 216, ed. Lee A. Jacobus (New York St. Martin's press 1983)
2. Nietzsche, P. 216
3. Nietzsche, P. 216.
4. Aldous Huxley, "The Perennial Philosophy." P. 3 (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1970)
5. Nietzsche, P. 216.
6. Nietzsche, P. 216.
7. Nietzsche, P. 216.
8. Lincoln Barnett, "The Universe and Dr. Einstein" (New York: Bantam Books, 1978)
9. Barnett, P.111-112.
10. Barnett, P.111-112.
11. Barnett, P.111-112.
12. Evelyn Underhill, "Mysticism", P. 342 (New York, Meridian Books, 1957)
13. George MacDonald, "Untitled" in "Collected Works" ed. Rolland Hein (Washington DC; Christian University Press, 1982)
14. Nietzsche, P. 216.
15. Nietzsche, P. 216.
16. Swami Muktananda, "Kundalini: The Secret of Life" P.1 (New York, SYDA Foundation, 1979)
17. Swami Muktananda, "Secret of the Siddhas" P.9 (New York, SYDA Foundation, 1980)
18. Underhill, P. 446
19. Barnett, P. 112

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