A drawing from Marvel 1602

A drawing from Marvel 1602

I’ve been working on a book provisionally entitled Modern Ecstasy for the last two years. I’m half-way through, and having a mid-season wobble. Turns out it’s difficult to write about transcendence. Who knew!

Why did I pick this topic? Why, I ask you, why?!

Here’s why. I owe much of my recovery from trauma to a near-death experience I had in 2001, when I encountered a shining white light filled with love for me and all humanity, which I think was what Meister Eckhart calls ‘the divine ground of our being’. That encounter healed me – that, along with several years of Greek philosophy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Having written a book about Greek philosophy and CBT, I wanted to write the other half of the story, and look at ecstatic experiences – moments when we feel we go beyond our ordinary selves and connect with some higher transcendent reality, which you may or may not call God.

Greek philosophy and CBT is quite an easy sell in our culture – we like rational, technocratic quick fixes or ‘life-hacks’ that give us more control of our selves. Ecstatic experiences are a harder sell. We don’t talk much about ecstasy or transcendence any more. Mainstream culture has become quite resolutely this-world, naturalistic, scientific, focused on the tangible and measurable. The idea of surrendering control and being filled by a spirit or God no doubt seems bonkers to many.

Last year, I was asked to give a talk on transcendence to an informal gathering of Radio 4 producers called the Ideas Club. I think I bombed. Probably because I was incoherent, but also, I think, because Radio 4 producers, like most guardians of high-brow British culture (The Economist, the Guardian, Prospect, the London Review of Books, most of academia), are not really into transcendence, certainly not the religious variety. It makes them uncomfortable, like when a nutter starts talking to you on the bus. Name one BBC TV or radio programme that explored religious transcendence.

Now, you may find our culture’s lack of transcendent woo-woo refreshing. Personally, I find it claustrophobic. Transcendence is like oxygen. Without it we suffocate. In fact, in the stand-off between European secularism and Islam, I have some sympathy with the Muslims. They have a sense – quite accurate – that their supernatural world-view is under existential threat. In one generation they have moved from the collective sea of religious faith to the parched shore of the most secular culture in human history. They are flapping on the beach, gasping for breath.

I would like to dig a well or do a rain-dance to help to bring more transcendence into western culture, while still retaining all that is good about secular liberalism (gay rights, women rights, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and so on). No biggie.

Well, two years in, turns out it is a bit of a biggie. There are three main stumbling blocks in my Search for Transcendence.

1 The horcrux conundrum

You remember the horcruxes in Harry Potter, the scattered objects in which Voldemort had put part of his soul? Harry and the gang had to find them all. Well, that’s a bit what it’s like trying to track down transcendence in modern western society.

Before the Enlightenment, most transcendent experiences happened within the context of religion. Since the Enlightenment, there’s been what Charles Taylor called a ‘nova effect’ – and transcendence has spilled out into many different areas of life. Romantic poetry, for example, is a form of ‘spilt religion’ (in TE Hulme’s phrase). It’s a vessel for what remains of our impulse towards the transcendent. So is classical music. So is rock & roll. Drugs are some people’s main ‘avenue to transcendence’ these days. For others it’s sex. For others, it’s football. Or art. Or nature. Or love.

Like Harry, Ron and Hermione, I find these horcruxes of transcendence in so many different aspects of modern culture that it’s difficult to put them all together. I even see it in Fifty Shades of Grey, for God’s sake – instead of surrendering to an all-powerful God, the heroine makes a God of Christian Grey for her ‘inner goddess’ to surrender to.

teresa

This diversity is a challenge for the structure of the book, because many of these various avenues to transcendence weave together. How do you anatomize ecstasy into tidy categories?

2 Talking about the Ineffable is effing hard

It turns out it’s very difficult to discuss transcendence using words. We have no agreed terminology, nor a developed sense of the different types of consciousness we might be experiencing.

You can use the terminology of a particular religion – they have tried to talk about ecstatic experiences for millennia, so we might as well draw on their terminology and wisdom – ‘rapture’, ‘encounters with the Holy Spirit’, ‘divine ground of being’ and so on. Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism have just as rich vocabularies as Christianity for transcendent states of consciousness.

However, it’s not clear that one religion’s terminology point to the same state or encounter as another’s. The Christian God that runs to meet us is not the same as Advaita’s Pure Consciousness, or Buddhism’s emptiness. All of these traditions are incredibly complex and sophisticated, and I’m not an expert on any of them. And the great religious teachers warn of the extreme difficulty of putting the transcendent into words. It’s the transcendent, after all. It transcends human language.

You could try to use more secular psychological terminology – Abraham Maslow’s ‘peak experiences’, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘flow’, or the new psychology of ‘awe’, ‘uplift’ and ‘self-transcendence’. There’s important and interesting experimental work being done in this field. But an entirely secularized version of ecstasy seems inadequate to me – it lacks the sense of mystery and surrender, the sense of going beyond the self, being filled with love, healing and inspiration, and not knowing Who or What you are encountering. The attempt to incorporate transcendence into a rational science can end up clipping its wings.

You can do the sort of dance William James did, and speak of ‘religious experience’, leaving open the question of whether that experience is ontologically ‘real’ or not. But reducing transcendence to transcendent experience makes it something that occurs in an individual’s personal psychology, rather than something collective, or something in which a deeper reality or Being is genuinely encountered.

I personally think William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience is still the best secular book written on this area – it has a wonderful openness to the supernatural which is lacking in most modern psychology of transcendence. James makes the connection between religious experience and altered states of consciousness, like hypnagogic or trance states, which I find fascinating and fruitful. But talking about transcendence in terms of trance or altered states does not necessarily shed more light: after a century of psychology and 40 years of brain imaging, we still know very little about these states. Never mind ‘altered states of consciousness’, we still don’t know what ordinary states of consciousness are.

So it’s very difficult to talk about ecstatic experiences. You end up feeling some sympathy with Wittgenstein’s position: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one should be silent’.

3 Who am I to talk?

The final challenge is working out what I personally believe and how I should live. If you’re writing a book about transcendence, you preferably have some sense of what it means to you. Most of the time we don’t really define what our religious beliefs are. Writing this book has led me to try and define what I believe that near-death experience was. And that’s been bewildering.

In 2013, I flung myself ecstatically into charismatic Anglicanism, which interested me as a modern culture unusually steeped in ecstasy. I found it emotionally stirring and communally very strong, but intellectually stifling. So I turned to more contemplative practices – including both eastern practices and Christian contemplation. My life now is a gallimaufry of spiritual practices (including going to church), through which I try to centre my being and meet God. I wonder if I have made any spiritual progress at all in the last two years.

The more I write about transcendence, the more I have a sense of my personal inadequacy to speak of such matters. To speak of God. To speak of mystical states attained by people who devoted their entire lives to spiritual practice. My life-style is somewhat different to St Teresa’s. I am spiritually mediocre. I live weighed down by compulsions, addictions and distractions. How can I presume to blunder into this sacred realm?

What I say to myself, when I think such thoughts, is this: if transcendence is going to mean something today, if it is not going to be a minority pursuit for the spiritual elite, then it should mean something and be in some measure ‘attainable’ even for a confused, self-absorbed, hedonist slacker like me. If this topic challenges me to improve my life, that’s good. And these are desperate times. All hands to the deck. Even you.

******

In other news this week:

If you’re in New York, go and see ‘Losing Ground’ at the Lincoln Centre, it’s a movie about a philosophy professor researching and searching for ecstatic experiences! Although she is a black American woman. And an actual professor. It’s part of a season of black independent movies. Sounds brilliant.

And if you’re in London, go and see Kim Noble’s extraordinary one-man comedy show.

Here are the results of the Stoic Week online course trial , done by Tim LeBon. Positive results again!

8-bit philosophy – ideas done in the style of 80s computer games. This one on Nietzsche.

Good Newsweek article on the Hearing Voices Network.

An article about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: ‘why psychological flexibility will be a key leadership skill of the future’.

I really encourage you to watch HBO’s miniseries Olive Kettridge – it’s got an amazing cast led by Frances McDormand, it’s funny and very deft in its observations, and it covers mental illness without sentimentality. Here’s the trailer.

Every language has a ‘positivity bias’ according to a new study.

Great Jon Ronson piece on Twitter and public shaming.  God he’s a good writer!

This Start the Week was good, on the rise of Islamic State, and especially Katherine Brown on why young Muslims get radicalized by the lure of a more virtuous life.

And finally, here are some motivational posters using quotes from Werner Herzog.

See you next week. If you enjoyed this sign up for the newsletter on the right.

Jules

10 Comments

Galley_Beggar_logo-1_whiteI’m interested in companies and organizations that have a higher purpose than profit. Here’s an example – indie publisher Galley Beggar Press, set up in 2012 by Eloise Millar and her partner Sam Jordison, with bookseller Henry Layte who moved onto other projects in 2013. For a little company, Galley Beggar punches way above its weight – in the last twelve months, it published Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which won the Bailey’s prize for women’s fiction, and Francis Plug’s How To Be A Public Author, which was a big commercial hit.Here’s how Sam and Ellie do what they do.

Jules: Setting up an independent publishing company from your home in Norwich is quite left-field. Why did you do it?

Ellie: Because we’re fucking crazy! It was born out of frustration. Sam had seen quite a lot of his writer friends – really excellent writers – slipping off the mid-list. So we thought there was a gap in the market. Sam’s dad is in accountancy, and he came down to hear the idea. I thought he’d hate it, but he was really up for it, and said the best time to set up a small business is in a recession, because that’s when it’s needed. It’s easier to get a foothold because a lot of the bigger companies are holding back.

Jules: What does mid-list mean?

Ellie: It means authors whose books sell a few hundred copies. For example, Simon Crump, who writes the most extraordinary books, but because he doesn’t sell in huge volumes he’s found it hard to retain the support of the big London publishers.

Sam: Another good example is Ian Rankin, who for several books sold a few hundred copies and got a few good reviews, and then gradually became huge.

Jules: How can publishers make money if they only sell a few hundred copies?

Sam and Ellie

Sam: The idea is you nurture the talent until they get a break. And with writing, it’s a bit more difficult because it’s quite emotional – you feel a book is worth it, that it deserves to be out there.

Ellie: It’s grossly idealistic and unrealistic, but the idea behind Galley Beggar is that the commercialism comes second, and what’s primary is that we think a book is excellent. So even if a writer is six books in, and still selling a few hundred copies, if the seventh book was also excellent, we’d publish it.

Sam: If we like a book, and we think it’s good, we think other people will to. With Eimear’s book, a lot of publishers loved it, but said ‘the public will never go for it’.

Ellie: It’s incredibly patronising.

Sam: Like they think editors have superhuman reading powers which the public don’t have.

Ellie: I think the climate is a bit sunnier at the moment. It feels like editors are more willing to take risks. A lot of that comes from Eimear winning the Bailey’s Prize.

Jules: It’s an amazing story of how that book came to be published: she tried to get it published for nine years, got refused by every publisher, and then her husband happened to come round to your local bookshop in Norwich with the manuscript. And now there are huge adverts for Eimear’s book on the side of buses and it’s won the Bailey prize.

Ellie: It was released in America in October and has gone similarly crazy over there. This is where Sam the cynic kicks in – he gets worried about over-hype.

Sam: I don’t know. I’m just grumpy. There’s been a backlash against it too. If you look at the Amazon reviews.

Ellie: Yes but Amazon reviews are ridiculous.

Jules: And Paul Ewen’s Francis Plug: How To Be A Public Author also seems to be a runaway success.

Ellie: Yes, that’s been our fastest-selling novel. We sold out our first print run in a month. Andrew Holgate at the Sunday Times loved it and gave it a two-page spread. And it really took off from there.

Jules: So are you rolling in cash now?

Sam: Not exactly. I was at the cafe in the National Theatre. And there were two literary agents at the next table. And they were talking about who they would submit to. And I heard them say ‘we could try Galley Beggar, they have pots of money now.’  In fact, 15 months ago, we were absolutely against the wall. I was maxed out on my credit card, not much money coming in. And luckily quite a few things came together. We were lucky. Galley Beggar still doesn’t bring in money for us, but it doesn’t lose money for us either. And it brings have all kind of fringe benefits – it’s helped my journalism and teaching career. It’s definitely been a positive financially. That means we can continue to take risks.

Ellie: I’m essentially the 1950s housewife, except I don’t do housework, I edit Galley Beggar books full-time. We rarely pay ourselves anything. Sam’s the bread-winner, and I occasionally have to ask for spending money. We’re still poor as church mice.

Jules: But you’re both on board with that.

Ellie: Sam likes to say, we’re going to sell it and move to the Caribbean. But I know when push comes to shove he wouldn’t.

Jules: Depends on the price doesn’t it?

Ellie: No!

Sam: What would matter more is if we start to feel like we’re treading water and chasing trends. If it starts to feel stale, that would be the point where we do something different.

Jules: What’s it like running a company with your partner?

Sam: We didn’t really think about it much before, we just jumped in and did it. Sometimes it’s 10pm at night, and one of you says ‘we should email the printer’, and the other one says ‘shut up, I’m trying to have a glass of wine’. So in that sense, you can never escape from work. But in fact we’ve found our separate roles quite easily. I really like it. You feel like you’re doing something good together.

Ellie: We’ve both worked from home since 2004, so we’re used to working in the same space. I love it. And I like the fact that within Galley Beggar we’ve discovered we’re good at different things. Sam’s a great book journalist and has loads of contacts but doesn’t like sending out books for reviews, while I do. Sam’s much better when authors get upset – he becomes the hostage-negotiator.

Jules: Of course, you’re a particular type of couple – you share the same passion for books, and share the same humour.

Ellie: Yeah, we do get on quite well

Sam: What turned into our first date was trying to write a Mills & Boon book together. Of course we never wrote it.

Jules: Fiction turned into reality?

Ellie: I would find it difficult now if one of us started to work somewhere else. I’m so used to working in books and working in the same house.

You can find out more about Galley Beggar on their website.

******

In other news:

A lotta great links cos I missed last week’s newsletter.
Here’s Giles Fraser on intolerance and burnings in religion and secularity.
Here’s a really moving documentary about Aaron Schwarz, the tech pioneer and campaigner for justice who took his own life last year.
David Brooks says secular humanism needs to get more ‘enchanted’.
Fantastic New Yorker article on the revival of psychedelic therapy.
Here’s Frederic Laloux talking at the RSA about ‘how to be a soulful organisation’.
Here’s Massimo Pigliucci writing in the New York Times on ‘how to be a Stoic’. Massimo got a Stoic tattoo recently, like me (COPYCAT). Mine is bigger.
Here’s the New Yorker reviewing two new books on Seneca.
Is there any higher goal than human flourishing? Interesting lecture from recent Jubilee Centre conference on virtue ethics.
Here’s one of my heroes, Jean Vanier (founder of L’Arche communities for the mentally disabled) on what we can learn from the weak.
This evening – yes this very evening – go to Escape the City School to hear David Jones of Saracens rugby club talk about how Saracens use practical philosophy to help their players flourish. Go to this link and type in the code SARACENSFRIEND for free entry.
Finally, this made me laugh: an anti-feminist twitter troll getting into a three-hour argument with a random-comment-generating spam-bot.
See you next week,
Jules
No Comments

The ‘politics of well-being’ has a credibility issue with politicians and the general public, partly because of how research is communicated. In brief, there is too much leaping for joy.

National and international well-being reports from the last four years tend to have a homogenous style or visual look, which is also reinforced in the media coverage. The covers of these reports, and accompanying media, have typically shown people leaping into the air in a state of euphoria. Reports also often show a wall of smiling faces, or resort to the by-now-ubiquitous ‘smiley face’ cartoon.

This reporting style risks alienating parts of the population, particularly during a period of austerity and global uncertainty. It presents one particular model of well-being – extrovert, high arousal, individualist – while alienating the roughly 25% of the population who may have a more pessimistic, melancholy or introverted bias, including most journalists and academics.

So here are some examples of the ubiquitous ‘leaping for joy’ image in well-being economics. Here’s two from the new economics foundation, pioneers in the field:

nef wellbeing

 

nef wellbeing 2

Here’s the Office of National Statistics, who launched well-being measurements in 2012:

ONS

And here’s how the media report on their findings:

Guardian ONS

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 09.50.46

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 09.41.51

Here’s the cover of Italian statistics agency ISTAT’s well-being report:

bes-2014-benessere-equo-sostenibile-in-italia

Here’s how university well-being departments communicate their research:

aberdeen wellbeing

liverpool wellbeing

And here’s how the wider ‘well-being movement’ tends to picture itself:

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 09.43.53

So when the WHO came to decide what to put on the cover of their first well-being reports, there was only ever one way they were going to jump:

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.59.55

This is not well-being – this is euphoria, ecstasy, a quasi-religious state of exaltation. And it’s not a state most of us feel all that much, outside of 80s pop videos and the occasional full moon party. We particularly don’t feel it that often during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. So if the politics of well-being is not going to seem culty, simplistic, or frivolous to skeptics, it needs to find a way to communicate its findings, verbally and visually, in ways that honour the variety of ways people might define and express well-being.

No Comments

Following on from my earlier post on ‘the varieties of transcendent experience‘, I remain interested in the role of transcendent experievent_247363282ences, or the yearning for the transcendent, among humanists. Someone who is definitely exploring in this area is Sanderson Jones, one of the founders of the Sunday Assembly, which is a booming humanist congregation.

Unlike earlier humanist groups like Skeptics in the Pub, where the focus is more on…er…skepticism, Sunday Assembly is trying to develop a more ecstatic and enthusiastically affirmative brand of humanism, using high energy group singing, contemplative silence, small group bonding, and comedic compering from Sanderson and his co-host Pippa Evans. You could call it ‘charismatic humanism’, but another term Sanderson has used to describe himself is ‘humanist mystic’. I asked Sanderson to try and sum up mystic humanism in a few sentences. Here are his off-the-cuff thoughts, which he was kind enough to share:

To me ‘mystic humanism’ is a transcendental, ecstatic experience of the joy of being alive brought on by facing my total extinction square in the face.

In the context of total annihilation after our death, and the void before it, our brief lives are magical miraculous gifts. Compared to the big nothing then the simplest sensation – the tap of my fingers on this keyboard for instance – can become a joyous reminder of the blessing of existence.

When I feel that I making the most of this little blip of me time. That’s when I get the mystical feeling. And why do I call it mystical? Because when I read mystics talking about their relationship to God, I think “That’s how I feel about life’. I love life that much. I am overwhelmed by the fact of existence. I realise that I can never begin to understand life. Life is bigger than me, it gives me all I have, without it I am nothing.

The more I concentrate on the wonder of life then the more wonderful life becomes. Physically it is an ecstatic way of going through the day. A breathe of wind can transport me, a text from my sister have me in raptures, a cup of tea send me over the edge because I am infinitely lucky to exist and, compared to the end that awaits, simply living is joy.

Now, I don’t know what it feels like to feel god’s love, presence or anything of those other things, but when I’m close to the life I want to live, then I’m fairly sure I have the feeling of the divine in me.

What’s great, from my point of view, is that this comes from contemplating a simple fact: I am alive. That’s why the Sunday Assembly is a celebration of life. It is what we all take for granted, when we should be looking each other in the eye saying “Holy shit! I exist. I can think. I can feel. I can love.” – then just scream and scream and scream. The interesting thing is that this is a feeling and a way of being that can be developed through practices, and intentionally directing your thoughts.

I also know that there are times I feel a long way away from this way of being (I think it’s pretty similar feeling that folk get when they feel far from God) – this seems to happen when my own life isn’t in order. When my own life is not on the path I want it kills me. I am so aware of how fortunate I am to get a go on being a human, that not doing it right really pains me. How then can I enjoy the simple things when I am not living my own life to my full potential? My hell is deathbed regrets.

It’s a big jujitsu on the fear of death. Instead of worrying about death (and I don’t because it is the same nothing that happened before I existed and I don’t stay awake worrying about that), I just use it to make my time on earth divine. What’s more, I use it to motivate me to make the most of this time, and this has not come easy, but what kept me going as my own lack of self-regulation held me back, is knowing I had one shot.

More important than that, is how the fact of being alive motivates me to try to help others. I feel unbelievably privileged to exist, and I want to help other people to make the most of the incredible gift of being alive.

Are you a humanist or agnostic who nonetheless feels transcendence? What gives you that experience or intimation? How do you interpret it? How does it affect your attitude to things like the universe, death or other people? Let me know in the comments!

5 Comments

I love the sociologist Peter L. Berger. For 50 years, he’s been producing intelligent, rigorous and sympathetic work on the sociology of religion. I just got a copy of his 1970 little book, A Rumour of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural, in which he talks about what he calls ‘signals of transcendence’ in modern society – little flashes of light which seem to point to a transcendent reality.

He takes one such signal to be a mother’s love for her child, and the words ‘everything is alright’ – he thinks this is a signal to a cosmic order where everything really is alright. ‘The parental role is not based on a loving lie. On the contrary, it is a witness to the ultimate truth of man’s situation in reality. In that case, it is perfectly possible to analyze religion as a cosmic projection of the child’s experience of the protective order of parental love. What is projected is, however, itself a reflection, an imitation, of ultimate reality.’

He also thinks play and humour are ‘signals of transcendence’, and these are the passages I particularly want to quote, because they’re beautiful. He writes:

Joy is play’s intention. When this intention is fully realized, in joyful play, the time structure of the playful universe takes on a very specific quality – namely, it becomes eternity…This is the final insight of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra in the midnight song: ‘All joy wills eternity – wills deep, deep eternity!’ …It is this curious quality, which belongs to all joyful play, that explains the liberation and peace such play provides….When adults play with genuine joy, they momentarily regain the deathlessness of childhood. This becomes most apparent when such play occurs in the actual face of acute suffering and dying. It is that that stirs us about men making music in a city under bombardment or a man doing mathematics on his deathbed…It is his ludic [playful] constitution that allows man, even at Thermopylae, to regain and ecstatically realize the deathless joy of his childhood.

This is interesting, and reminds me of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on flow states, and the suspension of ordinary time-consciousness in moments of deep absorption. Play gives us that deep, meditative absorption, that’s one of the reasons we love it – because it suspends ordinary time-consciousness. It’s funny that we construct artificial rules to give us parameters within which to lose ourselves. In that sense, a game is like a religion – an artificial construction to enable moments of absorption and transcendence.

Csikszentmihalyi would insist, rightly, that the deepest absorption comes with excellence – when a person is at play but bringing all of their resources, all their skill and power, to the game, like this beautiful scene from A River Runs Through It. I find this scene moving, because you know Brad Pitt’s character is in trouble, and will die tragically later in the film , and yet the transcendent moment stands out, in defiance of death.

Berger also takes humour as a signal of transcendence: ‘By laughing at the imprisonment of the human spirit, humour implies that this imprisonment is not final but will be overcome, and by this implication provides yet another signal of transcendence, in the form of an intimation of redemption.’

I like the idea of humour and play as signals of transcendence. One could adapt Pascal’s quotation: ‘Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a laughing reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water, suffices to kill him. But if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he laughs at the universe and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.’

But comedy could just as much be interpreted a reaction to the absurdity of our existence and our inability to know what the hell is going on.  Think of, say, Woody Allen’s comic existentialism, or the Coen Brothers’ Simple Man, or even Beckett’s Waiting for Godot – the comedy comes from asking deep existential questions, and not really getting any transcendent response. And yet finding a sort of humorous or absurd acceptance of that.

OK, one last quote from the book I want to share with you:

Human life has always had a day-side and a night-side, and, inevitably, because of the practical requirements of man’s being in the world, it has always been the day-side that has received the strongest ‘accent of reality’. But the night-side, even if exorcised, was rarely denied. One of the most astonishing consequences of secularization has been just this denial. Modern society has banished the night from consciousness, as far as this is possible…Much more generally, modern society has not only sealed up the old metaphysical questions in practice but has generated philosophical positions that deny the meaningfulness of those questions.

How long such a shrinkage in the scope of human experience can remain plausible is debatable. In any case, it constitutes a profound impoverishment. Both in practice and in theoretical thought, human life gains the greatest part of its richness from the capacity for ecstasy, by which I do not mean the alleged experience of the mystic, but any experience of stepping outside the taken-for-granted reality of everyday life, any openness to the mystery that surrounds us on all sides.

2 Comments