13 Comments

  1. Howard

    Welcome to the path of knowing God brother Bryce! Right now you are attempting to make sense of your divine experience, if they continue and I hope they do, you won’t have the same need to contrast and compare your experience with those of others, eventually you will with confidence write the description yourself. I traveled the kundalini shamanic path for 7 years and I am convinced it is the path Joseph took to become a great Prophet and I am convinced that viewing the Joseph Smith story through the lense of shamanism explains the uncomfortable parts of it.

    Seer stones offer a place to focus your eyes. It is a intermediate step in learning to see visions while you still have the impression that visions are seen through your eyes as images somehow outside your mind. Smooth stones offer a surface to focus on instead of varying your eye focus hunting for the image. Crystal balls and translucent stones allow you to focus on the area within them for images with more depth. As you gain experience the stones are set aside because you have learned to see the image in your mind’s eye. And beyond that mind images become non-visual, information downloads, that is a knowledge description of an image that accompanies an image but can be understood more quickly than the image can be loaded to view in your mind. It is a time and work saver.

    Visions are far less important than the concepts they represent. So eventually you learn to perceive the concepts directly. Think of them as concept rich zip file nuggets, some containing huge amounts of profound information that must be unpacked in your mind. You spirit gets it almost immediately but your mind struggles to translate these profound concepts into thought words and words are inadequate for the job. Your understanding of these downloads changes and deepens as time goes on so I’m not surprised to have multiple versions of the first vision.

    Enjoy the path Mystic Bryce. Namaste

  2. Donna

    I thank you for this wonderful article. It is by far my favorite of all the many good things you have shared with us. It is a blessing to others when we appropriately share parts of our transcendent experiences because it gives such a useful model to help others to “decode” their experiences. Having a spiritual experience and deciphering all of its implications are two different things.

  3. Completely on point, Bryce. I’m going to repost this at oneClimbs for sure because I think it is a must-read for every Latter-day Saint.

    You might want to check out David Littlefield’s (of MormonMysticism.com) book Mormon Mysticism that is available as a free pdf: http://99.21.243.116/kingdoms/mm.pdf

    I came across it years ago and was blown away by it, especially the beginning. If you only read the first 20 pages or so, it will change the way you view the subject. He has some great points that would mesh quite will with your article here. Fantastic work as always, and another fine addition to the TempleStudy library!

  4. Troy

    I am thrilled to read about mormonism and mysticism and am excited to read the references posted. I experienced a big awakening over a decade ago and no where to turn within the church for answers. It’s been the most priceless blessing to me. It is the most delicious fruit and its not infrequent. The beautiful mysteries keep unfolding and my prayer is more LDS wake up to it. I learned by sad experience to keep most to myself within the church. I found many outside the church would come to me for answers or guidance and many have been inspired to come unto Christ. To this day, I still tremble inside and outside at the thought of divine truth. I often restrain it in church or temple but the trembling is consistent with a powerful dose of the spirit of God (see 1 Nephi 1:6) and it is preparing your body for more if you surrender to it. Thank you!

  5. Kevin Christensen

    Very interesting Bryce. I read your paper a few days ago, and I also recall your earlier description of your peak experience. In my review of Barker’s Temple Mysticism, I focused on the definitions we have. For my personal take on the topic, I wrote an essay called A Model of Mormon Spiritual Experience, which ran in the Meridian a few years ago, and which I currently have a link to pdf in dropbox. The key to my own approach was a paragraph in Ninian Smart’s book Worldviews, quoted in this extract.

    Commenting on the numinous and the mystical, Ian Barbour writes: ―The polarity of withdrawal and approach, or distance and identity, seems to be present within the experience of the sacred, though for different individuals, one aspect or the other may be more prominent.‖14 I see the experience of the sacred in Mormonism as bridging the numinous and the mystic. After a numinous theophany, Moses announces, ―for this cause I know that man is nothing‖ (Moses 1:10). Yet a few verses later, changing perspectives, he makes a declaration amounting to intimate identity. ―For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten.‖ The tension of distance most evidenced in Joseph Smith‘s first vision, D&C 76, Moses 1, Benjamin‘s coronation speech, and Alma‘s conversion, resolves towards a profound intimacy: And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus Christ, and that he hath talked with me face to face and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language concerning these things‖ (Ether 12:39). But such intimacy in Mormon thought, even when described as Oneness is typically associated with a personal deity.

    “Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound.”

    The implications of this bridging of kinds of experience go beyond a license to make historic and scriptural parallels. According to Ninian Smart, the numinous and mystic poles of experience influence patterns of doctrine.
    “If you stress the numinous, you stress that our salvation or liberation (our becoming holy) must flow from God the Other. It is he who brings it to us through his grace. You also stress the supreme power and dynamism of God as creator of the cosmos. If, on the other hand, you stress the mystical and non-dual, you tend to stress how we attain salvation and liberation through our own effort at mediation, not by the intervention of the Other… If we combine the two, but accent the numinous, we see mystical union as a kind of close embrace with the other—like human love, where the two are one and yet the two-ness remains. If the accent is on the mystical rather than the numinous, then God tends to be seen as a being whom we worship, but in such a way that we get beyond duality.16″
    Here, I believe, is an essential distinguishing characteristic of Mormonism—the blend of the numinous and the mystic. This explains the Orthodox discomfort with the Mormon idea of deification (something quite unthinkable to one caught up in a purely numinous tradition), as well as the Eastern discomfort with our literalism and personal God (again, something quite unthinkable to one caught up by the emptiness of pure mysticism). For the same reason, the blend in Mormonism explains Nephi‘s insistence on combining grace and works— ―By grace we are saved after all we can do.‖17 Our need for grace offends the self-reliant mystic, and our effort towards perfection offends those who depend on pure grace. By pointing out the experiential roots behind such doctrinal disagreements, I feel that we have much to gain. Against the background of comparative world religion, Mormonism appears as the more comprehensive and inclusive faith.

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/22100469/model_of_experience.pdf

    Best,

    Kevin Christensen
    Bethel Park, PA

  6. All of the above comments are good. A smooth stone, say from a stream,is good. Yet for personal revelation the
    Lord has given certain guidelines. First Corinthians 14th chapter,for instance. The Teachings of the Prophet
    Joseph Smith has a lot,check pages 21,111 and 151. The book “Of All Things” the quotes of Brother Nibley,pages
    117 to 121.
    To agree with Moses,Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets! We have the gift of the Holy Ghost,and
    sometimes need the help of an outside means to focus out minds on the things of the Lord, there have been times
    I personally meditate at work on say a gospel theme,suddenly thoughts and ideas come with a warmth inside that
    things are correct, all of this outside the Temple, which I go to on a regular basis.
    If the ideas we recieve by inspiration tend to edification for ourselves and others we are usually on the right
    path. So much of the teachings of the Gospel are to be comprehended by the means of Scripture study,prayer,
    Church magazines and personal revelation by the Holy Spirit to the Saints. Also see Numbers 11:29.

  7. Thomas

    This will blow your mind:
    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1971/04/the-lords-people-receive-revelation
    In this one particular conference talk, Elder McConkie doesn’t go into detail about tuning our spiritual radios, but I think you stumbled upon part of the secret.

    I whole-heartedly disagree with how people, yourself and Hamblin included, keep defining mysticism. Granted, your efforts at defining it are limited by the past efforts of others who tried to define it. The problem is that all of these past and present efforts focus on the achievement of some kind of “mystical” experience. Well first, the experience isn’t mystical, it’s metaphysical. Second, mysticism derives from the same Greek root as mystery, and derives much of its meaning from that root. Mystic (of or pertaining to mysteries known by the initiated) with the suffix -ism (denoting action or practice). Mysticism is the study or practice of “mysteries” (which Hamblin gives an excellent description of in his discourse on Solomon’s temple). Therefore mysticism can be defined by the means and methods and not by the resultant experience. Experiences vary dramatically, anyway, as Hamblin’s article on neomysticism describes. What doesn’t vary nearly as much, however, is the means and methods.

    Thus, you may be a mystic – not because you seek a transcendental experience, but because you practice mystical rites and ordinances: namely study, meditation, and prayer (among others). I think this kind of definition overcomes the difficulties that you and Hamblin and others have encountered in trying to define mysticism by the experience when the experience varies so widely. By this definition, all mystics practice more or less similar methods, though they may do so for very different reasons.

    I really appreciate your description of seer stones, especially the Urim and Thummim, as “technology” or aids to focus and meditation. I’ve used the same description when discussing these themes with some of my friends. Other aids exist in other traditions and even Latter-day Saints use Del Parson paintings for a similar purpose. It’s easy to trace how the “technological” aid of a particular image can lead to idolatry by transference, hence the LDS aversion to aids common to other Christian faiths, such as the crucifix.

    I’ve been reading over several similar blogs and articles recently and formulating my own descriptions and definitions according to my experience and understanding. This particular article, the most recent in my reading, seemed like a great place to unload some of these thoughts in print.

    I do agree with you that the LDS community largely ignores the mystical or the metaphysical. This can be damaging to those whose experience stretches outside the normal boundaries imposed by traditional interpretations of scripture (for example, my sister who is inactive due to her “mystical” persuasions not being acceptable to traditional LDS). I’ve managed to find somewhat of a niche, mostly by keeping my mouth shut the same as Troy mentioned. Personally, I’m excited that there are members of the church who are exploring and expanding their understanding beyond the rote recitation of “seminary answers”. Yay, I’m not alone :)

    Overall, I enjoyed reading your article and thank you for it :) I’d love to initiate a dialogue and get your feedback on my proposed definition of mysticism and some other thoughts.

  8. Excellent Thomas! I can assure you that you are not alone. I loved that talk by Elder McConkie, that is quite a find, I reposted it over on my site and credited you and TempleStudy. I like your definition of mysticism and think it is simple and spot on in most respects.

    As long as we’re airing our grievances, I don’t think we should blanketly lumping crucifixes with idolatry. A crucifix is, among other things, a simplified tree of life and a symbol that has been infused with deep significance to the atonement of Christ. If a Latter-day Saint could use a Del Parson painting for meditation, there’s no reason why they couldn’t use a cross or any number of the many symbols, motifs or archetypes out there in the world, even plants, rocks, rainbows, patterns both organic and inorganic.

    I think the only reason you don’t see more Mormons wearing crosses is due to an old tradition of keeping a distinction between the restored gospel and creedal Christianity. Other than that, there’s no reason why a Mormon couldn’t wear a cross. All symbols have their place in truth.

  9. Thomas

    No, you’re right about crucifixes and idolatry. I mention the, however, as an example of what can (and often does) happen when we use such tools of meditation without properly understanding them. Instead of being just a symbol of faith, the crucifix becomes a *source* of power and protection in the minds of the users, rather than a conduit. If ancient Israel had been permitted to make an image of YHWH, how long would it have taken them to move from “This is a representation of the god that brought us out of Egypt,” to “This is the god that brought us out of Egypt”?

    But when understood and used properly with context, symbols are FANTASTIC! Hence the entirely symbolic temple ordinances :)

    And I just read this the other day. What’s soo interesting is this is from the New Era. Elder McConkie was obviously hoping it would have an impact on the younger generation of the time. I see it as a sister talk to the other one I shared.
    https://www.lds.org/new-era/1980/06/how-to-get-personal-revelation?lang=eng

  10. You are right that anything can be turned to idolatry. I just object to people picking on the cross or any single symbol. Everything you just said about the cross can equally apply to temple garments, emblems of the sacrament, books of scripture, Christus statues in the homes of members, etc, etc.

    I don’t buy that crosses are somehow “dangerous”. Crosses are on churches, Moroni’s are on temples, crosses are worn lightly around necks, garments cover most of your body. Let’s be done with the cross0phobia and put it far from us. To the pure are all things pure…

    We should have more respect for the ways in which people choose to express their beliefs without resorting to double standards and myths.

  11. Thomas

    Hey I didn’t mean to pick on the crucifix, I was using it as an illustrative example. I was hoping that readers would be able to extrapolate general principles from the specific case. The crucifix is a good example because it’s actually crossed the threshold in our culture. Gargoyles are a more dated example of a symbol that had crossed the threshold to containing an innate power in itself within the cultural consciousness. But the same principle holds true for Del Parson paintings and Moroni statues on temples (I actually have a bit of a problem with the Moroni tradition because of that).

  12. I think the larger issue is that anything can become an idol. I don’t think that one specific kind of thing over another is more prone to being idolized. We as a human beings have a tendency to endear ourselves to certain symbols, especially if we attach a great deal of meaning to them. As long the symbol helps you embrace the reality there’s no problem, but when the symbol becomes the reality then you have idolatry.

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