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Mystical Feelings and the Process of Self-Transformation


There is a need for inner recollection opposed to our everyday distraction. Our distraction is partly based on anthropological features and partly on social and cultural features. As well as feelings of distraction, we know experiences of being focussed from everyday life. As feelings in which distraction is absent, and as feelings in which we are partly and temporarily released from our own egocentric perspective, they remind us that a different kind of relation to ourselves and the world is possible. Therefore, they can motivate a process of self-transformation aiming at a mystical state of mind, which is of a more profound and enduring kind than ordinary experiences of being focussed. The mystical state of mind is a state in which we transcend ourselves in the face of the universe and thereby relativize our own affective involvement. It is a feeling of an all-encompassing unity which ultimately concerns us; and it is a feeling of love, joy, and peace of mind. Mystical feelings thus shape and restrict spaces of possibilities, and they comprise an altered sense of what it means to be real. Therefore, they can be classified as existential feelings. Still, the mystical state of mind differs from prototypical existential feelings because it is a positive feeling, necessarily comprises active as well as passive moments, and presupposes an explicit way of attending to the world as world.

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I developed initial thoughts on this paper during a project on religious feelings generously funded by the John Templeton Foundation (Analytic Theology Project). Furthermore, I am grateful that I could develop and discuss some of my ideas on mystical feelings through teaching an interdisciplinary course on religious feelings at the University of Basel in the Spring Term of 2015. My special thanks go to the organisers and participants of the workshop on the meaning of moods in Kaiseraugst, Switzerland, in December 2015, where I was able to present and discuss my paper. Finally, I would like to thank the anonymous referee for providing very usefull feedback that helped to improve the draft of my article.

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Correspondence to Ruth Rebecca Tietjen.

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Tietjen, R.R. Mystical Feelings and the Process of Self-Transformation. Philosophia 45, 1623–1634 (2017).

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  • Mystical feelings
  • Existential feelings
  • Emotions
  • Self
  • Self-transformation
  • Good life