Similarities & Differences between psychosis/schizophrenia, Shamanism & Mysticism?

“The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.”


Mysticism is “a constellation of distinctive practices, discourses, texts, institutions, traditions, and experiences aimed at human transformation, variously defined in different traditions.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

So, what mystics and which mysticism?

There are limitations in language, definitions, understandings, opinion & perspectives. The mystical is a very broad area. Lets quote some more of the Wikipedia article that you just quoted from -

Parson warns that “what might at times seem to be a straightforward phenomenon exhibiting an unambiguous commonality has become, at least within the academic study of religion, opaque and controversial on multiple levels”. The definition, or meaning, of the term “mysticism” has changed through the ages

“Mysticism” is derived from the Greek μυω, meaning “I conceal”, and its derivative μυστικός, mystikos, meaning ‘an initiate’.

During the early modern period, the definition of mysticism grew to include a broad range of beliefs and ideologies related to “extraordinary experiences and states of mind”

In modern times, “mysticism” has acquired a limited definition, with broad applications, as meaning the aim at the “union with the Absolute, the Infinite, or God”. This limited definition has been applied to a wide range of religious traditions and practices, valuing “mystical experience” as a key element of mysticism.

According to Evelyn Underhill, mysticism is “the science or art of the spiritual life.” It is

...the expression of the innate tendency of the human spirit towards complete harmony with the transcendental order; whatever be the theological formula under which that order is understood.

Moores too mentions “love” as a central element:

Mysticism, then, is the perception of the universe and all of its seemingly disparate entities existing in a unified whole bound together by love.

Related to the idea of “presence” instead of “experience” is the transformation that occurs through mystical activity.

Some authors emphasize that mystical experience involves intuitive understanding and the resolution of life problems. According to Larson,

A mystical experience is an intuitive understanding and realization of the meaning of existence – an intuitive understanding and realization which is intense, integrating, self-authenticating, liberating – i.e., providing a sense of release from ordinary self-awareness – and subsequently determinative – i.e., a primary criterion – for interpreting all other experience whether cognitive, conative, or affective.

And James R. Horne notes:

[M]ystical illumination is interpreted as a central visionary experience in a psychological and behavioural process that results in the resolution of a personal or religious problem. This factual, minimal interpretation depicts mysticism as an extreme and intense form of the insight seeking process that goes in activities such as solving theoretical problems or developing new inventions.

According to McClenon, mysticism is

The doctrine that special mental states or events allow an understanding of ultimate truths. Although it is difficult to differentiate which forms of experience allow such understandings, mental episodes supporting belief in "other kinds of reality" are often labeled mystical [...] Mysticism tends to refer to experiences supporting belief in a cosmic unity rather than the advocation of a particular religious ideology.
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All of it! The field/study of Mysticism in general.

I have had many mystical experiences. But I don’t want to talk about them.

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Fair enough.

On the definitions you quoted, florid psychosis seems all but mystical, though it certainly is mysterious. A better candidate for a mystical experience, according to those definitions, is the event of insight into madness. This fits Horne’s and Larson’s definition pretty spot on, also fits better with the idea of harmony with a transcendental order.

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According to that, do you feel/think it is potentially possible to heal from/transform madness?

Even better. Because I couldn’t possibly think of any particular definition that could serve both. To make those two experiences equall
in any sense, obviously means misunderstanding ( or not having a clue) about the essence of mystical experience/philosophy.

But you just won’t give up, right?

I hope that any passenger who reads this ■■■■ can only laugh to it’s harmful and in every mean - specially pragmatically- unproductive ideas.

There are correlations within the entire subject of non-ordinary/extreme states of mind.

Do you mean that schizophrenia & mysticism are equal? Have i said that anywhere? Nowhere have i said that in this thread or on this forum. i think that there are similarities & differences - that some people do seem to far more fit cases of spiritual crisis/emergency - & there is a long tradition & a lot of literature around all that.

i have No problem fully acknowledging that there are various degrees/forms of pathology/psychopathology (mental illnesses) - the role of physiology/biology in that, validity of psychiatry in understanding & approaching it all, as well as a potential use of pharmacology to ease people’s suffering. But that isn’t the point.

For one, i’d like to find more ways of more fully healing from, resolving difficulties, coming to a deeper understanding of ‘things’ & living a fuller life. Sorry that is so abhorrent/peculiar/daft to you & many others.

Bottom line: the real mystics, if you had any chance to meet one in real life, are

  1. Peaceful and harmonized within themselves and the world out there
  2. Functional and productive, able to observe at common as well as transcendental state of mind.
  3. Extremely careful about making their experiences popularized& trivialized & mythical and poisoning for unprepared mind.

There is no relation between psychosis and mysticism. However you try to make them ‘similar’ you are robbing one or another from their true meaning.


i disagree with you. & what of your own difficulties? Aren’t you primarily suffering from an emotional disorder?

What authority, knowledge or experience do you actually have on all this?

To transform madness is quite possible, I strongly belief. It was when I realized my neighbours couldn’t be talking to me with their normal voice through soundwaves while I was all over the city (my prior delusion). My delusion changed into a telepathy one. This was accompanied by a change in the nature of my voices, from being located in a specific direction outside the skull, to having no specific location at all, like my own thoughts have no location. Or if pressed, one would say inside the skull. So that is some transformation of experience. The bigger change came with insight, while still untreated in my case. The hallucinations persisted but to conceive of them differently got rid of a huge amount of distress. In that sense it solved psychological and emotional problems to conceive of it differently. That’s why those definitions made me think of the event of insight. Otherwise, florid psychosis is just an enormous amount of distress, which doesn’t match up at all with the notions of harmony and love etc.

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Am glad that you have made progress. i have too in ways.

Of course. There was a wonderful description of a ‘reverse enlightenment’ in the back of one edition of Huxley’s Doors of Perception (Heaven & Hell). Maybe it’s more rare?

Could ask you the same. I still don’t know nothing about your education.
I’ve studied Islamic mysticism as a part of my literature and culture studies course, I’ve read Quran and Bible as well as several Sufi authors, and, I happen to know one truly spiritual human being in real life.

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You seem to be using “mysticism” in the same way you use “mainstream psychology” - without form or definition, as some fuzzy subjective idea to praise or condemn reflexively. It makes productive, meaningful discussion impossible. Perhaps if you defined your terms, we might be able to get somewhere?

In any case, if you restrict your definitions to the longstanding mystic diciplines that Sarad is referring to - the Sufis, the Kabbalah scholars, etc - then there is no comparison. If you’re broadening it to include, say, my convictions that there beings who might steal me away in my sleep to dance helplessly all night, then I would say that while there are comparisons, they’re not helpful or useful. It just seems narcissistic and lazy to entertain them as meaningful based on their surface presentation.


@apotheosis, you want to find a deeper meaning and possible metaphysical sources of delusions/ hallucinations.
Where I live, and that is pretty much area stuck in past where your ideas came from, you know what they do to people, those who share your beliefs?

They beat people to make jinns go away.

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For a few more towards the “well” end psychosis may be a mystical/transformational experience but for the majority it’s far more likely to be varying degrees of a living nightmare.

Wonderful - i’ve read thousands of books/done 10’s of thousands of hours of research. Did very well at school/exams - have completed/attained 7 years of further education. Studied the Bible at depth, as well as comparative religion, psychology, philosophy & many other areas. Was in full time work for 8 years.

Have worked very closely with 2 highly experienced/knowledgeable spiritual healers & trained extensively in the area for the past 14 years.