Volume 4 Issue 2 Fall 2018

S p i r i t ua l i t y S t u d i e s 4 - 2 Fa l l 2 0 1 8 1 7 Mike Sosteric 1 Introduction About the author Mike Sosteric, Ph.D., is associate professor of sociology at Athabasca University in Canada with a special interest in human spirituality, mystical experience, human development, and human transformation. His email contact is mikes@athabascau.ca. Let’s face it, these hidden laws [of mysticism] are hidden, but they are only hidden by [your] own ignorance. And the word mystical is just arrived at through people’s ignorance. There’s nothing mystical about it, only that you’re ignorant of what that entails. George Harrison We live in a world where most people believe in God. Despite propaganda to the contrary, the number of atheists in the world remains rather small (only 3 % in the U.S.A, and only 9 % in Canada), and this is even after a couple of centuries of scientific progress (Hunsberger and Altemeyer 2006, 9). We can ask the question why, and of course, some people will say that it is because people are stupid and gullible (Dawkins 2006), but that is not always the case. People who accept the existence of God, and people who take spiritual experiences seriously, do so not because they are stupid and irrational, but because they are logical and intelligent (Boyer 2001), because there are structures in their brain that support it (Newberg and Waldman 2009; Newberg, d’Aquile, and Rause 2001), and (most importantly) because they have had experiences that make them question the dogmatic scientific view that the only thing that exists is the material universe that we can see with our material eyes. Yes, you heard me right. Some people, who knows how many, believe in the spiritual side of life because they have had various types of spiritual experiences that make them believe in a spiritual side to life. These experiences cause them to question their current ontological assumptions and open up their thinking to expanded possibilities. This much has been recognized for thousands of years. In the Western world, there are traditions of spiritual/mystical experience that go all the way back to Plato and beyond (Versluis 2007). Some Western academics have even taken mystical experience seriously. William James, the man who helped found American psychology, felt that all religions were based on the mystical experience of some charismatic avatar (James 1982), and others have agreed. Indeed, Abraham Maslow made his career on the study of “peak experiences” (Maslow 1994, 1968, 2012; Lester et al. 1983) which are just a secular name for weak mystical experiences. The point here, people believe not because they are stupid, but because they have experiences that prove to them that something else exists.