In addition to our common experience of natural ecstasies, the human race has devised other means for forgetting ourselves, for getting high, for experiencing divinity.  The overall title I give these is “tactical ecstasies” and they should be taken seriously.  For, unlike natural ecstasy wherein we are recipients of ecstasy, these experiences are tactics or strategies or consciously devised plans for taking ourselves out of the everyday world onto a more spiritual plane.

The unconscious, Jung says, is god.  Speaking more precisely, I would say that God plays in a special way in the unconscious.  The unconscious is God’s playhouse.  Prayer, psychologically speaking, is the release of God from our unconscious or our depths so as to permeate our consciousness.

What prevents this release of spiritual or root energy?  It is, according to this picture of ourselves, our conscious everyday existence and attitudes of survival and problem solving.  These resist our efforts to experience God, harmony, integration and synthesis.  The conscious level of existence puts up a block to our ecstatic states of consciousness.

“Labyrinth” (an ancient form of meditative prayer) by Ashley Batz, Unsplash

How to overcome this block?  How to relax the conscious level of existence so that the unconscious might play more fully?

That is the question that sages of all the great religious traditions asked themselves and for which they devised deliberate methods or strategies to achieve– what I call, appropriately I think, tactical ecstasies.

“Mudra” by Ksenia Makagonova, Unsplash

Here are a few of these tactical ecstasies:

Chanting is a simple, yet effective way of numbing the conscious level of our lives.  Like novocaine, a chant with a steady rhythm repeated over and over begins to lull one level of our minds so that a different one might emerge.

Fasting (besides rendering one at first hungry and then not caring about hunger or  food) invariably renders one light in the head.

Mindfulness meditation stills the mind.

“Whirling Dervishes” by Shankar S., Istanbul, Turkey, 2014, Flickr

Celibacy is a voluntary decision to abstain from sexual experience for a period of  time.  Its efficacy does not derive from any fear of  sex or abhorrence of the body…. Rather, it derives from fundamentally the same psychospiritual insight as the other means we are naming: putting one area of a person’s desires and consciousness to sleep, to allow another area to express itself.

Yoga, Sufi dancing, or Zen meditation encourage the individual to listen to and become in harmony with the vibrations and indeed, music within one’s own body. By concentrating on the bodily chant or rhythm, the everyday consciousness is lulled into relaxation and a person is more apt for ecstatic experience.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Whee! We, wee All the Way Home: A Guide to Sensual, Prophetic Spirituality, p. 55ff.
Banner image: “Spiritual Meditation” by Okan Caliskan, Pixabay

Contemplative Practices

Take a phrase or an idea from this meditation and be still with it, letting it wash over you and through and through you.  Consider the practices described.

Do you use any of the above mentioned practices?

Try a few to find which ones bring you to a deeper level of consciousness. 

Recommended Reading

One of Matthew Fox’s earliest books, this title explores the importance of ecstasy in the spiritual life. Fox considers the distinction between “natural” ecstasies (including nature, sex, friendship, music, art) and “tactical” ecstasies (like meditation, fasting, chanting); he names the spiritual journey as taking us from ecstasy (Whee!) to a community consciousness (We), to our battling forces that prefer control to pleasure shared or justice (wee).

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