Mystical and trancelike experiences are delusional

Mysticism is usually the attempt to achieve a "personal union" with God, or some other divine being or with a universal principle. Mysticism implies the belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being, and directly accessible by subjective experience. Mystics apparently fail to recognize that neither the inner conviction of an experience nor the feeling of absolute certainty are guarantees of the veracity of the experience. I became aware of how misleading certainty could be during my scientific career, when I realized several times that some of my theories were wrong, even though initially I was convinced of their validity. Some theories initially make a lot of sense, explain several facts, and even have a unique intrinsic beauty. However, on further testing, when the predictions of the theory do not hold, the certainty can be rapidly replaced by a deep disappointment. Thus, a strong inner conviction of an untested theory is not a criterion of being correct, just as certitude with regard to a hallucination is not a guarantee of its truthfulness. The truthfulness of scientific theories can be tested, whereas mystical and religious convictions are unverifiable.

Many trance-like experiences are described in mysterious and inscrutable words that make one wonder about the sanity of the mediums who announce them. Esoteric language with occult meanings has a deep appeal for those in search of revelations, whereas it is just an incomprehensible collection of mysterious-sounding words devoid of unambiguous meaning. For example, mystics describe many weird experiences, such as: the feeling of transcending human consciousness, experiencing the presence of God, sensing being at one with the divine, a feeling of absolute dependence, experiencing the transcendent and mysterious reality of the universe, communicating with a world beyond normal experience, etc. The nature of these experiences seems akin to the experiences and feelings reported by some schizophrenic patients. Mysticism is a form of avoidance, a way to escape the harsh realities of a hostile environment that cannot be controlled [4]. Mysticism in this age seems like a form of adult autism, an abnormal introversion with egocentricity, and an escape into a fantasy that for some is more acceptable than reality.

Supernatural beliefs are not exclusive to primitive cultures, but are instead manifested during the early stages of development of many individuals in almost any culture. Supernatural explanations are an attempt to understand and explain the confusing reality before we can comprehend it through reason and empirical knowledge. Supernatural explanations seem to be a temporary solution allowing us to get on with life before true knowledge can be obtained. This means that ideally supernatural beliefs persist only in the absence of scientific explanations. It implies that the "primitive mentality," attributed to some cultures, is actually a developmental stage of each individual. In primitive cultures, the production of elaborate and farfetched supernatural explanations increases in the absence of satisfactory scientific explanations. These explanations are perfected by successive generations, who enrich the traditions and mythology of their culture. Thus, supernatural beliefs in primitive cultures are maintained or embellished, whereas in higher cultures, these beliefs are arrested by scientific knowledge, while culture continues to evolve in other directions.

The staggering number of religions precludes a detailed examination of all supernatural beliefs. However, even if we could examine them all, we would be unable to determine the superiority or truthfulness of any particular religion, because religious truth is not verifiable. At any rate, it is reasonable to believe that a more evolved religion—one appearing in a higher culture—is "superior" to one that requires human or animal sacrifices. The fact that religious beliefs evolve and become obsolete indicates that these beliefs are human inventions, made to suit temporary social or political needs. An omniscient God would have given us a timeless, eternal religion that would not need to be reinterpreted on the basis of evolving cultural and scientific progress. Thus, we can surmise that religions were created not by God, but by human stories, designed to keep us submissive and waiting for Godot, for an eternity.

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