Another word for mysticism is the numinous. This is also literally the truth. We have a spiritual experience which cannot be put into words without reducing or even perhaps smoother it. There are simply no words to express that which we experience at such moments of transporting ecstasy.
It would probably be sensible to replace the word mysticism –which always gives rise to misunderstandings – with the numinous. I have become aware that I have very little desire to be sensible about matters which surpass comprehension. Realistic, yes, but not sensible. I have a preference for mysticism because I hear within it the echo of another word, mystery. And that I very much wish to hear. Of course, it must be accompanied by the realistic understanding that that which seems to be mysterious need not necessarily be so, and that sometimes ‘ordinary events’ can be quite mysterious.
Take inspiration, for instance. Everybody experiences inspiration. Those who receive it are not, as a rule, amazed by it. Yet is not inspiration just as mysterious as clairvoyance or a prophecy which comes true? How many people ask themselves where their inspiration comes from. Not many, in my opinion. I think that the majority of people calmly accept that there is no explanation for inspiration. That is how I approach it as well. For me this provides evidence to support the theory that we can in general approach mysteries quite realistically.
Sometimes writers in the throes of inspiration receive amazing images, ideas and insights. According to the autobiographies of several authors it appears that these writers heard their characters’ voices, felt their pain physically, became short of breath when they wrote of their characters’ deaths, and so forth. Read, for example, what G. Flober experienced during the period he was writing Madame Bovary. It was as though he was occasionally in trance, even though the book could hardly be called spiritual. If the story actually is spiritual, if it is about a mystic, for example, then the writer could be expected to experience a mystical trance, including the incredible revelations which accompany such a state. Indeed, this is what I experience when I wrote Nog een messias, a novella about a person who heard a voice. A Voice with a capital letter.
A literary author always gets under the skin of the characters which he writes about. Thus I too attempted to make contact with a 'wise voice' within me, and I succeeded. The memory of this encounter was sufficient to make possible the repetition of the experience. Again and again I heard that voice as I worked on my novella. Yet was it truly the same voice?! How could I possibly know? When you cannot know something for sure, you still think one thing or the other about it. And what you think is what you consciously or unconsciously want to think about it.
Nobody has ever researched how people can actually differentiate various inner voices. Therefore, it seems appropriate that I speak here only of my own experience in the matter. The voices that I hear within me are different that human voices. They differ not so much in their sound but in their use of language, idiom and message. The wise voice that I learned to conjure up during the writing of Nog een messias could tell me amazing things about life. If I were to call these images 'received messages' and claim that they did not originate from me (which is what I sometimes thought), I could call myself a medium.
I am not sure what the intensity of a spiritual experience determines. In my case, the experience was not so strong that I completely lost myself when I identified with my mystic. My state of consciousness resembled the description of a trance. Why did I only go so far and not further? I could not say whether it happened because I restrained myself from going to deeply into the trance, or it there was something else going on. Intense or not, the most important characteristic of a spiritual experience is its transcendence: the expansion of ones consciousness, the disappearance of the sense of self and limitations of the personality. Yet paradoxically enough, that which happens further is very much dependent on the person.
We say “ get inspiration”. This expression suggests that you do not perceive inspiration as your own creation. Perhaps the difference between writing mediums and simple writers lays for the most part in the interpretation of the experience. One tends to speak of ‘inspiration,’ ‘images’ or ‘surprising thoughts’, while the other calls it ‘trance’, ‘message’, or ‘voice from the spiritual world’. Couldn’t ‘to get inspiration’ and ‘ to receive a message’ be in fact the same? What does the use of language do in general to the actual experience? Is there a kind of profound interaction between the two? These are all questions that cannot be answered objectively. Still, it seems a good idea to me to pose them, particularly to oneself.