mkapolk's picture
Mon, Oct 02 2017 03:45 PM
10/02/2017 - 15:45
10/02/2018 - 15:45

I thought it’d be interesting to pick up where the Mystic Western game jam left off and make an event around Mysticism per se (actually lumpen suggested making an event, I just complained about the other jam on discord). There’s an understanding of the words mystic and mystical which implies an experience of wonder, the magical, and the occult. A mystic is someone who wields a strange power and works in unexplained ways. There’s a sense in this definition of there being unexplained mysteries that, possibly, can never be unraveled. Or of being transported to another world. But there’s another tradition of meaning for these words.

This other meaning of mysticism could be briefly but unhelpfully summarized as an immediate and direct experience of ultimate reality, a fundamental spiritual truth, or God. It refers to a type of internal experience in which one has the sense that something very important has been revealed. For William James, two elements define a mystical experience. The first is its ineffability: “the subject of it immediately says that it defies expression, that no adequate report of its contents can be given in words. It follows from this that tis quality must be directly experienced; it cannot be imparted or transferred to others. In this peculiarity mystical states are more like states of feeling than like states of intellect.” The other element is a noetic quality: “although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those who experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority for after-time.”

There’s a similarity between the two meanings, especially in terms of an underlying sense of wonder, but the noetic quality makes the latter very different from the former. If the knowledge of the former definition of mysticism is occult, the knowledge of the latter is exposed. The secrets of the former meaning have the potential to be revealed by initiation into their mysteries, but in the latter the secrets are already revealed, if ineffable. There is a sense that the truth has been in front of us the whole time, and that all we had to do was look at it the right way.

To make an event based on an ineffable and transcendent experience seems exclusive, but I hope that these experiences are not so uncommon as they seem like they should be. James claims that “personal religious experience has its root and center is mystical states of consciousness,” and William Harmless, in the introduction to his book on mystics, recounts a story about his students’ experience:

She said, “I don’t want to sound arrogant or anything. But you know- when I read these people, I think that I’ve experienced something like that. I am beginning to think that I’m a mystic--- maybe, not in the same way these people are, maybe not as intensely. But I know what they’re talking about.” There was a pause, then hand after hand began to rise. Each who spoke repeated something similar. These mystics were talking about things that they themselves had tasted, that they too had felt. I put aside the day’s lecture. We had something urgent to talk about. We talked about the culture we live in, the way our world ignores- even silences- the mystical, the way it has deprived us of words, stopped us from speaking about the mystery that runs under and through our lives. We talked about the way the mystics give us a language, a vocabulary, to begin to articulate what we all taste and feel. We talked a little about Karl Rahner, about the way he suggests that being a mystic is a constituent element of the human person, that most of are, in fact, repressed mystics.

I think also that a vast, overwhelming secular awe with the enormity of the universe and its unimaginable complexity is a feeling that approaches the mystical. After all, for an understanding that encompasses the whole universe and all of physics, it’s only a short trip over the threshold into metaphysics.

So, I see this event as an opportunity to explore games related to these ideas, or connected to them as broadly as you please. Have you had mystical experiences? Do you feel haunted by existential questions, and is your life lacking meaning? Do you have a personal religion, and is it perhaps at odds with your inherited religion?

awakening.jpg194.96 KB

Games made for Mysticism


clyde's picture

This will be a good target

This will be a good target even if I miss.
I like to focus on creating the actual subject rather than presenting symbols of the subject, but with "mysticism" that tactic feels near impossible. I'm thinking that mysticism is heavily dependent on the use of symbols. It is probably possible to use symbols that are not traditionally considered mystical though. Maybe I'll go in that direction and find out what the roles of symbols in mysticism are and how they relate to each other.

clyde's picture

I'm going to use the

I'm going to use the concepts in this essay pretty heavily in my game and I need a place to put it so I can reference it later, so I'm just gonna put it here.