Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Synaesthesia: Christian, Islamic and Jewish Mystical Sensory Experience

Posted by NT Wrong on May 27, 2008

A panel discussion was held on “Sensory Experiences in Mystical Traditions” at UC Santa Barbara, on 3 May 2007. The panel stars Bernhard McGinn, James Winston Morris, Elliot R. Wolfson, experts respectively on Jewish, Islamic, and Christian mystical traditions. The focus is on synaesthesia, the description of one of the five sensory experiences in the terminology of one of the other sensory expenses. The video has now been made available by UCTV (86:01).

As an example of synaesthesia, the followers of Pachomius are described as seeing “a great flash of light in his words. All the brethren were like men drunk on wine and saw the words coming forth from hi mouth like birds of silver, gold and precious stones, which flew over the brethren and went into the ears of those who listened well.” (Bernhard McGinn)

“Experiences in which the senses are intermingled in usual ways are a common motif in the descriptions that mystics provide of their unordinary sensory experiences. The panelists will discuss the role that such experiences have played in the thought and practice of selected figures in the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian mystical traditions.”

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