This leads to our basic problem: how authentic is the experience?

How reliable are the "vibrations" and how valid are the conclusions?

How and where do we draw the line between the authentic and the spurious, between the reliable and the deceptive, the true and the imagined, the valid and the specious?

William James, a well-known philosopher and psychologist, summarized four distinguishing marks of the mystical experience:

(a) Ineffability: it defies expression. That is, no adequate report of its content can be given in words. Its quality must be experienced directly: mystical states are more states of feeling than states of intellect.

(b) Noetic quality: the mystical experience appears to the subject as a state of knowledge, an insight into the depths of truth that are unplumbed by the discursive intellect. It is an illumination, indeed a "revelation," full of significance and importance, inarticulate though it remains.

(c) Transiency: it cannot be sustained for long.

(d) Passivity: it "hits" the subject, grasping and holding him like a power beyond him, beyond his control, as if his own will is in abeyance. To be sure, the experience can be induced by voluntary operations as, for example, fixing attention (meditation), bodily performances (e.g., yoga exercises), or intoxicants (alcohol, drugs) that will stimulate the mystical consciousness.

Certain aspects of nature may awaken mystical moods. Nonetheless, in the actual experience of the "event," for the "contents" of the experience, the subject is in effect passive.

The most powerful aspect of the mystical experience is clearly the innate feeling that everything is charged with meaning.

The subject feels surrounded by "truths" which he is as yet unable to grasp, but they arouse indescribable awe.

He is filled with cosmic consciousness a consciousness of the life and order of the universe.

He senses an intellectual enlightenment that leads him to new planes of existence.

There is moral exaltation, an indescribable feeling of elation, a quickening of the moral sense - as striking and more important than the enhanced power of the intellect.

Moreover, mystical states, when developed, are usually authoritative for the individual who experiences them; he "has been there" and just "knows."

Here lies both the fascination and the problem, the beauty and the fundamental weakness of mysticism and mystical experiences.