Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mysticism: My Quasi Experience of It (Revisiting Sophie's World)

My PLDT dsl is bust today --it has been for four days. So I pick up a book to re-read. Sophie's World. And I again find myself drawn, mesmerized into Jostein Gaarder's crash course on philosophy -- the meaning of life and death and the nature of God, man, and the universe -- woven into an intriguing quasi-fictional story of a young girl named Sophie.

I write down snippets from the book:

"Could it be that everything is one divine 'I' -- that I carry in my soul a spark of the divine fire?(Sophie to herself)

"How can you be certain that your whole life is not a dream." (Rene Descartes)

"Two things fill me with awe -- the starry skies above me and the moral law within me." (Immanuel Kant)

Reading such as these, my faculty of wonder is fully awake. It is provoked by glimpses of the "splendor that I am because I am of God."

My favorite in Sophie's World is the chapter on mysticism.

I savored the idea of a mystical experience -- a sense of losing self to join with God and the universe. Like a drop of water disappearing into the ocean.

Since reading Gaarder, I asked and asked God for one -- just one -- mystical experience. I thought if I knew for a second just how it felt to be physically and in every way to be one with my creator, I can bear with anything this sometimes difficult life deals me.

I haven't been given this gift. But I got something close to it.

That was more than 20 years ago -- when I slept a drug-induced sleep in a hospital where I was about to give birth to one of my sons the "painless way."

One moment I was a throbbing mass of labor pain -- then came a prick -- and the pain was no more. All of a sudden, the world receded from me -- replaced by the dark. A dotted grayness.

The experience was a blur. All I remember was I felt part of the dotted dark -- like I was one of the dots. And there was this guide that was not really a guide but more of a voice inside me. It made me privy to a wondrous knowledge which "was for you to to savor while you can because you would forget about it the moment you woke."

That was all. And yes .. there was this idea that echoed through: "Nothing is important ... what you think to be important is not ...."

I woke up to an absolute sense of peace.

The peace pervaded me for weeks -- while I nursed my new baby. In time, it dulled and is all but forgotten except when I get nudged, for example, by re-reading Sophie's World.

Just now -- two awesome thoughts occurred to me.

One -- that months after that quasi-mystical experience, I was faced with the most excruciating crisis of my life (so far).

And two -- the baby I gave birth to that long-ago day turned out to be an extraordinary person.

I guess I won't sleep trying to fathom the connection.

(Note: Water image courtesy of stockxpert.)


snglguy said...

"The peace pervaded me for weeks" - At least you have achieved Nirvana... even if it was only for a few weeks. :-)

Summer said...

i am starting to hate PLDT swear..
parang mabagal tlg sila eh.. biro mu nag paupgrade un friend ko sa plst
tpos.. after 1 month
bago kinabit..
knowing he is running a
pc shop >_<


Toe said...

Happy Birthday Annamanila! I haven't read Sophie's World yet... ang kapal e... haha! :) I've never had that kind of quasi-mystical experience myself (except for bangungots... hehe!). But that was a great way to bring life on earth.

auee said...

You've achieved peace & serenity during the most tumultuous phase of motherhood, that's really something. I can only hope when I give birth next time, I won't be as panicky as before during the baby's first few weeks.

You know when I was young & impressionable, I tried to copy the people you read in the Bible and offered God my candies & other toys. I prayed hard for him to set them on fire. I was really disappointed and of course this is the first time I admitted to ever doing such a thing.

pining said...

Well before I start I just want to greet you a very happy birthday... belated na ba?
I was lucky when I gave birth to my two boys: my first born took about 3 hours of labour, the second one 50 minutes... without anesthesia, just gas and air!
I just hope they'll be as extraordinary as yours though :-)

haven't read Sophie's choice for ages, have to re read it again one day

kathy said...

I haven't read the book. Wasn't there a movie with the same title?
Btw, I read somewhere that out-of-body experiences could actually be explained by electrical currents to specific spots in the brain. Could it be that some of the so-called mystic experiences can be traced to specific brain functions (or malfunctions)? Just thinking out loud, hehe. Anyway, here is the link to the article plus a few excerpts: Out-of-Body Experience? Your Brain Is to Blame By SANDRA
(New York Times article here:

"They are eerie sensations, more common than one might think: A man describes feeling a shadowy figure standing behind him, then turning around to find no one there. A woman feels herself leaving her body and floating in space, looking down on her corporeal self.

Such experiences are often attributed by those who have them to paranormal forces.

But according to recent work by neuroscientists, they can be induced by delivering mild electric current to specific spots in the brain. In one woman, for example, a zap to a brain region called the angular gyrus resulted in a sensation that she was hanging from the ceiling, looking down at her body. In another woman, electrical current delivered to the angular gyrus produced an uncanny feeling that someone was behind her, intent on
interfering with her actions."

mitsuru said...

and another one--

"A Russian astronaut and a Russian brain surgeon were once discussing religion. The brain surgeon was a Christian but the astronaut was not. The astronaut said, 'I've been out in space many times but I've never seen God or angels.' And the brain surgeon said, 'And I've operated on many clever brains but I've never seen a single thought.'

Happy Birthday!

exskindiver said...

hi anna,
i've been visiting but have not ever commented.
it is time for me to de-lurk.
i love your writing.
i recall that a few months ago i read your other blog, and i loved that too.
you make blogging respectable.
thank you.
~chesca silva

Belle TH said...

anna, when i was little, i dreamed of an angel looming over me. could that be the kind of mystical experience?

delivery of my first born was a tough one as all the veins in my face turned red. as a result, i swore never to have kids again, but in a span of less than a year, another one came, much easier this time. it turned out that the first born was an amazing kid.

gibbs cadiz said...

happy birthday, anna! typing this in changi airport, singapore, en route to bali. o ha, hanggang dito binibisita kita. :)

Leah said...

Child birth in itself is indeed a moment you can cherish and at the same time consider feeling a sense of peace. I never thought it that way, but pondering it right now. Mm...maybe.

sheilamarie said...

Hi Anna! What a wonderful feeling that experience must have left on you.

Unfortunately I have not been lucky to experience that yet. Or maybe I have, in small quantities =D

Frodo said...

I was watching a panoramic and breatktaking view of mountain and skies one misty morning in Sagada. I was breathless -- i was so small, so insignificant compared to the vastness. For a moment, it seemed to me that time stood still. Perhaps that is also a quasi-mystical experience?!

I read you often, annamanila.

houseband00 said...

Thanks, Anna.

Your mystic birth experience gave me another glimpse of how parenting feels from the female point of view.

M told me that at the time she was at the recovery room, surrounded by other sleeping moms and she was the only one awake. She experienced a feeling of sad disconnection as if a large chunk of her was missing. She actually cried because of this. However, the feeling completely disappeared when she held our son for the first time.


ladycess said...

losing the self and joining God and the universe -- hmm.. reminds me of a section in da vinci code, where this certain ritual enables them to achieve exactly that :) i'm a little shy explaining it here, or perhaps i had a wrong interpretation of things, so i'll just assume youve read da vinci code. :)

annamanila said...


I suppose you're right. I should be thankful i had that pervading sense of peace (yes, nirvana is a good way to call it) for a precious while.

annamanila said...

Omg.. 1 month. I can't be without connection for a month! I will collapse ... hehe. Actually, am giving it a few more days before i take drastic action. :) thanks for sharing your and your friends' experience witih PLDT dsl.

annamanila said...


I was "forced" to read Sophie's World for first time when daughter was in first year college and had all these academic reports to do all at same time. I volunteered to do one -- a review of Sophie's World. Serendipity! (Eh teka muna, kumusta naman si Lennie and his mouse?)

I usually give birth without anaesthesia. That was the only time i was asked whether i wanted to go 'painless.' And when you're in the middle of labor na, how can you say "no?"

annamanila said...


I believe I was given that experience to prepare me for difficult episodes of my life which came right after. The idea of 'nothing is important ..." -- that was supposed to be a mantra that should have lubricated my journey through tumult. But I was stupid and didn't listen.

annamanila said...


I forgot to add that i have a daughter who told me as a three year old that God spoke to her in our backyard. Now she doesn't remember any of it nor having told me of it. Who can say what truly happens when we were young and innocent ha? Possibly, we are in touch with higher beings then? Maybe, just maybe.

annamanila said...


Not late but too early for the next. haha Thank you, your greetings mean a lot. :)

Most of my childbirths are not painless .. that was the only one where i was put to sleep. The last was induced.

Someday I might blog what i meant by 'extraordinary.' but not yet.

Sophie's World is nice and surprisingly easy reading. Its a crash course on philosophy -- from the time of Plato and Aristotle to the more contemporary ones like Bertrand Russell and Rene Descartes.

annamanila said...


Thanks for the scientist's explnation of so-called mystical experiences.

I prefer or like very much to regard what happened to me as an authentic spiritual episode. The anaesthetic can explain the "trip" through the gray dots (atoms?) but how explain the sense of peace (and almost joy)that lasted for weeks on end? And how explain ... never mind LOL

I just know we are more than just this shell, this body. I also know our reach exceeds our grasp.

But many many thanks for giving the scientific view -- it balances this piece, doesn't it?

annamanila said...


That's a good one between the astronaut and the brain surgeon. Ty, bill mitsuru. I guess that underscores again the polarity between (hard) physical sciences -- i dont have the exact word for it (help, Kathy) and metaphysics (please don't call it superstition, K). LOL

annamanila said...


I am glad you delurked, Cheska! Nice avatar. will see you soon at your site -- your comment (the style with which it was written, i mean) promises good things that await one there.

Thank you. uhmmmm i dunno about that ... but thank you, sobrang thank you. :):):)

annamanila said...


Well maybe not a mystical experience -- not in the sense of losing self and joining with god and the universe. But it seems like an otherdimensional experience which the very young, the very old, and the very innocent (maybe the very wise too) may be prone too.

Oh, Belle and other readers here. You don't have to take my word for it. I am not really an expert on metaphysics or the supernatural -- far from it. I use my stock knowledge (what i read that strikes a chord) and also what i feel inside to be true or likely to be true. eh .... very unreliable siguro. hahaha

annamanila said...


Aba... may notebook si Cadiz at may "we roam" pa. Grabe, someday, ako din. Ay naku. Sige, Bali hai!!

sasha said...

Haven't read that book pa, tita! Mabasa nga.

By the way, I was reading your sidebar again and I saw this...

Post-retirement Options

* Do something you've never dared to do before (e.g., sing in public, drink one too many, go the moviehouse by your lonesome)

You haven't gone to a moviehouse alone po? Ako several times na hehehe... Okay naman tita. Malamig nga lang sobra hehehe

kate said...

naku tita, sumakit ang ulo ko nung una kong binasa ang sophie's world -- everybody was reading it, so i decided to pick one copy up at national, i was sixteen, i think? -- sabi ko nga, ano ba to parang soc sci 2 textbook haha :)

siguro nga kailangan basahin ulit. maybe i'd understand it better this time. :)

at. may "painless way" ba ng panganganak, anyway?

ps - excited na ako sa aircon. hehe. :)

julie said...

Belated Happy Birthday Annamanila.

Would my daughter's experience count as mysticism or not? My youngest daughter went through a phase that sent shivers down our spine. She would sometimes cover her eyes, "hyperventilate" and perspire a lot. When she does that, we know why: she can see an aura, a person that we can't. She even refused to put on a white blouse because she said a "lolo" pointing to the direction of a part of the house, wears that kind of white clothing. Hmm...she couldn't have made that up because she was only two at that time.

We are just glad that she hasn't done that these past few months. But yesterday afternoon, on our way home from taking pictures of the sunflowers in UP, she pointed to the Quezon City Circle structure and said "Nandun si Lolo". Eeeek!

sexy mom said...

Like a drop of water disappearing into the ocean--gosh, Annamanila, i would NOT even be NOTHING. for what is a drop of water compared to the vast ocean? i shudder to think that way, to lose myself into the vast ocean.

but come to think of it. isn't it true that i am only one among the billions of people in this earth? and still my God knows me by my name, knows the number of strands of my hair, etc. it's mysticism, i guess, and by blind faith, i accept it.

annamanila said...


Bringing a child into the world is can be a metaphysical experience in itself (i think). Parang we mothers share with God his power of creation. Kay sarap naman talaga ng feeling na nakapanganak na -- tapos na ang 9 na buwang pagdadala, ang ilang oras na sobra-sakit (labor pains) at higit sa lahat, wow, kalong kalong na natin ang baby nating maganda na lalong makakapagpasaya ng ating tahanan at buhay.

annamanila said...


Exactly. We can experience mysticism in small doses. When we get overwhelmed by the vastness and majesty and sheer wonder of God's creations. Maybe not enough to "lose" ourselves but enough to get "transported." Ecstasy may be a word for it.

annamanila said...


I know how that feels! I have been by the moutains or by the ocean or by the forest too ... and how infinitisimal I feel. One gets almost "lost" and uniting with something bigger!

annamanila said...


Awwww ... that was the day D was born. I bet you were with M all the time? Did you do lamaze together?

I never had a crying spell after giving birth. It was just joy and relief. But I know about post partum depression too which never lasted too long for me. But for that one baby (whose birth I connected with mysticism) there was no depresssion at all -- just absolute peace.

I know you're a dad who likes to share with your wife all experiences related with your child. May your tribe increase.

annamanila said...

Lady Cess!

I tried to read Da Vinci Code but didn't get past page 50. But I think i got to the part where the members of the opus dei movement (were supposed) to inflict pain on themselves in order to emphatize with Christ's suffering. Did you mean that? And in the process siguro they join with God in a mystical way. Maybe that is one "road" to mysticism. I am not sure.

annamanila said...


It's a wonderful book -- mapapaisip ka. I am sure you will like it .. you old soul you. :)

Hey, in my generation women don't go to the cinema alone. But come to think of it .. WHY NOT!! (Pero still mas masarap may kasama di ba?)

Will do it before I leave this dimension. LOL

annamanila said...


Hindi nyo ba naging assignment sa Philosophy 1 ang Sophie's World? Eh assignment yung ng ate ni bonch. Ako gumawa. :) Toxic kasi yung semester na yon.

Yes, mayroong so-called "painless" way of child delivery, where the mom is given a general anaesthetic which knocks her out. Pero, still, she has to go through labor ... pag malapit na yung exact moment of birth saka pa lang pinapatulog. Harang nga eh .. in a way. :)

vernaloo said...

Hi Anna! Happy Birthday! :)

Anyway I haven't read Sophie's World (actually I never heard of it, yeah I'm a dork hehe) Pero intriga ako so maybe I'll check it out but sounds like a "deep" book to read...I might not fathom the contents hehe :)

annamanila said...

Teacher Julie!

Oooh, that's an eerie one. If that is a spirit that your daughter sees --it doesn't seem connected with the divine. Perhaps its a so-called elemental? Hey, does it still happen? Perhaps you should consult an expert? I hope your child's behavior and performance at school is not affected? I am not qualified to comment in an informed way. :(

But you did say it was a stage or a phase. That's good then.

ladycess said...

hi AM. uuuhhh.. no. it's the part where the heroine went to the basement of her uncle's mansion and saw them performing a sex ritual. accdg to the bida played by tom hanks, sexual orgasm is a mystical experience, supposed to make them one with God, or something like that. :)

btw, i want to say thank you for your comment on my post real moms. im so glad you like it. :)and i disagree with you, i saw your pic (right before sexymom deleted it) :D and i must say without bola youre beautiful. you look regal, like a queen. as for the rest, siguro nga hindi ka ganon , pero cool mom ka naman e :) and funny too!

annamanila said...

Sexy Mom!

Yes, how tiny and insignificant we sometimes feel ano? Pero if we look at it from the perspective of ONENESS ... then we feel we are grand and splendid beings because we are part of grand creation. And then we can see ourselves as a divine "I."

So you and I are divine. sarap isipin di ba.

annamanila said...

There is another book which we might mistake for Sophie's World and that's Sophie's Choice. It is different -- it is one of the Third Reich stories -- beautiful and touching and haunting and the "choice" Sophie was made to do was cruel and excruciating. It was made into a movie starring THE Meryl Streep.

I also recommend that book but it has nothing to do with mysticism.

annamanila said...

Teacher Julie!

I forgot to say this in my counter comment:

I had also this morning asked a son to take pictures of the sunflowers on University avenue. Omg, are you going to blog about them?

I almost fell of my chair when I read that. Aba, we are like-minded. haha Although I am not sure whether I'd be able to finish mine.

annamanila said...


Hmmmm ... Sophie's World really makes you wonder about the "stars above" and the "light inside". Nakaka-sober ba. I think you will like the book-- if not now, a bit later. Ako din kasi, I didn't begin to appreciate for example Little Prince until I was well in my 30s.

Hey, kelan mo kunin yung shoes-cum-deadly weapon mo? Grabe, ang ganda pero kaya mo ba yung 5-inch heels?

annamanila said...

Lady Cess!

I was waiting for that comment: that the sexual act can be a mystical experience, too -- at the moment of orgasm -- well quasi-mystical. (Ay jos ko, baka ma=censor na itong blog ko -- haha) I remember Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls where this sensual latin-american elderly lady asked the american officer: "Did the earth move?" referring to when he made love to his young woman. The senior lady asserted that the "earth will move" only thrice for one person in his or her lifetime.

What? Are you talking about my picture? Haha ... regal? hmmm ayoko nang makipag-EB sa yo. I hate to burst that illusion. Thank you Lady Cess. Sarap.

niceheart said...

People are greeting you happy birthday, so makikibati na rin ako. :)

Sorry, I've been out of the loop lately. Been very busy kasi.

I was gonna ask you if Sophie's world is the same as Sophie's Choice, but I already read your answer. I've seen Sophie's Choice and that part where Sophie had to make a choice haunted me for days. I couldn't get it off my mind.

Giving birth without feeling the pain must be something. I was in labor for almost a full day with my two oldest ones and although it was painful, it was all worth it once I held them in my arms. :)

myepinoy said...

I too won't sleep trying to fathom the connection. I will just sleep every night and wake up every morning with that absolute sense of peace.

sheilamarie said...

Happy Birthday Anna! =D

annamanila said...


Have been out of the loop too or just skirting its edge ... my dsl at home has gone bonkers again. They are taking a long time to fix.

But so glad you took time off from your busy sked to visit and greet me. :)

Yup, holding your baby in your arms finally after carrying it for months and laboring to deliver him/her is an exquisite experience money can't buy. That's why we moms are luckier than dads, di ba?

annamanila said...


Was just telling niceheart how lucky we mons are than dads (like you) for the birthing experience that is like no other. And you can't do anything about it. :(

I think you understand that metaphysical experience I blogged about more than you care to let on. Thank yoou!

annamanila said...


Thank you, salamat very mucho. Your thoughts are precious. :)

Heart of Rachel said...

Hi Anna. First of all, I would like to thank you for your kind comments on my blog. Sorry you had some difficulty with the comment box. I hope you'll have easier access next time. Thank you also for adding me to your blogroll. It's an honor.

The line, "like a drop of water disappearing into the ocean" has made me realize how good it would be to become part of something so grand. There were moments in the past when I have felt insignificant but through time, I felt in my heart that God has put me here for a reason. Perhaps, my mission is not as important as that of a leader of a nation but each one of us is here for a good cause. I just hope that I can fulfill whatever my mission is and not fail Him before I go.

I also chose to have the "painless" birth. I've heard countless stories from family and friends about giving birth, that I got scared. During labor, my doctor suggested to change from "painless" to "twilight" because she noticed that I had strong tolerance for pain. I wasn't feeling "that kind" of pain that haunted me in my sleep. But I was already psyched to have the painless way so I went through with it. But I have a little regret. I was asked when I wanted to be induced for sleep and I said, as soon as the baby was out. It just came too soon and I didn't even see my baby raised by the doctor. I wished I waited a little longer to see him raised in the air and hear his first cry.

chateau said...

I missed your birthday, annamanila!
But let me send my hugs just the same... they're good anytime of the year anyway! ((((hugs)))) :D

My youngest, decidedly my last, I gave birth to through painless method too. But I wanted to do it awake, so was disappointed when I woke up. Too late when I realized i was sedated, and had already given birth without even a single memory of the event. :(

dimaks said...

the way to this stage is to make oneself the "selfless self"

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