This introductory chapter provides the reader with a glimpse of what this book aims to achieve and a sense of the epistemological and psychological assumptions that underlie it. The task at hand is to have a “visionary experience,” not in its metaphoric sense but literally referring to those who actually see fantastic scenarios appearing before them. It sets out the assumptions that underlie the examination of the forms of life treated here, such as visions, dream-visions, trances, and what the text calls “aphoristic thinking.” Visions arise when consciousness has dimmed, sometimes only for a moment, and in that instant a person can experience a visionary “showing” of variable duration, characterized by the absence of the active thinking “I” or the ego of the rational consciousness. Thus, dimmed consciousness and the absence of the ego are the minimum assumptions necessary to understand the genesis of showings, hearings, and aphoristic thoughts that are the phenomena or “texts” that is dealt with here. The strategy here is to relate the text to the cultural tradition and the personal life of the experiencer whenever such information is available.
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