Ecstasy is a term used in Ancient Greek, Christian and Existential philosophy. The different traditions using the concept have radically different perspectives.

Conceptual History
In the Greek-speaking world of antiquity, ekstasis generally meant the experience of “stepping out” in the sense of being out of touch. These included, in particular, states of religious frenzy and intoxication, which were sought after and often experienced collectively.

The Greek word ekstasis was adopted by the Latin- speaking ancient church fathers as a foreign word in Latin (ecstasis, in vulgar Latin spelling also exstasis or extasis). In the Middle Ages and the early modern period, the associated ideas were influenced by the popular hagiographic literature (descriptions of life of saints). The mostly originally written Latin biographies of the saints were translated into the different vernacular languages. So the word came as an extase into French.

In German, the word was first used in the early modern period only as a Latin term ecstasis and translated with “ecstasy”. It was not until the late eighteenth century that it became known in German as “ecstasy” or (often) “ecstasy”, with the impetus not only being Latin but also the French concept. In addition to the traditional religious significance (ecstasy of the saints), from the middle of the 17th century onwards, the meaning of the French term had a transferred meaning: ecstasy as heightened enthusiasm, admiration, enthusiasm and ecstasy, as an exuberant exuberance, especially in the field of art and poetry, but also in friendship and love. Such emotions were in the epoch of sensibilityespecially appreciated and stressed. From the later 18th century, the adjective “ecstatic” (“enthusiastic”, “ecstatic”, “exuberant”, “fanatic”) became common. In the 19th century, the noun “Ekstatiker” was formed.

In this sense, even in today’s slang, ecstasy is a state of greatly increased joyful emotional excitement, in particular an extraordinary astonishment with admiration and enthusiasm. The term is used in a figurative and flattened sense when it is said that someone “falls into ecstasy” without meaning exceeding the realm of normal cognition. This can also be associated with a negative connotation, if the environment evaluates the experience as abnormal and exaggerated or even as pathological.

On the other hand, modern ecumenical language uses ecstasies as extraordinary religious states of experience.

Favoring or inducing factors
The occurrence of ecstatic experiences can be brought about or promoted by reducing (impairing or eliminating) normal functions of the human organism and low-stimulus as well as by increasing external stimuli.

Mitigation includes asceticism, isolation, irritant deprivation (eg in the isolation tank), illness, fasting, prolonged prayer and meditation. Even fainting and near-death experiences can be accompanied by ecstatic experiences.

On the other hand, numerous sensory stimuli can also trigger ecstatic or ecstasy-like experiences. These include music, dance (for example, dervish dances, trance dance), drums, songs, light effects (eg using Mindmachine), intoxicant drinks (Soma), hyperventilation, sexual techniques (eg Neotantra), enjoyment of both natural and synthetic intoxicants (eg MDMA, also known as ecstasy, or opiates) or life-threatening situations in combat. Today, ecstasy is often sought in a direct “synthetic” way through consumption of music and intoxicants without a religious background, also associated with meditative practices.

Ancient Greek philosophy
According to Plotinus, ecstasy is the culmination of human possibility. He contrasted emanation (πρόοδος, prohodos) from the One—on the one hand—with ecstasy or reversion (ἐπιστροφή, epistrophe) back to the One—on the other.

This is a form of ecstasy described as the vision of, or union with, some otherworldly entity (see religious ecstasy)—a form of ecstasy that pertains to an individual trancelike experience of the sacred or of God.

Christian mysticism
Among the Christian mystics, Bernard of Clairvaux, Meister Eckhart and Teresa of Ávila had mystical experiences of ecstasy, or talked about ecstatic visions of God.

Existential philosophy
The term is currently used in philosophy usually to mean “outside-itself”. One’s consciousness, for example, is not self-enclosed, as one can be conscious of an Other person, who falls well outside one’s own self. In a sense consciousness is usually, “outside itself,” in that its object (what it thinks about, or perceives) is not itself. This is in contrast to the term enstasis which means from “standing-within-oneself” which relates to contemplation from the perspective of a speculator.

This understanding of enstasis gives way to the example of the use of the “ecstasy” as that one can be “outside of oneself” with time. In temporalizing, each of the following: the past (the ‘having-been’), the future (the ‘not-yet’) and the present (the ‘making-present’) are the “outside of itself” of each other. The term ecstasy (German: Ekstase) has been used in this sense by Martin Heidegger who, in his Being and Time of 1927, argued that our being-in-the-world is usually focused toward some person, task, or the past (see also existence and Dasein). Telling someone to “remain in the present” could then be self-contradictory, if the present only emerged as the “outside itself” of future possibilities (our projection; Entwurf) and past facts (our thrownness; Geworfenheit).

Emmanuel Levinas disagreed with Heidegger’s position regarding ecstasy and existential temporality from the perspective of the experience of insomnia. Levinas talked of the Other in terms of ‘insomnia’ and ‘wakefulness’. He emphasized the absolute otherness of the Other and established a social relationship between the Other and one’s self. Furthermore, he asserted that ecstasy, or exteriority toward the Other, forever remains beyond any attempt at full capture; this otherness is interminable or infinite. This “infiniteness” of the Other would allow Levinas to derive other aspects of philosophy as secondary to this ethic. Levinas writes:

The others that obsess me in the other do not affect me as examples of the same genus united with my neighbor by resemblance or common nature, individuations of the human race, or chips off the old block… The others concern me from the first. Here fraternity precedes the commonness of a genus. My relationship with the Other as neighbor gives meaning to my relations with all the others.

Other uses of the term
The term ‘ecstasy’ is also used concomitantly by philosophers to refer to a heightened state of pleasure or area of consciousness that may have been ignored by other theorists; to sexual experiences with another person, or as a general state of intense emotional rapture. These may include epiphany, intense consciousness toward another, or extraordinary physical connections to others.

Ecstasy (from Ancient Greek ἔκστασις ékstasis) is a subjective experience of total involvement of the subject, with an object of his or her awareness. In classical Greek literature it refers to removal of the mind or body “from its normal place of function.”

Total involvement with an object of interest is not an ordinary experience because of being aware of other objects, thus ecstasy is an example of an altered state of consciousness characterized by diminished awareness of other objects or the total lack of the awareness of surroundings and everything around the object. The word is also used to refer to any heightened state of consciousness or intensely pleasant experience. It is also used more specifically to denote states of awareness of non-ordinary mental spaces, which may be perceived as spiritual (the latter type of ecstasy often takes the form of religious ecstasy).

From a psychological perspective, ecstasy is a loss of self-control and sometimes a temporary loss of consciousness, which is often associated with religious mysticism, sexual intercourse and the use of certain drugs. For the duration of the ecstasy the ecstatic is out of touch with ordinary life and is capable neither of communication with other people nor of undertaking normal actions. The experience can be brief in physical time, or it can go on for hours. Subjective perception of time, space or self may strongly change or disappear during ecstasy. For instance, if one is concentrating on a physical task, then any intellectual thoughts may cease. On the other hand, making a spirit journey in an ecstatic trance involves the cessation of voluntary bodily movement.

Ecstasy can be deliberately induced using religious or creative activities, meditation, music, dancing, breathing exercises, physical exercise, sexual intercourse or consumption of psychotropic drugs. The particular technique that an individual uses to induce ecstasy is usually also associated with that individual’s particular religious and cultural traditions. Sometimes an ecstatic experience takes place due to occasional contact with something or somebody perceived as extremely beautiful or holy, or without any known reason. “In some cases, a person might obtain an ecstatic experience ‘by mistake’. Maybe the person unintentionally triggers one of the, probably many, physiological mechanisms through which such an experience can be reached. In such cases, it is not rare to find that the person later, by reading, looks for an interpretation and maybe finds it within a tradition.”

People interpret the experience afterward according to their culture and beliefs (as a revelation from God, a trip to the world of spirits or a psychotic episode). “When a person is using an ecstasy technique, he usually does so within a tradition. When he reaches an experience, a traditional interpretation of it already exists.” The experience together with its subsequent interpretation may strongly and permanently change the value system and the worldview of the subject (e.g. to cause religious conversion).

In 1925, James Leuba wrote: “Among most uncivilized populations, as among civilized peoples, certain ecstatic conditions are regarded as divine possession or as union with the Divine. These states are induced by means of drugs, by physical excitement, or by psychical means. But, however produced and at whatever level of culture they may be found, they possess certain common features which suggest even to the superficial observer some profound connection. Always described as delightful beyond expression, these awesome ecstatic experiences end commonly in mental quiescence or even in total unconsciousness.” He prepares his readers “… to recognize a continuity of impulse, of purpose, of form and of result between the ecstatic intoxication of the savage and the absorption in God of the Christian mystic.”

“In everyday language, the word ‘ecstasy’ denotes an intense, euphoric experience. For obvious reasons, it is rarely used in a scientific context; it is a concept that is extremely hard to define.”

Shamans achieve a conscious ecstatic state through rituals that often include the use of shaman drums, rattles, singing and dancing, and in some cultures, the use of herbal drugs such as fly agaric, peyote, ayahuasca and cannabis, The aim of the shamanic journey is to obtain information from normally inaccessible realms of reality. Depending on the task, the shaman goes to the lower, middle or upper world. In the underworld he seeks contact to the earth consciousness (animals, plants, elements), in the upper world to purely spiritual, in the middle world he deals with the sensible realm. (see also: shamanism)

Ancient religions
Dionysus (Bacchus), one of the oldest and most popular Greek gods, is regarded as a bringer of original ecstatic experiences through intoxicating wine or erotic pleasure (see satyr play). He stands for the highest ecstatic enjoyment. Inflamed ferocity is expressed both in men in Bacchanalia and in women, who tear wild sacrificial animals as wild maize. Later, Dionysus is revered in Orphic as the main figure of the Redeemer.

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From Delphi are both descriptions of masses of the tumble Thyaden handed down as well as Einzelekstasen. Pythia intoxicates itself to the steam rising from the column of the earth to announce oracles.

The cult of ascension, like the cult of Isis, also counts ecstatic experiences as its basic elements. The Mithras liturgy describes ecstatic experiences in the form of raptures and associations with the deity, which are breathed in and out like the breath.

In addition to the cultic ecstasy, there were also ecstasy experiences of philosophers whose philosophical convictions had a metaphysical dimension and were associated with religious ideas. As a philosophical ecstatic met Heraclitus, who turned to the raging Sibylle. Plato established the source of art in the enthusiastic Rapture. Also Neoplatonics report ecstatic experiences.

The Tanach portrays the ecstatic vision of the Jacob’s ladder, which is given to the patriarch Jakob fleeing from Esau in a dream. It knows the form of Nabi, the Prophet, to whom visions are given, on the basis of which he prophesies. Also Ecstatikerinnen (Debora) are described. Even the great prophets, especially Ezekiel, active in Babylonia, invoke visions and auditions (Isaiah 6, Jer. 1, Ez. 1). The portrayals of the apocalyptic are based essentially on ecstatic experience (Book of Daniel).

And the rabbinic Judaism knows ecstatic trains and especially the Hasidic portrays intense ecstasy experience, where Baal Shem Tov is the most important ecstatic.

Islamic literature describes different raptures. The Shia and the mystical orders (Tariqas) of the Sufis with their ascetic practices (dances, chants, seldom also self-flagellations) during the Dhikr (commemoration of God) have created systematic conditions for ecstatic experiences. In the current of Sufism, however, ecstasy is not the goal, but merely a possible vehicle to get closer to God. However, the Sufis also warn that being held in ecstasy can be a veil on the way to God, making it harder to reach the goal.


Bible and Old Church
John the Baptist is described by the New Testament as an ascetic ecstatic. Jesus recounts rapture experiences around his baptism (Mark 4) or his transfiguration (Mark 9). Whether they are to be understood as direct ecstatic visions, is partially doubted. In early Christianity, visions and auditions grow with the Pentecost event and accompany the first martyrs (Stephen). The Apostle Paul, even since his conversion of lively ecstatics, rejects an overemphasis on these experiences.

The Old Church as well as the heretical movements (eg Montanism) know many partially aggressive occurring ecstatics. Polycarp of Smyrna saw his pillow in flames in the dream, whereupon he prophesied his martyrdom.

The writings of the Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita, written around 500 and written until modern times as the authentic works of an apostle’s pupil, describe ecstasy as a stepping out of oneself and being elevated to the supreme ray of the divine Dark.

Middle Ages
The medieval spirituality finds z. In Bonaventure 1221-1274, for example, he describes a guide through the ecstatic experience he classifies as fire, anointing, ecstasy, contemplation, tasting, rest, glory (gloria). In ecstasy, the soul is carried away by the “beguiling scent of the previous anointing, and taken away from all bodily sensations.”

The Flemish scholar Jan van Ruysbroek was called doctor ecstaticus because of his intense involvement with the phenomenon of ecstasy. Even Francis of Assisi is one of the recipients in ecstasy experienced revelations.

The woman mysticism, especially the German mysticism, described the highlights of ecstatic experience mainly with the help of erotic categories. Here are corresponding passages of the Song of Songs recording and reflection.
Ecstatic piety and devoted infatuation merge with Mechthild of Magdeburg (1210 to ca. 1285)

O God pouring in your gift!
Oh, you flowing God in your love!
O you burning God in your desire!
Oh, you melting God in agreement with your beloved!
O you resting god on my breasts, without which I can not be!

O Lord, mine tremendously, often and long. The more you minnest me, the richer I will become. The more you mine, the more beautiful I will be. The longer you minnest me, the more sacred I will be here on earth.
Similar experiences and desires were described by women like Mechthild von Magdeburg and Gertrud von Helfta or men like Bernhard von Clairvaux.

Eckhart (1260-1328) characterized the German equivalent of the foreign word ecstasy rapture and rapture.

Modern Times
The radical wing of the Reformation understood the ecstatic experiences of the fifteenth century as spiritual legitimacy for its actions against the established church. If Martin Luther had also published the mystical Theologia in German, he was incomprehensible and utterly rejected by the force of this phenomenon, which found its theological spokesman in Thomas Müntzer. In Reformation rationality he coined the derogatory term ” swarmers ” for enthusiastically inspired ecstatic writers.

All the more did the emerging Counter-Reformation find in this situation a fertile ground for ecstatic experiences, in which numerous ecstatics took root. One of them is Theresa of Ávila (1515-1582), who in religious ecstasy almost broke the distinction between spiritual and bodily devotion: there is only one love, and a sequence of steps has gone from “union” to “ecstasy” to the “ecstasy” “love wound”. The sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini has expressed this unambiguous clash of physical and spiritual pleasure in the sculpture group Ecstasy of St. Theresa. Her closely connected and spiritually relatedJohn of the Cross. An important ecstatic was also the holy Philipp Neri.

Among the well-known German ecstats Jakob Böhme, who also merged piety and eroticism in his ecstatic descriptions:

the chaste virgin… will lead you to your bridegroom, who has the key to the gates of the deep… who will give you to eat from the heavenly manna: that will refresh you and you will become strong and wrestle with the gates the depth. You will break through as the dawn.
In England in the 17th century it was the visionary, ecstatic and itinerant preacher George Fox, the mass ecstasy triggered, resulting in the form of a tremor expressed, after which he founded Community of Friends Quakers (of quake were called).

For John Wesley and the Methodist mission, ecstasies were a test of her missionary success, and Wesley made meticulous notes during his resurrection speeches about their ferocity and strength. Women and African Americans were particularly touched by the masses and masses of the early nineteenth century during the Methodist Camp Meetings in the United States.

As part of the Charismatic movement, ecstatic experiences have gained in importance again, becoming known under the catchword Torontosegen.

Erotic aspects
Some women, after ecstatic experiences, saw themselves in a special way as the Beloved of God, as evidenced by the tradition of hieros gamos or enigmatic narratives such as Genesis 6: 1-4.

In voodoo, women celebrate godly weddings right through to the issuance of funeral certificates and the birth of ghost children. Not always are these mystical ecstasies sublimations and “purely symbolic” (Walter Nigg).

In Kudagama, Sri Lanka, obsessive women stream to the Catholic shrine in search of healing. In exorcism, the demon is expelled by mysticizing his place with Christ. In doing so, “the women clasp the shaft of St. Cross with legs and masturbate on it “. The goal is that the penetration of Christ and orgasm coincide. In this case there is no symbolic sublimation, eroticism and religion coincide in the ecstasy experience.

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