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ecstasy, either of two drugs used for their euphoric effects. The original ecstasy, a so-called designer drug, also known as MDMA, is an analog of methamphetamine (see amphetamine). The other drug is a substance also known as ma huang or ephedra; it was marketed as “herbal ecstasy” to promote the idea that it is a natural and safe form of ecstasy. The active ingredient of herbal ecstasy is ephedrine.
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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Ecstasy is that higher state of consciousness common to all mystics in which the self is identified with God and, while different language is used, is seen as being united with God. During the state of ecstasy, the mystic is entranced and more or less oblivious to the external world, his or her attention being focused on the object of the original contemplation. Those who experience ecstasy find it a most enjoyable state. Ecstasy is the name given the psycho-physical state accompanying the mystical vision, and the quality of the vision will itself be relative to the spiritual state of the individual. Some people find moving into an ecstatic state relatively easy; others find it a rare occurrence.

Ecstasy is a trancelike state that may be more or less deep and last varying lengths of time. During the period of ecstasy, the body becomes somewhat rigid, retaining the position it was in when the ecstatic state was entered. Often, the body does not respond to outside stimuli, and sometimes observers will test mystics by sticking them with pins or attempting to burn them with a candle flame. Accounts of such tests are common in the biographies and reports on many mystics and visionaries. The ecstatic state usually includes a period of awareness of the object of contemplation, and even communication. It may also be followed by a state of unconsciousness not unlike a cataleptic state, in which the body remains rigid but the mystic feels great joy. The phenomenon of the rigid body is common not only to mystics, but to various people who might go into trance, such as Spiritualist mediums.

In evaluating the mystics, especially those who have later been canonized in the Roman Catholic tradition, ecstasy forms an interesting aspect of their spiritual life, but more concentration is placed upon the piety accompanying such states, the quality of any communications received from God, Jesus, or the Virgin Mary while entranced, and the life that flows from having experienced such states. It is noted that many people who have experienced multiple apparitions of the Virgin Mary have been seen to enter an ecstatic state, and their ecstasy (and the tests performed while in those states) have been put forth to credential them. While doubts about visionaries being in ecstasy have been used to discredit them, the substantiation of their ecstasy has been one of the lesser criteria in the church offering its approval of them. In the case of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, the quality of the messages received from Mary and the evaluation of the life of the seer have been far more important.

It has been noted that ecstatic states have not been exclusive to the religious, or to the religious of just a few religious traditions. Besides being ubiquitous to all religions, it is also found among artists of various stripes (composers, singers, painters, etc.), suggesting that some people are born with a tendency to ecstasy or an ability to enter trance states that may be expressed in a variety of ways. Such approaches to the mystical life tend to judge it more a product of biology and social training than any particular spirituality. That is, entrance into an ecstatic state is much more a product of the body and psyche than of any particular supernatural or divine force in operation.

Those who experience ecstasy describe it in the most superlative terms. They also describe in a variety of languages their ultimate union with a Divine Transcendent Reality, and their attempts to relate to others the nature of their experience almost always falls into vague abstractions or the theology in which they have been trained. They may also make fine distinctions between stages of the whole ecstatic experience. The scientific study of ecstasy with the same instrumentation that has been used to study the many other states of consciousness is, by the very nature of ecstasy’s appearances, still in a rudimentary state.


Almond, Philip. Mystical Experience and Religious Doctrine: An Investigation of the Study of Mysticism in World Religions. Berlin and New York: Mouton, 1982.
Ellwood, Robert. Mysticism and Religion. New York: Seven Bridges Press, 1998.
Forman, Robert K. C., ed. The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
McGinn, Bernard. The Foundations of Mysticism. New York: Crossroad Press, 1991.
Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1961.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


A trancelike state with loss of sensory perception and voluntary control.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. Psychol overpowering emotion characterized by loss of self-control and sometimes a temporary loss of consciousness: often associated with orgasm, religious mysticism, and the use of certain drugs
2. Slang 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine; MDMA: a powerful drug that acts as a stimulant and can produce hallucinations
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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when under pressure, unlike their counterparts, because if they win the whole nation gets ecstatically happy and if they lose it's like bad electrical fuses.
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But chilling and shocking though many of the posters are, drawing on imagined historic grievances, icons of power and comradeship in forging the Third Reich, and vile, crude, caricatures of Jews, some of the truly resonant images are less strident, more ominous: a Jew's passport stamped 'evacuated' when that meant 'exterminated', a child's board game (pictured right) called 'Jews Out' on the principle of snakes, but, of course, no ladders, and photographs of a sea of wildly enthusiastic young people and children ecstatically waving swastika-embossed flags in acclaim of their Fahrer.
This may seem a mundane proposal, and some of the scenarios are well known (and well worn) to anyone who has welcomed a dog (especially a puppy) into their home--books are chewed, floors are soiled, dead creatures are ecstatically rolled upon, dogs reeking of death are bathed, and bathed, and bathed, the peace of other animal companions is disrupted.