[...] in brief, the idea was that madness falls short of normality, while mystical awareness surpasses it. As with most normal distribution curves the majority are in the middle of the bell, which we call 'normality'. So, briefly, sub-normal, normal, super-normal. See Abraham Maslow for elaboration on super-normality and 'peak experiences'.
I think I reject this model of the situation, but it might be interesting to discuss the model and the situation in depth some time (in another thread).
I'm inclined to think that both the mystic (or genius) and the madman (or neurotic) come into contact with the real
reality, and the mystic/genius finds some way to survive the encounter, while the madman/neurotic fails to do so, and the ordinary/normal [wo]man finds a way, through conformity to socially constructed reality, to avoid the encounter.
But my inclination to think of the situation in that way is probably itself an indication of my own poor mental balance, and the truth probably integrates my picture of the situation with yours, in that the ordinary/normal person and the mystic/genius both have access to what I confusedly referred to, in my P.S., as a "third sense of 'the world'", and the madman/neurotic is, to a greater or lesser extent, cast out of this ordinary experience of healthy human living, whereas the mystic/genius rises above it, to those "peak experiences" you referred to, comprehending ordinary human life but also transcending it.
I know that that is very poorly expressed, but I think there is some common ground here, and that a clearer mapping of that common ground is quite easily achievable - if you want to have a go, and if you don't think that I'm just nuts!
What's probably still missing from the picture is a third category of deviance - a deviation not from society, to be sure, but from sanity - a deviation from the (real, not socially constructed!) 'norm' or 'average', a deviation which is not actual insanity or neurosis, on the one hand, nor mysticism or genius or sagacity, on the other hand, but excessive social conformity, on the third hand.
So we need something a little more complex than the one-dimensional picture presented by a bell curve; and also a little more complex than my own rather narrow and depleted view of the world, presoccupied with questions of conformity versus non-conformity, and largely ignorant, not only of mystical or peak experiences, but also of many ordinary and valuable human experiences.
P.S. The picture is probably a lot simpler, but also deeper, than the above muddled account suggests. Unless you take into account "the dark night of the soul", there tends to be an understandable positive bias to mystical experiences. But if there is mysterious evil as well as mysterious good in the universe (as is suggested, for instance, by Alan's scary recent post in another thread about near-death experiences and hell or the void), then it is reasonable to suppose that there are 'trough' experiences as well as 'peak' experiences, and that both 'peak' and
'trough' experiences bring you into closer contact with reality, in one sense, but one characteristic which distinguishes the former from that latter is that it involves an expansion of consciousness - transcending but still including the individual self (often called the 'ego' in this context, if I'm not mistaken) - whereas the latter, 'trough' kind of experience involves a contraction
of consciousness, a loss
of the individual self or ego, a loss not in the mystical way, but in the terrible way of 'mental illness' (of one kind of another).
If God is a kind of source
of personality and consciousness, a kind of superconsciousness, then the Devil is a kind of sink
of personality and consciousness, a kind of subconsciousness. So although both 'peak' and 'trough' experiences bring you closer to reality, in one sense, it is only in the former kind of experience that you fully retain your consciousness
in doing so. A contact with reality in which you lose yourself (and not in the mystical sense of ego-loss) is not really a contact with reality!
(I know this is very vague and woolly; I also know that vagueness and woolliness are to a large extent to be expected in discussions of mystical matters, for reasons already expressed by Alan; however, I can never be satisfied with being vague and woolly, and do not mean to rest content with words such as these.)
P.P.S. I'm expecting kennethamy to pop up in a moment asking me to distinguish between "vagueness" and "woolliness".