Mysticism

From The SpiritWiki

Mysticism is a popular and scientific term used to refer variously, and in a loose and conceptually confused way, to Connection, Connection Experience, Connection Practice, Connection Outcomes, and so on.

Notes

The LP understands mysticism to be primitive and confused representation of Authentic Spirituality.

Mysticism When one connects, one feels connected to "something more."

Freeman suggests that "mystical experience entails not only an encounter with the other... but also the sense that "this encountered Other is larger than me, or comes 'before' me, that it embodies a dimension of reality that is prior to the more mundane spheres ordinarily inhabited."[1]

Mysticism can be viewed as consisting of episodic experiences[2] or as part of a process ...[3] "Mysticism as process shifts the emphasis from mystical experience per se to mystical encounters set in the broad context of a life ... the criteria for evaluation and comparison moves from analysis of the characteristics of mystical experiences as such to how such encounters are linked to the cultivation of a specific set of dispositions, capacities, virtues, and states of consciousness. This general point finds specificity in the diverse ways in which mystical authors have subsumed mystical experiences and meditative insights under the broader umbrella of the spiritual "path."[4]

Definitions

Definitions of mysticism can be broken down into two broad categories, Inclusive Definitions and Restrictive Definitions.

Gender is important to an understanding of mysticism. Bruneau notes, "using gender as a category of inquiry leads to the realization, for example, that female mysticism has always been characterized by the participation and somatization of the body." [5]. Bruneau also points to the relevance of social class, though he doesn't delve.

Inclusive Definitions

Inclusive definitions of mysticism "use comprehensive, abstract, generic terms to circumscribe mysticism." [6]

Romain Rolland, in a letter to Freud dated December 5, 1927, Rolland defines mysticism as "the basic experiential matrix that gave rise to scripture, dogma, religious institutions, and theologies."[7] He states the Oceanic Feeling is "totally independent of all dogma, all credo, all Church organization. . . . the true subterranean source of religious energy which . . . has been collected, canalized and dried up by the Churches to the extent that one could say that it is inside the Churches."" [8]

Rufus Jones "Mysticism is a word which cannot properly be used without careful definition. To many readers it carries no clear and concrete meaning; to others it has an ominous significance and a forbidding sound, as though the safe and beaten track, which the defenders of the faith have builded, were being left for will-o'-the-wisps and wandering lights. I shall use the word mysticism to express the type of religion which puts the emphasis on immediate awareness of relation with God,[9] on direct and intimate consciousness of the Divine Presence.[10] It is religion in its most acute, intense, and living stage."[11]

Eveylyn Underhill: "Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment (Underhill 2002: emphasis added)."[12]

Troelsch's conception of mysticism refers directly, explicitly, and obviously, to Connection. "What Troeltsch has in mind is an orientation of spiritual life in the history of Christianity which aims primarily at a "personal living piety and at an Interior life' which has a direct experience of salvation." [13]. Salvation here may be understood as the experience of unity and oneness that one often experiences during a Connection Experience.

Zaehner defines mysticism by the Connection Outcome of Ascension. Mysticism is "the realization of a union or a unity with or in [or of] something that is enormously, if not infinitely, greater than the empirical self"[14]

Carl Keller also defines mysticism by a single, albeit important, Connection Outcome. He notes, "In the context of Christian Theology, the words 'mystical', 'mystic' have a precise meaning: they designate the highest state of Christian gnosis or religious knowledge, conceptualized as 'union' with God and the perfection of man. [sic]." [15]

Carmody and Carmody define mysticism as "direct experience of ultimate reality."[16] "Ultimate reality can connote God, the Tao, Nirvana, the sacred, etc. [17]

Harmless echoes Jean Gearson who says "Mystical theology is an experiential knowledge of God that comes through the embrace of unitive love."[18]

Restrictive Definitions

"Restrictive definitions, on the other hand, abandon the attempt at abstraction and inclusiveness in favor of defining the topic with respect to terms and criteria endemic to a particular religion."[19] Restrictive definitions view mysticism through a "historical and relational" matrix. In this case, what constitutes mysticism and mystical experience varies from religion to religion. So for example, Christian theologians designate Christian mysticism as the "felt presence of God."[20]

Use Both is best

"Taken to their extremes, both approaches are can mitigate against the need for context and the articulation of significant differences between mystical traditions. Restrictive approaches, on the other hand, can become so myopic as to ignore the need to provide grounds for comparative discourse. The emphasis on context should not ignore the need for an ongoing conversation that stresses the search for commonality. It is best, then, to utilize both approaches in dialectical interplay."[21]

Theories

Carmody and Carmody distinguish between essentialist' theories and empiricist theories. Essentialist theories stress the sameness of connection experiences across cultures. Humans are the same, and the "ultimate reality" which we connect to is the same. OTOH, empiricist theories point to the influence of culture, psychology, ideas on the mystical experience. Emphasize language, concepts, historical periods, etc. [22]

The above distinction is reflected in the distinction between perennialists (or essentialist) and constructivists (or contextualists). Perennialists suggest that all mysticism a common-core experience. Different descriptions arise from a mystic's pre-existing cognitive frames and beliefs. OTOH, constructivists suggest mystical experience is "irreducibly diverse." [23]

Footnotes

  1. Freeman, M. “The Priority of the Other: Mysticism’s Challenge to the Legacy of the Self.” In Mysticism: A Variety of Psychological Perspectives, edited by Jacob A. Belzen and Antoon Geels, 213–34. New York: Rodopi, 2003. p. 213.
  2. That is, Connection Experiences
  3. Connection Practice.
  4. Parsons, William B. The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling: Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism. Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press, 1999. p. 7
  5. Bruneau, Marie-Florine. Women Mystics Confront the Modern World. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998p. 5. https://amzn.to/2L1L0m2.
  6. Parsons, William B. The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling: Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism. Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press, 1999. https://amzn.to/2Tq1qsl.
  7. Parsons, William B. The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling: Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism. Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press, 1999. p. 9. https://amzn.to/2Tq1qsl.
  8. Romain Rolland quoted in Parsons, William B. The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling: Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism. Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press, 1999.p. 9.
  9. Here, mysticism is held equivalent to Authentic Spirituality)
  10. Mysticism is equivalent to a powerful Union Experience
  11. Jones, Rufus. Studied in Mystical Religion. London and New York: Macmillan and Co., 1909.
  12. Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness. New York: Dover Publications, 2002. https://amzn.to/2C91xNY.
  13. Steeman, Theodore M. “Church, Sect, Mysticism, Denomination: Periodological Aspects of Troeltsch’s Types.” SA. Sociological Analysis 36, no. 3 (1975): 181–204.
  14. Zaehner, R.C. Hindu and Muslim Mysticism. New York: Shocken Books, 1969. p. 5 https://amzn.to/2IK1A7R.
  15. Keller, Carl A. “Mystical Literature.” In Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, edited by Steven T. Katz, 75–100. London: Sheldon Press, 1978. p. 75.
  16. A Union Experience
  17. Carmody, Denise Lardner, and John Tully Carmody. Mysticism: Holiness East and West. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.p. 10.
  18. Harmless, William. Mystics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  19. Parsons, William B. The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling: Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism. Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press, 1999. https://amzn.to/2Tq1qsl
  20. Parsons, William B. The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling: Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism. Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press, 1999. p. 6. https://amzn.to/2Tq1qsl
  21. Parsons, William B. The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling: Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism. Cambridge, MA: Oxford University Press, 1999. p. 6. https://amzn.to/2Tq1qsl
  22. Carmody, Denise Lardner, and John Tully Carmody. Mysticism: Holiness East and West. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  23. Carmody, Denise Lardner, and John Tully Carmody. Mysticism: Holiness East and West. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. p. 7.