Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 M - Mysticism


Mysticism: The notion that there is some form of human experience that is more rewarding, more complete, or less delusive than ordinary experience.

The subject of mysticism is wide and varying, and replete with nonsense. Even so, there is something to it, and everybody who has been genuinely in love, or has been drunk and happy, or can recall or recognize what it is like to be a healthy, happy and intelligent 3-year old has at least some inkling of what the religious mystics have been talking about.

The best general introduction to the subject and the experience seems to be William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience - to which it should be remarked that one can have what is fairly described as 'mystical experiences' when one is not religious at all, and that indeed the Buddha seems to have been originally a mystic and an atheist.

Also, it should be noted that the probability is larger that one has a genuine psychosis rather than a genuine mystical experience, if one suddenly finds that one's experiences turn out of the ordinary in a radical way.

Indeed, one rule of thumb to sort genuine mystics from real phoneys or true madmen is that a genuine mystic is practically succesful apart from his or her mysticism, is not interested in teaching or dogmatizing, does not believe a mystical experience can be put adequately or at all in words, especially not for those who didn't share the experience (rather like describing the taste of a mango to those who never tasted it), and refers to an experience that is rare and not lasting. (A brief word of advice for those who are in doubt: Consult a medical doctor, especially when your new state of consciousness is related to the use of drugs.)


See: Mysticism - a clarification


Burtt, Chang, James, Kapleau, Laski, Underhill, Winstanley

 Original: Dec 6, 2004                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top