• Jack Cummins
    5.1k
    I am writing this thread question after reading Bertrand Russell's essay, ' Mysticism and Logic', which explores the relationship between the two contrasting approaches. He speaks of mysticism as involving 'belief in insight as against discursive analytic knowledge: the belief in a way of wisdom, sudden, penetrating, coercive, which is contrasted by a science relying on the senses'. Russell was writing in the twentieth century, and, in the twentieth first century, there is far more emphasis on the empirical basis of knowledge, especially in relation to scientific methods and evidence based research.

    However, Russell was coming from a humanist perspective and this makes it different from the some mystical perspective which are based on assumptions about God and the supernatural. He traces mysticism back to the ideas of Plato and Parmenides. There is an emphasis on 'hidden wisdom' and the importance of intuition and its opposition with reason. He says,
    'Instinct, intuition or insight is what first leads to the beliefs which reason confirms or confutes; but by the confirmation, where it gets possible, consists, in the last analysis, of agreement with other beliefs no less instinctive. Reason is a harmonizing, controlling force rather than a creative one. Even in the most purely logical realm, it is insight that first arrives at what is new'. He argues that logic was pursued by mystical philosophers but 'they usually took for granted the supposed insight of the mystic emotion, their logical doctrines were presented with a certain dryness..'

    I am wondering about the role of intuition and mystical insight in the twentieth first century. Postmodern philosophy has broken down the metaphysics, especially in the form of the relativity of 'truth'. Wittgenstein has pointed to the limitations of language. Science is a major source of knowledge, although it can sometimes create a mystification of knowledge and expertise. What is the balance between empirical knowledge and imagination? How may the logical aspects of thought be understood and balanced effectively with other approaches to understanding, especially in the humanities? How may a full understanding of knowledge be gained, subjectively, intersubjectively and objectively, especially in connection with the opposition between mysticism, imagination in contrast to the understanding of empirical science?
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k

    I would assume anyone who authentically asks whether mysticism has a valid role must have had at least one experience that qualifies as mystical. So are you asking this question from a mystico-friendly perspective?
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    I would say that I come from a basic gravitation towards the mystical, having read authors like William Blake and WB Yeats. I have a mixed approach to the mystical, and mysterious. This is based on the need for understanding and my biggest issue with mysticism itself is that while language may be limited, in philosophy, there is a need for words to articulate and the need for explanations. In that respect, I respect the insights of the mystics, but think that philosophy is important too, in looking at the experiences of those on the mystic path.
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k
    Well, I happily endorse mysticism within the context of philosophical naturalism. So I would say that philosophy can encompass mysticism. However I feel that philosophers of the material-reductionist variety would reject this. For me, mysticism is on par with ethics when it comes to being a philosophically valid field of inquiry.
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    It does seem that reductionist materialism is on the rise in popular philosophy. Aldous Huxley, with his emphasis on perennial wisdom was important at some point. It is hard to know what the current climate of thinking is, because there may be so much going on in people's minds, balancing the findings of the neuroscientists and the ideas of the ancients.

    There is so much to be discovered in the realm of ideas in the information age Alongside the great sources of knowledge as information there is the experiential level of knowing and this may be the raw substance, useful for digging up ideas which have become buried in layers. Consensus may not prevail, but the ongoing search, like the quest for 'the philosopher's stone may fuel the need for careful and deeper understanding, whether it comes down to language or ideas.
    ,
  • Janus
    15.9k
    How may a full understanding of knowledge be gained, subjectively, intersubjectively and objectively, especially in connection with the opposition between mysticism, imagination in contrast to the understanding of empirical science?Jack Cummins

    To my way of thinking mystical experience and insight, which I think is a very real phenomenon, is so personal that any particular faith or beliefs that grow out of that experience cannot be inter-subjectively tested or justified.

    For me, mysticism is on par with ethics when it comes to being a philosophically valid field of inquiry.Pantagruel

    I agree somewhat with this, although I would put mysticism more on par with aesthetics. For me, the moral dimension of ethics at least can be understood in the more pragmatic terms of fairness and commitment to social harmony.
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    Mysticism may have an important link with aesthetics. I have been reading about the idea of the sublime, going back to the ideas of Kant on imagination, in 'Aesthetics and Subjectivity: From Kant to Nietzsche, by Andrew Bowie, (2003). In the history of philosophy mysticism may be traced back to philosophers who saw the transcendent in terms of the idea of God.

    However, states of consciousness may be also compatible with the sublime, as being those of deep intersubjectivity, such as in core understanding of ethics, intelligence and wisdom which can be applied in human affairs in life. The parallel between the good in the form of its connection with the 'good' may be important. However, that is not to say that there are no conflicts and exceptions to the rule, because truth and fairness may sometimes be ugly, or uncanny aspects of life, ugly rather than beauty. There may be inversions of aesthetics and conventions of wisdom, which may involve startling aspects of intuition and imagination, going beyond traditional boundaries and ways of perception.
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    Perhaps a superfluous question given the ineffable nature of the subject matter, but what would you say is an example of a useful contribution mysticism has made in the world?
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    I am not sure that the idea of the ineffable is particularly helpful, but that may be an overgeneralised simplification of mysticism. Figures like William Blake, Walt Whitman and WB Yeats may stand out as making major contributions to human thought. Within philosophy, mysticism may be dismissed but simply replaced by blandness, which may say little of any meaningful consequence. Of course, the mystics have their weaknesses, just like everyone else. It is all about dialogue and the widest expanses of thought arising in the human imagination, in mythic and rational explanations.
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    Figures like William Blake, Walt Whitman and WB Yeats may stand out as making major contributions to human thought.Jack Cummins

    Examples?
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    I am not sure that the idea of the ineffable is particularly helpful, but that may be an overgeneralised simplification of mysticism.Jack Cummins

    Sure, it's shorthand, I'm thinking of the apophatic traditions in theology as a for instance.

    Within philosophy, mysticism may be dismissed but simply replaced by blandness, which may say little of any meaningful consequence.Jack Cummins

    So you operate via a presupposition that non-mysticism is impoverished and disenchanted - a la Weber
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    William Blake made important contributions to the understanding of pleasure, challenging puritanical aspects of Judaeo- Christian thought, especially within the thought of Jonh Milton, which was far more puritanical and mainstream. He and Whitman were radical in their perception of puritanical doctrines. Also, Yeats went back to the mythical aspects of the Celtic tradition. While the mystics may appear traditional in their views, looked at from the perspective of twentieth first century thinking, in their own historical and cultural contexts they were fairly radical and subversive.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    In his Ethics, Spinoza teaches there are three kinds of knowledge (from the subjective to objective to universal/absolute)
    • knowledge from imagination (lowest, common)
    • knowledge from reason
    • knowledge from intuition (highest, rarified)

    The last kind Spinoza refers specifically to scientia intuitiva – infinite intelligence, mind of god/natura naturans (I think this concept, by analogy, had inspired David Bohm's implicate order) – a rationalist variation on the Hindu Tat Tvam Asi or Martin Buber's I-Thou (i.e. encounter with "the eternal Thou"). Another term for this concept I prefer is reflective understanding.

    I happily endorse mysticism within the context of philosophical naturalism.Pantagruel
    I do as well, and consider myself an ecstatic naturalist (after Spinoza's 'ecstatic rationalism').
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    Do you have a useful working definition of mysticism? Reflective understanding is a term I would use in work or grounded practice with complex individuals which has built into it a 'wisdom' that is acquired gradually though experience and by making many mistakes.
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    I have read a little of Spinoza and probably should read more. I do have a copy of Buber' s 'I and Thou' on my shelf. One thing which I do find interesting is how all these philosophers explore these ideas. It may be that in the present time science seems to be considered as the most ultimate authority of ideas. Of course, it gives incredible knowledge but it is questionable as to how much insight it has, and many do have some, but certain aspects may be discussed in meaningful ways in philosophy, as in metaphysics.
  • jgill
    3.7k
    To me, philosophy is about speaking, writing, working with the tool of language. Mysticism has always seemed more actual experiencing. Doing rather than saying.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    :up:

    Do you have a useful working definition of mysticismTom Storm
    In (Western) philosophy, "mysticism" seems the consequence of reason recognizing its own limits – active attention to the gaps in and between reasons (as well as between breaths or heartbeats).

    Also, add to my list above of speculative analogues to "intuition": Karl Jasper's encompassing (transcendence), Emmanuel Levinas' infinity (meontology) and Henri Bergon's la durée.
  • T Clark
    13.3k


    I remember we both participated in the "What is mysticism" thread where we discussed some of these issues. As we discussed then, "mysticism" means different things to different people. Ditto with "intuition." For me, intuition has nothing to do with any mystery. For me, it means knowledge I have that I can't connect with a specific rational or perceptual source. That doesn't necessarily mean there isn't one, just that I wasn't aware of it when it happened, it isn't associated with a single event, or it is lost to memory. And then, some knowledge may be innate, unlearned at least in part, example - language.
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    For me, it means knowledge I have that I can't connect with a specific rational or perceptual source. That doesn't necessarily mean there isn't one, just that I wasn't aware of it when it happened, it isn't associated with a single event, or it is lost to memory.T Clark

    I remember you making this point and I think it's a useful one.
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k
    The theme of this thread is pretty much addressed by the book I'm currently reading, The Intelligence of the Cosmos, by Ervin Laszlo, a pioneer in the field of systems philosophy. More and more it occurs to me that complex arguments and architectonics cannot create agreement, except where some fundamental mutuality of perspective already exists. Instead, I think what can be compelling are lucid and concise observations that encapsulate contrasts and highlights. Laszlo says, "Einstein remarked that there are two ways to live one's life: as if everything is a miracle, or as if nothing is." I agree. These perspectives are mutually exclusive, and I think people are pulled between or vacillate between the two. I have found that the pursuit of higher meaning is eventually rewarded, which is evidence enough for me.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    Everything is a miracle; each thing, however, is not.
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k
    Everything is a miracle; each thing is not.180 Proof

    :chin:
  • Yohan
    679
    Everything is a miracle; each thing is not.
    — 180 Proof
    :chin:
    Pantagruel
    Eg. Eating a sandwich is pretty ordinary. But if you think of everything that goes into the making of a sandwhich, and then went into the making of you, its quite extraordinary.
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k
    Eg. Eating a sandwich is pretty ordinary. But if you think of everything that goes into the making of a sandwhich, and then went into the making of you, its quite extraordinary.Yohan

    Depends what you eat before you eat the sandwich... :lol:
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k
    Seriously though. Even if so-called mystics are reasoning in a domain of ambiguities and uncertainties, the values they espouse are concrete and practical. Such that mankind most likely would be better off having adopted them. One wonders if the underlying motivation of the advocates of the ordinary is just that they have not yet evolved to the point where they are capable of embracing the ethics of the extraordinary.
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    I definitely recall your thread on mysticism and how you have more of a 'meat and potatoes' approach and question tbe idea of the 'hidden'. I am not sure that there is a literal hidden reality of the mystics but feel that perception varies, with some people being more attuned to the mundane and others to more alternative ways of seeing. However, I would not elevate the mystical ones, because that would be putting the mystics as having superior insight, which may be an extreme generalisation and a far too black and white value judgement.
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    I remember several months ago we were discussing Aldous Huxley, and his book, 'The Perennial Wisdom'. He is an interesting example of someone who paid attention to the mystics' approach. Also, in the post I have just written above I spoke of the 'hidden' as possibly being unhelpful but his writing in 'The Doors of Perception/ Heaven and Hell' points to the dimensions of perception under the influence of Mescalin which is like seeing alternative dimensions or parallel universes.
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k
    DId you know the phrase "perennial philosophy" (the title of that book) came from Leibniz and referred to the fundamental reality underlying our own existence? Just read that in The Intelligence of the Cosmos by Laszlo... :)
  • Jack Cummins
    5.1k

    That is interesting. I have never read any writing by Liebniz. The concept 'of the fundamental reality underlying our own existence' is interesting because it is open to dispute, especially whether it is physical or non physical, or a complex category of another kind.

    One book which is Huston Smith's, 'The Forgotten Truth, which is about comparative religion. However, it gets into metaphysics about the nature of dimensions beyond space and time, as well as 'levels'. Any understanding of levels which is hierarchical or beyond the nature of the seen is open to dispute. However, it may also be said that the perspective of realism may be too flat, because perception is so bound up with awareness, almost breaking down or calling into question the separation of subject and objects of perception.
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k
    However, it may also be said that the perspective of realism may be too flat, because perception is so bound up with awareness, almost breaking down or calling into question the separation of subject and objects of perception.Jack Cummins

    Too, I think, perception and awareness are essentially integrated with action. In a sense, we only perceive that which we "push up against". Which raises a whole lot more questions about subjects and objects.
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