• I like sushi
    2.4k
    Just spotted a post by someone commenting on the difficulty of engaging discussions about mysticism.

    It seems to me the major problem for people willing to engage in this area is that there is a whole quagmire of personalised terminology to wade through, and that once they’ve done all the work and reached a point where they understand how and why certain terms are being put to use by who they’re trying to engage with, they may find there is nothing at all they really find of any interest or use.

    My general assessment is that discussions surrounding mysticism are very prone to having the requirement of an ‘initiation’ period that the willing participants, through experience, rarely (if ever) find any actual value from.

    I find that mysticism has a lot in common with literary theory and general hermeneutics, as the participants have to be less willing to ‘combat’ (debate) during in the first several phases of explanation or they’ll find themselves finished before the other has even begun.

    Basically it requires patience without interruption combined with a willingness to put aside any initial disagreements or concerns about the practical use or reasoning involved.

    What are your thoughts about mysticism and what experiences have you had when you’ve honestly and genuinely tried to engage with others who try to espouse their thoughts and ideas about/within ‘mystic’ ... er ... ‘methodology’?
  • Punshhh
    1.9k

    Perhaps the way to approach the issue is to talk about talking about mysticism, rather than talking about mysticism.

    One way of engaging the issues is through mutual understanding and experience of an established mystical tradition, such as can be found in Hinduism for example. But this is fraught with difficulty too, because the analysis, or academic understanding, or interpretation of the tradition in question easily becomes confusing, opaque even secular. This combined with the degree of, or personal interpretation of the tradition, or lack thereof, by the person engaging in conversation. Also mystical understanding is intensely personal and is often gained through personal experience. Such an experience may be either unintelligible to the person, or uintelligable to another. Or how do you find the words, or do the words mean the same thing to another.

    In my experience the best mutual understanding I have achieved with another is through spending time together, spending time with people in an ashram and having a teacher disciple relationship with another. I have had interesting experiences with gurus, but again there are problems sharing understanding with gurus. I found this was overcome by repeated worship in the presence of a guru in puja.

    This investigation viewed in hindsight was just one of a number of formative experiences and explorations in my path towards a mystical understanding. Part of the reason for coming to sites like this was for me to try to integrate some of this with the philosophical tradition, but this has not been easy, not withstanding my belief that they are not incompatible. I find the philosophy quite rigid.

    Any thoughts?
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    to talk about talking about mysticism, rather than talking about mysticism.Punshhh

    That would’ve been a perfect title for this thread! :)

    Personally I’ve found that a greater appreciation of human behavior and psychology can help the ‘uninitiated’ persist where otherwise they would’ve just given up and moved on. If something is clearly of serious importance to someone, that - in and of itself - is a very intriguing case from a psychological or behavioral perspective.

    I certainly agree that observing is better that trying to participate initially, if that is what you mean by
    spending time with people in an ashram and having a teacher disciple relationship with anotherPunshhh
    and having interesting experiences.

    Maybe that is the key point. To simply have the experience of someone who has a strong mystical tilt and do no more than observe - reserving judgement and holding your tongue when you feel you require ‘clarification’. A suspicion is necessary, but some emphasis on the ‘suspicion’ that there may be something of use beneath the seeming misuse and misapplication of words (such as with the Tao Te Ching).
  • Pantagruel
    890
    Any effort to translate from the sphere of institutionalized practices (e.g. Buddhist meditation) to uniquely personal experience (which mysticism is by definition - e.g. samadhi) is going to be prone to the subjective-terminological quagmire problem. Do we de-mysticize mysticism in order to discuss it?
  • TheMadFool
    6.2k
    Mysticism has its draw. Personally speaking, the promise of knowledge of ultimate reality by means other than the slogging through the tedium of comprehending endless pages of logical argumentation is quite appealing to my nature and perhaps many others.

    Yet, my experience with mysticism, which doesn't amount to much I'm afraid, has been less than satisfactory.

    Firstly, the goal seems rather too ambitious and in being thus, there's the high probability that mysticism is going to miss its target by a mile or even more.

    Secondly, the goal, as knowledge of ultimate reality, is not something radically different from that of non-mystical traditions and so not much of an advancement there.

    Thirdly, the methods employed in mysticism - insight and its ilk - seems to be utterly useless as a method of sharing knowledge gained through its use for there are no arguments in mysticism, no arguments that could be studied and understood.

    All in all, mysticism doesn't offer anything new and its methods lack the universal accessibility of reasoned arguments - the lifeblood of non-mystical traditions.
  • Pantagruel
    890
    mysticism doesn't offer anything newTheMadFool

    Mysticism to some extent involves the concept of freeing oneself from the constraints of the mundane (viz the whole monastic tradition is a separation from the worldly).

    Comparably, scientific theories or worldviews can sometimes become trapped in dead ends, which require a radical rethinking of core beliefs (paradigm shifts). Likewise individuals can become trapped in self-reinforcing frameworks of prejudiced beliefs.

    So if mysticism aims explicitly at deconstructing mundane reality in order to work towards actualizing a more idealized version (as in the example of a monastic community) then I would say it absolutely does offer the possibility of something new, and potentially meaningful. Certainly at the very least as an exercise in self-discipline or introspective awareness.
  • unenlightened
    5k
    Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must waffle.

    Mystic: a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect. — Google

    Mysticism is the practice of religious ecstasies, together with whatever ideologies, ethics, rites, myths, legends, and magic may be related to them. It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences. — Wiki

    So do you want to talk about 'whatever ideologies' or 'self-surrender,' or 'the practice of ecstasies', or what? Is there a 'philosophy of' any of this that is worth discussing?

    It's not that i don't care, but I wonder if there is anything in the abstract to be said. I practice gardening, and I talk about gardening with other gardeners; I don't make threads about it on the forum.
  • Zophie
    84
    Mysticism: A term used to cover a literally bewildering variety of states of mind. Perhaps the most useful definition is that given by Jean Gerson: "Theologia mystica est experimentalis cognitio habita de Deo per amoris unitivi complexum" (Mystical theology is knowledge of God by experience, arrived at through the embrace of unifying love). Three points to notice: (1) the use of the term mystical theology (which was traditional in the Church until comparatively modern times) associates the mystical state with, while distinguishing it from, natural theology, which enables man to arrive at some knowledge of God by natural reason: also from dogmatic theology, which treats of the knowledge of God arrived at by revelation. (2) We do come to know God through mystical theology. (3) This knowledge is obtained not by intellectual processes but by the more direct experience implied in the term "unifying love." — New Catholic Encyclopedia, T. Corbishley, J. E. Biechler

    Well, that clears everything up..
  • Punshhh
    1.9k
    Thanks for the thread anyway, it might prove interesting, although I expect there will be numerous folk who will not find anything, stimulating, shall I say.

    Yes I agree about the stage of watching and learning, especially where there is someone on the path to observe. A study of human behaviour, nature and of their place in this world. Along with an inquiring, questioning and free mind. This would include a similar study of the personal self and an appreciation of ones position in humanity and the world. I think in a sense of seeking an individual, personally shaped interpretation, knowing of these things. Also this is often accompanied by an enquiry into religion, or God in some way.

    I think there are people who for whatever reason find themselves in this position and who naturally follow this path, rather like the shaman.

    There are others I think who are more driven as well and seek out with a passion experiences and answers to these issues. Personally I was more driven in this way, driven also to explore philosophies and religious and mystic teachings, theories, practices and experiences.

    The issue I think here is not so much a discussion of what happens up to this point in a person's development, but rather what happens next. If it can be described, or discussed in an analytical, or impartial way within a philosophical setting.

    This I think is where the big stumbling blocks rapidly emerge, of the language, do you use language from one tradition, or another, can you agree on the terminology, can you forge a path, so to speak through this minefield. Also rendering personal experience into language which can be effectively communicated. Even trust, "beware false prophets" etc.

    Also there is secularisation within mysticism, which I am about to get embroiled in I expect with a couple of other posters.
  • Pantagruel
    890
    Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must waffle.

    Mystic: a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.
    — Google

    Mysticism is the practice of religious ecstasies, together with whatever ideologies, ethics, rites, myths, legends, and magic may be related to them. It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.
    — Wiki

    So do you want to talk about 'whatever ideologies' or 'self-surrender,' or 'the practice of ecstasies', or what? Is there a 'philosophy of' any of this that is worth discussing?

    It's not that i don't care, but I wonder if there is anything in the abstract to be said. I practice gardening, and I talk about gardening with other gardeners; I don't make threads about it on the forum.
    unenlightened

    This all seems rather unenlightened indeed. And there is lots of viable material even in the wiki-drivel. Seeking "by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with..the absolute" is prima facie perfectly comprehensible. There have been many threads around stoicism and asceticism; and asceticism, can also be interpreted as a kind of mystical exercise. Max Weber compared and contrasted the two standpoints extensively I believe.

    Personally, I wouldn't start a thread about it either. But I sure wouldn't denigrate it.
  • unenlightened
    5k
    This all seems rather unenlightened indeed.Pantagruel

    "Those who know, do not take the piss; those who take the piss do not know." Un Tzu.

    It's not that i don't care,unenlightened

    Personally, I wouldn't start a thread about it eitherPantagruel

    I am more brave.
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/6287/the-most-wonderful-life/p1
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/5119/i-ching-the-metaphysics-of-flux
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/6185/the-emotional-meaning-of-ritual-and-icon/p1

    Denigration is in the eye of the visionary. I was asking not to diminish, but to find the topic. When I want to philosophise my garden, I discuss Ecophilosophy. You can look for those threads of mine too if you like.
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    It's not that i don't care, but I wonder if there is anything in the abstract to be said.unenlightened

    Me and you both. I honestly don’t know what I can say about the Tao Te Ching that is solid, and not overly reliant upon aphorisms and artistic interpretation.

    Maybe it’s just useful for creativity in some way - freeing up thought and that shabang?
  • Pantagruel
    890
    Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must waffle.unenlightened

    I guess it's just your style. I never held with the "conceal to reveal" philosophy of writing. Say it plainly or don't bother is my preference.
  • Pantagruel
    890
    Perhaps the way to approach the issue is to talk about talking about mysticism, rather than talking about mysticism.

    One way of engaging the issues is through mutual understanding and experience of an established mystical tradition, such as can be found in Hinduism for example. But this is fraught with difficulty too, because the analysis, or academic understanding, or interpretation of the tradition in question easily becomes confusing, opaque even secular. This combined with the degree of, or personal interpretation of the tradition, or lack thereof, by the person engaging in conversation. Also mystical understanding is intensely personal and is often gained through personal experience. Such an experience may be either unintelligible to the person, or uintelligable to another. Or how do you find the words, or do the words mean the same thing to another.

    In my experience the best mutual understanding I have achieved with another is through spending time together, spending time with people in an ashram and having a teacher disciple relationship with another. I have had interesting experiences with gurus, but again there are problems sharing understanding with gurus. I found this was overcome by repeated worship in the presence of a guru in puja.

    This investigation viewed in hindsight was just one of a number of formative experiences and explorations in my path towards a mystical understanding. Part of the reason for coming to sites like this was for me to try to integrate some of this with the philosophical tradition, but this has not been easy, not withstanding my belief that they are not incompatible. I find the philosophy quite rigid.

    Any thoughts?
    Punshhh

    Nicely put.
  • Punshhh
    1.9k
    Any effort to translate from the sphere of institutionalized practices (e.g. Buddhist meditation) to uniquely personal experience (which mysticism is by definition - e.g. samadhi) is going to be prone to the subjective-terminological quagmire problem. Do we de-mysticize mysticism in order to discuss it?
    No, although I don't want to diminish the quagmire you describe, I agree with that, but what I think we can do is describe it, what is involved and what the outcomes are, or might be.
  • Punshhh
    1.9k
    and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.
    — Wiki
    I appreciate your take on these issues, however what I am concerned about within mysticism is described in this phrase in your Wiki quote. All the other phrases there are more platitudinous in nature.

    You say yourself that you have little experience of mysticism, so you might learn something new.
  • Punshhh
    1.9k
    Well, that clears everything up..
    Not quite, that is a description of the Catholic tradition, although I have little to argue with in there. If one is to talk about talking about mysticism, how the exhalted state is achieved might be of interest.
  • Zophie
    84
    Lol, yeah. I just thought it was funny how the first reference I found was.. absurdly unhelpful, but that's not anyone's fault. That you focus on an exalted state is interesting and reminds me of Plotinus.
  • unenlightened
    5k
    Say it plainly or don't bother is my preference.Pantagruel

    That was a reference to Wittgenstein who used to talk about the book he did not write, and whereof one cannot speak and reserved a large space for the mystical, as exactly that which is not and cannot be talked about, but perhaps can be 'shown' in some way.

    so you might learn something new.Punshhh

    I might well. Or I might experience something new. I might be transformed such that I have to change my name! Go on, I dare you! Transform me.

    Here's a thing. How is one to talk? I like to use a little humour, as above, but the real question is the place one adopts. I speak as one who is not transformed, as one who is unenlightened. And I speak with that expertise. Now if someone thinks they can look down on me in this regard, I reserve the right to expose their hubris without mercy.
  • Punshhh
    1.9k
    Thankyou for allowing such a lowly working class fool as me teach you my liege.
  • jgill
    634
    This thread is a little like a thread on the intricacies of quantum theory by those who do not participate in physics teaching, research or experimentation. What's needed are more posts by those who have actually engaged in mystical practices, such as experienced Zen practitioners.

    Those who have had mystical epiphanies should contribute more. Please do.
  • Banno
    8.4k
    I have; and I've already made my contribution.
  • jgill
    634
    ↪jgill
    I have; and I've already made my contribution.
    Banno

    Yes, I know. You sent a ripple in the aether requiring serious meditation to unravel. Thanks a lot. :razz:
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    983
    Those who have had mystical epiphanies should contribute more. Please do.jgill

    I'm a mystic - what do you want to know?
  • Banno
    8.4k
    A true mystic would know what @jgill wants to know.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    983
    A true mystic would know what jgill wants to know.Banno

    You're silly.
  • ernestm
    1k
    What are your thoughts about mysticism and what experiences have you had when you’ve honestly and genuinely tried to engage with others who try to espouse their thoughts and ideas about/within ‘mystic’ ... er ... ‘methodology’?I like sushi

    I guess I have to agree with you. I was very interested for a long time in yantric systems. I was totally enamoured with the idea of associating shapes and colors and sounds with particular meanings. Sort of like phonemes, but non-linguistic. I found this fascinating book that had a god name associated with every inner triangle in the Sri Yantra. I was charmed how upward-pointing triangles are male energy, downward pointing female; circles, spheres of knowledge; squares, intellect, with 'gates' on the side permitting various entrances and departures of understanding; chakras as energy centers; spirals up and down between them as movement of consciousness; and maps showing how colors correspond to various things.

    But everyone I tried talking about it retreated behind this wall of inner certainty, derived somehow from uniquely granted perception of the infinite or whatever, and then when I shared other such perceptions similar as theirs, do you think they were interested? On the contrary, not at all, moreover, they would get a little annoyed and aloof if other people had different opinions, and I say opinions, Im afraird, because thats the most I could ever make of it after a long time trying, lol. Now I kind of just gave up on the whole thing.
  • Punshhh
    1.9k

    I think there is a problem in the west of vanity, or glamour when it comes this subject. To illustrate, I once knew a Guru who was put on a pedestal by his western followers. He would never touch them (except within the established religious rites) and they would intellectually if not physically cower, or revere in his presence. Whereas with his Asian followers there was a lot of physical contact, no intellectual cowering. It all seemed more relaxed and natural like family. He once ran his hand through my hair out of the blue, in a casual setting and I was aware of a ripple of a reaction through the western followers, I sensed some of his greatness had rubbed of onto me in their eyes. There was also a feeling of jealousy amongst devotes who had not received such treatment over years of devotion and yet I had only been there a week. There was a tangible difference in the way everyone reacted to me afterwards.

    There is also the peculiar vanity and fear around not knowing what one is talking about, which might explain why in your case the others where reluctant to engage. There is a sense amongst western followers of a secret mystery, or knowledge which the guru (by definition) understands, but which is not bestowed upon the followers. This can cause a sense of inadequacy in which the follower feels stupid, that he/she cannot even understand the simplest thing about what is going on. Indeed one can feel like an empty vessel intellectually just going through the motions of the practice with a gaping hole of emotional and intellectual inadequacy inside.

    All these things are western vanities which one has to overcome before one can make progress, I think many people never get past this stage. I don't think the practitioners in the original cultural setting where the guru came from experienced any of these problems. This not to say that they didn't experience another set of culturally developed problems of their own.

    What I am saying is that there are a host of cultural problems in attempting to transfer Eastern practices to the west.
  • Punshhh
    1.9k
    You always speak volumes in your silence Banno.
  • Punshhh
    1.9k
    I'm a mystic - what do you want to know?
    Where is the focus of your mysticism?
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