The Ways of Knowing: Or, the Methods of Philosophy

By Wm. Pepperell Montague | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER II
THE METHOD OF MYSTICISM

WE have seen that the method of authoritarianism is often combined with the doctrine that the primary authorities possessed a means of access to truth which was higher than either sense or reason. This theory that truth can be attained by a super-rational and super-sensuous faculty of intuition is Mysticism.

When the mystic experience comes to a person of philosophic temper and interests it usually takes the form of an intuition of the oneness of all things, and especially of the union of the finite self with the universe, or with God. God is often conceived by the mystics as a being whose nature is so ineffable as to transcend the distinctions not only of the senses but of Reason itself. They feel that to ascribe definite characteristics to the absolute being, to say that he is personal, or conscious, or powerful, would be to put him on a level with other beings. Just because he is the unity of all things he cannot have the attributes of any. He is above relations and above distinctions, and as it is only through relations and distinctions that the intellect can comprehend its objects, the mystic must gain his comprehension of this absolute unity through an experience more intimate and immediate than that of thought, and more nearly analogous to a pure feeling or emotion in which the distinction between the self and its objects is no longer present.

Before dealing with the problem which primarily concerns us, the validity of mysticism as a method of logic, we must consider the psychological problem as to the nature of the "intuition" from which originate the beliefs and experiences on which mysticism is founded.

The simplest hypothesis as to the nature of intuition is

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