Mysticism: Holiness East and West

By Denise Lardner Carmody; John Tully Carmody | Go to book overview
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of mysticism, the dialectical interaction, and the conclusions are only as good as the data upon which they depend and the light they shed. Our aim is to introduce the mysticism of the world religions fairly and interestingly. As long as critics accept that this has been our aim and do not substitute what they think our aim ought to have been, their reactions will be welcome.

The same aim that has shaped our work in Chapters 2 through 7, where we deal with the major literate traditions, holds for what we offer in Chapter 8, where we deal with the mysticism of oral peoples (those not shaped decisively by written, scriptural texts). What we can say about Native Americans of both continents, Native Africans, and Native Australians has to be painfully brief because of our spatial limitations, but it is an effort at least to suggest how the mystical venture has survived in the many impressive cultures that have relied on singing and dancing more than on reading.

In conclusion, we shall first review the journey that we have completed, the dialectic that we have followed, asking about its larger patterns. Thus we shall inquire how the traditions align themselves -- what likenesses and differences they manifest and what principal ways they color or contest our working description. Second, we shall ask about the major methods that the traditions reveal and that recur regularly -- ways to ecstasy, self-possession ("enstasis"), disenchantment with the world, acceptance of the world, and the like. Third, with an eye toward mystical practice today, we shall inquire about the major pitfalls that the traditions suggest lie in wait for anyone either setting out for a direct experience of ultimate reality or feeling drawn into it. Fourth, balancing this is the question of the major profits that, worldwide and throughout history, the mystics say they have reaped. Fifth, we reflect on the roots of mysticism in human nature -- what it is that may explain why, generation after generation, human beings have felt drawn out of the simply factitious and into a holy ultimacy. Sixth and lastly, we reflect on the roots of mysticism itself, the causes of the phenomenon, that seem to lie in ultimate reality itself, raising the possibility that the fullest explanation for mysticism is an active divine allure. This final inquiry will take us to the point where we can go no further. The reader will find further help in the notes accompanying each chapter, but the rest of the dialectic will be out of our hands.


NOTES
1.
Louis Dupré, "Mysticism," in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade ( New York: Macmillan, 1987), 10:245. Compare this to the beginning of Ninian Smart , "Mysticism, History of," in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 5, ed. Paul Edwards ( New York: Macmillan, 1967), 419-420: "Mystical experience is a major form of religious experience, but it is hard to delineate by a simple def

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