Mysticism: Holiness East and West

By Denise Lardner Carmody; John Tully Carmody | Go to book overview

we examined from the Isa Upanishad illustrate the somewhat rough and ready but still provocative forms in which we find this characteristically Upanishadic conviction becoming clear. By the time that the premier Upanishadic sage, Yajnavalkya, can in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad put the crucial proposition about unity ("He is your self ") with utter brevity and clarity, the border between self and other, inside and outside, has broken open. More important than how beings differ is the sameness they share as expressions or presences of being. To any of them the sage can say, "That thou art."

This conviction set up the metaphysics of Shankara and so the great influence on the quest for liberation of Vedantic views of enlightenment and the priority of intuitive knowledge (jnana). Jnana is certainly direct experience of ultimate reality, but, to use terms developed by one of our masters, Eric Voegelin, it is "noetic" rather than "pneumatic." That is to say, it addresses the mind, or knowing in a highly intellectual sense, more than the full human spirit, which is addressed by love. Bhakti, therefore, is the great counterbalance to jnana, and the interplay of these two Hindu versions of noetic and pneumatic direct experiences of ultimate reality is perhaps the backbone of at least the articulate body of Hindu mysticism.

Shankara and Ramanuja, noeticist and pneumaticist, are analogous to the Christians, Thomas Aquinas, on the one hand, and Augustine or Bonaventure on the other. Together, they invite us to see how either knowing or loving and how both knowing and loving take the human spirit toward its ultimacy, which turns out to be the ultimacy of all that is. The mysticism in this journey is the experiential core, where the dominant force is not ideas but encounters, participatory movements, heart to heart, being to being.

The description of mysticism with which we are working casts the Hindu mystics as more intellectual and monistic than many others, but it also casts them as deeper, more metaphysical or ontological in a praiseworthy sense, than most others. Along with some classical Buddhists, they remind us that Indo-European thought (Greek and Celtic as well as Aryan) has turned over the primordiality of being, of is-ness, with an especially, perhaps distinctively, acute touch, correlating this primordiality with human spirituality to make knowing and loving divine activities. 22


NOTES
1.
See R. C. Zaehner, Hinduism ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), 1-13; also Mrcea Eliade, Yoga ( Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press/ Bollingen, 1969), 3-7.
2.
Romila Thapar, A History of India 1 ( New York: Viking Penguin, 1966); Percival Spear, A History of India 2 ( New York: Viking Penguin, 1970).

-57-

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Mysticism: Holiness East and West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface *
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • Notes 26
  • 2 - Hinduism 28
  • Notes 57
  • 3 - Buddhism 60
  • Notes 98
  • 4 - Chinese and Japanese Traditions 101
  • Notes 135
  • 5 - Jewish Traditions 137
  • Notes 183
  • 6 - Christian Traditions 186
  • Notes 225
  • 7 - Muslim Traditions 226
  • Notes 269
  • 8 - Mysticism Among Oral Peoples 272
  • Notes 291
  • 9 - Conclusion 293
  • Notes 312
  • Index 313
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