Concurrent with the apocalyptic turbulence of the later sixties and early seventies, mysticism clearly became a significant factor in the lives of millions of people weary of war, racism, political corruption and religious institutionalism. Not unrelated to the sudden mushrooming of interest in occultism, "neo-paganism," the pentecostal movement, the psychedelic revolution and "neo-oxientalism"--the fascination with Eastern religions, a concern with the mystical dimensions of experience (or "neo-transcendentalism" in the phrase of Raymond Prince)--was particularly but not exclusively manifest among the young. This upsurge of enthusiasm was, however, little more than a sudden wave visibly breaking on the shores of popular consciousness seventy years after the tide of interest in mysticism began rising steadily.
At present, the need for a comprehensive collection of critical studies of mysticism in both its past and contemporaneous manifestations is, I would think, self-evident. Several anthologies of mystical writings have appeared in recent years which included valuable and critical introductions, such as those of Happold, Stace, O'Brien, DeJaegher and Reinhold, and in particular the papers from the Calgary Conference on Mysticism, Mystics and Scholars, three of which are found in this collection. Other anthologies representing a broadly scientific or philosophical perspective have contributed to our understanding of mysticism, such as John White The Highest State of Consciousness and Steven Katz Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis. But to date there has been no attempt to provide a selection of critical studies, both "classical" and contemporary, particularly those written from a comparative viewpoint and exhibiting a wide range of inquiry.
The studies in this volume represent at least the following disciplines: phenomenology, the history of religions, psychology, neuropsychology, sociology, literary criticism, philosophy and theology. But Understanding Mysticism is not intended to be exhaustive or even fully representative of the wide variety of approaches to and positions on mysticism current today or in the recent past. The essays were chosen primarily because of their original contribution toward understanding the phenomenon of mysticism. Accessibility was also a deciding factor. Many other articles, such as James chapter on mysticism in The Varieties of Religious Experience, Bertrand Russell unique essay Mysticism and Logic and An . . .