Mysticism Among Oral Peoples
We have considered the mystical traditions of five world religions, as students of humanity's interactions with the divine tend to describe the large, multicultural religious complexes: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In addition, we have studied the characteristics of the direct experiences of ultimate reality that seem to have been most important in East Asia among Chinese and Japanese people influenced by several points of view: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and (for Japan) Shinto. None of our considerations could be exhaustive. All did well if they suggested the main features of the intense spiritual life that developed in the tradition or cultural zone in question. Inasmuch as our focus has been mysticism and the world religions, however, the bulk of our work is done.
In this chapter we deal with several traditions or cultural groups that historically have not have scriptures, literate sources of guidance, or (without qualification) a linear sense of history. Specifically, we consider briefly the religious experiences that seem to have been most important to Native Americans, Aboriginal Australians, and Africans. Whether such religious experiences represent an extension of the oldest spiritual quests of humankind, in effect offering for our study a continuation of how the first true human beings tried to make their way to solid meaning, no one can say. Perhaps from the time that they