Mystic Narrative…

In Dispirited one of the claims that I make is regarding the way mysticism is presented. I will get to what I write in the book shortly – but wanted to note that in the talks on the book I have been giving, I have been asked is there is evidence for my assertions re this presentation of mysticism. I thought it was obvious – and part of our common cultural currency, so didn’t feel too worried…

The view I am talking about is the narrative that claims that all faiths are drawing on the same (or variations of the same) Noumenous experience (though they don’t always use Otto’s term), which has been distorted by the institutionalisation of formal religion. But some have always seen through this, to the common experiential core that they believe underpins all faith. These few have known a dangerous truth – which threatens political strucutres and might unite allf aiths  – and so mystics have long been persecuted.

Familiar? [I hope so...  The book contains a longer version, of course]

I did however ensure my view that this is widespread was accurate. It is. http://timeless-wisdom.blog.co.uk/2010/03/05/world-mysticism-8120212/ for example talks of

The Hidden History of Mysticism runs like a thread through all religions but belongs
to none of them
It is finding a spiritual basis for human unity beyond ‘partisan’ religious divisions
To build bridges to a common understanding of a common human spirituality is the way
TO UNIVERSAL TRUTH

This is only one example, of course, but seems to perfectly capture that narrative I was trying to describe. One of the themes in Dispirited is that the ‘partisan’ divisions are exactly what matters: this is how we inch towards actual truth (as opposed to ‘universal’?) – though arguing and  really disagreeing, not disavowing disagreement in the name of some hidden, ineffable, asserted underlying commonality..

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3 comments

  1. My friend Andrew J Brown at the Caute blog has written some excellent critiques of this kind of “universalist” discourse. The assumption that there is an underlying universal truth is actually deeply illiberal, and quite dangerous as eventually some smug git will assume that they have found it and are entitled to tell the rest of us what it is.

  2. [...] MA: MIT Press, 2009) 27-28) where Žižek seems to touch on another of the concerns here. In a previous post I looked at the universalist discourses of mysticism – and the book expands on the problems they, [...]

  3. B.A.H. · · Reply

    the perennial view of mysticism does certainly open the door for smug manipulation, and arrogant complacency as well as irresponsibility. I tend to side more with Proudfoot and other scholars of mysticism who fall on the constructivist side – and they have evidence!

    Also tangential but I am sure you can relate to an annoyance at the overcapitalization of nouns that is so common in this arena.

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