Mysticism in Philosophy

Part 10 of 12 in the series Spiritual History

This Series contains in the first 8 parts, a brief overview of the common threads of Spirituality and Mysticism (the belief based on union or communion with a deity, or divine being). It includes an overview analysis of mystic/spiritual concepts, beliefs, terms, arguments, and practices within religious history. It has been based on both “mystical experience and belief”.

However mysticism and spirituality has a much wider scope than the religious/belief or observational context. The Philosophy of Mysticism and Spirituality looks at examination of the entire mystical complex.

Mysticism is that attitude of mind in which all relations are swallowed up in the relation of the soul to God
Edward Caird

Philosophical mysticism is the kind of spirituallity that emphasizes the role of thinking, in this ‘Unitive Experience’. We’re One through our deepest and most serious kind of thinking, which is through love.

Philosophical mysticism aims to show how, if we take seriously the thinking and loving that we do every day, this points beyond the modern individualistic assumption that God and I, and you and I, are ultimately separate and distinct. Can you have both? Yes, panentheism is one option of a range of choices in the Higher Power IQS.

Plotinus and the Christian mystics all call the Supreme Principle the Good as well as the One. The Good in this connection is not exactly a moral quality. The Good is the supreme object of all desire. It is the condition of knowledge, that which makes the world intelligible. This desire is not only universal but insatiable. ‘The soul is always attaining and always aspiring’ says Plotinus.

Knowledge itself is desire. The same craving for the infinite, for the felt presence of God Himself, is characteristic of all mysticism.

Mysticism is the immediate feeling of the unity of the self with God
Otto Pfleiderer

Why is this relevant today?

There are several factors in how 21st Century people are different to the past. These will be outlined further later in this series, but the prime differentiators are:

  1. A high level of education, based on scientific and widely cumulated sources, is available worldwide
  2. The societal expectation that people will conform to traditions is changing, and applies to spiritual and religious expectations. In other words, if its not relevant, people won’t engage.
  3. Modern humanity expects that knowledge can be consistent and authentic with their beliefs, even if their ability to act morally/ethically is inconsistent with behavior.
  4. There is more open communication in so many forms (phone/skype/messaging etc) than ever before, opening up new forms of confusion. (Which alternative ‘truth’ do I believe)
  5. We are learning that one basic human right is to believe what we honestly believe, rather than the traditional teaching of our tradition(s)

The metaphysical experience (spiritual awareness and acceptance of such things as ‘near death experience’) is increasingly becoming part of this above mix. However humanity is no longer likely to accept a metaphysical that conflicts with their knowledge.

The classic case that illustrates this point is the Biblical account of creation, and its apparent conflict with the Big Bang Theory and the theory of Evolution. We no longer have to accept a single or interpreted view of one source, we can compare and make our own choice, but in the end all such choice will be based on our heart, like all decisions tend to be.

“True mysticism is the consciousness that everything that we experience is an element and only an element in fact, i.e. that in being what it is, it is symbolic of something else”
Richard Nettleship

What if the God of your understanding was consistent with all you have learnt?

This and other questions for you to consider are in the following IQS, please choose the questions you would like to see open discussion about. (There are no answers offered, so relax, this is just about identifying what philosophical questions you resonate with)

Clement said, ‘Knowledge, as it passes into love, unites the knower with the known. He who has reached this stage maybe called equal with the angels.’

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Islamic Mysticism | New Age Spirituality