A collection of essays that explores the many dimensions of the mystical, including personal, theoretical, and historical.
Kohav, a professor of philosophy at the Metropolitan State College of Denver and the editor of this collection, provocatively asks why mysticism is such an “objectionable” topic and considered intellectually disreputable. Borrowing from Jacques Derrida’s distinction between aporia (or unsolvable confusion) and a solvable problem, the author suggests mystical phenomena are better understood through the lens of mysterium, that which is beyond the categories of reason and can only be captured by dint of intuition and personal experience. In fact, the contributors to this intellectually kaleidoscopic volume present several autobiographical accounts of precisely such an encounter with the mystically inscrutable. For example, in one essay, Gregory M. Nixon relates “the shattering moment in my life when I awoke from the dream of self to find being as part of the living world and not in my head.” The religious dimensions of mystical experience are also explored: Buddhist, Christian, and Judaic texts, including the Bible, are examined to explicate and compare their divergent interpretations. Contributor Jacob Rump argues that the ineffable is central to Wittgenstein’s worldview, and Ori Z. Soltes contends that philosophers like Socrates and Spinoza, famous for their valorization of reason, are incomprehensible without also considering the limits they impose on reason and the value they assign to ineffable experience. The collection is precisely as multidisciplinary as billed. It includes a wealth of varying perspectives, both personal and scholarly. Furthermore, the book examines the application of these ideas to contemporary debates. Richard H. Jones, for instance, challenges that mysticism and science ultimately converge into a single explanatory whole. The prose can be prohibitively dense—much of it is written in a jargon-laden academic parlance—and the book is not intended for a popular audience. Within a remarkably technical discussion of the proper interpretive approach to sacred texts, contributor Brian Lancaster declares: “For these reasons I propose incorporating a hermeneutic component to extend the integration of neuroscientific and phenomenological data that defines neurophenomenology.” However, Kohav’s anthology is still a stimulating tour of the subject, philosophically enthralling and wide reaching.
An engrossing, diverse collection of takes on mystical phenomena.