Daniel J. Goodey
1. Mysticism: The understanding of mystical experience
Mysticism understood as an experience derives many varying interpretations. The plurality of religions is overshadowed by the plurivocity of interpretations that are asserted when a consideration of what is experienced in those religions is made. Interpretations vary from the positing of an all consuming univocal perspective to an ever recalcitrant equivocal perspective, with every form of dialectical perspective in between. Although the dialectical perspectives attempt to take the best of both worlds, i.e., the wholeness found in a univocity combined with the respect of difference found in equivocity, the extreme positions of pure univocity and pure equivocity are both radical and exacting. It is because of this common character of radicality and exactness that the two views may be seen to share a conservative perspective of mysticism. The radicality is conservative in its extreme adherence -- and hence, exactness -- to the traditions under consideration. Nevertheless, the connection between the univocal perspective and the self-mediating activity of the dialectical perspectives remains strong, due to the attempt by both to give an account of all mystical experiences in a comprehensive manner; and thus creating an openness to dialogue. However, due to the recalcitrant nature of equivocity, it remains to be seen how a dialogue is possible on mystical experience from an equivocal perspective. And, consequently, the question must be asked whether it is thus possible to form a philosophical consideration of mysticism from an equivocal perspective. Accordingly, the focus of this paper will be to look at the nature of mystical experiences as understood from an equivocal perspective as found represented in the work of Steven Katz.
The material for this consideration will centre on two articles written by Katz: namely, "Language, Epistemology and Mysticism," (hereafter referred to as LEM) and "The 'Conservative' Character of Mystical Experience" (hereafter referred to as CCME). In "Language, Epistemology and Mysticism," the central question being asked is whether mystical experiences are culture/tradition based. In other words, "do Muslims have essentially pre-formed Muslim experiences, Jews specifically Jewish experiences, Christians Christological experiences, Buddhists Buddhist enlightenments and so on?" ("Editor's Introduction", Mysticism and Religious Traditions - henceforth MRT). Katz's position is one from an analytic approach that considers a priori metaphysical and theological accounts as "ingenious, bear[ing] little relation to the evidence and which do not stand up to serious technical analysis" (MRT). As such, metaphysical and theological accounts should be rejected "as out of place in the serious academic study of mysticism" (MRT).
Katz rejects the idea that "all mystical experiences are the same," and asserts that the term "mysticism" should be considered "shorthand for a list of independent mystical traditions, Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi, Christian, Jewish, etc." (CCME, 51). As such, in the article "The 'Conservative' Character of Mystical Experience," a defence is made of the recalcitrant nature of inter-cultural (or inter-religious) mystical experiences; by pointing to the fact that all mystical experiences not only generate tradition-specific religious reflection, but they themselves are also generated and predetermined by a specific religious tradition. In this way, Katz asserts that mystical experiences are not radical events that can be considered outside of the context of the given religious tradition within which they occur. Therefore, the conclusion that will be illustrated is that because of this conservative character of mystical experience, the only dialectic possible is one of self-mediation, not intermediation. 1 In other words, mystical experiences lose all meaning and significance when taken out of their specific cultural/traditional contexts.
2. Mysticism: The religious dialectic between innovation and tradition
Because mystical experiences cannot be verified, i.e., proven, they cannot provide the grounds for any truth claims. This is not to imply that what mystical experiences claim to be true are actually false, nor should mystical experiences be reduced to purely psychological phenomena. In addition, all mystical experiences are subjected to some level of interpretation, either by the individual mystic or by others evaluating the mystic's experience, and each interpretation varies according to the particular degree of ramifications (i.e., the potential significance of the event on the expectations, desires, beliefs, etc., of the self and others) that the given interpreter interjects into the experience being interpreted.
Katz presents what he considers to be the three most universally accepted ways of classifying mystical experiences. Firstly, all mystical experiences are the same; even their descriptions reflect an underlying similarity which transcends cultural or religious diversity. Secondly, all mystical experiences are the same but the mystics' reports about their experiences are culturally bound. Thus they use the available symbols of their cultural-religious milieu to describe their experience. Thirdly, all mystical experience can be divided into a small class of 'types' which cut across cultural boundaries. Though the language used by mystics to describe their experience is culturally bound, their experience is not.
Katz rejects the first classification and asserts that "there is no philosophia perennis" (LEM, 24). Similarly, Katz rejects the second classification as being an essentialist reductionism view, i.e., that all mystical experiences are reducible to a single common "truth"; and as such is not open to falsification, because the defence would be that you simply do not understand. Finally, Katz rejects the third classification -- in which he would place the theories of R. C. Zaehner, W. T. Stace, and N. Smart -- for attempting "to provide various cross-cultural phenomenological accounts of mystical experience which are phenomenologically as well as philosophically suspect" (LEM, 25). Katz further asserts that the theories posited by Stace and Zaehner are so reductive that they fail to respect the recalcitrant differences between the varying experiences of differing cultures. And hence, Katz asserts that a recognition of difference must be maintained.
3. Mysticism: The predication by tradition
Katz begins by accepting a basic epistemological assumption that all experiences are mediated. All experiences, as well as the way in which they are reported, are shaped by preconceptions that the experiencing person possesses prior to any experience, according to Katz. In other words, the individual -- through culture, traditions, education, and so on -- has an idea of what kind of experience should be had, and what form it should take, and what kind of context it should be in, prior to ever having an experience. Individuals, so Katz asserts, do not first have an experience and then avail of the symbolism and language of their culture to report it, but rather the symbolism and language already present within their culture predispose them for a particular kind of experience. In this way, the limiting structure that one already finds oneself present in also dictates what is "inexperiencable" for oneself. Thus, the difference of patterns and symbols used to express mystical experience in differing religious traditions occurs prior to any experience, is continuously influential during the experience, and is reflected in the prolongation of the experience (through the way in which the experience is reported). Although there is a distinction between an interpretation and an experience, it is impossible to psychologically extrapolate a "pure experience". Hence, epistemologically speaking, an experience devoid of interpretation is incomprehensible.
4. Mysticism: The predication of tradition
The relation between experience and belief is symmetrically two-dimensional, according to Katz. "Beliefs shape experience, just as experience shapes belief" (LEM, 30). Katz quotes Coleridge as correctly pointing out that "the mind half-sees and half-creates" (LEM, 30). And it is on this point that Katz criticises Stace for seeing only the single (univocal) dimension of experience shaping beliefs, and failing to see the second symmetrical (equivocal) dimension. Conversely, Katz acknowledges that Zaehner recognized both dimensions, but criticises him for reducing the differences (through dialectics) into a simplistic three-fold distinction -- of theistic, monistic, and naturalistic. The conditions of experience must be considered, Katz re-asserts, and the classification of all religions and traditions into three basic categories fails to recognize these crucial differences. Katz believes that these differences -- the images, concepts, symbols, ideological values, and ritual behaviour that are instilled in every individual from childhood on -- "define, in advance, what the experience [one] wants to have, and which [one] then does have, will be like" (LEM, 33).In other words, according to Katz, an individual anticipates having a particular kind of experience "and then, in fact, does have [it]" (LEM, 34). Yet, on a critical note, one must question whether Katz is correct in viewing mystical experiences as if they are some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Is Katz implying that a religious experience is only a delusion, a psychological phantasm? Although Katz specifically rejects this possibility of reduction to "interior states of consciousness" (LEM, 23), it is difficult to see how this question can be avoided. Further, Katz asserts that not only does "pre-experiential conditioning affect the nature of the experience one actually has" (LEM, 35), but that it also determines the nature of what is inexperiencable (CCME, 5; and LEM, 26). As an example, Katz cites the Jewish belief that one does not achieve a unity with God, but rather achieves a togetherness with God. According to Katz, "because the Jew is taught that such experiences of unity do not happen, the Jew does not, in fact, have such experiences" (LEM, 35). But again, one must question if Katz is correct -- that the individual does not have that particular experience -- or rather that it is simply the case that the individual does not recognize those kinds of experiences. Frequently when one is not expecting something that thing is overlooked. E.g., can one experience being hit by a car without previously considering it? Or even more, without even having the concept of a car, i.e., think of some removed civilisation like the Yanomamo? Although Katz's assertion that the reason people of different religious traditions have different mystical experiences is because their aim of having an experience is different, the question cannot be avoided as to whether it is truly the preconception that actually generates the given experience or whether the experience is actually the same experience being perceived differently (due to the difference in traditions).
One example Katz uses to illustrate his point of difference based on original preconceptions is a contrast between what a Jew aims for, i.e., a personal loving relationship between the finite self and an infinite/transcendent being, God, and what a Buddhist aims for, i.e., a new ontological state of being of the individual that is free of suffering, nirvana. Because the Jew is aiming at a relationship with another being and the Buddhist is aiming at an absence of relationship in a form of unification with all things (so as to remove any tension, and thus suffering, between the self and something other to the self), the two cannot possibly have the same experience, according to Katz. However, again on a critical note, it is important to ask: What qualifies as an experience? It would appear that for Katz, it is an all or nothing event. Katz asserts that the Jew's desire to free the soul from the body (so as to purify the self and allow the self the ability to relate to the ultimate other) is completely different from the Buddhist's desire to eliminate the self (so as to avoid suffering by becoming nothing). But, one might ask Katz, are the aims truly that mutually exclusive? The Jew seeks to achieve an all consuming relationship with the absolute other, while the Buddhist seeks to lose the self in an all consuming absence. Yet, does not one lose oneself in a truly loving embrace? If the Buddhist's only consideration was to lose oneself, to eliminate pain, would the Buddhist not simply eliminate the self by committing suicide? It would appear that both seek a relationship: the Jew with a particular thing, God; and the Buddhist with 'no-thing' in particular, oneness with all things. Thus, is there not a difference between eliminating the self, as Katz would assert, and becoming one with the universe, as the standard rendering of nirvana asserts? 2 Consequently, one must ask: Is Katz's Jewishness colouring his perspective? This question is much more than a merely academic one. Katz attacks other authors in the field for their narrow sightedness due to their cultural/traditional prejudices, yet Katz himself appears to fall prey to his own criticism. Katz interprets the Christian mystic Ruysbroeck as asserting a unity "in" God, while in the quote of Ruysbroeck that he cites what is actually asserted is a unity "with" God (LEM, 61). Although the difference may appear small, the significance is great and alters the mystical perspective that is under analysis (CCME, 16). Katz attempts to make a distinction of experience (as will be seen in the following section) within Christian mysticism between the non-absorptive type and the absorptive (or unitive) type (LEM, 41), but this distinction becomes meaningless when considered in light of Katz's misinterpretation of Christian mystical experiences. Further, perhaps in a more symbolic demonstration of Katz's own cultural predispositions tainting his assertions, one could ask what the relevancy is for his use of an exclamation point at the end of the consideration, where he asserts that a Jewish mystic could never encounter either Jesus or Muhammad in a mystical experience. It would appear that the long standing antagonisms between Katz's Jewish tradition and those of the Christian and Islamic traditions get in the way of his presentation of what he asserts as fact.
In the end, what Katz wants to assert is that "there is a clear causal connection between the religious and social structure one brings to experience and the nature of one's actual experience" (LEM, 40). Yet, here again, one cannot help but wonder why Katz only implicitly posits the strong view that culture and tradition dictate the type of experience possible for the individual, while he directly posits the weaker contention that they are causally connected. The causal connection that Katz directly posits only indicates the presence of a direct link between experience and tradition, yet it would appear that what Katz is really trying to claim in his implicit position is that experience is predestined by tradition.
The experiencing mystic, Katz contends, comes to the experience with "a world of concepts, images, symbols, and values which shape as well as color the experience [the mystic] eventually and actually has" (LEM, 46). However, Katz points out that the symbolism present within each tradition is more than an aggregate of symbols that can be removed from their cultural/traditional context and used as a means of comparison between differing religions. An example of this is found in the consideration of the particular texts that serve as the cornerstone to some religions. The Qur'an of Islam, the Torah of Judaism, the Bible (primarily the New Testament) of Christianity, and the Vedas of Hinduism are more than mere texts containing referential aspects of the given religion. Each, from the perspective of their given religion, is considered to not only serve as a guide to fulfilling the tenants of that religion, but also as a vibrant, dynamic living force in its own right, e.g., the Qur'an is seen as the co-eternal wisdom of Allah; the Torah as the divine names of Yahweh; the New Testament as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, i.e., the 'Word' of God that became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ; the Vedas as the transcendental wisdom and power that manifests itself in the text and is expressed in mantras. Therefore, the Muslim would not consider the Torah comparable to the Qur'an, the Jew would not consider the New Testament comparable to the Torah, the Christian would not consider the Vedas comparable to the New Testament, and the Hindu would not consider the Qur'an as comparable to the Vedas (nor would any other possible combination provide any greater level of compatibility). Thus no clear and comprehensive dialogue is possible between these three religions -- and even more impossible is a dialogue between these religions and others that do not even have a text that serves a similar function -- in an unbiased, sterilised, non-tradition based context, because their meanings are ontic, not semantic. Further, the mystical experiences found within each religious tradition are not radical derivations from the traditions found in that religion. Rather, the mystical experiences tend to verify the legitimacy of the given religious tradition by forming itself within that tradition and anchoring itself to particular dynamic characteristics/attributes found in that tradition. In this way, Katz asserts that just as an a-traditional comprehensive dialogue between various religions is impossible, so too is an a-traditional comprehensive dialogue between various mystical experiences impossible. The mystical experience, for Katz, could be interpreted as the existential reinterpretation of the traditions found in the religion of the experiencing mystic, i.e., the mystical experience of the stigmata, for a Christian, symbolises the meaning of the New Testament on a personal level, e.g., "Jesus was crucified for me!"
5. Mysticism: The tradition bound experience
Katz makes a distinction in Christian mysticism between two types of mystical experiences (not withstanding the criticism as stated above): the non-absorptive type, which is similar to a form of Jewish mysticism; and the absorptive (or unitive) type, which seeks to transcend the distinction between the self and God in an all-embracing unity. But what makes a Christian absorptive mystical experience different from a Buddhist absorptive mystical experience is the tradition which provides the foundation for such an experience -- namely, Platonism. Because Platonism understood the divine absolute as the 'One', and since Christianity was so influenced by Platonism, the absorptive experience was with a 'One', i.e., God, and not with a divine absence, as is found in the absorptive mystical experience of Buddhism. Yet again, it is important to consider whether Katz's understanding of Buddhism is an accurate one (see the earlier criticism on this point in the preceding section).
Because the individual prior to having a mystical experience is educated within a particular tradition as communicated through a primary text, the ontological scheme as laid out in the text "creates and shapes the expectations" of the individual, "while at the same time delimiting the parameters of experience"; and, thus, "dictates how the world is to be experienced and also what there is to experience" (CCME, 35). In this way, mystical experiences are conservative in nature (being based on the fundamental precepts of the given tradition); rather than radical, as is often asserted to be the case. This is not to deny the existential radicality of the mystical experience, but simply to comment on the traditional rootedness from which the experience gains its impetus and receives its boundaries of possible experience. As a result, by the ontological parameters being set through tradition prior to the mystical experience, and by the fact that differing religions derive mystical experiences from very divergent traditions, each religion's mystical experiences are completely different from any other religion's mystical experience, and hence incomparable. The Christian has a Christian experience, e.g., of Jesus, Mary, the mysteries of the Trinity, etc.; the Jew has a Jewish experience, e.g., to meet Elijah, to see God's throne, etc.; the Muslim has an Islamic experience, e.g., to meet Mohammed; and so on for all other religions. Thus, the mystical experience is not a foundation nor an impetus for a religious journey, but rather is the conclusion of a mystical journey with its roots in a specific tradition. Consequently, according to Katz, a mystical experience is not, in actuality, some 'pure' transcendental experience, but rather is the existential product of an epistemological preconception. Yet here again, it is hard to avoid the obvious inconsistency between Katz's conclusions and his own claims established at the beginning, as cited earlier, that mystical experiences are not reducible to products of interior states of consciousness. Thus, perhaps by looking at existential examples of these experiences, as seen exemplified through models within the given traditions, a reduction of Katz's own equivocity will be derived.
6. Mysticism: The ideal exemplified through models
Every religious tradition, and hence every religious community, has particular individuals that are held up as the ideal way of experiencing the fullest nature of the given tradition, e.g., Jesus for Christianity; Buddha for Buddhism; Moses for Judaism; Mohammed for Islam; etc. The model epitomises the faith of a true believer, the moral discipline of a true follower, the verification of the truth claim of the tradition, and so on. The model provides a breath of dynamism in what might otherwise become a stagnant dogmatism. Yet the dynamism is not a radical one in that its source is one of a fulfilment of the claims found within the tradition. However, since these individuals are temporal, i.e., are specifically situated in space and time, they themselves become part of the tradition, and hence, part of the dogmatics of that tradition. This continuous interplay/tension between the dogmatics of the tradition and the dynamism of the tradition provide the dialectical nature of religion, and thus of mystical experience. It is because of this inherent tension that is so vital to religion that the mystical experience cannot be taken out of its traditional context, and thus no true inter-traditional comparison can take place.
Although there may be some critical questions with regards to Katz's renderings of the traditions he uses as examples, as well as with the expediency with which he discards other authors in this field, e.g., Stace, Zaehner, Smart, etc., still one cannot fail to see the relevancy and importance of the issues that he is raising. The mystical experience by its very nature refuses absorption into any univocal theory of classification. As such, Katz is calling for an ever present awareness of the equivocal nature of mystical experiences. However, when we focus solely on the equivocal aspect of the dialectics of religion we are left with nothing but a mass of deconstructed parts; the whole is lost, along with the original meaning of the experience. What Katz leaves us with is an archaeological view of self-mediating religions; each religion being independent, recalcitrant and irreconcilable with a general consideration of mystical experience. Katz fails to see any connection, any intermediation, possible between the vast varieties of self-mediating wholes. For Katz, each religion is not only unique, but incomparable as well. Thus we are left with the lingering questions regarding the relevancy of this discussion. If mystical experiences are purely equivocal, i.e., self-mediating wholes, is a meaningful discussion possible in regards to mystical experiences? Or, can there only be a detached archaeological consideration of these experiences: each taken from within its own tradition, and never truly comprehended by anyone from outside of that given tradition? If Katz's equivocal fatalism is true, any discussion of mystical experience outside of a tradition specific context is meaningless; and hence, a philosophical consideration is impossible.
7. Mysticism: Beyond equivocal fatalism
If generalising the concepts of mystical experience results in the sterilisation of the concepts in such a way as to rid mysticism of its existential quality, as Katz rightly asserts, then discussion of mysticism becomes meaningless. Without the sudden and overwhelming awareness of the meaninglessness and absurdity of life and the world that is felt in the mystical experience, discussions about an experience that transcends this world become reduced to nothing more than idle chit-chat. The problem is that philosophy has extreme reservations, if not complete indignation, about the acceptance of unverifiable experiences as the foundation for any concept, let alone any concept in which no tangible or conclusive results will ever be fully realised. It is for this reason that mysticism only comes to be discussed in terms of the perceived experience by the individual or culture in the terms of that individual or culture; in other words, as some form archaeological observation. This is the position posited by Katz. However, this position is also insufficient for any truly fruitful dialogue on the phenomenon of mystical experience.
One may attempt to piece the multitude of fragments together from many different traditions trying to put the puzzle of mysticism before us in one grand overall picture. But at best this grand picture merely provides an anthology of mystical experience, not an openness in which a true dialogue can take place. A picture (an anthology) is a monologue, an exposition of what has occurred. Yet a dialogue is more dynamic than that. A dialogue not only exposes but also allows for the creative nature of something that is vibrant and alive to manifest itself in the fullness of its inherent nature. Mystical experiences possess just such an inherent nature of vibrancy. To attempt to confine them to mere expositions is to destroy their vibrancy, and hence, to deny them life. Consequently, all relevancy is destroyed.
The experience of Moses in being confronted with God in the form of a burning bush loses all meaning when the relevancy of such an experience is confined solely to those of the Jewish -- and subsequently Christian -- tradition. To say that a Buddhist cannot grasp the full power that is present in such an experience, merely because the person does not come from within a particular tradition of such events, is to deny the very nature of what mystical experience claims to be. Prior to Moses experiencing the burning bush, there also was no tradition of such an event in Judaism. If mystical experiences are confined to some predetermined criteria of presentation, as Katz asserts, then one cannot fail to ask where the origin of such criteria occurs. It would appear that if mystical experience is exclusive to the point where tradition determines what type of experience is possible, then we are precluded from offering any informative account of the origins of such experience. What makes mystical experience so compelling and startling is the fact that it presents something new, something dynamic, something that escapes and refuses all attempts to categorise and compartmentalise it. For this reason, the resulting fatalism of a purely equivocal perspective of mysticism must be rejected.
Katz has given good reason for us to reject a purely univocal perspective, but he fails to see that he himself falls prey to the full force of his own criticism. Perhaps the best way to show this would be to draw one final comparison between these two contending views -- of univocity and equivocity -- with the aid of two contemporary classification: namely, modernity and post-modernity (respectively).
In modernity, mysticism is a matter of quantification. In post-modernity, it is a matter of qualification. In either case, mystical experience -- in the relation of the other to the self -- becomes a matter of desensitisation. On the one hand, the modern view, marked by the opinion that science is capable of accounting for all of reality, distillates the meaning of mystical experience to an analysis of the desires of the individual. On the other hand, in post-modernity, marked by the dawning awareness or recognition that the methods of modernity fail to meet all the expectations that it asserts, i.e., a full accounting for the relevancy and meaningfulness of mystical experience, looks to the quality of the experience in question, in each and every individual occurrence, as a means of determining its inherent value. But in both respects, the sensitivity to the particular event at hand is lost.
In modernity, the individual particular mystical experience is accounted for through science as nothing more than another phenomenal self-projection of the expectations of the individual mystic. In post-modernity, the individual particular mystical experience is accounted for in terms of how well it is capable of contributing to the overall mystical tradition. Yet, the desensitised procedure of both of these approaches becomes nothing more than an accounting for mystical experience as if it were merely some event that could be analysed and charted, like some sort of natural phenomenon, without any concern for the intrinsic value of each particular mystical experience per se. There is no tradition of enquiry in the realm of mysticism. The mystical experience occurs, sweeping one off one's feet and projecting one into an otherness that escapes all enquiry.
Although it may be apparent that modernity, in its drive to a univocal understanding of mysticism, fails to recognise the particular experiences that come together to make up the community that comprises mysticism in the existential perspective--and thus, as such, modernity tends towards a desensitisation of the experience--it is not necessarily as apparent as to how post-modernity also results in a desensitisation of the experience. After all, one would expect that in the post-modern drive to equivocity the consideration of the quality of experience on the experiential level would also result in the sensitisation of the approach as well. However, by making the quality of experience of primary importance in the consideration of the experience, one is given the impression that there is some universally recognised means of determining the inherent value of experience in any given individual consideration of mysticism. So, where modernity strives towards a univocal understanding of mysticism, through a dialectical self-mediation of identity, post-modernity in its endeavour for the recognition of difference in the equivocal nature of mysticism in reality also inadvertently returns to a dialectical self-mediation of identity. Modernity, in its quantification of experience, attempts to universalise the value of experience through a general accounting, as if the dynamic of the mystical experience could possibly be reduced to a matter of statistics. Similarly, post-modernity, in its qualification of experience, attempts to universalise the value of experience through a general consideration of the presence or absence of a given set of attributes, as if the dynamic of the mystical experience could possibly be reduced to a set criteria of individual worth. The difficulty is that, whether one is considering the value of the experience from either the modern perspective or the post-modern perspective, the value standard used will never be completely comprehensive; and as such, it will always be ethnocentrically prejudiced, never totally inclusive. Katz is aware of this, and for that reason he presses for a more detached archaeological consideration of mysticism. Modernity desensitises the experience as a means of expediency in its drive to univocity, and post-modernity desensitises the experience by failing to recognise the particularity of its approach in its drive to equivocity, which as a result blindly returns to univocity. Yet, post-modernity can be seen as presenting perhaps an even greater danger of devaluating the inherent worth of mystical experiences than modernity in that at least modernity is conscious of its result, while post-modernity is not.
This desensitisation of mystical experience leads to a devaluation of mysticism, creating a vacuum of relevancy and respect for the experience as a dynamic vibrant experience with something particularly distinct and meaningful to contribute. Thus the question presents itself: What is the meaning of mystical experience? Perhaps the question should be reformulated to: What is the value of mystical experience? Or even better yet: Where is the value of mystical experience?
For some, experience might be quantified in economic terms; while for Katz, experience might be qualified in terms of tradition and heritage. Yet for both perspectives, the value is what establishes their respective identities. Thus, whether one takes a modernist approach to mysticism or a post-modernist approach, one thing that is clear is that the question of identity must play an important part. However, in modernity, identity is lost in the homogenisation of universality; and in post-modernity, the sense of community that the identity depends on for its presence of identity is lost in the disintegration of particularity. This is the mistake that Katz makes. Therefore, a wholeness must be established in which the identity of the experience is respected in its particularity, within the larger context of community. An intermediate position between universality and particularity -- in between modernity and post-modernity -- must be located as the foundation for any experiential consideration of mysticism. An in-between position that incorporates in-between position the all encompassing universality of modernity, and yet respects the recalcitrant difference within community. Such an intermediate position would encompass the universality of modernity, and yet respect the recalcitrant difference within community. A movement must be made from a closed form of self-mediation to a more open form of intermediation. Katz's weakness is his failure to move beyond the recognition of the recalcitrance of the community of others and settling for a fatalism in relation to mysticism. Let us not settle for this position of resignation, but instead strive for an understanding of mysticism that is both dynamic and comprehensive. Only then can we hope to derive any cognitive value of religion from mysticism, without which religion becomes merely a panacea for the fears of humanity.
1. It should be noted that the dialectic referred to here does not refer to a dialectic between different religions, but rather it is a reference to the ongoing dialectical process within an individual religion. Thus, although Katz is here referring to a dialectical process, his overall view remains equivocal.
2. Nirvana as defined in Buddhism is seen as the pinnacle of fulfilment, where the individual subjective spirit is absorbed into the more universal absolute spirit, where all passions and desires are overcome. This definition of nirvana is in complete contradiction from the definition of nirvana given by Katz, where he asserts that nirvana rules out the continued existence of "one grand Being." (See LEM, 39.)
Mail to: Daniel J. Goodey,
Higher Institute of Philosophy,
Catholic University of Louvain,
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