Re: MD Is the MoQ still in the Kantosphere?

From: Phaedrus Wolff (
Date: Wed Dec 22 2004 - 22:01:16 GMT

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    Chin earlier)If you have to ask what a mystic experience is, or you need
    someone to tell
    > you, then you have not had a mystic experience.

    Sam) - It's that last sentence which expresses what I disagree with so much.
    I believe that different
    people across all sorts of backgrounds, spiritualities, cultures,
    civilisations - all have had
    experiences which might be described as 'mystical', and I'm quite happy to
    say that there are family
    resemblances amongst them. What I cannot accept is that they are all
    expressions of the same thing -
    this is what I think is the 'common core' hypothesis, which I also call
    'Jamesian mysticism', or
    'essentialism'. I think that way of approaching things is entirely a product
    of Western rationalism,
    subject- object metaphysics, Modernism, Cartesianism, Kantianism - all that
    stuff which we're
    supposed to have thrown off.

    Chin) - There you go again trying to turn something I said into something
    James said. None of this has anything to do with a mystical experience IMHO.

    Sam) - So paradoxically enough, I'm wanting to argue *against* there being
    guidelines. When you say "There
    are none, and the path you take to a mystical experience has nothing to do
    with the experience, and
    the path does not matter, nor is the path necessary" it seems to me that a)
    you are putting
    boundaries around what can count as a legitimate mystical encounter, b)
    privileging the Western
    rationalist understanding of mysticism, and therefore c) denying my own
    experience of mysticism.

    Chin) - I said none of this, and I have not read anything about your
    mystical experience, so I cannot deny it, unless I read something into what
    you are saying. Then I would be the one trying to twist someone's words
    around to mean what I want to as opposed to what you actually said. I won't
    do that.

    Sam) - Because I *would* claim to have had 'a mystical experience' - I just
    drew completely different
    conclusions from it than the ones which the Jamesian tradition says that I
    should have done. I *was*
    a militant atheist, very much a fan of Jung and Joseph Campbell (and,
    implicitly, William James)
    etc, and afterwards I switched to taking Christianity seriously, and I've
    been pursuing that path
    ever since (about 15 years now, although it took me a good few years to
    reconcile myself to 'being a
    Christian'). I've slowly been unpacking what was given to me at that
    moment - as you put it so
    correctly, "A mystic experience will define your philosophy, as opposed to
    the other way around."

    So when you say "If you have to ask what a mystic experience is, or you need
    someone to tell you,
    then you have not had a mystic experience" I think this is a rhetorical
    strategy to privilege your
    (Jamesian) understanding of what mysticism must be, if it is to count as
    genuine mysticism - and
    that is PRECISELY to put boundaries and definitions around it, which -
    funnily enough - is exactly
    what you claim to be opposing. And DMB is right to pick up that I get
    resentful, for the logical
    implication of the position you are arguing for is that the experiences I
    have undergone, and all
    that I have learnt in my lifetime etc etc is of no worth compared to the
    Jamesian approach (it
    means, logically, that my experience was not a mystical experience, which
    makes the argument
    completely circular). Now if the Jamesian approach were manifestly more
    coherent, richer in
    spiritual insights, more encouraging of the moral and social transformation
    of our world, then I
    would accept that 'I am but an egg', and that I still have much further to
    go (which I think is true
    in any case). But I think the truth vis a vis mystical experience is exactly
    the opposite: that the
    Jamesian tradition is part of Western rationalism, that it is narrow,
    spiritually sterile,
    politically impotent, incoherent logically, demonstrably false in the claims
    it makes about
    Christianity, still captured within the Kantian metaphysical system, and
    generally a very long way
    from Quality. It claims to have a privileged position from which to assess
    religious or spiritual
    paths, so a Hindu guru or a Christian saint are not the authority on their
    own path; in contrast, an
    intellectually abstracting understanding from those paths gives a superior
    understanding to their
    insights. It is patronising, condescending and imperialistic, and it gives
    no respect to the lived
    experience of those who are actually trying to climb the spiritual mountain.

    Chin) - More of your ass-u-me-ing what I am saying has anything to do with
    what James says about mysticism. Please read these words. I DO NOT THINK

    Sam) - The point I keep trying to make about 'tradition' is not that there
    are rules that must be followed
    in order to gain an 'experience' - although that may be true - but that we
    need to take what the
    spiritual authorities say seriously, and that means NOT trying to shoehorn
    them into a metaphysical
    box designed in the West. It means we must allow the Buddha to be Buddha, we
    must allow Gandhi to be
    a Hindu, we must allow Meister Eckhart to be a Christian, and not just turn
    them into ingredients
    for the Western rationalist sausage machine, and so churn out standard
    'gurus' in bite-sized chunks.

    Chin) - This also has nothing to do with anything I have said.
    I stand by my words, as I mean everything I say in a straightforward way. If
    I feel the need for confirmation from someone else over my own thinking
    abilities, I will offer it. If I felt James was a mystic, then I would have
    stated I felt James was a mystic. I haven't.
    If you would like to discuss anything I say, I would be more than glad to
    discuss it, as I know I cannot know everything, and most likely very little
    of anything, but I do feel I have enough independent and critical thinking
    skills not to need to rely on a certain philosopher to tell me what to say.

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