- Paperback: 349 pages
- Publisher: Jeremy P. Tarcher; First Paperback Edition edition (February 1, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0874774160
- ISBN-13: 978-0874774160
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.9 x 5.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,408,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mysticism and Philosophy Paperback – February 1, 1987
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In the past century, organised religion has undergone something of a decline in the West, leading for people to seek alternative forms of experiencing the transcendant besides organised religion. Many have turned to 'mysticism' in order to try and fill this need, and the increase in popularity in mysticism and thinkers like Meister Eckhart has been matched by a flurry of academic interest in mysticism.
Stace however critically looks at the claims of mystics from an analytical perspective in philosophy, suspending judgement on the truth or falsity of their claims. One of Stace's most interesting arguments is that mystical experience has more in common across various religions than the members of each religion would accept. To this end Stace quotes Ruysbroeck and Eckhart quite frequently, and compares there mystical experience with the writers of the Upanishads and Buddhist scriptures.
Stace also concludes though that mystical experience is essentially subjective (in common with William James) and by itself it doesn't give us objective knowledge about the essential nature of things, nor does it prove religious doctrines such as the immortality of the soul, but it does represent an appropriate expression of the human spirit in terms of its desire for transcendance and to the holy and beautiful in life.
While Stace has somewhat under-rated the complexity of mystical thought within Christianity and also other religions, and some of his ideas have been superseded by more up to date scholarship (such as Bernard McGinn's far more accurate study of Christian mysticism for example) for Philosophers of Religion this remains a useful text for exploring claims of religion which are based on so called mystical experience.
First and foremost, Stace makes little distinction between "experience" and "interpretation." From the philosophy of mind, thinkers who wrote a few decades after Stace, such as Levine (see "Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap"), Nagel (see "What is it Like to be a Bat?") and Jackson (see "Epiphenomenal Qualia") have presented powerful cases concerning the vast and potentially unbridgeable gap between experience and its interpretation. I won't reiterate Stace's position here, but ultimately we have to ask; "What is accomplished by defining the "universal core" of religious experience linguistically when there is such a disparity between experience and the theories we use to explain it?" Can this be casually overlooked especially considering the "ineffable" nature of the experience? I do not fault Stace for not mentioning this due to the era in which he wrote, but this is a critique that needs serious attention. Compounding this point is the fact that Stace has had no religious experience of his own making it all the more dubious that he could make that which is by definition beyond human understanding meaningful.Read more ›