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The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy Hardcover – March 29, 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0195059809 ISBN-10: 0195059808
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Editorial Reviews


"A useful contribution to the literature, and should help to foster an ongoing dialogue on the topic."--Philosophy East & West

"An important contribution that advances the discussion of a very fundamental issue in the comparative study of religions, this book is highly recommended for all libraries supporting religious studies, especially those responsive to the needs of course offerings on mysticism."--Religious Studies Review

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Robert K.C. Forman is Associate Professor of Religion at City University of New York's Hunter College, and author of six books and numerous articles on religion and religious experiences.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 29, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195059808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195059809
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,967,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Forty years of daily meditation practice led me to become professor of comparative religions, (CUNY), to found both the Forge Institute & The Journal of Consciousness Studies, and to a rethinking of the spiritual goal in our complex modern lives. That's why I wrote "Enlightenment Ain't What It's Cracked Up to Be: A Journey of Discovery, Snow and Jazz in the Soul". It answers the question, what if you spent years of your life seeking spiritual enlightenment, but were looking in the wrong place over a long time? It's happening right now to millions of seekers around the world.

Told in often poetic prose, it offers new direction for people looking for a sane and healthy spiritual pathway in our increasingly confusing world.

Here's a longer bio, if you're interested: My curiosity and confusion about my early spiritual experiences led me to a Ph.D in Comparative Religions (Columbia U), where I specialized in the nature of and philosophical issues around mystical experiences and the spiritual life. I used to be called, back in my academic days, "one of the leading voices in the academic debates on mysticism," I suppose because of my work in the international scholarly debate about mystical experiences, which came to be known as "The Katz-Forman debates." That was the work for which I was awarded quite a number of grants and recently an honorary doctorate from the beautiful Lund University, Sweden.

Before I resigned, I was a tenured professor of religions at Hunter College of the City University of New York and a professor at Vassar College, Union Theological Seminary and the New School for Social Research, where I often taught courses on mystical experiences and spiritual goals in every tradition. I hear that my books are still used in classes around the world. How cool is that?

But many of my insights about the spiritual path and goal came from my work as founder and Executive Director of the Forge Institute for Spirituality and Social Change, and the Forge Guild of Spiritual Mentors and Teachers, a non profit dedicated to helping people from any religion or spiritual path find the depths of soul together. If you're interested, take a look at www.GoDeeperTogether.org

I suppose you should know I also co-founded and became an executive editor of The Journal of Consciousness Studies , which has become the principle journal in the field of consciousness studies (no, please don't send your articles to me). And then there are the ten scholarly books on spirituality, mysticism, consciousness and world religions. You might be interested in Grassroots Spirituality: What It Is, Why It Is Here, Where It Is Going (Imprint Academic), which won the Bross Prize for the Best Manuscript in Religion, 2000; The Problem of Pure Consciousness (Oxford University Press); and a second from Oxford, The Innate Capacity. One of my favorite underappreciated books was Meister Eckhart: Mystic as Theologian (Element Books). For the academically inclined, you may like Mysticism, Mind Consciousness (SUNY Press).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Conway on July 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
A couple of decades ago, a backlash arose against the notion of a Perennial Philosophy/Psychology (Aldous Huxley, Ken Wilber, et al.) or Primordial Tradition (Frithjof Schuon, Huston Smith, et al.) in the study of mysticism by the so-called "constructivist" camp of scholars, led by Steven Katz and Robert Gimello. This camp can actually be classified within the entire postmodern "deconstructivist" wave of academics who today dominate the humanities and social sciences in general.

The postmodern constructivists/deconstructivists accuse perennialists of circular reasoning, naive hermeneutics, and unsound use of primary texts. This camp maintains that there are no cross-culturally shared features of mystical experience, no shared spiritual "core experience," but rather that each person's mystical experience is just his/her ordinary experience, not some true realization of God or Absolute Reality. Thus, mystical experiences are not at all veridical, they cannot point to any true spiritual "Reality" beyond themselves. Katz, et al., think that mystics' experiences are strongly colored by or actually caused and produced by a superimposition of their beliefs and conditioning upon arising experiences. All experience, in other words, is mediated by culture, language, and psycho-physiological factors. No experience is immediate.

In response to this attack, Robert Forman and the other fine contributing authors to this volume-- Daniel Matt (The Essential Kabbalah, The Zohar), Anthony Perovich, Philip Almond, Donald Rothberg, Mark Woodhouse (Paradigm Wars, A Preface to Philosophy), Paul Griffiths, Christopher Chapple, et al.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Problem of Pure Consciousness is essential reading for all students of mysticism. Mystics often report that they experience pure consciousness events, that is, events of consciousness wherein they think nothing, feel nothing and will nothing. The problem is that scholars of mysticism have denied that such events are possible. Scholars argue that all mental events, even mystical ones, are never "pure" -- but always show traces of the individual's intellectual and cultural heritage. By quoting from the great Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, Robert Forman shows that the pure consciousness event is quite clearly described. Other contributors discuss other examples of the pure consciousness event, from various religious traditions. Hats off to Robert Forman and his colleagues, for letting mystics, rather than just scholars of mysticism, speak for the realities of mystical experience!
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By Tiffany Medeiros on April 21, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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