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Mysticism
MYSTICISM (from Or. jsiietv, to shut the eyes; j-i~orqc, ora initiated into the mysteries), a phase of thought, or rather perhaps of feeling, which from its very nature is hardly suscep tible of exact definition. It appears in connection with thi endeavour of the human mind to grasp the divine essence o; the ultimate reality of things, and to enjoy the blessedness o actual communion with the Highest. The first is the philosophi~ side of mysticism; the second, its religious side. The first effor is theoretical or speculative; the second, practical. Thr thought that is most intensely present with the mystic is tha Farnell. cults, iii. 299302.

2 See Arch1v fr Relsgfonswlss. (1906), article by Salomon Reinach of a supreme, all-pervading, and indwelling power, in whom all things are one. Hence the speculative utterances of mysticism are always more or less pantheistic in character. On the practical side, mysticism maintains the possibility of direct intercourse with this Being of beingsintercourse, not through any external media such as an historical revelation, oracles, answers to prayer, and the like, but by a species of ecstatic transfusion or identification, in which the individual becomes in very truth partaker of the divine nature. God ceases to be an object to him and becomes an experience. In the writings of the mystics, ingenuity exhausts itself in. the invention of phrases to express the closeness of this union. lVlysticism differs, therefore, from ordinary pantheism in that its inmost motive is religious; but, whereas religion is ordinarily occupied with a practical problem and develops its theory in an ethical reference, mysticism displays a predominatingly speculative bent, starting from the divine nature rather than from man and his surroundings, taking the symbolism of religious feeling as literally or metaphysically true, and straining after the present realization of an ineffable union. The union which sound religious teaching represents as realized in the submission of the will and the ethical harmony of the whole life is then reduced to a passive experience, to something which comes and goes in time, and which may be of only momentary duration. Mysticism, it will be seen, is not a name applicable to any particular system. It may be the outgrowth of many differing modes of thought and feeling. Most frequently it appears historically, in relation to some definite system of belief, as a reaction of the spirit against the letter. When a religion begins to ossify into a system of formulas anc~ observances, those who protest in the name of heart-religion are not unfrequently known by the name of mystics. At times they merely bring into prominence again the ever-fresh fact of personal religious experience; at other times mysticism develops itself as a powerful solvent of definite dogmas.

A review of the historical appearances of mysticism will serve to show how far the above characteristics are to be found, separately or in combination, in its different phases.

In the East, mysticism is not so much a specific phenomenon as a natural deduction from the dominant philosophic systems, and the normal expression of religious feeling in the lands in which it appears. Brahmanic pantheism ~ and Buddhistic nihilism alike teach the unreality of the seeming world, and preach mystical absorption as thf highest goal; in both, the sense of the worth of human person. ality is lost. India consequently has always been the lertik mother of practical mystics and devotees. The climate itsehl encourages to passivity, and the very luxuriance of vegetabk and animal life tends to blunt the feeling of the value of life, Silent contemplation and the total deadening of consciousnesr by perseverance for years in unnatural attitudes are among thi commonest forms assumed by this mystical asceticism. Bul the most revolting methods of self-torture and self-destructior are also practised as a means of rising in sanctity. Tb sense of sin can hardly be said to enter into these exercisestha is, they are not undertaken as penance for personal transgression They are a despite done to the principle of individual or separati existence.

The so-called mysticism of the Persian Sufis is less intense am practical, more airy and literary in character. Sufism (q.v.~ appears in the 9th century among the Maho1nmedans of Persia as a kind of reaction against the rigid monotheism and formalisn of Islam. It is doubtless to be regarded as a revival of ancien habits of thought and feeling among a people who had adopte the Koran, not by affinity, but by compulsion. Persian literatur after that daie, and especially Persian poetry, is full of an arden natural pantheism, in which a mystic apprehension of the unit:

and divinity of a]l things heightens the delight in natural an in human beauty. Such is the poetry of Hafiz and Saadi whose verses are chiefly devoted to the praises of wine ani women. Even the most licentious of these have been fitte by Mahommedan theologians with a mystical interpretatioil The delights of love are made to stand for the raptures of union with the divine, the tavern symbolizes an oratory, and intoxication is the bewilderment of sense before the surpassing vision. Very often, if not most frequently, it cannot be doubted that the occult religious significance depends on an artificial exegesis; but there are also poems of Hafiz, Saadi, and other writers, religious in their first intentions. These are unequivocally pantheistic in tone, and the desire of the sdul to escape and rest with God is expressed with all the fervour of Eastern poetry. This speculative mood, in which nature and beauty and earthly satisfaction appear as a vain show, is the counterpart of the former mood of sensuous enjoyment.

For opposite reasons, neither the Greek nor the Jewish mind lent itself readily to mysticism: the Greek, because of its clear and sunny naturalism; the Jewish, because of its rigid monotheism and its turn towards worldly realism and statutory observance. It is only with the exhaustion of Greek and Jewish civilization that mysticism becomes a prominent factor in Western thought. It appears, therefore, contemporaneously with Christianity, and is a sign of the world-weariness and deep religious need that mark the decay of the old world. Whereas Platos main problem had been the organization of tbe perfect state, and Aristotles intellect had ranged with fresh interest over all departments of the knowable, political speculation had become a mockery with the extinction of free political life, and knowledge as such had lost it~ freshness for the Greeks of the Roman Empire. Knowledge is nothing to these men if it does not show them the infinite reality which is able to fill the aching void within. Accordingly, the last age of Greek philosophy is theosophical in character, and its ultimate end is a practical satisfaction. Neoplatonism seeks this in the ecstatic intuition. of the ineffable One. The systematic theosophy of Plotinus and his successors does not belong to the present article, except so far as it is the presupposition of their mysticism; but, inasmuch as the mysticism of the medieval Church is directly derived from Neoplatonism through the speculations of the pseuclo-Dionysius, Neoplatonic mysticism fills an important section in any historical review of the subject.

         

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