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W.T. STACE MYSTICISM AND PHILOSOPHY         page created: 02 04 10

Note: My maya-gaia website is a chronicle of my passing all considered opinion through the lens
of my Nirvikalpa Samadhi with both an open-mind and healthy skepticism.

The following are excerpts in order from Chapter 7 of Mysticism and Philosophy by W.T. Stace's - Extended preview of book available online from Wudhi Mysticism.
(I want to express my gratitude for his making Stace's illuminating resource easily accessible as Google Books has no preview.)

Chapter 7: Mysticism and Immortality

[p 307]

The physiological evidence against the survival of consciousness after death is very strong. Consciousness, in all known cases, exists only in connection with a body and a nervous system. Moreover it varies with the variations of the nervous system and the growth and condition of the body. To say this in no way involves us in any sort of materialism. It is not inconsistent with the view of dualism that consciousness is nonphysical. For even if this is so, the correlation between the physical and the nonphysical is more or less complete.

(Follows a presentation of a questions pertaining to the various kinds and conditions that define human/non human consciousness- infantile, robust middle age, senile or demented and in regards to what point in our evolution did an immortal soul arise?)

In the Upanishads there are frequent passages to the effect that he who reaches the Brahmic consciousness has attained to immortality. No doubt the experience which supported this statement was the "sense of immortality" of which Bucke speaks. "He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman," says the Mundaka Upanishad. "He passes beyond all sorrow. . . . Freed from the fetters of ignorance he becomes immortal."

(Follows a comparison of the soul as conceived in the non dual tradition to those in the prophetic religions where a personality survives and the fact that soul returns with personality after a unity mystical experience with references to Bucke, Eckhart.)

The evaluation of the memory evidence [of past lives] falls outside our enquiry, which is limited to the question whether mystical experience itself throws any light on reincarnation. We conclude that it does not.

Granted that mysticism yields no evidence of survival, we may still ask whether, if for any other reason we suppose that survival is a fact, mysticism could throw any light on the nature of the life after death.

...there exists a most interesting and characteristic divergence of opinion between the East and the West about this matter.

(follows speculations comparing religious concepts of the soul as separate individual to the Hindu tradition of it becoming absorbed in the life of the Infinite Being [Brahman] with particular focus on the metaphor for the soul's dissolution into unity "like a dewdrop sliding into the sea".)

[p 313]

The same loss of individuality, accompanied by beatitude rather than annihilation, is reported by mystics from all over the world, in the Upanishads, by the mystics of lslam, and by the Christian mystics.

It so happens that the dilemma "either after death I must continue to exist as an individual or I must cease to exist altogether and suffer extinction" was posed, according to the Pali canon, to the Buddha himself, and his reply is recorded. I have reported on the passage more fully on an earlier page. I will here merely recall its essential features to the reader's mind. The wandering ascetic Vaccha enquires from the Buddha whether he holds that the saint "exists after death" or "does not exist after death:' The Buddha replies that he does not hold either view, and that any such language "does not fit the case."

The reason why it does not fit the case is plainly that Vaccha's question attempts, with its "either-or" dilemma, to apply the laws of logic - in this case the law of excluded middle - to a mystical state of mind. For nirvana is simply the introvertive mystical experience, the "unitary consciousness" of the Mandukya Upanishad, carried to its highest possible level. The Buddha also tells Vaccha that the doctrine of nirvana is "not to be reached by mere reasoning" - which is the usual assertion that mystical experience is "beyond reason" or "beyond the understanding." He says further that it is "intelligible only to the wise" - and in this context "the wise" means the mystically enlightened man, not the intellectually or practically wise man. The upshot is that this passage powerfully reinforces our view of the essentially paradoxical character of all mystical ideas, and supports the opinion that the laws of logic do not apply to mystical experience.

If our study of mysticism has not been in vain we shall have to admit that it points to the conception of the future life as a loss of separate individuality while at the same time the "l" is not annihilated but enjoys an ultimate peace.

It is surely remarkable that [Eckart's] views have been the subject of a full-length comparison with those of the Vedantist Sankara in a book by Rudolf Otto and of another full-length comparison with Buddhist beliefs by Suzuki. It was of course precisely his leaning towards Oriental pantheistic conceptions which got him into trouble with the ecclesiastical authorities.

(Follows a philosophical perspective about the contrast between Western concepts that has individuality persisting in the surviving soul and the Eastern soul that has personality [ego] annihilated in absolute unity with the Infinite. The effect the former paradigm that result in the greater aggressiveness and self-assertiveness of the Western cultural, social and political imperatives.)

Such an argument between East and West is profitless. But perhaps it shows at least that an attempt to condemn the Indian theory of immortality by carrying over the Western concept of the infinite value of the individual from the political to the religious sphere is without merit.




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