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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 8 of Mysticism and Philosophy by W.T. Stace's - Full text 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 8: Mysticism, Ethics and Religion

(mg commentary: I am moved to first inject my perspective on this chapter about what morals or ethics the mystical experience imbues due to the unique nature of my own results. I felt none of the altruism and outflowing love for humanity porported in legendary "awakening" but instead was imbued with an imperative exclusively dedicated to defending a non-human Nature I perceived as sacred. This actually provoked a further alienation from compassion for mankind's welfare- to the extent I viewed humankind as Earth's cancer- with the only cure being universal adoption of population control and radical environmental preservation policies. In addition- the fact that my Nirvikalpa Samadhi was triggered by a sexual union, only encouraged my hedonist-promiscuous lifestyle- hardly the model for a spiritualy evolved being. In short- although love was a component in the light and bliss of non dual unity, none of its quality persisted other than that which I projected onto Gaia as manifest of phenomenal reality and to transcendent spirit I have since integrated into Brahman.)

[p 323]

Section 1. The Mystical Theory of Ethics

There are two problems to be discussed in treating of the reIation between mysticism and morality. The first concerns the main problem of philosophical ethics, namely, the question, What is the source of ethical rights and duties?

[p 324]

The second problem which we shall find ourselves called upon to discuss is not properly philosophical at all. It is perhaps historical or sociological. It raises the question of the actual influence which mysticism tends to have, or actually has had, on the living of the good life. Does it make men more moral or less, more active in giving loving assistance to their fellow men or less? Does it tend to operate as an incentive to nobler living, or does it not rather serve mainly as an escape hatch from the responsibilities of life?

Though this question is not in the strict sense a philosophical one, yet it cannot be ignored if we are to estimate the value of mysticism as an element in human culture. And it has at least an indirect bearing upon the answer which we may give to our first question - that of the source of ethical value. For we could hardly accept the claim that mysticism is the source of ethics if we should find that in practice its influence on human life is unethical.

[p 329]

However fantastic these ideas may seem to the reader, the mystical theory of ethics is logically forced into the position of maintaining that all love (though not necessarily other kinds of appetition), whether in men or animals, arises out of mystical experience either explicit or latent. The mystical theory can thus only maintain itself by supposing that mystical experience is latent in all living beings, but that in most men and in all animals it is profoundly submerged in the subconcious and that it throws up influences above the threshold in the form of feelings of sympathy and love.

Since no reason, evidence, or argument has so far been given for believing what will seem to be wild suggestions, let us now consider whether there is any good reason for supposing that the mystical consciousness must be potential in all beings. First of all, I shall try to show that this has been, either openly or implicitly, the common belief of all mystics. And secondly, I shall show that there are good theoretical grounds which will support the belief. We may begin by glancing briefly at Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist sources. What we call the mystical consciousness is the same as what in Mahayana Buddhism is called by various names, such as the Buddha-nature, Mind-Essence, the womb of the Tathagata, and so on.

[p 330]

...Buddhist theory carries [the theory of "pure essence of mind"] to its logical condusion with a rigorous consistency which does not exclude the animal mind. For that which is the essence of consciousness will be essential to any consciousness whatever, animal or human. The cat too has the Buddha-nature in it. For the Buddha-nature is nothing but that pure undifferentiated unity which, beyond all multiplicity, is the essence of the introvertive type of mystical consciousness wherever found.

In Hindu thought the doctrine that the mystical consciousness is potential in all of us appears in the central theme of the Upanishads, namely, that the individual self is identical with the Universal Self. It is not that in the enlightenment experience we become identical with Brahman. We are now, and always have been, identical with Brahman.

Can we trace any such thought in Christian mysticism? If I am not mistaken, we can recognize it quite clearly in Eckhart's theory of the "apex of the soul." The apex, which Eckhart also calls the "core" or "essence" of the soul, and the "divine spark," is not the possession of mystics only, but of all men. It is identical with the Mind-Essence or Buddha-nature of the Mahayana [except for its inclusion of animals].

[p 331]

But what our discussion up to this point has not shown - and what we have seen to be necessary for the theory - is that mystical consciousness is the only possible source: in short, that there could exist no love in the universe which could arise from any other source.

Section 2: Mysticism and the Good Life in Practice

[Here we approach] the historical or sociological question of what influence mysticism has actually had an the living of the good life. Has it in fact tended to make men better?

[p 334]

Perhaps the commonest moral accusation against mysticism is that it functions in practice merely as an escape from the active duties of life into an emotional ecstasy of bliss which is then selfishly enjoyed for its own sake. From this point of view, mystical experience is sought only because of the feelings of peace, blessedness, and joy which it brings. The mystic wallows as in a bath of delicious emotions. This is a mere flight from life and from the urgent work of the world.

The Western critic commonly holds that Christian mystics have generally been devoted to seeking unselfishly the welfare of others while Indian mystics have not...[resulting in] the historical fact that Indian civilization, until it came under the influence of the West, stagnated, and that the ideal of the alleviation of misery through social reform did not take root in the Indian mind.

But Buddha taught that...suffering is a consequence of man's separateness from other men (finitude) and therefore cannot be got rid of by finite beings. The only way is to get rid of finitude by the expansion of the personality until it coincides with the Infinite. On the whole, the Indian mind has agreed with the Buddha and hence in the past has put little faith in schemes of social reform.

But our original question was, Has mysticism actually tended to make men better or not? And it may be objected that we have defended only the ideal of mysticism, but not answered the question about its actual historical results. But this seems to me to be a question which it is almost useless to try to answer. Consider the parallel question whether religion - in so far as it is distinct from mysticism - has done good in the world or not, or more good than harm.

[p 341]

I can only point to the fact that in its essence mysticism contains the love which is the ultimate motivation of all good deeds, that its tendency must therefore presumably be towards the good - however much this ideal tendency may be smirched by the evils and weaknesses and follies of human nature.

Section 3: Mysticism and Religion

The essential facts regarding the relations between mysticism and religion, as they have emerged during the course of this enquiry, may be briefly summarized here.

It has been a common assumption of writers on the subject that mysticism is a religious phenemenon. Having Western religions, especially Christianity, always in their minds, they may even simply define the mystical consciousness as "union with God." According to our view, the essence of the introvertive experience is the undifferentiated unity, and "union with God" is only one possible interpretation of it, which should not therefore be given as its definition. The same experience can be interpreted nontheistically as in Buddhism.

(Follows the perspective that mysticism can involve feelings of the holy, the divine, the noble or the sacred -that which a person feels to be capable of being profaned- and therefore rightfully be deemed "religious" without subscribing to a creed.)

Instead of asking whether mysticism is essentially religious, the converse question may be raised whether all religion is essentially mystical. It can reasonably be answered that Buddhism and the higher forms of Hinduism are essentially mystical because the enlightenment experience is their source and centre. But as Professor E. A. Burtt has noted, mysticism, which is a major component in Indian religions, is only a minor strand in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

The general conclusion regarding the relations between mysticism on the one hand and the area of organized religions (Christian, Buddhist, etc.) on the other is that mysticisrn is independent of all of them in the sense that it can exist without any of them.




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