Philosophy of Mysticism

Raids on the Ineffable

By Richard H. Jones

Subjects: Religion, Philosophy, Mysticism, Comparative Religion, Philosophy Of Religion
Paperback : 9781438461182, 438 pages, January 2017
Hardcover : 9781438461199, 438 pages, May 2016

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Table of contents

Postmodernist Concerns
Methodological Issues
The Analytical Philosophical Approach

1. Mysticism and Mystical Experiences
Mystical Experiences
Mystical Paths
Extrovertive Mystical Experiences
Introvertive Mystical Experiences
Depth-Mystical Experiences
Mystical Enlightenment
A Typology of Mystical Experiences
Weighting Mystical Experiences

2. Mystical Knowledge and Religious Ways of Life
Experience and Knowledge
Are There Genuine Mystical Experiences?
Attribution Theory
The Depth-Mystical Experience and Its Conceptualizations
Mystical Experiences and Mystical Ways of Life
Constructivism and the Depth-Mystical Experience
Can the Constructivism Dispute be Resolved?
The Possibility of Mystical Insight

3. Are Mystical Experiences Cognitive?
Can Nonmystics Judge the Veridicality of Mystical Experiences?
What Can Mystics Claim to Know?
Mysticism and Empiricism
The Principle of Credulity
The Analogy to Sense-Perception
Problems of Justifying Specific Doctrinal Claims
The Limitation of Any Mystical Claim to Knowledge
Can Mystical Knowledge-Claims Be Compared?
Do Mystical Knowledge-Claims Genuinely Conflict?
Can One Mystical System Be Established as Best?
Is It Rational to Accept Mystical Knowledge-Claims?
“Properly Basic Beliefs”
Ultimate Decisions

4. The Scientific Study of Mystics and Meditators
Scientific Study Versus Mystical Practices
Are New Theories of the Mind Needed?
Can Mystical Experiences Be Studied Scientifically?
Scientific Explanations of Mystical Experiences
Sociocultural Explanations of Mystical Experiences
Explaining Away Mystical Experiences
Problems with Sociocultural Explanations
Problems with Physiological Explanations
Do Natural Triggers Produce Mystical Experiences?
Natural Phenomena and Mystical Insights
The Compatibility Problem
Applying Occam’s Razor
Our Epistemic Situation
Is Naturalism or a Transcendent Alternative More Plausible?
The Neutrality of Science

5. Mysticism and Metaphysics
Mystical Metaphysics
The Status of the World
The Nature of Transcendent Realities
The Self
The Question of Mystical Union
Mysticism and the Closure of Mystery

6. Mysticism and Language
The Mirror Theory of Language
And Yet Mystics Continue to Talk
An Analogy
Positive Characterizations of Transcendent Realities
Mystical Utterances and Knowledge
Defending Mystical Discourse

7. Mysticism and Rationality
Rationality and Styles of Reasoning
Resolving Paradoxes
Understanding the Paradoxical
Nagarjuna’s Reasoning
Mysticism and the Question of Universal Reason

8. Mysticism and Science
Scientific and Mystical Approaches to Reality
An Analogy
Beingness and Science
Mystical Experience Versus Scientific Measurement and Theorizing
Indirect Avenues of Aid
Science, Mysticism, and the Natural World
The Difference in Content
Science and Mystical Metaphysics
Reconciling Mysticism and Science

9. Mysticism and Morality
The Basic Question of Compatibility
Are Mystics Necessarily Moral?
Mystical Selflessness and the Presuppositions of Morality
Emotions, Values, and Beliefs
“You Are That”
A Metaphysics of Wholeness and Morality
Factual Beliefs, Values, and Mystical Experiences
“Beyond Good and Evil”
Will Any Actions Do?
Mystical Decision-Making
Mystical Selflessness and Morality

Epilogue: The Demise of Mysticism Today
The Antimystical Climate Today
Accepting Mysticism Today
A Mystical Revolution?
A Thirst for Transcendence

References and Further Reading

A comprehensive exploration of the philosophical issues raised by mysticism.


This work is a comprehensive study of the philosophical issues raised by mysticism. Mystics claim to experience reality in a way not available in normal life, a claim which makes this phenomenon interesting from a philosophical perspective. Richard H. Jones's inquiry focuses on the skeleton of beliefs and values of mysticism: knowledge claims made about the nature of reality and of human beings; value claims about what is significant and what is ethical; and mystical goals and ways of life. Jones engages language, epistemology, metaphysics, science, and the philosophy of mind. Methodological issues in the study of mysticism are also addressed. Examples of mystical experience are drawn chiefly from Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta, but also from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Daoism.

Richard H. Jones is the author of several books, including Mysticism Examined: Philosophical Inquiries into Mysticism, also published by SUNY Press.


"…this book presents an interesting overview of the philosophical issues concerning mysticism, and is an important contribution to the philosophy of mysticism. " — H-Net Reviews (H-Judiac)

". ..superb … one of the very best books out on the philosophy of mysticism. " — Reading Religion

"This is a significant extension of the seminal work by Walter Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy. That work has stimulated much literature, all of which Jones manages to review here. He critically extends Stace's universal core and embeds it in a sophisticated discussion of the extent, range, and metaphysical implications of mysticism. " — Ralph W. Hood, Jr. , coauthor of The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach