Mysticism, nature of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K051-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved March 25, 2019, from

References and further reading

  • Alston, W.P. (1991) Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    (Sustained defence of the contribution of religious experience to the grounds for belief in God. Contains valuable discussion of many epistemological issues and the possibility of ‘mystical perceptions of God’.)

  • Bouyer, L. (1980) ‘Mysticism/An Essay on the History of the Word’, in R. Woods (ed.) Understanding Mysticism, Garden City, NY: Image Books.

    (Outlines evolution of the term ‘mystical’ from Greek origins through patristic era. Translation of 1952 article from La Vie Spirituelle.)

  • Certeau, M. de (1992) The Mystic Fable, vol. 1: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    (Difficult but rewarding discussion of the term ‘la mystique’ and the fundamental change it represents in the Western approach to the sacred. Incorporates semiotics, linguistics and psychoanalytic theory.)

  • Coward, H. and Penelhum, T. (1977) Mystics and Scholars: The Calgary Conference on Mysticism 1976, Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

    (Contains useful articles by John Hick, Walter Principe, Terence Penelhum and others.)

  • Davis, C.F. (1989) The Evidential Force of Religious Experience, Oxford: Clarendon.

    (Treats mysticism in the context of religious experience, as part of a cumulative case for theism. Discusses many issues raised in this article.)

  • Dupré, L. (1976) Transcendent Selfhood: The Rediscovery of the Inner Life, New York: Seabury.

    (Valuable discussion in chapter 8 of mysticism’s contributions regarding the nature of the self. Revision of longer article reprinted in Woods (1980).)

  • Flew, A. (1966) God and Philosophy, New York: Delta Books.

    (Chapter 6 is a sustained attack on arguments from religious experience, raising the issues of testability and agreement.)

  • Forman, R.K.C. (1990) The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy, New York: Oxford University Press.

    (The contributors criticize Katz’s ‘constructivism’ and argue for new models of mystical experience. Authors defend the possibility and actual occurrence of ‘pure consciousness events’.)

  • Gale, R.M. (1991) On the Nature and Existence of God, New York: Cambridge University Press.

    (Chapter 8 challenges religious experience arguments, with a long critique of Alston and Wainwright on the analogy between religious and sensory experience.)

  • Hepburn, R.W. (1967a) ‘Religious Experience, Argument for the Existence of God’, in P. Edwards (ed.) Encyclopedia of Philosophy, New York: Macmillan, vol. 7.

    (Deals with issues of testability, agreement, natural explanations, and so on.)

  • Hepburn, R.W. (1967b) ‘Mysticism, Nature and Assessment of’, in P. Edwards (ed.) Encyclopedia of Philosophy, New York: Macmillan, vol. 5.

    (Discusses conflicts of interpretation, mystical paradoxes, and so on. Sympathetic towards mysticism as a valuable human phenomenon, but agnostic concerning its religious implications.)

  • Hügel, F. von (1908) The Mystical Element of Religion as Studied in Saint Catherine of Genoa and her Friends, London: James Clarke & J.M. Dent, 2 vols, 1961.

    (Unusual mixture of biography, theology and philosophy. Difficult and not entirely successful, but rewarding.)

  • Inge, W.R. (1899) Christian Mysticism, London: Methuen.

    (Classic early survey with famous appendix listing twenty-six definitions of ‘mysticism’ and ‘mystical theology’. Marred by the author’s biases.)

  • James, W. (1902) The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, New York: Modern Library, 1936.

    (Lectures 16 and 17 treat the characteristics and significance of mystical states, with a wealth of examples. Enormously influential.)

  • Katz, S.T. (1978) Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, New York: Oxford University Press.

    (Important articles by Katz, Peter Moore and others criticizing the view that mysticism is ‘everywhere the same’, and stressing the role of mystics’ beliefs and expectations in shaping the very quality of their experience.)

  • Katz, S.T. (1983) Mysticism and Religious Traditions, New York: Oxford University Press.

    (Contributors further explore themes from the preceding anthology, arguing that mysticism can only be understood in the context of the particular religious and cultural traditions within which it occurs.)

  • Maréchal, J. (1926, 1937) Studies in the Psychology of the Mystics, trans. A. Thorold, Albany, NY: Magi Books, 1964.

    (Difficult but rewarding analysis of epistemological preconditions for mystical intuition of God, by a precursor of transcendental Thomism. This is a partial translation of the two-volume French edition.)

  • Maritain, J. (1944) ‘The Natural Mystical Experience and the Void’, in Redeeming the Time, London: Geoffrey Bles Centenary Press.

    (Goes beyond the following work in allowing the possibility of natural mystical experiences, associated primarily with certain Asian religions.)

  • Maritain, J. (1959) Distinguish to Unite, or The Degrees of Knowledge, trans. G.B. Phelan, New York, Scribner, 4th edn.

    (Magisterial study by a pre-eminent Neo-Thomist which presents mystical knowledge as the summit and goal of all knowing.)

  • Martin, C.B. (1959) Religious Belief, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    (Chapter 5, ‘Seeing God’, is an influential and often reprinted critique of religious experience as a ‘way of knowing’, on the grounds that appropriate tests are lacking. An earlier version appeared in Mind in 1952.)

  • McGinn, B. (1991) The Presence of God, A History of Western Christian Mysticism, vol. 1: The Foundations of Mysticism: Origins to the Fifth Century, New York: Crossroad.

    (The first in a projected four-volume history, this contains a long and valuable appendix on theological, philosophical, comparativist and psychological approaches to mysticism.)

  • Murphy, M. and Donovan, S. (1988) The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation, San Rafael, CA: Esalen Institute.

    (As the subtitle indicates, this is ‘a review of contemporary meditation research with a comprehensive bibliography, 1931–1988’. Useful overview of recent scientific studies, focusing mainly on Transcendental Meditation, but with some attention to mystical experience.)

  • Otto, R. (1958) The Idea of the Holy, New York: Oxford University Press.

    (Classic attempt to root religion in a prerational feeling of the ‘numinous’. Includes a discussion of mysticism.)

  • Otto, R. (1970) Mysticism East and West, New York: Macmillan.

    (Problematic but important comparison of Śaṅkara and Eckhart.)

  • Pike, N. (1992) Mystic Union: An Essay in the Phenomenology of Mysticism, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    (‘Phenomenography’ of successive states of infused contemplation as described by Christian mystics, and analysis of their philosophical implications.)

  • Proudfoot, W. (1985) Religious Experience, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    (Chapter 4 argues controversially that ‘ineffability’ and ‘noetic quality’ are not simply qualities of the mystic experience, but ‘conceptual constraints on what experiences are identified as mystical’.)

  • Rahner, K. (1983) The Practice of Faith: A Handbook of Contemporary Spirituality, New York: Crossroad.

    (Sections 13 and 14 briefly outline some of Rahner’s views on mystical theology and ‘everyday mysticism’.)

  • Smart, N. (1965) ‘Interpretation and Mystical Experience’, Religious Studies 1: 75–87.

    (An attempt to define the scope of mysticism.)

  • Stace, W.T. (1960a) Mysticism and Philosophy, London: Macmillan.

    (This classic defence of the ‘common core’ hypothesis and other controversial claims has set the agenda for most subsequent philosophical discussions.)

  • Stace, W.T. (1960b) The Teachings of the Mystics, New York: New American Library.

    (Companion anthology to the preceding work.)

  • Swinburne, R. (1979) The Existence of God, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    (Chapter 13 invokes the ‘principle of credulity’ in defending the argument from religious experience.)

  • Thompson, W.M. (1987) Fire and Light: The Saints and Theology, New York: Paulist Press.

    (An essay ‘on consulting the saints, mystics, and martyrs in theology’, with a useful review of how contemporary theologians are incorporating the contributions of Christian mystics.)

  • Underhill, E. (1965) Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness, Cleveland, OH, and New York: World, 12th edn.

    (Classic popular introduction to mysticism and the stages of the mystical journey, focusing primarily on Christian mystics.)

  • Wainwright, W. J. (1978) Philosophy of Religion: An Annotated Bibliography of Twentieth Century Writings in English, New York: Garland.

    (Pages 367–438 offer concise and perceptive evaluations of over 200 works on mysticism and religious experience.)

  • Wainwright, W. J. (1981) Mysticism: A Study of its Nature, Cognitive Value and Moral Implications, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

    (Dense, masterly discussion of many issues raised in the present entry.)

  • White, J. (1972) The Highest State of Consciousness, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co.

    (Uneven but useful anthology of psychological essays on transcendent states of awareness, including mystical consciousness.)

  • Woods, R. (1980) Understanding Mysticism, Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

    (Perhaps the best and most comprehensive anthology of notable articles on the nature of mysticism, its various forms in world religions, and its scientific, philosophical and theological appraisal.)

  • Yandell, K.E. (1993) The Epistemology of Religious Experience, New York: Cambridge University Press.

    (General defence of evidential force of religious experience, with discussion of ineffability and other topics.)

  • Zaehner, R.C. (1961) Mysticism: Sacred and Profane: An Inquiry into Some Varieties of Preternatural Experience, New York: Oxford University Press.

    (Influential study, sharply distinguishing three fundamental types of mysticism: panenhenic, monistic and theistic.)

  • Zaehner, R.C. (1970) Concordant Discord, Oxford: Clarendon.

    (Author’s Gifford Lectures, containing further discussion of issues raised in Zaehner 1961.)

Citing this article:
Payne, Steven. Bibliography. Mysticism, nature of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K051-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2019 Routledge.

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