Religious Studies 11 (3):283-291 (1975)
AbstractSince the late nineteenth century, studies of mysticism have presented us with two contrasting conclusions. The first is that mystics all over the world report basically the same experience, and the second is that there are great differences among the reports, and possibly among the experiences. On the positive side there are such works as Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy , with its claim that all mystics say that all beings are manifestations of a Divine Ground, that men learn of this by direct intuition, that men have two natures, one phenomenal and one eternal, and that identification with his eternal nature is the purpose of man. Walter Stace supports this view, in a modified way, with his observation that, while each mystic seems to advance a peculiar explanation of his experience, their statements collectively exhibit strong similarities. Mystics commonly report a consciousness of unity, carrying with it feelings of objectivity, blessedness, and holiness. They describe their experience in paradoxical language, and say that ultimately it is ineffable. These twentieth-century observations are repetitions of those of William James, so that this basic point has become a cliché, and, as R. C. Zaehner says, ‘We have been told ad nauseum that mysticism is the highest expression of religion and that it appears in all ages and in all places in a more or less identical form, often in a religious milieu that would seem to be the reverse of propitious.’
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