Mysticism: The transformation of a Love Consumed into Desire to a Love without Desire

Ethical Perspectives 7 (4):269 (2000)
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Philosophy as well as theology have always been keen to know which natural capacities of the conditio humana a religiously inspired life is connected with. What is it that makes man susceptible and sensitive to religion? In which natural source of power does religion find its fertile soil? Today this classic question is still of importance. To think about religion from this perspective may help prevent it becoming even more isolated from the totality of forms of life which may support and give an orientation to human existence. The formulation of the question presupposes, on the one hand, that religion is a continuation of interests and practices that may indeed actually be present in forms of existence that are not religiously coloured, and on the other hand that religion provides an enlargement as well as an orientation that these interests and practices, on which it builds, cannot themselves provide.Philosophy and natural theology have forwarded several candidates to serve the function of a natural link. According to some, reason is the most suitable candidate. Religion enlarges upon man's scientific curiosity and appeals to his love for truth. Religious belief is then interpreted as a version of believing that. To believe, in a religious sense, entails that the believer takes a minimum number of propositions concerning what is ultimately the case to be true, and he does so on the basis of rational arguments, which, no matter how much they are religiously coloured, are not fundamentally different from arguments that are equally valid in scientific discourse. Others, in line with biblical-exegetical elucidations of believing , prefer to link religious belief back to the basic attitude of trust of men in each other. To believe is then interpreted in terms of to believe and trust someone. The relation between belief as trust in God, and the events that may confirm as well as contradict this trust, that may support it as well as cause it to falter, must then be understood by analogy with what it means to trust one another in normal life.Wittgenstein and cultural anthropologists like Lévi-Strauss, Mauss and Malinowski connect religious practice to man's capacity to understand symbols and to set ritual actions that are sensitive to symbols. Finally, more existentially inclined approaches link religious belief to a basic feeling of dependency or to universally recognizable experiences involving notions such as receptivity, gratitude for gifts given for nothing, etc. Religion is thereby linked to, and at the same time enlarges the meaning of these experiences by relating notions such as gratitude, dependency and indebtedness to a receding horizon that soars above inner-worldly, merely human limits and is yet addressed personally as God



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