Mysticism and Sense Perception: WILLIAM J. WAINWRIGHT

Religious Studies 9 (3):257-278 (1973)

In this paper I propose to examine the cognitive status of mystical experience. There are, I think, three distinct but overlapping sorts of religious experience. In the first place, there are two kinds of mystical experience. The extrovertive or nature mystic identifies himself with a world which is both transfigured and one. The introvertive mystic withdraws from the world and, after stripping the mind of concepts and images, experiences union with something which can be described as an undifferentiated unity. Introvertive mysticism is a more important phenomenon than extrovertive mysticism. Numinous experiences are complex experiences involving dread, awe, wonder, and fascination. One finds oneself confronted with something which is radically unlike ordinary objects. Before its overwhelming majesty and power, one is nothing but dust and ashes. In contrasting oneself with its uncanny beauty and goodness, one experiences one's own uncleanness and ugliness. The experiences bound up with the devotional life of the ordinary believer are also religious in character. Nevertheless these more ordinary experiences should, I think, be distinguished both from numinous experiences and from mystical experiences, for they do not appear to involve the sense of immediate presence which characterises the latter
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DOI 10.1017/S0034412500006776
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