A Paper IX
Definition of 'mysticism'
I said I would attempt a definition of the word "mystic" and its cognates. That I am doing so does not in any way change my opinion that we should stop using these words. But if, God forbid, I were forced to define the words mystic, mystical and mysticism, mystic would simply be someone who has committed to re-centering their life in the deep mind, no matter what the cost; mystical would refer to beholding, when self-consciousness is effaced, and effects irrupt within beholding from the deep mind—which definition would exclude all interpretation, experience and phenomena, such as visions; and mysticism would refer to the effort, process and effects of living the absolute primacy of re-centering in the deep mind so that one's daily life is informed by continual beholding. To return to my earlier definition: mysticism is living the ordinary through transfigured perception.
I will now sum up so that we have of time for discussion.
One of the criteria for testing the reading of a text is how much fiddling and adjustment the reader has to do. If the text simply leaps off the page by itself without requiring a lot of mental gymnastics, then the reading is more likely correct than not. I have applied the model I have described in this paper to a number of disparate texts, from the Pre-socratics such as Empedocles and Heraclitus, through some of the so-called Neo-platonists, the bible, patristic and medieval texts. Where possible I have gone back to the original languages and have consulted experts when the original languages have been too difficult for me.
I am convinced that we have mis-read most of the texts in what is called the Western canon by applying a post-Cartesian method, which is confined to the merely linear, to texts that were written with two ways of knowing in mind. It isn't simply a matter of mistranslation, as I have already discussed; it's rather that all of our interpretations are called into question by this disparity between method and content.
The bad news, then, is that we need to go back and re-translate and re-interpret all of these texts through the lens of the two aspects of knowing. We need to be excruciatingly careful about the language we choose in discussion and translation. We need to revise our opinions about Plato and Aristotle; and about many of the texts we have dismissed as "gnostic". We need to revise our opinions about medieval writers. We need to look again at the way we talk about and classify different kinds of texts.
But there is good news, too. This work will keep humanities scholars busy for at least another hundred years.