Exploring Unseen Worlds is a critically sophisticated, yet gripping immersion into the inner worlds of one of America's foremost thinkers. It demonstrates convincingly the extent to which James's psychological and philosophical perspectives continue to be a rich resource for those specifically interested in the study of mysticism. The book focuses on James's enduring fascination with mysticism and not only unearths James's lesser-known works on mysticism, but also probes into the tacit mystical dimensions of James's personal life and uncovers the mystical implications of his decades long interest in psychical research.
This book is the sequel to Robert Forman's well-received collection, The Problem of Pure Consciousness (Oxford, 1990). The essays in the earlier volume argued that some mystical experiences do not seem to be formed or shaped by the language system--a thesis that stands in sharp contradistinction to deconstruction in general and to the "constructivist" school of mysticism in particular, which holds that all mysticism is the product of a cultural and linguistic process. In The Innate Capacity, Forman and his colleagues put forward a hypothesis about the formative causes of these "pure consciousness" experiences. All of the contributors agree that mysticism is the result of an innate human capacity, rather than a learned, socially conditioned and constructive process. The innate capacity is understood in several different ways. Many perceive it as an expression of human consciousness per se, awareness itself. Some hold that consciousness should be understood as a built-in link to some hidden, transcendent aspect of the world, and that a mystical experience is the experience of that inherent connectedness. Another thesis that appears frequently is that mystics realize this innate capacity through a process of releasing the hold of the ego and the conceptual system. The contributors here look at mystical experience as it is manifested in a variety of religious and cultural settings, including Hindu Yoga, Buddhism, Sufism, and medieval Christianity. Taken together, the essays constitute an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the nature of human consciousness and mystical experience and its relation to the social and cultural contexts in which it appears.
With the rapid development of the cognitive sciences and their importance to how we contemplate questions about the mind and society, recent research in the humanities has been characterised by a ‘cognitive turn’. For their part, the humanities play an important role in forming popular ideas of the human mind and in analysing the way cognitive, psychological and emotional phenomena are experienced in time and space. This collection aims to inspire medievalists and other scholars within the humanities to engage with the tools and investigative methodologies deriving from cognitive sciences. Contributors explore topics including medieval and modern philosophy of mind, the psychology of religion, the history of psychological medicine and the re-emergence of the body in cognition. What is the value of mapping how neurons fire when engaging with literature and art? How can we understand psychological stress as a historically specific phenomenon? What can medieval mystics teach us about contemplation and cognition?
The contemporary study of religion has witnessed a consistent interest in and concern about the relationship between the unitive, ascetic, and ecstatic tendencies of mystical traditions and the more mundane but ethically pressing realms of society, custom, and civilized life. The present volume explores such issues anew through a series of original essays on the mystical traditions themselves (from Kabbalah to Chinese religion) and on some of the most pressing theoretical issues and theorists (from Bergson to Schuon) of the twentieth-century study of religion.
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