Classic Mysticism


The Varieties of Religious Experience : A Study in Human Nature
Library) by William James

William James was an original thinker in and between the disciplines of physiology, psychology and philosophy. His twelve-hundred page masterwork, The Principles of Psychology (1890), is a rich blend of physiology, psychology, philosophy, and personal reflection that has given us such ideas as "the stream of thought" and the baby's impression of the world "as one great blooming, buzzing confusion" (PP 462). It contains seeds of pragmatism and phenomenology, and influenced generations of thinkers in Europe and America, including Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, John Dewey, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. James studied at Harvard's Lawrence Scientific School and the School of Medicine, but his writings were from the first as much philosophical as scientific. "Some Remarks on Spencer's Notion of Mind as Correspondence" (1878) and "The Sentiment of Rationality" (1879, 1882) presage his future pragmatism and pluralism, and contain the first statements of his view that philosophical theories are reflections of a philosopher's temperament or vision.

James hints at his religious concerns in his earliest essays and in The Principles, but they become more explicit in The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1897), Human Immortality: Two Supposed Objections to the Doctrine (1898), The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) and A Pluralistic Universe (1909). James oscillated between thinking that a "study in human nature" such as Varieties could contribute to a "Science of Religion" and the belief that religious experience involves an altogether supernatural domain, somehow inaccessible to science but accessible to the individual human subject. James made some of his most important philosophical contributions in the last decade of his life. In a burst of writing in 1904-5 (collected in Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912)) he set out the metaphysical view most commonly known as "neutral monism," according to which there is one fundamental "stuff" which is neither material nor mental. He also published Pragmatism (1907), the culminating expression of a set of views permeating his writings.


Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross,
E.Allison Peers

Language Notes
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Spanish

From the Publisher
St. John of the Cross has been called "the most sublime of all Spanish mystics," and his spiritual masterwork, Dark Night Of The Soul, stands as one of the greatest contributions to the literature of mysticism.

E. ALLISON PEERS was the translator of many great works of Spanish verse and mysticism.

Product Description:
A sixteenth-century mystic who wrote of man's relationship with God, St. John of the Cross was also a Carmelite monk who helped reform the Order and aided St. Teresa of Avila in establishing new convents for women. In this book--his spiritual masterpiece and a classic of Christian literature and mysticism--he addresses several subjects, among them pride, avarice, envy, and other human imperfections. He also provides an extended explanation of Divine love; and describes methods of conversion through prayer, submission, and purification. "...the most faithful [translation] that has appeared in any European language: it is, indeed, much more than a translation for [Peers] added his own valuable historical and [critically interpretive] notes."--London Times.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Interior Castle

by St. Teresa of Avila, E. Allison Peers (Translator)

From the Inside Flap
One of the most celebrated works on mystical theology in existence, as timely today as when St. Teresa of Avila wrote it centuries ago, this is a treasury of unforgettable maxims on self-knowledge and fulfillment.

About the Author

TERESA OF ÁVILA (1515-82), also called St. Teresa of Jesus, was a Spanish nun and one of the great mystics and religious women of the Roman Catholic Church. She was the leader of the Carmelite Reform, which restored and emphasized the austerity and contemplative character of this religious order. Canonized in 1622, she was elevated to Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970, the first woman to be so honored. E. ALLISON PEERS is the translator of many great works of Spanish verse and mysticism.

Product Description:
1930. This work was translated from the autograph of Saint Teresa of Jesus by a Benedictine of Stanbrook. After St. Teresa penned this work, it was eagerly read by those who were able to obtain copies. At the archiepiscopal Seminary at Salamanca it was read publicly after dinner; the students, contrary to custom, sacrificing the recreation rather than miss so edifying an instruction. The result was that several entered the religious life, one becoming a Franciscan, two others, who had already taken their degrees, joining the Discalced Carmelites.--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


The Cloud of Unknowing and the Book of Privy Counseling
by William Johnston (Translator), Huston Smith

"God can be loved but he cannot be thought. He can be grasped by love but never by concepts. So less thinking and more loving."

This is William Johnston's summary of the message of The Cloud of Unknowing. Nobody knows who wrote the book, or exactly where he lived,or whether he was a member of a religious order, or even, really, whether he was part of any church at all. The text first appeared in Middle English in the 14th century, and it has inspired generations of mystical searchers (from St. John of the Cross to Teilhard de Chardin). The mysterious conditions of its composition, however, focus the reader's attention squarely on the book's message--an almost Zen rendering of Christianity, which has a great deal to teach our querulous, doctrine-obsessed churches: "And so I urge you," the author writes, "go after experience rather than knowledge. On account of pride, knowledge may often deceive you, but thisgentle, loving affection will not deceive you. Knowledge tends to breedconceit, but love builds. Knowledge is full of labor, but love, full of rest."--Michael Joseph Gross

Originally written in Middle English by an unknown mystic of the fourteenth century, The Cloud of Unknowing represents the first expression in our own tongue of the soul's quest for God. A literary work of great beauty in both style and message, it offers a practical guide to the path of contemplation. The author explains how all thoughts and concepts must be buried beneath a "cloud of forgetting," while our love must rise toward God hidden in the "cloud of unknowing." William Johnston - an authority on fourteenth-century spirituality and on the writings of this unknown author - provides a substantive and accessible introduction detailing what is known about the history of this text and its relevance throughout the ages. Also included here is the author's other principal work, The Book of Privy Counseling - a short and moving text on the way to enlightenment through a total loss of self and consciousness only of the divine.



The Inner Eye of Love: Mysticism and Religion
by William Johnston

Contents: Preface, 20 chapters divided into 4 parts: Part 1, Mysticism; Part 2, Mysticism and Theology; Part 3, The Mystical Journey; Part 4, Mystical Action, books and articles quoted in the text, index.

Excerpt(s): And so I have written The Inner Eye of Love. The title, I believe, touches a chord in the great religions of East and West. All are aware that man born of women is somehow in ignorance but that redemption is at hand. For he has a third eye, an inner eye, the eye of the heart, the eye of wisdom, the eye of love. When this inner eye is awakened man, blind from birth, sees the real glory and beauty and meaning of the universe. 'The eye is the lamp of your body. So if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness!' (Matthew 6:22,23). Surely these enigmatic words remind us that the important thing in human life is to see, to be full of light, not to walk in the dark. (page 9).

In the second section I turn to theology. one need be no great prophet to predict that Western theology of the next century will address itself primarily to dialogue with the great religions of the East. And I myself believe that this dialogue will be a miserable affair if the Western religions do not rethink their theology in light of mystical experience. In this book I have highlighted the mysticism of Jesus as the key to the understanding of Christianity, just as the enlightenment of Shakamuni is the key to the understanding of Buddhism.

I am aware that for many professional theologians mysticism is a peripheral affair — an esoteric and embarrassing subject which has rightly been relegated to an obscure position in the curriculum of any self-respecting school of theology. I myself have not been able to accept this point of view. And in this book I set myself the task of finding a place for mysticism in the overall discipline which we call theology. I followed the method of Bernard Lonergan and found myself drawn to the conclusion that mysticism is the very centre of religion and theology. I discovered that mysticism is the exquisitely beautiful queen before whom the other branches of theology bow down with awe and reverence like lowly handmaids. I also saw clearly that this queen is the lady wisdom for whom all religions search and in whose presence all religions meet. (pages 9 and 10)

The word mystica was introduced into Christianity by an anonymous Syrian monk, a Christian neoplatonist of the late fifth or early sixth century AD, who composed several theological treatises, one of which was named Mystica Theologia. To his works he quietly affixed the name of Dionysius the Areopagite who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as a convert of St Paul; and the Mystica Theologia he fictitiously addressed to Paul's disciple Timothy....

Also see Evelyn Underhill on this site

Page List | Home Page & Search For