Phenomenology and Mysticism
The Verticality of Religious Experience
Publication Year: 2007
Exploring the first-person narratives of three figures from the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic mystical traditions -- St. Teresa of Avila, Rabbi Dov Baer, and Rūzbihān Baqlī -- Anthony J. Steinbock provides a complete phenomenology of mysticism based in the Abrahamic religious traditions. He relates a broad range of religious experiences, or verticality, to philosophical problems of evidence, selfhood, and otherness. From this philosophical description of vertical experience, Steinbock develops a social and cultural critique in terms of idolatry -- as pride, secularism, and fundamentalism -- and suggests that contemporary understandings of human experience must come from a fuller, more open view of religious experience.
Published by: Indiana University Press
INTRODUCTION: Vertical Givenness in Human Experience
Phenomenology and Mysticism gives an account of a speciﬁc dimension of human experience and its own evidence that is traditionally expunged from philosophical treatment. To give such an account, we have to operate with a substantially broader view of experience and evidence than we customarily admit into our inventory. For example, we usually think that ...
CHAPTER 1: The Religious and Mystical Shape of Experience
I operate with a speciﬁc sense of religious experience described and clariﬁed by the mystics of the Abrahamic tradition. But before going straightaway to this clariﬁcation of religious experience through the mystics, let me acknowledge that it is possible to speak meaningfully about religious experience in a general manner. Rudolf Otto understands religious experience as the experience of ...
CHAPTER 2: St. Teresa of Avila and Mysticism of Prayer
Within the Christian tradition of mystical experience, I focus primarily on the sixteenth-century Carmelite nun St. Teresa of Avila. While one cannot say that monasticism is essential to the Christian mystical experience, it was so tightly intertwined with mysticism historically that one can hardly conceive of Christian mysticism developing, let alone flourishing, without it. It was nothing less than ...
CHAPTER 3: Rabbi Dov Baer and Mysticism of Ecstasy
Rabbi Dov Baer (1773–1827), the Mitteler Rebbe, as he is also known, is the figure on whom I focus within the variegated and multiform Jewish mystical heritage. His religious home is located more particularly within the Chasidic tradition, and even more specifically within Chabad Chassidism. Dov Baer stands out because ...
CHAPTER 4: Rūzbihān Baqlī and Mysticism of Unveiling
What has become known as “Islam” emerged as the third religious movement within the Abrahamic tradition. On the seventeenth night of the month of Ramadan in 610 ce, during his month-long spiritual retreat to a cave on Mt. Hirā, an angel—Gabriel—gave Muhammad a command “to recite” (iqra'). Enveloped by ...
CHAPTER 5: Matters of Evidence in Religious Experience
My orientation from the outset has been that the matters described by the mystics of the Abrahamic tradition in terms of prayer, ecstasy, and unveiling are lived through human experience. As such they can be approached philosophically—speciﬁcally, in the style of phenomenology —no matter how difﬁcult these kinds of experience are to deal with, ...
CHAPTER 6: Epiphany and Withdrawal
Having articulated the matter of evidence regarding the vertical givenness peculiar to religious experience or “epiphany,” it remains for us to give epiphany more specific, concrete, experiential contours and to specify the tenor of this kind of givenness with an eye to a particular set of philosophical problems. On the basis of their experiences, the mystics assert ...
CHAPTER 7: On Individuation
Taking epiphany seriously as givenness in the mode of loving, we are lead to issues surrounding the problem of individuation. Individuation becomes problematic because givenness in the mode of loving concerns the place of that loving, the givenness of “creation,” and, as it bears on this work, the givenness of persons. The problem of individuation, however ...
CHAPTER 8: Idolatry
Experience is not restricted to the presentation of perceptual or epistemic objects. Epiphanic givenness, which has been clariﬁed personally as loving, is one such example of a much broader sphere of evidence, a sphere of evidential experience that I have termed, in general, “verticality.” Idolatry, by contrast, is the expression I use to convey the reversal of ...
EPILOGUE: On the De-Limitation of the Religious and the Moral
The philosophical task of this book has been to show that there are kinds of human experiencing that go beyond the presentation of empirical and ideal objects, and that although they do not conform to the way in which objects are presented, they are nonetheless modes of human experience that have their own modes of evidence and raise their own problems ...
Glossary of Main Hebrew and Arabic Terms