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Religion > Mystical and Esoteric Traditions

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Mysticism and Vocation Cover

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Mysticism and Vocation

We tend to think that a person who is both reasonable and moral can have a good life. What constitutes a life that is not only good but superlative, or even “marvellous” or “holy”? Those who have such lives are called sages, heroes or saints, and their lives can display great integrity as well as integration with a transformative “Spiritual Presence.”

Does it follow that saints are perfect people? Is there a common vision that impels them to seek holiness? In a controversial interpretation of mysticism Horne suggests that there is no single formula for the meaning of life and no one story that displays it to us. Mysticism, rather than being just a visionary perception, then becomes a problem-solving process that brings about a creative transformation of the personality at a critical stage in life. He suggests also that saints may be imperfect morally and describes true saints as double-minded: they are serious in a playful way.

Mysticism and Vocation illuminates our understanding of saintly lives by explicating their mystical characteristics and extending discussions of mysticism to explain its role in active lives. In discussing important decisions that go beyond conventional morality, it adds to recent philosophical arguments by Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre, Iris Murdoch, Bernard Williams and others to the effect that morality should be defined more broadly to deal with the human condition.

This book will be of interest to students of philosophy and religious studies, in both graduate and undergraduate programs.

Mystics and Scholars Cover

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Mystics and Scholars

The Calgary Conference on Mysticism 1976

In September of 1976 a group of some fifty scholars and practising mystics gathered at the University of Calgary. The chief objective of the Conference was to ponder and assess the nature of mysticism in its Eastern, Western and North American Indian forms. The method the Conference followed was somewhat unusual in that it aimed at a dialogue between the practising mystics and the scholars.

What this book presents to the reader is not the outcome of the dialogue, but the personal statements and papers from which the dialogue began. Of course there is a degree to which the dialogue is already present, in that the papers of the scholars were written with the statements of the mystics in hand. Among some of the philosophers present, a set of more formal comments on each others presentations was recorded and these have been included.

Nobility and Annihilation in Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls Cover

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Nobility and Annihilation in Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls

An in-depth examination of the work of this important medieval woman mystic. This first book-length study of Marguerite Porete’s important mystical text, The Mirror of Simple Souls, examines Porete’s esoteric and optimistic doctrine of annihilation—the complete transformative union of the soul into God—in its philosophical and historical contexts. Porete was burned at the stake as a relapsed heretic in 1310. Her theological treatise survived the flames, but it circulated anonymously or under male pseudonyms until 1946, and her message endures as testament to a distinctive form of medieval spirituality. Robinson begins by focusing on traditional speculations regarding the origin, nature, limitations, and destiny of humankind. She then examines Porete’s work in its more immediate historical and literary contexts, focusing on the ways in which Porete conceptualizes and expresses her radical doctrine of annihilation through contemporary metaphors of lineage and nobility.

On Becoming God:Late Medieval Mysticism and the Modern Western Self Cover

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On Becoming God:Late Medieval Mysticism and the Modern Western Self

Late Medieval Mysticism and the Modern Western Self

Ben Morgan

Do we have to conceive of ourselves as isolated individuals, inevitably distanced from other people and from whatever we might mean when we use the word "God"? On Becoming God offers an innovative approach to the history of the modern Western self by looking at human identity as something people do together rather than on their own, as a way of managing and keeping at bay the impulses and experiences associated with the word "God." The "self" is a way of doing things, or of not doing things, with "God." The book draws on phenomenology (Heidegger), gender studies (Beauvoir, Butler), and contemporary neuroscience. It surveys existing approaches to modern selfhood (Foucault, Charles Taylor) and proposes an alternative account by investigating late medieval mysticism, in particular texts written in Germany by Meister Eckhart and others. It concludes by exploring the parallel between late medieval confessors and their spiritual charges, and late-nineteenth-century psychoanalysts and their patients, in search of a vocabulary for acknowledging and nurturing our everyday commitments to others and to our spiritual longings.

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Paranormal America

Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture

Christopher Bader, F. Mencken, Joseph Baker

A significant number of Americans spend their weekends at UFO conventions hearing whispers of government cover-ups, at New Age gatherings learning the keys to enlightenment, or ambling around historical downtowns learning about resident ghosts in tourist-targeted “ghost walks”. They have been fed a steady diet of fictional shows with paranormal themes such as The X-Files, Supernatural, and Medium, shows that may seek to simply entertain, but also serve to disseminate paranormal beliefs. The public hunger for the paranormal seems insatiable.

Paranormal America provides the definitive portrait of Americans who believe in or have experienced such phenomena as ghosts, Bigfoot, UFOs, psychic phenomena, astrology, and the power of mediums. However, unlike many books on the paranormal, this volume does not focus on proving or disproving the paranormal, but rather on understanding the people who believe and how those beliefs shape their lives.

Drawing on the Baylor Religion Survey—a multi-year national random sample of American religious values, practices, and behaviors—as well as extensive fieldwork including joining hunts for Bigfoot and spending the night in a haunted house, authors Christopher Bader, F. Carson Mencken, and Joseph Baker shed light on what the various types of paranormal experiences, beliefs, and activities claimed by Americans are; whether holding an unconventional belief, such as believing in Bigfoot, means that one is unconventional in other attitudes and behaviors; who has such experiences and beliefs and how they differ from other Americans; and if we can expect major religions to emerge from the paranormal.

Brimming with engaging personal stories and provocative findings, Paranormal America is an entertaining yet authoritative look at a growing segment of American religious culture.

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Partakers of the Divine

Contemplation and the Practice of Philosophy

By Jacob Holsinger Sherman

One of the important ecclesial developments over the last century has been the extraordinary rediscovery, retrieval and reinvigoration of the Christian contemplative tradition, a recovery that has been extraordinarily influential Theologians have begun to explore how aspects of the Christian contemplative tradition challenge certain prevalent views about the nature of God, the world, and persons, but this contemplative renaissance also raises crucial questions about a variety of more philosophical arenas such as how we construe the relationship between faith and reason, religious epistemology, theological metaphysics, philosophical hermeneutics and so forth. How might the theological and ecclesial renewal of the Christian contemplative tradition augment, challenge, and transform the practice not only of theology but also of philosophy itself? This book is an extended essay in ‘contemplative philosophy,’ the meeting of mystical and philosophical theology, of Christian contemplation and the philosophy of religion. It shows that, within the Christian tradition, philosophical and contemplative practices arose together and that throughout much of Christian history philosophy, theology and contemplation remained internal to one another. Contemplation was not something to be studied from the outside but rather transformed philosophical and theological inquiries from the inside. The relation of philosophy, theology, and contemplation to one another is of more than antiquarian interest, for it provides theologians and philosophers of religion today with a way forward beyond many of the stalemates that have beset discussions about faith and reason, the role of religion in contemporary culture, and the challenges of modernity and postmodernity.

Phenomenology and Mysticism Cover

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Phenomenology and Mysticism

The Verticality of Religious Experience

Anthony J. Steinbock

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.

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Real-Life X-Files

Investigating the Paranormal

Joe Nickell

As a former private investigator and forensic writer, Joe Nickell has spent much of his career identifying forged documents, working undercover to infiltrate theft rings, and investigating questioned deaths. Now he turns his considerable investigative skill toward the paranormal, researching the most well-known and mysterious phenomena all over the world—spontaneous human combustion, UFO visitations, auras, electronic poltergeists, and many, many more—with an eye toward solving these mysteries rather than promoting or dismissing them. Real-Life X-Files: Investigating the Paranormal examines the cases of over forty paranormal mysteries. Using a hands-on approach, Nickell visits the scene of the so-called unexplainable activity whenever possible and attempts to physically duplicate the miraculous. Whether he’s inflicting stigmata on himself or recreating the liquefying blood of Saint Januarius, Nickell does whatever necessary to eliminate the probable before considering the supernatural. What is left is that much more fascinating. Nickell reports on familiar legends from American history such as the supernatural events surrounding Abraham Lincoln’s death and the supposed crash landing of an alien spacecraft near Roswell, New Mexico. He closely examines claims of the miraculous, from rose petals bearing the likeness of Jesus to photographs of a “golden door” to heaven. Controversial mysteries such as clairvoyance and “spirit painting,” haunted places, and freaks of nature are just a few of the many topics covered. Suspenseful, engrossing, funny, and grounded in scientific methodology, Real-Life X-Files provides real explanations for the “paranormal” activities that have intrigued human beings for centuries.

Respectfully Yours: Signed and Sealed, Francis of Assisi Cover

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Respectfully Yours: Signed and Sealed, Francis of Assisi

Aspects of His Authorship and Focuses of His Spirituality

Through a meticulous reading of his writing, one can discover Francis the Mystic. The authors pay full attention to what Francis has to say and pay special attention to texts from the liturgy of Francis’s time. It is undeniable that at least some of his texts were subject to deliberate composition techniques. By bringing these to light, the "coordinates" or "power lines" of his spirituality become visible.

Restoring Paradise Cover

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Restoring Paradise

Western Esotericism, Literature, Art, and Consciousness

Focusing on how spiritual initiation takes place in Western esoteric religious, literary, and artistic traditions from antiquity to the present, Restoring Paradise provides an introduction to Western esotericism, including early modern esoteric movements like alchemy, Christian theosophy, and Rosicrucianism. The author argues that European and American literature and art often entail a written transmission of spiritual knowledge in which writing itself works to transmute consciousness, to generate, provoke, or convey spiritual awakening. He focuses on several important figures whose work has not received the attention it deserves, including American writer and Imagist poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) and British painter Cecil Collins, among others. While Arthur Versluis presents a new way of understanding Western esotericism in a contemporary light, above all he has crafted a book about knowing, and about how we come to know, and what “knowing” by way of literature and language actually means.

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