Sunday, December 19, 2010
"Of the reality or unreality of the mystic's world I know nothing. I have no wish to deny it, nor even to declare that the insight which reveals it is not a genuine insight. What I do wish to maintain... is that insight, untested and unsupported, is an insufficient guarantee of truth, in spite of the fact that much of the most important truth is first suggested by its means."
Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic
“Do mystical states establish the truth of those theological affections in which the saintly life has its roots?”
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience
In the past few days or so, I have been amazed and fascinated by my exposure to a mystical school of thought, the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and I am undergoing a significant intellectual change of perspective from my previous philosophy. I am extremely curious about these mystic experiences and since it is not my habit to accept blindly, I am definitely eager to explore them on my own. However, it is also very obvious to me that the practice of mysticism requires a certain distance and detachment from the worldly life (albeit not a renouncement), and after some days of confusion I have realized that I am not yet ready for such a distance. I am not done with this physical plane of existence yet, both intellectually and emotionally. At the same time, I am convinced of the validity of mystic experiences, that mystic experiences do have something to tell us about reality, and that the knowledge gained from them cannot be discarded as psychotic ramblings. Once I have accepted this new mode of knowledge, it is also clear to me that it has very significant things to say and add to our understanding of the physical and human world.
So, I have outlined my project of personal learning for the near future: I will attempt to learn how the epistemic admissibility of mysticism can be argued for and philosophically defended, and in what way it affects our understanding of the physical world, and what mysticism has to add to the disciplines like metaphysics, psychology, ethics, aesthetics, sociology etc... and I will continue to explore Integral Yoga and mysticism intellectually until I am ready to undergo the meditations myself.
I realize that even by merely accepting mystic experience as valid, I am risking being alienated from my skeptical-minded philosophical friends, but if life has taught me something, it is that every significant growth in the pursuit of truth brings such risks of estrangement. At the moment, I would just request my skeptic friends to at least have a minimum of faith in my philosophical judgment, that if I am so interested in this subject, there must be something making sense in it that I see, and that I have not lost my mind. Plus, as I explained in this post before, it would be dogmatic even for a skeptic to dismiss something without an honest inquiry.
For the religious-minded readers of this blog, who are quite in abundance, I would like to clarify: No, it does not mean or imply my return to religion. In fact, I believe that the mystic experience itself reveals the falsehood of organized religions and faith-based theologies that we see around us.
In general, however, the blog with its familiar and customary themes will continue on in the usual manner.