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The Mystic Experience
A Descriptive and Comparative Analysis
The Mystic Experience
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Jordan Paper - Author
SUNY Series in Religious Studies
Price: $95.00 
Hardcover - 184 pages
Release Date: October 2004
ISBN10: 0-7914-6249-8
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6249-2

Price: $31.95 
Paperback - 184 pages
Release Date: October 2004
ISBN10: 0-7914-6250-1
ISBN13: 978-0-7914-6250-8

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Explores the human experience of mysticism and looks at it within the spiritual traditions around the world.

The mystic, zero, or void experience—the ecstatic disappearance of self along with everything else—is considered by those who have had it to be the most beautiful, blissful, positive, profound, and significant experience of their lives. Offering both a descriptive and a comparative perspective, this book explores the mystic experience across cultures as both a human and cultural event. The book begins and ends with descriptions of the author's own mystical experiences, and looks at self-reported experiences by individuals who do not link their experiences to a religious tradition, to determine characteristics of this universal human experience.

These characteristics are compared to statements of acknowledged mystics in diverse religious traditions. The mystic experience is also situated within other ecstatic religious experiences to distinguish it from similar, but distinct, experiences such as lucid dreams, shamanism, and mediumism. Jordan Paper goes on to look at how the mystic experience has been considered in various fields, such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, biology, and comparative religious studies.

“…a perfect introduction to the study of mystical experiences … Overall, Paper has put together an interesting and effective comparative discussion of mystical experiences and their study that will make a useful and engaging textbook for undergraduates. As an addition to the scholarlship on mystical experience, Paper’s book is most interesting as a summary expression of the culmination of decades of research and personal experience.” — Studies in Religion

“This is a necessary book, clear, direct, cautious, and cogent … All will be challenged by its insights, bedevilled by its conclusions.” — University of Toronto Quarterly

"Paper vigorously affirms the reality and significance of mystical phenomena. I applaud his willingness to discuss his own mystical experiences in the context of his scholarly investigations. This will make a fine introduction to mysticism." — Kelly Bulkeley, author of Visions of the Night: Dreams, Religion, and Psychology

"Jordan Paper is a fine example of the increasingly rare bird, the comparative historian of religion who shows, in an informed manner, how his material is to be understood via similar accounts from traditions around the world. He goes a long way to define precisely the 'mystic experience.'" — John H. Berthrong, author of Concerning Creativity: A Comparison of Chu Hsi, Whitehead, and Neville

Jordan Paper is Professor Emeritus of Humanities at York University and Associate Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. He has written several books, including Offering Smoke: The Sacred Pipe and Native American Religion and The Chinese Way in Religion, Second Edition (coedited with Laurence G. Thompson).

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Table of Contents



1. Introduction

An Event
General Characteristics of the "Event"
A Name for the Experience
The Mystic Experience in Cultural Context
A Caution to Readers

2. Phenomenology (Descriptive Analysis) of the Mystic Experience

Naive Reports
Reports by "Professional" Mystics

3. The Varieties of Ecstatic Experience

Human Nature and Ecstatic Experiences
Functional Ecstasies

Visions, Lucid Dreams, and Problem-Solving

Nonfunctional Ecstasies

Unitive Experiences
Pure Consciousness
The Mystic Experience

4. Previous Studies

Philosophical Analyses
Psychological Analyses
Sociological Analyses
Anthropological Analyses
Combined Approaches: Anthropology and Psychology
Biological Analyses
Near-Death Experience Studies
Comparative Religion Studies

5. Ethnohermeneutics I: Non-West

Shamanistic and Mediumistic Traditions
South Asia

The Upanishads

Chinese Religion

6. Ethnohermeneutics II: West



Modern "Secular" Mysticism

Cosmic Consciousness
Absolute Consciousness

7. Conclusions: The Mystic Experience and Human Nature

A Phenomenological Assessment
Comparative Ethnohermeneutics

Works Consulted


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