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3.8.5: On the Way of Mystical Quest

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    Recommended articles in the Encyclopedia ofReligion, edited by Mircea Eliade (New York: Macmillan, 1987), include: Mysticism; Mystical Union; Meditation; Consciousness, States oj, Attention; Spiritual Discipline; Asceticism; Yoga; Samadhi; PratJa; Monasticism; Monastery; Eremiticsm; Mendicancy, and other articles on specific religious traditions exemplifying the way of mystical quest.

    Though many studies of mysticism exist, not many approach it from the specific perspective outlined in this book. One of the best attempts in this direction is Frederick ]. Streng, Understanding Religious Life, 3rd ed., Ch. 5, "Attaining Freedom Through Spiritual Discipline" (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1985). Streng's account is hampered, somewhat, from his assignment of all expressions of personalistic mystical traditions to what I classify as the way of devotion. Nevertheless, his remarks are very helpful, as are his bibliographical suggestions. See also Frederick]. Streng, Charles L. Lloyd, Jr., and Jay T. Allen, eds., Ways ofBeing Religious: Readingsfor a New Approach to Religion,. Part 4: "Spiritual Freedom through Discipline (Mysticism)" (Englewood Cliffs, N]: Prentice-Hall, 1973). Although Streng treats them as a different category altogether, some nontraditional religious phenomena akin to the way of mystical quest are covered in Part 8, selections 2 and 6.

    An excellent critical overview of the controversies and major theories of the nature and study of mysticism is given in Bernard McGinn, "Theoretical Foundations: The Modern Study of Mysticism," an appendix to his "The Foundations of Mysticism," Vol. I of The Presence ofGod: A History ofWestern Christian Mysticism (New York: Crossroad, 1992), pp. 265-343. McGinn's book itself, the first of a four-part series, is an excellent source on Christian mystical quest. Another good survey of the field, but with somewhat more specific content is Ninian Smart, "Mysticism, History of," The Encyclopedia o fPhilosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan, 1972), Vol. 5, pp. 419-429. One of the better collections of essays on the meaning, methodology, interpretation, and evaluation of mysticism in various traditions is RichardT. Woods, ed., Understanding Mysticism (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image Books, 1980). A basic overview of the mystical quest in world religions is Sidney Spencer, Mysticism in World Religion (Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1963). A comprehensive, cross-cultural and cross-tradition survey of ascetic practices is found in Vincent L. Wimbush and Richard Valantasis, eds., Aceticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

    For examples of the way of mystical quest in Buddhism and in Christianity, see Chapter 9, below.

    This page titled 3.8.5: On the Way of Mystical Quest is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dale Cannon (Independent) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.