This is an introduction to the essential texts and themes of the great mystic visionaries.
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Mystical experience, Andrew Harvey explains in his introduction to The Essential Mystics, is that "direct, unmediated experience of ... an almost unfathomable mystery," a mystery beyond name or form that draws the mystic toward its presence into a relationship of rapturous, awesome, ecstatic love. But this experience is not the exclusive domain of a few chosen beings; it is "always available--like the divine grace it is--to any who really want it." Harvey speaks of the urgent need for humans to look to this grace as the best hope for addressing pressing social problems. His collection, a "feast of the greatest and wisest mystical texts," presents the most precious testimonies to this divine relationship from all major world traditions. Included are teachings from Native American, Australian, and African visionaries as well as writings from Taoist, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, and ancient Greek sources. Moving selections from Maori legends to the Upanishads, writings by Plato, and words of Mother Teresa reveal different approaches, but all echo the same longing of the soul to merge with the divine--and a simultaneous need to be fully engaged in the world to effect this union. Harvey pays special attention to the neglected role of the sacred feminine, saying that "without the balance of the knowledge of God as Mother as well as Father ... the human race will die out and take a large part of nature with it." The Mother's knowledge of unity, her powers of sensitivity, balance, and respect for life, he explains, must be invoked if humans are to overturn the damage wrought by centuries of adherence to a patriarchal vision--one that has left the external environment and our inner lives in serious need of repair. By understanding the divine in its complete masculine and feminine aspects and by looking to the great mystics, Harvey says, humans can initiate themselves into a fullness of the wisdom that inspires real action in the world. --Uma Kukathas
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