The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy

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9780195059809: The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy

Are mystical experiences primarily formed by the mystic's cultural background and concepts, as modern day "constructivists" maintain, or do mystics in some way transcend language, belief, and culturally conditioned expectations? Do mystical experiences differ in the different religious traditions, as "pluralists" contend, or are they identical across cultures? Twelve contributors here attempt to answer these questions through close examination of a particular form of mystical experience, "Pure Consciousness"--the experience of being awake but devoid of intentional content for consciousness. The contributors analyze pure consciousness and other mystical experiences from historical Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Jewish sources, as well as from modern mystics. They demonstrate that pure consciousness poses serious conceptual problems for a contructivist understanding of mysticism. Revealing the inconsistencies and inadequacies of current models, they make significant strides towards developing new models for the phenomenon of mysticism, breaking new ground for our understanding of mysticism and of human experience in general.

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Are mystical experiences formed by the mystic's cultural background and concepts, as 'constructivists' maintain, or do mystics sometimes transcend language, belief, and culturally conditioned expectations? Do mystical experiences differ throughout the various religious traditions, as 'pluralists' contend, or are they somehow ecumenical? The contributors to this collection scrutinize a common mystical experience, the 'pure consciousness event'--the experience of being awake but devoid of intentional content--in order to answer these questions. Through the use of historical Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Jewish mystical writings, as well as those of modern mystics, the contributors reveal the inconsistencies and inadequacies of current models, as make significant strides towards developing new models for the understanding of the mystical phenomenon in particular and of human experience in general.

About the Author:


Robert K.C. Forman is Associate Professor of Religion at City University of New York's Hunter College, and author of six books and numerous articles on religion and religious experiences.

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Published by Oxford University Press (1990)
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Published by Oxford University Press, USA (1990)
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