Mysticism & Philosophical Analysis, edited by Steven T. Katz (Sheldon Press, £8.95) A SERIES of papers on dillereat aspects of mysticism, analysing its varieties and attempting to delineate their character, a pursuit of the philosopher rather than the mystic and unlikely to interest the latter so much.
The validity of religious experience is presumably no problem for the mystic but it is for the philosopher. However, the book is not concerned with this.
"We have a long and delicate path to pick before we are really in a position to make an evaluation", writes Professor Smart in the opening contribution. He adds "that path is phenomenological" and we can see it is definitely a book for the philosopher rather than the mystic.
The themes covered include mystical experience. literature, language and knowledge and the 'level of discussion is certainly not popular. Research students of religion rather than novices for the religious life are the likelier readers. It has an unfashionable omission of the sociological and economic and political dimensions.
Mysticism must perhaps be supposed to be quite independent of these. One suspects. perhaps quite mistakenly, that it is incorrigibly middle class in practice. Maybe only the tendency to put it on record is.
The paper by Steven Katz makes some interesting correlations and comparisons between Christian and nonChristian mystical practice and offers a counter case to some previously widely held views. It is a difficult area of speculation, obscure in its methods, pre-, suppositions and, indeed, subject matter; for some, however, it holds supreme fascination.
Philip Holdsworth OSB