Sunday, April 27, 2008


"The Oxford Dictionary describes the mystical as 'having a certain spiritual character or import by virtue of a connection or union with God transcending human comprehension'. All right. I would say ... that a mystic is a good person whose knowledge of the divine and practice of the selfless life has transcended the level of idols and images. ... This may or may not accompany belief in a personal deity. ... But, someone may say, what can we do now that there is no God? This does not affect what is mystical. The loss of prayer, through the loss of belief in God, is a great loss. However, a general answer is a practice of meditation: a withdrawal, through some disciplined quietness, into the great chamber of the soul. Just sitting quiet will help. Teach it to children. ...

"Schopenhauer ... expresses a new (modern) definition of metaphysics or metaphysical craving (one which would also be acceptable to Plato) when he speaks of our finite nature together with our passionate desire to understand 'the world' which we attempt to intuit 'as a whole'. Metaphysics may thus be connected with a mystical state. ... Wittgenstein uses the idea of the work of art, the ability to see the world sub specie aeterni as a limited whole, to explain what ... harmony is like. ... The ability ... to see (or feel) depends on keeping close to the reality of the world, accepting the facts and following the stream of life. This is described as 'mystical'. With the 'limits' of our 'finite nature' we are able to feel or intuit the world as a whole, though not as a totally comprehended whole. We are at peace with the world, as we are with a work of art."

--Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992)

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