The Oceanic Feeling: The Image of the Sea
Traditional studies of mysticism1 have generally been written by men who were themselves aspiring toward the mystic experience. Two modern exceptions are the books by Danto (1972), a Western philosopher known for his earlier work in the philosophy of knowledge, and Staal (1975), a scholar who knows at first hand many of the texts about which he writes. However, it is not true that a close acquaintance with the original texts of mysticism inclines a scholar towards belief in them, in spite of the well-publicized views of R. C. Zaehner, who for many years occupied the Spalding Chair of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford. Zaehner believed that no scholar who was acquainted in any depth with the original texts of mysticism could fail to be moved by the desire to experience the ecstatic states which these texts describe. However, we begin to understand his stance when we realize that he withdrew his sympathy in face of Sanskrit texts which were infused with monistic ideals (best summarized in the famous line ascribed to Śaṅkara: brahma satyaṃ jagan mithyā jīvo brahmaiva nāparaḥ, “Brahma is real, the world is unreal, the self is none other than Brahman”2) and attempted to persuade his readers of the superiority of the Indian dualist tradition, which was much closer to Zaehner’s fervent Catholicism. To Zaehner, psychoanalysis meant Jung, for whom, of course, he had great sympathy. But such an attitude is not necessarily the result of scholarship.
KeywordsOriginal Text Mystic Experience Sanskrit Text Close Acquaintance Eastern Religion
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