Comparative mysticism

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California Institute of Integral Studies



Spring 2011 (3 units)

Wednesdays 11:45am-2:45pm (Jan 19-April 20); Saturday 10-5pm (April 23)

Instructor: Jorge N. Ferrer, Ph.D. Tel. (415) 575-6262; email: [].

Course Description:

In the spirit of dialogue and inquiry, this advanced seminar provides an in-depth exploration of the field of comparative mysticism. After discussing the various meanings of the term “mysticism,” an overview of the field of comparative mysticism and its methodological foundations will be offered. We will discuss the major horizons of the field, as well as the main families of interpretive models in the field: typological, perennialist, constructivist, feminist, neo-perennialist, evolutionary, contextualist, postmodern, pluralist, and participatory. Topical sessions will address five contemporary areas of inquiry in the study of mysticism: (1) the intermonastic dialogue, (2) mysticism and gender, (3) embodiment and erotic mysticism, (4) the ethics of mysticism, and (5) psychedelic research and mystical experience. Students select two mystical traditions, authors, notions or phenomena and compare them applying one of the models studied or their own comparative approach. Students are encouraged to approach the study of mystics and mystical texts from an empathic, participatory, and contemplative perspective.

Summary of Educational Purpose:

The main purpose of this course is to deepen students’ knowledge of classic and contemporary approaches to the study of mystical phenomena and comparative mysticism. An additional objective is to guide students in the selection of the most appropriate comparative approach for their research interests.

Learning Objectives:

After completing this course, students will be able to:

1. Appreciate the complexity of the philosophical, epistemological, and psychospiritual issues raised by mystical phenomena.

2. Have a clear understanding of the main models, challenges, and debates in the contemporary study of comparative mysticism.

3. Compare mystical traditions, authors, notions, and phenomena with empathy, rigor, and sophistication.
Statement on Diversity:

As a subfield of Religious Studies, the study of comparative mysticism has been dominated by male Western scholars since its inception. All efforts have been made to incorporate in this seminar the voices of female scholars and alternative perspectives that have become available in recent years. In this regard, the seminar includes feminist approaches to the study of mysticism, a topical session on gender and mysticism, and a case study on the mysticism of African American women. In addition, the Course Reader not only presents critical perspectives on Western orientalism, but also contains readings and sample papers by Indian, Japanese, and Chinese scholars. Further references on these and/or other areas of inquiry in relation to the course can be provided in class upon request.

Learning Activities:

1. Cognitive/Didactic (lecture): 40%

2. Practical/Applied (dialogue, presentations): 40%

3. Experiential (meditative inquiry, group process): 20%

Level of Instruction:

Ph.D. level / MA students only with consent of the instructor

Criteria for Evaluation:

1. Mid-term paper (2-6 pages): 20%

2. Final Paper (20-25 pages): 40%

3. Class participation and presentations: 40%

Grading Options:

Letter Grade, Pass/Fail, or as allowed by the department

Required Texts:

  1. Ferrer, J. N. (2002). Revisioning transpersonal theory: A participatory vision of human spirituality. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. (RTT in Reading List)

  2. Ferrer, J. N. & J. H. Sherman (Eds.). (2008). The participatory turn: Spirituality, mysticism, religious studies. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. (PT in Reading List)

  3. Course Reader, available at Copy Central (2336 Market Street, between Castro and Noe. Tel. 415-431-6725). (Note: Students taking the seminar as research course may be given extra handouts on the comparative method).


  1. Mid-Term Paper: (2-6 pages)

This assignment can take the form of an outline or preliminary draft (work in progress) of the final paper, or a brief response paper to one of the topics discussed during weeks 1-7.

  1. Final Paper: (20-25 pages)

A research paper comparing two (or more) mystics, mystical traditions, notions or phenomena. Optionally, incorporate aspects of your personal experience in support of your main thesis. Note: Students taking the seminar as research course need to include section on methodology in the final paper.

  1. Presentations:

Students give a presentation on their comparative research project. Presentations should be linked to final essay

Course Schedule and Reading List

Comparative Mysticism


January 19. Introduction: Mysticism and You

Introductory overview of the course. Participants’ introductions. Etymology and genealogy of the term “mysticism.” Preliminary definitions.

Readings: Bouyer, Louis, “Mysticism: An Essay of the History of the Word.”

• King, Richard, “The Power of Definitions: A Genealogy of the Idea of ‘the Mystical.’”

• Happold, F. C., “What We Shall Understand by Mysticism;” “The Mysticism of Love and Union and the Mysticism of Knowledge and Understanding;” “Nature-Mysticism, Soul-Mysticism, and God-Mysticism.”


January 26. Entering Mysticism

Grounding our research interests in our lived inquiry: What does “mystical” mean to you? Why is mysticism important in your life? Mysticism or mysticisms? The classic unio mystica. Armchair versus participatory approaches: From students of mysticism to scholar-mystics.

Readings: Kripal, Jeffrey J., “Mysticism.”

• Soelle, Dorothe, “We Are All Mystics.”

• Hollenback, Jess Byron, “The Mystical Experience: A Preliminary Reconnaissance.”

• Dupré, Louis, “Unio Mystica: The State and the Experience.”

• Barnard, G. William, “Transformations and Transformers: Spirituality and the Academic Study of Mysticism.”
February 2. Comparative Mysticism: An Overview

The comparativist approach to the study of religion. Historical overview of the field of comparative mysticism. The psychology-comparativist dialogue. Goals of comparative mysticism. Classical and contemporary typologies. Guidelines for the practice of dialogical inquiry and contemplative reading of mystical texts.

Readings: Paden, William E., “Comparative Religion.”

• McGinn, Bernard, “Comparativist and Psychological Approaches to Mysticism.”

• Parsons, William B., “Themes and Debates in the Psychology-Comparativist Dialogue”

• Patton, Kimberley C. and Ray, Benjamin C., “Introduction” to A Magic Still Dwells: Comparative Religion in the Postmodern Age.

• Rao, Srinivasa, “Comparative Metaphysics: Means or end?”

• Arico, Carl, “The Lectio Divina Tradition: Lost and Found.”

Special Topic: Typological Approaches to Comparative Mysticism

Rawlinson, Andrew, “A Mode of Experiential Comparative Religion.”

King, Mike, “Articulating Spiritual Difference.
February 9. How to Study Mysticism: Issues in Comparative and Mystical Hermeneutics.

Interpreting spiritual texts. Cross-cultural hermeneutics: orientalism, ethnocentrism, universalism, pluralism, relativism, incommensurability, and others. New methodological approaches in comparative religion and mysticism. The study of mysticism as a hermeneutical mystical path.

Readings: Sheldrake, Philip, “Interpreting Spiritual Texts.”

• Staal, Frits, “Effort, Doubt, and Criticism.”

• Cousins, Ewert H., “Methodology for Mysticism.”

• Holdrege, Barbara, A., “What’s Beyond the Post? Comparative Analysis as Critical Method.”

• Neville, Robert C. and Wildman, Wesley, “On Comparing Religious Ideas.”

• Kripal, Jeffrey J., “Roads of Excess,” “Palaces of Wisdom.”

Case Study: Orientalism and Jung

• Clarke, J. J., “Orientalism;” “Criticisms and Shortcomings.”

• Jones, Richard H., “Concerning Carl Jung on Asian Religious Traditions.”


February 16. Traditionalist/Perennialist Approaches

The perennial philosophy. Traditional perennialist hermeneutics. The transcendent unity of religions. Varieties of perennialism: Basic, Esotericist, Perspectivist, Typological, and Structuralist. Fundamental assumptions of perennialism. Critical perspectives.
Readings: Stoddart, William, “Frithjof Schuon and the perennialist school;” “What is mysticism?

Schuon, Frithjof, “The perennial philosophy.”

• Quinn, W. W., “Hermeneutics of the Tradition.”

• Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, “The Philosophia Perennis and the Study of Religion.”

• King, Sallie B., “The Philosophia Perennis and the Religions of the World.”

• Ferrer, Jorge, “Trouble in Paradise: The Perennial Philosophy Revisited.” (RTT, pp. 71-80, 86-95, 110-11).
Case Study: Traditionalist Perennialism and Perspectival Perennialism

• Shah-Kazemi, Reza, “The Realization of Transcendence: Essential Elements of Commonality.”

• Loy, David, “Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta: Are Nirvana and Moksha the Same?

February 23. Constructivist/Feminist Approaches

The strong constructivist program in the study of mysticism. Epistemological challenges to the idea of a universal mysticism. Mysticism and mediation. Feminism and the study of mysticism. Social constructivism and gender. Critical perspectives.

Readings: Katz, Steven T., “Language, Epistemology, and Mysticism.”

Evans, Donald, “Can Philosophers Limit What Mystics Can Do: A Critique of Steven Katz.”

• Raphael, Melissa, “Feminism, Constructivism, and Numinous Experience.”

• Lanzetta, Beverly, “Feminism and Mysticism: Foundations.”

• Jantzen, Grace M., “Conclusion: Mysticism and Modernity.”

Case Study: The Construction of Buddhist Mystical Experience

• Gimello, Robert. M., “Mysticism in Its Contexts.”

March 2. Neo-Perennialist/Evolutionary Approaches

Neo-perennialist approaches. The search for a cross-cultural “pure consciousness event.” Structuralism and universal mysticism. Evolutionary neo-perennialism. Critical perspectives.
Readings: Forman, Robert, “Introduction: Mystical Consciousness, the Innate Capacity, and the Perennial Psychology.”

• Wilber, Ken, “The Spectrum of Consciousness: Integral Psychology and the Perennial Philosophy;” “In a Modern Light: Integral Anthropology and the Evolution of Cultures;” “The Reconstruction of the Contemplative Path.”

• Ferrer, Jorge, “Wilber’s Neo-Perennialism;” “Transpersonal Developmental Models.” (RTT, pp. 83-86, 95-105, 162-165, 204-205n24)
Case Study: Structuralist Neo-Perennialism

• Cousins, Lance, “The Stages of Christian Mysticism and Buddhist Purification: Interior Castle of St Teresa of Avila and The Path of Purification of Buddhaghosa.”

March 9. Postmodern/Contextualist Approaches

Postmodern approaches. Further developments in the contextualist approach to mysticism. Experiential constructivism. Mystical “empowerment.” Critical perspectives.

Readings: Cupitt, Don, “Introduction: The Mysticism of Secondarieness.”

Herman, Jonathan, “The Contextual Illusion: Comparative Mysticism and Postmodernism.”

• Stoeber, Michael, “Constructivist Epistemologies of Mysticism: A Critique and a Revision.”

Case Study: Buddhist Nirvana, Yogic Samadhi, and Christian Spiritual Marriage

Hollenback, Jess Byron, “The Contextuality of the Most Elevated States of Spiritual Perfection and Mystical Awareness;” “Conclusion.”


March 16. Pluralist/Participatory Approaches

Pluralist approaches to comparative mysticism. Soteriological and metaphysical pluralisms. Participatory approaches. On ranking mystical traditions. Critical perspectives.

Readings: Heim, S. Mark, “Salvations: A More Pluralistic Hypothesis.”

• Ferrer, Jorge and Sherman, Jacob, “The Participatory Turn.” (PT, pp. 34-44, 72-78).

• Ferrer, Jorge, “Spiritual Knowing as Participatory Enaction: An Answer to the Question of Religious Pluralism.” (PT, pp. 135-69).

• Gleig, Ann. & Nicholas G. Boeving, “Spiritual Democracy: Beyond Consciousness and Culture.”

• Robinson, Oliver, “Mixed Messages in Participatory Spirituality: A Response to Jorge Ferrer’s Article.” (and my response)
Case Study: Participatory Spirituality and Western Mystical Traditions

• Lancaster, Brian L., “Engaging with the Mind of God: The Participatory Path of Jewish Mysticism.” (PT, pp. 175-95).

• Chittick, William, “Ibn al-‘Arabi on Participating in the Mystery.” (PT, pp. 245-64).

• Irwin, Lee, “Esoteric Paradigms and Participatory Spirituality in the Teachings of Mikhaël Aïvanhov.” (PT, pp. 197-224).

March 23. No class, Spring Break! 


March 30. The Interreligious and Intermonastic Dialogue

Relevance of the contemporary interreligious dialogue for comparative mysticism. Religious absolutism. Inclusivism, exclusivism, and ecumenical pluralism. Intermonastic interaction: From dialogue to communion. Inter-spirituality and global mysticism. Students’ presentations.

Readings: Clarke, J. J., “Religious Dialogue.”

• Lanzetta, Beverly, “Communion that Surpasses Words.”

Ray, Reginald, “Background: Contemplative Dialogue at Naropa Institute.”

• Teasdale, Wayne, “What is Inter-Spirituality?” Opening the Heart of the World: Toward a Universal Mysticism.”

April 6. Mysticism and Gender

Traditionalism and gender. Women and mysticism. The feminine mode of mysticism. Via Feminina as radical mysticism. Gender differences in mystical experiences. The mysticism of African American women. Students’ presentations.
Readings: Stoddart, William, “The Masculine and the Feminine.”

• Hollywood, Amy, “Three Mystical Moments;” “Sensible Ecstasy;” “Mysticism and Gender.”

• Wawrytko, Sandra A., “The ‘Feminine’ Mode of Mysticism.’

• Lanzetta, Beverly, “Via Feminina and the Classical Spiritual Journey;” “Via Feminina as Radical Mysticism;” “Contemplative Feminism: Transforming the Spiritual Journey.”

• Jacobs, Janet L., “Religious Experience among Women and Men: A Gender Perspective on Mystical Phenomena.”
Case Study: Mysticism and African American Women

• Bostic, Joy R., “Mystical Experience, Radical Subjectification, and Activism in the Religious Traditions of African American Women.”

April 13. Embodiment and Erotic Mysticism

Embodied spirituality. The relationship between the erotic and the mystical. Eros and the sacred. Sexuality as mystical path. Male-female union in Tantric mysticism. Homoerotic and heteroerotic spiritualities. Erotic Mysticism. Students’ presentations.
Readings: Ferrer, Jorge, “What Does It Mean to Live a Fully Embodied Spiritual Life?”

• Donnelly, Dorothy H., “The Sexual Mystic: Embodied Spirituality.”

• Wade, Jenny, “Divine Union: One with God.”

• Lanzetta, Beverly, “Wound of Love: Feminine Theosis and Embodied Mysticism in Teresa of Avila.” (PT:

• Sivaranam, Krishna, “The Mysticism of Male-Female Relationships: Philosophical and Lyrical Motifs of Hinduism.”

Kripal, Jeffrey J., “Secret Talk: Heroic Heretical Heterosexuality.”

Case Study: Sri Ramakrishna’s Erotic Mysticism

Burnett, David, “The Erotic Mysticism of Sri Ramakrishna.”
April 20. The Ethics of Mysticism?

The relationship between the mystical and the ethical. Must enlightened mystics be moral? Participatory spirituality and moral perennialism. Students’ presentations.
Readings: Kripal, Jeffrey J., “Debating the Mystical as Ethical.”

Barnard, G. William, “Debating the Mystical as Ethical: A Response.”

• Kripal, Jeffrey J., “In the Spirit of Hermes: Reflections on the Work of Jorge N. Ferrer.”

Case Study: Adi Da (Da Free John)

Feuerstein, Georg, “The Many Faces of Da Love-Ananda (Da Free John).”

• Stoeber, Michael, “Amoral Trickster or Mystic–Saint? Spiritual Teachers and the Transmoral Narrative.”

April 23. Psychedelic Research and Mystical Experience / Conclusion

Psychedelics and mysticism. Do psychedelics disclose genuine mystical insights? Implications of psychedelic research for the contemporary study of comparative mysticism. Students’ presentations. Full circle: What is mysticism? Retrospective reflections of the seminar’s participatory pedagogy. Closing ritual.
Readings: Zaehner, Robert T., “Mysticism Sacred and Profane.”

Smith, Huston, “Do Drugs Have Religious Import?”

Partridge, Christopher, “Sacred Chemicals: Psychedelics Drugs and Mystical Experience.”

Merkur, Daniel, “The Unitive Phenomena.”

• Ferrer, Jorge, “Grof’s Neo-Advaitin Perennial Philosophy;” “A Participatory Account of Grof’s Consciousness Research.” (RTT, pp. 80-83, 149-151, 216-217n32)

• Ferrer, Jorge, “Teaching the Graduate Seminar in Comparative Study of Mysticism: A Participatory Integral Approach.”

Course Reader Contents

1. Bouyer, L. (1980). Mysticism: An essay of the history of the word. In R. Woods (Ed), Understanding mysticism (pp. 42-55). Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

2. King, R. (1999). The power of definitions: A genealogy of the idea of ‘the mystical.’ In Orientalism and religion: Postcolonial theory, India, and ‘the mystic East.’ (pp. 7-34). New York: Routledge.

3. Happold, F. C. (1970). What we shall understand by mysticism. The mysticism of love and union and the mysticism of knowledge and understanding. Nature-mysticism, soul-mysticism, and God-mysticism. In Mysticism: A study and anthology (pp. 35-45). New York: Penguin.

4. Kripal, J. J. (2006). Mysticism. In R. A. Segal (Ed.), The Blackwell companion to the study of religion (pp. 321-335). Maiden, MA: Blackwell.

5. Soelle, D. (2001). We are all mystics. In The silent cry: Mysticism and resistance (pp. 9-22). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

6. Hollenback, J. B. (1996). The mystical experience: A preliminary reconnaissance. In Mysticism: Experience, response, and empowerment (pp. 33-39). University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

7. Dupré, L. (1996). Unio mystica: The state and the experience. In M. Idel & B. McGinn (Eds.), Mystical union in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: An ecumenical dialogue (pp. 3-23). New York: Continuum.

8. Barnard, G. W. (1994). Transformations and transformers: Spirituality and the academic study of mysticism. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 1(2), 256-60.

9. Paden, W. E. (2005). Comparative religion. In J. R. Hinnells (Ed.), The Routledge companion to the study of religion (pp. 208-225). New York: Routledge.

10. McGinn, B. (1994). Comparativist and psychological approaches to mysticism. In The foundations of mysticism (pp. 326-43). New York: Crossroad.

11. Parsons, William B. (2000). Themes and debates in the psychology-comparativist dialogue. In D. Jonte-Pace and W. B. Parsons (Eds.), Religion and psychology: Mapping the terrain (pp. 229-53). New York: Routledge.

12. Patton, K. C. & Ray, B. C. (2000). Introduction. In K. C. Patton & B. C. Ray (Eds.), A magic still dwells: Comparative religion in the postmodern age (pp. 1-19). Berkeley: University of California Press.

13. Rao, S. (1996). Comparative metaphysics: Means or end? In N. Smart & B. S. Murthy (Eds.), East-West encounters in philosophy and religion (pp. 292-299). Long Beach, CA: Long Beach Publications.

14. Arico, C. (1999). The Lectio Divina tradition: Lost and found. In A taste of silence (pp. 103-122). New York: Continuum.

15. Rawlinson, A. (2000). A model of experiential comparative religion. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 19, 99-108.

16. King, M. (2007).Articulating spiritual difference. In Secularism: The hidden origins of disbelief (pp. 45-72). Cambridge, UK: James Clarke & Co.

17. Sheldrake, P. (1992). Interpreting spiritual texts. In Spirituality and history: Questions of interpretation and method (pp. 163-87). New York: Crossroad.

18. Staal, F. (1975). Effort, doubt, and criticism. In Exploring mysticism (pp. 123- 134). Berkeley: University of California Press.

19. Cousins, E. H. (1992). Methodology for mysticism. In Christ of the 21st century (pp. 120-123). Rockport, MA: Element.

20. Holdrege, B. A. (2000). What’s beyond the post? Comparative analysis as critical method. In K. C. Patton & B. C. Ray (Eds.), A magic still dwells: Comparative religion in the postmodern age (pp. 77-91). Berkeley: University of California Press.

21. Neville, R. C. & Wildman, W. J. (2001). On comparing religious ideas. In R. C. Neville (Ed.), The human condition. A volume in the Comparative Religious Ideas Project (pp. 9-20). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

22. Kripal, J. J. (2001). Roads of excess. Palaces of wisdom. In Roads of excess, palaces of wisdom: Eroticism and reflexivity in the study of mysticism (pp. 1-15, 25-31, 305-30). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

23. Clarke, J. J. (1994). Orientalism. Criticisms and shortcomings. In Jung and Eastern thought: A dialogue with the Orient (pp. 14-27, 36, 158-178). New York: Routledge.

24. Jones, R. H. (1993). Concerning Carl Jung on Asian religious traditions. In Mysticism examined (pp. 169-183). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

25. Stoddart, W. (2008). Frithjof Schuon and the perennialist school. What is mysticism? In Remembering in a world of forgetting: Thoughts on tradition and postmodernism (pp. 51-66, 85-96). Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom.

26. Schuon, F. (2007). The perennial philosophy. In M. Lings & C. Minnaar (Eds.), The underlying religion: An introduction to the perennial philosophy (pp. 243-48). Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom.

27. Quinn, W. W. (1997). Hermeneutics of the tradition. In The only tradition (pp. 19-29). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

28. Nasr, S. H. (1993). The philosophia perennis and the study of religion. In The need for a sacred science (pp. 53-68). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

29. King, S. B. (2001). The philosophia perennis and the religions of the world. In L. E. Hahn, R. E. Auxier & W. Stone (Eds.), The philosophy of Seyyed Hassein Nasr (pp. 203-20). The Library of Living Philosophers, Vol. XXVIII. Chicago: Open Court.

30. Shah-Kazemi, R. (2006). The realization of transcendence: Essential elements of commonality. In Paths to Transcendence: According to Shankara, Ibn Arabi, and Meister Eckhart (pp. 193-211). Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom.

31. Loy, D. (1982). Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta: Are Nirvana and Moksha the same? International Philosophical Quarterly 23(1), 65-74.

32. Katz, S. T. (1978). Language, epistemology, and mysticism. In S. T. Katz (ed.), Mysticism and philosophical analysis (pp. 22-74). Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.

33. Evans, D. (1989). Can philosophers limit what mystics can do? A critique of Steven Katz. Religious Studies, 25, 53-60.

34. Raphael, M. (1994). Feminism, constructivism, and numinous experience. Religious Studies 30, 511-26.

35. Lanzetta, B. (2005). Feminism and mysticism: Foundations. In Radical wisdom: A feminist mystical theology (pp. 27-43). Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

36. Jantzen, G. M. (1995). Conclusion: Mysticism and modernity. In Power, gender and Christian mysticism (322-53). New York: Cambridge University Press.

37. Gimello, R. M. (1983). Mysticism in its contexts. In S. T. Katz (Ed.), Mysticism and religious traditions (pp. 61-88). New York: Oxford University Press.

38. Forman, R. K. C. (1998). Introduction: Mystical consciousness, the innate capacity, and the perennial psychology. In R. K. C. Forman (Ed.), The innate capacity: Mysticism, psychology, and philosophy (pp. 3-41). New York: Oxford University Press.

39. Wilber, K. (1997). The spectrum of consciousness: Integral psychology and the perennial philosophy. In a modern light: Integral anthropology and the evolution of cultures. In The eye of Spirit: An integral vision for a world gone slightly mad (pp. 37-50, 58-67). Boston, MA: Shambhala.

40. Wilber, K. (1995). The reconstruction of the contemplative path. In Sex, ecology, spirituality: The spirit of evolution (pp. 276-278). Boston, MA: Shambhala.

41. Cousins, L. S. (1989). The stages of Christian mysticism and Buddhist purification: Interior Castle of St Teresa of Avila and The Path of Purification of Buddhaghosa. In K. Werner (Ed.), The yogi and the mystic: Studies in Indian and conmparative mysticism (pp. 103-120). London: Curzon Press.

42. Cupitt, D. (1998). Introduction: The mysticism of secondariness. In Mysticism after modernity (pp. 1-11). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

43. Herman, J. (2000). The contextual illusion: Comparative mysticism and postmodernism. In K. C. Patton & B. C. Ray (Eds.), A magic still dwells: Comparative religion in the postmodern age (pp. 92-100). Berkeley: University of California Press.

44. Stoeber, M. (1994). Constructivist epistemologies of mysticism: A critique and a revision. In Theo-monistic mysticism: A Hindu-Christian comparison (pp. 7-38). New York: St. Martin’s Press.

45. Hollenback, J. B. (1996). The contextuality of the most elevated states of spiritual perfection and mystical awareness. In Mysticism: Experience, response, and empowerment (pp. 580-615). University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

46. Vroom, H. M. (1989). Exclusivity and universality: Interreligious relations. In Religions and the truth (pp. 376-388). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eermans Publishing Company.

47. Heim, S. M. (1995). Salvations: A more pluralistic hypothesis. In Salvations: Truth and difference in religion (pp. 129-157). New York: Orbis.

48. Gleig, A. & N. G. Boeving (2009). Spiritual democracy: Beyond consciousness and culture. Tikkun: Politics, Spirituality, Culture (May/June), 64-68.

49. Robinson, O. (2010). Mixed messages in participatory spirituality: A response to Jorge Ferrer’s article. Network Review: Journal of the Scientific and Medical Network 102, 33.

50. Clarke, J. J. (1997). Religious dialogue. In Oriental enlightenment: The encounter between Asian and Western thought (pp. 130-148). New York: Routledge.

51. Lanzetta, B. (2007). Communion that surpasses words. In Emerging heart: Global spirituality and the sacred (pp. 91-112). Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

52. Ray, R. (1987). Background: Contemplative dialogue at Naropa Institute. In S. Walker (Ed.), Speaking of silence: Christians and Buddhists on the contemplative way (pp. 11-18). New York: Paulist Press.

53. Teasdale, W. (1999). What is inter-spirituality? Opening the heart of the world: Toward a universal mysticism. In The mystic heart: Discovering a universal spirituality among the world’s religions (pp. 26-28, 235-50). Novato, CA: New World Library.

54. Stoddart, W. (2008). The masculine and the feminine. In Remembering in a world of forgetting: Thoughts on tradition and postmodernism (pp. 67-75). Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom.

55. Hollywood, A. (2002). Three mystical moments. Sensible ecstasy. Mysticism and Gender. In Sensible ecstasy: Mysticism, sexual difference, and the demands of history (pp. 1-13). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

56. Wawrytko, S. A. (1995). The “feminine” mode of mysticism. In D. H. Bishop (Ed.), Mysticism and mystical experience: East and West (pp. 195-229). London and Toronto: Associated University Press.

57. Lanzetta, B. (2005). Via feminina and the classical spiritual journey. Via feminina as radical mysticism. Contemplative feminism: Transforming the spiritual journey. In Radical wisdom: A feminist mystical theology (pp. 12-18, 61-77). Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

58. Jacobs, J. L. (1992). Religious experience among women and men: A gender perspective on mystical phenomena. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion 4, 261-279.

59. Bostic, J. R. (2001). Mystical experience, radical subjectification, and activism in the religious traditions of African American women. In J. K. Ruffing (Ed.), Mysticism and social transformation (pp. 143-158). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

60. Ferrer, J. N. (2008). What Does It Mean to Live a Fully Embodied Spiritual Life? International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 28, 1-30.

61. Donnelly, D. H. (1982). The sexual mystic: Embodied spirituality. In M. E. Giles (Ed.), The Feminist mystic and other essays on women and spirituality (pp. 120-141). New York: Crossroad.

62. Wade, J. (2004). Divine union: One with God. In Transcendent sex: When lovemaking opens the veil (pp. 180-199). New York: Paraview Pocket Views.

63. Sivaranam, K. (1987). The mysticism of male-female relationships: Philosophical and lyrical motifs of Hinduism. In B. Gupta (Ed.), Sexual archetypes, East and West (pp. 87-105). New York: Paragon House.

64. Kripal, J. J. (2001). Secret talk: Heroic heretical heterosexuality. In Roads of excess, palaces of wisdom: Eroticism and reflexivity in the study of mysticism (pp. 1-15, 25-31, 305-30). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

65. Burnett, D. (2003). The erotic mysticism of Sri Ramakrishna. In C. Partridge & T. Gabriel (Eds.), Mysticisms East and West: Studies in mystical experience (pp. 81-95). Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press.

66. Kripal, J. J. (2002). Debating the mystical as ethical: An Indological Map. In G. W. Barnard & J. J. Kripal (Eds.), Crossing boundaries: Essays on the ethical status of mysticism (pp. 15-69). New York: Seven Bridges Press.

67. Barnard, G. W. (2002). Debating the mystical as ethical: A response. In G. W. Barnard & J. J. Kripal (Eds.), Crossing boundaries: Essays on the ethical status of mysticism (pp. 70-99). New York: Seven Bridges Press.

68. Kripal, J. J. (2003). In the spirit of Hermes: Reflections on the work of Jorge N. Ferrer. Tikkun: A Bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture & Society 18(2), 67-70.

69. Feuerstein, G. (1991). The many faces of Da Love-Ananda (Da Free John). In Holy madness: The shock tactics and radical teachings of crazy-wise adepts, holy fools, and rascal gurus (pp. 80-100). New York: Paragon House.

70. Stoeber, M. (2002). Amoral trickster or mystic–saint? Spiritual teachers and the transmoral narrative. In G. W. Barnard & J. J. Kripal (Eds.), Crossing boundaries: Essays on the ethical status of mysticism (pp. 381-405). New York: Seven Bridges Press.

71. Zaehner, R. C. (1980). Mysticism sacred and profane. In R. Woods (Ed), Understanding mysticism (56-77). Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

72. Smith, H. (2000). Do drugs have religious import? In Cleansing the doors of perception,(pp. 15-32). New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

73. Partridge, C. (2003). Sacred chemicals: Psychedelics drugs and mystical experience. In C. Partridge & T. Gabriel (Eds.), Mysticisms East and West: Studies in mystical experience (pp. 96-131). Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press.

74. Merkur, D. (1998). The unitive phenomena. In The ecstatic imagination: Psychedelic experiences and the psychoanalysis of self-actualization (pp. 91-99). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

75. Ferrer, J. N. (forthcoming). Teaching the graduate seminar in comparative mysticism: A Participatory Integral Approach. In W. Parsons (Ed.), Teaching mysticism. (American Academy of Religion Series). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Comparative Studies Samples

1. Abe, M. (1990). Kenosis and emptiness. In R. Corless & P. F. Knitter (Eds.), Buddhist emptiness and Christian trinity: Essays and explorations (pp. 5-25). New York: Paulist Press.

2. Arapura, J. G. (1981). Transcendent Brahman or transcendent void: Which is ultimately real? In A. M. Olson & L. S. Rouner (Eds.), Transcendence and the sacred (pp. 83-99). Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

3. Carman, J. B. (1994). Hindu Goddesses and the blessed Virgin Mary. In Majesty and meekness: A comparative study of contrast and harmony in the concept of God (pp. 275-294). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing.

4. Carpenter, D. (1995). Bhartrhari and Bonaventure in comparison. In Revelation, history, and the dialogue of religions: A study of Bhartrhari and Bonaventure (pp. 137-175). New York: Orbis.

5. Chatterji, P. (1982). Plotinus and Sri Aurobindo: A comparative study. In R. Baine Harris (Ed.), Neoplatonism and Indian thought (pp. 257-72). Norfolk, VI: International Society For Neoplatonic Studies.

6. Coward, H. (1985). Prakrti and the collective unconscious: Purusa and Self. In Jung and Eastern thought (pp. 145-168). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

7. Jennings, W. H. (1996). Agape and karuna: Some comparisons. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 11(2), 209-217.

8. Parrinder, G. (1982). Theophany: Differences between Krishna and Christ. In Avatar and incarnation: A comparison of Indian and Christian beliefs (pp. 223-239). New York: Oxford University Press.

9. Sundarajan, K. R. (1996). Experiencing the world: A comparative study of Lila and Satori. In N. Smart & B. S. Murthy (Eds.), East-West encounters in philosophy and religion (pp. 105-119). Long Beach, CA: Long Beach Publications.

10. Suzuki, D. T. (1962). Crucifixion and enlightenment. In Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist. The Eastern and Western way (pp. 98-105). New York: Collier Books.

11. Wong, Joseph H. (2001). Through detachment of vision: Chuang Tzu and Meister Eckhart. In B. Barnhart & J. Wong (Eds.), Purity of the heart and contemplation: A monastic dialogue between Christian and Asian traditions (pp. 210-26). New York: Continuum.

12. Moregan, Christopher M. (2008). Comparison of [afterlife] beliefs. In Beyond the threshold: After life beliefs and experiences in world religions (pp. 227-41). New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Research Bibliography

1. Universalist/Perennialists Approaches

Bucke, R. M. (1961). Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the evolution of the Human Mind. Secaucus, N J: Citadel Press.

Burckhardt, T. (1987). Mirror of the Intellect. (Trans. William Stoddart). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Cutsinger, J. S. (1997). Advice to the Serious Seeker: Meditations on the Teaching of Frithjof Schuon. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Cutsinger, J. S. (Ed.). (2002). Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom.

de Azevedo, M. S. (Ed.). (2005). Ye Shall Know the Truth: Christianity and the Perennial Philosophy. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom.

Hick, J. (1992). An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Holman, J. (2008). The Return of the Perennial Philosophy: The Supreme Vision of Western Esotericism. London: Watkins Publishing.

Huxley, A. (1945). The Perennial Philosophy. New York: Harper and Row.

Ingram, P. O. (1997). Wrestling with the Ox: A Theology of Religious Experience. New York: Continuum.

James, W. (1902) Varieties of Religious Experience. New York: Modern Library.

Lings, M. & Minnaar, C. (2006). (Eds.). The Underlying Religion: An Introduction to the Perennial Philosophy. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom.

Loy, D. (1988). Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Nasr, S. H. (Ed.). (1986). The Essential Writings of Frithjof Schuon. Rockport, MA: Element.

Nasr, S. H. (1989). Knowledge and the Sacred. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Nasr, S. H. (1993). The Need for a Sacred Science. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. (especially ch. 3-4)

Needleman, J. (Ed.). (1986). The Sword of Gnosis: Metaphysics, Cosmology, Tradition, Symbolism. London: Arkana.

Oldmeadow, H. (2000). Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial Philosophy. Colombo: Sri Lanka Institute of Traditional Studies.

Oldmeadow, H. (2004). Journeys East: 20th Century Western Encounters with Eastern Religious Traditions. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom.

Otto, R. (1958). The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational. New York: Oxford University Press.

Perry, W. N. (Ed.). (1981). A Treasury of Traditional Wisdom. London: Perennial Books.

Quinn, W. W. (1997). The Only Tradition. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Schumacher, E. F. (1977). A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Harper & Row.

Schuon, F. (1984). The Transcendent Unity of Religions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (And any other book by Schuon, specially The Eye of the Heart; Logic & Transcendence, and Gnosis -- Divine Wisdom)

Shah-Kazemi, R. (2006). Paths to transcendence: According to Shankara, Ibn Arabi, and Meister Eckhart. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom.

Sharma, A. (Ed.). (1991). Fragments of Infinity. Garden City Park, NY: Prism Press.

Smith, H. (1976). Forgotten Truth. New York: Harper & Row.

Smith, H. (1989). Beyond the Postmodern Mind. (Updated and revised). Wheaton, IL: The Theosophical Publishing House.

Stace, W. T. (1986/1960). Mysticism and Philosophy. Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P. Tarcher.

Stoddart, W. (2008). Remembering in a World of Forgetting: Thoughts on Tradition and Postmodernism. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom.

Teasdale, W. (1999). The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality among the World’s Religions. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Underhill, E. (1910/1961). Mysticism: A Study in the Nature of Man's Spiritual Consciousness. New York: Dutton.

Wilber, K. (1977). The Spectrum of Consciousness. Ithaca, IL: Quest.

Wilber, K. (1995). Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

Wilber, K. (1997). The Eye of Spirit. Boston, MA: Shambhala.
2. Contextualist/Pluralist Approaches
Angel, L. (1994). Enlightenment East and West. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. (C)

Dean, T. (Ed.). (1995). Religious Pluralism and Truth: Essays on Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Gill, J. H. (1989). Mediated Transcendence: A Postmodern Reflection. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.

Gimello, R. M. (1978). Mysticism and Meditation. In S. Katz (Ed.), Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, 170-199. New York: Oxford University Press.

Heim, S. M. (1995). Salvations: Truth and Difference in Religion. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Hollenback, J. B. (1996). Mysticism: Experience, Response, & Empowerment. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Idel, M. & McGinn, B. (Eds.). (1996). Mystical Union in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: An Ecumenical Dialogue. New York: Continuum.

Irwin, L. (1996). Visionary Worlds: The Making and Unmaking of Reality. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Jantzen, G. M. (1995). Power, Gender and Christian mysticism. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Jones, R. (1909). Studies in Mystical Religion. New York: Macmillan.

Kaplan, S. (2002). Different Paths, Different Summits: A Model for Religious Pluralism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Katz, S. T. (Ed.). (1978a). Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press.

Katz, S. T. (1978b). Language, Epistemology, and Mysticism. In S. T. Katz (Ed.), Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, 22-74. New York: Oxford University Press.

Katz, S. T. (Ed). (1983). Mysticism and Religious Traditions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Katz, S. T. (1992). Mysticism and Language. New York: Oxford University Press.

Klein, A. (1986). Knowledge and Liberation: Tibetan Buddhist Epistemology in Support of Transformative Religious Experience. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications.

Neville, R. C. (Ed.). (2001). Ultimate Realities. A Volume in the Comparative Religious Ideas Project. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Paden, W. F. (1988). Religious Worlds. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Paden, W. E. (1992). Interpreting the Sacred: Ways of Viewing Religion. Boston, MA: Bacon Press.

Prabhu, J. (Ed.). (1996). The Intercultural Challenge of Raimon Panikkar. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. (And any other book by Panikkar)

Proudfoot, W. (1985). Religious Experience. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Scholem, G. (1941). Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. (3rd edition). New York: Schocken Books.

Vroom, H. M. (1989). Religions and the Truth: Philosophical Reflections and Perspectives. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

3. On the Perennialist/Contextualist Debate
P = Perennialist emphasis

C = Contextualist emphasis

Adam, M. T. (2002). A Post-Kantian Perspective on Recent Debates about Mystical Experience. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 70(4), 801-17. (P)

Almond, P. (1982). Mystical Experience and Religious Doctrine: An Investigation of the Study of Mysticism in World Religions. New York: Mouton. (C)

Bagger, M. (1991). Ecumenicalism and Perennialism Revisited. Religious Studies, 27, 399-411. (C)

Brainard, S. (1996). Defining “Mystical Experience.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 64(2), 359-393. (Neutral)

Byrne, P. (1984). Mysticism, Identity and Realism: A Debate Reviewed. International Journal of Philosophy of Religion, 16, 237-244. (P)

Dean, T. (1984). Primordial Tradition or Postmodern Hermeneutics? A Review Essay of A. M. Olson & L. S. Rouner (Eds.), Transcendence & the Sacred (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), and S. H. Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred, The Gifford Lectures 1981 (New York: Crossroad, 1981). Philosophy East & West, 34(2), 211-226. (C)

Evans, D. (1989). Can Philosophers Limit What Mystics Can Do? A Critique of Steven Katz. Religious Studies, 25, 53-60. (P)

Fenton, J. Y. (1995). Mystical Experience as a Bridge for Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion. In T. Dean (Ed.), Religious Pluralism and Truth: Essays on Cross-cultural Philosophy of Religion, 189-204. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. (C)

Ferrer, J. N. (2002). Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: A Participatory Vision of Human Spirituality. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. (C/P)

Forgie, J. W. (1985). Mystical Experience and the Argument from Agreement. International Journal for Philosophy & Religion, 17(3), 97-113. (C)

Forman, R. K. C. (1989). Paramartha and Modern Constructivists on Mysticism: Epistemological Monomorphism versus Duomorphism. Philosophy East & West, 39(4), 391-418. (P)

Forman, R. K. C. (Ed.). (1990). The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (P)

Forman, R. K. C. (Ed). (1998). The Innate Capacity: Mysticism, Psychology, and Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press. (P)

Forman, R. K. C. (1999). Mysticism, Mind, Consciousness. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. (P)

Gill, J. H. (1984). Mysticism and Mediation. Faith and Philosophy, Jan (1), 111-121. (C)

Griffin, D. R. & Smith, H. (Eds.). (1989). Primordial Truth and Postmodern Theology. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. (P/C)

Griffiths, P. J. (1991). An Apology for Apologetics: A Study in the Logic of Interreligious Dialogue. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis. [see especially chapter 3] (C)

Horne, J. R. (1974). Which Mystic Has the Revelation? Religious Studies, 2, 283-291. (C)

Jantzen, G. M. (1994). Feminists, Philosophers, & Mystics. Hypatia, 9(4), 186-206. (C)

Jones, R. H. (1994). Experience and Conceptualization in Mystical Knowledge. In R. H. Jones, Mysticism Examined: Philosophical Inquires into Mysticism, 19-46. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. (C)

Kapstein, M. (Ed.). (2004). The Presence of Light: Divine Radiance and Religious Experience. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. [see especially chapter 10] (C/P)

Katz, S. T. (1985). Recent Work on Mysticism. History of Religions, 25, 76-86. (C)

Katz, S. T. (1988). On Mysticism. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 56(4), 751-757. (C)

King, S. B. (1988). Two Epistemological Models for the Interpretation of Mysticism. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 56(2), 257-279. (P)

King, S. B. (1988). On Mysticism. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 56(4), 759-761. (P)

McGinn, B. (1994). The Foundations of Mysticism. Vol. I. of The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism. New York: Crossroad. (see especially “Appendix: Theoretical Foundations: The Modern Study of Mysticism,” pp. 264-343). (C)

McGinn, B. (1998). Quo Vadis? Reflections on the Current Study of Mysticism. Christian Spirituality Bulletin (Spring), 13-21. (C)

McDermott, R. A. (1989). From Mysticism to a Modern Spiritual Cognition. Revision, 12(1), 29-33. (C)

Nasr, S. H. (1985). Response to Thomas Dean’s Review of Knowledge and the Sacred. Philosophy East & West, 35(1), 87-90. (P)

Olson, A. M. (1985). On Primordialism versus Post-Modernism: A Response to Thomas Dean. Philosophy East & West, 35(1), 91-95. (P)

Perovich, A. N. Jr. (1985a). Mysticism and the Philosophy of Science. The Journal of Religion, 65, 63-82. (P)

Perovich, A. N. Jr. (1985b). Mysticism or Mediation: A Response to Gill. Faith and Philosophy, April (2), 179-188. (P)

Pike, N. (1992). Mystic Union. An Essay in the Phenomenology of Mysticism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. (see especially the Supplementary Study 2: Steven Katz on Christian Mysticism, pp. 194-207) (P)

Price, J. R., III. (1985). The Objectivity of Mystical Truth Claims. The Thomist, 49(1), 81-98. (P)

Raphael, M. (1994). Feminism, Constructivism, and Numinous Experience. Religious Studies, 30, 511-526. (C)

Rothberg, D. (1989). Understanding Mysticism: Transpersonal Theory and the Limits of Contemporary Epistemological Frameworks. Revision, 12(2), 5-21. (P)

Shear, J. (1990). The Inner Dimension: Philosophy & the Experience of Consciousness. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. (P)

Shear, J. (1994). On Mystical Experiences as Support for the Perennial Philosophy. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 62(2), 319-342. (P)

Short, L. (1996). Mysticism, Mediation, and the Non-Linguistic. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 63(4), 659-675. (Neutral)

Smith, H. (1987). Is there a Perennial Philosophy? Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 55, 553-566. (P)

Smith, H. (1988). On Mysticism. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 56(4), 757-759. (P)

Stoeber, M. (1992). Constructivist Epistemologies of Mysticism: A Critique and a Revision. Religious Studies, 28(1), 107-116. (P)

Studstill, R. (2005). The Unity of Mystical Traditions: The Transformation of Consciousness in Tibetan and German Mysticism. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

Wainwright, W. J. (1981). Mysticism: A Study of its Nature, Cognitive Value and Moral Implications. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. (P)

Woods, R. (Ed.). (1980). Understanding Mysticism. Garden City, New York: Image Books. (P/C)


Jorge N. Ferrer, Ph.D. is chair of the East-West Psychology Department at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Jorge is the author of Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: A Participatory Vision of Human Spirituality (SUNY Press, 2002) and co-editor of The Participatory Turn: Spirituality, Mysticism, Religious Studies (SUNY Press, 2008), which was the focus of a panel at the 2010 American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. His integral participatory approach to the teaching of mysticism is featured in a forthcoming anthology, Teaching Mysticism (Oxford University Press), edited by William Parsons.

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