Mystical Experience or Mystical Consciousness? B. McGinn’s Understanding of Mysticism
Doświadczenie mistyczne czy mistyczna świadomość? Mistyka w ujęciu B. McGinna
Languages of publication
Bernard McGinn is widely considered the preeminent scholar of mysticism in the Western Christian tradition. He is a leading authority on the theology of the 14th-century mystic Meister Eckhart as well as on various issues concerning apocalypticism. His current long-range project is a six-volume history of Western Christian mysticism under the general title The Presence of God, four volumes of which have already been published. He is the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley professor emeritus of Historical Theology and professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Chicago Divinity School. This article aims to explain his understanding of mysticism. The question which appears in the title of this paper, Mystical Experience or Mystical Consciousness? does not concern the essence of his theory of mysticism; it does however have relevant significance as far as the anthropological perspective in which B. McGinn proposes his solutions for the most discussed problems. Instead of trying to define mysticism, he prefers to discuss the term under three headings that organize the content of this paper, namely: mysticism as a part or element of religion; mysticism as a process or way of life; and mysticism as an attempt to express a direct consciousness of the presence of God. His view is integral, meaning that mysticism is always seen in its broad context as a goal and fulfillment of spirituality within the community of believers, as an important current within a developing process of individual existence and a transforming power in everyday routine. In his theory appear two particularly fundamental categories: „presence” and „consciousness”. The term „presence” he finds as more central and more useful for grasping the unifying note in the varieties of Christian mysticism. On the other hand „consciousness” is found as a more precise and fruitful concept than the highly ambiguous „experience”. Professor McGinn’s considerations on the mystical consciousness covered in this presentation constitute a substantial contribution to a contemporary discussion on the nature of mysticism. Generally the essence of B. McGinn’s understanding of mysticism can be summarized in his own words as „Christian belief and practice that concerns the preparation for, the consciousness of, and the effect of what the mystics themselves have described as a direct and transformative presence of God”.
Publication order reference