Mystical Traditions in Comparative Perspective: Session One - Islamic mystical traditions‚ Sufis in India
Mysticism is a term that has fallen out of use in recent years, partly due to the critique of essentialism in the history of religions, partly due to the recognition that mysticism is particular to tradition and culture and partly due to the orientation to understand religion in terms of a politics of culture that sees religion purely in constructivist terms. The abstraction ‘mysticism’ is a problematic category that has been developed from Christian mystical theology (in contrast to dogmatic or natural theology). Viewing other religions through the lens of ‘mysticism’, particularly the religions of India and China, has tended to give a distorted picture to the West, underlined by Radhakrishnan’s claim, among others, that the east is ‘spiritual’ while the west is ‘material’. Of course, the historical reality of religious traditions is much more complex than this. Nevertheless, religious traditions are interested in, and develop, keen senses of inwardness that lay stress upon a direct understanding or experience of transcendence. While acknowledging the problematic nature of the category ‘mysticism,’ this series of seminars intends to explore the mystical traditions of specific religions in dialogue with Hinduism. The series is seen as an exercise in comparative theology. Short lectures on the mystical traditions would be followed by a response from a Hindu perspective and general discussion.