This collection of essays challenges the widely accepted interpretation of mystical experience that received its fullest expression in two volumes edited by Steven T. Katz, "Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis" and "Mysticism and Religious Traditions". According to Katz and his colleagues, mystical experience is not qualitatively different from ordinary experience, and can be explained as the constructed and mediated product of previously held beliefs and concepts. On this view, there is no such thing as "universal" mystical experience. The present volume attempts to show that there is a single type of mystical experience that cuts across cultural and linguistic lines. This is the experience of "pure consciousness," a state in which the subject remains conscious but experiences neither thought, sensation, feeling, nor object of consciousness. Part I of the book demonstrates that there are well-attested reports of pure consciousness events occurring in a wide variety of ages and traditions, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
The essays in Part II consider the philosophical implications of these reports, arguing that there are no logical blocks to the claim of pure consciousness events. The question of unity vs plurality in experience is discussed, and a new model for the relation between mysticism and the socio-linguistic background is proposed.show more