Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obstacles to Mystical Experience

Scott Crom, a Quaker and philosophy professor at Beliot College in Wisconsin, wrestles with the dual nature of man's existence: the struggle between reason and intuition, between tradition and illumination, between liturgy and prophesy. Just a glance at his section heading will give you a glimpse of the depth of his examination: Intellectual Obstacles; There Are Many Paths; Between Time and Eternity; Obstacles in the Will; Socrates or Augustine?; The Personality of God; The Final Breaking Point.

Central to his concern is the role of reason in the spiritual realm.
"Does reason control the will, or can the will overpower reason? Both and neither. The very question is symptomatic of a split, if not a downright illness, on the part of the person for whom it is a pressing question. It is psychologically akin to the tail-chasing paradox found in those who admire a life of spontaneity and simplicity, and deliberately set out to make themselves spontaneous and simple, thereby pushing themselves further away from what they think they want."

But as a Quaker, Scott Crom realizes the limits of philosophizing, the traps of theologies. Quakerism, he says, "replies that religion really begins in an experiment, to end in an experience. Doctrines and interpretations tend not only to be stumbling blocks to the seekers, but divisive factors among the religious. Accordingly, a doctrinal formulation of belief does not matter nearly so much as what one feels and experiences, and how one lives and responds to his own illumination and to the world around him."

This essay is in the spirit of an investigation, of questions, paradox, problems, and sometimes solutions which attempt to fit both the sense of mystery and the requirements of religion. Determine for yourself whether Scott Crom raises more questions than he answers.

Read the complete Pendle Hill Pamphlet 132 by Scott Crom:
Obstacles to Mystical Experience

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