The semester’s final meeting of the World Literature Colloquium will be on Wednesday, December 3 2014 at 4:30pm in Clark Hall 206. It will examine in a roundtable setting the topic of mysticism. Participants will consider the meaning of the term “mysticism” in both Western and Eastern literature and civilization along with several major figures and their writings as they relate to mysticism. Participants include (in alphabetical order) Florin Berindeanu (Classics and World Literature), Takao Hagiwara (Modern Languages), Denna Iammarino (SAGES/English), and Timothy Wutrich (Classics).

The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed., defines mysticism as “Belief in union with the divine nature by means of ecstatic contemplation, and belief in the power of spiritual access to ultimate reality, or to domains of knowledge closed off to ordinary thought. Also applied derogatorily to theories that assume occult qualities or agencies of which no empirical or rational account can be offered.”

While the concise, two-part definition in the ODP2 offers the general reader a working definition, nevertheless it points to a bifurcated understanding of the term. On the one hand, mysticism emerges as a way in which humankind and God might unite, perhaps to transcend unimportant, mundane concerns and enjoy cosmic consciousness; but on the other hand, one is warned that mysticism might be an irrational construct connected with magic and groundless belief in the supernatural.

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