Zen and the Unspeakable God: Comparative Interpretations of Mystical Experience

Paperback | October 14, 2016

byJason N. Blum

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Zen and the Unspeakable God reevaluates how we study mystical experience. Forsaking the prescriptive epistemological box that has constrained the conversation for decades, ensuring that methodology has overshadowed subject matter, Jason Blum proposes a new interpretive approach—one that begins with a mystic’s own beliefs about the nature of mystical experience. Blum brings this approach to bear on the experiential accounts of three mystical exemplars: Meister Eckhart, Ibn al-ʿArabi, and Hui-neng. Through close readings of their texts, he uncovers the mystics’ own fundamental assumptions about transcendence and harnesses these as interpretive guides to their experiences.

The predominant theory-first path to interpretation has led to the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of individual mystical experiences and fostered specious conclusions about cross-cultural comparability among them. Blum’s hermeneutic invites the scholarly community to begin thinking about mystical experience in a new way—through the mystics’ eyes. Zen and the Unspeakable God offers a sampling of the provocative results of this technique and an explanation of its implications for theories of consciousness and our contemporary understanding of the nature of mystical experience.

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From the Publisher

Zen and the Unspeakable God reevaluates how we study mystical experience. Forsaking the prescriptive epistemological box that has constrained the conversation for decades, ensuring that methodology has overshadowed subject matter, Jason Blum proposes a new interpretive approach—one that begins with a mystic’s own beliefs about the natu...

Jason N. Blum is Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the American University in Cairo.

other books by Jason N. Blum

Format:PaperbackDimensions:200 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:October 14, 2016Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271070803

ISBN - 13:9780271070803

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Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Theory vs. Interpretation

1 The Problem of Context

2 An Interpretive Approach

3 Ibn al-ʿArabi and the Names of God

4 Meister Eckhart and the Breaking-Through into the Quiet Desert

5 Hui-neng and the Stink of Zen

Conclusion: Theory and Interpretation

Notes

Works Consulted

Index

Editorial Reviews

“This is a gem of a book. It is well written, tightly organized, and succinct in its formulations. It manages to take three very sophisticated mystical authors from three very different cultures and put them into critical conversation both with one another and with the ontological assumptions of the contemporary academy. The result is a wonderful example of the new comparativism.”—Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Comparing Religions: Coming to Terms