Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Religious experience and mysticism

April DeConick, in her excellent Forbidden Gospels Blog, has an interesting discussion of a new article by Peter Schäfer on the question of religious experience and mystical texts. As April notes, in his writing on the Hekhalot literature Schäfer has usually emphasized the importance of viewing early Jewish mystical literature as coming out of an "exegetical impulse" and not out of personal religious experience. While I agree with Schäfer that we need to look at both the ritual (usually called "magical") and the mystical aspects of the Hekhalot literature, I think that he goes overboard in his emphasis on exegesis. I agree with April in her approach: "My own approach is to consider the intersection of these two aspects, and to take very seriously the mystical tradition as a living practiced religious tradition." Anyway, read her blog posting - it's a very interesting and worthwile discussion of how to define early Jewish (and Christian) mysticism.

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