Touching The Limits Of Knowledge

Cosmology and our View of the World


The Intersection between Science & Mysticism   Lead: Amy Carrington


Summary by Aaron Sommers:


This discussion began with an introduction into how mysticism was defined. Every major religion including Christianity, Judaism and Islam include writings from mystics. Paul Brockelman would define it as the "area on the brink of the known and unknown".


Other perspectives on mysticism emphasize the immediate experience of an ultimate reality. This is accomplished through meditation or 'unlearning' the distracting noise of the universe. A tenet of most of mysticism is that of transcending one's reality. This is only possible, of course, by a strong belief in essential realities that are beyond intellectual comprehension. There was some debate in our class if this was a moot point, but most agreed there is a possibility of realities accessible only by subjective experience.


If such an experience does exist, then it cannot be quantified or predicted. Many life-altering mystical experiences have been characterized as 'unions' with another reality. Meister Eckhart, for instance, was a 13 century Christian mystic whose writings examined this relationship. He often wrote that only silence could describe the experience he had, everything else was a bogus lie. There needs to be tolerance between science and mysticism instead of condemning what we don't perceive and understand. Eckhart was charged with heresy in his later years, while at a professorship in Cologne, and died in prison shortly after.


All of mysticism is designed to reach another state of consciousness. The intersection, as mentioned, can be described as 'what is known and unknown'. Science, in its pursuit of methods of representation hopes to find patterns that will be applied to natural phenomena. Both hope to elucidate inquiry into how we live..


Perhaps the most compelling conclusion of our discussion tonight was the fact we found a place for the intersection between science and mysticism. They are not in opposition, rather, the adversities are a result of careless human thought processes. What the class decided was that there is no universal definition for mysticism. The element of mystery is at the root of both science and mysticism, and it is 'the unknown' that inspires us to believe in something. This was a solid point to end the discussion.

May 7, 2001