CFP: The philosophy of mystical experience

Submission deadline: September 30, 2022

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Call for Papers: The philosophy of mystical experience
Special Issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444)
Submission deadline: September 30th, 2022
Guest Editor: Sebastian Gaeb (LMU)

In all times and cultures, humans have had experiences which are usually called ‘mystical’. The philosophical study of these mystical experiences poses a lot of questions, such as those detailed subsequently.

What are mystical experiences? Are they distinguished from other kinds of experiences by a certain kind of content, a specific state of consciousness, or something else entirely? Are there distinctive kinds of mystical experiences? If so, by which criteria can we classify them? Does the distinction between introvertive and extrovertive experiences make sense?

Is there reason to believe that mystical experiences across times, cultures, and religions share a common core? If there is a common core, what does it consist of and what is its relevance for the possibility of religious pluralism? Are there any metaphysical implications which can be drawn from a universal core of mystical experiences?

What is the epistemic status of mystical experiences? Can they be seen as presentations of a mind-independent reality? Can mystics gain insights from their experience, and if so, what criteria are there for distinguishing veridical from illusory mystical experiences? Do mystical experiences support religious beliefs?

Why do mystical experiences clash with language so often? When mystics attempt to speak about their experiences, they often claim that they are ineffable, and resort to images, metaphors, or paradoxical statements. How can we explain the difficulty to put mystical experiences into words? Additionally, how can mystical experiences have epistemic value and still be ineffable at the same time?

Does the study of the phenomenology of mystical experiences have implications for our understanding of mind, consciousness, and self in general? Using the concepts of contemporary philosophy of mind, how can we describe the phenomenology of mystical experience? Is it possible to give a coherent interpretation to the mystics’ claims to have experienced, e.g., a dissolution of the self or a nondual state of consciousness?

Are mystical experiences religious phenomena or should we rather classify them as ‘spiritual’? However, what is nonreligious spirituality and what elements of mystical experiences make them spiritual?

What is the relationship between meditation and mystical experiences? Is meditation a kind of mystical practice? Can modern meditative practices be regarded as a kind of secular mysticism?

Can mystical experiences be triggered by psychedelics such as psilocybin or LSD? Are there phenomenological similarities or dissimilarities between ‘natural’ and chemically induced mystical experiences? Can we draw implications for the philosophical study of mysticism from the scientific study of the effects of psychedelics on mind and brain?

How should results from current neuroscience, neurotheology, or neurophenomenology research affect our understanding of mystical experiences? Do these findings support the hypothesis that there is a common core? Do they cast doubt on the claim that mystical experiences have epistemic value?

We invite methodologically thorough and conceptually clear contributions on any of these (or similar) questions, from all kinds of philosophical and religious backgrounds.

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