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Title: Madness and Mysticism
Contributor(s): Norris, Stephen John (author); Gray, Frances (supervisor); Lynch, Anthony  (supervisor)orcid 
Conferred Date: 2008
Copyright Date: 2008
Open Access: Yes
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Abstract: From the beginning of recorded thought human beings have been passionately interested in the issues of madness, mysticism and the possible relationships which may exist between the two. Much of the debate centres on whether there may exist an Ultimate Reality inaccessible to our ordinary consciousness. As far back as the Pre-Socratics, sceptics have claimed that there is either no such thing, or that if such a thing exists, it is inaccessible to ourselves due to the limitations of our mind and body. This, nevertheless, has not deterred the many from believing in its existence and offering suggestions as to its nature and how it can be reached. Plato and the many he influenced, held that Ultimate Reality could not be reached by reason alone but rather must include the difficult cultivation of morality and humility. Nevertheless, even the best among us are likely to suffer from mental anguish due to the intensity of the experience and especially during the initiation, or 'transitional period', wherein the mystic's psyche must adapt to its new situation and become permanently changed. Throughout this thesis we have suggested, nevertheless, that once the individual regains her equilibrium she can be contrasted with that of the mad even if her subjective inner experience seems like it is pathological. The difference between the two can be measured by such yardsticks as control, virtue and the ability (or inability) to flourish in society at large. The true mystic, advocated by Platonism and its derivatives, is moral, rational and healthy. Of course not all agree with this analysis. Nietzsche and those he influenced, held that spirituality is a virtue of the powerful and has nothing to do with reason or morality at all. The cultivation of 'Individuation' is brought about by self-overcoming and self-mastery. The existentialists likewise rejected Platonism, holding that there is no such thing as Ultimate Reality at all. Instead they held that one could be both 'healthy' and yet be, in actuality, mad (in terms of living a life of illusion and self-deception). To the Nietzschen, the highest form of spirituality known to human existence - the mystical - transcends all reason, morality and pity. And to the existentialist, it is better to be true to oneself (live authentically) and be psychologically 'ill' than be healthy and live in bad faith (self deception). Due to the force of these objections, when it comes to asserting whether there exists a genuine mystical experience, as Plato proposed, which is good, beautiful and of the highest of truth - the question is not easily answerable and in the end may not be decided by reason at all. True mysticism may well be exceedingly rare and involve a cleansing of the doors of perception - a self-discipline, faith, and humility at odds with the proud, materialistic and closed ignorant minds of ordinary individuals.
Publication Type: Thesis Masters Research
Rights Statement: Copyright 2008 - Stephen John Norris
HERDC Category Description: T1 Thesis - Masters Degree by Research
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