Shengren – Chapter 3.8 – Der Mystiker (Mystic)

A purely rational world view without all mysticism is absurd.[1]

– Erwin Schroedinger, Mein Leben, Meine Weltansicht

Mystics, like saints, traditionally had a religious character. William Harmless [what a great name], a professor of Theology, wrote in his text-book Mystics (2008): ‘a mystic is a religious practitioner who claims to have experienced the infinite, word-defying Mystery that is God.’ The German historian Oswald Spengler included the mystic along with other spiritual characters like the occultist, the gurus and the shaman under the category ‘Magian personality‘. A Magian personality, according to Spengler in his Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1918), was a source of civilization’s evil that pervaded Oriental cultures and would bring—if tolerated for too long—the end to Occidental cultures. Western culture always had its mystics such as Dionysus,[2] but more so its Christian mystics such as Johannes Scotus Eriugena, Meister Eckhart and Jacob Boehme. Heinrich Heine called Luther a prophet and mystic.[3] The East had mystics too, because forms of magical and occult practices existed there as well, albeit in different forms. Occultists who wanted to see Taoism as a cult probably referred to Laozi as a Chinese mystic. Scholarship, though, seldom has: The scholars called Laozi ein Heiliger, not ein Mystik. The philosophers did not think of Confucius as a magician or mystic either, but as a statesman and teacher, or Heiliger and Philosoph; and they never translated shengren as Mystiker. The closest thing to a mystic in Chinese was神秘者shenmi-zhe. Luckily, even the holistic Karl Jaspers who notoriously called shengren anything except by its correct name[4] turned down a mystic reading of Confucius: ‘The mythical age was at an end; from now on there were philosophers.’[5]

[1] Schroedinger, 1960: ‘Ein rein verstandesmäßiges Weltbild ganz ohne Mystik ist ein Unding.”

[2] Wilde, 1890, p. 5

[3] Heine, 1966

[4] Jaspers, 1957: Philosophen (p. 18), Heilige (p. 144, 147), Asketen, Beschwoerer, Alchimisten, Lebensverlaengerer, Zauberer, Gauckler (p. 159)

[5] Gottschalk, 1966, p. 72

Pattberg, Thorsten (2011), Shengren – Above Philosophy and Beyond Religion, LoD Press, New York