Unraveling the Mysteries of Mysticism

Author: Firestone, Randall S.
The mystics of all of the major religions have made many incredible claims throughout the ages – even going so far as to say that this world is merely an illusion. Over the last several decades, various philosophers have argued that mystical claims are mistaken due to unintentional self-delusion on the part of the mystic. This book is the first to bring together the six major claims made by mystics, the philosophical attacks that have been made on these claims, and the best responses the mystic could make to these attacks. The author demonstrates that the philosophers have not dealt the knockout punch that they have imagined, and that it is still an open question whether the claims made by the mystics should be believed.


“Mysticism is the poetry of the soul. Some of the greatest thinkers and artists, religious and non-religious, have acknowledged that it provides an insight into reality and a profundity of feeling that count among the most valuable achievements of the human spirit ... This book is beautifully written with a directness and forcefulness often lacking in many academic works ... In the process of tackling two central questions in the field of mysticism, it manages to shed light on many aspects of this vast terrain ... It is certainly a worthwhile enterprise to ‘unravel the mysteries of mysticism’ while being aware that relative failure here might actually betoken wisdom.” – (from the Preface) Professor Joseph Prabhu, California State University, Los Angeles

“This is the most thorough discussion of the philosophical issues surrounding experiences often categorized as ‘mystical’ that I have read. In particular, Professor Firestone presents a finely detailed discussion of how to interpret the psychology of such experiences in ways that make philosophical sense. The related issue of how to understand the epistemological claims often made by mystics receives equally fine discussion ... This book is an admirable contribution to balanced, critical, and reasoned study of mysticism.” – Professor Manyul Im, California State University, Los Angeles

“Professor Randall Firestone’s study is an important and insightful contribution to the philosophical analysis of the mystical experience. Due to its flowing style, clear language, and depth of analysis, it will appeal to both newcomers to the subject and to those who are already familiar and more fully entrenched in the literature and research in this field. The author explores the viewpoints of both the mystics and those who challenge their claims, and is able to give each position fair and thoughtful consideration ... The book is written in a fluid and well-organized style, making it both enlightening and enjoyable to read.” – Professor Matt Lawrence, Long Beach City College