Posted by: theodorecosmosophia | March 26, 2011

Study Interfaith Mysticism at the New Seminary in NYC on April 3

Join for the class “Interfaith Mysticism” at The New Seminary:

The New Seminary, 2672 Broadway (between 101st and 102nd)

“INTERFAITH MYSTICISM”    Sunday, April 3, 2011 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Mysticism is among the most misunderstood and misused terms in religious studies. Often, it is conflated with the mere “mysterious” or the occult. In this class, we will explore the roots of mysticism as well as how it is expressed in the world’s great Wisdom Traditions. In doing so, we will attempt to understand the essence of these faiths. In this way, we will move toward an authentic interfaith, one that recognizes the paradox of the diversity of the world’s faiths as well as their essential unity. Finally, we will work toward mysticism as a way of moving toward a different way of relating to our world, one that seeks not to depart from the world or reject it but to create a more just, sustainable, and compassionate culture.

An excerpt on mysticism from Cosmosophia:

Cosmosophical Mysticism

Why do we need mysticism today?  After all, is it not an antiquated, superstitious way of looking at the world, inconsistent with today’s science?  If mysticism is the particular way in which humans respond the crisis of alienation, then we have never needed it more.  From the cosmosophical perspective, mysticism is the human expression of a tendency of the Universe to find connections and unities even as it expands and unfolds.  The central task of the human is to express this unity creatively, and to participate in cosmic processes in ways that are meaningful to human beings.  Exactly how this should be done is never exactly the same, because the Universe—of which human culture is a part—continues to change and unfold.  So, this is not a criticism of other kinds of mysticism, but a suggestion as to what kind of mystical participation might be appropriate at this moment.

To begin, cosmosophical mysticism is interfaith.  Today’s world is no longer one in which we can segregate our religious traditions.  We encounter one another as never before.  This requires looking back at our religious traditions to understand them fully and accurately, as well as looking forward to the new wisdom that is coming from the insights of modern science.  While I have been careful not to suggest that all mysticisms are the same, it is also true that mysticism is a way to discover that many of those traditions have certain commonalities, and those commonalities find their greatest expressions through the mystics.[1]

The mystic, like the shaman, is at the edge.  A particularly important concept in cosmosophy, as we shall see in chapter 11, is to live at the edge, poised between repose in the womb and giving birth to novelty.  A dynamic tension exists for the mystic between the cosmic womb and the birthing Universe.  The mystic both participates more deeply a culture’s cosmology or mythology and has the capacity to see things in an entirely new way.  And in being at the edge, at the periphery of a culture, the mystic is especially well-suited to teach a society through poetry, myth and symbol.

Because mystics can break through cultural boundaries, and because they often position themselves at the margins of a society, they can have a subversive element.  The cosmosophical mystic draws upon the wisdom of the margins, undermining hierarchies and upsetting the status quo.  Moreover, there is an ethical aspect to this kind of mysticism.  The barriers that limit compassion to one’s family or one’s group are broken when the mystic breaks through these cultural barriers.  Compassion is extended to include the entire community of life.  In this way, the interior, emotional quality of love connects the whole in a very real way.

Cosmosophical mysticism is most fundamentally the union or integration of opposites.  This union is played out in many of the world’s wisdom traditions.  This can include the body and the soul, the human and nature, or the individual and the cosmic.  This final category—the individual and the cosmic—is the primary emphasis of cosmosophy.  The mystic is one who is able to discover that the deepest identity—like Hegel’s “identity of identity and difference,” at once unique and universal—is not one of isolation and loneliness, but of cosmic interiority.

The central task of humanity is the reconciliation of these opposites to discover our own unique expression of this cosmic interiority.  If mysticism is indeed participatory, and not merely personal or psychological, then it is essential to understand the cosmology in which we are grounded.  In today’s world, we must ask ourselves how we can participate fully in the New Cosmology.


[1] See Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions. (Novato: New World Library, 1999)

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Responses

  1. Reconciliation, integration, finding and focussing on that which unites us…this is music to my ears and has always been my overriding interest in life. So delighted to have ‘found’ you. Thank you for this beautiful essay.


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