Do modern science and traditional mysticism have anything in common? Can they be related at all? How do scientific and mystical claims about reality compare and contrast with each other? This philosophical work, originally published by Bucknell University Press in 1986, attempts to provide some answers to these questions.
In Part I, Richard H. Jones sets out those aspects of science and mysticism that become important when the two endeavors are compared. For science, problems concerning understanding, concepts, laws and theories, explanations, models, observations, the acceptance of theories, theory-change, the accuracy of scientific claims are discussed. For mysticism, religious ways of life, mysticism itself, and two types of mystical theories are distinguished. Theravada Buddhism is utilized to illustrate "nature-mysticism" (mystical ways of life in which central importance is given to experiences involving a weakening of the ordinary sense of self and the conceptual structuring of experiences in general). Advaita Vedanta is chosen as the example of "depth-mysticism" (mystical ways of life giving central importance to allegedly cognitive experiences void of all conceptual and sensory content).
Part II contains comparisons of the nature of scientific and mystical claims. First, the basic aims of each endeavor and the general relation of knowledge-claims to cultural phenomena are discussed. Next, under the heading of "reality," a brief discussion of metaphysics is given before specific comparisons are made on the subjects of time, space, and orderliness. A discussion of the nature of what is taken to be "knowledge" in science and in mysticism is followed by a discussion of "experiences" in both enterprises. Finally, the role of language in each is analyzed. Among the topics considered are paradox and metaphoric utterances.
Part III compares and contrasts certain scientific and mystical claims. First of all, possible relationships between science and mystical claims are set forth, with special attention to convergence on abstract levels, complementary ways of knowing, and the general mystical judgment of the status of scientific claims. This is followed by comparisons of specific theories from cosmology and contemporary physics, including one technological advance (holography), with theories of traditional Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta. In the case of physics, the topics discussed are fields and mystical oneness, substance and voidness, interconnections and conditionality, and the submicroscopic versus macroscopic realms. The views of such thinkers as F. S. C. Northrop, Fritjof Capra, and Gary Zukav are also discussed. Finally, a reconciliation of mystical and scientific claims is proposed — a position that attributes reality both to "being" and to the "structures" in the realm of change, with mysticism being authoritative for the former and science for the latter.
An appendix discussing philosophical implications of scientific (neurophysiological) studies of mystics and meditators is also included.
(Originally published by Bucknell University Press, 1986.)