Author(s)Conway, Michael A.
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AbstractFor the greater part of the nineteenth century in France, discussing mysticism, the mystic, or the mystical was treacherous or foolhardy; best avoided. On the side of religion, this position was secured through the condemnation of Fénelon at the dusk of the great century of saints, which, to use the felicitous expression of André Bord, would end by ‘beheading religion.’ On the university side, the rise of a reductive positivism heavily critiqued, and all but drowned out, any general interest in religion, and, specifically, in mysticism. To give you some idea of this, here are two observations from the Grand Dictionnaire universel du XIXe siécle (1874): ‘Mysticism engenders ecstasy and magic, the source of crimes and of madness’ (Géruzez); ‘All the powers of mysticism conspire to make people stupid’ (Proudhon). Not only that, but the rising discipline of psychology relegated, for the most part, all mystical experience to the domain of psychopathology, more specifically, to hysteria. There were, of course, exceptions, but these were marginal to mainstream university thinking. The dawn, however, of a new century would see this position change, so that right from the beginning we see an extraordinary interest in, and discussion of, mysticism and the mystical; and this, somewhat ironically, at the heart of the university that was by now radically secular.
Conway, Michael A. (2016) With Mind and Heart: Maurice Blondel and the Mystic Life. In: Mysticism in the French Tradition Eruptions from France. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781472439390