4. Post-modern/Deconstructive Introduction

The study of mysticism is one that ironically reverses our preconceptions. On one reading, mysticism points to a true reality beyond us. Mystics claim to know things, to be in touch with God or a higher reality. These kinds of assertions, it seems, instantiate a metanarrative which legitimates some beliefs and marginalizes others.

On another reading,
mysticism is the destabilizing force that knocks the self-sufficiency of religion off of its moorings. More than that, though; it seems that it is not just trying to replace one ontology with another. It is always trying to push below the stagnation of accepted religion to the grounding, or anti-grounding, of spirituality.

Put another way - mysticism is constantly in the tension between being other-worldly and being radically this-worldly. Mystics are constantly trying to subvert our usual understandings of things, and not only that, but they are trying to subvert our understanding of understanding. Some mediaeval and early modern mystics were already deconstructing ontological systems. They were already working with the interplay of signifiers. They were questioning the totalizing accounts given by rationality, by the state, and by the church. They were rooting significance and ethics in a life world rather than in a set of abstract doctrines. It is no accident that we can trace similarities with the mystics right down to Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Gadamer, and Derrida.