Mysticism and Social Justice

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (10 March 2024) | Viewed by 12855

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA 31698, USA
Interests: comparative mysticism; Spanish mysticism; St. John of the Cross; Thomas Merton; Teilhard de Chardin; world religions; philosophy of religion; interfaith dialogue; philosophy, religion and films; the interface of science and religion
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

The study of mysticism has oftentimes overlooked the importance of mystics' contributions to society in terms of social justice issues. Contemplatives, mystics, and sages are generally portrayed as people who withdraw from society, escaping from their social responsibilities to better the world. In this Special Issue we invite scholars from different academic fields to submit an article on at least one mystic and one social justice issue, no matter which time, culture, or religious tradition they belong to. This Special Issue on Mysticism and Social Justice will focus on how mystics or contemplatives in action around the globe (for instance, Laozi, Zhuangzi, Vivekananda, Gandhi, Tulsi, Nhat Hanh, the XIV Dalai Lama, Nishida, Einstein, Buber, Heschel, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Blake, Emerson, Thoreau, Black Elk, W. James, Jung, Underhill, Merton, King, Day, E. Cardenal, L. Boff, Tutu, de Chardin, B. Griffiths, R. Panikkar, Ruether, McFague, M. Fox, Rohr, Rabi'a of Basra, Rumi, Schimmel, and Starhawk, among many others) have addressed at least one major social justice issue (for example, human rights, nonviolence, war and peace, poverty, racism, classism, sexism, ecofeminism, homosexuality, interfaith and ecumenical dialogue, overpopulation, global diseases, healing and reconciliation, genocides, etc.). The overall focus of this Special Issue is to examine the spiritual legacies of these great mystics of action. The primary scope of the papers is to contextualize their mystical writings in their historical times, focusing on one social justice issue at a time. The purpose of this Special Issue is to bring together scholars from different fields of knowledge and to do so in a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary way. The aim is to expand on the existing literature currently available and to make clear why these mystics from different cultures and religious traditions were involved in the most urgent political, economic, social, and religious issues in their times.  

Prof. Dr. Cristobal Serran-Pagan Y Fuentes
Guest Editor

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Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

24 pages, 374 KiB  
Article
Laozi’s Ecofeminist Ethos: Bridging Ancient Wisdom with Contemporary Gender and Environmental Justice
by Pinghua Liu
Religions 2024, 15(5), 599; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050599 - 13 May 2024
Viewed by 490
Abstract
This paper delves into the convergence of Laozi’s Daoist mysticism with the principles of ecofeminism, highlighting the potential for ancient wisdom to inform contemporary issues of gender and environmental justice. Through an examination of the Dao De Jing, we uncover insights into [...] Read more.
This paper delves into the convergence of Laozi’s Daoist mysticism with the principles of ecofeminism, highlighting the potential for ancient wisdom to inform contemporary issues of gender and environmental justice. Through an examination of the Dao De Jing, we uncover insights into a holistic approach to social justice that integrates ecological sustainability and gender equality. Laozi’s teachings, characterized by the principles of Dao, Wu-wei, and Ziran, offer a foundational framework for understanding the interconnectedness of all beings and the importance of living in harmony with the natural world. By analyzing relevant passages and concepts from the Dao De Jing, this paper demonstrates how Daoist philosophy aligns with and enriches ecofeminist values, advocating for a society that honors the balance between humanity and nature and recognizes the integral role of women in achieving environmental and social harmony. This paper presents case studies that illustrate the practical application of Daoist principles in ecological feminist practices, shedding light on the successes and challenges of integrating ancient philosophical insights into modern activism. The fusion of Daoist mysticism and ecofeminism provides a compelling vision for addressing the intertwined challenges of gender inequality and environmental degradation, suggesting pathways toward a more just, sustainable, and harmonious world. In doing so, it calls for a reimagined approach to social justice that is deeply informed by an understanding of ecological sustainability and gender equality as mutually reinforcing goals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mysticism and Social Justice)
13 pages, 197 KiB  
Article
Passion for Peace and Justice in the Prophetic Mysticism of Merton and Heschel
by Cristobal Serran-Pagan y Fuentes
Religions 2024, 15(4), 507; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040507 - 19 Apr 2024
Viewed by 1328
Abstract
Thomas Merton’s interfaith dialogue with the Jewish rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel sets a resonating example of how these two religious figures from the twentieth century can learn from each other and respect their theological differences while still finding common ground in their social [...] Read more.
Thomas Merton’s interfaith dialogue with the Jewish rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel sets a resonating example of how these two religious figures from the twentieth century can learn from each other and respect their theological differences while still finding common ground in their social critiques, as fully revealed in their more mature prophetic writings from the 1960s. The purpose of this article is to show how both Merton and Heschel found, in their sacred humanism, a final integration between their mystical quest for God and their passion as modern prophets to denounce the social injustices of their time. Merton and Heschel have become exemplar cases of creative interfaith dialogue and witnesses for justice. In so doing, I hope to demonstrate how their interfaith friendship brought them closer together when facing the Second Vatican Council’s efforts to write a major document like Nostra Aetate, or “in Our Time”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mysticism and Social Justice)
10 pages, 223 KiB  
Article
Good News for the Oppressed? Exploring the Spiritual, Political, and Intercultural Dimensions of Howard Thurman’s Philosophy
by Aizaiah G. Yong
Religions 2024, 15(3), 358; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030358 - 18 Mar 2024
Viewed by 988
Abstract
This paper centers on the godfather of the civil rights movement, Howard Thurman, and his most influential work, “Jesus and the Disinherited”, as a pre-eminent text into early 20th century intercultural philosophy. Building upon Kipton Jensen’s analysis in “Howard Thurman: [...] Read more.
This paper centers on the godfather of the civil rights movement, Howard Thurman, and his most influential work, “Jesus and the Disinherited”, as a pre-eminent text into early 20th century intercultural philosophy. Building upon Kipton Jensen’s analysis in “Howard Thurman: Philosophy, Civil Rights, and the Search for Common Ground”, this presentation will reframe Howard Thurman’s unique philosophy as one that integrates spirituality, interculturality, and critical social analysis. It is well known that Thurman’s treatise on the oppressed was carried in the pocket of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the civil rights movement for the ways it empowered nonviolent resistance for those marginalized by the dominant culture of the United States, which was (and still is) built on racism, military violence, and class-based oppression. This paper advocates that Thurman came to his philosophical conclusions through deep engagement with various cultural and philosophical traditions, most notably the Hindu spiritual–political paradigm of Mahatma Gandhi, and sought to harmonize these insights for African Americans in the USA. By investigating the intercultural foundations of “Jesus and the Disinherited”, this paper will encourage scholars to explore how interculturality enriched Thurman’s philosophy and how this fostered a more expansive vision of community in pluralistic societies. This article traces the roots of the development of “Jesus and the Disinherited”, looking back to presentations Thurman gave as early as 1922, concluding with the publication of his book in 1949. And via this study, we will see the progression of Thurman’s ideas and the impacts interculturality had on his philosophy and vision for social justice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mysticism and Social Justice)
21 pages, 768 KiB  
Article
Queering John of the Cross: Sanjuanist Contributions to the Fight against Phobias towards Queer People
by Anderson Fabian Santos Meza
Religions 2024, 15(3), 336; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030336 - 12 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1413
Abstract
This article aims to approach Sanjuanist mysticism from a queer perspective. It is not a monolithic apology to queer people, nor a treatise on mystical interpretation, but an effort to recognize and validate the spiritual experience of LGBTIQ+ people. It takes some mystical [...] Read more.
This article aims to approach Sanjuanist mysticism from a queer perspective. It is not a monolithic apology to queer people, nor a treatise on mystical interpretation, but an effort to recognize and validate the spiritual experience of LGBTIQ+ people. It takes some mystical passages from St. John of the Cross that help to read the experience of queer life in a mystical key. With this, the potential of mysticism to combat those phobic, segregating, and unjust ideologies that mistreat so many people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity dissidence is manifested. Although it is problematic, talking about this is an act of epistemic, sociocultural, and religious justice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mysticism and Social Justice)
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14 pages, 254 KiB  
Article
Martin Buber and Social Justice
by Hune Margulies
Religions 2023, 14(11), 1342; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14111342 - 24 Oct 2023
Viewed by 1434
Abstract
Martin Buber’s seminal work is his “I and Thou”. In I and Thou, Buber establishes a philosophical foundation for the creation of a dialogical society. Buber’s concept of I–Thou dialogue provides a framework for understanding the inherent connection between interpersonal [...] Read more.
Martin Buber’s seminal work is his “I and Thou”. In I and Thou, Buber establishes a philosophical foundation for the creation of a dialogical society. Buber’s concept of I–Thou dialogue provides a framework for understanding the inherent connection between interpersonal encounters and social justice. As Buber elucidates, genuine dialogue is not confined to the encounter between two persons, but it manifests in the manner of a society organized on premises of social justice, freedom and compassion. In this regard, it is important to note that if we trace Buber’s personal and philosophical biography we will not find many instances of him engaging in what could be called social justice activism. Buber did found and join civic organizations that dealt with issues of peace and justice, and lent his support to many such political endeavors (see the organizations called Brith Shalom (Covenant of Peace) founded in 1925 in mandatory Palestine, and Ihud (Unity) founded in 1942, six years before Israel’s statehood). Nonetheless, a number of world prominent social justice advocates and activists found inspiration and guidance in Buber’s philosophy, and it is perhaps hereby, where Buber’s impact on social justice is most distinctly pronounced. What Buber aimed to achieve in his writings and political endeavors was to present a philosophy of relationships on which to found a society established on practices of social justice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mysticism and Social Justice)
19 pages, 293 KiB  
Article
Panikkar on Mysticism as a Middle Way between Contemplation and Action
by Abraham Vélez de Cea
Religions 2023, 14(10), 1331; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14101331 - 23 Oct 2023
Viewed by 1119
Abstract
Panikkar’s philosophy of mysticism is best understood as an attempt to overcome monistic and dualistic ways of thinking about the divine, human beings and the universe. Mysticism, for Panikkar, is irreducible to either monistic experiences of oneness without a second or to dualistic [...] Read more.
Panikkar’s philosophy of mysticism is best understood as an attempt to overcome monistic and dualistic ways of thinking about the divine, human beings and the universe. Mysticism, for Panikkar, is irreducible to either monistic experiences of oneness without a second or to dualistic experiences where the divine is seen as wholly other. Rather, mysticism relates to holistic experiences of Reality and Life where the divine, the universe and human consciousness are seen as distinct yet constitutively interrelated. Mysticism has often been based on dualistic views of this life and the next, worldly existence and heavenly existence, the material and the spiritual, body and soul, and action and contemplation. These dualisms have led many to view mysticism as negating life and as an escape from this world and human activities. Panikkar’s philosophy of mysticism, however, attempts to overcome these dualisms and restores the equilibrium between the diverse yet united aspects of Reality and the human condition. This article is divided into two parts. The first part introduces Panikkar’s conception of mysticism as an anthropological dimension and as involving holistic experiences of Reality and Life. The second part examines Panikkar’s notion of pure consciousness and his understanding of mystical experiences as being the result of various mediating factors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mysticism and Social Justice)
10 pages, 263 KiB  
Article
Encountering the Divine, Resisting Patriarchy: Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Prophetic Catholicism
by Jim Robinson
Religions 2023, 14(10), 1230; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14101230 - 25 Sep 2023
Viewed by 1108
Abstract
While Rosemary Radford Ruether is widely, and rightly, acknowledged as a prophetic Catholic scholar–activist, her interest in and experience of mysticism is rarely emphasized. However, Ruether had an impactful mystical experience as a young woman, and the themes of this experience echo throughout [...] Read more.
While Rosemary Radford Ruether is widely, and rightly, acknowledged as a prophetic Catholic scholar–activist, her interest in and experience of mysticism is rarely emphasized. However, Ruether had an impactful mystical experience as a young woman, and the themes of this experience echo throughout her body of work. This paper paints a portrait of Ruether as both a profoundly prophetic scholar–activist and a spiritually attuned seeker of the very divinity that she encountered in her twenties. In the process, this paper first offers a democratized and demystified vision of mysticism by drawing on the work of Bernard McGinn, Dorothee Söelle, and Jess Byron Hollenback. Next, it offers a biographical sketch of Ruether, contextualizing her early mystical experience within the broader pattern of her spiritual and intellectual path. It interprets Ruether’s mystical experience, through which she encountered the divine as a feminine presence suffusing creation, as a meaningful source of inspiration for her decades-long commitment to an anti-patriarchal, ecofeminist theology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mysticism and Social Justice)
12 pages, 264 KiB  
Article
Oneness and Mending the World in Arthur Green’s Neo-Hasidism
by Ephraim Meir
Religions 2023, 14(7), 863; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14070863 - 1 Jul 2023
Viewed by 1441
Abstract
This article describes and discusses Green’s mystical neo-Hasidic thought, his reshaping of Judaism and his combination of scholarship and existential engagement. I showcase how his vision on the Oneness of all and on the unity in plurality leads him to an appreciation of [...] Read more.
This article describes and discusses Green’s mystical neo-Hasidic thought, his reshaping of Judaism and his combination of scholarship and existential engagement. I showcase how his vision on the Oneness of all and on the unity in plurality leads him to an appreciation of evolution and to the promotion of love energy in all, to ecological care and to a deep concern for what happens in Israel and Palestine. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mysticism and Social Justice)
16 pages, 290 KiB  
Article
Ernesto Cardenal: A Latin American Liberation Mystic
by Marcela Raggio
Religions 2023, 14(5), 655; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14050655 - 15 May 2023
Viewed by 1143
Abstract
This paper explores mysticism as seen in Ernesto Cardenal’s El Evangelio en Solentiname (The Gospel in Solentiname), aiming at both defining Cardenal as a revolutionary and a traditional mystic, shaped by Thomas Merton’s influence and by Latin American political circumstances. Mysticism [...] Read more.
This paper explores mysticism as seen in Ernesto Cardenal’s El Evangelio en Solentiname (The Gospel in Solentiname), aiming at both defining Cardenal as a revolutionary and a traditional mystic, shaped by Thomas Merton’s influence and by Latin American political circumstances. Mysticism is usually defined as individual contemplation of God, immediate and unmediated. Yet, in the context of Latin American 20th-century struggles for liberation, mysticism became contemplation of God while the individual is committed to the community. This perspective is studied in Cardenal’s book, supported with his memoir Las ínsulas extrañanas (The Strange Islands), to show that Cardenal is a mystic, notwithstanding his political commitment, or precisely because of that. The theoretical background draws notions from liberation theology and liberation philosophy. Paradoxically, in spite of its revolutionary claims, Cardenal’s The Gospel in Solentiname can be seen in the line of traditional mysticism, in its challenge of power from the margins and its presentation of alternative modes of communicating with the divine. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mysticism and Social Justice)
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