Mystical Prayer: Comparative Overview


The session is devoted to different definitions of mystical prayer, as relevant to different religious traditions. Harvey Egan focuses on the relationship between living faith and its meaning. He considers mysticism and mystical prayer to be inherent parts of a concrete religion. Christian mystical prayer’s defining characteristic is its transforming experience of the immediate presence of God. The Buddhist scholar Evgeny Tortchinov agrees with the definition of a transformation of consciousness, stating that Buddhism’s main concern is such a transformation from the enlightened to the enlightened mind, through contemplative practices. Neelima Shukla Bhatt stressed that the mystical prayer as the human act of communication with the transcendent may take many forms, verbal and non-verbal. Jamal Elias brought up the issue of perception, stating that any description of mystical experience is deceptive, and thus relies on metaphor such as Sufi poetry and music. Graham Harvey argued that mystical prayer is an immanent, not transcendent, endeavor, about relationships that celebrate the many. His view is that such a sense of unity with all things leads to social action, not traditional passivity. Meir Sendor emphasized the dialogical quality of mystical prayer, as the call to and meeting with the divine in a transformational reciprocity.

The session ended with a summary by Alon Gottstein highlighting the two main issues to arise out of the introductions: mystical prayer is essentially transformative in psychological and transpersonal terms, and there is a struggle with language in the difficulty of expression of such experiences.