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by Simon Critchley

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Why mysticism? Evelyn Underhill defined mysticism as “experience in its most intense form,” and in his new book the philosopher Simon Critchley poses a simple question to the reader: Wouldn’t you like to taste this intensity? Wouldn’t you like to be lifted up and out of yourself into a sheer feeling of aliveness, both your life and those of the creatures that surround you? If so, it might be well worthwhile trying to learn what is meant by mysticism and how it can shift, elevate, and deepen the sense of our lives. 

Mysticism is not primarily a theoretical issue. It's not a question of religious belief but of felt experience and daily practice. A rough and ready definition of mysticism is that it is a way of systematically freeing yourself of your standard habits, your usual fancies and imaginings so as to see what is there and stand with what is there ecstatically. Mysticism is the practical possibility of the achievement of a fluid openness between thought and existence. 

This is a book about trying to get outside oneself, to lose oneself, while knowing that the self is not something that can ever be fully lost. It is also a book about Julian of Norwich, Anne Carson, Annie Dillard, and T. S. Eliot, and how writing and poetry can help to show us the way there. It is a book full of learning, puzzlement, pleasure, and wonder. It opens the door to mysticism not as something unworldly and unimaginable, but as a way of life. Mysticism as activism: start now.

Additional Book Information

Series: New York Review Books
ISBN: 9781681378244
Pages: 256
Publication Date:


Simon Critchley is the most powerful and provocative philosopher now writing about the complex relations of ethical subjectivity and reinvigorated democracy.
—Cornel West

Simon Critchley’s work manages the difficult task of drawing both accessibility and depth from his vast range of references.
—Daniel Fraser, The Quietus

Critchley is what one might call a "working-class philosopher," by which I mean he sees philosophy as a proletarian concern rather than an elite activity to be practiced in ivory towers. He approaches every subject — be it suicide or soccer — with the same intellectual rigor. The writing is not only deep and philosophical, but approachable and conversational.
—Tyler Malone, Los Angeles Times

Critchley is generous without being platitudinous, rigorous but not overbearing.
—Houman Barekat, Vol. 1 Brooklyn

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