Volume 6 / Issue 1 SPRING 2020

3 6 S p i r i t ua l i t y S t u d i e s 6 - 1 S p r i n g 2 0 2 0 2 Mysticism and Acosmism in Buber’s Pre-Dialogical Thought As Paul Mendes-Flohr explained in his works on the early Buber, there was a large-scale revival of philosophical and literary interest in mysticism in the early 20th century in Germany. This revival was systematically promoted by the scholars associated with the Eugen Diederichs publishing house in Jena. Young Buber was well-acquainted with this revival and contributed to it with several publications (Mendes-Flohr 1979, 11–12). Buber’s interest in mysticism is visible already in his disser - tation Zur Geschichte des Individuationsproblems (1904) in which he explores the intellectual legacy of the Christian mystical writers Nicolaus Cusanus and Jacob Böhme. In 1909 Buber published an intriguing volume of narratives by primarily Christian mystics entitled Ekstatische Kon - fessionen . This work contains an insightful preface, which reveals some important facts about Buber’s philosophy of mysticism and his view of the religious individual. The preface makes clear that Buber aims to explore the intense inner life of the individual mystic, the private lived experience of the religious individual. Buber focuses primarily on the experience of ecstasy, in which the mystic experiences the union with God, as well as the unity of his own self. The attached mystical narratives are to illustrate how the religious individual experiences the very ground of his being in an immediate, private, and non-reflective way (Buber 1996a, 2): [T]here is an experience, which grows in the soul out of the soul itself, without contact and without restraint, in naked oneness. It comes into being... free of the other, in - accessible to the other… [The soul] experiences itself as unity, no longer because it has surrendered itself wholly to a thing of the world... but because it has submerged itself entirely in itself, has plunged down to the very ground of itself…This most inward of all experiences is… ek-stasis. It is obvious from the cited passage that Buber appreciates both the interiority of the mystical experience and the mystic’s resoluteness to live out his subjectivity without regard for otherness. The dubious position of otherness comes to light even more clearly in another passage, where the world and other human beings are depicted as inner abstract entities (Buber 1996a, 6): [The mystic’s] unity... is limitless, for it is the unity of I and world. One’s unity is solitude, absolute solitude: the soli - tude of that which is without limits. One contains the oth - er, the others in oneself, in one’s unity: as world; but one no longer has others outside oneself, no longer has any communion with them or anything in common with them. In 1910, in a debate at the First German Conference of Sociologists, Buber abandoned the poetic language of Ek - statische Konfessionen and declared quite prosaically (Verhandlungen 1911, 206–207) [2]: I should like to pose the question whether mysticism can at all be considered a sociological category. I would con - tend that it is not: Mysticism is solely a psychological cat - egory… [it] may likewise be designated religious solipsism. It is, on the one hand, an absolute realization of [individual] religiosity… On the other hand…mysticism negates community, precisely because for it there is only one real relation, the relation to God. According to Buber mysticism reveals the important fact that deep religious processes are utterly private, inaccessible to otherness. As he explains, in the moments of highest religious passion the soul plunges into its own ground uniting itself with God in absolute solitude. Although Buber suggests that mysticism negates communi - ty in the sociological sense, he also claims that the mystic contains others in himself . This bond is, however, purely metaphysical. The religious individual experiences the communion with others as an inner process, since through his union with the Absolute he has also entered into a union with humanity. This humanity appears to be utterly abstract, as it is merely a moment of the Absolute. Importantly, the de - scribed communion with other humans does not require any determinate ethical action and does not involve any concrete social responsibility. The religious individual’s only responsi - bility is that of an intense passion for the Absolute.