Western Mysticism as it Appears Within the Literature of Contemporary Physics
This dissertation addresses the alignment of specific texts, i.e., those which pertain to mystical phenomena, written by contemporary physicists with the developmental stages of a typology of western mysticism (Underhill, 1961). A review of the possible parallels between physics and mysticism and the theoretical framework of reference for both disciplines was provided (Thompson, 1974, Heisenberg, 1962, Townes, 1966, Vigier, 1970). The study incorporated a combined hermeneutical/phenomenological methodology. Data consisted of the selected texts of thirty contemporary physicists. A hermeneutical process paraphrased the contents of the texts into comparable summary statements. A phenomenological process allowed these statements to be clustered for the given characteristics of mysticism, i.e., ineffability, noetic, transcience, passivity, interrelatedness, timelessness, and movement from the ego to the self. Those statements that exhibited mystical characteristics were then categorized for alignment with the developmental stages of Underhill's mystical typology, i.e., awakening, purgation, illumination, dark night, and union. Study results led to the conclusion that there is minimal alignment between the written texts of the physicists and the stages in a given typology of western mysticism, and that alignment occurred only with the stage of awakening.
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- Religion: General; Physics: Elementary Particles and High Energy