Looking at history, it seems many mystical movememts have arisen in response to social crisis or collapse.
For our purposes, I will define mysticism loosely as a form of spirituality/religion that is non-fundamentalist. In contrast to text-based
fundamentalism like biblical literalism, mysticism is an inward-directed quest for the divine. In other words, one searches for the divine (be it
conceived of in the form of a God or a more impersonal force like the Tao, etc.) not primarily through combing through a holy text, but through
practices such as meditation, contemplation, shamanic ecstasy, and so on.
Looking at history, we can corrolate a number of mystical movements with points of great upheaval or crisis on a social level. For example:
-Decline and fall of the Roman Empire = the rise of mystical Gnosticism. Neoplatonism, "Mystery Religions," etc.
-Medieval Dark Ages = a golden age of Christian mysticism
-China's catestrophic 8th century An Shi Rebellion
(75% of the population killed or starved)
= time of creation of Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism in China.
-End of the Gupta Empire
in India = rise of Tantric
-Japan's Kamakura Period
= Decline of the old Heian scholastic Buddhsim and rise of mystical
Zen Buddhism, Amidism, Nichiren Buddhism, synchretic Shinto-Buddhist mystical cults, etc.
There are probably other examples, and exceptions as well. But I do see a pattern here.
So the question becomes, if we are headed into a new era of social turbulence, decline, or even chaos, will we see a corresponding rise in mystical
spirituality, in place of the fundamentalism/textual literalism that seems dominant today?
[edit on 4/8/10 by silent thunder]