Does the Western literature lag behind in mysticism? If yes, why? If no, what are some Western magnum opuses that bring mysticism into prominence?

As you can see by my bio, I myself write about mysticism, and I live in the West.
However, IMO there are three distinctly separate threads of mysticism that have arisen in the West, and it is important to distinguish them:

1. Egoic. Mysticism schools that have some useful information, but tend to amplify the ego and enhance personal power and abilities. These include things like Theosophy, the work of Alistair Crowley and George Gurdjieff, certain New Age literature like The Secret, and esoteric and alchemical practices found among secret organizations (Free Masons, etc.).

2. Contemplative. Mysticism schools that grew out of the Christian and Neoplatonist traditions, but (surprisingly, in my view) have not propagated much throughout Western culture except in very small enclaves, denominations or esoteric schools. This would include the works of the Gnostics, Hermeticists, Neoplatonists, Christian contemplatives (Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhardt, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Jakob Böhme, Thomas Traherne, Thomas Merton, The Cloud of Unknowing, etc.), the Eastern Orthodox Desert Fathers (see the Philokalia), the practices of the Quakers, and some recently revitalized threads found in New Age literature (the writings of Kryon or Richard Bach, for example, or Meditations on the Tarot - A Journey into Christian Hermeticism).

3. Intellectual-Philosophical. This is where we find mainly a left-brained exploration of mystically influenced thought. Here we find the works of folks like Teilhard de Chardin, the German idealists (Fichte, Schelling, Hegel), William James, J. Krishnamurti, Aldus Huxley, Jean Gebser, Joseph Campbell and many others.

As to why these are not more popular, recognized or known - that is likely the result of several factors. Mainly it is because the dominant religious institutions in the West tend towards exoteric ritual and encourage dependence on authority. This is in stark contrast to Eastern religions like Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism, which - although they can and do succumb to similar institutional failings - tend to emphasize individual practice, development and “paths to enlightenment” in ways that never really have caught on in the West (other than through cults, self-appointed gurus and expensive weekend retreats). In the West, religion is also often much more commoditized and consumerized as a consequence of the ascendence of capitalism.

As for a magnum opus, I recommend Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism as a useful starting point. You can also read some of my works on mysticism, downloadable for free here: Integral Lifework Books & CDs.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post:


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