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FROM PRUDENCE TO MORALITY: A Case for the Morality of Some Forms of Nondualistic Mysticism

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Several contemporary philosophers have charged that there is a conceptual tension between nondualistic types of mystical awareness—an awareness of some particular conception of the divine as an all-pervasive unity within which there are no distinct substances—and the social character of morality. However, some nondualistic mystics have conceptualized enlightenment not only as being compatible with moral virtue—specifically, compassion and care—but as providing a foundation for it. I here offer a conceptual model for this grounding, at least according to Dōgen Zenji and Meister Eckhart. Briefly, the model suggests that some forms of nondualistic mystical awareness are accompanied by the mystics' prudential concerns extending to include the well-being of “others” under their scope. Finally, utilizing this model, I suggest possible responses to two common arguments for the claim that nondualistic mysticism is essentially amoral.

Keywords: Dōgen; Eckhart; Walter Stace; Zen Buddhism; mystical experience; mysticism

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9795.2007.00307.x

Affiliations: Richard Bland College

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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