Is it actually possible to make contact with God, gods or the divine? A new book published by two Carroll University faculty tackles this timeless inquiry, and its deeper cultural and societal implications.
Christopher J. May, associate professor of psychology, and Scott E. Hendrix, assistant professor of history, have collaborated on “Integrative Mysticism,” which was recently published by Inter-Disciplinary Press in Oxford, United Kingdom. This volume contains the voices and disciplinary insights of a range of international scholars to explore societal, cultural, and neurobiological elements of mystical traditions.
The term “mystic” is often used to refer to those who come to be accepted as able to establish contact with God, gods or the divine. Though rare, those recognized as mystics often attain outsized importance within their society.
In the preface, the editors wrote, “What is it that causes an individual, and those around the individual, to believe in the possibility of direct contact with the divine or a higher plane of existence? And what is it that causes others to accept such claims, affording a special elevated status to the mystic? And is this a phenomenon restricted to times past and non-Western cultures?”
The scholars collected in this text examine South American shamanism, Islamic and Christian mystics, as well as contemporary efforts at transcendence ranging from Aleister Crowley’s magick to Jeffrey Kripal’s erotic teachings. In addition to editing, Hendrix and May contributed a chapter, “Yearning for God while Living in the World: History, Culture, Neuroscience and Mystical Experiences.” This book is an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural examination of an important, if often misunderstood, element of the human condition.
Hendrix has published extensively on medieval and early modern intellectual history. May is a neuroscientist who has published more than a dozen articles on the psychological and physiological effects of meditation practice. They are highly regarded at Carroll University; both have received faculty awards that recognize excellence in teaching, research and educational innovation. May and Hendrix have another collaborative publication, a book chapter titled, “Neuroscience and the Quest for God.” It was published in “The Neuroscientific Turn Transdisciplinarity in the Age of the Brain,” edited by Melissa M. Littlefield and Jenell M. Johnson in 2012.
Carroll, Wisconsin’s oldest four-year institution of higher learning, is an independent, co-educational comprehensive university grounded in the liberal arts tradition. Incorporated in 1846, it offers bachelor’s degrees in 57 majors and master’s degrees in business administration, education, exercise physiology, graphic communication, nursing, physician assistant studies and software engineering, as well as a clinical doctorate in physical therapy. For more information, visit www.carrollu.edu.