Chapter Three In the shadow of William James: Borges as scholar of mysticism
In order to be able to decide if the prophet is telling the truth or lying, we shall have to investigate the mystical experience for ourselves. This can be done in two ways: from the outside, by studying the biographies and writings of the saints; and from the inside, by following the instructions they have given us. — Christopher Isherwood, Vedanta for The Western World Was Borges a theorist of mysticism? As established in the previous chapter, it is characteristic of scholars of mysticism to define the terms ‘mystic’ and ‘mysticism’ by enumerating the salient features following analysis of both mystical texts and, in some cases, personal experience. William James’s four principles are doubtless the best known. Borges is not a name gen- erally associated with the long tradition of the scholarship of mysticism, for the same reason that he is not included, for example, in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. This is because he always eschewed defin- ing a particular theory or method – whether philosophical, theological or metaphysical – preferring to be considered ‘un mero hombre de letras y no un investigador o de un teólogo’ (2005: 155) [‘a mere man of letters and not a researcher or theologian’] (1995: 8). He af firms this to Burgin in interview: ‘I’m not sure whether I’m a Christian, but I’ve read a great many books on theology for the sake of their theological problems – free will, punishment, and eternal happiness. All these problems have interested me as food for my imagination’ (Burgin...
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