Volume 15 · Number 1 · Pages 1–9
Constructivism and Mystical Experience

Hugh Gash

Log in download the full text in PDF

> Citation > Similar > References > Add Comment

Abstract

Context: Constructivism and mystical traditions each recognize human cognitive limits. However, the former puts its faith in its processes and the latter reveres the product. Problem: Individuals recursively construct their realities in and through their experiences. Often the reality constructed is updated, however this type of reconstructive reflection does not happen in the same way with religious experiences and beliefs. Ernst von Glasersfeld considered the rational and the mystical as two separate types of knowing, providing two different accounts of experience. An alternative approach is to examine the process of thinking to see if there may be synergies between so-called rational thinking and mystical experience, particularly when certain types of new ideas emerge. Method: I link constructivist ideas with accounts of mystical experience prioritizing wonder, insight and the process of coming-to-know. Constructivism is described mainly with reference to Ernst von Glasersfeld’s work, particularly emphasizing the impossibility of ontology and drawing attention to some references to mystical experience in the constructivist literature. Results: I note that there are grounds for regarding rational and mystical knowing as belonging in different domains. Radical constructivism maintains that any mind-independent reality is essentially unknowable. In this epistemological framework, gaps necessarily arise in understanding when existing concepts do not fit experience. Forms of wonder may arise from experience of such gaps leading to novel insights and more viable reality constructions. Finally, I suggest that there are grounds for considering such epiphanies sacred, and in addition, as in certain types of mystical experience, they may be related to personal development through recognizing harmony between experiences over time. Implications: There are moments during the construction of concepts when previous concepts do not work and new constructions have not emerged. Such moments have a potentially mystical quality and, if so, are known as epiphanies. So, when gaps occur in the process of knowledge construction it may be helpful to let the mind rest and contemplate. The origin of the ideas that emerge is mysterious, and the ideas may or may not be viable.

Key words: Bateson, cognition, constructivism, Dewey, harmony, mysticism, religion, von Glasersfeld

Handling Editor: Alexander Riegler

Citation

Gash H. (2019) Constructivism and mystical experience. Constructivist Foundations 15(1): 1–9. https://constructivist.info/15/1/001

Export article citation data: Plain Text · BibTex · EndNote · Reference Manager (RIS)

Similar articles

Quale A. (2015) Religion: A Radical-Constructivist Perspective
Glanville R. & Riegler A. (2007) Editorial: Ninety Years of Constructing
Quale A. (2014) Ethics: A Radical-constructivist Approach
McGee K. (2005) Enactive Cognitive Science. Part 1: History and Research Themes
Gash H. (2011) Remembering Ernst von Glasersfeld

References

Bateson G. & Bateson M. C. (1987) Angels fear: An investigation into the nature and meaning of the sacred. London, Rider. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Bateson G. (1979) Mind and nature: A necessary unity. New York, Dutton. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Bateson G. (1991) Sacred unity: Further steps to an ecology of mind. Edited by R. E. A Donaldson. Harper Collins, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Bateson M. C. (1972) Our own metaphor: A personal account of a conference on the effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Cardellini L. & Glasersfeld E. von (2006) The foundations of radical constructivism: An interview with Ernst von Glasersfeld. Foundations of Chemistry 8: 177–187 https://cepa.info/1558
DelMonte M. M. & Kenny V. (1985) Models of meditation. British Journal of Psychotherapy 1(3): 197–214. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
DelMonte M. M. (2012) Mindfulness and awareness: Constructivist, psychodynamic and Eastern perspectives. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction 10(3): 311–329. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Dewey J. & Bentley A. (1949) Knowing and the known. Beacon Press, Boston. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Dewey J. (1934) A common faith. Yale University Press, Clinton MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Dewey J. (1960) The quest for certainty. Capricorn, New York. Originally published in 1929. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Foerster H. von (1991) Through the eyes of the other. In: Steier F. (ed.) Research and reflexivity. Sage, London: 63–75 https://cepa.info/1729
Forman R. K. C. (1990) Eckhart, Gezucken, and the ground of the soul. In: Forman R. K. C. (ed.) The problem of pure consciousness: Mysticism and philosophy. Oxford University Press: New York: 98–121. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Gash H. & Shine Thompson M. (2002) Constructivism and Celtic spirituality. In: Lasker G. E. (ed.) Advances in Sociocybernetics and Human Development. Volume X. International Institute for Advanced Studies: Windsor ON: 113–118 https://cepa.info/5521
Gash H. (1993) Stereotyping and constructivism: Learning to be men and women. Cybernetics and Human Knowing 1(4): 43–50 https://cepa.info/5525
Gash H. (2004) Spirituality, uncertainty and tolerance. In: Lasker G. E. & K. Hiwaki. (eds.) Personal and spiritual development in the world of cultural diversity. Volume I. International Institute for Advanced Studies, Windsor ON: 63–68 https://cepa.info/5522
Gash H. (2014) Author’s response: Perspectives on RC and teaching. Constructivist Foundations 9(3): 321–327 https://constructivist.info/9/3/321
Gash H. (2014) Constructing constructivism. Constructivist Foundations 9(3): 302–310 https://constructivist.info/9/3/302
Gash H. (2018) Constructivism and mysticism. In: Lasker G. E. & Hiwaki K. (eds.) Personal and spiritual development in the world of cultural diversity. Volume XV. International Institute for Advanced Studies: Windsor ON: 7–11 https://cepa.info/5523
Gellman J. (2017) Mysticism. In: Zalta N. (ed.) The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mysticism
Glasersfeld E. von (1962) First draft of an English input procedure for mechanical translation. Methodos 14(54): 47–79 https://cepa.info/1295
Glasersfeld E. von (1969) Semantics and the syntactic classification of words. In: Proceedings of the third international conference on computational linguistics. ICCL, Sanga S’by https://cepa.info/1308
Glasersfeld E. von (1974) Piaget and the radical constructivist epistemology. In: Smock C. D. & Glasersfeld E. von (eds.) Epistemology and education. Follow Through Publications, Athens GA: 1–24 https://cepa.info/1324
Glasersfeld E. von (1983) Learning as constructive activity. In: Bergeron J. C. & Herscovics N. (ed.) Proceedings of the 5th Annual Meeting of the North American Group of Psychology in Mathematics Education, Volume 1. PME-NA, Montreal: 41–101 https://cepa.info/1373
Glasersfeld E. von (1995) Radical constructivism: A way of knowing and learning. Falmer Press, London https://cepa.info/1462
Glasersfeld E. von (2002) The construction of knowledge. In: Schnitman D. F. & Schnitman J. (eds.) New paradigms, culture, and subjectivity. Hampton Press, Cresskill NJ: 83–92. Spanish original published in 1994 https://cepa.info/1571
Glasersfeld E. von (2007) The logic of scientific fallibility. In: Glasersfeld E. von (ed.) Key works in radical constructivism (edited by Marie Larochelle). Sense Publishers, Rotterdam: 119–128. Spanish original published in 1988 https://cepa.info/1567
Head M. G., Wind-Mozley M. & Flegg P. J. (2017) Inadvisable anti-vaccination sentiment: Human Papilloma Virus immunisation falsely under the microscope. NPJ Vaccines 2(1): 6. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41541–017–0004-x
Huxley A. (1945) The perennial philosophy. Harper & Bros, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Huxley A. (1954) The doors of perception: Heaven and hell. Chatto & Windus, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
James W. (1902) The varieties of religious experience (Gifford Lectures). Longmans Green & Co: London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Jones R. H. (2016) Philosophy of mysticism. State University Press of New York: Albany. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Kahneman D. (2012) Thinking, fast and slow. Penguin, London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Katz S. (1992) Mystical speech and mystical meaning. In: Katz S. T. (ed.) Mysticism and language. Oxford University Press, New York: 3–41. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Koestler A. (1964) The act of creation. Penguin, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Kohlberg L. (1969) Stage and sequence: The cognitive-developmental approach to socialization. In: Goslin D. A. (ed.) Handbook of socialization theory and research. Rand McNally, Chicago: 347–480. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Maturana H. R. (1988) Reality: The search for objectivity or the quest for a compelling argument. Irish Journal of Psychology 9(1): 25–82 https://cepa.info/598
Modjeska D. (2012) The mountain. Random House: Sydney. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Pappert S. (1991) Situating constructionism. In: Harel I. & Pappert S. (eds.) Constructionism. Ablex Publishing, Norwood NJ: 13–27. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Piaget J. (1968) Six psychological studies. Random House, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Poerksen B. (2004) “We can never know what goes on in somebody else’s head”: Ernst von Glasersfeld on truth and viability, language and knowledge, and the premises of constructivist education. Cybernetics and Systems 35: 379–398 https://cepa.info/4007
Riegler A. (1998) The end of science: Can we overcome cognitive limitations? Evolution & Cognition 4(1): 37–50. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Riegler A. (2001) The cognitive ratchet: The ratchet effect as a fundamental principle in evolution and cognition. Cybernetics and Systems 32(3–4): 411–427 https://cepa.info/4210
Riegler A. (2001) The role of anticipation in cognition. In: Dubois D. M. (ed.) Computing anticipatory systems. Proceedings of the American Institute of Physics 573: 534–541 https://cepa.info/4211
Riegler A. (2001) Towards a radical constructivist understanding of science. Foundations of Science 6(1–3): 1–30 https://cepa.info/1860
Riegler A. (2007) Superstition in the machine. In: Butz M. V., Sigaud O., Pezzulo G. & Baldassarre G. (eds.) Anticipatory behavior in adaptive learning systems: From brains to individual and social behavior. Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence. Springer, New York: 57–72 https://cepa.info/4214
Riegler A. (2007) The impact of the interdisciplinary radical constructivist framework on cognitive research. In: Vanchevsky M. A. (ed.) Focus on cognitive psychology research. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge NY: 153–170 https://cepa.info/1778
Scott M. (2017) Religious language. In: Zalta E. N. (ed.) The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2017/entries/religious-language/
Sigel I. E. & Cocking R. R. (1977) Cognitive development from childhood to adolescence: A constructivist perspective. Holt, Reinhart, and Winston, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Stace W. T. (1961) Mysticism and philosophy. Macmillan, London. http://wudhi.azurewebsites.net/mysticism/ws/wts-mp%20-%202.htm
Underhill E. (1911) Mysticism: A study in nature and development of spiritual consciousness. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Grand Rapids MI. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/underhill/mysticism.pdf
Vico G. (1988) On the ancient wisdom of the Italians. Translated with an introduction and notes by L. M. Palmer. Cornell University Press, Ithaca. Latin original published in 1710. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Vrobel S. (2017) The path to timelessness: Insight, assignment conditions and strong anticipation. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 131: 162–170. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Vygotsky L. S. (1978) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar

Comments: 0

To stay informed about comments to this publication and post comments yourself, please log in first.