Shengren – Chapter 3.8 – Der Mystiker (Mystic)

Ein rein verstandesmäßiges Weltbild ganz ohne Mystik ist ein Unding.[1] [A purely rational world view without all mysticism is absurd.]

– Erwin Schroedinger, Mein Leben, Meine Weltansicht

Mystics, like saints, traditionally had a religious character. William Harmless, a professor of Theology, wrote in his text book Mystics (2008): “a mystic is a religious practitioner who claims to have experienced the infinite, word-defying Mystery that is God”. The German historian Oswald Spengler included the mystic along with other spiritual characters like the occultist, the gurus and the shaman under the category ‘Magian personality‘. A Magian personality, according to Spengler in his Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1918), was a source of civilization’s evil that pervaded Oriental cultures and would bring – if tolerated for too long – the end to Occidental cultures. Western culture always had its mystics like Dionysus,[2] but more so Christian mystics like Johannes Scotus Eriugena, Meister Eckhart and Jacob Boehme. Heinrich Heine called Luther a prophet and mystic.[3] The East had mystics too, because forms of magical and occult practices existed there as well, albeit in different forms. People, who wanted to see Taoism as a cult, probably would refer to Laozi as Chinese mystic. Scholarship though seldom does that. The Germans call Laozi a Heiliger, not a Mystik. However, the German thinkers did not think of Confucius as a magician or mystic but as a statesman and teacher, or Heiliger and Philosoph, and they never translated shengren as Mystiker, either. The closest thing to a mystic in Chinese was神秘者shenmi-zhe. Luckily, even Germans like Karl Jaspers who were notoriously eager to call the shengren anything really except by their correct name,[4]turned down a mystical reading of Confucius altogether.

[1] Schroedinger, 1960

[2] Wilde, 1890, p. 5

[3] Heine, 1966

[4] Jaspers, 1957: Philosophen (p. 18), Heilige (p. 144, 147), Asketen, Beschwoerer, Alchimisten, Lebensverlaengerer, Zauberer, Gauckler (p. 159)