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Comparison and the Spectre of Perennialism: A Reply to Craig Martin

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

Craig Martin accuses me of repeating the mistakes of perennialism, perpetuating an irresponsible and covertly theological approach to research that rushes to identify dubious “similarities” in religious experience across culture and history. While it is true that I identify cross-cultural similarities in the accounts of mystical experience that I examine in Zen and the Unspeakable God, that argument is based on historical evidence, and does not imply the questionable theological conclusions for which classical perennialism has been criticized. Learning from the mistakes of perennialism does not mean dismissing comparison as an illegitimate enterprise or rejecting cross-cultural similarities as prima facie impossible; it means insisting on evidentially-grounded and historically sensitive research that is willing and able to identify both differences and similarities. It also means resisting the temptation to oversimplify our task by reducing all research on religion to one preferred analytical category.

Affiliations: 1: Davidson College


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1. Blum Jason 2012"Radical empiricism and the unremarkable nature of mystic ineffability" Method & Theory in the Study of ReligionVol 24Vol 3 1 19
2. Blum Jason 2014"The science of consciousness and mystical experience: An argument for radical empiricism" Journal of the American Academy of ReligionVol 82Vol 1 150 173 [Crossref]
3. Blum Jason 2015 Zen and the Unspeakable God University Park The Pennsylvania State University Press
4. Bush Stephen 2014 Visions of Religion: Experience, Meaning, and Power New York Oxford University Press 2014 [Crossref]
5. Martin Craig 2017"Yes, … but …”: The neo-perennialists" Method and Theory in the Study of ReligionVol 19 2

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