Mysticism: Softening the Truth Essay

Mysticism: Softening the Truth Essay

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The notion of mysticism has confounded and bewildered humanity for the entirety of religion’s existence. The great German historian, Ernst Troeltsch, defines mysticism as “simply the insistence upon direct inward and present religious experience.”(Thayer 234). The problem is that religious experiences are practically impossible to verify through empirical means. To this effect, those people that are seen as mystics or as having mystical abilities are often portrayed as delirious. In Graham Swift’s Waterland, Tom Crick uses mysticism in his stories to explain madness or irrational behaviour. All other rationalizations are abandoned in favour of an unfathomable explanation because Tom does not want to face the truth that accompanies the facts. His experiences with women have been hurtful and in order to shield himself from the pain he tells stories that remove the role of responsibility from these women’s actions by blaming them on irrepressible heavenly intervention. His response is evident in the cases of Sarah Atkinson’s injury, Martha Crick’s portrayal as a “witch” and Mary Crick’s supposed heavenly revelation.
Sarah Atkinson is an ancestor of Tom Crick, and wife of Thomas Atkinson. Thomas suspects that she has had an affair with another man and strikes Sarah in the head, knocking her to the ground and, in the process, her head hits a table. This causes her to “lose” her mind, “For having been struck, Sarah not only fell but in falling knocked her head against the corner of a walnut writing-table with such violence that though, after several hours, she recovered consciousness, she never again recovered her wits.” (Swift 77). After suffering this traumatic experience Sarah is the subject of mystical stories that begin ...

... middle of paper ...

...iences to deal with. In order to deal with these painful thoughts he turns the past into stories and often replaces rationality in favour of mysticism. This helped him to remove the element of reality from his stories and deal with the pain he had in the here and now.

Works Cited

Powell, Katrina M. "Mary Metcalf's Attempt at Reclamation: Maternal Representation in Graham Swift's Waterland." Women's Studies 32.1 (2003): 59. EBSCOhost. Web. 13 Mar. 2011.
Russell, Richard. "Embodiments of History and Delayed Confessions: Graham Swift's Waterland as Trauma Fiction." Papers on Language and Literature 45.2 (2009): 115. Academic OneFile. Web. 13 Mar. 2011.
Swift, Graham. Waterland . New York: Vintage Books, 1992. Print.
Thayer, Nelson. "Perspectives on Contemporary Mysticism." Journal of Religion and Health 18.3 (1979): 230-240. JSTOR. Web. 13 Mar. 2011.

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