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  • Contra Externalisation: Analogies between Anarchism and Mysticism

    Stefan Rossbach

    Chapter from the book: Christoyannopoulos A. & Adams M. 2020. Essays in Anarchism and Religion: Volume III.

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    In her classic work The Silent Cry, Dorothee Soelle referred to mysticism as “the antiauthoritarian religion per se” (Soelle 2001: 36), suggesting an analogy between mysticism and anarchism. In this essay we explore this analogy by first discussing the mystical experience as a ‘stepping out’, as ekstasis, whereby the ‘I’ leaves itself as the being defined by the commotion of the world, achieving an at-one-ment with itself. The ‘stepping out’ of the mystic enables a mode of being marked by being ‘present in relation’, which contrasts sharply with the practices of ‘externalisation’ that outsource agency and surrender self-direction. Drawing on Plato’s critique of politics in the Republic, we identify ‘externalisation’ as the very essence of political life. Among modern philosophers, Rousseau is the foremost analyst of ‘externalisation’, and he provides the link to the radical reformers and anarchists who followed him. It is thus in the rejection of ‘externalisation’ that mysticism and anarchism converge, and accordingly we suggest that they occupy analogous positions within their respective fields of political theory and theology. How these ideas work together is most clearly illustrated in the life and work of Gustav Landauer, whose encounter with Meister Eckhart’s sermons was formative for his mystic anarchism and the concomitant rejection of politics as encrusted ‘externalisation’. The parallel discussion of mysticism and anarchism shows that, even if articulated in secular or even atheist terms, and to the extent that it advocates the overcoming of externalising practices, anarchism has at its core a spiritual concern.

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    Rossbach, S. 2020. Contra Externalisation: Analogies between Anarchism and Mysticism. In: Christoyannopoulos A. & Adams M (eds.), Essays in Anarchism and Religion. Stockholm: Stockholm University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16993/bbb.g

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on June 11, 2020


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