The Inscrutable East
Romila Thapar
EXPLORING MYSTICISM by Frits Staal University of California Press, Berkeley, 1976, 230 pp., $ 4.95
January 1976, volume 1, No 1

Many of us have on occasion been dubious about the obsession in some circles to explain Indian culture entirely in terms of mysticism. This analysis by Staal of how to approach the study of mysticism is most valuable in that it not only puts the matter into a new perspective, but also because it suggests that the com­prehension of the phenomenon so far remains inade­quate. The book does not deal with Indian mysticism per se although his own interest in the subject is reflected in the discussion. As he himself puts it, ‘ … this essay deals primarily with the exploration of mysticism, not with mysticism itself. It reviews the methods by which mysticism is generally studied, and it explores methods by which it can be studied more fruitfully.’ He begins with the assumption that the study of mysticism is unsatisfactory and that what is primarily required is a totally different approach to the study.

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