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A Rationalistic Conception of Mysticism

(1) We were not supposed to be born like beasts.

Particularization on (1)

(2) I was not supposed to be born like a beast.

Dante + Logic + Me

Introduction – Rational Mysticism and Theory of Eternal Truth

Since I formulated the first conception of the theory of the free creation of eternal truths,[1] I immediately realized that I was opening the door to a peculiar form of mysticism. This was not an appreciated opening, to be fair. Any rationalist is, by very nature, against any principle that gives up the capacity of reason to formulate its principles and derive its theorems. However, the theory appeared to be compatible with a specific version of mysticism when it comes to how the truths are, in fact, generated.

Already the name of the theory seems to be against the tastes of analytic philosophy. Moreover, it has a specific universal afflatus, which is usually lost in the current philosophical production. To be more precise, it is left to the continental philosophers, who are well known to be as general as vague. Digging into a topic such as mysticism will bury the theory under all the tastes of current analytic philosophers, among which I still place myself – though I am open to any form of deep thinking. The eternal truth theory wants to be what philosophy used to be: a universal view of the world from nowhere, a vision, an inspiration, but also a consistent conception of the world. This is not welcomed anymore, and I, myself, see why. Philosophy exhausted these kinds of approaches between Greek and modern philosophy when the archetypical visions of the world were formulated. From that moment on, after Nietzsche, let’s say what can be done is to refine the portion of those visions better and better. It is a process of continuous refinement and improvement, not of invention, so to speak.

This was exactly what the theory of the eternal truth tried to account for. In fact, it was born out of this very intuition that united philosophy(ies) and philosophers across time. The theory explicitly states that truths about reality come up throughout all of human history, the only one insofar as able to express the eternal truths through language. Interestingly, it could be possible to include future language-models such as Chat GTP in the list of those capable of expressing these truths but not as clearly in understanding them for what they are and mean. In fact, while I have now reached the conclusion that Chat GTP and complex generative language models finally entered the arena of truth production, and I don’t see any worrisome misdoing there, I still think they cannot access exactly that sort of mind status that is experienced by the rational thinker when he/she reaches the mystical point. This is not the argument of this work, but what is this mystical point is the topic of the post.

The history of philosophy is the record of all previous formulations of the eternal truths updated to the time in which they were first formulated. The history of science, instead, conceptually is the history of the record of the truths we know about nature, about the facts and laws that define and govern it. The process is literally a progressive work of updating and working on those lines. But as already proved elsewhere, Immanuel Kant, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Ursula Le Guin, among enumerable others, pointed out the limitations of our capacity to know what the afterlife is and, therefore life is boundedly unsolvable.[2]

The process of expressing the eternal truths about the world is never-ending, and it is not necessarily progressive in nature. There is a sense in which it goes through time regularly, as humans never stopped thinking and expressing propositions about the world, some of which are true through time or at a given time. This is the case in two opposite senses. Firstly, there are universal truths about the world that always stay the same, such as logical tautologies. These are best expressed by formal logic, set theory, and number theory. However, these are not necessarily the most interesting universal truths, as they are merely formal, syntactical ones, which have their importance in being meaningless. Our inability to win the fog of life, to know what the afterlife is and the nature of the universe, are also eternal truths because formulable over time and always the case. These truths are justified not according to pure logic but to pure semantics, where meaning emerges in the relation between the propositions and their interpretation using reality, the universe as a domain of reference. These truths are best expressed by philosophy but also through other creative means, such as music and art in general. There is a clear distinction between philosophy and art, but they express all the same content when it comes to semantic truth.

Secondly, there are universal truths best expressed by physical sciences, which are similar to this statement: ‘Now I sit on a chair’ where the ‘now’ is very precisely defined (in principle) and the space is uniquely identified (‘this particular chair in this particular region of space’). This is a very specific statement, but since it is true, it will be true forever in the sense that once determined, nobody can change the world. That’s why an old saying encapsulates this point: not even God can change the past. Or was the world in such an arrangement where I was sitting on this chair at ‘now’ or not. If so, then the statement is true. The theory’s applicability covers all the levels of eternality, so to speak, which is the absence of time or, more precisely, time-irrelevance; and truth-conservation of time-specific propositions.

In this post, I want to cover the nature of mysticism that seems unavoidable looking closely at the theory. And in spite of all my natural resistance, I arrived to understand that there is a sense in which mysticism has an open door for good. Naturally, I will show what I mean by mysticism and why this should not scare any staunch rationalist like me. My vision of mysticism is not only compatible with the hardest form of rationalism but also an inevitable conclusion.[3] And in fact, as anything that seems sufficiently truthful, it is not a new discovery, and it comes from far from the past.


Starting from the religious evidence – The form of mysticism that historically ruled out all the others

Forms of mysticism are common to all religious thinking. In fact, all religions converge in the necessity to give up on rationality at some point. They must admit that there is no other than faith to embrace a particular form of vision of life and each one has to advocate the same point against all other possible visions. As I recently re-discovered talking to a friend,[4] many real religious individuals are struck when asked why it must be their religion and not another one which claims a different religious premise on the same ground (a subtle difference between two dogmas, meaning, act of faith). And the trickier is, the closer to their version of religiosity because arguing on any ground seems to be pointless. This is an interesting fact because it is cross-religions and the ultimate reason for their division. What does a real agreement look like under these ominous premises? And how else can reciprocals ignorance be the peaceful solution and common ground? Then they are left to their own special claim to their own special use of mysticism on specific (sets of) dogmas. In fact, mysticism is psychologically necessary for the history of thought because life is unsolvable, whether they like it or not.

As proved in the post on this topic, and avoiding the proof, the simple point is that the absence of knowledge of the afterlife, or the ultimate nature of death, leads to the impossibility of having only one possible vision of the future and life backwardly. But religions have the exact pretense of going beyond the limits of human knowledge, or they claim a different kind of it, and they try to circumvent this obstacle by stating that there is different access to that knowledge.[5] The access must be different; otherwise, the afterlife and God/god would be discoverable or provable as anything else.[6] But it is not, and their existence is there to prove the point. Then, ultimately, in this context, mysticism is the acceptance of religious proposals without using reason beyond its capacity to disclose language and its meaning. The reason is required to create the ladder that makes the jump to the roof possible. In fact, it can be oral transmission or written language, but a language, a medium, is needed to convey the religious message (which, by definition, is linguistically coded in some way – “at the beginning was the word,” it was said somewhere). But reason can go as far, and a further jump is needed. This minimal mysticism is the act of faith to be paid by anybody who believes in something beyond reason. It does not matter that this is a religious faith. This is the mystical approach to the world. Its application to religiosity is only a precondition for religions to exist, but as religions are a historical phenomenon, any other historical phenomenon similar to those is based on the same jump. For instance, materialism is in its entirety – though unclear corpus – a religion itself, though it is not incompatible with God/god.[7] The same applies to atheism, which is also a religion, only that it does not have God as a core premise, but it jumps out to conclusions far beyond human capacity. And that’s why real atheists can behave exactly as religious extremists.

Moreover, as I found it impossible to understand the pretense of much religious thinking, so sure to state only the possible (and maybe not even that), I never fully understood the atheist conception of the world. Or, to be more precise, their claim about it. I can understand what a non-created universe looks like. And still, a universe must exist after all, and that is already a God-like presence for us, humans, who are doomed to die and be destroyed in some meaningful sense by time as entropy. I don’t understand how one can pretend to state so firmly that there is no God or that there is one. All the evidence put forward by both sides is very similar, only opposite in the conclusions, as Kant famously pointed out.[8] But this topic is just a digression to explain why I am unable to fully follow a debate that seems to me, should not even be formulated in the first place. Or it can be formulated but without any pretense of its provability and truth-value decision as mere empty speculation. There is no proof to be given and no truth-value to be ascertained. The eternal truth theory could only consider that this is a natural tendency of the mind that comes our several centuries but to no avail in deciding the truth-value of the given statement that must be treated as a formulable proposition without a way to prove its consistency or truth-value.[9]

However, this is a starting point: mysticism is part of human existence and recorded through all cultures. The theory of the eternal truths is a non-unilateral and extremely inclusive vision of the world based on the multiple-interpretability of what natural language is able to express about the world as we understand it. Therefore, once a proposition is formulated over and over again through the history of thought, recorded and restated, there must be something deeper to not be discharged only because unpleasant.[10] Therefore, I will explain how a form of mysticism is possible within human existence that is also compatible with a fair notion of human rationality and understanding.

The mysticism of reason

We ascertain that mysticism is part of any human culture. Not only because any human culture has elaborated its own religiosity but because it is deeply connected with being alive. As a starting point, I interpret the word ‘mysticism’ as the state of mind associated with the awareness of something beyond our control that has a structural meaning for us, beings. It is a form of experience that happens when the mind can see unfolding itself without its being the clear cause of it. It is the self-awareness of a thought whose meaning is unquestionable and irrefutable, but, at the same time, not determined by aware cognitive processes. Introspection is how we access the mystical state, not how we produce it.

In sheer terms of the theory’s semantics, we can say that a mystical act produces a true proposition whose cause is the mind without its being fully aware of it and without the ability to change it. The mind is the producer of truth and contemplator of it without its awareness having a part in the production but only of the contemplation. Without contemplation, there is no mysticism, but contemplation is not the mystical act itself. The two levels are disjointed, which is why the mystical moment is so inherently ineffable. It seems magical, though tricks are not part of its pure essence.

This account of mysticism does not require any religious notion, but it is involved in what devout people call the ‘religious experience,’ as far as I can understand. But there is no need for any specific religiosity to live the mystical act of watching a powerful thought unfolding without us being able to stop it and living through it. Even more, many different experiences, such as art, can trigger the very same mystical act. We have philosophical examples of what I am trying to describe.

The beginning of the history of philosophy itself was rooted in this form of mysticism. Socrates famously stated that he was moved by a force beyond him, a daemon, which was overwhelming and called for thought and action.[11] He excused himself and his quest for the good and truth to the Athenians that were going to execute him in force of this argument. Essentially, he could not stop because all his being was called into action, through reasoning, because of what we can now reframe as a form of mystical act. Socrates did not say that he gave up his reason, that he became mad in force of a God-like force that was getting him out of his mind. Instead, he was, in fact, Socrates, very aware of what he was doing, only he was only the actor on a scene, the executioner but not the composer. That is the feeling, that is, the expression of rational mysticism.

Any logician and rational being that exercise her/his ability to think to the possible extent knows first-hand what Socrates was experiencing. Many times, when we deduce theorems when we derive conclusions out of complicated reasoning through equations, when we are computing formal results, we feel to be driven out by a greater force that acts within us, and we can only see unfolding, not fully able to stop even if that is our wish. It is an empowering experience of the mind because it is an aggression against human animality. In fact, it is also a humbling moment because we are in the full recognition and realization that greater forces are acting on us and we can only contemplate them for what they are, like an explosion of a star, bright and scary for dimension but perfectly still and soundless. It is the takeover of the most and deepest rational part of the human soul, freed from the ordinary and miserable life for once. That is the purest expression of rationality in which the human that happens to produce it stops being in charge, and it gets into a higher status of self-awareness toward the world of rationality. It is a freeing experience, where the human being feels to be unnecessary in a logical sense but fundamental in causal terms: that’s where the pride of rational humbleness comes from. Knowing to not knowing enough is the place in which the human is left after the rational, mystical act. It is not a perdition of the mind into something beyond life. It is, instead, life itself through the expression of perfect rationality joined between the realm of ideas and the materiality of the body, which acts as a means for the greater cause.

Examples from the history of philosophy

Many philosophers considered this power of reason through time. For instance, Dante,[12] the man of the middle-age, was indeed very aware and sensible to ban this form of mysticism altogether and famously because it rivaled God. In fact, he punishes Ulysses on this base. Ulysses was not a bad man; he was too curious and too rational in his quest toward the discovery of a truth that, apparently, was not leading to God. Then, here perfectly, we can see the neat distinction between the two different notions of mysticism and why one was dropped by the history of thought, somehow. It was then incorporated in Europe (and by other religions elsewhere) by Christianity in its varieties in order to be that religion(s) the only house of any mystical experience. However, the universal and rational vision of mysticism was indeed preserved in a few modern thinkers, including the great Baruch Spinoza.[13]

Spinoza was a thinker deeply engaged with God and the meaning of human existence as few philosophers in the modern age were much more interested in nature or the possibility of knowledge. In fact, Spinoza defends the notion of direct access of the mind to the eternal truth(s) and what he called ‘God.’ But this form of privileged access is not a substitute for a reason. Anything true can be discovered through reason or through this direct intuition of the thing without one being better than the other, in a sense. Moreover, his vision of the mind does not always necessarily calls for a full awareness of the process that makes thought possible. And then, eternal perfection is an access of the mind to a sort of higher status, which could be described as a form of liberation.

Finally, this rational form of mysticism is also explored from another dramatic point of view. Many philosophers, logicians, and mathematicians, as many that delt with the pure products of the mind are often described as detached from reality, incapable of connecting with the world. However, they also describe their life as incredibly rich and full of amazement. Many of those had the tendency to isolate themselves from anything else that was not directly involved in producing knowledge. In his beautiful novel, Michael Endel depicts his love for stories and books and the perils behind a life entirely spent inside the mind.[14] This tendency was universally recognized by different cultures and epochs, suggesting that there are people so drawn into reason and its processes to lose their reference to the world completely. This can be a real danger, assuming that there must be something else beyond reasoning, but it is not a problem for the application of the eternal truth theory in its mystical connotation. It just shows that, in fact, there are mystical acts compatible with a rational vision of the universe.


Coming back to the theory of eternal truths, this mysticism is not a premise nor a consequence but an opening to a fundamental human experience. As stated elsewhere, truths are eternal because they are an expression of the object that makes them true (the reality). In this sense, a sheer object is not able to speak, to formulate any proposition by itself. Humans, and probably in the future some other form of intelligence, can express those truths through their capacity to fill the meanings of the language semantically. In that act, though, their awareness is not a necessary prerequisite. They are the body that produced those truths as linguistic acts but stand to them as an actor stands to the character. They are not the composers; they are those that make it possible for the composer to speak.

If nature is mute, humans can talk about it, and they do it only when reason mirrors reality for what it is. And then, sometimes, in the pure act of free creation, they can experience access to a particular alignment in which they, themselves, though creators, feel to be superfluous in the moment of the deepest expression. We are, after all, thinking reeds but still powerful enough to go beyond the sheer swindling of the wind to contemplate even our limitation as the expression of pure power itself.

[1] Eternal truths theory or theory of eternal truths in short, see Pili, G., (2017), “La storia come libera creazione delle verità eterne,” Scuola Filosofica,

[2] See Pili, G., (2023) “Creation – Or Why Life is Unsolvable”, Scuola Filosofica,

[3] As a matter of fact, this form of mysticism is implicitly alive in all the rationalist thinking as it will be partially shown and it is directly related to the notion of perfection as ultimate cause of joy. The disjunction between perfection and joy is a mistaken understanding of the human condition and it was explored elsewhere: Pili, G., “Felicità e perfezione nella filosofia dell’età classica”, Scuola Filosofica,

[4] Dear friend, don’t take this personally! I know you will.

[5] For an embryonic sort of discussion of this topic can be seen the commentary after the Pili, G., (2023), “On the understandability of the universe and the a priori proof of the existence of God”, Scuola Filosofica,

[6] See footnote five.

[7] For instance, stating that there is only one substance, the matter, and nothing else in this universe, whatever this might be, does not imply that that matter, the only thing, was indeed created by something different. Materialism is indeed an atheist philosophy only if explicitly stated.

[8] Pili, G., (2020), “La potenza della ragione secondo Kant”, Scuola Filosofica, and Pili, G., (2020), “11. La ragione e i suoi limiti e scopi”, Scuola Filosofica,

[9] An entire chapter of the theory should be open here to consider what a non-provable proposition should be considered in the theory of eternal truth.

[10] That could be the evidence for posing the problem, though, and not necessarily the way to understand the proposition and its truth-value. For a short observation on this open problem of the theory, see previous footnote.

[11] Pili, G., (2011), “Socrate – Vita e pensiero”, Scuola Filosofica,

[12] Pili, G., (2011), “Dante Alighieri – Vita e pensiero oltre la Divina Commedia”, Scuola Filosofica,

[13] See Spinoza, B., (1676), Ethics, especially Part V.

[14] Ende, M., (1979), Neverending Story and see Pili, G., (2015), “La storia infinita – Michael Ende”, Scuola Filosofica,

Giangiuseppe Pili

Giangiuseppe Pili è Ph.D. in filosofia e scienze della mente (2017). E' il fondatore di Scuola Filosofica in cui è editore, redatore e autore. Dalla data di fondazione del portale nel 2009, per SF ha scritto oltre 800 post. Egli è autore di numerosi saggi e articoli in riviste internazionali su tematiche legate all'intelligence, sicurezza e guerra. In lingua italiana ha pubblicato numerosi libri. Scacchista per passione. ---- ENGLISH PRESENTATION ------------------------------------------------- Giangiuseppe Pili - PhD philosophy and sciences of the mind (2017). He is an expert in intelligence and international security, war and philosophy. He is the founder of Scuola Filosofica (Philosophical School). He is a prolific author nationally and internationally. He is a passionate chess player and (back in the days!) amateurish movie maker.

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