Towards a Mystical Sociology: Theology and Its Role in Social Theory
In academia, Sociology as an academic discipline and Critical Theory has a long standing tradition of examining the topic of Religion. James Spickard, a sociologist who wrote the book “Alternative Sociologies of Religion” discusses this default view of Sociology as it approaches this religious landscape. He critiques the conceptual limits of such an approach and tries to supersede it instead, by offering a differing outlook towards sociological schemes in Religion, themes outside of Western based Christianity. He does this by recognizing scholars of sociology as ‘being steeped in their own culture and history’ and focus too much on the ‘creeds, canons, cults and cathedrals,’ a view that for him, necessitates the tending to of views outside of the western paradigm. By offering Spickard’s work as a point of discussion, this paper intends to survey another possible way to understand religion from a sociological lens, critical of the limitations in the dominant view. By first exploring Max Weber’s considerations of Christian theology in his work the Protestant Ethic, this paper will look at how the pedagogy of a ‘mystical sociology’ can ensue when theological tenets are regarded. The focus will then shift to a contemporary scholar by the name of Philip Wexler, a professor at the Hebrew University who offers the important theoretical structure for my approach. In learning from his insightsmy paper will explore how social theory and authentic social analysis can benefit from understanding religion in it’s ontological, mystical, and transcendental forms specified within the realm of its respective theology. This type of characterization is one that positions spirituality and mystical capacities in religion as equally important to its institutionalized, and canonical counterparts. As an empirical case study, there will be an effort to consider key notions of the famous mystic and theologian, Ibn al Arabi and how his metaphysical insights can contribute to this vital discussion on how theological principles have a significant position when trying to understand social reality in the pragmatic sense.