A wave of Mysticism is passing over the civilised nations. It is welcomed by many: by more it is mistrusted. Even the minds to which it would naturally appeal are often restrained from sympathy by fears of vague speculative driftings and of transcendental emotionalism. Nor can it be doubted that such an attitude of aloofness is at once reasonable and inevitable. For a systematic exaltation of formless ecstasies, at the expense of sense and intellect, has a tendency to become an infirmity if it does not always betoken loss of mental balance. In order, therefore, to disarm natural prejudice, let an opening chapter be devoted to general exposition of aims and principles.
The subject is Nature Mysticism. The phenomena of "nature" are to be studied in their mystical aspects. The wide term Mysticism is used because, in spite of many misleading associations, it is hard to replace. "Love of nature" is too general: "cosmic emotion" is too specialised. But let it at once be understood that the Mysticism here contemplated is neither of the popular nor of the esoteric sort. In other words, it is not loosely synonymous with the magical or supernatural; nor is it a name for peculiar forms of ecstatic experience which claim to break away from the spheres of the senses and the intellect. It will simply be taken to cover the causes and the effects involved in that wide range of intuitions and emotions which nature stimulates without definite appeal to conscious reasoning processes. Mystic intuition and mystic emotion will thus be regarded, not as antagonistic to sense impression, but as dependent on it—not as scornful of reason, but merely as more basic and primitive.