Stephen Kalberg

Mysticism, asceticism, and action in Max Weber's sociology of religion

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Max Weber's sociology of religion depicts a «rationalization of action» as a consequence of believers' orientations to certain world views, salvation goals, and salvation paths. This «systematization» uproots the devout from the mundane «flow of life» - namely, all utilitarian and «practical-rational» orientations of action. However, a comprehensive rationalization is rare, Weber maintains: most salvation paths allow the faithful to become certain of their salvation without requiring a «methodical-rational organization of life» The «asceticism» and «mysticism» pathways constitute the exceptions, yet these devout seek salvation in different «directions,» he contends. Their distinct and complex «self-perfection methodologies of sanctification» and «ethics of conviction» are here reconstructed from Weber's texts. In doing so, this article emphasizes in particular the importance of «psychological premiums» and religious goals, and articulates the ways in which these believers, in light of their different salvation aims, exist in unique religious universes.


  • Weber
  • asceticism
  • mysticism


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