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Mysticism
Mysticism
is popularly known as becoming one with God
God
or the Absolute, but may refer to any kind of ecstasy or altered state of consciousness which is given a religious or spiritual meaning.[web 1] It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.[web 2] The term "mysticism" has Ancient Greek origins with various historically determined meanings.[web 1][web 2] Derived from the Greek word μυω, meaning "to conceal",[web 2] mysticism referred to the biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.[1] During the early modern period, the definition of mysticism grew to include a broad range of beliefs and ideologies related to "extraordinary experiences and states of mind".[2] In modern times, "mysticism" has acquired a limited definition, with broad applications, as meaning the aim at the "union with the Absolute, the Infinite, or God".[web 1] This limited definition has been applied to a wide range of religious traditions and practices,[web 1] valuing "mystical experience" as a key element of mysticism. Broadly defined, mysticism can be found in all religious traditions, from indigenous religions and folk religions like shamanism, to organised religions like the Abrahamic faiths and Indian religions, and modern spirituality, New Age
New Age
and New Religious Movements. Since the 1960s scholars have debated the merits of perennial and constructionist approaches in the scientific research of "mystical experiences".[3][4] The perennial position is now "largely dismissed by scholars",[5] most scholars using a contextual approach, which takes the cultural and historical context into consideration.

Contents

1 Etymology 2 Definitions

2.1 Union with the Divine or Absolute and mystical experience 2.2 Religious ecstasies and interpretative context 2.3 Intuitive insight and enlightenment 2.4 Spiritual life and re-formation

3 History of the term

3.1 Hellenistic world 3.2 Early Christianity 3.3 Medieval meaning 3.4 Early modern meaning 3.5 Contemporary meaning

4 Variations of mysticism

4.1 Shamanism 4.2 Western mysticism

4.2.1 Mystery religions 4.2.2 Christian mysticism

4.2.2.1 Early Christianity 4.2.2.2 Orthodox Christianity 4.2.2.3 Western Europe

4.2.3 Western esotericism
Western esotericism
and modern spirituality

4.3 Jewish mysticism 4.4 Islamic mysticism 4.5 Indian religions

4.5.1 Hinduism 4.5.2 Tantra 4.5.3 Sant-tradition and Sikhism

4.6 Buddhism 4.7 Taoism 4.8 The Secularization
Secularization
of Mysticism

5 Scholarly approaches of mysticism
Scholarly approaches of mysticism
and mystical experience

5.1 Types of mysticism 5.2 Mystical experiences 5.3 Perennialism versus constructionism 5.4 Contextualism and attribution theory 5.5 Neurological research 5.6 Mysticism
Mysticism
and morality

6 See also 7 Notes 8 References 9 Sources

9.1 Published sources 9.2 Web-sources

10 Further reading 11 External links

Etymology[edit] See also: Christian contemplation
Christian contemplation
and Henosis "Mysticism" is derived from the Greek μυω, meaning "I conceal",[web 2] and its derivative μυστικός, mystikos, meaning 'an initiate'. The verb μυώ has received a quite different meaning in the Greek language, where it is still in use. The primary meanings it has are "induct" and "initiate". Secondary meanings include "introduce", "make someone aware of something", "train", "familiarize", "give first experience of something".[web 3] The related form of the verb μυέω (mueó or myéō) appears in the New Testament. As explained in Strong's Concordance, it properly means shutting the eyes and mouth to experience mystery. Its figurative meaning is to be initiated into the "mystery revelation". The meaning derives from the initiatory rites of the pagan mysteries.[web 4] Also appearing in the New Testament
New Testament
is the related noun μυστήριον (mustérion or mystḗrion), the root word of the English term "mystery". The term means "anything hidden", a mystery or secret, of which initiation is necessary. In the New Testament
New Testament
it reportedly takes the meaning of the counsels of God, once hidden but now revealed in the Gospel or some fact thereof, the Christian revelation generally, and/or particular truths or details of the Christian revelation. [web 5] According to Thayer's Greek Lexicon, the term μυστήριον in classical Greek meant "a hidden thing", "secret". A particular meaning it took in Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
was a religious secret or religious secrets, confided only to the initiated and not to be communicated by them to ordinary mortals. In the Septuagint
Septuagint
and the New Testament
New Testament
the meaning it took was that of a hidden purpose or counsel, a secret will. It is sometimes used for the hidden wills of humans, but is more often used for the hidden will of God. Elsewhere in the Bible
Bible
it takes the meaning of the mystic or hidden sense of things. It is used for the secrets behind sayings, names, or behind images seen in visions and dreams. The Vulgate
Vulgate
often translates the Greek term to the Latin sacramentum (sacrament). [web 5] The related noun μύστης (mustis or mystis, singular) means the initiate, the person initiated to the mysteries. [web 5] According to Ana Jiménez San Cristobal in her study of Greco-Roman mysteries
Greco-Roman mysteries
and Orphism, the singular form μύστης and the plural form μύσται are used in ancient Greek texts to mean the person or persons initiated to religious mysteries. These followers of mystery religions belonged to a select group, where access was only gained through an initiation. She finds that the terms were associated with the term βάκχος (Bacchus), which was used for a special class of initiates of the Orphic mysteries. The terms are first found connected in the writings of Heraclitus. Such initiates are identified in texts with the persons who have been purified and have performed certain rites. A passage of the Cretans by Euripides
Euripides
seems to explain that the μύστης (initiate) who devotes himself to an ascetic life, renounces sexual activities, and avoids contact with the dead becomes known as βάκχος. Such initiates were believers in the god Dionysus
Dionysus
Bacchus who took on the name of their god and sought an identification with their deity.[6] Until the sixth century the practice of what is now called mysticism was referred to by the term contemplatio, c.q. theoria.[7] According to Johnson, "[b]oth contemplation and mysticism speak of the eye of love which is looking at, gazing at, aware of divine realities."[7] Definitions[edit] According to Peter Moore, the term "mysticism" is "problematic but indispensable."[8] It is a generic term which joins together into one concept separate practices and ideas which developed separately,[8] According to Dupré, "mysticism" has been defined in many ways,[9] and Merkur notes that the definition, or meaning, of the term "mysticism" has changed through the ages.[web 1] Moore further notes that the term "mysticism" has become a popular label for "anything nebulous, esoteric, occult, or supernatural."[8] Parsons warns that "what might at times seem to be a straightforward phenomenon exhibiting an unambiguous commonality has become, at least within the academic study of religion, opaque and controversial on multiple levels".[10] Because of its Christian overtones, and the lack of similar terms in other cultures, some scholars regard the term "mysticism" to be inadequate as a useful descriptive term.[8] Other scholars regard the term to be an inauthentic fabrication,[8][web 1] the "product of post-Enlightenment universalism."[8] Union with the Divine or Absolute and mystical experience[edit] See also: Hesychasm, Contemplative prayer, and Apophatic theology Deriving from Neo-Platonism
Neo-Platonism
and Henosis, mysticism is popularly known as union with God
God
or the Absolute.[11][12] In the 13th century the term unio mystica came to be used to refer to the "spiritual marriage," the ecstasy, or rapture, that was experienced when prayer was used "to contemplate both God’s omnipresence in the world and God
God
in his essence."[web 1] In the 19th century, under the influence of Romanticism, this "union" was interpreted as a "religious experience," which provides certainty about God
God
or a transcendental reality.[web 1][note 1] An influential proponent of this understanding was William James (1842–1910), who stated that "in mystic states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware of our oneness."[14] William James popularized this use of the term "religious experience"[note 2] in his The Varieties of Religious Experience,[16][17][web 2] contributing to the interpretation of mysticism as a distinctive experience, comparable to sensory experiences.[18][web 2] Religious experiences belonged to the "personal religion,"[19] which he considered to be "more fundamental than either theology or ecclesiasticism".[19] He gave a Perennialist interpretation to religious experience, stating that this kind of experience is ultimately uniform in various traditions.[note 3] McGinn notes that the term unio mystica, although it has Christian origins, is primarily a modern expression.[20] McGinn argues that "presence" is more accurate than "union", since not all mystics spoke of union with God, and since many visions and miracles were not necessarily related to union. He also argues that we should speak of "consciousness" of God's presence, rather than of "experience", since mystical activity is not simply about the sensation of God
God
as an external object, but more broadly about "new ways of knowing and loving based on states of awareness in which God
God
becomes present in our inner acts."[21] However, the idea of "union" does not work in all contexts. For example, in Advaita Vedanta, there is only one reality (Brahman) and therefore nothing other than reality to unite with it— Brahman
Brahman
in each person (atman) has always in fact been identical to Brahman
Brahman
all along. Dan Merkur also notes that union with God
God
or the Absolute is a too limited definition, since there are also traditions which aim not at a sense of unity, but of nothingness, such as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Meister Eckhart.[web 1] According to Merkur, Kabbala and Buddhism
Buddhism
also emphasize nothingness.[web 1] Blakemore and Jennett note that "definitions of mysticism [...] are often imprecise." They further note that this kind of interpretation and definition is a recent development which has become the standard definition and understanding.[web 6][note 4] According to Gelman, "A unitive experience involves a phenomenological de-emphasis, blurring, or eradication of multiplicity, where the cognitive significance of the experience is deemed to lie precisely in that phenomenological feature".[web 2][note 5] Religious ecstasies and interpretative context[edit] Main articles: Religious ecstasy, Altered state of consciousness, Cognitive science of religion, Neurotheology, and Attribution (psychology) Mysticism
Mysticism
involves an explanatory context, which provides meaning for so-called mystical and visionary experiences, and related experiences like trances. According to Dan Merkur, mysticism may relate to any kind of ecstasy or altered state of consciousness, and the ideas and explanations related to them.[web 1][note 6] Parsons stresses the importance of distinguishing between temporary experiences and mysticism as a process, which is embodied within a "religious matrix" of texts and practices.[24][note 7] Richard Jones does the same.[25] Peter Moore notes that mystical experience may also happen in a spontaneous and natural way, to people who are not committed to any religious tradition. These experiences are not necessarily interpreted in a religious framework.[26] Ann Taves asks by which processes experiences are set apart and deemed religious or mystical.[27] Intuitive insight and enlightenment[edit] Main articles: Enlightenment (spiritual), Divine illumination, and Subitism Some authors emphasize that mystical experience involves intuitive understanding of the meaning of existence and of hidden truths, and the resolution of life problems. According to Larson, "mystical experience is an intuitive understanding and realization of the meaning of existence."[28][note 8] According to McClenon, mysticism is "the doctrine that special mental states or events allow an understanding of ultimate truths."[web 7][note 9] According to James R. Horne, mystical illumination "a central visionary experience [...] that results in the resolution of a personal or religious problem.[3][note 10] According to Evelyn Underhill, illumination is a generic English term for the phenomenon of mysticism. The term illumination is derived from the Latin illuminatio, applied to Christian prayer in the 15th century.[29] Comparable Asian terms are bodhi, kensho and satori in Buddhism, commonly translated as "enlightenment", and vipassana, which all point to cognitive processes of intuition and comprehension. According to Wright, the use of the western word enlightenment is based on the supposed resemblance of bodhi with Aufklärung, the independent use of reason to gain insight into the true nature of our world. As a matter of fact there are more resemblances with Romanticism
Romanticism
than with the Enlightenment: the emphasis on feeling, on intuitive insight, on a true essence beyond the world of appearances.[30] Spiritual life and re-formation[edit] Main articles: Spirituality, Spiritual development, Self-realization, and Ego death Other authors point out that mysticism involves more than "mystical experience." According to Gellmann, the ultimate goal of mysticism is human transformation, not just experiencing mystical or visionary states.[web 2][note 13][note 14] According to McGinn, personal transformation is the essential criterium to determine the authenticity of Christian mysticism.[21][note 15] History of the term[edit] Hellenistic world[edit] In the Hellenistic world, 'mystical' referred to "secret" religious rituals[web 2] The use of the word lacked any direct references to the transcendental.[10] A "mystikos" was an initiate of a mystery religion. Early Christianity[edit] Main articles: Greco-Roman mysteries, Early Christianity, and Esoteric Christianity In early Christianity
Christianity
the term "mystikos" referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative.[1] The biblical dimension refers to "hidden" or allegorical interpretations of Scriptures.[web 2][1] The liturgical dimension refers to the liturgical mystery of the Eucharist, the presence of Christ
Christ
at the Eucharist.[web 2][1] The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.[1] Until the sixth century, the Greek term theoria, meaning "contemplation" in Latin, was used for the mystical interpretation of the Bible.[7] The link between mysticism and the vision of the Divine was introduced by the early Church Fathers, who used the term as an adjective, as in mystical theology and mystical contemplation.[10] Under the influence of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
the mystical theology came to denote the investigation of the allegorical truth of the Bible,[1] and "the spiritual awareness of the ineffable Absolute beyond the theology of divine names."[34] Pseudo-Dionysius' Apophatic theology, or "negative theology", exerted a great influence on medieval monastic religiosity.[35] It was influenced by Neo-Platonism, and very influential in Eastern Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox
Christian theology. In western Christianity
Christianity
it was a counter-current to the prevailing Cataphatic theology
Cataphatic theology
or "positive theology". Theoria
Theoria
enabled the Fathers to perceive depths of meaning in the biblical writings that escape a purely scientific or empirical approach to interpretation.[36] The Antiochene Fathers, in particular, saw in every passage of Scripture a double meaning, both literal and spiritual.[37] Later, theoria or contemplation came to be distinguished from intellectual life, leading to the identification of θεωρία or contemplatio with a form of prayer[38] distinguished from discursive meditation in both East[39] and West.[40] Medieval meaning[edit] See also: Middle Ages This threefold meaning of "mystical" continued in the Middle Ages.[1] According to Dan Merkur, the term unio mystica came into use in the 13th century as a synonym for the "spiritual marriage," the ecstasy, or rapture, that was experienced when prayer was used "to contemplate both God’s omnipresence in the world and God
God
in his essence."[web 1] Under the influence of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
the mystical theology came to denote the investigation of the allegorical truth of the Bible,[1] and "the spiritual awareness of the ineffable Absolute beyond the theology of divine names."[34] Pseudo-Dionysius' Apophatic theology, or "negative theology", exerted a great influence on medieval monastic religiosity, although it was mostly a male religiosity, since women were not allowed to study.[35] It was influenced by Neo-Platonism, and very influential in Eastern Orthodox Christian theology. In western Christianity
Christianity
it was a counter-current to the prevailing Cataphatic theology
Cataphatic theology
or "positive theology". It is best known nowadays in the western world from Meister Eckhart
Meister Eckhart
and John of the Cross. Early modern meaning[edit] See also: Early modern period

The Appearance of the Holy Spirit
Spirit
before Saint
Saint
Teresa of Ávila, Peter Paul Rubens

In the sixteenth and seventeenth century mysticism came to be used as a substantive.[10] This shift was linked to a new discourse,[10] in which science and religion were separated.[41] Luther dismissed the allegorical interpretation of the bible, and condemned Mystical theology, which he saw as more Platonic than Christian.[42] "The mystical", as the search for the hidden meaning of texts, became secularised, and also associated with literature, as opposed to science and prose.[43] Science was also distinguished from religion. By the middle of the 17th century, "the mystical" is increasingly applied exclusively to the religious realm, separating religion and "natural philosophy" as two distinct approaches to the discovery of the hidden meaning of the universe.[44] The traditional hagiographies and writings of the saints became designated as "mystical", shifting from the virtues and miracles to extraordinary experiences and states of mind, thereby creating a newly coined "mystical tradition".[2] A new understanding developed of the Divine as residing within human, an essence beyond the varieties of religious expressions.[10] Contemporary meaning[edit] See also: Western esotericism, Theosophy, Syncretism, Spirituality, and New Age The 19th century saw a growing emphasis on individual experience, as a defense against the growing rationalism of western society.[17][web 1] The meaning of mysticism was considerably narrowed:[web 1]

The competition between the perspectives of theology and science resulted in a compromise in which most varieties of what had traditionally been called mysticism were dismissed as merely psychological phenomena and only one variety, which aimed at union with the Absolute, the Infinite, or God—and thereby the perception of its essential unity or oneness—was claimed to be genuinely mystical. The historical evidence, however, does not support such a narrow conception of mysticism.[web 1]

Under the influence of Perennialism, which was popularised in both the west and the east by Unitarianism, Transcendentalists
Transcendentalists
and Theosophy, mysticism has been applied to a broad spectrum of religious traditions, in which all sorts of esotericism and religious traditions and practices are joined together.[45][46][17] The term mysticism was extended to comparable phenomena in non-Christian religions,[web 1] where it influenced Hindu
Hindu
and Buddhist
Buddhist
responses to colonialism, resulting in Neo-Vedanta
Neo-Vedanta
and Buddhist
Buddhist
modernism.[46][47] In the contemporary usage "mysticism" has become an umbrella term for all sorts of non-rational world views.[48] William Harmless even states that mysticism has become "a catch-all for religious weirdness".[49] Within the academic study of religion the apparent "unambiguous commonality" has become "opaque and controversial".[10] The term "mysticism" is being used in different ways in different traditions.[10] Some call to attention the conflation of mysticism and linked terms, such as spirituality and esotericism, and point at the differences between various traditions.[50] Variations of mysticism[edit] Based on various definitions of mysticism, namely mysticism as an experience of union or nothingness, mysticism as any kind of an altered state of consciousness which is attributed in a religious way, mysticism as "enlightenment" or insight, and mysticism as a way of transformation, "mysticism" can be found in many cultures and religious traditions, both in folk religion and organized religion. These traditions include practices to induce religious or mystical experiences, but also ethical standards and practices to enhance self-control and integrate the mystical experience into daily life. Dan Merkur notes, though, that mystical practices are often separated from daily religious practices, and restricted to "religious specialists like monastics, priests, and other renunciates.[web 1] Shamanism[edit]

Main article: Shamanism According to Dan Merkur, shamanism may be regarded as a form of mysticism, in which the world of spirits is accessed through religious ecstasy.[web 1] According to Mircea Eliade
Mircea Eliade
shamanism is a "technique of religious ecstasy."[51] Shamanism
Shamanism
is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.[52] A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing.[53] The term "shamanism" was first applied by western anthropologists to the ancient religion of the Turks and Mongols, as well as those of the neighboring Tungusic and Samoyedic-speaking peoples. The term is also used to describe similar magico-religious practices found within the ethnic religions of other parts of Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Americas. For instance, Louisiana Voodoo, Haitian Vodou, West African Vodun, Dominican Vudú and Hoodoo are related[citation needed] folk-religions with ecstatic elements. Neoshamanism refers to "new"' forms of shamanism, or methods of seeking visions or healing, typically practiced in Western countries. Neoshamanism comprises an eclectic range of beliefs and practices that involve attempts to attain altered states and communicate with a spirit world, and is associated with New Age
New Age
practices.[54][55] Western mysticism[edit] Mystery religions[edit] Main article: Greco-Roman mysteries The Eleusinian Mysteries, (Greek: Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) were annual initiation ceremonies in the cults of the goddesses Demeter
Demeter
and Persephone, held in secret at Eleusis (near Athens) in ancient Greece.[56] The mysteries began in about 1600 B.C. in the Mycenean period and continued for two thousand years, becoming a major festival during the Hellenic era, and later spreading to Rome.[57] Christian mysticism[edit]

Part of a series on

Christian mysticism

Theology · Philosophy

Apophatic Ascetical Cataphatic Catholic spirituality Hellenistic Mystical theology Neoplatonic

Henosis

Practices

Monasticism

Monasticism Asceticism Spiritual direction

Meditation

Meditation Lectio Divina

Active ascetism

Contemplation

Hesychasm Jesus prayer Quietism

Stages of Christian perfection Divinization

Catharsis Theosis

Kenosis Spiritual dryness

Passive ascetism

Abstinence

People (by era or century)

Antiquity

Ancient African Origen Gregory of Nyssa Pseudo-Dionysius

Desert Fathers

Paul of Thebes Anthony the Great Arsenius the Great Poemen Macarius of Egypt Moses the Black Syncletica Athanasius John Chrysostom Hilarion John Cassian

11th · 12th

Bernard of Clairvaux Guigo II Hildegard of Bingen Symeon the New Theologian

13th · 14th

Dominican

Dominic de Guzmán

Franciscan

Francis of Assisi Anthony of Padua Bonaventure Jacopone da Todi Angela of Foligno

English

Richard Rolle Walter Hilton Julian of Norwich Margery Kempe

Flemish

Hadewijch Beatrice of Nazareth John of Ruysbroeck

German

Meister Eckhart Johannes Tauler Henry Suso

Female

Beatrice of Nazareth Bridget of Sweden Catherine of Siena Mechthild of Magdeburg Marguerite Porete

15th · 16th

Spanish

Ignatius of Loyola Francisco de Osuna John of Ávila Teresa of Ávila John of the Cross

Others

Catherine of Genoa

17th · 18th

French

Pierre de Bérulle Jean-Jacques Olier Louis de Montfort Charles de Condren John Eudes John of St. Samson

Others

María de Ágreda Anne Catherine Emmerich Veronica Giuliani Francis de Sales

19th

Dina Bélanger Catherine Labouré Mélanie Calvat Maximin Giraud Bernadette Soubirous Conchita de Armida Luisa Piccarreta Mary of the Divine Heart Thérèse of Lisieux Gemma Galgani

20th

Padre Pio Therese Neumann Marthe Robin Adrienne von Speyr Alexandrina of Balazar Faustina Kowalska Berthe Petit Sister Lúcia
Sister Lúcia
of Fátima Edgar Cayce Simone Weil Alfred Delp Thomas Merton Charles de Foucauld

Contemporary papal views

Aspects of meditation (Orationis Formas, 1989) Reflection on the New Age
New Age
(2003)

Literature · Media

Lingua Ignota Ordo Virtutum Scivias Ascent of Mount Carmel Dark Night of the Soul Spiritual Canticle Way of Perfection Book
Book
of the First Monks The Interior Castle Abbey of the Holy Ghost A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul From Willow Creek to Sacred
Sacred
Heart The Glories of Mary The Imitation of Christ The Ladder of Divine Ascent Philokalia Revelations of Divine Love Spiritual Canticle The Story of a Soul Theologia Germanica Devotio Moderna The Miracle
Miracle
of Our Lady of Fatima Sol de Fátima The Cloud of Unknowing The Consolation of Philosophy The Mirror of Simple Souls Sister Catherine Treatise Tractatus de Purgatorio
Purgatorio
Sancti Patricii The Vision of Adamnán Divine Comedy

Inferno Purgatorio Paradiso

v t e

Main articles: Christian contemplation, Christian mysticism, Mystical theology, Apophatic theology, and German mysticism Early Christianity[edit] The apophatic theology, or "negative theology", of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (6th c.) exerted a great influence on medieval monastic religiosity, both in the East and (by Latin translation) in the West.[35] Pseudo-Dionysius applied Neoplatonic thought, particularly that of Proclus, to Christian theology. Orthodox Christianity[edit] The Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church
has a long tradition of theoria (intimate experience) and hesychia (inner stillness), in which contemplative prayer silences the mind to progress along the path of theosis (deification). Theosis, practical unity with and conformity to God, is obtained by engaging in contemplative prayer, the first stage of theoria,[58][note 16] which results from the cultivation of watchfulness (nepsis). In theoria, one comes to behold the "divisibly indivisible" divine operations (energeia) of God
God
as the "uncreated light" of transfiguration, a grace which is eternal and proceeds naturally from the blinding darkness of the incomprehensible divine essence.[note 17][note 18] It is the main aim of hesychasm, which was developed in the thought St. Symeon the New Theologian, embraced by the monastic communities on Mount Athos, and most notably defended by St. Gregory Palamas against the Greek humanist philosopher Barlaam of Calabria. According to Roman Catholic critics, hesychastic practice has its roots to the introduction of a systematic practical approach to quietism by Symeon the New Theologian.[note 19] Symeon believed that direct experience gave monks the authority to preach and give absolution of sins, without the need for formal ordination. While Church authorities also taught from a speculative and philosophical perspective, Symeon taught from his own direct mystical experience,[61] and met with strong resistance for his charismatic approach, and his support of individual direct experience of God's grace.[61] Western Europe[edit]

Life of Francis of Assisi
Francis of Assisi
by José Benlliure y Gil

The High Middle Ages
Middle Ages
saw a flourishing of mystical practice and theorization in western Roman Catholicism, corresponding to the flourishing of new monastic orders, with such figures as Guigo II, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux, the Victorines, all coming from different orders, as well as the first real flowering of popular piety among the laypeople. The Late Middle Ages
Middle Ages
saw the clash between the Dominican and Franciscan
Franciscan
schools of thought, which was also a conflict between two different mystical theologies: on the one hand that of Dominic de Guzmán and on the other that of Francis of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, Bonaventure, and Angela of Foligno. This period also saw such individuals as John of Ruysbroeck, Catherine of Siena
Catherine of Siena
and Catherine of Genoa, the Devotio Moderna, and such books as the Theologia Germanica, The Cloud of Unknowing
The Cloud of Unknowing
and The Imitation of Christ. Moreover, there was the growth of groups of mystics centered around geographic regions: the Beguines, such as Mechthild of Magdeburg
Mechthild of Magdeburg
and Hadewijch
Hadewijch
(among others); the Rhineland mystics Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler
Johannes Tauler
and Henry Suso; and the English mystics Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton
Walter Hilton
and Julian of Norwich. The Spanish mystics
Spanish mystics
included Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross
John of the Cross
and Ignatius Loyola. The later post-reformation period also saw the writings of lay visionaries such as Emanuel Swedenborg
Emanuel Swedenborg
and William Blake, and the foundation of mystical movements such as the Quakers. Catholic mysticism continued into the modern period with such figures as Padre Pio and Thomas Merton. The philokalia, an ancient method of Eastern Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox
mysticism, was promoted by the twentieth century Traditionalist School. The inspired or "channeled" work A Course in Miracles
A Course in Miracles
represents a blending of non-denominational Christian and New Age
New Age
ideas. Western esotericism
Western esotericism
and modern spirituality[edit] Main articles: Western esotericism, Spirituality, and New Age Many western esoteric traditions and elements of modern spirituality have been regarded as "mysticism," such as Gnosticism, Transcendentalism, Theosophy, the Fourth Way,[62] and Neo-Paganism. Modern western spiritually and transpersonal psychology combine western psycho-therapeutic practices with religious practices like meditation to attain a lasting transformation. Nature
Nature
mysticism is an intense experience of unification with nature or the cosmic totality, which was popular with Romantic writers.[63] Jewish mysticism[edit]

Jewish mysticism

Forms

Prophets 800–500 BCE

Apocalyptic literature 300–100 BCE

Pardes c. 1 – 130s CE

Merkabah
Merkabah
and Hekhalot 100 BCE – 1000 CE

Sefer Yetzirah 200–600 CE

Chassidei Ashkenaz c. 1150–1250 CE

Medieval Kabbalah Meditative-Prophetic Practical Kabbalah

c. 1175–1570 CE

Safed
Safed
School Cordoverian

1500s CE

Lurianic Kabbalah 1570 CE–today

Sabbatean sects 1665–c. 1800 CE

Hasidism 1730s CE–today

Academic study c. 1920s–today

v t e

Main articles: Jewish mysticism
Jewish mysticism
and Kabbalah In the common era, Judaism
Judaism
has had two main kinds of mysticism: Merkabah
Merkabah
mysticism and Kabbalah. The former predated the latter, and was focused on visions, particularly those mentioned in the Book
Book
of Ezekiel. It gets its name from the Hebrew word meaning "chariot", a reference to Ezekiel's vision of a fiery chariot composed of heavenly beings. Kabbalah
Kabbalah
is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal and mysterious Ein Sof
Ein Sof
(no end) and the mortal and finite universe (his creation). Inside Judaism, it forms the foundations of mystical religious interpretation. Kabbalah
Kabbalah
originally developed entirely within the realm of Jewish thought. Kabbalists often use classical Jewish sources to explain and demonstrate its esoteric teachings. These teachings are thus held by followers in Judaism
Judaism
to define the inner meaning of both the Hebrew Bible
Bible
and traditional Rabbinic literature, their formerly concealed transmitted dimension, as well as to explain the significance of Jewish religious observances.[64] Kabbalah
Kabbalah
emerged, after earlier forms of Jewish mysticism, in 12th to 13th century Southern France and Spain, becoming reinterpreted in the Jewish mystical renaissance of 16th-century Ottoman Palestine. It was popularised in the form of Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism
from the 18th century forward. 20th-century interest in Kabbalah
Kabbalah
has inspired cross-denominational Jewish renewal
Jewish renewal
and contributed to wider non-Jewish contemporary spirituality, as well as engaging its flourishing emergence and historical re-emphasis through newly established academic investigation. Islamic mysticism[edit]

Part of a series on Islam Sufism
Sufism
and Tariqat

Ideas

Abdal Al-Insān al-Kāmil Baqaa Dervish Dhawq Fakir Fanaa Haal Haqiqa Ihsan Irfan Ishq Keramat Kashf Lataif Manzil Marifa Nafs Nūr Qalandar Qutb Silsila Sufi cosmology Sufi metaphysics Sufi philosophy Sufi poetry Sufi psychology Salik Tazkiah Wali Yaqeen

Practices

Anasheed Dhikr Haḍra Muraqaba Qawwali Sama Whirling Ziyarat

Sufi orders

Akbari Alians Ashrafia Azeemia Ba 'Alawi Bayrami Bektashi Burhaniyya Chishti Galibi Gulshani Haqqani Anjuman Hurufi Idrisi Issawiyya Jelveti Jerrahi Khalidi

İskenderpaşa İsmailağa

Khalwati Kubrawi Madari Meivazhi Malamati Mevlevi Mouridi Noorbakshia Naqshbandi Naqshbandi
Naqshbandi
Haqqani Nasuhi Ni'matullāhī Nuqtavi Qadiri Qalandari Rifa'i Safavi Saifia Shadhili Shattari Suhrawardi Sunbuli Sülaymaniyya Tijani Ussaki Uwaisi Zahedi Zikris

List of sufis

Notable early Notable modern Singers

Topics in Sufism

Tawhid Sharia Tariqa Haqiqa Ma'rifa Art History Music Shrines Texts

Portal

v t e

Main article: Sufism Sufism
Sufism
is said to be Islam's inner and mystical dimension.[65][66][67] Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism
Sufism
as

[A] science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God.[68]

A practitioner of this tradition is nowadays known as a ṣūfī (صُوفِيّ), or, in earlier usage, a dervish. The origin of the word "Sufi" is ambiguous. One understanding is that Sufi means wool-wearer; wool wearers during early Islam
Islam
were pious ascetics who withdrew from urban life. Another explanation of the word "Sufi" is that it means 'purity'.[69] Sufis generally belong to a khalqa, a circle or group, led by a Sheikh or Murshid. Sufi circles usually belong to a Tariqa
Tariqa
which is the Sufi order and each has a Silsila, which is the spiritual lineage, which traces its succession back to notable Sufis of the past, and often ultimately to the last prophet Muhammed
Muhammed
or one of his close associates. The turuq (plural of tariqa) are not enclosed like Christian monastic orders; rather the members retain an outside life. Membership of a Sufi group often passes down family lines. Meetings may or may not be segregated according to the prevailing custom of the wider society. An existing Muslim faith is not always a requirement for entry, particularly in Western countries.

Mawlānā Rumi's tomb, Konya, Turkey

Sufi practice includes

Dhikr, or remembrance (of God), which often takes the form of rhythmic chanting and breathing exercises. Sama, which takes the form of music and dance — the whirling dance of the Mevlevi
Mevlevi
dervishes is a form well known in the West. Muraqaba or meditation. Visiting holy places, particularly the tombs of Sufi saints, in order to remember death and the greatness of those who have passed.

The aims of Sufism
Sufism
include: the experience of ecstatic states (hal), purification of the heart (qalb), overcoming the lower self (nafs), extinction of the individual personality (fana), communion with God (haqiqa), and higher knowledge (marifat). Some sufic beliefs and practices have been found unorthodox by other Muslims; for instance Mansur al-Hallaj
Mansur al-Hallaj
was put to death for blasphemy after uttering the phrase Ana'l Haqq, "I am the Truth" (i.e. God) in a trance. Notable classical Sufis include Jalaluddin Rumi, Fariduddin Attar, Sultan Bahoo, Sayyed Sadique Ali Husaini, Saadi Shirazi
Saadi Shirazi
and Hafez, all major poets in the Persian language. Omar Khayyam, Al-Ghazzali
Al-Ghazzali
and Ibn Arabi were renowned scholars. Abdul Qadir Jilani, Moinuddin Chishti, and Bahauddin Naqshband
Bahauddin Naqshband
founded major orders, as did Rumi. Rabia Basri was the most prominent female Sufi. Sufism
Sufism
first came into contact with the Judeo-Christian world during the Moorish
Moorish
occupation of Spain. An interest in Sufism
Sufism
revived in non-Muslim countries during the modern era, led by such figures as Inayat Khan
Inayat Khan
and Idries Shah
Idries Shah
(both in the UK), Rene Guenon
Rene Guenon
(France) and Ivan Aguéli
Ivan Aguéli
(Sweden). Sufism
Sufism
has also long been present in Asian countries that do not have a Muslim majority, such as India
India
and China.[70] Indian religions[edit] Hinduism[edit] Main article: Hinduism In Hinduism, various sadhanas aim at overcoming ignorance (avidhya) and transcending the limited identification with body, mind and ego to attain moksha. Hinduism
Hinduism
has a number of interlinked ascetic traditions and philosophical schools which aim at moksha[71] and the acquisition of higher powers.[72] With the onset of the British colonisation of India, those traditions came to be interpreted in western terms such as "mysticism", drawing equivalents with western terms and practices.[73] Yoga
Yoga
is the physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which aim to attain a state of permanent peace.[74] Various traditions of yoga are found in Hinduism, Buddhism
Buddhism
and Jainism.[75][76][77][76] The Yoga
Yoga
Sūtras of Patañjali defines yoga as "the stilling of the changing states of the mind,"[78] which is attained in samadhi. Classical Vedanta
Vedanta
gives philosophical interpretations and commentaries of the Upanishads, a vast collection of ancient hymns. At least ten schools of Vedanta
Vedanta
are known,[79] of which Advaita Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita, and Dvaita
Dvaita
are the best known.[80] Advaita Vedanta, as expounded by Adi Shankara, states that there is no difference between Atman and Brahman. The best-known subschool is Kevala Vedanta or mayavada as expounded by Adi Shankara. Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta
has acquired a broad acceptance in Indian culture and beyond as the paradigmatic example of Hindu
Hindu
spirituality.[81] In contrast Bhedabheda-Vedanta emphasizes that Atman and Brahman
Brahman
are both the same and not the same,[82] while Dvaita
Dvaita
Vedanta
Vedanta
states that Atman and God
God
are fundamentally different.[82] In modern times, the Upanishads
Upanishads
have been interpreted by Neo-Vedanta
Neo-Vedanta
as being "mystical".[73] Various Shaivist traditions are strongly nondualistic, such as Kashmir Shaivism
Shaivism
and Shaiva Siddhanta. Tantra[edit] Main article: Tantra Tantra
Tantra
is the name given by scholars to a style of meditation and ritual which arose in India
India
no later than the fifth century AD.[83] Tantra
Tantra
has influenced the Hindu, Bön, Buddhist, and Jain
Jain
traditions and spread with Buddhism
Buddhism
to East and Southeast Asia.[84] Tantric ritual seeks to access the supra-mundane through the mundane, identifying the microcosm with the macrocosm.[85] The Tantric aim is to sublimate (rather than negate) reality.[86] The Tantric practitioner seeks to use prana (energy flowing through the universe, including one's body) to attain goals which may be spiritual, material or both.[87] Tantric practice includes visualisation of deities, mantras and mandalas. It can also include sexual and other (antinomian) practices.[citation needed] Sant-tradition and Sikhism[edit] Main articles: Sant (religion), Nirguna Brahman, and Sikhism

Guru Nanak
Guru Nanak
and Bhai Mardana

Mysticism
Mysticism
in the Sikh
Sikh
dharm began with its founder, Guru
Guru
Nanak, who as a child had profound mystical experiences.[88] Guru Nanak
Guru Nanak
stressed that God
God
must be seen with 'the inward eye', or the 'heart', of a human being.[89] Guru
Guru
Arjan, the fifth Sikh
Sikh
Guru, added religious mystics belonging to other religions into the holy scriptures that would eventually become the Guru
Guru
Granth Sahib. The goal of Sikhism
Sikhism
is to be one with God.[90] Sikhs meditate as a means to progress towards enlightenment; it is devoted meditation simran that enables a sort of communication between the Infinite and finite human consciousness.[91] There is no concentration on the breath but chiefly the remembrance of God
God
through the recitation of the name of God[92] and surrender themselves to Gods presence often metaphorized as surrendering themselves to the Lord's feet.[93] Buddhism[edit] See also: Presectarian Buddhism, Buddhist
Buddhist
meditation, and Subitism According to Oliver, Buddhism
Buddhism
is mystical in the sense that it aims at the identification of the true nature of our self, and live according to it.[94] Buddhism
Buddhism
originated in India, sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, but is now mostly practiced in other countries, where it developed into a number of traditions, the main ones being Therevada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Buddhism
Buddhism
aims at liberation from the cycle of rebirth by self-control through meditation and morally just behaviour. Some Buddhist
Buddhist
paths aim at a gradual development and transformation of the personality toward Nirvana, like the Theravada
Theravada
stages of enlightenment. Others, like the Japanese Rinzai Zen
Zen
tradition, emphasize sudden insight, but nevertheless also prescribe intensive training, including meditation and self-restraint. Although Theravada
Theravada
does not acknowledge the existence of a theistic Absolute, it does postulate Nirvana
Nirvana
as a transcendent reality which may be attained.[95][96] It further stresses transformation of the personality through meditative practice, self-restraint, and morally just behaviour.[95] According to Richard H. Jones, Theravada
Theravada
is a form of mindful extrovertive and introvertive mysticism, in which the conceptual structuring of experiences is weakened, and the ordinary sense of self is weakened.[97] It is best known in the west from the Vipassana
Vipassana
movement, a number of branches of modern Theravāda Buddhism from Burma, Laos, Thailand and Sri Lanka, and includes contemporary American Buddhist
Buddhist
teachers such as Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield. The Yogacara
Yogacara
school of Mahayana
Mahayana
investigates the workings of the mind, stating that only the mind[98] (citta-mātra) or the representations we cognize (vijñapti-mātra),[99][note 20] really exist.[98][100][99] In later Buddhist
Buddhist
Mahayana
Mahayana
thought, which took an idealistic turn,[note 21] the unmodified mind came to be seen as a pure consciousness, from which everything arises.[note 22] Vijñapti-mātra, coupled with Buddha-nature
Buddha-nature
or tathagatagarba, has been an influential concept in the subsequent development of Mahayana Buddhism, not only in India, but also in China
China
and Tibet, most notable in the Chán (Zen) and Dzogchen
Dzogchen
traditions. Chinese and Japanese Zen
Zen
is grounded on the Chinese understanding of the Buddha-nature
Buddha-nature
as one true's essence, and the Two truths doctrine as a polarity between relative and Absolute reality.[103][104] Zen aims at insight one's true nature, or Buddha-nature, thereby manifesting Absolute reality in the relative reality.[105] In Soto, this Buddha-nature
Buddha-nature
is regarded to be ever-present, and shikan-taza, sitting meditation, is the expression of the already existing Buddhahood.[104] Rinzai-zen emphasises the need for a break-through insight in this Buddha-nature,[104] but also stresses that further practice is needed to deepen the insight and to express it in daily life,[106][107][108][109] as expressed in the Three mysterious Gates, the Four Ways of Knowing of Hakuin,[110] and the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures.[111] The Japanese Zen-scholar D.T. Suzuki
D.T. Suzuki
noted similarities between Zen- Buddhism
Buddhism
and Christian mysticism, especially meister Eckhart.[112] The Tibetan Vajrayana
Vajrayana
tradition is based on Madhyamaka
Madhyamaka
philosophy and Tantra.[113] In deity yoga, visualizations of deities are eventually dissolved, to realize the inherent emptiness of every-'thing' that exists.[114] Dzogchen, which is being taught in both the Tibetan buddhist Nyingma
Nyingma
school and the Bön
Bön
tradition,[115][116] focuses on direct insight into our real nature. It holds that "mind-nature" is manifested when one is enlightened,[117] being nonconceptually aware (rigpa, "open presence") of one's nature,[115] "a recognition of one's beginningless nature."[118] Mahamudra
Mahamudra
has similarities with Dzogchen, emphasizing the meditational approach to insight and liberation. Taoism[edit] Main article: Taoism Taoist philosophy is centered on the Tao, usually translated "Way", an ineffable cosmic principle. The contrasting yet interdependent concepts of yin and yang also symbolise harmony, with Taoist scriptures often emphasing the Yin virtues of femininity, passivity and yieldingness.[119] Taoist practice includes exercises and rituals aimed at manipulating the life force Qi, and obtaining health and longevity.[note 23] These have been elaborated into practices such as Tai chi, which are well known in the west. The Secularization
Secularization
of Mysticism[edit] See also: New Age Today there is also occurring in the West what Richard Jones calls "the secularization of mysticism".[120] That is the separation of meditation and other mystical practices from their traditional use in religious ways of life to only secular ends of purported psychological and physiological benefits. Scholarly approaches of mysticism
Scholarly approaches of mysticism
and mystical experience[edit] Main article: Scholarly approaches of mysticism Types of mysticism[edit] R. C. Zaehner distinguishes three fundamental types of mysticism, namely theistic, monistic and panenhenic ("all-in-one") or natural mysticism.[4] The theistic category includes most forms of Jewish, Christian and Islamic mysticism and occasional Hindu
Hindu
examples such as Ramanuja and the Bhagavad Gita.[4] The monistic type, which according to Zaehner is based upon an experience of the unity of one's soul,[4][note 24] includes Buddhism
Buddhism
and Hindu
Hindu
schools such as Samhya and Advaita vedanta.[4] Nature
Nature
mysticism seems to refer to examples that do not fit into one of these two categories.[4] Walter Terence Stace, in his book Mysticism
Mysticism
and Philosophy
Philosophy
(1960), distinguished two types of mystical experience, namely extrovertive and introvertive mysticism.[121][4][122] Extrovertive mysticism is an experience of the unity of the external world, whereas introvertive mysticism is "an experience of unity devoid of perceptual objects; it is literally an experience of 'no-thing-ness'."[122] The unity in extrovertive mysticism is with the totality of objects of perception. While perception stays continuous, “unity shines through the same world”; the unity in introvertive mysticism is with a pure consciousness, devoid of objects of perception,[123] “pure unitary consciousness, wherein awareness of the world and of multiplicity is completely obliterated.”[124] According to Stace such experiences are nonsensous and nonintellectual, under a total “suppression of the whole empirical content.”[125] Stace argues that doctrinal differences between religious traditions are inappropriate criteria when making cross-cultural comparisons of mystical experiences.[4] Stace argues that mysticism is part of the process of perception, not interpretation, that is to say that the unity of mystical experiences is perceived, and only afterwards interpreted according to the perceiver’s background. This may result in different accounts of the same phenomenon. While an atheist describes the unity as “freed from empirical filling”, a religious person might describe it as “God” or “the Divine”.[126] Mystical experiences[edit] Since the 19th century, mystical experience has evolved as a distinctive concept. It is closely related to "mysticism" but lays sole emphasis on the experiential aspect, be it spontaneous or induced by human behavior, whereas mysticism encompasses a broad range of practices aiming at a transformation of the person, not just inducing mystical experiences. William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience is the classic study on religious or mystical experience, which influenced deeply both the academic and popular understanding of "religious experience".[16][17][18][web 2] He popularized the use of the term "religious experience"[note 25] in his "Varieties",[16][17][web 2] and influenced the understanding of mysticism as a distinctive experience which supplies knowledge of the transcendental:[18][web 2]

Under the influence of William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience, heavily centered on people's conversion experiences, most philosophers' interest in mysticism has been in distinctive, allegedly knowledge-granting "mystical experiences.""[web 2]

Yet, Gelman notes that so-called mystical experience is not a transitional event, as William James
William James
claimed, but an "abiding consciousness, accompanying a person throughout the day, or parts of it. For that reason, it might be better to speak of mystical consciousness, which can be either fleeting or abiding."[web 2] Most mystical traditions warn against an attachment to mystical experiences, and offer a "protective and hermeneutic framework" to accommodate these experiences.[127] These same traditions offer the means to induce mystical experiences,[127] which may have several origins:

Spontaneous; either apparently without any cause, or by persistent existential concerns, or by neurophysiological origins; Religious practices, such as contemplation, meditation, and mantra-repetition; Entheogens (psychedelic drugs) Neurophysiological origins, such as temporal lobe epilepsy.

The theoretical study of mystical experience has shifted from an experiential, privatized and perennialist approach to a contextual and empirical approach.[127] The experientalist approach sees mystical experience as a private expression of perennial truths, separate from its historical and cultural context. The contextual approach, which also includes constructionism and attribution theory, takes into account the historical and cultural context.[127][27][web 2] Neurological research takes an empirical approach, relating mystical experiences to neurological processes. Perennialism versus constructionism[edit] The term "mystical experience" evolved as a distinctive concept since the 19th century, laying sole emphasis on the experiential aspect, be it spontaneous or induced by human behavior. Perennialists regard those various experience traditions as pointing to one universal transcendental reality, for which those experiences offer the proof. In this approach, mystical experiences are privatised, separated from the context in which they emerge.[127] Well-known representatives are William James, R.C. Zaehner, William Stace and Robert Forman.[128] The perennial position is "largely dismissed by scholars",[5] but "has lost none of its popularity."[129] In contrast, for the past decades most scholars have favored a constructionist approach, which states that mystical experiences are fully constructed by the ideas, symbols and practices that mystics are familiar with.[128] Critics of the term "religious experience" note that the notion of "religious experience" or "mystical experience" as marking insight into religious truth is a modern development,[130] and contemporary researchers of mysticism note that mystical experiences are shaped by the concepts "which the mystic brings to, and which shape, his experience".[131] What is being experienced is being determined by the expectations and the conceptual background of the mystic.[132] Richard Jones draws a distinction between "anticonstructivism" and "perennialism": constructivism can be rejected with respect to a certain class of mystical experiences without ascribing to a perennialist philosophy on the relation of mystical doctrines.[133] One can reject constructivism without claiming that mystical experiences reveal a cross-cultural "perennial truth". For example, a Christian can reject both constructivism and perennialism in arguing that there is a union with God
God
free of cultural construction. Constructivism versus anticonstructivism is a matter of the nature of mystical experiences while perennialism is a matter of mystical traditions and the doctrines they espouse. Contextualism and attribution theory[edit] Main articles: Attribution (psychology) and Neurotheology The contextual approach has become the common approach.[127] Contextualism takes into account the historical and cultural context of mystical experiences.[127] The attribution approach views "mystical experience" as non-ordinary states of consciousness which are explained in a religious framework.[27] According to Proudfoot, mystics unconsciously merely attribute a doctrinal content to ordinary experiences. That is, mystics project cognitive content onto otherwise ordinary experiences having a strong emotional impact.[134][27] This approach has been further elaborated by Ann Taves, in her Religious Experience Reconsidered. She incorporates both neurological and cultural approaches in the study of mystical experience. Neurological research[edit] See also: Neurotheology Neurological research takes an empirical approach, relating mystical experiences to neurological processes.[135][136] This leads to a central philosophical issue: does the identification of neural triggers or neural correlates of mystical experiences prove that mystical experiences are no more than brain events or does it merely identify the brain activity occurring during a genuine cognitive event? The most common positions are that neurology reduces mystical experiences or that neurology is neutral to the issue of mystical cognitivity.[137] Interest in mystical experiences and psychedelic drugs has also recently seen a resurgence.[138] The temporal lobe seems to be involved in mystical experiences,[web 9][139] and in the change in personality that may result from such experiences.[web 9] It generates the feeling of "I," and gives a feeling of familiarity or strangeness to the perceptions of the senses.[web 9] There is a long-standing notion that epilepsy and religion are linked,[140] and some religious figures may have had temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE).[web 9][141][142][140] The anterior insula may be involved in ineffability, a strong feeling of certainty which cannot be expressed in words, which is a common quality in mystical experiences. According to Picard, this feeling of certainty may be caused by a dysfunction of the anterior insula, a part of the brain which is involved in interoception, self-reflection, and in avoiding uncertainty about the internal representations of the world by "anticipation of resolution of uncertainty or risk".[143][note 26] Mysticism
Mysticism
and morality[edit] A philosophical issue in the study of mysticism is the relation of mysticism to morality. Albert Schweitzer presented the classic account of mysticism and morality being incompatible.[144] Arthur Danto also argued that morality is at least incompatible with Indian mystical beliefs.[145] Walter Stace, on the other hand, argued not only are mysticism and morality compatible, but that mysticism is the source and justification of morality.[146] Others studying multiple mystical traditions have concluded that the relation of mysticism and morality is not as simple as that.[147][148] Richard King also points to disjunction between "mystical experience" and social justice:[149]

The privatisation of mysticism – that is, the increasing tendency to locate the mystical in the psychological realm of personal experiences – serves to exclude it from political issues as social justice. Mysticism
Mysticism
thus becomes seen as a personal matter of cultivating inner states of tranquility and equanimity, which, rather than seeking to transform the world, serve to accommodate the individual to the status quo through the alleviation of anxiety and stress.[149]

See also[edit]

List of female mystics List of male mystics Eduard von Hartmann's Philosophy
Philosophy
of the Unconscious Henology Ludus amoris Michael Eigen Numinous Transpersonal psychology

Notes[edit]

^ Note that Parmenides' "way of truth" may also be translated as "way of conviction." Parmenides
Parmenides
(fl. late sixth or early fifth century BC), in his poem On Nature, gives an account of a revelation on two ways of inquiry. "The way of conviction" explores Being, true reality ("what-is"), which is "What is ungenerated and deathless,/whole and uniform, and still and perfect."[13] "The way of opinion" is the world of appearances, in which one's sensory faculties lead to conceptions which are false and deceitful. Cook's translation "way of conviction" is rendered by other translators as "way of truth." ^ The term "mystical experience" has become synonymous with the terms "religious experience", spiritual experience and sacred experience.[15] ^ William James: "This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly altered by differences of clime or creed. In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism, in Whitmanism, we find the same recurring note, so that there is about mystical utterances an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which bring it about that the mystical classics have, as been said, neither birthday nor native land."[14] ^ Blakemore and Jennett: " Mysticism
Mysticism
is frequently defined as an experience of direct communion with God, or union with the Absolute, but definitions of mysticism (a relatively modern term) are often imprecise and usually rely on the presuppositions of the modern study of mysticism — namely, that mystical experiences involve a set of intense and usually individual and private psychological states [...] Furthermore, mysticism is a phenomenon said to be found in all major religious traditions.[web 6] Blakemore and Jennett add: "[T]he common assumption that all mystical experiences, whatever their context, are the same cannot, of course, be demonstrated." They also state: "Some have placed a particular emphasis on certain altered states, such as visions, trances, levitations, locutions, raptures, and ecstasies, many of which are altered bodily states. Margery Kempe's tears and Teresa of Avila's ecstasies are famous examples of such mystical phenomena. But many mystics have insisted that while these experiences may be a part of the mystical state, they are not the essence of mystical experience, and some, such as Origen, Meister Eckhart, and John of the Cross, have been hostile to such psycho-physical phenomena. Rather, the essence of the mystical experience is the encounter between God
God
and the human being, the Creator and creature; this is a union which leads the human being to an ‘absorption’ or loss of individual personality. It is a movement of the heart, as the individual seeks to surrender itself to ultimate Reality; it is thus about being rather than knowing. For some mystics, such as Teresa of Avila, phenomena such as visions, locutions, raptures, and so forth are by-products of, or accessories to, the full mystical experience, which the soul may not yet be strong enough to receive. Hence these altered states are seen to occur in those at an early stage in their spiritual lives, although ultimately only those who are called to achieve full union with God
God
will do so."[web 6] ^ Gelman: "Examples are experiences of the oneness of all of nature, “union” with God, as in Christian mysticism, (see section 2.2.1), the Hindu
Hindu
experience that Atman is Brahman
Brahman
(that the self/soul is identical with the eternal, absolute being), the Buddhist unconstructed experience, and “monistic” experiences, devoid of all multiplicity."[web 2]

Compare Plotinus, who argued that The One is radically simple, and does not even have self-knowledge, since self-knowledge would imply multiplicity.[22] Nevertheless, Plotinus
Plotinus
does urge for a search for the Absolute, turning inward and becoming aware of the "presence of the intellect in the human soul," initiating an ascent of the soul by abstraction or "taking away," culminating in a sudden appearance of the One.[23] ^ Merkur: " Mysticism
Mysticism
is the practice of religious ecstasies (religious experiences during alternate states of consciousness), together with whatever ideologies, ethics, rites, myths, legends, and magic may be related to them."[web 1] ^ Parsons: "...episodic experience and mysticism as a process that, though surely punctuated by moments of visionary, unitive, and transformative encounters, is ultimately inseparable from its embodied relation to a total religious matrix: liturgy, scripture, worship, virtues, theology, rituals, practice and the arts.[24] ^ Larson: "A mystical experience is an intuitive understanding and realization of the meaning of existence – an intuitive understanding and realization which is intense, integrating, self-authenticating, liberating – i.e., providing a sense of release from ordinary self-awareness – and subsequently determinative – i.e., a primary criterion – for interpreting all other experience whether cognitive, conative, or affective."[28] ^ McClenon: "The doctrine that special mental states or events allow an understanding of ultimate truths. Although it is difficult to differentiate which forms of experience allow such understandings, mental episodes supporting belief in "other kinds of reality" are often labeled mystical [...] Mysticism
Mysticism
tends to refer to experiences supporting belief in a cosmic unity rather than the advocation of a particular religious ideology."[web 7] ^ Horne: "[M]ystical illumination is interpreted as a central visionary experience in a psychological and behavioural process that results in the resolution of a personal or religious problem. This factual, minimal interpretation depicts mysticism as an extreme and intense form of the insight seeking process that goes in activities such as solving theoretical problems or developing new inventions.[3] ^ Original quote in " Evelyn Underhill
Evelyn Underhill
(1930), Mysticism: A Study in the Nature
Nature
and Development of Spiritual Consciousness.[31] ^ Underhill: "One of the most abused words in the English language, it has been used in different and often mutually exclusive senses by religion, poetry, and philosophy: has been claimed as an excuse for every kind of occultism, for dilute transcendentalism, vapid symbolism, religious or aesthetic sentimentality, and bad metaphysics. on the other hand, it has been freely employed as a term of contempt by those who have criticized these things. It is much to be hoped that it may be restored sooner or later to its old meaning, as the science or art of the spiritual life."[31] ^ Gellman: "Typically, mystics, theistic or not, see their mystical experience as part of a larger undertaking aimed at human transformation (See, for example, Teresa of Avila, Life, Chapter 19) and not as the terminus of their efforts. Thus, in general, ‘mysticism’ would best be thought of as a constellation of distinctive practices, discourses, texts, institutions, traditions, and experiences aimed at human transformation, variously defined in different traditions."[web 2] According to Evelyn Underhill, mysticism is "the science or art of the spiritual life."[31][note 11][note 12] ^ According to Waaijman, the traditional meaning of spirituality is a process of re-formation which "aims to recover the original shape of man, the image of God. To accomplish this, the re-formation is oriented at a mold, which represents the original shape: in Judaism the Torah, in Christianity
Christianity
Christ, in Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddha, in the Islam Muhammad."[32] Waaijman uses the word "omvorming",[32] "to change the form". Different translations are possible: transformation, re-formation, trans-mutation. Waaijman points out that "spirituality" is only one term of a range of words which denote the praxis of spirituality.[33] Some other terms are "Hasidism, contemplation, kabbala, asceticism, mysticism, perfection, devotion and piety".[33] ^ McGinn: "This is why the only test that Christianity
Christianity
has known for determining the authenticity of a mystic and her or his message has been that of personal transformation, both on the mystic's part and—especially—on the part of those whom the mystic has affected.[21] ^ Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos: "Noetic prayer is the first stage of theoria."[58] ^ Theophan the Recluse: "The contemplative mind sees God, in so far as this is possible for man."[59] ^ Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos: "This is what Saint
Saint
Symeon the New Theologian teaches. In his poems, proclaims over and over that, while beholding the uncreated Light, the deified man acquires the Revelation of God
God
the Trinity. Being in "theoria" (vision of God), the saints do not confuse the hypostatic attributes. The fact that the Latin tradition came to the point of confusing these hypostatic attributes and teaching that the Holy Spirit
Spirit
proceeds from the Son also, shows the non-existence of empirical theology for them. Latin tradition speaks also of created grace, a fact which suggests that there is no experience of the grace of God. For, when man obtains the experience of God, then he comes to understand well that this grace is uncreated. Without this experience there can be no genuine "therapeutic tradition.""[58] ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: "But it was Simeon, "the new theologian" (c. 1025-c. 1092; see Krumbacher, op. cit., 152–154), a monk of Studion, the "greatest mystic of the Greek Church" (loc. cit.), who evolved the quietist theory so elaborately that he may be called the father of Hesychasm. For the union with God
God
in contemplation (which is the highest object of our life) he required a regular system of spiritual education beginning with baptism and passing through regulated exercises of penance and asceticism under the guidance of a director. But he had not conceived the grossly magic practices of the later Hesychasts; his ideal is still enormously more philosophical than theirs."[60] ^ "Representation-only"[99] or "mere representation."[web 8] ^ Oxford reference: "Some later forms of Yogācāra lend themselves to an idealistic interpretation of this theory but such a view is absent from the works of the early Yogācārins such as Asaṇga and Vasubandhu."[web 8] ^ Yogacara
Yogacara
postulates an advaya (nonduality) of grahaka ("grasping," cognition)[100] and gradya (the "grasped," cognitum).[100] In Yogacara-thought, cognition is a modification of the base-consciousness, alaya-vijnana.[101] According to the Lankavatara Sutra and the schools of Chan/ Zen
Zen
Buddhism, this unmodified mind is identical with the tathagata-garbha, the "womb of Buddhahood," or Buddha-nature, the nucleus of Buddhahood inherent in everyone. Both denoye the potentiality of attaining Buddhahood.[102] In the Lankavatara-interpretation, tathagata-garbha as a potentiality turned into a metaphysical Absolute reality which had to be realised. ^ Extending to physical immortality: the Taoist pantheon includes Xian, or immortals. ^ Compare the work of C.G. Jung. ^ The term "mystical experience" has become synonymous with the terms "religious experience", spiritual experience and sacred experience.[15] ^ See also Francesca Sacco (2013-09-19), Can Epilepsy Unlock The Secret To Happiness?, Le Temps

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and Society ^ a b Oxford Reference, vijñapti-mātra ^ a b c d Peter Fenwick (1980). "The Neurophysiology of the Brain: Its Relationship to Altered States of Consciousness
Consciousness
(With emphasis on the Mystical Experience)". Wrekin Trust. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

Religious and spiritual traditions

Idel, Moshe; McGinn, Bernard, eds. (2016), Mystical Union in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: An Ecumenical Dialogue, Bloomsbury Academic  McGinn, Bernard (1994), The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism. Volume 1–5, Crossroad  Poor, Sara S.; Smith, Nigel (2015), Mysticism
Mysticism
and Reform, 1400–1750, University of Notre Dame Press  Magee, Glenn Alexander (2016), The Cambridge Handbook of Western Mysticism
Mysticism
and Esotericism, Cambridge University Press  Shipley, Morgan (2015), Psychedelic Mysticism: Transforming Consciousness, Religious Experiences, and Voluntary Peasants in Postwar America, Lexington Books  Komarovski, Yaroslav (2015), Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism
and Mystical Experience, Oxford University Press 

Constructionism versus perennialism

Katz, Steven T. (1978), Mysticism
Mysticism
and philosophical analysis, OUP USA  Forman, Robert K., ed. (1997), The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism
Mysticism
and Philosophy, Oxford University Press CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)

Contextual approach

Merkur, Dan (1999), Mystical Moments and Unitive Thinking, SUNY  Taves, Ann (2009), Religious Experience Reconsidered, Princeton: Princeton University Press 

Philosophical issues

Jones, Richard H. (2016), Philosophy
Philosophy
of Mysticism: Raids on the Ineffable, SUNY Press 

Classical

James, William (1982) [1902], The Varieties of Religious Experience, Penguin classics  Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism: A Study in the Nature
Nature
and Development of Spiritual Consciousness. 1911 Stace, Walter Trence (1960), Mysticism
Mysticism
and Philosophy  Zaehner, RC (1961), Mysticism
Mysticism
sacred and profane: an inquiry into some varieties of praeternatural experience, Oxford University Press 

External links[edit]

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Mysticism

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mysticism.

Wikisource
Wikisource
has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Mysticism.

Encyclopedias

Dan Merkur, Mysticism, Encyclopædia Britannica Jerome Gellmann, Mysticism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy James McClenon, Mysticism, Encyclopedia of Religion
Religion
and Society Encyclopedia.com, Mysticism

Specific

Resources – Medieval Jewish History – Jewish Mysticism
Mysticism
The Jewish History Resource Center, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Shaku soens influence on western notions of mysticism "Self-transcendence enhanced by removal of portions of the parietal-occipital cortex" Article from the Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion

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