From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The term "mysticism" has Western origins, with various, historically determined meanings. Derived from Greek, meaning "to conceal", it referred to the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative dimensions in early and medieval Christianity, and became associated with "extraordinary experiences and states of mind" in the early modern period.

In modern times, "mysticism" has acquired a limited definition, but a broad application, as meaning the aim at the "union with the Absolute, the Infinite, or God". This limited definition has been applied to include a worldwide range of religious traditions and practices.

  • The Lion, the Mouse and the Dawn Treader, by Carl McColman, p. 5: I'm using words like spirituality and mysticism more or less interchangeably, but they do have different meanings.  Spirituality refers to the dimension of living intentionally in relationship with God, whereas mysticism implies a can't miss-it experience of God's presence in our lives, even to the point of feeling at one with God.
  • The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, by Carl McColman, p. 7: It is Christianity's best kept Secret.  It is a revolutionary way to approach God and Christ and spirituality.  It is an ancient wisdom tradition, ... It is a venerable lineage of spiritual teachings that can be traced back to the New Testament, ...
  • The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, by Carl McColman, p. 8: Mystical experience opens you up to the love of God, yet forces you to give up all your limited ideas and concepts about God, discarding them all as mere mental idols.  The deeper you og, the more elusive God becomes.
  • The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, by Carl McColman, p. 18: While it is true that, generally speaking, Christian mystics are more open to the wisdom of other religions than most Christians, this openness is rooted in loyalty to the central wisdom teachings of Christ, the Bible, and the Christian tradition.
  • The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, by Carl McColman, p. 20: the tradition has consistently emphasized that you cannot be a Christian mystic without engaging with the social and communal dimensions of the Christian faith.
  • The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, by Carl McColman, p. 20: many forms of non-Christian mysticism are anchored in the idea that human beings are (or can become) identical with God.  Christianity denies this, and Christian mysticism concurs.  Christian mysticism pursues participation with God, communion with God, and even experiences of union with God, but always distinguishes creator from creature.


Christian Mysticism

From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia:

Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions.

The attributes and means by which Christian mysticism is studied and practiced are varied and range from ecstatic visions of the soul's mystical union with God to simple prayerful contemplation of Holy Scripture.

Christian mysticism is that part, or element, of Christian belief and practice that concerns the preparation for, the consciousness of, and the effect of a direct and transformative presence of God. "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 as an external object, but more broadly about new ways of knowing and loving based on states of awareness in which God becomes present in our inner acts.

Greek influences

The influences of Greek thought are apparent in the earliest Christian mystics and their writings. Plato (428–348 BCE) is considered the most important of ancient philosophers and his philosophical system provides the basis of most later mystical forms. Plotinus (c. 205 – 270 CE) provided the non-Christian, neo-Platonic basis for much Christian, Jewish and Islamic mysticism.

Early Christians

  • Justin Martyr (c. 105-c. 165) used Greek philosophy as the stepping-stone to Christian theology. The mystical conclusions that some Greeks arrived at, pointed to Christ. He was Influenced by: Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle as well as Stoicism.
  • Origen (c. 185 – 254): On Principles, Against Celsus. Studied under Clement of Alexandria, and probably also Ammonius Saccus (Plotinus' teacher). He Christianized and theologized neo-Platonism.
  • Athanasius - The Life of Athony (c. 360)
  • Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – after 394): Focused on the stages of spiritual growth, the need for constant progress, and the "divine darkness" as seen in the story of Moses.
  • Augustine (354–430): De Trinitate, Confessions. Important source for much mediaeval mysticism. He brings Platonism and Christianity together. Influenced by: Plato and Plotinus.
  • Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (c. 500) - Mystical Theology

Middle Ages and Renaissance

  • John Scotus Eriugena (c. 810 – c. 877): Periphyseon. Eriugena translated Pseudo-Dionysius from Greek into Latin. Influenced by: Plotinus, Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius.
  • Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153): Cistercian theologian, author of The Steps of Humility and Pride, On Loving God, and Sermons on the Song of Songs; strong blend of scripture and personal experience.
  • Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179): Benedictine abbess and reformist preacher, known for her visions, recorded in such works as Scivias (Know the Ways) and Liber Divinorum Operum (Book of Divine Works). Influenced by: Pseudo-Dionysius, Gregory the Great, Rhabanus Maurus, John Scotus Eriugena.


The school of St Victor was the medieval monastic school at the Augustinianabbey of St Victor. The name also refers to the Victorines, the group of philosophers and mystics based at this school as part of the University of Paris. It was founded in the twelfth Century and the end of the Victorines as a unique force came by 1173. They stressed meditation and contemplation; helped popularize Pseudo-Dionysius; influenced by Augustine.

  • Hugh of Saint Victor (d.1141): The Mysteries of the Christian Faith, Noah's Mystical Ark, etc.
  • Richard of Saint Victor (d.1173): The Twelve Patriarchs and The Mystical Ark (e.g. Benjamin Minor and Benjamin Major). Influenced Dante, Bonaventure, Cloud of Unknowing.


Franciscans are people and groups (religious orders) who adhere to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of Saint Francis of Assisi. The term is usually applied to members who also adhere to the Roman Catholic Church.

  • Francis of Assisi (c.1182 - 1226): founder of the order, stressed simplicity and penitence; first documented case of stigmata
  • Anthony of Padua (1195 - 1231): priest, Franciscan friar and theologian; visions; sermons
  • Bonaventure (c.1217 - 1274): The Soul's Journey into God, The Triple Way, The Tree of Life and others. Influenced by: Pseudo-Dionysius, Augustine, Bernard, Victorines.
  • Jacopone da Todi (c. 1230 – 1306): Franciscan friar; prominent member of "The Spirituals"; The Lauds
  • Angela of Foligno (c.1248 - 1309): tertiary anchoress; focused on Christ's Passion; Memorial and Instructions.


The Beguines and the Beghards were Christianlayreligious orders that were active in Northern Europe, particularly in the Low Countries in the 13th–16th centuries. Their members lived in semi-monastic communities but did not take formal religious vows. That is, although they promised not to marry "as long as they lived as beguines" to quote one of the early Rules, they were free to leave at any time. Beguines were part of a larger spiritual revival movement of the thirteenth century that stressed imitation of Christ's life through voluntary poverty, care of the poor and sick, and religious devotion.

  • Mechthild of Magdeburg (c.1212 - c.1297): visions, bridal mysticism, reformist; The Flowing Light of the Godhead
  • Hadewijch of Antwerp (13th century): visions, bridal mysticism, essence mysticism; writings are mostly letters and poems. Influenced John of Ruysbroeck.

Rhineland mystics

German mysticism, sometimes called Dominican mysticism or Rhineland mysticism, was a late medieval Christian mystical movement (fl. 14. century), that was especially prominent within the Dominican order and in Germany.

  • Meister Eckhart (1260 - 1327): sermons
  • Johannes Tauler (d.1361): sermons
  • Henry Suso (c.1295 - 1366): Life of the Servant, Little Book of Eternal Wisdom
  • Theologia Germanica (anon.). Influenced: Martin Luther
  • John of Ruysbroeck (1293 – 1381): Flemish, Augustinian; The Spiritual Espousals and many others. Similar themes as the Rhineland Mystics. Influenced by: Beguines, Cistercians. Influenced: Geert Groote and the Devotio Moderna.
  • Catherine of Siena (1347 - 1380): Letters

The English Mystics (fl. 14th century):

  • Anonymous - The Cloud of the Unknowing (c. 1375)—Intended by ascetic author as a means of instruction in the practice of mystic and contemplative prayer.
  • Richard Rolle (c.1300 - 1349): The Fire of Love, Mending of Life, Meditations on the Passion
  • Walter Hilton (c.1340 - 1396): The Ladder of Perfection (a.k.a., The Scale of Perfection) -- suggesting familiarity with the works of Pseudo-Dionysius (see above), the author provides an early English language seminal work for the beginner.
  • Julian of Norwich (1342 - c.1416): Revelations of Divine Love (a.k.a. Showing of Love)

Renaissance, Reformation and Counter-Reformation

  • Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556): St. Ignatius had a number of mystical experiences in his life, the most significant was an experience of enlightenment by the river Cardoner, in which, he later stated, he learnt more in that one occasion than he did in the rest of his life. Another significant mystical experience was in 1537, at a chapel in La Storta, outside Rome, in which he saw God the Father place him with the Son, who was carrying the Cross. This was after he had spent a year praying to Mary for her to place him with her Son (Jesus), and was one of the reasons why he insisted that the group that followed his 'way of proceeding' be called the Society of Jesus.
  • Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582): Two of her works, The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection, were intended as instruction in (profoundly mystic) prayer based upon her experiences. Influenced by: Augustine.
  • John of the Cross (Juan de Yepes) (1542–1591): Wrote three related instructional works, with Ascent of Mount Carmel as a systematic approach to mystic prayer; together with the Spiritual Canticle and the Dark Night of the Soul, these provided poetic and literary language for the Christian Mystical practice and experience. Influenced by and collaborated with Teresa of Ávila.
  • Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663): An Italian Franciscan friar who is said to have been prone to miraculous levitation and intense ecstatic visions that left him gaping.
  • Jakob Böhme (1575-1624): German theosopher; author of The Way to Christ.
  • Brother Lawrence (1614–1691): Author of The Practice of the Presence of God.
  • George Fox (1624–1691): Founder of the Religious Society of Friends.
  • William Law (1686–1761): English mystic interested in Jakob Böhme, and wrote several mystical treatises.
  • Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772): Influential and controversial Swedish writer and visionary.

Modern era

  • Ellen G. White (1827-1915): Influental in foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. writer. (She is often listed as a mystic, probably because of her many visions. But in her writings, she is quite clear on warning against mystisism.)
  • Domenico da Cese (1905-1978): Stigmatist Capuchin monk.
  • Maria Valtorta (1898-1963): Visionary and writer.
  • Mary of Saint Peter (1816–1848): Carmelite nun and mystic.
  • Marie Lataste (1822–1899): Visionary, nun and writer.
  • Marie Martha Chambon (1841–1907): Nun, visionary and mystic.
  • Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) : Founder of the Anthroposophical Society, Bio-dynamics, Waldorf Education, Threefold Social Order, Eurythmy, writer and mystic.
  • Mary of the Divine Heart (1863–1899): Good Shepherd nun and mystic.
  • Berthe Petit (1870–1943): Visionary and mystic.
  • Frank Laubach (1884–1970): Evangelical missionary, author of Letters by a Modern Mystic.
  • Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887–1968): Friar, priest, stigmatic and mystic.
  • Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889–1929): Evangelical Indian missionary, ascetic and mystic.
  • Maria Pierina de Micheli (1890–1945): Visionary and mystic.
  • Thomas Raymond Kelly (1893–1941): Quaker mystic.
  • Alexandrina Maria da Costa (1904–1955): Writer and mystic.
  • Mary Faustina Kowalska (1905–1938): Polish nun, mystic and visionary.
  • Simone Weil (1909-1943): French writer, political activist and ecstatic visionary.
  • Flower A. Newhouse (1909-1994): American clairvoyant and mystic.
  • Carmela Carabelli (1910–1978): Italian writer and mystic.
  • Pierina Gilli (1911–1991): Italian visionary and mystic.
  • Thomas Merton (1915–1968): Trappist monk, writer and mystic.
  • Lúcia Santos (1907-2005): Portuguese mystic, 1917 Fátima events participant, nun and prophetess.
  • Bernadette Roberts (1931–): Carmelite nun, writer and mystic, focusing on no-self states.

  • Carl McColman in The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, p 182: One of the most common metaphors used for mysticism - indeed, for spirituality in general - is that of a journey.

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