Mysticism

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mysThe term mysticism, comes from the Greek word meaning “to conceal.” In the Hellenistic world, “mystical” referred to “secret” religious rituals. In early Christianity the term came to refer to “hidden” allegorical interpretations of Scriptures and to hidden presences, such as that of Jesus at the Eucharist. Only later did the term begin to denote “mystical theology,” that included direct experience of the divine. Typically, mystics, see their mystical experience as part of larger undertaking aimed at human transformation and not as the terminus of their efforts. Mysticism refers to the initiation to spiritual truths and experiences, and is the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight. Mysticism usually centers on practices intended to nurture those experiences. Mysticism may be dualistic, maintaining a distinction between self and the divine. Mysticism is usually thought of as being of a religious nature, which can be either monistic or theistic. The objective of monistic mysticism is to seek unity and identity with a universal principle; while theistic mysticism seeks unity, but not identity with God. The ultimate expression of monistic mysticism is perhaps best displayed in the Upanishads of India, as in the concepts of “I am Brahman” (the all-pervading principle) and tat tram asi “that thou art,” meaning that the soul is the eternal and Absolute Being. Monistic mysticism is also found in Taoism, which seeks unity with Tao, the ineffable way. Theistic mysticism, unity with God, characterized Christianity, Judaism (in the Kabbalah), and Islam (the Sufi sect), and is also found in Hinduism. 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. The...
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