Mysticism is a term that tends to be very loosely used; and so it will be as well to state at the beginning what it is not.
In ordinary speech Mysticism is often associated with the occult and with paranormal phenomena such as thought-reading, telepathy or levitation. It is true that many authentic mystics have had such powers, but they are in no way essential to the mystical experience itself and often merely prove an embarrassment.
Etymologically the word mysticism derives from the Greek mueo, meaning to 'initiate' into a secret cult into a 'mystery'. Among Christians, however, the word has come to mean a direct experience of God; and since, in theory at least, Christianity is the religion of' love, the 'mystical' experience is spoken of' as union with God or as a 'spiritual marriage'.
During the Middle Ages and after, 'mystical theology' was recognized as a legitimate branch of' theology beside 'speculative theology'. The difference between the two is clearly brought out by the 17th century French saint, Francis of' Sales. What, he asks, do we talk about in prayer? What is our topic of conversation? God: nothing else. After all what does a lover talk about but his beloved? Prayer and mystical theology, therefore, are identical. Prayer is called theology, because it deals with God as speculative theology does; only there are three differences.
First of all, speculative theology deals with God as the supreme Being the divinity of supreme goodness; mystical theology deals with him as supremely lovable the supreme goodness of the divinity. Secondly, speculative theology is concerned with God and man, mystical theology with God alone. Thirdly, speculative theology leads to knowledge of God turning its pupils into learned scholars and theologians; mystical theology leads to love of God turning out intensely affectionate lovers.
This is the traditional Christian point of view: mystical experience is the immediate experience of the love of God, and any experience in which neither God nor love were felt to be present would scarcely be taken seriously as mystical. In the course of' the last century or so, however, the word has taken on a wider meaning.
There seem to be two reasons for this: the rise of' the secular 'science' of psychology; and the dissemination of knowledge of the religions of India and China, in both of which the mystical element is prominent. And yet in neither Buddhism nor in Taoism does love, or indeed God, play a significant part. In what sense, then, are they mystical? Let us turn to the Oxford Dictionary for guidance. On 'mystic' it says: 'one who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain union with or absorption into the Deity, or who believes in tile spiritual apprehension of truths inaccessible to the understanding.' And for mysticism' it gives a similar entry: belief in the possibility of union with the divine nature by means of ecstatic contemplation; reliance on spiritual intuition as the means of acquiring knowledge of mysteries inaccessible to the understanding. In neither entry is there any mention of love; and in both 'deity' has come to replace the more personal 'God'.
See Awakening Mystical Consciousness, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet: A Practical Guide, Wisdom of the Mystic Masters, Buddhism, Christ, Freemasonry, Thoth, Mithra, Rosicrucians, Taoism, Mystic Gifts and Charms - New Age Gift Shop & Wicca and Pagan Supplies, Love Spells -- Use these powerful love spells to help you find and keep your true love, The Tarot Store, Divination & Scrying Tools and Supplies, Unique Amulets, Talismans, Good Luck Charms, and Love Tokens, Powerful Witch Doctor Spell Kits, Powerful Spells - Cast by Andreika the Witch, Webmasters Make $$$, AzureGreen - Celebrating All Paths to the Divine, ISIS - Tools for Your Soul's Journey, and The Pyramid Collection - Myth, Magick, Fantasy and Romance.
Sources: (1) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (2) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group; (3) Randi, James, An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, St. Martin's Griffin; (4) The Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Edition Handy Volume Edition, Oxford University Press.
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