Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Esoteric Religions » Mysticism

Mysticism refers to a doctrine that holds that one can have an immediate spiritual intuition of truths that are beyond ordinary comprehension, or in a direct union of the soul with God through contemplation or ecstasy.

Religious ecstasies are defined as religious experiences occurring during alternate states of consciousness.

The term has its origins in Ancient Greek, when it was used to apply to the liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity. In modern times, however, it has taken on a more limited definition, but with wider applications.

Today, a mystic religion generally refers to one that holds the belief that direct knowledge of a deity, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be achieved through subjective experiences, intuition, or insight, and it is applied to a wide range of religious or spiritual traditions and practices, beliefs, and ideologies that involve extraordinary experiences and states of mind.

While mysticism, as broadly defined, can be found in pretty much every religion, those religions that are defined as falling within the category of Mysticism are those in which the quality of mysticism is central to the doctrines and beliefs. For the purpose of categorization, we will be using a narrower definition.

This is not an arbitrary use of the term, however. Martin Luther condemned mystical theology, which he viewed as being more Platonic than Christian.

In contemporary usage, mysticism is sometimes used as an umbrella term for a variety of views that many people consider to be irrational or unorthodox, but we will attempt to not use it as a catch-all term, particularly in light of our policy of not deciding which religions are rational and which are irrational.

We will apply it to those religions in which mysticism is a key component, and which are not more appropriately placed elsewhere. Generally, mystic religions join all sorts of esoteric and religious traditions and practices together so it's not always a clear choice.

Shamanism may be regarded as a mystic religion, as it teaches that the world of spirits can be accessed through religious ecstasy. Practitioners seek to reach altered states of consciousness in order to interact with a spirit world, and a sham is someone who has influence over the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual.

Western mystery religions will also be considered as mysticism, as were the Ancient Greek mystery religions.

Christian mysticism is covered in a subcategory. Briefly, it refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity to a point where it becomes as much mystical as it is Christian.

While there are elements of mysticism in Theosophy, Neo-Paganism, Sufism, and the Kabbalah of Judaism, these are covered in separate categories, as are the Indian and other Eastern religions.

Obviously, the focus of topics in this category should be on religions that are defined as mystic religions or as mysticism. Often, these religions will self-define as being a mystic religion in the text of their websites. If you believe that the theology and practices of the church or religious body represented by a site is that of a mystic religion or a church that might be considered mysticism, feel free to submit it here. If the editors believe that another category would be more appropriate, they will simply move it.


Christian Mysticism

International Community of Christ



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