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

Christian mysticism involves the pursuit of communion with, or conscious awareness of, the Christian God through direct experience, insight or intuition, generally focusing around the practices necessary to nurture these experiences, such as deep prayer, meditation or contemplation of the person of Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit.

Christian mysticism differs from other forms of Christianity in that its aim is to achieve unity with the divine, or learning how to think like Christ. Christian mystics tend to elevate experiential knowledge, to savor the mysterious, and to focus on mysticism as the path to spiritual growth.

The term is used differently today than it was in the early years of Christianity. Originally, mysticism referred to experiencing God in depth through contemplation, and through a deep love relationship transcending human reason. Early Christian mysticism addressed three dimensions, the biblical, the liturgical, and the spiritual. An allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures was the biblical dimension, the Eucharist was the liturgical, and the spiritual dealt with a contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.

This type of Christian mysticism was seen primarily in the writings of Origen, but other early Christian mystics included Clement of Alexandria, Augustine of Hippo, John Cassian, and Maximus the Confessor. The non-canonical Gospel of Thomas and the Secret Gospel of Mark also included early Christian mysticism.

The Middle Ages included Gregory the Great, Barnard of Clairvaux, Hildegard of Bingen, and the Victorines, a monastic school of philosophers and mystics.

The Protestant Reformation discouraged mysticism. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin recommended doctrinal knowledge over affective experience and, as a result, Protestant theologians turned away from the mystic traditions of the Middle Ages, and critical of the growing mysticism in the Catholic Church as a result of the Counter-Reformation.

Today, while elements of mysticism can be found in the Anglicans, Charismatics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, and Quakers, mysticism is generally seen in churches on the fringe, often self-identifying as Christian Mystic churches, with the emphasis on mysticism.

To the Christian mystic, mysticism implies a living spirituality, intimacy with God, and a life that is centered on an appreciation of the Spirit of the Word, and its ability to heal and transform lives. To the mainstream Christian, it might mean a religion that is not grounded in the Word of God, and one that is based on emotion rather than fact.

The roots of Christian mysticism are found in the Bible itself. For example, the words of the Apostle John, in his Gospel, written for "those who have eyes to see" is a mystical message. In fact, the teaching that most Christians would agree with, that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, is a mystical concept. Furthermore, the idea that Jesus is literally one with God, a Trinity of persons who share a divine Unity, is also a mystical teaching.

Christian mysticism is not the same as the wisdom teachings found in the Eastern religions, or in pagan religions elsewhere around the world, but elements of these teachings have found their way into Christianity from time to time.

Clement and Origin embraced some of the teachings of the Greek philosophers, while the druidic teachings found their way into Christian monasteries in Ireland. In Spain, Christians incorporated elements of the Kabbalah.

20th-century Christians have also reached out to other cultures and traditions. The Benedictine monk, Bede Griffiths, embraced Vedanta, while the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, integrated Buddhist practices into his Christian walk. Many of these practices exist within the framework of traditional Catholicism, or one of several Protestant denominations, but several other churches have been developed, generally independent in nature, which could be said to be more mystical than Christian.

These churches and associations would be appropriate for this category, as would a website that explores the mystical side of any Christian religion or practice. When determining whether a site belongs in this category or in that of an established Christian church, determine whether the focus of the site is denominational or on the mysticism. When the focus of a site is on mysticism within the framework of Christianity, then it is appropriate for this category.

In most cases, when a site represents a Christian church, it should be submitted to an appropriate category in the Christianity section of World Religions. However, if the church identifies its theology as Christian mysticism, then this might be the right category.

Sites that concentrate on Early Christian mysticism may also be submitted to this category.



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