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of the practises of
itself is usually based on meditative practises where one’s mind
is used to
theoretically gain religious insight and/or commune with God.
most cases, mind stilling techniques, such as chanting (aloud or
concentrating on one’s breath, are applied to allow the mind
itself to open to
what is normally clouded by the buzz of everyday thought processes. In
many mystics believe that we are tied to our everyday apprehension of
‘blinded’, by what we experience through our senses. They
consider then, that mysticism can allow
us to escape the hold over our minds that our everyday
senses possess. Some
fortunate enough to have the capacity to spontaneously enter
the desired state of mind.
applied effectively, mystics believe that their techniques will
to a state of altered consciousness where ‘ultimate’
knowledge can be gained,
or union with ‘the’ supreme being can occur. Although
progress towards this
state of mind is normally even and gradual (evidenced by an increasing
of the senses), the actual shift into it is abrupt and dramatic.
are to be found within most religions. Although more prominent within pantheist
religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, they are also to
within the monotheist
of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
connection between mysticism and pantheist
religions, particularly in Asia,
fairly well known. Pantheist
their practises with the primary goal of gaining knowledge of our
Universe (i.e. through ‘enlightenment’). Indeed, much of
the theory of pantheist
religions is based on the experiences of their mystics.
desire to be ‘enlightened’ can be driven by factors such as
the human sensing of mortality and the need to understand
interrelationship with whatever underpins our existences (i.e. that
unlike us, imperishable or eternal). There is no doubting that the inquisitive
nature of humankind
also plays a major role in motivating these
mystics. Indeed, our inherent inquisitive nature raises a question that
is discussed in another article on this website, “Science and religion”
under the sub-section
“Complexity in life’s
In some schools of pantheism, deeper
and deeper states of altered consciousness are targets. The practises
veritable science. Within other schools, intuiting knowledge
from experiences after the
event is the objective. There are considerable differences in approach
and even within, individual pantheist
During their experiences, pantheist mystics
to a loss of physical individuality, a sense of profound timelessness,
sensation of one-ness with
Despite a lack of publicity, Christianity
has also had its fair share of mystics over the past two thousand
years. The (Egyptian)
Desert Fathers of the fourth century, St Augustine of the fifth
Gregory of the sixth century, St Romuald of the tenth century, St Bruno
eleventh century, St Anselm of the twelfth century, Nun Gertrude of the
thirteenth century, St Gertrude the Great of the fourteenth century,
Norwich of the fifteenth century, St John of the Cross and St Theresa
of the sixteenth century, Gertrude More of the seventeenth century,
Blake of the nineteenth century and Thomas Merton in the twentieth
just a few widespread historical examples of Christian mystics. The
John the Apostle in the Christian New Testament have the distinct feel
thought, but it is an exaggeration to say that he was a mystic
The other great monotheist religions, Judaism and Islam, have also had
a long history of mysticism. Like Christianity, it has influenced their
theology over the centuries.
The writings of many Christian
mystics are still available for reading by those interested, and their
assertions, exemplified by the statements below from St Theresa1
Eckhart2, often indicated that God that was truly immanent (i.e.
pervading God) as well as transcendent of course.
was in all
things and how He was in the soul.”
is nearer to
I am to myself,
He is just as near to wood and stone, but they do not know it.”
mystics (Christian included)
have really ‘pushed the edges’,
when it comes
to explaining how close they think the relationship of God and human
is. The following example from a Muslim Sufi mystic is indeed as close
as a monotheist
can get to pantheist
without actually crossing the line:
To conceive one’s
self as separate from God is an
error: yet only when one sees oneself as separate from God, can one reach out
The mystic is referring to God as the “Ground
That concept was revitalised in the twentieth century
Christian theology (termed,
of Paul Tillich and John Macquarrie.
There are indeed Biblical scriptures that indicate our closeness to God, e.g. For
in him we live and move and have our being [Acts 17:28 extract]. I
believe it is that recognition of being immersed in the creative
presence of God that led to the experiences of St Theresa , Meister
Eckhart and that un-named Sufi mystic.
Yet, many other monotheist
have alternatively reached out with their practises towards union with
God as a
“Being” outside of themselves and reality itself.
I am confident that God can be located
with either approach, because as I have suggested in the article, “So, what is God?”, he is essentially both immanent and
transcendent; an amalgam of both in fact.
It is also worth noting that monotheist
mystics approach their practises from a different perspective to
mystics. Monotheist adherents have normally had faith, and belief, in
to starting their practises. The primary aim of these mystics is to
their relationships with God. They seek
‘union’ with the God they already have faith in.
With regards to Christian mystics in particular,
love of God is normally the motivator for union. Accordingly, their
often make use of the emotion of love itself. As Catherine of Sienna
“the feet carry the body as affection carries the soul.” A quick look at the basics of Christianity shows why she had that view.
The knowledge gained, by monotheist
mystics, of God’s ‘personal’ depths and his empowering relationship towards reality itself eventuated as
of that union. Many of them did come to consider that God was the “Ground
of Being” just as pantheist
mystics do. But, of course, they also accepted that God was
of having personal relationships with each and every one of us (which pantheist mystics do not).
Monks, friars and nuns within some
Christian orders still practise mysticism today. However, there is generally limited
organised practise for lay people in Christian mysticism/ meditation.
Like faith in God itself, the outcomes of mysticism, cannot be appreciated without putting it into practise; trialling it.
If you wish to pursue the discipline
yourself, in a Christian sense, then a number of websites exist to provide a better
I have provided a further overview
of mysticism’s influence on our human understanding of
God’s being in my
article “So, what is God?” in this
section of the website.
outcomes of my own experiences with mysticism are included there.
the other hand
you are searching for a way of knowing whether God exists, then
a complete section of this website is dedicated to explaining
how we can prove for ourselves
beyond reasonable doubt that God does in fact exist by
recognising his presence within our individual lives. And we do not need mysticism to do it.
The final section of this website explains the simple basis