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(from Gk. mystikos, “mystical; secret”). A. Term applied to a wide range of phenomena (e.g., demonology,* magic,* dreaminess, weird experiences, occultism [see Spiritism; Theosophy], certain philosophies of life). Mysticism may be divided: (1) Contemplative (as in Augustine* of Hippo, J. Eckhart,* R. W. Emerson,* Plotinus*); (2) Personal, emphasizing personal communion with God (as in Thomas* à Kempis, Fra Angelico,* F. de S. de la M. Fénelon,* G. Fox,* T. Kagawa*); (3) Nature (as in Francis* of Assisi, W. Wordsworth*); (4) Practical, marked by sacrificial service prompted by love.

The goal of mysticism is the alleged intuitive and emotional contact with the Absolute (“that which is,” “the Good,” “God,” and many other ultimate spiritual values). In its practical aspects, mysticism is the attempt to apperceive, use, and enjoy ultimate values.

Following steps may be distinguished in mysticism: (1) freeing oneself from wrong; (2) freeing oneself of the phantasmata of the world; (3) departure into the realm of the pure through contemplation and yearning; (4) mystic view or experience. Mysticism is not so much a doctrine as a method of thought, a reaching for the Infinite through methods of reasoning and attempted direct contemplation. The word “contemplation” is often used for mystic experience in pre-Renaissance W writers.

In his early period M. Luther* ed. Deutsche Theologie (see “German Theology”) and commended the work of J. Tauler* (St. L. ed., XXIa, 56). J. Staupitz* was a mystic. But Luther's system centered in the external Word of God and its doctrine of justification. He condemned the mysticism of Sebastian Franck,* A. R. B. v. Karlstadt,* T. Münzer, K. v. Schwenkfeld,* N. Storch (see Zwickau Prophets).

B. Other mystics include Adam* of St. Victor, Angela* de Foligno, J. Böhme,* Bernard* of Clairvaux, Bonaventura,* N. Cabasilas,* Catherine* of Siena, Clement* of Alexandria, R. Crashaw,* Dionysius* the Areopagite, (2), Gertrude the Great (see Gertrude, 1), Gregory* of Nyssa, Guyon,* Hildegard* of Bingen, W. Hilton,* F. v. Hügel,* Hugh* of St. Victor, W. R. Inge,* Jacopone* da Todi, W. James,* John* of the Cross, R. M. Jones,* Julian(a)* of Norwich, W. Law,* Luis* de Granada, Mechthild* of Hackeborn, Mechthild* of Magdeburg, M. de Molinos,* Richard* of St. Victor, R. Rolle* de Hampole, J. v. Ruysbroeck,* H. Suso,* Teresa* of Ávila, E. Underhill.* EL

See also Buber, Martin; Mystical Union; Sufism; Taoism; Yoga.

C. A. A. Bennett, A Philosophical Study of Mysticism (New Haven, Connecticut, 1923); W. K. Fleming, Mysticism in Christianity (London, 1913); E. C. Butler, Western Mysticism, 3d ed. (London, 1967); M. Smith, An Introduction to the History of Mysticism (New York, 1930) and Studies in Early Mysticism in the Near and Middle East (London, 1931); R. M. Jones, New Studies in Mystical Religion (New York, 1927); W. R. Inge, Christian Mysticism (London, 1899) and The Philosophy of Plotinus, 3d ed. (London, 1929); E. Underhill, Mysticism, 6th ed. (London, 1916) and The Essentials of Mysticism and Other Essays (London, 1920); R. Otto, Mysticism East and West, tr. B. L. Bracey and R. C. Payne (New York, 1932).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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