What is Mysticism?

“The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.”

-Joseph Campbell


“Theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.”

-Meister Eckhart


Mysticism, it sounds somewhat supernatural or otherworldly doesn’t it? But it’s really more mundane and earthly than it sounds. Let’s look at mysticism and what it’s all about.

The definition of mysticism can be very loose and impossible to express with words. The word Mysticism is derived from ancient Greek, meaning to “close” or “to conceal”. Covering the biblical, spiritual, contemplative, and liturgical aspects of early and medieval Christianity.  in the middle ages, the term also came to mean having extraordinary experiences and states of mind. In today’s world  mysticism has a more narrowed down definition, meaning to work towards a union with the absolute, the infinite, the one God.

Looking at it broadly, mysticism can be found in every religious tradition from folk religions like Shamanism and Paganism, to organized religions such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Jainism, to modern spirituality and the new age movement.

To use the word mysticism gives an explanatory meaning to mystical and visionary experiences, trances, etc. Mysticism relates to any kind of altered state of consciousness. A mystical experience is “an intuitive understanding and realization of the meaning of existence.

Mysticism is “a constellation of distinctive practices, discourses, texts, institutions, traditions, and experiences aimed at the Human transformation, variously defined in different traditions.

Tom Robbins, the American novelist said: Religion is nothing but institutionalized mysticism. The catch is, mysticism does not lend itself to institutionalization. The moment we attempt to organize mysticism, we destroy its essence. Religion then, is mysticism in which the mystical has been killed, or, at least diminished.”

According to scholar of eastern religions Robert Zaehner: “There are three basic types of mysticism, these being: Theistic, Monistic, and Panenhenic or natural mysticism (all in one). Theistic mysticism includes Jewish, Christian, and Islamic mysticism. Monastic includes Buddhism and Hindu mysticism. Nature mysticism refers to examples that don’t fit into these other categories.

There are two types of mystical experience according to British philosopher and epistemologist Walter Stace: Extrovertive; an experience of the unity of the external world. Introvertive mysticism is an experience of no-thing-ness.

There are several ways a mystical experience may come about, some being; a spontaneous episode, or through religious practices like meditation or mantra repetition. They may come about through the use of entheogens (psychedelic drugs), or they may be neurophysiological in nature such as temporal lobe epilepsy.

Science hasn’t delved too far into mysticism, an exception being the neurophysiological explanations. Bram Stoker said: “Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.”

There have been many mystics throughout history. Some include: Rumi, the thirteenth century poet; Teresa of Avila, or Saint Teresa; John of the cross, a Roman Catholic Saint; Thomas Merton, an American Trappist Monk ordained to the priesthood in 1949.

Mystics feel the need to serve others,  but not everyone can be a mystic. It’s not something you can learn. Do you think you might be a mystic? Here are ten subtle signs you may be:

1 You value experiences above all else.

2 You question existence.

3 You are comfortable with uncertainty.

4 You value intuition.

5 You are uncomfortable with spiritual hierarchies.

6 You have your own set of rules.

7 You value internal growth.

8 You believe you are a conduit for power, not the source.

9 You believe love is the source of life.

10 You know you don’t know everything.

So there we have it. Mysticism doesn’t sound that mystical anymore. Mysticism is a part of everyday life, especially if you lead a religious or spiritual life. You don’t have to be a saint to have a mystical experience or be a mystic. Just have an open mind and live your life for the higher good. May God bless and protect you and…


May you always be

Healthy, Happy,

Safe and Comfortable.


Kelly Curtis