Mysticism

Mysticism is popularly known as becoming one with God or the Absolute,[1][2] but may refer to any kind of ecstasy or altered state of consciousness which is given a religious or spiritual meaning.[web 1] It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.[web 2]

Liber Divinorum Operum, or the Universal Man of St. Hildegard of Bingen, 1185 (13th-century copy)

The term "mysticism" has Ancient Greek origins with various historically determined meanings.[web 1][web 2] Derived from the Greek word μύω múō, meaning "to close" or "to conceal",[web 2] mysticism referred to the biblical, liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.[3] During the early modern period, the definition of mysticism grew to include a broad range of beliefs and ideologies related to "extraordinary experiences and states of mind."[4]

In modern times, "mysticism" has acquired a limited definition, with broad applications, as meaning the aim at the "union with the Absolute, the Infinite, or God".[web 1] This limited definition has been applied to a wide range of religious traditions and practices,[web 1] valuing "mystical experience" as a key element of mysticism.

Since the 1960s scholars have debated the merits of perennial and constructionist approaches in the scientific research of "mystical experiences".[5][6][7] The perennial position is now "largely dismissed by scholars",[8] most scholars using a contextualist approach, which takes the cultural and historical context into consideration.[9]


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