Last Updated: April 25, 2024

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Mysticism is an achievable state in which one gains ultimate consciousness, a physical and mental state of ecstasy and an ultimate power of realization.

This concept has been a staple in countless cultures and continues to play a part in various religious and non-religious traditions.

Key Takeaways

  • Expansive Understanding: Mysticism provides a pathway to experiencing pure consciousness and a deeper connection with ultimate reality across various religious and mystical traditions.

  • Beyond Ordinary Experience: Engaging in mystical practices transcends regular sense perception, offering insights into spiritual truths through non-ordinary states of consciousness.

  • Universal Application: Mysticism is not confined to any single religious tradition but is a universal quest for direct communion with the divine or the profound realities of existence.

  • Historical and Cultural Depth: Rooted in ancient practices, mysticism encompasses a wide range different traditions of spiritual experiences, from nature mysticism to the complex rituals of religious experiences.

Mysticism Explained

Mysticism is a term commonly used to describe an altered state of consciousness or state of ecstasy. These experienced states of pure consciousness can be associated with God or any higher being but is not a requirement of this concept.

Although many definitions of mysticism exist depending on culture and religion, they all commonly associate it with extraordinary experiences and states of mind that often surpass any physical awareness or experience.

Mysticism is frequently deemed religious, but it is important to note that many cultures, such as non-christian religions and cultures, are known to utilize distinctive practices to achieve mystical experiences.

Personal transformation through the phenomenal world and absolute reality are possible regardless of one’s religious and spiritual beliefs.

Definition of Mysticism

Mysticism is the practice of religious or mystical experiences aimed to achieve different states of consciousness and is involved in many ideologies, myths, legends, and magic.

Mystical theology is a concept associated with the direct knowledge of higher powers, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality that can be reached through intuition or insight.

Although mysticism can be seen as cryptic or irrational outside the religious experience and spiritual traditions, many other cultures use this phenomenological feature in ways other than religious.

Many believe that mysticism is only of the modern era and twentieth eras. Still, in reality, this psychological phenomenon has been present for many centuries in many different non-religious and religious traditions.

Historical evidence shows that mysticism dates back to the Greeks, who used the term mysticism to signify the initiation into a culture or religion. The term mystic in English came from the verb “myelin,” meaning to signify a person who keeps a secret. 

Mystical Experiences

Mystical experiences are nonsensory and allow the subject to know the reality or circumstances they will discover. They are often described as a state of pure consciousness and experience of ultimate reality, with direct insight into the divine essence of the world and a higher power.

Mysticism can not only be caused through various practices, such as religious practices like mantras, repetition, meditation, and psychedelic drugs, however, but can be spontaneous.

Mystical traditions warn against devotion to mystical experiences and provide a protective framework to accommodate mystical experiences.

Attributes of Mystical Experience

Noetic Quality

Noetic quality is a strong sense of gaining insight or encountering ultimate reality. Mystics express that their mystical experiences reveal the depths of truth.

Noetic or intellectual quality refers to the experience and knowledge the mystic or practitioner gained. Mystical experiences can be both introvertive and extrovertive.


Ineffability is a term used to define any experience, situation, state of consciousness or feeling that can not be described using comprehensible language.

This term is often associated with mystical experiences with ultimate reality, as these are frequently only consciousness states, indescribable to anyone who has yet to experience anything similar.

Many describe ineffability as a sense of complete certainty, a common feeling during mystical experiences.

Some believe that when mystics talk about indescribability, they only refer to how difficult it is to describe in literal terms the ultimate reality rather than by metaphor, symbols, or analogies.

Philosophers believe that stress on ineffability illustrates an attempt to cosign mysticism to the irrational, thus excluding it from more sensible human pursuits.


Paradoxicality refers to what is surprising or unexpected, sometimes even contradictory. Mystical experiences are associated with being out of the ordinary and strange; therefore, paradoxicality is common within mysticism.

A paradox occurs less frequently compared to other mystical experiences and systems of thought. Mental activity may cease when mystics try to describe what can't essentially be described.

Mystical experiences occur when one reaches a state of mind beyond thought and no thought, a state where an individual is in touch with ultimate reality Individuals cannot project their conceptions onto reality. 

Mystics want to affirm their experience was something of nature mysticism or genuinely mystical, which paradoxicality resembles. Still, they must utilize language designed for phenomena or realities. The paradox of affirming something and then denying it is not irrational.

Types of mysticism


Shamanism may be one of the oldest examples of mysticism known today. Shamanism has even been adapted to Western cultures, undertaking the term “neopaganism,”; a newer form of practice associated with the new age without connections to traditional shaman societies.

At the center of the ancient religion of Shamanism is a Shaman who is said to be an ecstatic figure, able to heal the sick and communicate with the spiritual world. This connection with the spiritual world is a specific example of a mystical experience.

Mysticism within Shamanism has been variously defined through their experiences. They are said to enter a trance or an altered state of consciousness during rituals to practice healing.

This can be described as religious ecstasies. They may summon a spirit to enter their body and speak to others through the shaman’s mouth.

Mystery religions

Eleusinian Mysteries were annual initiation ceremonies in the cults of the goddesses Demeter and Persephone, held near Athens in ancient Greece. These mystery religions began about 1600 B.C. in the Mycenaean period.

Religious Mysticism

In Buddhism and some Hinduism practices, the mystic is joined with any part of the divine. In Islam, Judaism, and Christian theology, mystics engage with the divine but remain separated.

Types of people interested and invested in religious mysticism can be divided into two broad categories; apophatic and kataphatic.

Those whose religious ideology believes that a mystical experience cannot be described in words are called apophatic. Those who believe that mystical experiences can and should be described are called kataphatic mystics.

Christian Mysticism

Mysticism in Christianism is the contact or spiritual union with God or the holy spirit. Contemplative prayer is utilized to create practical unity with God, resulting from watchfulness.

Islamic Mysticism

Sufism is a branch of Islam where practitioners strive for communion with the divine by turning away from anything but God through limited food, sleep, and discussion with other people. Sufi practices include muraqaba or mediation.

Dhikr is a practice consisting of breathing and chanting exercises to remember God. Other Islamic mysticism practices include; visiting holy sites of Sufi saints and Sama, which is the form of music and dance. 

Jewish Mysticism

Jewish kabbalistic is an experience of the sephirot, or aspects of God, which provides insights into the divine.

It is a set of mystical teachings explaining the relationship between an endless and mysterious Ein Sof and the mortal and finite universe. The teachings explain the meaning of the Hebrew Bible and traditional Rabbinic literature.

Jewish mysticism has three main dimensions, with different goals to achieve the full mystical experience.

First, the investigative dimension deals with searching the hidden reality of the universe to understand its origins and organization. The experiential is the authentic quest for a direct, mystical experience with a deity.

Lastly, the practice dimension is participating in rituals to gain and exercise power to cause a change in the world.


Jewish kabbalah is this culture’s version of mysticism or occult knowledge. Like most religions, kabbalah is the unitive experience of ultimate reality and mystical consciousness.

Kabbalah seeks to understand the structure and processes within the divine realms. It is a part of Jewish tradition that deals with the essence of God in a sacred text or an experience. It is the greatest intimacy with God that can be achieved in the Jewish faith.

Hindu Mysticism

Hinduism is the religious order followers abide by, usually seen in Indian cultures. Mysticism is a common theme in Hinduism.

Followers of Hinduism desire the union of the self with something greater than the self, whether this be a principle larger than the universe or a higher power figure.

Hindu mystical experiences usually have four factors in common. The first is that mysticism is based on the experience in this context, a state of realization that is both describable and achievable. People of Hinduism teach others how to achieve such experiences.

The second common factor is that these experiences aim to release an individual's inner spirit from its inner prison, whether real or illusionary.

Thirdly, this system of belief recognizes the importance of controlling the mind and body to achieve realization and cultivating the mind and body to channel energy from within properly.

Finally, the central principle of mysticism in Hinduism revolves around the fact that knowledge is being. Knowledge symbolizes complete understanding, equating to the end goal of omniscience or an all-knowing state.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an example of mysticism? 

Chanting mantras, meditation and prayer are all examples of mysticism common in the religious experience and other non-religious practices.

Engaging in these acts or behaviors creates an experience for an individual who feels connected with God. It also invokes human transformation.

What religion believes in mysticism?

Many faiths believe in mystical phenomena, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. They place a mystic emphasis on spiritual harmony, union, and the mysteries of religion.

God-mysticism means the spirit returning to its eternal base. It is a general form of Eastern mysticism but is more dominant in Western forms.



Mysticism - Wikipedia

Mysticism | Definition, History, Examples, & Facts | Britannica

Mysticism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Mysticism Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster

Mysticism - Definition, Meaning & Synonyms | Vocabulary.com

What Is Mysticism? Definition and Examples

The power of language in Jewish Kabbalah and magic: how to do (and undo) things with words | The British Library.

What is Kabbalah? | Reform Judaism

Indian Philosophy, Mysticism, and Six Schools of Thought


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