What Is Mysticism? The Role of Mysticism in Religion

Mysticism is a philosophical and religious tradition that focuses on the pursuit of truth and meaning that cannot be attained by rational means. It is often linked to theology as well as psychology. It can help define how we understand our own consciousness. The term mysticism originated in the 13th century from two Greek words: πυθος (meaning ‘sensation’) and μυω (meaning ‘to shut’). As a philosophy, it strives to attain knowledge of all things.

It has been practiced extensively over centuries by Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Gnostics, Neopagans, and others. It is also an important part of many New Age movements that have developed in modern times. Mysticism has been around for centuries but it’s still unclear what exactly it is. This article will explore the meaning and role of mysticism in religion.

The Meaning of Mysticism

The term “mysticism” has its origins in the 13th century and can be defined as a philosophy that strives to attain knowledge of all things. It is also considered an important part of many New Age movements, which developed during the 20th and 21st centuries respectively.

Since it has been practiced extensively over centuries by the followers of different religions. It is still needed to explore all the dimensions of mysticism.

History Of Mysticism

Where does mysticism come from? This is an all the time asked question. Mysticism has existed for centuries, but it has never been clear what exactly the term means. Rudolf Otto introduced the concept of “Mysticism” in his 1912 book “Mysticism East and West”. He defined the concept of mysticism as the understanding of things which inexplicable by rational processes.

Some people argue that this is very different than religion. They argue that mysticism is an inner feeling of an individual and stands about having faith in something that cannot be proven. It is about experience; religion is more about faith.

According to some scholars, mysticism can also be linked to psychology. It might help people understand themselves better and their consciousness. It has always been fascinating to humans. Because it deals with important topics like understanding ourselves and our world better. It also deals with trying to gain knowledge on all topics and getting closer to God or higher forces in some way or another.

The Role od Mysticism

 Mysticism has gained a very basic role in many religions.  Basically, It is a relationship between the individual and the divine power. Where an individual imagines himself beyond time and space. This is a meditation of self-denial to achieve the will of divine power. 

Meditation has been practiced since ancient times and it is still very popular. This is a method in which one tries to focus on his inner self while ignoring his surroundings. So, it would not be wrong if we say that meditation and mysticism have close relationships with each other. In both of these practices, the center of focus always remains the inner-self of an individual.

Ancient Near East

There are many religions that have had some form of mysticism at their core. Ancient Near East religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Hinduism, have all had some form of mystical component. For example, the holy books in some religions have a number of mystical encounters in them. 

In Buddhism, there is a well-known verse from the Dhammapada that says ‘the truth does not stay hidden for those who have eyes’. This verse can be interpreted as being an early example of mysticism in that the truth cannot be known through rational means alone. 

According to some researchers, the practice of yoga is another form of mysticism. They argue that the ultimate goal of any individual is to go deeply into spirituality. So, It is important to mention here the relationship between spirituality and mysticism.  In spirituality, the ultimate desire of any individual is to find self-negation where physical presence gets invisible. So the notion of self-existing is an important factor when we talk about spirituality. 

Ancient Greece

Mysticism can be traced back to ancient Greece with the philosopher Pythagoras, who developed a concept called the “transmigration of souls”. This was the idea that one’s identity is not fixed and that it can change through reincarnation.

This idea continued to be developed by Plato and Aristotle, which introduced concepts like enlightenment and self-knowledge. The Greek philosopher Plotinus took these ideas even further with his concept of “the One” (the absolute), which he believed was the only thing in existence.

Medieval Period

The earliest use of the word mysticism is found in ancient Greece and Rome, where its meaning is closely tied to that of mystery. The term ‘mystic’ was originally applied to those who had attained a level of communion with the Divine that was not accessible to others. This communion could be reached through contemplation of sacred writings.

Throughout medieval times, mystics were members of Christian monastic orders who had attained an elevated level of spirituality. The most renowned mystics were Catholic saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Teresa of Ávila who was able to translate their elevated state into song or poetry that would inspire others to reach out for union with God.

During this time period, mysticism was often seen as an inferior form of theology because it emphasized personal revelation over scholarly study and debate. Mystics were mistrusted for being too involved in emotion rather than reason. So they weren’t allowed much power within the church hierarchy. They were given little respect by society at large because they were seen as spiritual seekers who lacked grounding in reality.


Mysticism is a central and longstanding aspect of religion and spirituality. It is found in many different cultures and religions and has been studied for centuries. The term mysticism can be loosely defined as the pursuit of the knowledge of God by way of intuitive, experiential understanding.

Though mysticism can be found in many religions, it is significantly present in Eastern religious traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. It is also present in Western religions such as Christianity and Judaism. Although what mysticism means and what its role is has changed over time, it remains an important part of religion and spirituality.

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