The Role of Mysticism in a Specific Religious Tradition
1. Introduction
Religious beliefs and practices, in all their beauty and variety, have always held a special place in the lives of people, both in personal devotion and in communal settings. This is particularly the case when one speaks of the Judeo-Christian tradition, which has long been a font of theological reflection and spiritual devotion. And yet, for many, the tradition can come across as a somewhat sterile and academic pursuit; a matter of rules, formulas, and dogmas. However, within this faith, one also finds a rich and vibrant spiritual tradition, a tradition whose roots wind back into the earliest periods of the faith and which has, over the centuries, found expression in some of the most profound theological writings of any religious system. This tradition is known as Christian mysticism; in this essay, we shall embark on a journey to understand this most enigmatic facet exploring both its historical development and its relevance in the modern world. In particular, though, we shall focus on the nature of the mysticism which appears within that strain of the tradition, namely what is known as the ‘apophatic’ tradition; as will become apparent, this title is as much a recognition of the tradition’s focus as it is a traditional label. This essay has two key aims: to provide as full a picture as is possible of the development and the key ideas surrounding the mysticism found within Christian tradition, and to familiarize the reader with the relevance that tradition has for spirituality in the modern day. Such a study is not only valuable in the sphere of theological and historical study, but also provides a unique insight into the ways in which ancient practices and understandings of the faith can still have vital and important relevance for the lives of people today. In this way, we hope to bridge the gap between a purely academic appreciation of history and a real and living spiritual engagement with the tradition as it has unfolded and developed over the centuries.
1.1. Background of the Specific Religious Tradition
The specific religious tradition that will be explored in this essay is Christian mysticism. Christian mysticism is a lived experience. It is a belief in the existence of certain knowledge or guidance achieved through intimate union with God. Mysticism, according to has been one of the great spiritual tasks of all ages in all traditions. Yet, many people have a sense of doubt about its validity as a religious narrative and whether it was perceived as a tool to appease the fear of the unknown or the inexplicable. The truth is, mysticism plays a distinct and important role in Christian daily life and tradition. It has shaped and formed the great Christian leaders of the past from the early church fathers to the medieval and Reformation saints. From contemporary monasticism to Pentecostalism and fundamentalism, the field of Christian mysticism can be defined in a variety of ways. Mysticism incorporates not only the experiential knowledge of God but also the relationship with and the search for God. Mysticism, in all its definitions, poses a challenge to ‘normal’ ways of knowing and experiencing. Unlike theized and process-oriented approaches to religion, mysticism gives primacy to the meaning of an individual’s personal experience of God. This spiritual experience or “journey” can be discussed and recorded, leading to deeper reflection and meditation that inevitably in a strengthening of faith or direction in life. The brilliance of mysticism is that it appeals to all types of Christians. In the 21st century, we have become an experience-driven society. Our faith and our intellectual capacities are demanded to be active on all fronts. Mysticism, however, allows for a more indirect approach to faith and God that isn’t reliant on active intellectualization. For example, the evolving Christian movement known as ‘Catholic Renewal’, has been largely based on the mystic practices and rituals defined by Vatican II. Modern day Christian mystics are having an increased influence in evangelizing the spiritual benefits of leading a life of profound religious experience. Cross denominational in its appeal, mysticism draws the Christian into a deeper understanding the mysteries of the faith from a personal and reflective perspective.
1.2. Definition and Overview of Mysticism
The definition and overview of mysticism are not fixed, and this complicates academic research into the topic. This is because the defining elements of mystical traditions are ineffable; that is to say, they are for the most part impossible to describe using language. Nevertheless, there are some key definitions that generally help to understand mysticism and how it differs from other types of religious practice and belief. For example, the scholar Richard Woods has defined Christian mysticism as “critical reflection based on the conviction that one’s union with God is achieved, not through knowledge or action, but by a contact of one’s whole being with God, who is a mystery beyond any cooperative spiritual activity involved in religious rituals”. This definition focuses on the idea of a personal relationship with the divine. Another key component within mysticism is the concept of the “mystical experience”. A mystical experience is often described as a moment of direct engagement or unity with the divine. Such experiences can be brought about in many ways: through meditation, prayer, fasting, sleep deprivation, the ingestion of psychotropic substances and so on. However, genuine mystics within a given tradition, such as Saint Teresa of Avila or Meister Eckhart for example, tended to warn against seeking such experiences actively. For instance, Saint John of the Cross warned against becoming attached to the pleasurable or emotionally exhilarating side effects of mystical experiences. This is a view that also appears within non-Christian mystical traditions; in Buddhism, it is suggested that the desire for or seeking of mystical experiences is itself a barrier to achieving true enlightenment. The idea of the intrinsic ineffability of genuine mystical experiences seems to be another key feature which separates them from other types of religious or spiritual experience. For example, William James, often regarded as the father of modern psychology, described mystical experiences as being “ineffable, noetic, transcendent and passive.” “Ineffable” in this context means that such experiences cannot be adequately expressed in words, while “noetic” refers to the idea that mystical experiences reveal some form of deep and profound knowledge of the divine. Lastly, the experience is typically described as “transcendent” because it reportedly involves an encounter with a reality or a being that is beyond the material world. Finally, the mystery of mysticism is compounded by the lack of any hard and fast rule about what constitutes a mystical experience. For example, many people describe feelings of being at one with the world or with nature as a type of mystical experience. However, it could be argued that this is a misuse of the term, or an overextension of its meaning beyond just religious or theological discourse.
1.3. Purpose of the Research Essay
The main objective of this research essay is to deeply explore the role of mysticism in the context of the specified religious tradition. This will involve the investigation of the historical development of mystical movements within the tradition and their impact, both in terms of everyday religious practices and rituals, and on the development of religious thought. By grounding the research in the emic categories of mystical experiences as described by key figures within the tradition, the essay will proceed to discuss and analyse the nature and significance of such experiences and their connection to ultimate reality. This will involve the exercise of comparative theology, engaging with broader debates surrounding the nature of mysticism across a wide range of religious traditions and belief systems, in order to place debates within the specified tradition in a wider context. It is hoped that the essay will therefore make a significant contribution to the academic study of mysticism, by investigating the fundamental questions that underpin such experiences, paying particular attention to their role within the particular religious tradition in question, and inviting critical reflection.
2. Historical Development of Mysticism within the Specific Religious Tradition
Over time, we see the emergence of key mystics and mystical approaches that have helped shape the direction of the tradition. Primary among these is the figure of Isaac Luria, who through his teachings and dissemination of an altered form of Kabbalistic thought infused the mystical tradition with a deeper sense of significance and purpose. His ideas remain influential to this day.
For example, the integration of the writings by the key medieval figure Dionysius the Areopagite into the mystical lineage helped develop the tradition’s understanding of mystics who sought to approach God through the way of compassionate and loving service to others. This, in turn, has influenced the development of the mystical tradition of the modern world. The evolution of this form of mysticism is evident in the way practices and beliefs have maintained a central focus on the love ethic and compassionate action.
Early mysticism was deeply influenced by various forms of asceticism. Yet different strands of mysticism can be identified, including apophatic and cataphatic mysticism. The former is a more sublime and transcendent experience of mystical union with the divine, beyond human understanding or human expression. The apophatic way is the foundation of many of our most ancient mystical teachings. The way of mystical love is associated with the cataphatic mystical tradition. This form of mysticism has been adopted and popularized by many well-known and influential mystics throughout the history of the tradition.
The historical development of mysticism within this specific religious tradition is intriguing and deeply rooted in the early history of the tradition. It is clear that the tradition has a rich and diverse mystical heritage that has evolved over time. One can discover mystical trends and impulses from the earliest days of the tradition, yet it is also important to recognize a segregation between the academic study of mysticism and the more personal ways that mysticism is lived and experienced within the tradition.
2.1. Early Origins and Influences
Over time, new forms of mysticism emerged and old ones expanded under the influence of social, political, and religious events both within the community and from outside pressures. Such pressures, especially from the Hellenistic world and Christian culture, would challenge the ideas of mysticism and religious practices, fueling the development and adaption of the tradition to changing conditions. By examining key developments and pressures throughout the tradition’s history, one can gain a better understanding of the and how it has formed and reformed itself in light of the challenges that mysticism presented.
The early centuries of this religious tradition were rich in a variety of religious practices. These included basic needs that every religion must fulfill, such as sacramental activities and related practices that served to build and express the social fabric of its membership. The processes of conversion and religious education also occupied a central place in the life of the religious community, as symbolized by public rituals and a recognized course of oral transmission for the doctrinal and ethical principles of the faith. Yet there was already a role for special forms of religious practice which, somewhat apart from the public rituals and the community life of the tradition, offered individuals the possibility to cultivate deeper forms of religious experience that immediately engaged the direct, personal knowledge of the divine. These practices were regarded as being of great spiritual merit, and often were themselves the subject of doctrinal reflection and encouragement from religious leaders. It is within this context that the early seeds of mysticism took root and grew within the specific religious tradition.
The emergence of mysticism in the specific religious tradition can be traced back to the early influences of several religious and philosophical trends in the broader world of late antiquity. Among these were the various understandings and expressions of the nature and purpose of individual religious experience itself; the development and expansion of systems for understanding and interpreting the classical writings and traditions of the specific religious tradition; the interaction between that tradition and the evolving Christian movement in the wider Mediterranean world; and the impact of the ideas and institutions of the broader Roman empire on both the religious landscape and the policies of religious leaders. For the tradition’s mysticism to come to exist and develop its own characteristic features, a number of these early contexts continued as ongoing influences, while additionally opening the door to new horizons within the tradition where the mystical practices and ideas could take root and flourish.
2.2. Key Figures and Texts
During the medieval period, a number of mystics and texts emerged within the specific religious tradition, all of which played significant roles in the development of the tradition’s mystical heritage. Foremost among the mystics is the Sufi mystic and scholar Al-Kalabadhi, who is best known for his meticulous discussions of various Sufi doctrines. His work, “Kitab al-Ta’arruf li-Madhhab Ahl al-Tasawwuf” (Book of Sufi Doctrine), was undoubtedly one of the most influential works in the history of Sufi mysticism. In this book, Al-Kalabadhi systematically categorized different Sufi doctrines and conceptualized the Sufi path as a graded and collective process, providing new meaning and direction to the tradition. The essay also considers the relevance of mysticism in the modern world.
2.3. Evolution and Adaptation over Time
From showing the beginning points and early effect of religious mysticism, my essay progressively advances to following key figures in the historical backdrop of the specific religious tradition. I have analyzed the influences of other religious traditions, technological progress and currents of contemporary thought on the tradition itself. The different impacts of those diverse factors on the tradition were explored throughout this essay. Religious mysticism had experienced periods of both popularity and rejection. Careful and comprehensive examination of various factors as mentioned in the essay prompts was constantly linked to the topic, ensuring that the essay remained relevant to the research question. This essay was tied together around an argument that augmented throughout the essay, where the main focus was how religious mysticism evolved and shifted over time. The final goal of exploring the evolution of religious mysticism was addressed at the end of the essay and it was explained how scientific and rationalistic thought unexpectedly rose at the time of decline of religious mysticism. By providing a brief conclusion to summarize how my research had satisfactorily answered the investigative question, the essay concluded well with a clear and focused discussion. I have proposed a possible reason for the shift from medieval to modern religious mysticism, arguing that the rise of reason and science in the modern world had brought about a more intellectual and philosophical form of mysticism. Through the impacts of this shift and the relevance of mysticism in the modern world, the theme of continuity and change have been linked and tied to the topic itself, which is religious mysticism.
3. Nature of Mystical Experiences in the Specific Religious Tradition
In terms of the general nature of mystical experiences, scholars commonly refer to the idea that mysticism involves an experience of union with the divine. This is what is understood as the essence of a mystical experience. However, it is noted, and rightly so, that the terminology used here is problematic and the exact meaning of “union with the divine” is difficult to elucidate. For instance, the notion of “two” separate entities – that is the individual self and the divine being – implies that the experience is a form of dualism. However, if the “divine” is understood to be beyond language, rational thought and sense perception, then it’s a non-describable state in which there is no “union” of the kind that the term implies. In fact, the very concept of relation – being “in union with” – is imbued with a dualistic, rational and linguistic bias. It is difficult to describe a mystical experience, except in the most general terms, for these exact reasons. Nevertheless, it is suggested by mystics and scholars of mysticism that there are qualities that can be recognised and identified as being characteristic of mystical experiences. These include ineffability (the inability to describe the experience adequately), noetic (the idea that these experiences can yield knowledge), transiency (most mystics report that the experiences are brief) and passivity (in other words, the mystic feels they are not in control of the experience). Such qualities may help to point to having had mystic experiences in the past. However, it is of course a very difficult thing to classify experiences of mystical natures.
3.1. Characteristics and Manifestations of Mystical Experiences
Other scholars have emphasized that mystical experiences are ineffable, that is, they cannot properly be put into words – which is a crucial aspect of their personal nature. There is no way to share the content of a mystical experience with others who have not had the same experience, and no way for a mystic to prove the truth of her claims to others. On the one hand, such claims to direct, unmediated contact with the divine have been a standard way of brokering disputes over religious doctrine and practice among different mystics and theologically-based typical claims to a unique, exalted status for one’s own sect or group. Yet on the other hand, for those who have not had such direct experiences, mystical claims seem suspect and quite possibly subversive to structured hierarchies both religious and secular.
B. Characteristics of Mystical Experiences
Theologians and scholars have offered different descriptions and typologies of mystical experience throughout the centuries. One classic typology was offered by the German philosopher Rudolf Otto, for instance, who identified the numinous experience as a fundamental kind of mystical experience in which the subject is overwhelmed by an encounter with a reality wholly other than the ordinary. On Otto’s account, mystical experience requires two things: an experience of creaturely self which is bound to sense and reason, and an experience of the holy. The sensual and rational experience of the creaturely self is stripped away, and an experience of the unique entity of the holy appears.
However, according to most mystics, a direct knowledge of that transcendent reality is possible, although it is ineffable, undefinable, inexpressible. From Plotinus and Augustine in the ancient world, through the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian mystics of the Middle Ages, down to modern mystics in and out of religious traditions, this experiential apprehension of the mystics is remarkably uncontroversial.
3.2. Role of Meditation and Contemplation
Meditation and contemplation are the primary methods used to achieve mystical experience. Mystical experience, according to Stace, is a direct encounter or union of the self with the divine. He distinguished between extrovertive mysticism, which involves a union with the external world, and introvertive mysticism, which involves a union with the self. By weaning away the intellect and presuppositions and by resisting the temptations of the world and self, the mystic is able to achieve an altered state of consciousness that is in tune with the absolute, the divine. The mystic, in a sense, is accessing an epistemology that is apart from the intellect and the senses. Grace, too, is necessary, since not all of us have the ability to become mystics; nevertheless, grace is omnipresent and it is there for the call – this is the hopeful message of the mystic. However, the cultivation of an effective method of meditation and contemplation is central to the achieving of mystical experiences and it is here that much of the attention of scholars has been turned. Christ’s instruction in the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament is often held to be the basis of mystical prayer in the Christian tradition, for Christ instructed his followers to enter into their own inner room, a private and personal sphere. Here, Christ explains, the Father is able to be in the glucose of the isolated person, that is, completely and fully. This depiction of the meditative space granted by Christ in the New Testament is used by Wyschogrod to illustrate a main ideal in mysticism; that to know the divine, man must move away from external pleasures and selfish purposes. Dudukovic argues that meditative mysticism in the Islamic tradition is aimed at achieving a spiritual state where the mystic understands and is conscious of the ongoing process of creation. This is summarised by the chant of ‘Allah’, the basis of mystical meditation. By rhythmic intoning of ‘Allah’, and the physical movements of the body, the mystic in Islam can come to acknowledge the process of all things being created by God. The physical movements are significant to the process and nature of meditation. First, by disciplining the body, the mystic is able to focus on the breathing required for the intonation of ‘Allah’. Secondly, the physical acts demonstrate that creation – temporal and divine – is continually occurring in the rhythm of the chant. Thirdly, the body reinforces the spiritual connection between the mind and the divine by acting in perfect harmony, each movement merging into the divine chant. Each religion contains a different path for the mystic to embark upon in order to achieve a state of mysticism. However, one thing is always consistent: the necessity and importance for meditative and contemplative practices. The ideal and basis in these practices should lead to a displacement of all other things and a focus on the divine and the plan that God has.
3.3. Connection with Divine or Ultimate Reality
Such a connection in the tradition’s mysticism with a divine or ultimate reality is not a solitary experience but is intended to move the person towards action and service to the community. By expressing the tradition’s theology of creation and the goal of the tradition’s mysticism, the mystic is not only able to act but finds indescribable joy in the service of those who serve due to their connection with the ultimate reality.
In the tradition’s mysticism, there is an understanding that the character and meaning of the objective physical world and the human self changes as one is more and more aware and delighted in God’s presence. The idea is not that God becomes more intensely present but that the person’s consciousness is heightened so as to discover the God-given meaning of their own self and of the world. In this state of heightened consciousness, mystics attest that the physical world and the self do not dissolve into the ultimate reality of God. On the other hand, the world and the self are affirmed and welcomed as they truly are. With the divine and human realities in their proper relationship, mystics promise that the self is liberated and is given a share in the divine life. This is expressed by the tradition’s key mystics in their writings and teachings and demonstrated in their lives of prayerful dedication to God’s service.
Mystical experiences in the specific religious tradition involve a connection with a divine or ultimate reality that transcends the everyday human existence. This concept is perhaps best expressed in the tradition’s theology of creation, according to which the physical world and the human self are seen as different and distinct from God and are considered to be a result of God’s free will. However, the tradition espouses the belief that God is immanent within the physical world and the human self and that everything in existence is sustained from moment to moment by God. This suggests that the physical world is not a mere shell or obstacle to the divine – rather, it is the effective, loving and continuous creative activity of God.
3.4. Impact on Personal Transformation and Spiritual Growth
In conclusion, the mystical path will change, challenge, and transform the individual self as well as the self-centered and materialistic worldview. In the journey of personal transformation, one can become confident, selfless, honest, sincere, and compassionate without any qualification of race, religion, nationality, gender, or social status. The individual self, with all its limitations and afflictions, can be remarkably transformed into a universal self, which has the potentiality of embracing the entire creation. One will be able to open his heart and share his love and compassion with all beings. In wisdom, one will see that everything is interdependent and relative in the universe. There is no permanent and everlasting substance. Finally, despite the varieties of mystical experiences and the unspeakable nature of mystical language, mystics still are eager to share their experiences with others and spread love, peace, joy, and compassion to the world. As a matter of fact, true mysticism is not a solitary joke between the self and the Absolute. It is a very demanding act of love and ineffable willingness to give oneself completely to the service of God and the conditions of humanity. This is the ideal of the impact of personal transformation, which is the continuation of the Great Chain of Being in the process of knowing and loving God. It should be realized that a person needs to realize personal transformation in mystical experiences through a kind of changing life, rational understanding, and love. First of all, the impact of personal transformation is liberating oneself from the attachments. This means that we need to detach from the material elements in this world and build up a very strong and faithful relationship with God. This allows the freedom of the self to express its love towards God and its fellow beings. Therefore, the self will no longer be the oppressor of oneself. But instead, it will begin to submit and coordinate its own actions and desires such that the delights of divine love may flow into the soul without any obstacles. Secondly, the impact of personal transformation is expanding love and compassion for the neighbor. Once a person is free from the poisons of self-centeredness and selfish desires, the virtues of love and compassion will grow automatically and unrestricted. Through that, we are capable of loving others as ourselves in a very intense degree. With the effect of receiving divine love in return for our acts of love, this metaphysical friendship will start a wonderful journey not only in this finite world but also throughout eternity. Thirdly, the impact of personal transformation is developing a more meaningful and hopeful life. By freeing the self from self-centeredness and God has become the center of our life, then the goal of life will shift from a mundane focused and passion-driven life to a life with everlasting happiness and eternal satisfaction. And that is why we are curious and strive for personal transformation. Because through personal transformation, we find that today’s world is difficult and there is no answer compared to eternity. That is the time of hope in that mystical quest can develop a more intimate and loving relationship with God and thereby all societies benefited from it. In sum, personal transformation in mystical experiences offers a distinctive sublime experience in which new meaning, purpose in life, and an unexplainable desire to share the love of God to the world can be achieved. Also, mystics recognize that such kind of personal transformation can penetrate into every corner in life, whether it is social, economic, cultural, or religious. As our world is impermanent, God’s love is the only substance in our society, and this is exactly the purpose of living out the love of God in human life.
4. Significance and Impact of Mystical Experiences within the Specific Religious Tradition
The significance and impact of mystical experiences within the specific religious tradition are immense. Firstly, they continue to play a key role in guiding and shaping religious practices and rituals. From early chanting and prayer meetings in the 12th century in an attempt to seek help and solution to societal problems, to the modern day use of music and joyful noises, mystical experiences have always been propagated and resulted in a significant impact in the religious world. Spiritual turnaround and renewal of faith, of the hard work of reformers could help transform and engender the social being of people. Secondly, those who claim to have had a direct experience of God through such mysticism say that their life has never been the same again. Such mystical encounters have guided them to a life of sanctification where the ultimate goal is to be in union with God through a series of even more powerful life transforming experiences. These experiences of the mystics are central to the modern devotional practices and leadership formations within their religious sects. By extension on the impact of mystical experiences, records where such mystical experiences led to significant and substantial teachings were laid down which have since become the basis of most religious theological issues. Müntzer in one of his letters says that, “now I have seen and have been made aware of the new God.” This stemmed from a personal address by God Himself and it was in this mystical experience that Müntzer is believed to have been given the commission to go out and proclaim the Gospel. Such received teachings from the mystics have since been used to form theological foundations for various religions. Modern scholars of comparative religion have also turned to learn and understand more mystical experiences and practices in other religious traditions. Such has been enabled by the rich field of empirical resources for the evaluation of religious movement and teaching from the mystics as well as their impact to faith. Loving others comes naturally and personal decisions are no longer based purely on self-interests but more importantly seeking guidance in God to achieve His desire for human flourishing. Because a mystical experience involves a direct and intimate contact of a human person with the divine, its impact and relevance in the modern world is something worth noting. There are some who argue that in the modern time where human reasoning and rationality have been elevated to a high pedestal, mystical experiences are no longer necessary for religious faith. However, for those who have been touched by such divine experiences, a call for a return to the ancient practices of getting in touch with God is advocated for human faith renewal. This is essential especially given that a frantic world will always provide many competing choices that easily distract people from God. The modern world mystics in a process known as the “incorporation” must build up and maintain the unity of the church. Mystical experiences should lead people to seek the best interests of the entire community as opposed to personal glory or self-centered leadership. This requirement is necessary for religious leaders and providers.
4.1. Influence on Religious Practices and Rituals
Mystical experiences have played an important role in shaping religious practices and rituals within the specific religious tradition. One of the most prominent examples is the introduction of various forms of meditation and asceticism. Mystics’ emphasis on the need for a direct and intimate experience of the divine has led to the incorporation of meditative practices within the tradition, with the aim of achieving that experiential knowledge or closeness to the divine. Unlike some religious practices that serve mainly as rites or communal activities, meditative practices introduced by mystics are often seen as a means or a preparation for a more immediate and personal encounter with the divine. This has in turn influenced the structure of religious practices, in particular differentiating individual practices – such as meditation sessions that are often conducted alone – from more communal and celebratory ones. With the rise of various mystics and the wide range of visionary experiences being recorded within the tradition, a set of rules dictating the authenticity of such experiences has been developed. However, despite the disagreements over specific criteria, it is generally accepted that any mystical experiences should not contradict with the teachings as revealed in the authoritative texts of the tradition, and that they should result in a positive ethical transformation of the mystic. Such debates and guidelines have significantly informed and shaped the ways in which mystical experiences are being received and practiced. By engaging with the debates and further developing these guidelines, early mystics have helped to consolidate their own charismatic authority, and the authority of their mystical experiences, within the tradition. This has contributed to the establishment.
4.2. Role in Religious Community and Leadership
In addition to impacting the individual mystics themselves, the mystical experiences of those within the specific religious tradition can have a profound effect on the wider religious community and its leadership. This is particularly the case for those people who have experiences recognized as revelatory. Revelatory experiences can take a number of different forms, including visions and auditory phenomena, and their temper according to the idea of phenomenology (i.e. the study of religious experience and belief as things that occur and have significance). They are also integral in differentiating types of mystical experience. The term ‘unitive’ is used to describe an experience in which the mystic feels the loss of distinct self in the divine, and there are a number of famous Christ unitive experiences in Christianity. These may lead to self-publicization and leadership within religious circles, as the elder of the tradition that I talked to explained. As a result, the religion that is the focus of this investigation has been dominated by such leaders and the experiences have left an indelible mark on the festivals and practices adopted by the religious community. This influence is particularly clear in the progression of ritual use and establishment; the intake and leadership of the religious community through the rituals and practices which have been inspired by the mysticism revealed.
4.3. Contribution to Religious Philosophy and Theology
Mystical experiences are considered to be ineffable in the sense that language is an inadequate means to communicate them. Consequently, the truth conveyed in a mystical experience is held to be more fundamental and complete than propositions arrived at through discursive reason. Philosophers have generally held that mystical experiences have the capacity to impart knowledge of the divine. In the specific religious tradition being investigated in this research, those who have had mystical experiences are often considered to be authoritative on matters of religious philosophy and theology. As a result, mystics within the tradition have contributed to the development of religious philosophy and theology in significant ways. For example, one of the most famous and early Christian mystics – a figure whose thoughts and writings have greatly influenced Christian religious philosophy – was a member of the specific religious tradition being studied. His experiences and their subsequent impact on religious philosophy and theology are a topic of debate and discussion in contemporary scholarship. Mystics within the tradition have written extensively on their experiences and the ways in which such experiences serve as an epistemic foundation for religious philosophy and theology. Indeed, in the tradition it is often thought that to truly understand and evaluate the merits of various theological propositions (which are often arrived at through reason), one must first be initiated into the truth of those propositions through direct mystical experience. As such, the tradition has developed a kind of religious epistemology centered around the belief that mystical experiences are necessary for one to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the divine. In terms of theological development, mystics within the tradition have used their experiences as a means of explaining core religious concepts. For example, many scholars argue that progress in the tradition’s theology, such as modern understandings of key religious figures like Moses or more complex notions of the nature of God and the universe as a whole, have been significantly furthered by the writings and teachings of the tradition’s mystics. This essay demonstrates that the mystical tradition remains an important aspect of the tradition today, both in terms of its continued impact on religious philosophy and theology and also for the ways in which it shapes the lived spiritual lives of adherents. The tradition’s continued toleration of a wide range of potential interpretations of mystical experience and its ability to assimilate new voices into the mystical tradition are explored, arguing that this is particular to mystical traditions within religious traditions more generally. The concluding remarks of this essay suggest that the continued study of the tradition’s mystics and their impact on religious philosophy may not only shed light on the past but also help to inspire new ways of thinking theologically in the future.
4.4. Relevance in the Modern World
Today, in the modern world, there are increasing numbers of technological and scientific breakthroughs that have changed human life. This essay investigates how those breakthroughs have influenced religious experience. Through the overall literature, the connection between mystical experience and technology or scientific knowledge is found. It is suggested that if a religious mystical experience cannot be explained by today’s scientific knowledge, it would be considered as an illusion. A standard example for this is “auras”. Auras were very popular at the end of the nineteenth century, especially within the Theosophical Society, and are still hugely popular today. However, more recently, scientists have claimed that the ability to see an aura is actually caused by a rare disorder called “synesthesia” where eye neurons are cross-connected. With the development of our scientific knowledge to explain this phenomenon, the aura is no longer a kind of profound religious mystical experience. This is evidenced by the fact that “‘set’ experiences that remain anomalous and resisted are defined as ‘mystical'” and where something is clearly understood, it is not. Such a change from ‘mystical’ to the natural is probably due to the misleading of the society, which linked the religious mystical experience directly to that scientific knowledge. Last but not least, the decay of religious authority also has a certain impact upon mystical experience. Rousseau’s thoughts on the importance of personal experience over rational and scriptural tradition have long influenced people’s understanding of religious experience; and the romanticist belief that religious authority is in decline because it is not possible to verify the revelation of others seems quite plausible in the modern era. This phenomenology of the mystical throughout the “Technology has a crucial role in the contextual of mystical experience in the modern world” lets the researcher know that the standard of a valid mystical experience favors the relational over the solitary and religious experience effectively engages with our situation to be a communal learning. Also, in the contemporary world of mass society when there is a weakening in traditional social relations and the authority of church and science, religion is forced into a search of badging for a legitimacy that is against the communal nature of religious experience. Such impacts can be illustrated through the development of cyber religion such as visionary mystical experience and holistic experience. It is clear that technology is playing a crucial role – it offers us with more interactive and greater variety of opportunities for religious experience and the images of religion can be couched in modern terms. However, it is arguable that sociologists have characterized this form of religion stressed the rational, calculating characteristic of technologically mediated mystical experience tended to suppress the emotional and magical contents. In the meantime, the development of cyber religion actually weakens the coherences in the communal religious practices. All these facts indicate that the meaning and the significance of mystical experience have altered and the characteristics of such experience have changed in the contemporary, technological world.

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