One of the most famous mystics was Joan of Arc. Joan was a year-old peasant girl with no formal education who claimed to have experienced visions and voices from angels who guided her to lead France to victory over England during the Hundred Years' War. By contrast, Thomas Merton is a highly educated and respected contemplative Trappist monk whose life has been dedicated to prayer and writing. Mysticism has been a part of human experience around the world for all of recorded history.
While mystics can be of any class, gender, or background, only a relative few have had a significant impact on philosophical, political, or religious events. There were well-known mystics around the world even in ancient times. Many, of course, were obscure or known only in their local areas, but others actually changed the course of history.
The following is a short list of some of the most influential. During the middle ages in Europe, there were many mystics who claimed to see or hear saints or experience forms of communion with the absolute.
Some of the most famous included:. Mysticism has continued to be a significant part of religious experience past the middle ages and into the present day. Some of the most significant events of the s and beyond can be traced to mystical experiences. A few examples include:. There is no way to absolutely prove the truth of personal mystical experience.
In fact, many so-called mystical experiences may well be the outcome of mental illness, epilepsy, or drug-induced hallucinations. Nevertheless, religious and psychological scholars and researchers tend to agree that the experiences of bona fide mystics are meaningful and important.
Some of the arguments that support this perspective include:.
As the great psychologist and philosopher William James said in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, "Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those who experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule, they carry with them a curious sense of authority for after-time.
Share Flipboard Email. Updated August 31, Key Takeaways: What Is Mysticism? Mysticism is the personal experience of the absolute or divine. In some cases, mystics experience themselves as part of the divine; in other cases, they are aware of the divine as separate from themselves. Mystics have existed throughout history, around the world, and may come from any religious, ethnic, or economic background. Mysticism is still an important part of religious experience today.
Some famous mystics have had a profound impact on philosophy, religion, and politics. The phrase "Atman is Brahman" in Hinduism, which roughly translates as "the soul is one with God. Shamanistic experiences with spirits or connection with the divine in relation with healing, interpretation of dreams, etc.
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Christian experiences of personal revelations from or communion with God. Sufism , the mystical branch of Islam, through which practitioners strive for communion with the divine through "little sleep, little talk, little food. Ancient Mystics. The great Greek mathematician Pythagoras was born in BCE and was well known for his revelations and teachings about the soul. His teachings have had a profound impact on the world.
His teachings were significant in his time, and have seen many resurgences in popularity over the years. Medieval Mystics. A readable copy.
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Mysticism in the World's Religions
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Mysticism World Religion
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