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Mysticism is a confused popular and scientific term used to refer variously to Connection, Connection Experience, Connection Practice, Connection Outcomes, and so on. On the LP we understand mysticism to be another word for Authentic Spirituality.



Eveylyn Underhill: "Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment (Underhill 2002: emphasis added)."[1]

Troelsch's conception of mysticism refers directly, explicitly, and obviously, to Connection. "What Troeltsch has in mind is an orientation of spiritual life in the history of Christianity which aims primarily at a "personal living piety and at an Interior life' which has a direct experience of salvation." [2]. Salvation here may be understood as the experience of unity and oneness that one often experiences during a Connection Experience.

Zaehner defines mysticism by the Connection Outcome of Ascension. Mysticism is "the realization of a union or a unity with or in [or of] something that is enormously, if not infinitely, greater than the empirical self"[3]

Carl Keller also defines mysticism by a single, albeit important, Connection Outcome. He notes, "In the context of Christian Theology, the words 'mystical', 'mystic' have a precise meaning: they designate the highest state of Christian gnosis or religious knowledge, conceptualized as 'union' with God and the perfection of man. [sic]." [4]

Gender is important to an understanding of mysticism. Bruneau notes, "using gender as a category of inquiry leads to the realization, for example, that female mysticism has always been characterized by the participation and somatization of the body." [5]. Bruneau also points to the relevance of social class, though he doesn't delve.

Carmody and Carmody define mysticism as "direct experience of ultimate reality." "Ultimate reality can connote God, the Tao, Nirvana, the sacred, etc. [6]


Carmody and Carmody distinguish between essentialist' theories and empiricist theories. Essentialist theories stress the sameness of connection experiences across cultures. Humans are the same, and the "ultimate reality" which we connect to is the same. OTOH, empiricist theories point to the influence of culture, psychology, ideas on the mystical experience. Emphasize language, concepts, historical periods, etc. [7]


  1. Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness. New York: Dover Publications, 2002.
  2. Steeman, Theodore M. “Church, Sect, Mysticism, Denomination: Periodological Aspects of Troeltsch’s Types.” SA. Sociological Analysis 36, no. 3 (1975): 181–204.
  3. Zaehner, R.C. Hindu and Muslim Mysticism. New York: Shocken Books, 1969. p. 5
  4. Keller, Carl A. “Mystical Literature.” In Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, edited by Steven T. Katz, 75–100. London: Sheldon Press, 1978. p. 75.
  5. Bruneau, Marie-Florine. Women Mystics Confront the Modern World. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998p. 5.
  6. Carmody, Denise Lardner, and John Tully Carmody. Mysticism: Holiness East and West. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.p. 10.
  7. Carmody, Denise Lardner, and John Tully Carmody. Mysticism: Holiness East and West. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
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