Knowing God: Mysticism in Christianity and Other Religions

Powerful Essays
Knowing God: Mysticism in Christianity and Other Religions

Mysticism, mystic experiences, and encounters with the divine are important—and even integral—to many religions throughout the world. Mysticism, defined as experiencing the divine, should have a special importance in Christianity. Christianity posits a God who is transcendent, yet immanent, and as Christians we believe we can have a relationship with the Deity. Because of this we should have a unique conception of mystical experiences as significant to our spiritual lives.

I will begin by giving an overview of mysticism in other religious traditions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Islam, and Judaism—and then concentrate on the role that mysticism and experience should have in Christianity.

Non-Christian Religions


In Buddhism, one seeks salvation from pain, which is caused by desire; so one seeks a state of absence from desire. This is achieved through meditation and the "Noble Eightfold Way of mental and moral discipline: right views, resolve, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration." It is a timeless state, and is spoken of as "becoming Brahman" and entering into Nirvana. The absence of desire necessitates a certain amount of separation from the world and a constancy of mind that is not found in the normal clamor of daily life.


Hinduism has a pluralism of gods, but in the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text of Hinduism, Vishnu is proclaimed supreme and the Gita is almost monotheistic in its tone. According to Geoffrey Parrinder, the Bhagavad Gita "teaches union with God, but in the context of love to God and love from God…." Meditation is the chief method of achieving experience of or unity with the deity, as prescrib...

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...g God and experiencing him in his fullness, and we would do well to appreciate and appropriate from that heritage.


Dupré, Louis, and James A. Wiseman, eds. Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism. New York: Paulist Press, 1988.

Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path. New York: Oxford UP, 1988.

Mason, J.W.T. The Meaning of Shinto. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat, 1935.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford UP, 1991.

Otto, Rudolf. India's Religion of Grace and Christianity Compared and Contrasted. Trans. Frank Hugh Foster. New York: Macmillan, 1930.

Parrinder, Geoffrey. Mysticism in the World's Religions. New York: Oxford UP, 1976.

Renou, Louis, ed. Hinduism. New York: George Braziller, 1961.

Scholem, Gershom G. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. New York: Schocken Books, 1941.
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