Mysticism Defined for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism

Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, edited by John Bowker (published by Oxford University Press 1997, 2005):
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Mysticism. “The practices and often systems of thought which arise from and conduce toward mystical experience. Mystical systems are distinguished from other metaphysical systems by their intimate connection to a quest for salvation, union and/or liberation realized through forms of mental, physical and spiritual exercise in a classic definition. Mysticism, according to its historical and psychological definitions, is the direct intuition or experience of God; a mystic is a person who has, to a greater or lesser degree, such a direct experience; one whose religion and life are central not merely on an accepted belief or practice, but on that which he regards as first-hand personal knowledge.”
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Note: Non-theistic religions, such as Buddhism, seek the same ultimate Reality, but it is not conceived as God.
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Judaism. “Kabbalah is teachings of the Jewish mystics. The term encompasses all the esoteric teachings of Judaism which evolved from the time of the second Temple. More particularly, it refers to those forms which evolved in the Middle Ages. Kabbalah draws on the awareness of the transcendence of God, and yet of his immanence. God can most closely be perceived through contemplation and illumination. God both conceals and reveals himself. Through speculation and revelation, the hidden life of God and his relationship with his creation can be more easily understood. Since mystical knowledge can so easily be misinterpreted its spread should be limited to those of a certain age and level of learning.”
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Note: The Zohar emphasized contemplation; Kabbalah of Hasidism added enthusiasm.
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Concise Guide to World Religions, by Eliade and Couliano (published by HarperCollins San Francisco 1991, 2000):
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Christianity. “...a brief survey of the rich mystical tradition of Christianity, which can be envisaged as a form of Platonic contemplative asceticism integrated with devotional and often liturgical activities. In its multifarious historical occurrences, Christian mysticism embraces almost all available mystical phenomenology, emphasizing to almost the same extent both ecstasy and introspection. The mystical experience tends toward the union with God in the complete surrender of the body and the world.”
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Note: Eastern Orthodox mysticism seeks union with the Godhead through the three persons, followed by a "deified" participation in life. All Friends (Quakers) should seek the Inner Light, follow divine leadings and regard all of life as sacramental.
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World Religions-Ancient History to Present, by Geoffrey Parrinder (published by Facts on File 1971, 1985):
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Islam. “The objective of Sufism, as all mysticism, is to attain union with God. Mysticism seeks for an immediate experience of the divine reality through the suppression of the ego. The method of attaining this most coveted experience, however, demands insight into a special and hidden brand of knowledge. Sufi doctrine teaches that, beside the usual rules for religious life, set out in the revelation and the prophetic sunnah, there is another and deeper level of spiritual meaning, which the prophet shared with only a few of his chosen companions. The revelation, thus, wears two faces, one open and obvious, and the other only to be seen by those who have been instructed in its secrets.”
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New Penguin Handbook of Living Religions, edited by John R. Hinnells (published by Penguin 1997, 2003):
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Hinduism. “Another concept, central and essential to Hinduism, is moksha (liberation), which is also one of the four Hindu aims of life. That from which liberation is sought is samsara, the cycle of birth and rebirth. The part of the human individual which is immortal...passes at death to diverse heavens and hells where it works out its karmic debt and is then reborn in the form it has deserved. This cycle continues endlessly unless it merits, or is blessed with, a lifetime during which, through spiritual efforts, the intervention of a guru or the grace of God, moksha is attained, whereby it passes out of the cycle altogether.”
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Note: The notion of interim heavens and hells is not supported by all Hindu schools.
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Buddhism. “The main aim is to emphasize immediate accessibility of direct realization. Enlightenment is to be striven for and realized in this very life. Ch’an [Zen] teachers claimed a transmission outside doctrines - direct and wordless communication between teacher and pupil. Later tradition lays great stress on this transmission. Practical action was to be preferred to study. Ch’an [Zen] often stresses the suddenness of realization of enlightenment, but in fact different degrees of realization were usually recognized.”
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Note: All Buddhism seeks enlightenment; Ch’an/Zen and Tibetan Tantrism may be regarded as more “mystical.” The term “mysticism” is seldom used by Buddhists.
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These quotations are from my ebook on comparative mysticism at http://suprarational.org/gail2012.pdf



(Something interesting I found)Posted:Jul 01 2005, 12:00 AM by Ron Krumpos
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