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Tip: Sign In to save these choices and avoid repeating this across devices. Of special importance are the following concepts: . In Christian mysticism, Shekhinah became mystery , Da'at became gnosis , and poverty became an important component of monasticism. Clement was an early Christian humanist who argued that reason is the most important aspect of human existence and that gnosis not something we can attain by ourselves, but the gift of Christ helps us find the spiritual realities that are hidden behind the natural world and within the scriptures.
Given the importance of reason, Clement stresses apatheia as a reasonable ordering of our passions in order to live within God's love, which is seen as a form of truth. Origen stresses the importance of combining intellect and virtue theoria and praxis in our spiritual exercises, drawing on the image of Moses and Aaron leading the Israelites through the wilderness, and he describes our union with God as the marriage of our souls with Christ the Logos , using the wedding imagery from the Song of Songs.
Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish Hellenistic philosopher who was important for connecting the Hebrew Scriptures to Greek thought, and thereby to Greek Christians, who struggled to understand their connection to Jewish history. In particular, Philo taught that allegorical interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures provides access to the real meanings of the texts. Philo also taught the need to bring together the contemplative focus of the Stoics and Essenes with the active lives of virtue and community worship found in Platonism and the Therapeutae.
Using terms reminiscent of the Platonists, Philo described the intellectual component of faith as a sort of spiritual ecstasy in which our nous mind is suspended and God's Spirit takes its place. The Christian scriptures, insofar as they are the founding narrative of the Christian church, provide many key stories and concepts that become important for Christian mystics in all later generations: practices such as the Eucharist , baptism and the Lord's Prayer all become activities that take on importance for both their ritual and symbolic values.
Other scriptural narratives present scenes that become the focus of meditation: the Crucifixion of Jesus and his appearances after his Resurrection are two of the most central to Christian theology; but Jesus' conception, in which the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, and his Transfiguration , in which he is briefly revealed in his heavenly glory, also become important images for meditation.
Moreover, many of the Christian texts build on Jewish spiritual foundations, such as chokhmah , shekhinah. But different writers present different images and ideas. Another key idea presented by the Synoptics is the desert, which is used as a metaphor for the place where we meet God in the poverty of our spirit. The Gospel of John focuses on God's glory in his use of light imagery and in his presentation of the Cross as a moment of exaltation; he also sees the Cross as the example of agape love, a love which is not so much an emotion as a willingness to serve and care for others.
Although John does not follow up on the Stoic notion that this principle makes union with the divine possible for humanity, it is an idea that later Christian writers develop. Later generations will also shift back and forth between whether to follow the Synoptics in stressing knowledge or John in stressing love.
In his letters, Paul also focuses on mental activities, but not in the same way as the Synoptics, which equate renewing the mind with repentance. Instead, Paul sees the renewal of our minds as happening as we contemplate what Jesus did on the Cross, which then opens us to grace and to the movement of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. Like John, Paul is less interested in knowledge, preferring to emphasize the hiddenness, the "mystery" of God's plan as revealed through Christ.
But Paul's discussion of the Cross differs from John's in being less about how it reveals God's glory and more about how it becomes the stumbling block that turns our minds back to God. Paul also describes the Christian life as that of an athlete, demanding practice and training for the sake of the prize; later writers will see in this image a call to ascetical practices. The texts attributed to the Apostolic Fathers , the earliest post-Biblical texts we have, share several key themes, particularly the call to unity in the face of internal divisions and perceptions of persecution, the reality of the charisms , especially prophecy, visions and Christian gnosis , which is understood as "a gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to know Christ" through meditating on the scriptures and on the Cross of Christ.
Inspired by Christ's teaching and example, men and women withdrew to the deserts of Sketes where, either as solitary individuals or communities, they lived lives of austere simplicity oriented towards contemplative prayer. These communities formed the basis for what later would become known as Christian monasticism. Mysticism is integral to Christian monasticism because the goal of practice for the monastic is union with God. The Eastern church then saw the development of monasticism and the mystical contributions of Gregory of Nyssa , Evagrius Ponticus and Pseudo-Dionysius.
Monasticism, also known as anchoritism meaning "to withdraw" was seen as an alternative to martyrdom, and was less about escaping the world than about fighting demons who were thought to live in the desert and about gaining liberation from our bodily passions in order to be open to the Word of God.
Anchorites practiced continuous meditation on the scriptures as a means of climbing the ladder of perfection—a common religious image in the Mediterranean world and one found in Christianity through the story of Jacob's ladder —and sought to fend off the demon of acedia "un-caring" , a boredom or apathy that prevents us from continuing on in our spiritual training.
Monasticism eventually made its way to the West and was established by the work of John Cassian and Benedict of Nursia. Meanwhile, Western spiritual writing was deeply influenced by the works of such men as Jerome and Augustine of Hippo. The High Middle Ages saw a flourishing of mystical practice and theorization corresponding to the flourishing of new monastic orders, with such figures as Guigo II , Hildegard of Bingen , Bernard of Clairvaux , the Victorines , all coming from different orders, as well as the first real flowering of popular piety among the laypeople.
The Protestant Reformation downplayed mysticism, although it still produced a fair amount of spiritual literature. Even the most active reformers can be linked to Medieval mystical traditions. Martin Luther , for instance, was a monk who was influenced by the German Dominican mystical tradition of Eckhart and Tauler as well by the Dionysian-influenced Wesenmystik "essence mysticism" tradition. He also published the Theologia Germanica , which he claimed was the most important book after the Bible and Augustine for teaching him about God, Christ, and humanity.
Meanwhile, his notion that we can begin to enjoy our eternal salvation through our earthly successes leads in later generations to "a mysticism of consolation". But the Reformation brought about the Counter-Reformation and, with it, a new flowering of mystical literature, often grouped by nationality. No breath of suspicion arose against Molinos until , when the Jesuit preacher Paolo Segneri, attacked his views, though without mentioning his name, in his Concordia tra la fatica e la quiete nell' orazione.
The matter was referred to the Inquisition. A report got abroad that Molinos had been convicted of moral enormities, as well as of heretical doctrines; and it was seen that he was doomed. On September 3, he made public profession of his errors, and was sentenced to imprisonment for life.
Contemporary Protestants saw in the fate of Molinos nothing more than a persecution by the Jesuits of a wise and enlightened man, who had dared to withstand the petty ceremonialism of the Italian piety of the day. Molinos died in prison in or An example of "scientific reason lit up by mysticism in the Church of England"  is seen in the work of Sir Thomas Browne , a Norwich physician and scientist whose thought often meanders into mystical realms, as in his self-portrait, Religio Medici , and in the "mystical mathematics" of The Garden of Cyrus , whose full running title reads, Or, The Quincuncial Lozenge, or Network Plantations of the ancients, Naturally, Artificially, Mystically considered.
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Browne's highly original and dense symbolism frequently involves scientific, medical, or optical imagery to illustrate a religious or spiritual truth, often to striking effect, notably in Religio Medici , but also in his posthumous advisory Christian Morals. Browne's latitudinarian Anglicanism, hermetic inclinations, and Montaigne -like self-analysis on the enigmas, idiosyncrasies, and devoutness of his own personality and soul, along with his observations upon the relationship between science and faith, are on display in Religio Medici.
His spiritual testament and psychological self-portrait thematically structured upon the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, also reveal him as "one of the immortal spirits waiting to introduce the reader to his own unique and intense experience of reality". Arndt, whose book True Christianity was popular among Protestants, Catholics and Anglicans alike, combined influences from Bernard of Clairvaux, John Tauler and the Devotio moderna into a spirituality that focused its attention away from the theological squabbles of contemporary Lutheranism and onto the development of the new life in the heart and mind of the believer.
Pietism as known through Spener's formation of it tended not just to reject the theological debates of the time, but to reject both intellectualism and organized religious practice in favor of a personalized, sentimentalized spirituality. Eastern Christianity has especially preserved a mystical emphasis in its theology  and retains a tradition of mystical prayer dating back to Christianity's beginnings. The practice of Lectio Divina , a form of prayer that centers on scripture reading, was developed in its best-known form in the sixth century, through the work of Benedict of Nursia and Pope Gregory I , and described and promoted more widely in the 12th century by Guigo II.
The 9th century saw the development of mystical theology through the introduction of the works of sixth-century theologian Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite , such as On Mystical Theology. His discussion of the via negativa was especially influential.
As part of the Protestant Reformation , theologians turned away from the traditions developed in the Middle Ages and returned to what they consider to be biblical and early Christian practices. Accordingly, they were often skeptical of Catholic mystical practices, which seemed to them to downplay the role of grace in redemption and to support the idea that human works can play a role in salvation, and which also seemed to come from post-biblical sources and practices.
Thus, Protestant theology developed a strong critical attitude, oftentimes even an animosity towards Christian mysticism. Historically, Christian mysticism has taught that for Christians the major emphasis of mysticism concerns a spiritual transformation of the egoic self, the following of a path designed to produce more fully realized human persons, "created in the Image and Likeness of God" and as such, living in harmonious communion with God, the Church, the rest of the world, and all creation, including oneself. For Christians, this human potential is realized most perfectly in Jesus, precisely because he is both God and human, and is manifested in others through their association with him, whether conscious, as in the case of Christian mystics, or unconscious, with regard to spiritual persons who follow other traditions, such as Gandhi.
The Eastern Christian tradition speaks of this transformation in terms of theosis or divinization, perhaps best summed up by an ancient aphorism usually attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria : "God became human so that man might become god. Going back to Evagrius Ponticus , Christian mystics have been described as pursuing a threefold path of purification, illumination and unification, corresponding to body soma , soul psyche , and spirit pneuma.
In , the 8th Ecumenical Council reduced the image of the human to only body and soul but within mystics a model of three aspects continued.
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The three aspects later became purgative, illuminative, and unitive in the western churches and prayer of the lips, the mind, the heart in the eastern churches. The first, purification is where aspiring traditionally Christian mystics start. This aspect focuses on discipline, particularly in terms of the human body; thus, it emphasizes prayer at certain times, either alone or with others, and in certain postures, often standing or kneeling.
It also emphasizes the other disciplines of fasting and alms-giving, the latter including those activities called "the works of mercy," both spiritual and corporal, such as feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.