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Mysticism and Experience of The Divine [Episode 6]

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

A whole lot of history and, hopefully, a deeper understanding of what, exactly, IS Mysticism... what defines a "Mystical Experience"...

and how can we be (+ why should we) all be modern-day mystics, of sorts? 


  • Iris (from Florida) on the 'How To Listen To Listen To God' meditation practice

  • Brother Matthew Paul Grote OP gives a master lesson in Biblical Mysticism


What, exactly, is mysticism? This episode takes the plunge into the history of what we know about mysticism, furthering our exploration through “how to live a good life without God”.

What defines a "mystical experience" and how can we all be modern-day mystics? My dear Floridian friend, Iris, gives us a taste of how she connects mysticism to her daily life, and then, Brother Matthew Paul Grote OP gives us a master lesson in Christian Mysticism.


  • Mysticism: the practice of religious ecstasies, together with whatever ideologies, ethics, rites, myths, legends, and magic may be related to them; experiencing the divine personally, to become intimate with God

  • Mysticism embodies four qualities:

  1. Awakening - a realization of something greater than yourself

  2. Divine Experience - a state of being that feels fully enveloped by God

  3. Ineffability - the idea that mystical experience defies expression

  4. Transformation - a change of heart

  • Mysticism in Ancient Greece was Christian and had three dimensions:

  1. Biblical - hidden interpretations of Scriptures

  2. Liturgical - ceremonial mystery of the Eucharist

  3. Spiritual/Contemplative - experiential knowledge of God

  • Every organized religious or spiritual practice has a mystical offshoot

  • Current definition of mysticism: union with the Absolute, the Infinite, or God

  • Walter Terence Stace distinguishes two types of mysticism:

  1. Extrovertive mysticism (“all as one”) is an experience of the unity of the external world

  2. Introvertive mysticism (“none as all”) is an experience of unity devoid of perceptual objects (an experience of ‘no-thing-ness’)

  • RC Zaehner defines three fundamental types of mysticism:

  1. Theistic - includes most forms of Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and occasional Hindu examples of mysticism

  2. Monistic (based on “an experience of the unity of one’s soul”) - includes Buddhism and certain Hindu schools of thought

  3. Panenhenic (“natural mysticism”) - all other types of mysticism

  • Christian Mysticism:

  • What is God?

  • Originally, Exodus 3:14: “I Am Who Am”, Tetragrammaton

  • Plotinus: the idea of God represented as not being something but as existence itself

  • St. Augustine: Finding God/Being/Unity with goodness itself through internal contemplation

  • St. Thomas Aquinas: the Divine is intelligible even if it is infinite; we’re meant to know it

  • He is infinitely knowable, not infinitely unknowable

  • How to have a mystical life:

  • We are made to do two things:

  1. To know (God, ourselves, our neighbor)

  2. To love (God, ourselves, our neighbor)

  • We live a practical life of four Cardinal virtues: kindness, love, justice, and humility

  • Christianity gives us the mystical infused virtues of faith, hope, and love

  • We cannot facilitate a mystical experience on our own but instead must open ourselves to a God that loves us


  • “Although mystical states are similar to states of feeling, they also seem to those who experience them to be states of knowledge, too. They are experienced as states that allow direct insight into depths of truth that are unplumbed by our mere intellects.” --William James

  • “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” --Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

  • “Truth is truth no matter where it’s found, and every seed of truth should be watered and allowed to flourish.” --Brother Matthew Paul Grote OP

Recommended Resources + External Links

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