The term mysticism
is a term that is not easy to define succinctly. The etymology of the term shows
a mixed history. Originally deriving from the Greek word muein (to close the eyes, lips and ears) this understanding was utilized by the Greek
mystery cults in reference to secret initiation rites. This brought about the
connotation of silence and secrecy. Later in the second and third centuries within
the early Christian church the term mustikos was used to signify a spiritual understanding,
in light of revelation, detected under the original, literal meaning of the scriptures. Then, during the fourth and fifth
centuries the Greek and Christian terms began to blend together and thus bring about a meaning, especially under the influence
of Augustinian thinking, that connotes an experiential union in the love of God. Extensive
prayer, meditation, varied ascetics and the experience of visions have most often accompanied this ‘union.’ Jean
Gerson (chancellor of the University of Paris from 1395-1418) defined Christian
mysticism as “knowledge of God by experience, arrived at through the embrace of unifying love.”
Women have played a significant role in Christian mysticism – a role that is seen at its high point during the medieval period. Some have speculated that this role was so significant due to the position of women
within society and the church during this time. Women in the medieval church
were placed within rigid and often silent
roles, thus being forbidden to preach, teach or write concerning scripture. However, some were called, despite the rigidity
of society and the church to share their visions and teachings with others. Many of these women were impugned as a result,
and thus their writings and lives were seen as ‘lost’ in history. However,
due to recent scholarship many of these women’s writings and biographies are coming to life again.
Characteristic of mystics (both female and male)is a life devoted to prayer, service
to others, and the experience of visions – the later of which has led at times to mystics being viewed as mentally
unstable. The church (and society) has often taken a long time to recognize such gifts within the community and
sometimes not at all.However once these mystics have been recognized (sometimes after being officially declared
'valid') they have been viewed as teachers within the church.
This site is dedicated to three women mystics - and it is hoped that this number will
grow in time. These women come from different cultures, countries and histories, but they all share a deep love for
Jesus Christ and a call to share this love with all. Use the links at the top of the page to view biographies of each
of the women represented. In addition to biographical information, pieces of their writings (or dictations) that detail
their visions and thoughts are included. There are also pages dedicated to prayers written by these women, and a
listing of additional resources (both print and electronic) which will be updated as needed.
"It is very important for any soul that practices prayer, whether little or much, not to hold itself back
and stay in one corner. Let it walk through these dwelling places which are up above, down below, and to the sides, since
God has given it such great dignity. Don't force it to stay a long time in one room alone."
- Teresa of Avila, "The Interior Castle" (1577)
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Experience the mystery...
Created by Kimberly S. Conway (c) 2004.
This site is continuously underconstruction. If you have any suggestions or ideas
please make such suggestion in the guestbook. The creator of this site does not speak for the validity of information
found when following links from this website to another.