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Sometimes people will ask me if “contemplation” and “mysticism” are synonyms.
I admit: I often use the words interchangeably. But if they meant exactly the same thing, then one word would be redundant, right?
Moment - Contemplation - Mysticism - Dimensions - Spirituality
So perhaps it’s worth taking a moment to consider how contemplation and mysticism describe two slightly different dimensions of spirituality. Different, but very closely related.
Let’s begin with the more difficult of the two words. Mysticism refers to the dimension of spirituality which transcends human language and reason: it fundamentally cannot be put into words. Mysticism, after all, is related to mystery.
Spirituality - Mystery - God
It is the spirituality of the mystery of God.
Mysticism points to a place beyond the limits of human logic and reason. It is not irrational — a better word to describe would be transrational.
Mystics - Language - Night - Soul - Darkness
Mystics use language such as “unknowing,” “dark night of the soul,” “dazzling darkness,” and “the abyss” to try to put into words what is ultimately unsayable: to attempt to speak of the mystery, as well as the mystery of humanity response to the Divine mystery. For mystical language does not stop with the notion that God is unknowable — rather, it follows the audacious language of Jesus and the New Testament writers to assert that this unknowable, unsayable God is present in our lives, is poured into our hearts, that we abide in this God and this God abides in us, in this God we live and move and have our being, and indeed, we are partakers of the Divine nature.
So God is not the only mystery in mysticism. We human beings are also part of the mystery, indeed you could say that we are one with the mystery, not by any action of our own, but entirely by the grace and initiative of God.
Mysticism - Experience - God
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