Mysticism, history of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K050-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved March 24, 2019, from

References and further reading

Most of the Western mystical authors and works mentioned in this entry (including the Mystical Theology of Pseudo-Dionysus, the Zohar, the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, and St Teresa’s Interior Castle) can be found in ‘Classics of Western Spirituality’, an ongoing series from Paulist Press. Readers are also recommended to refer to Crossroad’s World Spirituality: An Encyclopedic History of the Religious Quest, a 25-volume series on all the major traditions of spirituality, including their mystical elements.

  • Bhagavad Gītā (200–200, disputed), trans. D. White, The Bhagavad Gītā, American University Studies, Series 7, Theology and Religion, vol. 39, New York: Peter Lang, 1989, 1993.

    (Also includes a commentary on the text.)

  • Bouyer, L. (1980) ‘Mysticism: An Essay on the History of the Word’, in R. Woods (ed.) Understanding Mysticism, Garden City, NY: Image Books.

    (Outlines evolution of the term ‘mystical’ from Greek origins through patristic era. Translation of 1952 article from La Vie Spirituelle.)

  • Bouyer, L. (1990) The Christian Mystery: From Pagan Myth to Christian Mysticism, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.

    (Reviews the development of Christian mysticism, arguing against its origin in mystery religions.)

  • Bouyer, L. et al. (1969) A History of Christian Spirituality, New York: Seabury, 3 vols.

    (A classic survey of Christian spirituality.)

  • Certeau, M. de (1992) The Mystic Fable, vol. 1: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    (Difficult but rewarding discussion of the term ‘la mystique’ and the fundamental change it represents in Western approaches to the sacred. Incorporates semiotics, linguistics and psychoanalytic theory.)

  • Daodejing (c. 350–250), trans. D.C. Lau, Tao Te Ching, Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1963.

    (This popular work is traditionally – although now controversially – ascribed to the sage Laozi.)

  • Dasgupta, S. (1927) Hindu Mysticism, New York: Unger.

    (Dated but useful overview of the subject, first presented as six lectures at Northwestern University.)

  • Dumoulin, H. (1988–90) Zen Buddhism: A History, New York: Macmillan, 2 vols.

    (Widely regarded as the standard work on the history of Zen, now greatly amplified and updated.)

  • Dupré, L. (1987) ‘Mysticism’, in M. Eliade (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Religion, New York: Macmillan.

    (Useful survey of the nature and history of mysticism, organized according to its own distinctive typology.)

  • Eliade, M. (1964) Shamanism, London: Routledge.

    (Shows links between elements of shamanism and mysticism.)

  • Freemantle, A. (1964) The Protestant Mystics, New York: New American Library.

    (A study of an important and neglected topic, but includes figures not ordinarily considered ‘mystical’.)

  • Inge, W.R. (1899) Christian Mysticism, London: Methuen.

    (Classic early survey, with famous appendix listing twenty-six definitions of ‘mysticism’ and ‘mystical theology’. Marred by author’s biases.)

  • Katz, S.T. (1978) Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, New York: Oxford University Press.

    (Important articles by Katz, Peter Moore and others criticizing the view that mysticism is ‘everywhere the same’, and stressing the role of mystics’ beliefs and expectations in shaping the very quality of their experience.)

  • Katz, S.T. (1983) Mysticism and Religious Traditions, New York: Oxford University Press.

    (Contributors further explore themes from the preceding anthology, arguing that mysticism can only be understood in the context of the particular religious and cultural traditions within which it occurs.)

  • Lewis, I.M. (1971) Ecstatic Religion, Baltimore, MD: Penguin.

    (A noted social anthropologist describes ‘mystical’ aspects of African spirit possession.)

  • Lossky, V. (1957) The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, Cambridge and London: James Clarke & Co.

    (Classic study of Orthodox mysticism.)

  • McGinn, B. (1991) The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism, vol. 1, The Foundations of Mysticism: Origins to the Fifth Century, New York: Crossroad.

    (This book, the first in a projected four-volume history, contains a long and valuable appendix on theological, philosophical, comparativist and psychological approaches to mysticism.)

  • Merlan, P. (1969) Monopsychism, Mysticism, Metaconsciousness: Problems of the Soul in the Neoaristotelian and Neoplatonic Tradition, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

    (Technical but rewarding discussion of the often overlooked or misinterpreted tradition of ‘rationalistic mysticism’ in the West.)

  • Otto, R. (1970) Mysticism East and West, New York: Macmillan.

    (Problematic but important comparison of Śaṅkara and Eckhart.)

  • Parrinder, G. (1976) Mysticism in the World’s Religions, New York: Oxford University Press.

    (Problematic in some of its positions, but contains useful material.)

  • Schimmel, A. (1975) Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

    (Standard work on Sufi mysticism.)

  • Scholem, G.G. (1946) Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, New York: Schocken.

    (Classic study of Jewish mystical traditions, but interprets ‘mystical’ more broadly than many other authors.)

  • Smart, N. (1967) ‘Mysticism, History of’, in P. Edwards (ed.) Encyclopedia of Philosophy, New York: Macmillan.

    (Excellent brief survey, somewhat coloured by Smart’s own views on the ‘common core’ of mystical experience.)

  • Smith, M. (1976) Way of the Mystics: The Early Christian Mystics and the Rise of the Sufis, London: Sheldon Press.

    (Popular work on the connections between Christian and Islamic mysticism.)

  • Spencer, S. (1963) Mysticism in World Religions, Baltimore, MD: Penguin.

    (A good introduction to the major mystical traditions.)

  • Stace, W.T. (1960) The Teachings of the Mystics, New York: New American Library.

    (Anthology of mystical writings from various religious traditions, with introductions presenting the author’s much discussed and disputed views on the nature and significance of mysticism.)

  • Upaniṣads (800–300), trans. P. Olivelle, Upaniṣads, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

    (A readable and accurate translation.)

  • Various authors (1933–95) Dictionnaire de spiritualité, Paris: Beauchesne, 21 vols.

    (Massive dictionary of major figures and themes in Christian spirituality.)

  • Voragine, Jacobus de (13th century) Legenda aurea, trans. W.G. Ryan, The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

    (One of the most popular and influential books of the Middle Ages.)

  • Wiseman, J.A. (1993) ‘Mysticism’, in M. Downey (ed.) The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

    (Brief survey with theological reflections upon the history of mysticism.)

  • Wiseman, J.A. (1970) Concordant Discord, Oxford: Clarendon.

    (The author’s Gifford Lectures contain further discussion of issues raised in the previous work.)

  • Woods, R. (1980) Understanding Mysticism, Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

    (Perhaps the best and most comprehensive anthology of notable articles on the nature of mysticism, its various forms in world religions, and its scientific, philosophical and theological appraisal.)

  • Zaehner, R.C. (1961) Mysticism: Sacred and Profane: An Inquiry into Some Varieties of Preternatural Experience, New York: Oxford University Press.

    (Influential study sharply differentiating three fundamental types of mysticism: panenhenic, monistic and theistic.)

Citing this article:
Payne, Steven. Bibliography. Mysticism, history of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K050-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2019 Routledge.

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