While 'mysticism' typically involves some experience in which the mystic attains a particular insight or understanding (whether through contemplation, prayer or immediate illumination), there is no acceptable comprehensive characterization of mysticism as such. This article will deal broadly with generally recognized varieties of mysticism and the ethical issues which emerge in their elaboration and criticism. The relations between ethics and mysticism vary across time, place and tradition. While this entry deals primarily with the relations between western philosophy and various Christian mystical traditions, nothing in the use of 'mysticism' presupposes any particular theory about the nature of mystics, their experience, or the object of that experience.

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Copyright © 1992 Garland Publishing. This article first appeared in Encyclopedia of Ethics.

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