By Saeed Zarrabizadeh, University of Erfurt, Germany
Since the beginning of the modern studies about mysticism in the second half of the nineteenth century, defining the term !mysticism” has remained one of the controversial issues in this field, and different authors have been using the term to refer to different subjects.
Studying some major effective sources in the field of mysticism, this article surveys the modern definitions of mysticism and evaluates them according to their comprehensiveness. It also tries to clarify the different classifications of mysticism by using the dimensional definition of the term.
No word in our language, not even ‘Socialism’, has been employed more loosely than ‘Mysticism.’
Sometimes it is used as an equivalent for symbolism or allegorism, sometimes for theosophy or occult science; and sometimes it merely suggests the mental state of a dreamer, or vague and fantastic opinions about God and the world:
(William Ralph Inge, 1899)
There are almost as many definitions of the term ‘mysticism’ as there are writers on the subject.
(Gershom G. Scholem, 1941)
Mysticism continues to elude easy definition, and its nature and significance remain the subject of intense debate. The terms ‘mysticm’, ‘mystical, and ‘mysticism’ have been used in an astonishing variety of ways by different authors in different eras.
(Steven Payne, 1998)
Even if we suppose Scholem’s statement about the quantity of definitions of ‘mysticism’ as an exaggeration, we can’t disagree with the fact that mysticism continues to escape a definition unanimously accepted by at least the majority of scholars.
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