What Is Mystical Theology?
Mystical theology can refer to either fairly general concepts within religious studies or to the study of one specific aspect of Christian theology. In general terms, this type of theology relates to the study of the mystical or that which cannot be easily explained or understood as it relates to religion. As a more specific term, mystical theology can refer to a particular idea within Christian religious study that involves the ascent of the human soul to the Christian God. This idea was largely developed and expanded upon in the medieval era and involves an understanding of ideas that cannot easily be explained.
As a basic concept, mystical theology refers to the study of religious ideas that involve those things that are not easily expressed or explained. This is in contrast to some other types of theology that may refer to more specific and concrete aspects of a religion, such as its basic rules or creation story. The mystical components of a religion are typically those that are harder to understand or believe for someone outside of that religion. This makes mystical theology a field of study that often requires a great deal of open-mindedness and a willingness to consider ideas that may seem farfetched or impossible.
In a more specific sense, mystical theology can refer to the study of one particular aspect of Christian belief systems. This aspect is the exploration of ways in which the human soul or consciousness can come closer to the Christian God. One of the simplest ways in which many Christians attempt to create this closeness is through prayer to or contemplation of God. In studying mystical theology, this type of contemplation is explored as a process by which a person is able to move beyond his or her own physical and spiritual limitations and come closer to the Christian deity.
Many of the ideas explored in this type of mystical theology come from medieval scholars, philosophers, and theologians. The works of one individual in particular, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, established some of the groundwork for this type of mystical exploration of Christian belief. His work titled Mystical Theology is a seminal treatise on how someone can utilize prayer and contemplation to move beyond ignorance and come closer to the God of Christianity. This type of theology was heavily influenced by the works of Roman philosophers, especially the neo-Platonic philosophers, and their explorations of “good” and how someone can come to know it.
I'm not surprised that more people aren't into mystical theology. I've found that in most religions, the vast majority of adherents don't delve that deep into the theology. Most people are just happy to go to church on Sunday, do what their religious leaders tell them to do, and call it a day.
I think mystical theology probably appeals to people that are curious and want to actually experience a bit more of their religion.
@Monika - I think attitudes about the kind of thing really vary by denomination. I have a friend who is a Unitarian Universalist, and she uses meditation and prayer to experience the divine. However, I also know people that would consider the whole idea kind of ridiculous.
Anyway, mystical theology kind of reminds me of Christian Gnosticism. I read a book about the Gnostic gospels awhile ago, and from what I remember, they place a lot of emphasis on experiencing the divine, and even becoming divine yourself. Now that idea might be a bit far fetched for contemporary Christians who practice mystical theology!
The idea of mystical theology is very interesting, but I never really hear people talk about it. Most of the Christians I know are more interesting in being "saved" and "saving" others, rather than having a mystical experience and being closer to god.
Honestly most people I know would probably consider the whole idea to be a little strange. For them, Christianity is more about faith and belief than experience.
I'm actually a little surprised this idea originated in the medieval era, because it sounds like it could be considered quite blasphemous.
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