For most people, mysticism is well defined and complete. Some might view the mystic practices as a path that brings them closer to the creator. Others might see mysticism as heterodox. We know that mysticism is a spiritual journey that transcends all worldly knowledge, but what we don’t realize is that there exists a notion about mysticism that is completely false or as I like to call it “Mystic Myths Men Believe”. What are these myths and how have they come about? Let’s try to cover the facts in this blog.
Among the many myths that exist, the most common is that mysticism is solely the experience of Islam. While Sufism is an important proponent of mysticism, that does not mean Sufism is mysticism or mysticism is Sufism. We have several other forms of mysticism that have been in practice for a long time. Even though they might not be very popular now, we cannot negate their influence.
Gnosticism is a system of belief that emphasizes personal spiritual growth rather than following the ordinary traditions and teachings. It was popular among the early Christians and Jews. Gnosticism started in the 1st century and expanded to the peak of its influence in the 2nd century. People who followed Gnosticism took a down to earth approach to this world. They believed that salvation is the direct knowledge of God through mystical insight. But they were faced with heavy criticism by the early Christians because they believed that Gnostics undermined the basic structure of Christianity.
Manichaeism is another example, the belief that this world is full of evil and pain, that this world is only a path to a life where there is no place for evil. Manichaeism originated in the 3rd century AD in Persia and was founded by the prophet Mani. Manichaeism was very popular between the 3rd and 7th century. They believed that the world, soul, and the human race are the byproducts of the battles God faced with the inner devil (evil). Manichaeism also believes that earlier revelations were limited and from the start they pursued a strong missionary activity so that they could spread their wings to other parts of the world. Teachings of Manichaeism were also translated into other languages.
If we look closely, both Gnosticism and Manichaeism were popular in their time and age just like Sufism is today. So, to say that Sufism is the only proponent of mysticism would be completely wrong. With time, mysticism has evolved and taken different shades from its proponents just to compensate for the changing world. However, the basis remains the same, peace and humanity above all.