REL 3432: Roots of Western Mysticism
Final Exam
Due Monday, Dec. 5, 2011 at 7 p.m.

This is a take-home exam. It is worth 30% of the final grade. Please write your name and student number on the first page of your responses. All answers should be typed and in paragraph form (that is, no point form answers). Aim for about 400-500 words in each answer. Please answer a total of four questions. All questions will have equal weight.

Part One: Everyone do both of these questions

1. Define the following terms/ideas, using examples: Apophasis; Nature mysticism; Merkavah; Anchorite; Love mysticism; Detachment; Kabbalah

2. Formulate a response to at least three of the points in "Why Studying Mysticism is a Really Bad Idea" ( can argue that some or all of the statements are misguided, or that some or all are basically correct. The important thing is to provide reasoning with appropriate evidence. The answer will be judged on the quality of the argument and the use of course material.

Part Two: Do two of the following questions

3. The image below has something to do with mysticism. Explain what this refers to, and give examples of mystics who would basically adhere to the version of mysticism represented here, and mystics who would not.


4. William James' definition of mysticism includes the following elements:

  1. ineffability - mysticism cannot be described.
  2. a noetic quality - experience of gaining knowledge.
  3. transiency - it does not last long.
  4. passivity - it simply happens to the experiencer.

Is this an adequate definition of mysticism? Do you think it works for the following people we looked at in class: Augustine, Hildegard, Mechthild, Eckhart, Boehme. Is there a definition that would work better, and if so, why?

5. Christian Mysticism outlines four different contemporary approaches to mystical experience. What are they and how do they differ from each other? How would each approach John of the Cross’ poem that serves as the basis for Dark Night of the Soul?

6. How does mysticism contribute to the development of the concept of the individual? Compare Eckhart, Boehme, and John of the Cross on this issue.