SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Mysticism in the Great Traditions

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Full Year

The purpose of this course is first, to introduce the main theoretical positions and considerations that fall within the loose and generalised concept of mysticism. 

Secondly, the course is intended to introduce the way that the ‘mystical’ is handled in each of the major religious traditions. This is presented by way of lectures given by specialists in the various traditions. 

Also focusing on two central questions:

  • to what extent are mystical traditions similar or comparable to one another and which ways do they differ
  • to what extent can a non-initiate understand mysticism which aspects can be studied, which merely guessed at , and what implications does this have for our use of ( primary or secondary) sources

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course, a student will:

  • have acquired a basic knowledge of mysticism in different traditions
  • have acquired an understanding of different theoretical approaches to mysticism
  • be able to critically evaluate and apply these theoretical approaches to the study of mysticism
  • be able to research independently combining the theoretical reflection with the study of mysticism in a chosen tradition
  • be able to produce two substantial written essays reflecting critical thinking on both theory of mysticism and a chosen mystic tradition

Scope and syllabus

The weeks divided on these subjects:

  • Introductory and Methodological
  • Sufism (PGK)
  • Christian Spirituality and Mysticism
  • Mysticism in Judaism
  • Zoroastrianism
  • Huinduism
  • Buddhism
  • Taoism
  • Mysticism in the West in the late 20th century

Method of assessment

  • 2 essays (5,000 words each) (50% each).

Suggested reading

  • Weightman, SRC(2000) Mysticism and the Metaphor of Energies, The 24th Louis Jordan Lectures in Comparative Religions, SOAS.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules