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Mysticism in African Thought

Cosmology And Interaction, Indigenous Religions Compared With Christianity And Islam, Bibliography

The term mysticism typically denotes a complex of beliefs and practices related to the personal experience of the divine. Much, although not all, mystical thought and practice derives from or draws upon formal religious doctrines, emphasizing reflective, introspective, and meditative practices as the keys to cultivating perception and awareness that will ultimately lead to knowledge of and communion with the divine.

When one turns to mysticism in African thought, and specifically to the mystical tenets extant in indigenous religious beliefs and practices, the common Western definition is necessarily altered. Mysticism continues to describe the realm of interaction between humanity and the divine or supernatural, but owing to the prevailing nature of indigenous African belief systems, the orientation and manifestations of mystical practices are of a different character. The orientation is social and utilitarian, and the manifestations occur within the structure of indigenous rites; mystical practices aim to fulfill needs in society, and they do not exist as a separate body of practices. This reflects the general African cosmology and understanding of arenas of interaction between humanity and the divine or supernatural.

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