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The Roots of Christian Mysticism

A journey through the formation of Christian mysticism, with full credits for the Heretics, Gnostics and Pagans.

What are the difficulties in describing the indescribable, in knowing the unknowable, and in claiming first-hand knowledge that your religious institution might not approve of? Find out how one religion addressed these paradoxes. Tonight, Jonathan Hill takes us on a journey through the formation of Christian mysticism, as it struggled towards a place of acceptability, despite its inherent dangers and un-christian roots. The site of the ideas in the talk is the Mediterranean in the first centuries after Christ, and our speaker first shows us the influences upon Christians provided by the pagans, by the Jews and (deep breath!) the Gnostics. We are taken through the developments in Christian mysticism in Alexandria, before turning to very different ideas that were being worked out by the thinkers in the mountains of Cappadocia amongst the Arian heretics. Jonathan concludes his talk with the synthesis of Christian mysticism provided by Pseudo-Dionysius, where some of the paradoxes of mysticism seem to be satisfactorily resolved. Or are they?

This a lecture of ideas about spiritual experience, and will provide rich food for thought for people from any tradition. If you are interested in ways of interpreting mystical or magical experience, you will find much to learn from what the Christians struggled with in their early days. The discussion after the talk will encourage comparisons from modern traditions such as Thelema, Wicca, Sufism, Western Mysteries and other paths to which members of the audience may belong.

Jonathan Hill is a lively and gifted speaker with a fondness for making “big questions” of religion and mysticism accessible to the non-specialist. He is the author of five books focusing on church history and theology. He studied philosophy and theology as an undergraduate at Oxford, from where he also received an M.Phil. in theology (writing on Gregory of Nyssa). After several years in “the real world” of publishing and broadcasting, he escaped again and is now finishing a Ph.D. in philosophy from Singapore, his dissertation being on Leibniz. Jonathan's books can be found at www.lionhudson.com.


Dr Jonathan Hill | talks


Date and Time:

27 March 2008 at 7:15 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



Treadwell's Books
33 Store Street
020 7419 8507

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