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Types of Mysticism: Modalities, Traditions, and Practices

Mysticism is the spiritual practice that guides you as you connect with the divine. Mysticism involves a transformation or transcendence beyond ordinary human perception. A mystical person derives meaning from subjective experiences and seeks to unlock the mysteries of their unconscious self.

Mystic Modalities
An overview of popular types of mystic modalities.

Mysticism is characterized by an array of pathways that reflect individual cultures and traditional beliefs and the amalgamation of those systems into cohesive practices. For example, Sufism is an Islamic belief system focusing on love.

Mysticism is often misunderstood or oversimplified. Mystics want to have a personal journey of transformation and self-realization. The beliefs are not simply about esoteric practices or abstract philosophies. However, their beliefs don’t always conform to the boundaries of organized religion and typically represent a more individualistic and direct approach to spirituality.

Below, we explore the types of mystic belief systems, what it means to be a mystic, and explain what a mystical experience is.

What is mysticism?

Mysticism is a spiritual or religious practice that involves experiences with the divine to transcend the corporeal plane and achieve enlightenment. Mystics believe there is a plane beyond your 3D reality that eclipses a basic understanding of mystical elements, and they try to form a bridge between those planes.

Mysticism branches into two dichotomies, namely, new-age mysticism and traditional mysticism. The new-age branch of spirituality is a broad and eclectic movement that emerged in the latter half of the 20th century. It incorporates a mix of Eastern and Western spiritual traditions, such as holistic healing and astrology. Each person’s approach to new-age spirituality is individualistic.

Comparatively, the traditional mystic practices have established doctrines and organized structures. For example, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are all Abrahamic religions and feature the ritualistic act of prayer. To follow a traditional pathway requires you to uphold the established doctrines of your religion.

What are the major new-age modalities?

The major new-age modalities are spiritual beliefs and practices that blend ancient esoteric traditions with modern eclecticism. The general purpose of these modalities is to foster self-improvement through mindfulness, reflection, and alignment with universal forces. Some modalities (like astrology and tarot cards) contain an element of divination to gain insight and guidance, while others (like chakras and crystals) focus more on promoting healing and spiritual attunement. Modern mysticism isn’t always rooted in a formalized practicum, and may instead coalesce around popular fixations like angel numbers. Below, we explore the practices, tools, and goals of several popular types of new-age mysticism.

Types of mysticism infographic
This infographic defines several of the most popular modern mystic modalities.


Astrology is a belief system that draws unique connections between the movement and positions of celestial bodies and happenings on Earth. It guides you as you analyze your past and present and helps you gain insights about your future. You can study your astrological profile to gain deeper insight into your strengths, challenges, and life path by creating a natal or birth chart from the planetary alignment at birth.

Three prominent astrology practices are based on Western, Vedic, and Chinese philosophies. Western uses the tropical zodiac and divides the celestial sphere into 12 signs based on the Earth’s seasons. It uses horoscopes crafted from the positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets at birth.

Vedic astrology originated in India and uses the sidereal zodiac. It incorporates lunar mansions (nakshatras) and planetary periods (dashes) to provide spiritual guidance. Meanwhile, Chinese astrology is based on a 12-year cycle where each year is associated with an animal sign. You can use it for personality analysis, compatibility assessments, and analyzing life events.


Numerology is a branch of mysticism that purports that the numbers 1-9, 11, 22, and 33 have a distinct energetic profile. Numerology helps you examine the numerical values associated with names, dates, and other elements to better understand the unseen forces and patterns influencing your life.

Your individual numerology profile explains your life purpose, personality, and karmic lessons. The numbers that make up your profile are found by reducing equations based on your date of birth or an alphanumeric code from your name. Continue until you reach a single-digit, or 11, 22, or 33. Each combination of name or birthdate will give a separate pathway for self-actualization exploration.

Angel numbers

Angel numbers are repeating sequences that convey a specific message from your guardian angels. Each angel number is associated with a unique meaning or message practitioners seek to interpret and understand. They contain a specific spiritual vibration with a meaning that depends upon repetitive, sequential, palindromic, or double numbers.

An example of angel numbers in daily mystical practices includes seeing the number sequence 111. The repeating 111 signifies a new start, such as embarking on a new endeavor, and you’re encouraged to focus on connecting with that transformative moment to manifest your desired outcome.

Two variations for interpreting angel numbers yield a holistic answer to celestial happenings: numerology and intuition. A numerological approach reduces the digits in an angel number sequence to observe a single digit or master number. Conversely, you can interpret a personal combination as any three to four-digit number that draws your attention.


Tarot is an ancient divination practice using a deck of spiritual cards for self-reflection and future insight. A tarot deck has 78 cards that are divided into two categories. There is the Major Arcana with 22 cards and the Minor Arcana with 56. Each card in a tarot deck carries symbolic imagery and has archetypal meanings. Your tarot reading is a way to clarify life situations and explore spirituality.

Tarot readings require shuffling a deck and drawing cards in a previously chosen layout or tarot spread. Each position has a specific meaning and is interpreted based on the positioning and layout. This gives you a unique perspective because each shuffle and draw produces new results.


Birthstones are crystals or gemstones that correlate to the 12 months of the year. Wearing a birthstone represents the month you were born and offers you benefits, such as protection or an enhanced connection to the divine. For example, July’s birthstone is the ruby and reflects the passion of its vibrant red hues. Rubies bring vitality and strength by reminding you to uphold your well-being.

Birthstones align with your chakras to regulate and facilitate energy flow through these centers. This enhances your spirituality by allowing you to focus on relaxing those pressure points. These meditation practices promote self-discovery and enlighten your life’s purpose so you can feel connected to your inner self.

Twin flames and soulmates

Twin flames and soulmates are people with whom you have deep spiritual bonds. Such bonds transgress physical or intellectual bonds as our souls are intertwined, having shared previous lifetimes together.

A twin flame connection is when one soul is split into two bodies. The twin flame is a mirror or reflection of who you truly are inside. The connection is difficult and should serve as a stepping stone to a more well-rounded idea of the inner workings of your psyche. For example, seeing your twin flame react to a situation is a chance to assess your reactions to negative or positive stimuli and ultimately grow.

Conversely, your soulmate is someone you share a connection with that is predestined by fate. A soulmate connection feels like you’ve always known the person, and you can effortlessly interact and form a relationship. Soulmates won’t always turn to love but frequently take a romantic turn because of the emotional connection you feel.

Dream interpretation

Dream interpretation is a mystical practice that assigns meaning to dreams in an effort to understand their purpose. There are many perspectives of dreams, such as Freudian, Jungian, and spiritual or metaphysical. Each interpretation elucidates your dreams and seeks to guide you toward spiritual enlightenment.

Freud believed that the subconscious mind reveals itself through dreams. His beliefs explain dreams as a significant passage into your thoughts, feelings, and latent desires. Carl Jung’s interpretations describe the role of archetypal symbols as a recurring theme in your life. He thought that whatever truths you can’t see in reality will be announced in your dreams. Meanwhile, a spiritual approach to dream interpretation incorporates lucid dreaming techniques or dream incubation to receive guidance.


Chakras are energy wheels based on a traditional Hindu system that ranges from the root (Muladhara) to the crown (Sahasrara) of your body. Chakras are located along the spine and are tied to physical and metaphysical functions.

Beyond the Hindu chakra system, there are Buddhist and new-age practices. Buddhist traditions focus on a system of five chakras, highlighting the central channel, Sushumna. Meanwhile, new-age spirituality extends this concept to twelve chakras, including higher spiritual dimensions and cosmic consciousness.

You should meditate to understand your chakras and enhance your spirituality, consciousness, and vitality. Recognizing the body as a reflection of the universe highlights the interconnectedness of everything. Properly balanced and functioning chakras are crucial for improving quality of life and fostering self-worth.

Crystals and gems

Crystals and gems possess unique energies, frequencies, and vibrations that influence your spiritual well-being. You can utilize crystals for mystical healing practices and to amplify or channel energy.

Each stone has a specific function and correlation to your spiritual center to help you balance, align, and activate metaphysical energy. Utilizing gemstones and crystals in your manifestation rituals or wearing the stones gives you a focal point to center your thoughts.

Crystals such as selenite and labradorite purify and enhance mystical practices. For example, selenite is a purifying and protective crystal. Its primary use is meditation and connecting with higher realms. Meanwhile, the labradorite’s iridescence reflects the enhanced intuition and psychic abilities it provides you with.

What are the different types of traditional mysticism?

Traditional mysticism refers to the mystical practices, experiences, and teachings passed down through religious and spiritual traditions over generations. It involves a direct, personal experience of a divine or transcendent reality and a transformation of consciousness.

Traditional mysticism is deeply rooted in religious and cultural contexts, characterized by specific doctrines and ethical teachings. Below, we examine six different types of traditional mysticism.


Islamic mysticism refers to a spiritual and contemplative dimension of the faith known as Sufism. Sufism explores Islam’s inner aspects, seeking spiritual closeness to the Divine through practices like Dhikr (repetitive remembrance of Allah), Sama (using music, poetry, and dance for spiritual states), Muraqaba (meditation for higher consciousness), Tawassul (invoking revered individuals’ spiritual influence), and Fana and Baqa (ego annihilation and subsistence in God).

Various Sufi orders like Qadiriyya, Naqshbandiyya, Chishtiyya, Mevlevi (Whirling Dervishes), Tijaniyya, and Rifa’iyya represent diverse approaches to Islamic mysticism. Each order has its unique practices and teachings but shares the common goal of spiritual closeness to Allah and the transformative journey toward self-realization and divine unity.


Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah, involves ecstatic, contemplative, and esoteric experiences. The first is the ecstatic, the quest for God through intense emotional experiences and altered states of consciousness. The second type is contemplative, in which the individual seeks to deepen their communion with God through introspection, prayer, and visualization.

The third form of Jewish mysticism is the esoteric, which focuses on the link between the self and the divine, with a theory akin to Hellenistic gnosis. These three subsets of Jewish mysticism overlap; however, they all draw upon the Torah for their teachings. Kabbalistic thought endeavors to uncover the hidden, esoteric meanings behind the sacred texts and explore the nature of God, the universe, and the soul.

Common Kabbalistic practices include Torah study, Kavanah (mindfulness), and Nigunim ( wordless melodies) used to elevate the soul. More intense practices involve fasting and asceticism for bodily and spiritual purification. Additionally, shiviti, visual representations of the Tetragrammaton, aid in meditation.


Christian mysticism is a spiritual tradition within Christianity that emphasizes the pursuit of a direct, intimate experience with God. Mystics within the Christian tradition seek to go beyond intellectual understanding and doctrinal knowledge for a personal encounter that transcends ordinary human experience.

Christian mystic practices involve contemplative prayer and meditative reading of the Bible. They linger on memorable verses, such as the infamous ‘beatific vision of god’ described in John 3:2. Furthermore, they honor their spirituality with rituals like the Eucharist, a mystical experience that cultivates an intense personal bond with Christ.

Christian mysticism finds rich expression in the teachings of the Carmelites. As taught by St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Ávila, Carmelite mysticism emphasized the “night of the soul” as a purifying path to union with God through deep contemplation, illustrating the diverse pathways to spiritual connection within Christian mystical tradition.


Hindu mysticism focuses on the union of the self with a divine power greater than oneself, referred to as Brahman. This mysticism encompasses many practices, including meditation, yoga, devotion (bhakti), and exploring inner consciousness. It is rooted in Hinduism’s diverse philosophical and religious traditions for a unique approach and experience.

There are 8 Hindu philosophies, with three prominent ones being Vedanta, Bhakti, and Samkhya. Vedanta is a Hindu philosophy that centers on interpreting the Vedas, the oldest sacred texts of Hinduism. Meanwhile, Bhakti is a devotional path within Hindu mysticism that reveres a personal deity. Bhakti philosophy endorses that expressing immense love and surrendering to the divine will spiritually liberate an individual. Finally, Samkhya is a philosophical system that delineates the principles of creation and existence. While primarily known as a dualistic system, Samkhya also explores the nature of the individual soul and its connection to the ultimate reality.


Buddhist mysticism is a spiritual practice that seeks to achieve deep understanding and experience the realities of sunyata. It focuses on dependent origination, the interconnectedness of all phenomena, and practices like mindfulness and self-awareness, which cultivate presence and non-attachment to material things, aiding in breaking free from the cycle of suffering or samsara.

Three rituals in Buddhist mysticism include vipassana, Zen meditation, and tonglen meditation. For example, vipassana meditation is to help you achieve insight into impermanence. Zen meditation with koans is for a direct understanding of reality. Meanwhile, tonglen meditation is for compassion and empathy.

Buddhist mysticism spans several branches, each with unique practices for spiritual insight and liberation. For example, Tibetan Buddhism incorporates practices like Vajrayana techniques for a profound transformation. Each type offers various methods for achieving insight and helping you grow your spirituality.


Taoist mysticism centers on the Tao, an indigenous Chinese philosophy representing the ultimate, ineffable principle uniting all existence. Taoist mystics seek to align themselves with the flow of Tao, recognizing the harmony and spontaneity inherent in the natural order.

Taoist mysticism incorporates practices like inner alchemy and qigong that work to balance the body’s and mind’s energies through breath control and visualization. Feng shui is the art of arranging living spaces to enhance energy flow. Tao philosophies branch into five schools of thought: Confucianism, Mohism, Yin-Yang, Legalism, and the School of Names. For example, Mohism favors universal love and ethical living. On the other hand, Legalism advocates for strong laws for social order.

What is a mystic?

A mystic seeks a direct or personal experience with the divine to uncover hidden truths in their unconscious reality. Mysticism is a path of self-discovery and spiritual awakening on which people unravel existential mysteries.

The spiritual teacher Kyle Gray defines a mystic as someone who bridges the divine and the physical through intuition. Gray says, “You are a mystic with the capacity to connect with energies that go beyond the human senses.” This perspective sheds light on the mystic’s role in deepening their consciousness to connect with the divine.

You can identify a mystic by their experiences with spiritual forces or mysticism. For example, mystics might practice dream rituals to bring them closer to their unconscious. Mystics embark on an inner journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening, which involves introspection or meditation. The introspection is a pathway for mystics to transcend the physical plane and become one with the metaphysical or divine. These practices are designed to quiet the mind to open the mystic to spiritual insights and revelations.

Who are famous mystics?

Below are five famous mystics.

  • Hildegard von Bingen: Hildegard van Bingen was a medieval mystic who significantly contributed to mysticism. Her work focused on transcendental experiences with God, which she expressed through music, art, and poetry.
  • Teresa of Ávila: Theresa of Ávila, or Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a 16th-century Spanish mystic and Carmelite nun. Her literary legacy includes “The Interior Castle,” which discusses the stages of the soul’s journey toward divine union.
  • Meister Eckhart: Meister Eckhart was a German Dominican friar and theologian from the 13th and 14th-century. Eckhart’s mysticism was based on direct experiences with God and the soul’s divine connection beyond the physical plane.
  • Carl Jung: Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst famous for researching personality formation and esoteric thought. Jung wouldn’t classify himself as a mystic, but his spiritual philosophies deeply influenced modern understanding of the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind.
  • Doreen Virtue: Doreen Virtue is an American author and former spiritual teacher who has renounced her New Age beliefs in favor of traditional Christianity. Although she no longer practices mysticism, Virtue is famous for her contribution because of her extensive study of angel numbers.

Why do people practice mysticism?

People engage in mysticism to deepen their understanding of existence and the cosmos. Mysticism offers a spiritual path distinct from organized religion, allowing individuals autonomy in exploring their spirituality. Prayer and contemplation are mystical practices that facilitate experiences and foster a closer connection with the divine aspects of life.

People often turn to mysticism as an alternative to organized religion. They may find it too rigid or limiting and seek out structures that highlight free expression or unrestrictive doctrines. This belief may coincide with the “spiritual but not religious” concept because of the expression of spirituality without the formal religious structure.

How do you practice mysticism?

Practicing mysticism involves a personal and adaptable approach tailored to individual spiritual needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all method, but common practices include meditation, contemplative prayer, and breath work, all aimed at aligning chakras and enhancing awareness.

Mysticism encompasses various traditions, such as Sufism in Islam. This religious practice uses poetry, music, and dance for spiritual development. Additionally, Kabbalah in Judaism focuses on mystical interpretations of Jewish texts and traditions. Meanwhile, Bhakti yoga in Hinduism emphasizes devotion and the sacredness of all things.

You can use tools like crystals or tarot cards to aid in mystical practices. For instance, crystals are believed to interact with different chakras and energies, while tarot cards provide insights for reflection.

To embrace mysticism, trust your intuition and let your practice evolve naturally. Focus on what feels meaningful and be open to modifying or developing new practices based on your experiences.

How do you become a mystic?

There isn’t a direct process to becoming a mystic because it’s a deeply personal system of beliefs. You must depart from a fixed identity and practice connecting the inner dimensions of your consciousness. While that looks different for each person, you can use the following four suggestions as guidance to experience a sense of oneness with the universe and trigger your journey toward a mystical identity.

  • Self-reflection: Understanding your thought processes and identifying what triggers unresolved emotional wounds are crucial. This helps overcome limiting beliefs about your identity, an important step in becoming a mystic.
  • Meditation: This practice helps to focus your mind and increase self-awareness. Being more attuned to your body facilitates a smoother flow of experiences, which is essential for connecting with the universe and opening your third eye.
  • Mindfulness: Being fully present at the moment, using all your senses, is a core mystic principle. It is believed to reduce anxiety and depression, creating room for kindness and virtue.
  • Surrendering: Mysticism teaches the importance of embracing all positive and negative emotions and surrendering to their causes. This act frees your soul from burdens it no longer needs to carry.

What is a mystical experience?

A mystical experience is a profound encounter with the divine or a transcendent reality, often characterized by an altered state of consciousness. This experience typically brings a deep connection, awe, and heightened awareness of spiritual truths. While mystical experiences are highly subjective and vary among individuals, they usually involve intense emotions, relief, clarity, or a sense of catharsis.

  • Passive: The passive stage is when you feel the experience is happening to you rather than you actively initiating the experience. You surrender agency and become a passive recipient of the mystical revelation.
  • Ineffable: An ineffable mystical experience cannot be put into words because the experience is so profound and immense. The inability to convey the complexity of a divine encounter is the ineffable aspect of the experience.
  • Noetic: Noetic is the term for an illuminating experience and the knowledge or insight you attain through the mystical experience. This knowledge is distinct from intellectual or rational understanding and is described as a direct apprehension of spiritual or transcendent truths.
  • Transient: Mystical encounters are always fleeting and temporary. They occur seemingly out of nowhere, leaving you with a newfound awareness and insight into your connection to the divine. Despite the brevity of a mystical experience, its impact is long-lasting and can permanently alter your beliefs.

How does a mystical experience compare to an altered state of consciousness?

A mystical experience is distinguishable from an altered state of consciousness because of the spiritual influence. A mystical or spiritual experience is perceived as a connection beyond your 3D reality. An altered state of consciousness can elicit the feeling of connecting with the divine, but the two experiences are not reliant on the other.

Three mystical philosophies compare mystical experiences to an altered state below.

  • William James: James sees mystical experiences as direct, personal encounters with the divine. He characterizes them by ineffability and insight and claims they differ from altered states of consciousness, which are shifts in perception often induced by prayer or substances.
  • Timothy Leary: Leary argues that mystical experiences are achieved through psychedelics, blurring the line with altered states, but critics view them as a deeper progression from such states, a claim without definitive proof.
  • Carl Jung: Jung believes mystical experiences connect the conscious with the unconscious and the universe, whereas altered states merely explore the subconscious.

What are the critiques of mysticism?

Below are four critiques of mysticism.

  • Lack of empirical evidence: The lack of empirical evidence to back up mystical claims keeps critics questioning the predominately sensory experiences. To further complicate matters, there isn’t a quantifiable litmus test for a mystical experience.
  • Lack of rational understanding: Mysticism is measured through emotional and intuitive experiences, which critics argue undermines its credibility. According to critiques, it lacks reason and logic and is frequently deemed a pseudoscience.
  • Kant’s phenomena and noumena: The German philosopher Immanuel Kant argues that mysticism only reaches phenomena, the perceptible aspects of reality, and not noumena, the metaphysical and unperceivable truths. For example, Kant’s beliefs contrasted with Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish theologian who claimed direct spiritual insights.
  • Ethical implications: Critics of mysticism conflate it with ethical relativism, where personal experiences are regarded as the ultimate guide for ethical decision-making. Accordingly, those critics feel mysticism leads to a lack of moral accountability or a failure to engage in ethical reasoning that considers the broader social context.