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Greek Philosophy and Early Christian Mystics

General data

Course ID: WT-DTE-WGPC Erasmus code / ISCED: 08.2 / (unknown)
Course title: Greek Philosophy and Early Christian Mystics Name in Polish: Greek Philosophy and Early Christian Mystics
Department: Institute of General Theology
Course groups: Courses at UKSW
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ECTS credit allocation (and other scores): (not available)
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Language: English
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Learning outcome code/codes:

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Short description:

This course attempts to present main mystical doctrines of Greek Philosophy and Early Christian conceptions of how man can gain the unity with God. It also presents the doctrines of the stages of mystical life in various authors and their conceptions of ecstasy.

Full description:

- What is mysticism - introductory lecture.

- Allegory of the Cave – vision of ideal forms as a goal of philosophy in Plato.

- Philo of Alexandria – first approach to philosophy as a path to union with God.

- The Soul and the One – the turn towards the within in Plotinus.Notion of ecstasy in Plotinus as a peak of mystical experience.

- Role of the rite and symbols in ascension to upper reality – Neoplatonism of Iamblichus and Proclus.

- Different anthropology – different concept of mystical life. Role of biblical notion of man in Christian way of understanding mystical life.

- Origen – union of the nous finding its true nature. Intellectual mysticism of light.

- Experience of God in darkness – notion of mysticism in Gregory of Nyssa.

- Monasticism and mysticism, role of Evagrius of Pontus.

- St. Augustine – ascent of the soul in search of the Truth.

- Denys the Areopagite – triple way to the Henosis.

- Legacy of early Christian Mysticism.


- A. Louth, The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition. From Plato to Denys, Oxford 2007.

- C. Osborne, Eros unveiled. Plato and the God of Love, Oxford 1994.

- Mauro Bonazzi, Towards Transcendence: Philo and the Renewal of Platonism in the Early Imperial Age, in: Philo of Alexandria and Post-Aristotelian Philosophy, ed. Fr, Alesse, Leiden 2008, 233-251.

- Gregory Shaw, Theurgy and the Soul, The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus, Pennsylvania 1995.

- C. Steel, The Changing Self. A study on the soul in later Neoplatonism, Iamblichus, Damascius and Priscianus, Brussels 1978.

- J.M. Rist , Back to the Mysticism of Plotinus, (Man, Soul and Body. Essays in Ancient Thought from Plato to Dionysius, Norfolk 1996, p. 183-197).

- N.Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition, Oxford 2004.

- J.M. Rist , Pseudo-Dionysius, Neoplatonism and the weakness of the soul, (Man, Soul and Body. Essays in Ancient Thought from Plato to Dionysius, Norfolk 1996, p. 135-161).

- S.K. Wear, J. Dillon, Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonic Tradition: Despoiling the Hellens, Ashgate 2007.

- J.P. Kenney, The Mysticism of Saint Augustine. Rereading the Confessions, New York – London, 2005.

Learning outcomes:

KNOWLEDGE: Student knows the fundamental figures of Greek and Early Christian mysticism. Student knows various definitions of mysticism and knows the difference between essentialistic and empiristic mysticism. Student knows the stages of mystical life, purification, enlightenment and union with God in the thought of presented authors.

ABILITIES: Student can refer critically impact of Greek philosophy to the Early Christian Thought. He can show the importance of discussion of vital topics of the meaning of human life and the role of mystical union in gaining happiness. Student understands the limits of human nature and constant struggle of man to achieve the union with ultimate being. Student can discuss about the similarities and contradictions in concepts of mystical life of different authors.

Assessment methods and assessment criteria:


-3 student knows basic Greek and Christian mystical writers of antiquity, and can present briefly their concept of Mystical Life.

-4 student knows the different conceptions of mysticism differences and similarities between them.

-5 student knows the stages of mystical life, and knows the conceptions of ultimate union with God (purification, enlightenment and union/ecstasy).


-3 Students can discuss on the role of mysticism in daily life.

-4 Student can argue on the importance on the problem of finding the ultimate satisfaction and happiness in human life.

-5 Student can interpret the presence of mysticism in contemporary culture importance of mysticism for a contemporary man.


Short essay on paper on the mysticism of Greek or Christian author, chosen by the student. Topic might present the thought of chosen author or be the comparison of the related problems found in Greek and early Christian mysticism.

This course is not currently offered.
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