Last month's Third Annual Sacred Leaves Graduate Symposium and Keynote Address, Feb. 19-20, 2009 (see schedule below) was a fine success, with scholars representing five countries at the two day event. Among the salient ideas that emerged during the event about mysticism in the medieval period, I offer the following:
*Mystical encounter was experienced by groups as well as individuals;
*Mystical experience was expressed in art forms, including painting, architecture, song, poetry, narrative and dance;
*Mystics were sometimes marginalized from institutional authority, and were powerful holy men/women seen as a threat to the fabric of society;
*An emphasis on direct knowledge of God was manifest across Judaism, Christianity and Islam;
*Christianity embraced suffering in imitation of Christ as a mystical way;
*The Hebrew Psalms and Song of Songs emphasize a divine love written in nature and its fertile beauty;
*Michael Sells defines the "eroticism" of mysticism as a move beyond the confines of the body.