Essential Readings in Traditional and Contemporary Mystical Literature

Seasoned students of comparative mysticism will be familiar with many of the following titles. For newer spiritual aspirants, this list will serve as a basic introduction to more than sixty selected classics and recommended texts on mysticism. This list is periodically updated. In addition, we have provided links to books that are in the Public Domain and available online (except where noted).

Our emphasis is on practical rather than theoretical knowledge. While books can be valuable tools for the serious aspirant, they are no substitute for spiritual practice. It is useful to remember what Jesus declared: “The kingdom of God is found within you” (Lk. 17:21).

Comparative Mysticism and World Religions

-F. C. Happold, Mysticism: A Study and an Anthology

-Philip Novak, The World’s Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World’s Religions

-Huston Smith, The World’s Religions

-Walter T. Stace, The Teachings of the Mystics

-Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism [emphasizes Roman Catholic saints]

Buddhism – General

Buddha – 1

-William Theodore de Bary (ed.), The Buddhist Tradition in India, China and Japan

-Christmas Humphries (ed.), The Wisdom of Buddhism

Buddhism – Theravada

-Narada Mahathera, Buddhism in a Nutshell

-Nyanaponika Thera, The Power of Mindfulness

-Nyanatiloka Mahathera, The Word of the Buddha

-Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught

-U Silananda, The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Buddhism – Tibetan

-The 14th Dalai Lama, Kindness, Clarity, and Insight

-Dilgo Khyentse, Enlightened Courage

-Lama Yeshe, Introduction to Tantra

Buddhism – Zen

-William Barrett (ed.), Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings of D. T. Suzuki

-John Blofeld (trans.), The Zen Teaching of Huang Po on the Transmission of Mind

-Richard B. Clarke (trans.), Hsin Hsin Ming – Faith in the Ultimate Reality, by the Third Zen Patriarch

-Thomas Hoover, The Zen Experience

-Red Pine (trans.), The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

-Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Christianity – General

Christ’s Baptism – 2

-The New International Version, The New Testament

-Gerald Heard, The Creed of Christ (not in public domain; disclosure: The Barrie Family Trust administers the Gerald Heard Estate)

-Henry Koestline, What Jesus Said About It

Christianity – Orthodox

-R. M. French (trans.), The Way of the Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way

-Timothy Ware (ed.), The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology

Christianity – Protestant

-Joseph D. Driskill, Protestant Spiritual Exercises

-Peter Erb (trans.), True Christianity, by Johann Arndt

Christianity – Roman Catholic

-John Beevers (trans.), Abandonment to Divine Providence, by John-Pierre de Caussade (Public Domain version)

-John J. Delaney (trans.), The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence (Public Domain version)

-William Johnston (trans.), The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counseling

-Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (trans.), The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross

-E. Allison Peers (trans.), Interior Castle, by St. Teresa of Avila

-H. A. Reinhold (ed.), The Soul Afire: Revelations of the Mystics

-Leo Sherley-Price (trans.), The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A’ Kempis

Hinduism – Vaishnavism

Krishna with flute – 3

-Swami Paramananda (trans.), Srimad Bhagavad Gita

-Swami Tapasyananda (trans.), Srimad Bhagavad Gita

Hinduism – Vedanta

-Swami Adishwarananda, The Vedanta Way to Peace and Happiness

-Swami Nikhilananda (trans.), Self-Knowledge, by Shankara

-Swami Nikhilananda (trans.), The Upanishads [one-volume abridged edition]

-H. P. Shastri (trans.), World Within the Mind [extracts from the Yoga-Vasishtha]

Hinduism – Yoga & Meditation

-Swami Adishwarananda, Meditation & Its Practices

-Swami Paramananda, Concentration and Meditation

-Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood (trans.), How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali

Hinduism – Modern Teachers

-David Godman (ed.), Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

-M. N. Gupta (trans.), The Condensed Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

-Sri Ramakrishna Math (ed.), Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna

Menorah – 4

Judaism – General & Hasidism

-Arthur Green and Barry W. Holtz (trans.), Your Word is Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer

-Louis Jacobs (ed.), The Jewish Mystics

Judaism – Renewal

-Avram Davis, The Way of Flame: A Guide to the Forgotten Mystical Tradition of Jewish Meditation

-Aryeh Kaplan, Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide

Sufism – General & Anthologies

-Nahid Angha, Principles of Sufism

-Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Sufi Essays

-Reynold A. Nicholson, The Mystics of Islam

Sufi – 5

-Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam

-Margaret Smith (trans.), Readings from the Mystics of Islam

-Mir Valiuddin, Contemplative Disciplines in Sufism

Sufism – Mystics

-William C. Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson, Divine Flashes, by Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi

-Victor Danner (trans.), The Book of Wisdom, by Ibn ‘Ata’illah, combined with Wheeler M. Thackston (trans.), Intimate Conversations, by Ansari

-Paul Jackson, S.J. (trans.), The Hundred Letters, by Sharafuddin Maneri

-K. Khosla, The Sufism of Rumi

-Barbara R. Von Schlegell (trans.), Principles of Sufism, by Qushayri


-John Blofeld, The Secret and Sublime: Taoist Mysteries and Magic

-Jane English and Gia-Fu Feng (trans.), Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu

Contemporary Mystical Literature

-Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism

-Gerald Heard, Training for the Life of the Spirit (not in public domain; disclosure: The Barrie Family Trust administers the Gerald Heard Estate)

-Lee M. Hollander (trans.), Selections from the Writings of Kierkegaard

-Elizabeth M. G. Krajewski’s blog, Notes from the Hermitage

-Anne C. Steinemann, Love is Like the Universe

Contemporary Academic Religious and Mystical Studies

-Francis X. Clooney, Comparative Theology

-June McDaniel, Lost Ecstasy: Its Decline and Transformation in Religion

  1. Buddha sculpture (brightened from original), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
  2. Christ’s Baptism painting, Public domain, {{PD-US-expired}}, via Wikimedia Commons.
  3. Krishna with flute, Freer Gallery of Art, Public domain, licensed under CC0 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons. / Cropped from original.
  4. Menorah image, Bibliotheque Nationale of France in Paris; now in Public domain as shown here, licensed under CC by SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. / Cropped and brightened from original.
  5. Sufi image, Metropolitan Museum of Art, licensed under CC0 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons. / Cropped, flipped, and brightened from original.

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