Christian mysticism in ancient Africa

Christian mysticism in ancient Africa took form in the desert, as part of a long-reaching Judeo-Christian mystical tradition. In the Judeo-Christian mystical tradition, the desert is known to induce religious experiences and altered states of consciousness.[1][2][3]

The first signs of Christian mysticism in Africa followed the teachings of Montanus in the late 2nd century. Followers of Montanus, called Montanists, induced ecstatic experiences out of which they would prophesy. Usually the prophecies were spoken in an unknown language.

In the mid- to late 3rd century, the deserts of northern Africa became home to a deeply devout group known as the Desert Fathers or Desert People. These individuals were highly influenced by the intellectual components of Coptic Christianity. They led quiet lives and communicated the Gospel with those whom they traded with. Their movement became the template of Western eremitism and monasticism. The architect of the template was Saint Anthony, the foundational Desert Father.[1][4][5]


The Montanists, whose presence dates back to 179, headed a social, mystical, and prophetic movement that highly influenced Christian mysticism. Beginning in Asia Minor, Montanus' teachings spread through much of Europe and Africa. Foundational to Montanus' teachings was the concept that a human being could be no more than a lyre which the Divine strummed. When in a state of ecstasy, humans were believed to be able to channel messages from God. Montanism was firmest in North Africa and Asia Minor, though it was considered heretical by the majority of Christians. Presently, many Montanistic elements are foundational for many self-identified Christian denominations, but are generally considered heterodox at best or heretical by more orthodox groups.[6][7][8]

Other Languages