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The origins of mysticism in Western tradition lie essentially in Neoplatonism, a philosophy that took shape in the later Roman Empire. This movement was then "Christianised" by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and pursued in the Middle Ages by the founders of the Franciscan, Cistercian and Dominican orders - Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Dominic. Several mystical movements developed throughout the history of the Church and very diverse personalities have shared with us their personal experiences of intimate unions with God: for some of them, such as Saint Thérèse, the experience came more through love than knowledge and for others such as Saint Bernard it came through self-knowledge and for Saint Francis through self-sacrifice. The routes taken on these spiritual journeys were always individual but they were all based on the desire to establish a direct relationship between man and a higher being: God, to be precise.
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