Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, which reflects the standard volume of learning for a unit in a University qualification of this Australian Qualifications Framework type.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Graduates of programs in Church History and Spirituality should develop knowledge and skills in these disciplines and be able to reflect critically on the ways in which their personal development impacts upon their various roles. This unit explores the long history of contemplative practices in Western Christian Spirituality and their relevance to contemporary spiritual practices. The aim of this unit is for participants to have a sound, reflexive and critical understanding of mysticism as a phenomenon in Christian history.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 Articulate a detailed knowledge of the history, content and context of selected spiritual texts (GA8);

LO2 Analyse, critically interpret, research, and develop a sustained argument about the history of Christian contemplation (GA4; GA8);

LO3 Reflect critically on the history of contemplative practices in dialogue with contemporary theology and spirituality (GA4);

LO4 Synthesise the knowledge of spiritual authors from the past with personal experiences, values, and beliefs, and if applicable, one’s ministry as a spiritual director (GA4).

Graduate attributes

GA4 Think critically and reflectively 

GA8 Locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include:

  • Key biblical passages;
  • The early Church Fathers: Origen, Augustine of Hippo and Pseudo‐Dionysius;
  • Monastic traditions: St Benedict, early Carthusian writings, St Bernard of Clairvaux, Richard of St Victor, and St. Francis;
  • Spiritual authors of the High and Late Middle Ages who wrote in the vernacular: John of Ruusbroec, Meister Eckhart, Hadewijch, and the Modern Devotion;
  • Early Modern and Modern texts: the Carmelite spirituality of St John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

THSP601 will be delivered in multi-mode, that is, in various combinations of face to face and mediated learning environments, utilising strategies which may include:

  • Self-directed activities (such as completing scaffolded reading tasks or web-based exercises) which enable each student to build a detailed understanding of a topic;
  • Small-group tasks and activities (such as contributing to discussion forums or undertaking peer review) which enable students to test, critique, expand and evaluate their understandings;
  • Plenary seminars and webinars which enable students to link their understandings with larger frameworks of knowledge and alternative interpretations of ideas; 
  • Practical or fieldwork activities which enable students to rehearse skills necessary to the discipline and to be mentored in that practice;
  • Critically reflective activities (such as a guided Examen or private journal-writing) which assist students to learn reflexively, that is, to identify their affective responses to the learning and to integrate their learning with action.

The unit is delivered with the expectation that participants are adult learners, intrinsically motivated and prepared to reflect critically on issues as well as on their own learning and perspectives.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to complete all assessment tasks and achieve an overall minimum grade of pass. All assessment tasks are designed for students to show their achievement of each learning outcome and graduate attribute. They require students to demonstrate the nexus between their learning, dispositions, and spiritual practice, and the evidence on which this demonstration is based.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Critical reflection on the contribution of the spiritual writers studied to one’s personal spiritual development (3000-words). This task is designed to support students’ personal appropriation of different spiritual approaches and emphases.




Textual study (3000-words). This task is designed to assist students to integrate their understanding of the historical and spiritual material of the unit and consider its contemporary relevance.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA8

Representative texts and references

Boeve, Lieven, Yves de Maesseneer and Stijn van den Bossche, eds. Religious Experience and Contemporary Theological Epistemology. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 188. Leuven: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 2005.

Dupré, Louis, and Don E. Saliers, eds. Christian Spirituality: Post‐Reformation and Modern. New York: SCM, 1989.

Faesen, Rob. "What is a Mystical Experience? History and Interpretation." Louvain Studies 23 (1999): 221‐245.

McGrath, Alister E. Christian Spirituality: An Introduction. Blackwell: Oxford, 1999.

McGinn, Bernard, John Meyendorff, and Jean Leclerq, eds. Christian Spirituality. Origins to the Twelfth Century. New York: Crossroad, 1985.

McGinn, Bernard. The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism. 5 vols. New York: Crossroad, 1991‐2012.

Raitt, Jill, ed. Christian Spirituality: High Middle Ages and Reformation. New York: Crossroad, 1987.

Mommaers, Paul, and Jan van Bragt. Mysticism Buddhist and Christian: Encounters with Jan van Ruusbroec. New York: Crossroad, 1995.

Van Nieuwenhove, Rik, Rob Faesen and Helen Rolfson, eds. Late Medieval Mysticism of the Low Countries.The Classics of Western Spirituality. New York and Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2008.

Waaijman, Kees. "Spirituality: A Multifaceted Phenomenon. Interdisciplinary Explorations." Studies in Spirituality 17 (2007): 1‐113.

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs