It is a surprising but significant fact that, while medieval Christian mystics talk about both ‘mystical’ theology and a ‘mystical’ sense of scripture, they never talk about ‘mysticism’ or refer to each other as ‘mystics’. The term ‘mysticism’ is a modern coinage, first used in English, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, in 1736. As Mark McIntosh comments:

The primary concern of this book is something that the writers themselves referred to as ‘contemplation’ or ‘mystical’ theology. These terms appear to cover a very diverse set of devotional activities. Take, for example, the following passages from Margery Kempe and Pseudo-Denys, which describe intimate encounters with God. In the first passage Margery fondles Christ’s feet in her mind’s eye in a rather erotic manner as he addresses her as his lover.