Apr 102014
 

As many of you know, ChristianMystics.com was the previous host of my blog.  I’m very grateful for the start I was given there, and for the companionship we enjoyed in the social networking that was then a part of that site.  This new site preserves all my blog posts from the previous, and provides an opportunity for me to reconnect with all whom I enjoyed engaging in the depths of mystical thought and feeling, and hopefully we’ll make some new friends here as well!  I look forward to any dialogue that we might share.

While I don’t have any new essays to share at this time, I do have a few new poems I offer to welcome you to the new site.

in rapturous communion

As each clear morning’s twilightthis mockingbird sings (1)
creeps into the indigo sky,
this mockingbird leaves his nest
for a perch high in the open air,
silently ascending to be present
for the passing of the coldest hours
into the warming of a new dawn.

He turns his breast to the rising gold
and feels its rays reaching in
to caress his sonorous heart,
stirring forth the first song of the day,
a joyful fanfare for the light’s return,
and thus he once again joins
the chorus of life unleashed.

Oh, how he sings his nameless love
for the light of the Cherished One!
Not merely for reviving his heart,
but for freely beaming Her warmth
into the naked wonder of being,
illuminating all the glorious world
with which this grateful mockingbird
celebrates in rapturous communion.

 

sighs of content adoration

O Beloved Vital One,
this creature sighs in content adoration
upon remembering your unconditional charity,
the unlimited grace that is your nature,
requiring no sacrifice, penance, or petition
in exchange for your generosity.

Like the soft quiet air of an Alpine glade,
you freely wrap yourself around us all,
and enter into each as the very breath of being.
You are the bearer of morning’s cool mist
and our window to the sun, moon, and stars,
the fabric in which all birds and bees are weaving
the flowing tapestry of Nature’s polyamory,
the ever-present sylphan dancer
with whom all flowers are gladly swaying,
the moving aria all leaves honor with their applause.

Sweet Atmosphere of Life,
within the sparkling gallery of constellations
hangs your Libran sign as a reminder to all
of the selfless harmony you inspire in our souls.
In this celestial form, O Vital Spirit,
with stable stance you patiently wait,
your strong arms hinged upon a sensitive heart,
your cupped hands reaching out,
always ready to receive, to hold and support,
to carefully weigh all things in the balance
by the invisible gravity of love.

And so it is that every creature’s
blood-reddening respiration,
and every artist’s or lover’s thrilling inspiration,
is a testimony to your boundless affection,
our dear Vital One,
and why this creature gratefully
and joyfully sings your praises
with sighs of content adoration.

 

A Blessing for Kindness

May you be
strong enough to be kind
to those who call you a weakling,
wise enough to be kind
to those who call you a fool,
truthful enough to be kind
to those who call you a liar,
peaceful enough to be kind
to those who call you a threat,
and strong, wise, truthful,
and peaceful enough
to be kind to yourself
through all curses, praises,
or indifference.

Agape

 

These poems are also on my poetry site.

Oct 122012
 

While I and many others have a lot to say about Christian mysticism, it’s worth considering how using ‘mysticism’ as a modifier for ‘Christian’ is somewhat redundant.  In other words, it can be argued that Christianity is already mystical by nature, and that all Christians are therefore mystics, especially if they understand this aspect of our religion.  The purpose of this post is to make a case that Christianity is indeed a mystical religion, and discuss what value there may be in continuing to use terms like ‘Christian mysticism.’

For the purposes of this post, let’s begin with Merriam-Webster for a conventional understanding of  ‘mysticism,’ ‘mystical,’ and ‘mystic.’

Mysticism:
1: the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics
2: the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight)

Mystical:
1 a : having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence <the mystical food of the sacrament>
b : involving or having the nature of an individual’s direct subjective communion with God or ultimate reality <the mystical experience of the Inner Light>

Mystic:
1: a follower of a mystical way of life
2: an advocate of a theory of mysticism

Notice these key words:

  • union
  • direct communion
  • direct knowledge
  • subjective communion

These words speak to a connectedness with God, a oneness with God that mystics believe, and some may actually know, is possible to experience or realize.  Technically speaking, it follows that to use ‘mysticism,’ ‘mystical’ or ‘mystic’ as a modifier for ‘Christian’ could imply that Christianity itself isn’t inherently mystical, and that some of us have added mysticism to it.  So we should ask if that is the case or not.

Does Christianity already include mysticism? Let’s begin to answer that question by reviewing some relevant scriptures.

Jesus Declares the Kingdom of God is Within

“Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He replied to them by saying, the kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display, nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].” (Luke 17:20-21 AMP)

The Prayer of Jesus for His Followers to Know They are One with God

My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  (John 17:20-23)

St. Paul on Our Interconnection with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit

While in Athens, Paul argued for the closeness of God by quoting the Cretan philosopher Epimenides:

…he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’  (Acts 17:27-28)

Speaking to the Corinthians, Paul made these statements:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? … For it is said, ‘But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.’ … Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (1 Corinthians 6:15, 17, 19a)

St. John on Love as Union with God

No one has ever seen God. But if we love one another, God lives in us. His love is made complete in us.  We know that we belong to him and he belongs to us. He has given us his Holy Spirit. …  So we know that God loves us. We depend on it.  God is love. Anyone who leads a life of love shows that he is joined to God. And God is joined to him.  (1 John 4:12-13, 16)

There are many more scriptural references we could draw on, but these words attributed to Jesus, St. Paul, and St. John are enough to suggest that, at the very least, it is possible to personally know union with God, even if only under certain circumstances.  It is also understandable why some of us find in them the further revelation that we are already one with God, though we may not be aware of it.  From these passages, it is obvious that mysticism as previously defined is an inherent part of Christianity, unless we take their words as nothing more than the loosest form of metaphor. (But be careful, for if we take it as nothing more than flowery prose, then we have poor grounds to take Jesus more literally when he says, “I and my Father are one,” a statement central to his prayer for his followers.)  All Christians, if by the term we mean those who consider themselves adherents to the theology of Jesus and his Apostles, are therefore mystics as defined by Merriam-Webster, whether we recognize ourselves as such or not.

Given this conclusion, what value is there in using terms like ‘Christian mysticism’ ‘mystical Christianity’ or ‘Christian mystic’?   We begin to answer that by acknowledging the simple fact that not everyone uses or understands the meaning of ‘mysticism’ offered above, and neither do all recognize that Christianity fits that definition. Likewise, many of us have personally experienced varieties of Christian spirituality that hinge more upon emphasizing the distance between God and humanity rather than upon our communion with God.  To overtly use these terms is therefore to emphasize one’s own commitment to intentionally engage in and/or draw attention to this aspect of Christianity.

Finally, I want to suggest that a technical redundancy is the least of all risks in using these terms.  One of the bigger risks is reinforcing a perception that mysticism is an innovation within Christianity, a departure from the “faith of our fathers,” if not some entirely foreign and heretical appendage grafted onto our religion.  Therefore, whenever we speak of mysticism in Christianity, I think we have a duty to help others understand that we are talking about something lived and taught by Jesus and his Apostles, something they prayed that all their followers would come to know.  Another risk is building up spiritual pride through the notion that, in applying these terms to oneself, one is somehow identifying oneself as a ‘better’ Christian, or, God forbid, even a ‘true’ Christian.  It is for this reason that some of us choose not to apply them to ourselves.   While that might be the wisest option for some, I don’t believe it should be a rule for all, anymore than I believe we should avoid calling ourselves Christians because we might be prideful in doing so.  I think Jesus’ teachings about sharing the Good News and letting our lights shine are instructive in this context. Even so, these same teachings remind us that our loving actions are the best testimony and fruits we have to share with others, and that any words we might use without them are no more than noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.  Any mysticism that doesn’t eventually yield such fruit is, at best, a distraction.

Agape