mysticism

In the Christian tradition, the mystics are those that God has revealed His hidden mysteries to. There are always unforeseen dangers in mysticism in that the god of this world has his own mystics. Mysticism should be treated carefully and only approached by the enlightened but maturity seems not to be a requirement. The prophetic element is always part of the mystical experience and just as there are true prophets of God, there are also false prophets. In that prophecy is a spiritual gift, it should only be undertaken by those that the divine gift has been given to, anything else is pretension or a satanic delusion and a pathway to the occult.

The word mystic is from the Greek mysis, the closing of the eyes. Through a direct pathway of understanding of the divine by a faculty of the mind and spirit, the mystics seek an immediate knowledge of God. Mysticism is a faculty which makes it possible for us to know God directly, to grasp and intuit Him in His very being, what Tielhard described as the essential aspiration, "to be united (that is, to become the other) while remaining oneself." Only the mystics speak of that which passes in the soul's inmost life. This "inner light" as it has been called is available to every believer. We understand that not only our spirits are to lift up Jesus but our hearts, minds and souls as well.

The supreme goal of the historical mystics was God himself and not the mere experiential knowledge or the titillation of emotional ecstasy. Stressing pious living and proximity to God, the mystics prefer a simple practical, and intuitive theology rather than codified doctrinal dogma. Stressing adoration rather than speculation, they would devote themselves to acts of benevolence and charity. Since man is weak, it is better not to strive and merely surrender to the love and direction of Jesus. Arrogance and pride is put away and in its place is the love for fellow man. Religion is not that difficult, it was taught, if only one would rest in God.

Closely identified with the mystic is contemplation and meditation, this is the prayer state that can be had by anyone who is united to Jesus by His spirit. Praying in the spirit is a mystical act. God is a spirit and those that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. The power goes both ways; not only can we receive these spiritual truths from God, we may also project them to others. The power involved in the laying on of hands is a mystical phenomenon in that it is transmitted through faith and an example of the ability to transmit God's power and to receive Him through the human vessels that God's spirit is channeled through.

There are too many acknowledged mystics in church history to list but some of the more prominent ones have been the fifth century Dionysius the Areopagite, Saints Benedict of Nursia, Francis, Joan of Arc, Meister Eckhart, Gerbhart Groot, St. John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, all known as visionaries. Whether they were accepted by the church or not seems to have been predicated upon where they were at the time and whoever was in charge, Protestant, Orthodox or Roman Catholic. Saint Symeon with his "light mysticism" was opposed by the Orthodox church in the eleventh century but canonized later. Many popes embraced mystics and many cast them out. Puritans and Calvinists condemned them to perdition. Saint Teresa of Jesus was popular but threatened by the inquisition. The mystical tradition was carried to Italy by Michael de Molinos at the end of the seventeenth century. Molinos taught Christian perfection when at rest in God, only to be opposed by the Jesuits. These teachings spread into France in the form of abandonment to the love of God with devotional "Quietism" and praying in the spirit during the Age of Reason. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was considered a mystic but in opposing reason without the understanding that reason and faith work together, it is a wonder what the mystical approach did for him.

At a time when the papacy was too involved in worldly politics to see Jesus, the great German Dominican mystic, Meister Eckhart had a great spiritual influence in the fourteenth century and taught against worldliness toward the point of actual absorption into the Divine Unknown. He was criticized as being pantheistic for making claims that we may have direct communications with God but his followers among the Friends of God and the Brethren of the Common Life in Bavaria rivaled the earlier Franciscans in piety and had also broken down the Nicolaitan barrier of clergy and laity. They went about teaching, preaching and doing charitable works producing some of the best Christian humanists, reformers and scholars of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Another member of the early group, the Dominican John Tauler, considered the chief end of man to be wholly enraptured by the love of God and man through Christ and criticized for wanting to walk in the steps of Jesus. Many of the Friends of God had de-emphasized the clergy and even the sacraments in favor of a direct apprehension of God. They may have been the holiest people of the period and understood the presence of God like no others but this lack of community put them under an interdict for about a quarter of a century, depriving them of sacramental fellowship as being heretics. Revival men and women of God such as these were among the "faithful Antipas" of Pergamos foreshadowing the reformation. Luther and Erasmus may both be considered to have sprung from their teaching. Their piety is best shown in the book associated with Thomas Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, widely read in the sixteenth century and translated.

Since mysticism is reserved only for the spiritually enlightened, Christians that do not have ears to hear or eyes to see into the deeper things of God will deny the power. Any one who is suspicious of anything not directly tied to the scriptures, especially many of the historical Protestants will generally conform to the letter and not the spirit, so a "seer" is thought of, not as one who sees into the mysteries of God, but as an occult faction, to be treated as a heretic. Those who elevate the Bible to an idolatrous supreme authority and denies the true authority of God and a spiritual encounter with Jesus cannot understand the depths of Christian experience. There is a deception in the church that believe mystical states to be associated with parapsychology, spiritualism, clairvoyance and hocus pocus. Calvinists and those in denominations and cults that deny spiritual baptism as separate from initial salvation especially saw and many still do, a relationship of the natural senses, heart, mind and soul to the spirit as evil witchcraft. The Roman Catholics, especially the Jesuits, who had left the first love of Ignatius of Loyola, objected upon similar grounds. The conservative Protestantism of the late nineteenth century saw mysticism as an enemy and pietism as a Catholic remnant. The Christian message became measured by moral standards where social controls in the church and community were necessary to rid the church of enthusiasm and excess. When Christian freedom was finally stifled by so many in the name of religious rightness, satan came in like a flood in the last half of the twentieth century.

The essential aspiration of all mystics is to be united with the Creator while still remaining oneself. It is an inner journey of mind, body, spirit and soul all working together to lift our consciousness into the divine. All of us are endowed with a mystical mind and mystical heart but it takes faith to release it. Meister Eckhart believed that the soul was the meeting place between God and creation. All of us possess that divine spark of divinity in our hearts and souls but in most of us, this heart lies dormant and underdeveloped. If it were to be awakened it would be constantly straining towards God, and, given a chance, would impel the whole of our being towards him. For this to happen, it needs to be developed. In a group situation where the awareness is released, a collective consciousness and oneness of the spirit is experienced that cannot be denied by those participating.

Mystical states, says William James, seem to those who experience them to be "states of knowledge. They are insights into depths of truths unplumbed by the discursive intellect." The peace of rationality may be sought through ecstasy when logic fails. In a mystical state, years of knowledge can be gained in a moment.

In Islam, toward the end of the first millennium, the mystical quality appeared in the Sufis where self-denial and purity of heart brought them into being alive in Him. Through ascetic practices, like many of the early monastics, they came into a heightened awareness of God through emotional states. Many Sufis used Jesus as the model of the prophets and had doctrines of love, joy and sanctity. Over time, this illuminative life ultimately degenerated into a legalistic religion of form which had lost the substance of the earlier pietists. They had been so preoccupied with Divine Perfection that they lost awareness of their own selfhood and became too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. Like many of the monastics, they resorted to chanting or repetitive recitation of songs or poetry to bring themselves to self-induced ecstasy.

True genius would certainly give credit to the true source amd Albert Einstein tells us that the most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. "It is the sower of all true science. He to who this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt with awe, is as good as dead. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of devoutly religious men."

Mysticism is now on the rise in a mighty move of God in all the branches of the church but because of the ignorance and confusion surrounding the definition, it is not called mysticism. The intercessory prayer movements in the churches, the prophetic and apostolic resurgence of the five-fold, laying on of hands, dreams and visions are all part of the promises in these last days for the spiritual outpouring. It is the idea of the river and it is up to our ankles, then our knees and then our waists until we are immersed in the living waters of God precious spirit. We need not call it anything but the love of God being poured upon us without measure.
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