Mysticism in a book?

A blogger named SaltSister recently wrote a post called The Mystic Way in which she takes aim at the kind of person who reads a book or two on mysticism and then decides that he or she is a mystic. While in principle I totally agree with her, the tone of her post bothered me a bit, so I posted a comment asking for clarification. After all, my blog is all about the joys of reading books by and about the mystics. Her response to me included this genuine jewel:

“Studying to learn how to enter into mystical union kind of reminds me of studying how to be crucified.”

Wow. Amen, sister.

It’s wonderful to read mystical literature. And it’s vitally important to remember that doing so does not, in itself, make one a mystic. Only God makes mystics.

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  • Kat


    I’m glad we got that cleared up. :) Sometimes I do need to make myself more clear. I did run across a wonderful post elsewhere on your blog that I’ve brought up for discussion on a small forum. There is nothing like talking things out. Thanks for the inspiration from *your* end.

  • Darrell Grizzle

    So does this mean I can stop studying for my crucifixion exam?

  • Carl McColman

    Yep. You’re off the hook.

  • phil foster

    Study is certainly important. Practice is important. But I agree, Carl; God calls the mystic (although it is often our crying out that contains His answer). The post entertains the question: Is there a difference between a mystic and a contemplative type? I’m certainly the latter but not the former.

    BTW, glad Darrell is off the cross. The job was already taken.


  • Peter

    Critical to the discussion of definitions of mysticism vs. contemplation (and the like) is the place of personal responsibility / discipline in the process. If Phil considers himself a contemplative but not a mystic, I consider myself the opposite–a receiver of sheer grace, the gift of life in the Spirit, the beatific vision–which I have done nothing to earn or “attain to,” but which is purely the gift of God to the unworthy recipient, and indeed always will be. If in fact I ever do anything along the line of self-discipline or partaking of what are called “the means of grace,” even that is simply a response to a God-given hunger and thirst that implies no measure of merit or virtue on my part, but rather a knee-jerk response to the drives and desires that have been placed in my spirit by the One who desires me more than I desire Him.
    I hold fiercely to the reality (in theory as well as in experience) that God is always the initiator in the Divine Romance, the Heavenly Dance of Love, and I (and we?) always the receiver(s). God is most pleased with us (as John Piper says) when we are most satisfied with Him.
    Blessings to all,

  • Peter

    This last post was in response to Phil Foster’s question.
    As far as “Mysticism in a book” goes, it is evident that mystics (who are most clearly aware that they can’t put what they have seen into words) write books anyway: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And by reading those books we can stir up our inner hunger and thirst, our desire to invite God to “show up” in a sovereign epiphany or theophany which is totally of His doing and which alone would qualify any one of us (and each one of us) as a “mystic.”
    No, you can’t read or study yourself into a mystical state. But yes, it is fun and valuable to read about this stuff, not only to satisfy your curiosity but to make you hungrier and hungrier to experience the “real thing” for yourself.
    May all who read this be eveloped by the vision of God in such a real and tangible way that this discussion becomes merely a footnote for them!
    Love in Jesus,