To be a Christian is to be a Mystic

Matthew Fox pauses to hear a listener’s question after his introductory address at the first Christ Path Seminar.

In my last post, I wrote of the passing of imperial Christianity, and the archetype of the Cosmic Christ that lies, largely ignored, at the mystic heart of the Christian tradition. But while the mystic experience of cosmic connection has been viewed with suspicion by the institutional church, it has not vanished!

John Dominic Crossan,  in his book In Search of Paul, concludes thus: “Does Paul think, therefore, that only mystics can be Christians, and that all Christians must be mystics? In a word, yes.” Whoa! To be a Christian you’ve got to be a mystic. What that means to me is that you’ve got to shut down about 98 percent of our seminaries, because are we turning out mystics? Are we training mystics? Do seminaries even know how to train mystics? I’m glad to help them there because we did it very successfully over a 29-year period, at the Institute of Culture and Creation Spirituality and the University of Creation Spirituality.

Crossan continues: “Paul is a mystic—he thinks mystically, writes mystically, teaches mystically, and lives mystically, and expects other Christians to do likewise.” Paul, the first writer in the Christian Bible; the very first theologian in the West, was a mystic. And the earliest hymns of Christianity are about the Cosmic Christ—Colossians, Philippians, Ephesians and many more. So the original followers of the Christ path were mystics, cosmic mystics of the Cosmic Christ.

Teilhard de Chardin, who of course was a scientist, Jesuit, mystic, and poet, said this about the Cosmic Christ: “The cosmos is fundamentally and primarily living…. Christ, through his Incarnation, is internal to the world,…rooted in the world, even in the very heart of the tiniest atom…. Nothing seems to be more vital, from the point of view of human energy, than the appearance and eventually, the systematic cultivation of such a ‘cosmic sense.’”

He also said: “this third nature of Christ” is not an argument about whether he’s divine or whether he was human, but the cosmic Christ, “has not noticeably attracted the explicit attention of the faithful or of theologians.” Teilhard was frustrated that no one wanted to talk about the Cosmic Christ back then. He also says, “Because it is not exalted by a sufficiently passionate admiration of the universe, our religion is becoming enfeebled.”  Religion is becoming enfeebled because it’s not connected to the exaltation of the universe itself; it lacks the Cosmic Christ therefore.

The Cosmic Christ, then, is about the divine Presence, the divine Image found in every being in the universe—in every whale, in every tree, in every forest, every lion, tiger, polar bear, human, galaxy, supernova, planet, and atom. It’s a macrocosm and it’s a microcosm. And it is a reminder of the sacredness of all being.

I heartily recommend Mary Oliver’s brilliant poem, “At the River Clarion” which I explore along with Hildegard of Bingen’s teachings on the Cosmic Christ in my recent book, Hildegard of Bingen, a Saint for Our Times.  Hildegard from the twelfth century and Mary Oliver from ours both get the Cosmic Christ.  Oliver talks about “the holiness in all being.”  That is the Cosmic Christ.  Once you know this, everything changes, and our energy comes back.

Mary Oliver again: “Glory to the world, that good teacher.” Glory to the world, that good teacher. Glory is a very important theological word, doxa in Greek—it means radiance, the divine radiance, you see. It’s found whenever you talk about the Cosmic Christ, that word glory shows up. The Transfiguration experience, for example, but the doxa, the radiance that the three disciples experienced with Jesus at the top of the mountain.

She says: “There is only one question: how to love this world.” The mystic is a lover, folks. That’s as simple a definition as you can get. The mystic in you is the lover in you. We have to go through these processes of purification of our love, and that too is a very big part of the via negativa and the dark night.

She adds:

Let me keep company with those who say

“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.

She’s often talking about bowing your head. That’s reverence. That’s what you learn from falling in love as a mystic, is that beings deserve our reverence, they deserve our bows. And we deserve it back, because we too are Cosmic Christs.

It’s important to remember that Mary Oliver did not tiptoe through the tulips—she did not have at all a pleasant childhood. She was sexually abused by her father; she told her mother, who took her father’s side; and so she had to carry that burden her entire childhood. The day she graduated from high school she left home and never returned. And she says “It took me years to learn to love my life.” So the fact that she can share with us her love of the world and her love of life is of great consequence, because she went the hard way. She was detoured, as everyone who’s been abused, not just sexually but emotionally, physically, or religiously—there’s a lot of that floating around. Anyone who’s been abused, it takes you a while to learn to love your life.

Still, what I want in my life

is to be willing

to be dazzled—

to cast aside the weight of facts

Willing to be dazzled—that’s mysticism, folks, our capacity for dazzlement.


To learn more  about the upcoming Christ Path Seminar weekend being offered online and on-site in Pittsburgh, PA, 6/28/30, see

To order the complete 12-DVD set of recordings from the first Christ Path Seminar weekend – including Dr. Fox’s delivery of the full introductory address from which this post is clipped, see

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