Mysticism – What I Really Believe About It

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  • Valeria T

    I agree.

  • I have had what can be described as a mystical experience, and it came at a time when I really needed an encounter with God. However, I quickly realized that I couldn’t base my faith or my knowledge of God on this experience alone. I needed to study the scriptures so I could answer anyone (including myself) who asked me a reason for the faith I have (1 Peter 3:15). Hearing heavenly choirs or seeing flashes of light doesn’t reveal anything of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, or of my need for the Holy Spirit and His fruits, or of the things God would have me do. Faith is more than feeling; it’s also about knowing and doing.

  • Gearoid

    Thanks for this excellent post that brings some much needed clarity. It could be said that there are varying degrees on a continuum ranging from: “not so mystical/spiritual” to “off the charts mystical/spiritual.” Here are some quotes I have found helpful on this matter:

    “If one must choose between a certain theological conclusion and a contrary statement from mystical experience, one will have to choose the first, because the theological principle from which the conclusion follows has its ultimate basis in divine revelation. To do otherwise would be to run the risk of all types of illusions.” – Jordan Aumann, Spiritual Theology, 122.

    “We are not to deny the supernatural life Christians are given by God and called on to live. But our own human spirit does not have the potency for direct access to God. We do not need to train as contemplative athletes to attain special mystical knowledge. Like every other human endeavor and achievement, mysticism should be viewed with awareness of its ambiguity and its questionable nature. Ironically, those most hostile about it [mysticism] may not think to question their own intellectual prowess! . . . . When we have had a special experience of God that we can only describe as mystical, the test of its validity is our personal response and its benefits to ourselves and to others.” – James Houston, Joyful Exiles, 64-65, 66

  • rvs

    Christian mysticism is wonderful. G.K. Chesterton writes one of the best defenses of Christian mysticism in Orthodoxy, a brilliant and orthodox explanation of Christian theology. What is the Bible, if not a mystical book?

  • Mysticism is an important and, as you imply, a potentially confusing subject. I have found that one particular system of understanding human developmental “categories” and experiences, and relating them to religious and non-religious paradigms of reality is very helpful on mysticism. It also is on many topics of religion and spirituality. I refer to “Integral Theory” as per Ken Wilber primarily (and colleagues, a few of which have recently been flesing out “Integral Christianity” — much to my interest and approval).

    Wilber’s books, “Integral Spirituality” and “A Sociable God” (get the 2005 edition) particularly deal with the relation between spiritual experiences, including “peak experiences” and belief systems, insights on one’s own life and being “integrated”, etc. Wilber is not Christian himself (he studied heavily within Buddhism), but he understands Christianity and its issues better than a great many Christian leaders. I cannot recommend his system too highly for its interpretive power, guidance for personal growth, etc. It helps clarify a lot of things commonly misunderstood about mysticism and mystical experiences, etc.

  • “Note these two elements: The Scriptures (the written Word) and the power of God (the living Spirit of Christ). The two should never be separated.”

    beautiful encouragement!!

    and I appreciated that you put in ‘self denial’ asceticism as well…. “mysticism” shows itself in many different forms dependent on personality…. it’s sometimes easy to spot in emotional, sanguine personalities… but showing itself through self denial, extreme self discipline is also very much a form of mysticism & not as easily recognizable!!!