Who is a Mystic?


I just saw a quote attributed to Pope Francis, “A religion without mystics is a philosophy.”

Personally I’ve been wary of the term mystic, because it is so large, it means everything from something to do with our fundamental relationship to the world or God to a small city on the coast of Connecticut to an ability to bend spoons through the power of thought.

I feel it is pretty clear that the pope means the former, and not the town, nor the spoon bending thing.

However, I wonder if his implied definition of philosophy, or at least its limitations, is true? Why couldn’t someone be a philosopher and a mystic?

Perhaps the more important question is, does one need to belong to a religion to be a mystic?

That is of the looking into the heart of the matter version, finding or at least aspiring to that great unknowing, that union with God or the world.

In my experience people professing religions of various sorts are very rarely anything even approaching mystics in that deep sense. Rather, I have to say, religious people are all too often folk who’ve delivered their own engagement over to a check list. They check off what they believe, they find their category, and, well, they’re done. Mystic is the furthest thing from their concerns.

This approach seems to fit conservative, moderate and liberal versions of religion.

And, some, not many, but some of all these categories seem to have been touched by that larger perspective.

I also have met any number of people who say they’re mystics. But other than in the vaguest of aspirational ways, for the larger majority they don’t seem so to me. Much closer, in most cases, I have to say, to the spoon bending sort…

And, just to round it out, truth be told, I’ve met more than one person who professes no particular faith but does appear to have touched that face of the divine.

Actually, the mystic vision seems to be pretty independent of our faith claims.

At least it seems so to me.

Finding that mystic insight is the ultimate proof of grace, or, perhaps, its just dumb luck.

Sometimes we have spiritual practices. Sometimes we don’t.

Maybe there’s a slight edge for those with practices. I think so. But, I have to admit, I’m not really sure…

What I am sure of is how

One day we open our eyes.

And, it is all there…

No name. Every name.

Just this…

Just sayin’…

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  • dadafountain

    Worth noting: you read the actual Greek philosophers, and they had plenty of mystical experience. Every time Stoics used the word “Logos,” they meant what you mean by “your fundamental nature.” Every time Plato said “The Form of the Good,” so did he.

  • http://wonderwheels.blogspot.com/ Gregory Wonderwheel
  • pbeatty

    Mysticism is a worldview. Some hallmarks: God in everything. Nondual perspective (both/and). I believe mysticism is correlated with intutition and empathy (or inner sensing). I have done quite a bit of research on mysticism and some folks like to slice and dice into types of mystics…but I think that really detracts from the validation of mysticism by making something pretty simple seem complicated. A mystic can appreciate BOTH kataphatic divinity and apophatic divinity…this is the nondual perspective. Some may prefer to use kataphatic forms of prayer or apophatic type prayer. But a mystic knows both when she is questioned about the nature of ultimate reality. Between form and formlessness there is a tension. The mystic holds that tension – knows both formless and form, spiritual truth and material truth. I agree that my own mysticism is independent of any faith claim. I have been in INFJ all my life. Mysticism is the unitive thread through all religions, which makes it a very wonderful and powerful way to “see.” I guess that could be why the power-brokers of the sensing/thinking world dont much care for the inner authority of the mystics! :)