To be a mystic is to be the explorer of both Divine and human mysteries (which corresponds to Jesus’s two essential teachings, “Love God” and “Love your neighbors”).
We often think that the essential way to do this is through spiritual practices such as meditation, contemplation, chanting the psalms, and working with a spiritual guide or companion. And, yes, all those things are important.
But there’s also the question of how we find the mysteries in the midst of the stories that give our lives shape and meaning.
I think this is why certain movies or books — think of Avatar, or the Harry Potter Series, or the Chronicles of Narnia — it seems there are some people who become so immersed in the story that it’s almost as if they belong “in” the story — rather than in the “real world.”
Indeed, each of the examples that I listed above begin with a person traveling from the mundane world to an alternative or interior world — where the magic is real, interior transformation happens, and the person finds his or her calling and destiny.
Friends, when we look at the great contemplative traditions of the world, at their heart is always a story — a narrative, that more or less conforms to the “hero’s journey” and that invites us to become so engaged with it, that we “enter into” the story in some real way and allow it to transform us, enlighten us, and empower us for a life filled with purpose, meaning, and service to others.
So, here’s where my thinking is going: contemplative and mystical spirituality invite us into the great story, just as they invite us into the silence within. In both of these venues: the sacred story, and the sacred silence — we are invited to a life transforming union with the Divine.
This is the working thesis for a new book that I have begun working on (see the bottom of this post to learn how you can be one of the first ones to read it).
Let’s Meditate on the Mysteries
Karl Rahner said “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or… will not exist at all.” Both David Steindl-Rast and William McNamara said “The mystic is not a special kind of person; each person is a special kind of mystic.” And — speaking in a more secular sense, but I think he’s on target — psychologist Rick Doblin points out that “mysticism is the antidote to fundamentalism.”
When I put these three soundbites together, I begin to think that mysticism is something that really needs to be explored as widely as possible — especially among Christians (of course, I write as a Christian; I hope adherents of every faith will plumb the mystical treasures of their own lineage). Let’s put aside for now what it means to be a mystic — although, to take McNamara and Steindl-Rast at their word, everyone already is one; the problem is, most of us don’t realize it.
So for now, we’ll just that issue aside, and instead focus on: what can I do to cultivate mystical spirituality in my life, starting today?
For years now, I my writing (books and blog) I have operated under the assumption that the best answer to that question is, “be silent.” And I still advocate silent prayer as a core mystical practice.
But today I want to invite my readers to consider joining with me in a corollary spiritual practice: let’s enter the Christian story, with an eye to its mystical heart, it’s wisdom for contemplative living.
So I’ve been mulling over, for a number of months now, a book that is organized similar to a catechism — it would take us step-by-step through the key elements of the Christian faith — but it would do so with this eye toward “entering the story” in a contemplative/mystical way.
My working title for this project is “Meditations on the Christian Mystery.” Don’t hold me to that: when a good editor gets involved in a book, lots of things usually change, and usually for the better. The title is often one of the most visible of changes.
But for now, let’s call this project Meditations on the Christian Mystery. I’m writing this post today, not just to announce this project (which is still in its infancy), but to seek your feedback. Do you like the idea? Any suggestions of topics I should explore, books I should read to deepen my understanding of the theology and spirituality of story? Or anything else you might want to suggest?
(If you think the idea stinks, you’re welcome to say so, but I’m pretty much committed to it so I think we’ll all have to agree that not everyone will like it and leave it at that).
Would you like to be one of the first to read this book?
My other reason for sharing this concept with you is related to a very mundane need. I rely on readers like you to provide financial support to keep the blog viable.
I recently spoke with a friend of mine who is a true patron of the arts — he provides financial support to about a dozen different writers and other artists through the service I use, Patreon. Since this friend is so knowledgeable, I asked him “What do you find most rewarding from the writers you support?” He mentioned that several of them are in the habit of sending their patrons their works-in-progress, one chapter at a time.
I realized I could do the same thing — and that Meditations of the Christian Mystery is probably the best book to be sending out.
This book is still in “first draft” mode, and I don’t have a publishing agreement on it (yet). That’s not a problem: if no publisher offers to bring it out, eventually I’ll self-publish. But that’s down the road a ways.
For now, I’m excited about the idea of sharing the book, a chapter at a time, with the patrons who support this blog; hopefully they will provide feedback and input that will help make the revision process go more smoothly.
So… if you would like to be among the first people who read Meditations of the Christian Mystery as it is being written, please make a $5 or more monthly pledge to this blog, via Patreon. That’s all it takes.
Now, I understand that not all people want to, or can, provide financial support to a blog. The blog remains free for you to read. And the book will eventually get published just like any other book. So please: only make a pledge if it gives you a sense of joy to do so. Otherwise, no worries, just know that I am glad you read the blog!
But if you do choose to make (or already have made) a monthly pledge, then look out: starting in August, you and I will be entering the story together! And may the mysteries help us to find the kind of mystics God created us to be.