Popularity of Mysticism

Who woulda thunk it?

This Ross Douthat column in the New York Times reflects on the popularity of so many mystical practices, but it has its downside. We are dabbling in so many things, we are diving into nothing. We are not fully entering into ANY of the practices, so we might think we are mystics, but the proof is in the pudding.

As society has become steadily more materialistic, Johnson declares, our churches have followed suit, giving up on the ascetic and ecstatic aspects of religion and emphasizing only the more worldly expressions of faith. Conservative believers fixate on the culture wars, religious liberals preach social justice, and neither leaves room for what should be a central focus of religion — the quest for the numinous, the pursuit of the unnamable, the tremor of bliss and the dark night of the soul.

We have dabbled, but the goal of a true mystic has not been witnessed. We are more materialistic and less godly!

I sat in a conference this past weekend and one of the plenary sessions talked about the big elephants in the room. She went after racism, sexism, and homophobic attitudes. Initially, the reaction was positive. Actually, the overall reaction is probably still positive. Yet, what was unsettling in my spirit was this lack of the overwhelming love of Christ. Her point was to treat people we disagree with as human. Agreed. No quibbles or quarrels.

Yet, if true change is going to happen, and if we are going to genuinely engage homosexuality or other issues with genuine Christian faith, we are going to need the overwhelming love of God. We are going to need to be swept away by the beauty of Christ. That is the beauty of true Christian mysticism. It is not denial. It is not simply moving away in some monastic practice. It is the beauty of Christ. When his beauty overwhelms us, these other “elephants” are no longer huge issues. We act out of a true heart of love and change happens. It truly does. I have been witness to that and it is not only undeniable, it is beautiful. It is beautiful in an overwhelming way.

I call this blog “Apprentice to Jesus” because my goal is to attach our lives to Jesus in a lifelong journey. Part of that journey has a mystic content to it. But we cannot dabble in those practices. We must be full in for the overwhelming beauty of Christ to take effect.

What’s more, it’s possible that our horizons have become too broad, and that real spiritual breakthroughs require a kind of narrowing — the decision to pick a path and stick with it, rather than hopscotching around in search of a synthesis that “works for me.”

We need to quit dabbling. We need to be full in with Christ. Take up the ancient practices. Work with them. Live in them from time to time. There is no need to move away to a monastery. They can be lived out in the reality of our world. Adjustments need to be made, of course. Yet, isn’t Christ worth that?

5 thoughts on “Popularity of Mysticism

  1. Oh how I so agree!! I have just read a super little book – Why Spirituality is Difficult for Westerners – by David Hay. Basically we lose our inherited intuitive sense of spirituality and soul as we grow up – children have it is abundance when very young – and the big killer is information overload – intellectualising everything, and losing the sense of dependence on others through our linked relational consciousness – havnt put that very well – read my Amazon review explains it better I think.

  2. This is one area the Catholics have us beat. They have not altered their stance on moral issues or changed their doctrine to conform to or entice the culture.

    We talk about love but we don’t really love because, like you say, we haven’t grasped Christ’s beauty or His love. We need to put ourselves in a position where we can see Him for who He is and in so doing become like Him.

    The real love of Christ will bring change, not the “love” we so often see today which is really just tolerance. Tolerance is NOT the same thing as love.

    So, how do we get there? What practices do we need to take up to see Christ in that way?

    I’m sure the first step is to ask for His help. Other thoughts?

  3. I like Terri’s post that Tolerance is Not the same thing as love. Why is it when we examine how Christ did kingdom things that we can’t seem to get a grip on that? Are we afraid of hurting peoples feelings by saying the truth in the matter of those elephant subjects, truth that is based on what God says of those subjects, not what I think or what culture is saying? Are we afraid of looking as though we are intolerant of these cultural ‘norms’?

    When we don’t do the great commission of God, when we don’t speak the word of truth (and speaking in truth is showing the Love of God actually, because we care about the said person stuck in that said elephant thing,) we care about their soul. And Christ cared about the souls of man. Much.
    We have this fear of man that is a stumbling block we put up ourselves.

    The first thing I think we need to do as believers is go to God and repent and ask for forgiveness, recognizing where we have failed and seek his mind and his heart. If we don’t have His mind and heart in the matters, then we are a disservice for His kingdom.

  4. Thank you for a great article. I also feel religion meets its goal when it is a path to mysticism. We can love everyone in God. I don’t think religion should interfere with the Divine, personal, transforming experience with God.

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