Mysticism, the word is one of those words that has a taboo sound. Like mystery. It doesn't sound common. And yet the ideas of mysticims are all too common in religion philosophy and theology. It is not exclusive to pagan or christian circles, it is not well known and yet has pervaded our world system. Let's us understand what is not to be understood.
colossians 2:8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
In many ways Mysticism is a philosophy of religion which works itself out in religion as well as philosophy. This article is focused upon it's outworking in Christian living But we must first explore it's pagan origins to truly understand it's nature.
"... the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words. and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept" Thomas Merton (The asian journal of Thomas Merton, 1975edit. p. 308)Isaiah 1:18Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
mysticism is a form of spirituality That pervades the majority of religion.
It is typically irrational or skeptical of logic. It emphasizes emotional experiences.
"Underlying it is a philosophy exemplified by the neo-Platonists and especially Plotinus. God is pure being, one,indivisible, unchangeable, and is utterly opposite to this finite and changing world. There is in man a divine spark, a bit of reason, an "apex" or "fund" or center of the soul opposed to this world in which it is immersed and belonging to God. The mystical experience is "the flight of the alone to the Alone." the soul leaving the world of sense, of time and change, of thought and effort, of human relations, to lose its individual being inunity with God." Harris Franklin Rall Christianity:chapter 9:The way of mysticism pg.167-168
colossians 2:18Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
1 corinthians 14:29Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
30If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
31For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
32And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
Now mysticism is not just a doorway from paganism to christianity but it opens the opposite way as well.
"Merton had encountered Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Taoism and vendanta many years prior to his asian journey. Merton was able to uncover the stream where wisdom of East and west merge and flow together beyond Dogma, in the depths of inner experience.... Merton embraced the spiritual philosophies of the East and integrated this wisdom into (hi) own life through direct practice." (Yoga Journal, Jan-Feb. 199. quoted from Lighthouse Trails web site)
gnosticism was basically a form of neo-platonism that infected the religions of the first centuries of christianity.
1 Corinthians 9:16The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
17For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. 18Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. 21Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.
In other words we are not mix other peoples faiths with our own. An elder at my former church Doug Pope put it this way "Jesus plus anything, just doesn't add up!"
"The appellation "Father of Monasticism" might be considered misleading, as Christian monasticism was already being practiced in the deserts of Egypt. Ascetics commonly retired to isolated locations on the outskirts of cities. By the 2nd century there were also famous Christian ascetics, such as Saint Thecla.
Also note that the Therapeutae, pagan ascetic hermits and loosely organized cenobitic communities described by the Hellenized Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria in the first century, were long established in the harsh environments by the Lake Mareotis close to Alexandria, and in other less-accessible regions. Philo noted that "this class of persons may be met with in many places, for both Greece and barbarian countries want to enjoy whatever is perfectly good."" Anthony the great Wikipedia
Colossians 2:21(Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
2:23Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
Man's worship is very seductive in that it appears moral but is fleeting and artificial.
"Before the emergence of the Western monastic communities, a key contribution to the foundation of Lectio divina came from Origen in the 3rd century, with his view of "Scripture as a sacrament". In a letter to Gregory of Neocaesarea Origen wrote: "when you devote yourself to the divine reading ... seek the meaning of divine words which is hidden from most people".
Origen believed that The Word (i.e. Logos) was incarnate in Scripture and could therefore touch and teach readers and hearers. Origen taught that the reading of Scripture could help move beyond elementary thoughts and discover the higher wisdom hidden in the "Word of God".
In Origen's approach the major interpretive element of Scripture is Christ. In his view all Scriptural texts are secondary to Christ and are only revelations in as much as they refer to Christ as The Word of God. In this view, using Christ as the "interpretive key" unlocks the message in Scriptural texts.
The "primordial role" of Origen in interpreting Scripture was acknowledged by Pope Benedict XVI. Origen's methods were then learned by Ambrose of Milan, who towards the end of the 4th century taught them to Saint Augustine, thereby introducing them into the monastic traditions of the Western Church thereafter.
Early models of Christian monastic life also emerged in the 4th century, as the Desert Fathers began to seek God in the deserts of Palestine and Egypt. These early communities gave rise to the tradition of a Christian life of "constant prayer" in a monastic setting." Wikipedia lectio Divina
Here we see Origen, instituting a mystical prayer and worship and hermeneutic. Origen is well known as a neo-platonist. This idea of not expositing the meaning of the text but instead finding a spiritual meaning is irrational. This a clear example of a philosophy that supports isogesis.(isogesis: basically to isolate a passage and get the meaning from outside of the context.)
9Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
10For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
The Bible teaches in a logical straightforward pattern and must be interpreted literally.
Monasticism borrows from the practices of the gnostics. Who blended platnism with Christianity. The dicotomy between flesh/matter and spirit is emphasized and so the monks will punish there bodies with deprivation of food, and sleep speech shelter etc. Other gnostic practices were incoporated as well with mystic philosophy.
"A "mystikos" was an initiate of a mystery religion. The Eleusinian Mysteries, (Greek: Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) were annual initiation ceremonies in the cults of the goddesses Demeter and Persephone, held in secret at Eleusis (near Athens) in ancient Greece. The mysteries began in about 1600 B.C. in the Mycenean period and continued for two thousand years, becoming a major festival during the Hellenic era, and later spreading to Rome." Wikipedia mysticism
matthew 6:7But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
monasticism would dominate the medieval church. The monks and nuns were not only tolerated but a force for the roman catholic empire. All clergy would eventually be forced into monastc vows.
" 1599 In the latin church the sacrament of Holy Orders for the presbyterate is normally conferred only on candidates who are ready to embrace celebacy freely and who publicly manifest there intention of staying celibate for the love of God's Kingdom and the service of men." 1996 Catechism of the catholic church
The theology of the church under the monks would enforce a strict sacramentalism.
monasticsm would eventually become one of the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. also recognized in eastern orthodoxy.
epistemology) mysticism sees a direct yet irrational contact with God
This is a claim of inspiration on the same level of scripture. yet with out logic. purely chaotic. This effectively ruins the whole concept of inspiration and revelation. Now to be clear this is a more intense doctrine than the gifts of the spirit as taught by charasmatics.
"Neither is mysticism to be confounded with the doctrine of spiritual guidance. Evangelical Christians admit that the children of God are led by the Spirit of God, that their convictions as to the truth and duty, their inward character and outward conduct, are moulded by His influence. They are children unable to guide themselves, who are led by an ever present Father of infinite wisdom of love. This guidance is partially providential, ordering their external circumstances; partly through the Word which is a lamp to their feet; and partly by the inward influence of the Holy Spirit on the mind. This last, however is also through the Word, making it intelligible and effectual, bringing it suitably to remembrance. God leads his people by the cords of a man i.e., in accordance with the laws of nature. this is very different from the doctrine that the soul, by yielding itself passively to God, is filled with all truth and goodness, or that in special emergencies it is controlled by blind, irrational impulses." Charles Hodge systematic theology abridged edition.pg66
It is important to nottice that this was written prior to the modern pentecostal and charasmatic movements. Which is good as it shows us evangelical understand verses mystical understanding of experiencing God. Now many charasmatics are by nature mystics. But this is not necesarily universal. I am one who holds that the gifts of the spirit even "prophecy" have not ceased. Yet I do not believe in mysticism. This would take place as Hodge defined "the inward influence of the Holy Spirit on the mind". I have no problem accepting the Holy Spirit placing information in our minds as longs it is consistent with the famous solas of the reformation. sola fide and sola scriptura. I will not recieve a doctrine contrary or even alien to the scripture. Also I will not recieve any information if I am not first justified by Faith alone and indwelt by the Holy spirit through regeneration. Also in accordance with Sola Gloria deo I can never acquire any information by any other means than God alone.
The key divide over the gospel in the catholic protestant debate intellectually sola scriptura. But spiritually it is Sola fide.
The Catholic advocates of justification argue for an infusion of Christ's righteousness. While Protestantism and New Testament christianity argues for imputation of Christ righteousness. In other words I am not righteous in and of my self. Nor am I going to become like god in any esoteric sense. I am sinner from my birth to my death. The Holy Spirit is sealed to my spirit and will work with me to live a more holy life. But never the less I am still just a man. In Catholic Justification the sinner still has to become self righteous. Only they have an infusion of Christ's righteousnes To help the process be attainable. Yet ultimately, with the exception of a few saints, this does not work and they are left to burn for possible millions of years in purgatory until they are ready for heaven.
In essence sacramental worship argues that grace is aquired through works. Whenever one is worshipping in this pattern they are attempting a form of self-righteousness. Because when they try to be Holy they are doing so to justified as well as sanctified. In evangelical theology we are justified by faith alone. and so we seek sanctification through our gratidude for Christ obtained salvation of our own free will.
This also becomes a form of pantheism. Christ is God. The alexandirne churches who introduced sacramentalism introduced apollinarian christologies which unified the divinity and the humanity so that in a mystical way a person could be deified in the ritual. In Eastern Orthodox Theology we still see this understanding of deification within sacramentalism. The followers are supposedly becoming more godlike in their worship. Thus paganizing their nominal christian faith. Even in the RCC though they stay away from calling their followers gods. Sainthood becomes confused with deification. The follower becomes a statue people would pray to. and they are still deeply connected by means of sacramentalism.
Essential to the memorial view is the idea of a forensic symbol. The scriptures are rational. Jesus was completely human. Therefore his blood never needed his body at this time.
Now the issue of transubstantiation has been dealt with in other articles. And more importantly is not essential to the doctrine of mysticism.
But what if Christ is only spiritually present in the taking of the lords supper?
"But what of the idea that Christ is spiritually present? This view arose from two historical sources. One was the desire of certain theologians to retain something of the traditional belief in Christ presence even as they sought to change it. Their approach to the reformation of the faith leaned more toward retaining whatever is not explicitly rejected by Scripture than toward starting from scratch, preserving only those tenets of the faith that are explicitly taught in scripture. Instead of totally rejecting tradition and constructing a completely new understanding, they chose to modify the old belief. The other source of the view that christ is spiritually present was a disposition towards mysticism. Some believers , having had a profound experience of encounter with Christ as they observed the Lord's Supper concluded that Christ must have been spiritually present. The doctrine served as an explanation of the experience." Christian Theology Millard Erickson Pg. 30
Christ is already spiritual present through faith alone.
17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
So what would be the purpose or use of elements? This view of sacramentalism is still mysticism.
If Christ is not in the elements then we must come to him through faith alone. If He is in the elements then he must be acquired through faith plus works. So in mysticism and sacramentalism, we may access the divine through rituals and good works. So the memorial view of the lord's supper is consistent with justification by grace through faith alone.
sancitifcation and worship
We must be justified by grace through faith alone If we are to move forward in sanctification. If our sins are not atoned for there is no way that we can truly please God.
So mystical worship is typically emotional and yet legalistic. This is not the proper way to approach God.
Luke 18:10Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Now obviously both these men were emotional and emotions are healthy. But nottice How the pharisee had faith in his works. And also nottice how he was not justified.
New evangelicalism is falling in love with it's worship. It is pursuing God in mystical formats. As a result it is not being sanctified. Because it is not justified.
We use projectors and electric guitars using lyrics with less and less meaning. Sometimes not even giving proper titles to God. Yet even though the doctrinal content is growing less and less. We feel we are closer to God because we are more emotional. Our worship is less focused upon how we are relating to God and more focused upon how God makes us feel. Do we even focus on music that is discussing how we minister? Typically no. Our worship is self centered.
Even when the claim is made to be God centered. One may notice how self returns the subject. Revelation is not considered as much since scripture is less the topic of the worship. Scripture is ultimately rational and mysticism ultimately is not.
Jesus is ultimately the Logos/Word. logos means among other things, logic.
Mysticism is in opposition to logic and ultimately in opposition to Christ.