What Is Mysticism?
Mysticism: the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight) - Merriam-Webster's Dictionary
The hardest part about identifying oneself as a mystic tends to be all the misconceptions people have about the label. Witchcraft, divination, flying broomsticks, crystals, and strange smells all seem to come to mind for people when they first hear "mysticism." In reality, none of these things have to do with mysticism, and especially not Christian mysticism. So what is mysticism, and why do I find it important enough to risk the misunderstanding?
The reason why mystics find it important to distinguish themselves is probably more because of what mysticism isn't, more that what it is. First and foremost, it is not theology, doctrine, dogma, rules or creed. At some point everyone who lives under the banner "mystic" has come to the potent conviction the real answers to life aren't found in the obsessive scrutiny of text, tedious debate, or logical puzzles. No, the answers are right in front of us.
So now we get to the point of what mysticism is: The art of seeing God right in front of us. The mystic believes that truth, wisdom, and all the so-called "secrets" of the Universe are not hidden, but in plain sight. God meets us in everyday life, nature, and through our interactions with others around us. Learning to be aware of the world around us is essential for the development of our soul.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. - Rom. 1:20
If everything is obvious, then why don't we see it? If all we need is right in front of us, why don't we understand it? Well, this is why we actually teach and practice mysticism. We are blinded to reality because of our hearts and our minds. Our minds are full of prejudice, bias, assumptions and beliefs that are built into us by culture and society. Our hearts are full of fear, doubt, anger, and pain.
Mysticism is a lifelong determination to labor upon our hearts and minds to clear out everything that blinds us to God. Christian mysticism is unique as we believe we have help in this journey through the Holy Spirit. It is also unique in that it has stronger focus on people than other forms of mysticism. Christ teaches us that we experience him most through one another.
"And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. ’" - Matt. 25:40
I have no greater joy in life than seeing someone's eyes open for the first time to the wonders around them. Like those before me, the focus of this blog is on helping us become aware of the knots and obstacles which lie in our hearts and minds separating us from God, Christ, and others.
Here is a great analogy for Mysticism from a friend:
Christian mystics believe in an experiential understanding of God, because we believe it is the only way it will change you.
So for example: Say there is someone who has never had a pizza. Then they hear about it and study it, find out how it's made, what the ingredients are, maybe they get really deep into it to understand how the gluten works in forming the crust. Really their pizza knowledge seems deep. They have a degree in pizzaology.
Then you have a nine year old who has eaten as much pizza as a normal nine year old. When you ask them to describe pizza, they talk about how cheesy it is, how delicious it is, how it fills their tummy, and how much fun it is to eat with friends.
Which of these people understands pizza?