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Mysticism is like Green Eggs and Ham

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, mystics were a sect of orthodox Christianity. Today, they are often labeled cultic-style prophets or hippies. But what if mysticism still has something to offer us and we are missing it because of misplaced labels?

 

The Crazies Ruined the Fun for Everyone

I have had my fair share of run-ins with cultic prophets. There’s no way around it: They’re crazy. I don’t immediately doubt people who claim to have seen visions of God, had transcendent experiences, or encountered semi-divine creatures, but I am a bit leery of them. Not because I don’t believe they can see, feel or hear God, but because I know that they can use their ‘experiences’ for evil. It seems to me that the majority of people who are gifted enough to look beyond reality and see the spiritual end up going down the wrong path. Somewhere along the way, they get too wrapped up in it. They become obsessed with their gifts and what they saw. They then begin to lead other people down the wrong path too, or get put in an insane asylum.

We have to set boundaries with these people. We have to be cautious and careful. There are tell-tale signs for those who are either faking it or playing short stop for the other team—the team that opposes God. So before we go any further into defining (and redefining) mysticism, please heed my words of caution (1 John 4:1–6). And please be sure to examine yourself if you think you have experienced the divine. Any of us can be tricked.

Even though mysticism has at times been equated with cultic prophets, its original form was orthodox.

Mysticism: Everywhere and Anywhere

Mysticism was originally a form of Judaism, but once the Christian movement started, Christians carried over mystic, Jewish beliefs into their new faith, called “the way” (Acts 24:22). (It’s a bit more complicated than that, but we will leave it there for now.) Mysticism is all about experiencing God—seeing him in everything and everywhere. It is about a general awareness that we as finite beings can have experiences with eternal beings (angels, demons, etc.). (I know it's starting to sound more like Star Wars or X-Files by the minute.)

The Christian mystics were all about the Holy Spirit. They wanted the Holy Spirit to be involved in every part of their life. We see this from the very beginning of Christianity in Acts 2. The Spirit is a focal point of the book of Acts, much of Paul’s letters, and John’s Gospel (e.g., Acts 10:44–48; Rom 8:1–2; 1 Cor 2:1–10; John 3:1–21). The Spirit is not a distant being; it is a present being—with us, all the time (John 17:11–12). Early Christians believed that they didn’t have to go into a temple or a church building to experience God. He is here, there, everywhere. (I could eat them in a house, I could eat them with a mouse; you get the point.) Like green eggs and ham, you can be spiritual and experience the spiritual anywhere and everywhere.

We Think God is Here, but He is Really over There

So what happened? When did we start singing songs with lyrics like, “God, meet us in this place.” From what I can see in the New Testament, early Christians believed God was with them in everyday life. And they communed (and I assume worshipped) in homes. It was a mystical (mysterious) experience. This may have been what made the church so attractive. The concept that “God [is] with us” allowed for all kinds of ‘crazy’ things to happen (e.g., miracles, demon-casting out, speaking in tongues).

God is not just in the church. By us not looking for him we are missing out on the best part of Christianity. And we are being made the fool. Without knowing it, we may even being playing center field for the other team. After all, the other team is also everywhere, at least according to Paul (Eph 6:12).

What would our world look like if we took our plain-Jane Christianity, and imposed the idea of “God everywhere” upon it? Would God begin to transcend our religiosity, our workplaces, our families, and our very selves? What would it change about the way we worship? Drop me a comment and let me know.

(Further Reading: Ephesians 3:7–21.)

Comments

I think for the most part, people are looking for an experience, something real. It's sort of funny, but what you define as mysticism I would define as Christianity based on what you described in Acts. Excellent points and a discussion that needs to take place.

As for the songs about "meet us here" and other such phrases, I think it's more about positioning ourselves than trying to get God to respond. It's stilling and quieting our souls like a weaned child with his mother (Psalm 131). We may think of it wrongly, that we are creating an environment for Him to come and manifest His presence when really we are adjusting ourselves. That's I how I've seen it anyway. Thanks for the post!

JasonS',

Thanks for comment. You have caught onto where I am going with this: early Christianity and mysticism are a lot alike. Check out my post here on this: http://www.conversantlife.com/theology/written-off-not-because-i%E2%80%9...

Anyone want to pick up on JasonS' comments about my opinion of certain worship songs?

--John

You haven't defined mysticism here (forgive my linear thinking and reliance on objectivity). I have read a definition that describes mysiticism as being the "direct experience with God." In a very real sense, being "born again" is a "mystical" experience. Unfortunately, for some it is the last mystical experience they have. As you have pointed out in your title "The Infinite in Everything," we meet God daily, in each mundane experience, in the touch of someone ministering to us and in the touch of the person, the least person, to whom we minister with something so mundane as a cup of water. Often we encounter Christ, like those identified as sheep in Matt 25, and we fail to recognize him. We go through life with blinders on, sometimes with patches over both spiritual eyes. But then, now and again, we peep out or around the blinders or hear a word or feel a stirring of a breath of air, and we know that he is there. He is the one whispering to us, the one who allows us serve him with a cup of water, a bowl of soup, a coat, a visit in time of sickness or imprisonment. These aremystical experiences. The question is whether we recognize them as such.

Doc,

My definition of mysticism is indeed fluid, and not very linear -- kind of like mysticism in general, eh? ;-) I will narrow in our focus and definition in future posts. For now, it is sufficient to say that I define mysticism as simply experiencing the Infinite God, who is in everything. And then letting these experiences change, alter and (in many ways) define our theological, philosophical and pragmatic outlook on life.

I think you have a very good point that ministering to those who are hurting, broken, and in need is a way we can experience God in mysterious (mystical) ways.

Would anyone else like to pick up on this point of Doc's? Where does this lead us? What does this tell us about where God can (and supposedly cannot) be found?

--John

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The Infinite God is everywhere, are you looking? I am dedicated to finding God in all aspects of life – the Bible, the news, and the arts. Because I find that the most fulfilling journey of all is searching for heaven here on earth.