Is there a place for mysticism?

This is exactly the sort of Anti-Mysticism I mean:

If quieting and emptying your mind helps you to focus on God, why is it bad? (I do not imply that I endorse any new age practices)

Dear Reggie,
There is nothing bad about this, and not eh contrary, that is how we become closer to God and His Spiritual World.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Matt 6:6

We are encouraged to create a personal relationship with God and we can only do this in silence, by ridding our minds of thoughts of this world. I find guided mediations quite helpful for this purpose and this is one of my favorites.
Best Wishes, Shawn

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Hey there. I’m responding to the initial post. It’s been awhile since I posted anything here. I’ve gone through some massive deconstruction, feel a bit homeless spiritually, and I am on the brink of deconverting from Christianity all together. I say that because as I’ve been searching out ways to move forward in the Christian faith I have engaged with people like Richard Rohr, The Liturgists, Pete Enns, etc. They all embrace, to one degree or another, some form of mysticism/contemplative practice. I definitely think it has a place and it isn’t flirtation with the devil, so to speak. Mysticism has always existed in the Christian tradition.

BUT…

In my opinion, mysticism leads to a dead end, especially for people like myself. Many of us are longing for some experience of God. We take up certain practices espoused by trusted thought-leaders and church practitioners and, at least in my case, things don’t ‘work.’ It leaves an even bigger hole in our longing hearts. For me, mysticism/contemplation has nudged me further into agnosticism because 1) I’m either doing it wrong and so God doesn’t honor that or 2) God isn’t there.

I do think that there is a place for it though and if it helps you feel closer to God then that’s awesome.

I hope that is helpful!

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Hi Austin, good to see you again, and I can relate to what you’re saying. On one extreme I’ve seen Christian groups that basically infer that if you don’t have a legitimate emotional/physical “experience,” you’re not really a Christian. But on the other end, there is sometimes so much suspicion of any practice deemed too “emotional” that it can be hard to know what to expect and how to even begin to “practice” such a thing. Sometimes group practice within religious communities can be more helpful than just hearing “You should do x once in a while” from the pulpit.

Anyway, I’ve felt similarly, that I must be “doing it wrong.” I seem to like formulas, and that’s what many leaders like to give, but sometimes it feels like a diet book, where what seems like it should “work” just doesn’t sometimes, and there is temptation to jump from fad to fad. I have to remember that God is bigger than my experiences and I don’t think he is dishonored if I seek him as best I can with whatever odd combination of intellect and emotions he’s given me.

Blessings as you work through the complexities of faith.

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Completely agree.

It seems that there are several ways to approach mystery. In “The Chosen,” Reuven, a relatively secular Jew, and Danny, a Hasid, take opposite paths–Danny deconstructs from his father’s almost cultish mysticism to become a psychologist, and Reuven becomes a rabbi (albeit with a healthy questioning of the inerrancy of the Scriptures).

Perhaps more to the Western fear of mysticism is an abhorrence of what obfuscates truth and causes pride. G K Chesterton was not a fan of some kinds of mysticism, for example, and 2 quotes stick in my mind about the pride and Gnosticism (one extreme) which he shied away from. Both, however, are the very extremes–I think that that is what some evangelicals fear. I don’t think it’s the majority of mysticism, but it’s the anti-intellectual type:

"I know something about Satanism, for my sins; I’ve been forced to know. I know what it is, what it practically always is. It’s proud and it’s sly. It likes to be superior; it loves to horrify the innocent with things half understood, to make children’s flesh creep. That’s why it’s so fond of mysteries and initiations and secret societies and all the rest of it. Its eyes are turned inwards, and however grand and grave it may look, it’s always hiding a small, mad smile.”

“I spare you,” said the Duke in a voice of inhuman pity. “I refuse. If I gave you the faintest hint of the load of horror I have to bear alone, you would lie shrieking at these feet of mine and begging to know no more. I will spare you the hint. You shall not spell the first letter of what is written on the altar of the Unknown God.” “I know the Unknown God,” said the little priest, with an unconscious grandeur of certitude that stood up like a granite tower. “I know his name; it is Satan. The true God was made flesh and dwelt among us. And I say to you, wherever you find men ruled merely by mystery, it is the mystery of iniquity. If the devil tells you something is too fearful to look at, look at it. If he says something is too terrible to hear, hear it. If you think some truth unbearable, bear it."

Roger Scruton hypothesized that religion is an attempt to fill in our unknowns. I’m not sure; certainly, we search for God as a filler for our vast emptiness. We bring our own iniquities into that search, if we’re not careful–that’s why I kind of like the Dallas Willard mysticism, where one tries to focus, to expense of today’s world, on what surpasses in goodness and truth. But there’s a lot I don’t know about the human psyche.

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True that, Quinn. And it is arguably an Eastern religion. We have Westernized Christianity at some points to where it is almost unrecognizable. It seems that we want to rationalize things and use apologetics to make everything nice and reasonable, and forget that the basis of Christianity is God becoming man born of a virgin, dying and returning from the grave to reign as king. Sort of bizarre and definitely mystic.

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Just had a thought: wouldn’t prayer be considered a mystical experience?

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