Consider becoming a grateful mystic. I use mystic as a shortcut description for a person seeing God’s kingdom now and realizing it is more than an assent to beliefs. Answers are cheap and often contradictory. Energy spent discerning real and fake news might be better spent in formulating wise questions for our time. Jesus showed wisdom by asking questions. Who do you say I am? Did you never read the scriptures? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifetime? He asked 183 questions and answered only three of them. Asking the right questions usually requires a quiet space and time for reflection. A mystic embraces paradox and realizes the beauty of meditation to crowd out frantic self-talk that is typically informed by loud voices in media and significant others and that often crowds out the voiceof God. Indeed, myriad competing 21st-century distractions challenge one’s ability to focus on God’s leading.
Thank you, Carmen, for this deeply perceptive, thoughtful, and insightful piece. It strikes me in the heart.
You offer a vision of a Christianity more concerned with the mystery of being in tune with God than with precision in a belief system. It feels like a vision in which love and relationships, driven by gratitude, are more important than certainty. “A mystic allows vulnerability.”
To me, one element of the mystery of Christianity is how things happen in the heart and life of the seeker. There is no formula, no stepped process. I cling to the words of Jesus, "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Yes. Define “mysticism” and please do such in such a way as to eliminate the notion that the concept is in anyway mysterious or can be transferred from one person to another with something as crude and ill-defined as language. Having done so one finds no need to subscribe to any school of thought that can be expressed using words. That is, one is no longer a believer in any “ism”. He knows, even if he cannot say. And BTW, congratulations. SDA-ism is in your rear view mirror.
God is a mystery. Love is a mystery. Everything that emanates from God and from love are mystery. Some define their Christianity by behavioural modification; others have been connected to the mysteries of God and the love that comes into the world from God - without giving either a name, because they can’t define either one.
We, Adventists too often like to define our terms and number our beliefs, as if in doing so we become Christians. We live our Christianity in a secular way - we read the Bible because someone said we should - not because we are looking for new and deeper truths. We try to paste the Christian virtues onto our lives because we think that makes us live out those virtues - not because we are prompted by the Spirit. We tithe by calculator, and give our time by the calendar and the clock. In other words, we pre-plan our Christianity; and measure loyalty by dollars and cents (i.e.:SS lesson). The grand mystery of God and the universe He created hovers just out of reach, and even threatens our security within the box we have created.
“Behold, I show you a MYSTERY…” “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither have entered into the [minds]…” These passages from the Bible infer that there is indeed mystery. This is NOT pantheism!
I believe that one of the weakness of Adventism [I’m a 10th generation Sabbath keeper, 7th generation Adventist, baptized 60 years ago] is the need to have a concrete explanation for everything when, in fact, the Bible teaches that some things about God are a mystery. This is why there is value in being a “mystic”.
Pago, MYST is the root of both “MYSTery” and “MYSTic”. Study the origin of these terms and you will see that both pertain to “a person who claims to attain, or believes in the possibility of attaining, insight into mysteries transcending ordinary human knowledge”.
Sometimes words have more than one meaning. So, yes, “mystic” can also have a negative connotation as you infer. But not always.
I agree with @tjzwemer that the author should have used the term: disciple instead of: mystic. The word mystic (as a follower of mysticism) has so so many connotations that run counter to the understanding of what a Christian is or should be that it is best to let the author explain why she chose it.
For my part, I do find agreement with us needing to have a more grateful attitude, Paul wrote to the Colossians and Thessalonians on this subject (show yourselves thankful), and even told the Hebrews that God Himself had a thankful attitude towards them (Heb. 6:10). I equate a thankful disposition with hapines and joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Pantheism and Panentheism are different. but not entirely/totally different definitions. They have root connections. We have no need to go into mysticism as this author suggests in this article, the summary of which appears in the final sentence:
“So, back to my original idea: consider becoming a grateful mystic. Make time for silence. Paradoxically, this allows one to wake up and in this way live joyfully amidst slander and misunderstanding.”
Much of the article reflected the usual language of the middle Eastern mystics, where one is given mystical expressions that can flow in whatever direction one chooses them to be. Just listen to the supposed wise sayings of many of these mystics and give them a little twist which appears Christian, and you have the following:
" A wise one needs more than answers; a wise one craves discernment. One thinks there is wisdom in technology, but sometimes one is a slave to her own success. With a growing weariness of social media, one tends to pine for a growing awareness and new outlook.
"For many, religion is not the answer and is instead looking more and more like an old volcano that is hardened and predictable, having lost the original pliable fluidity and danger and usefulness. Now is the time to untangle the cord of institutional religion to find the original thread. Now is the time for a movement, not a machine.
"Now is the time for Christianity to be a catalyst for change, not a cage or a buffer. The power pyramid offers no future. Neither does the bondage of a willful declaration that we are the “good” ones and on the “good” team. Such thoughts drive to self-deception and blindness. We don’t see truth and don’t want to. The project of God is to remove our blinders so that we can see. “I once was blind, but now I see.” This phrase from Amazing Grace appeals almost universally to people whether they are religious or not.
“Seekers want more than a promise that the winning side will herd the masses into the “Christian” way. Would be disciples are intrigued by a path or a tool or a paradigm that guides, yet provides flexibility, to respond to innumerable variables.”
The rest of the argument put forth by the author is interspersed with various stories and themes, creating a disjointed whole, which seek to confuse the mind as to the real intent of the article - to promote “the silence” and its associated New Age deceptions. Again this is a technique of the middle Eastern mystics.
We have the more sure word of prophecy, the Bible which will not confuse if we study it with the Holy Spirit to guide, and let the mysticism alone.
Jimmy, the mystics used by the author and many other Christians have nothing to do with New Age whatsoever.
To the contrary, they were devoted Christians and Christ-followers before the Protestant Revolution who wrote on topics of prayer, inviting Christ into your daily life, knowing God, living a God-filled life.
Your criticism is typical of Adventists and others who are “suspicious” and hurl this criticism and who are uninformed on Christian mystics. Just as Ellen White wrote about one’s devotional life, finding Christ, being God’s children, etc. these mystics’ writings point to a strong devotional life.
I invite you to explore more of the Christian mystics who have nothing whatsoever to do with your Eastern mystics.
Contrary to your accusations against the writing style in this essay, perhaps your biases about the topic interfered with your ability to follow and appreciate the clear style of this piece of writing.
Thank you Carmen you have helped me to enjoy once again the memory of “Mystical” Plantains. Her article A New Identity: Grateful Mystic inspires awe.
Carmen Lau has done it again! She inspires me to think deeply and stretch our imagination and use our creativity. We need to understand her words clearly and not be distracted by the limitations of rigid theological tunnel vision. One of my teachers Dr. Graham Maxwell was once called out in class for sounding “mystical”. He paused and with a beautiful smile asked the class to consider for a moment something that they found pleasing and enjoyed, respected, and were in deep awe of, but could not factually explain. Perhaps this item or experience could be symbolic or allegorical, especially with regard to spirituality or be part of a mystical interpretation of a parable. He loved rain and used it as a means of helping us understand the way the Holy Spirit works in us. I understood mystical more as an adjective inspiring joy and awe in me. Plantains are my favorite food and remembering my mom cooking them for me when I was a child and eating them today cause me to feel good. There is no factual scientific explanation for all of this. But for what it’s worth here is my simple recipe for “mystic plantains”.
Add all ingredients to list, 5 tablespoons oil for frying 3 cups cold water, salt to taste
Peel the plantain and cut it into 1-inch chunks.
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Place the plantains in the oil and fry on both sides,; approximately 3 1/2 minutes per side.
Remove the plantains from the pan and flatten the plantains by placing a plate over the fried plantains and pressing down.
Dip the plantains in water, then return them to the hot oil and fry 1 minute on each side. Salt to taste and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 136 calories; 3.3 g fat; 28.5 g carbohydrates; 1.2 g protein; 0 mg cholesterol; 14 mg sodium.
It seems to me that certain Christian mystics down through the years have enjoyed a deeper, more intimate communion with God than many other believers.
It’s as though they were able to live a different type of existence, one more sensitive to and thus aligned with the Holy Spirit. They have lived in our physical world yet have embraced the reality of new life in the spiritual world (in effect already enjoying our inheritance in Christ in heavenly places).
Below is a link to a three part article that attempts to explain this in terms of our existence as beings possessing a spirit, soul and body. For most of us the mind of the soul rules all aspects of our lives. It takes inputs from our senses (body) and past teachings and experiences and makes decisions about appropriate responses. It is dualistic in nature and compares, judges and thus concludes what is right or wrong, good or bad, acceptable or not. It has difficulty holding ideas it deems contradictory in peaceful tension.
I think you are right in saying that a grateful attitude and quiet reflection on the workings of God (i.e., Christian meditation) are ways we can use to recognize and move beyond this almost universally unquestioned way of life.
The author also argues that the soul has usurped the authority given by God to our spirit and thus overrides or reduces the strength of our connection to the Holy Spirit (the seed of Christ) within each of us.
Perhaps a true mystic is one who has come to the point where the soul no longer rules the spirit but is in proper subjection to it.