Christian Mysticism

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by farhan, Feb 14, 2015.

  1. farhan

    farhan Well-Known Member

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    Hi,

    I am reasonably knowledgeable in sufi, buddhist, hindu, and western esoteric traditions. It was weird that I couldnt find much about christian mysticism on the net. There wasent much data on theory and zero information on practice. So anybody?

    :)
     
  2. Hermes

    Hermes Zos Kia Cultus

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    Google Rosicrucian, Rudolph, Steiner and Gnostic

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/index.htm
     
  3. farhan

    farhan Well-Known Member

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    I have read Heindel,Steiner and hermetica. Apart from gnostics, the list you gave are mainly western traditions. They take from neoplatonism, hermetism and a bit from kabbalah/hindu/buddhist tradition. It isnt exactly christian.
     
  4. donnann

    donnann Well-Known Member

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    Forces of Light and Dark - Teachings of Jesus and Eastern Mysticism
     
  5. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Farhan –

    There is such a wealth of material about the Christian Mystical Tradition that I assume you are seeking the answer to a more particular question.

    Generally I would say that the idea that there is an 'esoteric' and 'mystical' stream of Christian theoria and praxis that is somehow 'other than' and 'secret' with regard to 'exoteric' and 'orthodox' Christian practice has no foundation in the real world.

    Meister Eckhart is widely considered 'the Prince of Mystics' in the Latin tradition. Certainly his writings are the most popular in expressing the aims of Christian Mysticism which is incorporation into 'The Mystical Body of Christ', although his current popularity is down to the idea that he somehow 'crosses the line' or has 'outgrown' or 'risen above' orthodoxy. So much so that for a while the idea that Eckhart was actually talking about Zen principles rather than Christianity.

    The truth is more mundane. Eckhart is entirely orthodox, and follows in a long line of Christian 'mystical' writers, going back to Dionysius the pseudoAreopagite in the fifth century.

    As for 'practice', there is no 'esoteric' practice that is any different to the 'exoteric'. It is participation in the life of prayer, the liturgy and the sacraments.

    You might want to look at Hesychasm in the Greek tradition.

    The sources of the mystical tradition east and west are the same, although Dionysius is held in higher regard in the West than in the East. In the East, St Maximus the Confessor is more famous than in the West, although he too followed and provided many mystical commentaries on the mysticism of Dionysius.

    The Philokalia is a collection of texts written by spiritual masters of the Hesychast tradition, and St Maximus' major works are gathered there.

    The Meditations on the Tarot is, as the subtitle states, 'A Journey into Christian Hermeticism'.

    Finally, it's worth looking at the wiki entry for Christian Mysticism, especially the definition.
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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  7. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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  8. farhan

    farhan Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your replies. I will look into these when I get time.

    Thomas, you have raised a bigger question for me now. What exactly is that which differentiates a common christian for a mystic christian. Becasue throughout my studies, I have seen mysticism is associated with some specfic practices, from as simple as watching over one's actions to hardcore chakra/energy stuff. Are you saying that there is no such thing in Christianity.

    Regarding Diyonysis, I read him long time ago, and his teachings seemed a mixture of neoplatonic and christian traditions. What do you say? Although I realize that there is this problem with neoplatonism that its found everywhere in all abrahamic mystic traditions.
     
  9. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Title "Evolution of Consciousness"
    Subtitle "The Ultimate Christian Goal"
    Author John Kuykendall
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Christianity is essentially a mystical religion. If you're a liturgical Christian, then you are engaged in the practice of 'the Mysteries'.

    Or put another way, if one traces the line of Christian mystics, what do they do that's different? Nothing... Prayer. The Liturgy. The Sacraments. Maybe their hearts are in the right place, or they are in their hearts ...

    But we are wary of technique. Especially when the commentaries speak of risks and dangers. If it's risky, or dangerous, it's more likely a psychodynamic technique, rather than an authentic spiritual practice.

    Not quite. The core of 'the mystical pursuit', if you like, is the disposition of the heart towards God. The idea that it is God who transforms us, not we who transform ourselves. So really, the core 'technique' is being mindful of God ...

    Christianity believes God is self-communicative, and the idea is to put oneself in a position to 'let Him get on with it', be receptive, but not to try and control or organise the situation ourselves. As St Paul says, the highest form of prayer is when God prays in the soul ... our job is to sweep out and polish the woodwork, as it were.

    Technique is helpful to settle in preparation for prayer. Meditation is a useful method of stilling the mind, but meditation in itself is not a 'spiritual exercise', nor is it a technique to attain enlightenment, It's just meditation, a means by which one still the mind.

    I was taught by Buddhists. "You don't get to be Buddhist by meditating," he said. "Nor does meditating turn you into a Buddhist." But there is a tendency to see meditation as a technique to attain enlightenment.

    Likewise there is a tendency to assume one is praying when one is meditating, or by meditating one is praying. They're not the same thing at all.

    +++

    The Liturgy of the Mass is a series of symbolic presentations that basically encompasses the whole Christian life. Traditionally the catechumen, once baptised, would enter into an ongoing process of spiritual formation called mystagogy, but that's largely fallen out of practice and favour in the West.

    Vatican II and the popes since have tried to re-instill the spirit of mystagogia, but there is some resistance as, from the Reformation on, Christianity has gone through the process of rationalisation and explaining away its mystical roots.

    It's there in liminal form in High Anglicanism, still there in the more traditional Catholicism (the Mass as a solemnity and not a 'happy-clappy' celebration, the symbolism of the new mass is all wrong), in shedloads in Orthodoxy ... but of course most people today see nothing beyond 'the bells and smells' and assume it's all old hat superstition ...

    There can be no higher nor more mystical nor more occult nor more esoteric rite than the Eucharist – it's an archetype, really. What bugs the modern practitioner is they want all the trappings of 'secrecy' and 'elitism'.

    I could talk about saints having a certain charisma, a certain presence, but then I have seen tv personalities have the same apparent effect ...

    There is the 'mystical' of the individual psyche operating at its limit, as it were, and there is much 'esoteric' and 'occult' training to attain that, but that's still within the bounds of human potential. The 'real deal' for me is at the level of pneuma, not psyche.

    Well I would say nigh-on the whole Patristic Tradition is Christianity explained through Greek philosophy, of which Platonism is the most suited.

    As one Orthodox scholar noted, 'when the Fathers thought, they Platonised.' That was the best philosophical language of the day, but it did lead to problems when one made Christ fit Plato, Origen stumbled a bit there, Arius did, with disastrous consequences ...

    The genius of St Maximus the Confessor (inspired by the likes of Dionysius, Gregory of Nyssa and others) is he took the basic Platonic schemata of stasis-kinesis-genesis – 'rest-movement-becoming' ...

    (Platonism holds that souls are immortal and eternal and existed in a kind of choir around God (rest), but for some inexplicable reason turned away and thus instigated a fall away from the divine state (movement), the world and matter being created (becoming), a 'necessary evil' to arrest their descent.

    ... and turned it round to match Scriptural revelation: genesis-kinesis-stasis.

    (Christianity holds that in the beginning (genesis) God brought being out of nothing (movement – from nothing to something) and the 'direction' of that movement is toward its end, which is the rest in God (stasis).

    Keep that in mind and Platonism offers a useful lexicon to explain Christianity. The only significant difference is Christianity is not 'the flight of the alone to the Alone' as it is for Plotinus. Christianity is a collective religion – aimed at man as such, not individual men.

    So we regard 'the mystic' as someone who is accorded a certain grace or spiritual presence or insight for the benefit of all, not as a reward of individual advancement. Some could be more advanced but apparently show nothing ...

    Really, a mystic is someone who practices the 'presence of mind' of the 'Presence of God' ... and practice makes perfect!
     
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  11. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    It's there in liminal form in High Anglicanism, still there in the more traditional Catholicism (the Mass as a solemnity and not a 'happy-clappy' celebration, the symbolism of the new mass is all wrong), in shedloads in Orthodoxy ... but of course most people today see nothing beyond 'the bells and smells' and assume it's all old hat superstition … Thomas.

    Curious. A couple decades back the church felt it was losing too many people to the solemn, traditional mass of past centuries. As I recall the first thing to go was the Latin. Speak to the people in English and they will understand you. No one speaks Latin!

    From there it went more and more into the big family gathering church experience - attempting to make the mass experience a pleasant one so that people would want to come back and experience it every week.

    Essentially trying to make mass relevant to people of the 20th century. Because they could not relate to a mass even of a hundred years earlier. Which got us to where we are today.

    The question becomes how to change church services back to what is actually meaningful, and yet keep the congregations coming back for more.
     
  12. donnann

    donnann Well-Known Member

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    I have been to catholic mass and it is desirable being very peaceful.
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    I'm of the generation of that change.

    There's nothing wrong with the idea of mass in the vernacular. There is a fair deal wrong with the way the English missal came about. At the very least they could have got a poet or a lyricist – someone with an ear for the beauty of language – to work on the translations.

    The theological 'problems' with what was taken out, what was put in and how things have been translated in the vernacular mass are too technical to be worth discussing here.

    But certain aspects – the priest facing the congregation, the removal of the tabernacle from the altar (ignored in a lot of cases) – are just wrong from the traditional mystagogic understanding of the rite. I actually walked out of a Benedictine monastery when I saw the tabernacle tucked away in a corner, and above the altar a chair where the celebrating priest would sit...

    I know.

    People often assume that the illiterate populations of the Middle Ages, trooping into Church to watch a priest mumble the mass in Latin, had no idea about what was going on. It's all part of modernity's assumption that we're so much cleverer than the people of yesteryear.

    Actually the illiterate peasant of the Middle Ages had a far greater sense and understanding of his or her religion. They had not lost their insight into symbol, everything in the Church spoke to him or her; the pictures, the statues, the windows, the architecture, the liturgical acts that make up the mass. They had Mystery Plays and Mummers, guilds under the patronage of various saints – their faith was all of a piece in their lives.

    Today we are estranged. You see people marvel at the ancient churches, but they understand very little of it, it doesn't talk to them. And the Church tries to make people feel welcome not by explaining or revitalising the Mysteries, but by hiding them under the mundane, in an effort to make people feel comfortable.

    Yep. No easy answers.
     
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  14. donnann

    donnann Well-Known Member

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    Being catholic I am not too thrilled with the mass in latin. I dont see the point of it but maybe I should ask a priest to explain.
     

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