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Mystical Christianity


earl
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Just saw a post wherein Aletheia had indicated she'd hoped the "Christian hybrids" thread would continue to role and evole into an ongoing discussion of mysticism. (Could even include discussion of folks' thought on the subject like Wilber here.) So, thought, OK, why not start a thread dedicated to that. For folks wanting that, here you go-post away. Have a good one, Earl

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Alrighty, then, I'll get the ball rolling by sharing something I had at another forum re one the earliest of Christian churches-the desert father tradition-which heavily emphasized contemplative practice via a form known as hesychasm. What I posted was excerpted from an article on the tradition:

 

"Hesychasm is derived from the Greek meaning to be still and the hesychasts sought to know God from the act of still their bodies and minds. They spoke of two types of consciousness: what we would refer to as ego-centered and ego-transcendent. The former refer to our attachments to the senses, the intellect, and the imagination. The latter relates to detachment from those faculties. While it is traditionally spoken that the transformation from one state of mind to the other was termed 'metanoia,' the literal translation of the term is 'transformation of the nous.' Whereas the rational intellect uses deductive reasoning, the nous relies upon immediate experience or intuition. For the hesychasts to reach their ultimate goal of unio with God, they posited three steps or stages: first dispassion, (Greek-'apatheia'), involving detachment from the senses and emotion. Second, stillness, requiring detachment from the discursive intellect and imagination. Finally, deification or 'theosis,' (Greek), implying an abiding state of illumination/union with God. They described 'passions,' (intense emotions) as 'fallen' or bad when they are misdirected. Of course, their desert hermitages were one of their outer practices to assist them in the first stage of detaching from the passions. Inner practices were meant to assist the second stage. For that they utilized meditation and prayer and spoke of the four traditional levels of prayer: verbal- reading, chanting, or reciting psalms. Mental prayer- speaking words inwardly with the mind, most common being the Jesus Prayer. Sometimes they would link such silent recitation to the breath or the heartbeat or to prostrations. Third level is prayer of the heart- 'the mind should be in the heart, should guard the heart while it prays, revolve, remaining always within, and thence from the depths of the heart, offer up prayers to God.' Finally, theoria or contemplation involving the cessation of all mental activity at which point one is able to 'see God in everything.' Progress on the hesychastic path is associated with increasing degrees of agape and decreasing levels of fear."

 

I think it's fascinating that 1 of the earliest known versions of Christianity, (in fact the one in which it could be said that the monastic tradition started), was dedicated to more of an inner/contemplative approach than an external one. Take care, Earl

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Hey Earl --

 

Thanks for starting this thread. I don't have much time at the moment, so I'll return later. Just wanted to say: I love the Christian mystical / contemplative path. I think it's the true inner essence of Christian prayer, its deep wisdom, its heart. The mystical path can be traced back to Judaism, as when the psalmist writes "Be still and know that I am God." And to Jesus, when he taught people to go in to their room, "close the door, and pray to the Father in secret, and the Father who sees in secret will reward you."

 

Now that I have a contemplative prayer practice, the gospels have come to life for me in a way that I never would have imagined.

 

What I also love about the Christian mystical path is that it gives us a point of connection and dialogue with the contemplative paths of other world religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufi Islam, etc.

 

Have you ever read Evelyn Underhill's "Mysticism" or Wayne Teasdale's "The Mystic Heart"? Both wonderful books on mysticism (although Underhill's is long and somewhat heavy-going at times.)

 

I'm a budding Ken Wilber fan too.

 

Anyway, check you later, mystic Earl!

 

Peace,

curlytop

Edited by curlytop
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I had hoped that the topic "Praxis and Ritual in Progressive Christianity" would evolve into a discussion of mysticism and would satisfy the interest in "hybrid" practices many of us seem to share.

 

Right now, the message boards seem a bit scattery and I'm sitting back waiting to see where the discussion will take wing.

 

lily

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I had hoped that the topic "Praxis and Ritual in Progressive Christianity" would evolve into a discussion of mysticism and would satisfy the interest in "hybrid" practices many of us seem to share.

 

Right now, the message boards seem a bit scattery and I'm sitting back waiting to see where the discussion will take wing.

 

lily

 

LOL! The board is scattery isn't it? I'd hoped the "Hybrid" thread would include discussions about Centering Prayer compared to other forms of meditation, which would then grow to include Mysticism (which goes hand in hand with meditation imo). :D

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Just got done posting a link to the thought of John Scotus Eiugena @ another forum & thought some of you might be interested too. Think alot of his thought, (9th cent. Celtic Christian visionary), probably applies to the discussion of panentheism, but frankly alot of that thread is over my head & since I wasn't sure how well it fit, out it here. Maybe it's just my Celtic roots showing, but I liked it:

 

http://www.thoemmes.com/404.asp?404;http:/...ia/eriugena.htm

 

Take care, Earl

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Hey Earl --

 

Thanks for starting this thread. I don't have much time at the moment, so I'll return later. Just wanted to say: I love the Christian mystical / contemplative path. I think it's the true inner essence of Christian prayer, its deep wisdom, its heart. The mystical path can be traced back to Judaism, as when the psalmist writes "Be still and know that I am God." And to Jesus, when he taught people to go in to their room, "close the door, and pray to the Father in secret, and the Father who sees in secret will reward you."

 

Now that I have a contemplative prayer practice, the gospels have come to life for me in a way that I never would have imagined.

 

What I also love about the Christian mystical path is that it gives us a point of connection and dialogue with the contemplative paths of other world religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufi Islam, etc.

 

Have you ever read Evelyn Underhill's "Mysticism" or Wayne Teasdale's "The Mystic Heart"? Both wonderful books on mysticism (although Underhill's is long and somewhat heavy-going at times.)

 

I'm a budding Ken Wilber fan too.

 

Anyway, check you later, mystic Earl!

 

Peace,

curlytop

Never read their books, though heard of them. Wayne Teasdale OSB, of course, was a big advocate of what he called "interspirituality," (as am I), the search for & incorporation of complementary understandings from any & all religions. One of my favorite websites for this kind of thing is "Monastic Interreligious Dialog" & they have featured a number of pieces by & about him. I've posted a link to the list of those pieces, including an article noting similarities between Eckhart & the upanishad, (obviously I see many similarities between Eckhart & the mystical literature of many religions):

 

http://monasticdialog.com/au.php?id=64

 

Have a good one, Earl

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Hey Earl --

 

Thanks for starting this thread. I don't have much time at the moment, so I'll return later. Just wanted to say: I love the Christian mystical / contemplative path. I think it's the true inner essence of Christian prayer, its deep wisdom, its heart. The mystical path can be traced back to Judaism, as when the psalmist writes "Be still and know that I am God." And to Jesus, when he taught people to go in to their room, "close the door, and pray to the Father in secret, and the Father who sees in secret will reward you."

 

Now that I have a contemplative prayer practice, the gospels have come to life for me in a way that I never would have imagined.

 

What I also love about the Christian mystical path is that it gives us a point of connection and dialogue with the contemplative paths of other world religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufi Islam, etc.

 

Have you ever read Evelyn Underhill's "Mysticism" or Wayne Teasdale's "The Mystic Heart"? Both wonderful books on mysticism (although Underhill's is long and somewhat heavy-going at times.)

 

I'm a budding Ken Wilber fan too.

 

Anyway, check you later, mystic Earl!

 

Peace,

curlytop

Never read their books, though heard of them. Wayne Teasdale OSB, of course, was a big advocate of what he called "interspirituality," (as am I), the search for & incorporation of complementary understandings from any & all religions. One of my favorite websites for this kind of thing is "Monastic Interreligious Dialog" & they have featured a number of pieces by & about him. I've posted a link to the list of those pieces, including an article noting similarities between Eckhart & the upanishad, (obviously I see many similarities between Eckhart & the mystical literature of many religions):

 

http://monasticdialog.com/au.php?id=64

 

Have a good one, Earl

p.s., I'm more mystified than mystic! Earl

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Now I'd like to add the words of a contemporary seeker, David Steindl-Rast, OSB, a wonderful contemplative thinker/writer of the Cristian tradition who is quite interreligious in outlook. I think it is het another way to examine the place of theorizing in theology and spirituality, placing it into proper context as it relates to the spiritual journey:

 

His response to the question, "In your moments of truth, is it ever correct to say you have the truth?"

 

"The key question is not one concerning objective facts "out there," but a deeply personal question addressed to the heart of each of us. The question is what is your attitude towards truth? When you think of truth, is your foremost desire to 'grasp it?' Are you convinced the truth is something one can 'have,' 'possess,' hold firmly in one's hand as it were? If the answer is more or less 'yes-'that's where your problem comes from.

 

Try to look at it with fresh eyes. Remember your own deepest experiences. In your moments of truth, is it ever correct to say that you have the truth? Does that truly reflect your experience? Wouldn't you rather say in those moments the truth has you? you stand under it when you truly understand. But it is not 'standing,'strictly speaking; it is a dynamic movement. St. Paul speaks of 'doing the truth in love.' That's a far cry from 'grasping.' Truth is something we discover by carrying it out. It is not a list of statements, but a direction of life. What we grasp of truth is necessarily always partial and limited. No matter how huge your hands and how firm your grip, you can only hold so much. The right inner attitude towards truth is not expressed by the grasping hand only, but by the open hand, capable of receiving what e.e.Cumings calls 'illimitable' reality...Yes, there are many given facts we have to grasp. But mere grasping of facts will lead us at best to the accumulation of knowledge. What our heart really longs for is wisdom. And wisdom is found when we not only grab and use reality, but when we let it grab us, savor it, let it speak to us and so reveal its deep meaning...There is no room here for grasping, but all the room in the world for responding."

 

I believe we all each of us be we young or old bring out into this world (and take back with us) a partial truth of God. I hope you use this thread & others here to share how you are responding and seeking. Have a good one, Earl

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Thank you for this thread, Mysticism is so important because the mind is tender and is easily harassed in the noisy confusion of life so we need to discipline our minds to keep peace with our soul. In this way we can continue to wonder and see beauty in the world even with its fraud, strife and broken dreams. The person who does not recognize his soul, who does not commune spiritually is but a pair of glasses without an eye, a person with an intellect who is not aware of spirituality knows all the prices, but not the value of life.

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Hi, Earl :)

 

Thank you for bringing up the subject of the Desert Fathers (and mothers) here. Their way of doing Christianity is hugely inspirational for me. I have also thought that it is interesting that such an early version of Christianity had such a strong contemplative/meditative component.

 

Be well,

 

Lolly

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PantaRhea-I was just reading through Thomas Moore's " The Soul's Religion" again & discovered the meaning of your moniker, as contained below.

 

He begins his wonderful book discussing the importance of "emptiness" and says:

"Heraclitus, a mystical poet of ancient Greece, gave us the image of life as a river. 'Panta rhei,' he said-eveyhting flows or perhaps, everything rivers. To be spiritual, to have religion, is to be in the stream, empty and generous...." But spiritual emptuness is not literal nothingness. it's an attitude of nonattachment in which we resist the temptation to cling to our points of view. this kind of emptiness, confident but never certain, gives us the room to be flexible and self-aware....A final step in spiritual progress is to find the empty place, the hole in the fabric of meaning and culture through which the infinite and mysterious can enter...This kind of ignorance and emptiness doesn't lead to negative despair or nihilism; it leads to emotional security and a deep cosmic sense of life. There is something ironic and absurd about living a serious life even though we don't know the origin, the end, or the meaning of it all. Spiritual teachers often laugh at this kind of ignorance, not a laugh of scorn but of appreciation for the willingness of human beings to go no even though they don't know what it's all about."

 

Such is the way of the "Holy Fool." Take care, Earl

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PantaRhea-I was just reading through Thomas Moore's " The Soul's Religion"  again & discovered the meaning of your moniker, as contained below.

 

He begins his wonderful book discussing the importance of "emptiness" and says:

"Heraclitus, a mystical poet of ancient Greece, gave us the image of life as a river. 'Panta rhei,' he said-eveyhting flows or perhaps, everything rivers. To be spiritual, to have religion, is to be in the stream, empty and generous...." Such is the way of the "Holy Fool." Take care, Earl

 

Thats beautiful! Panta rhei...thats just lovely.

 

Thanks Earl.

 

lily

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I was just reading some of the words of modern religion writer (and ex-nun) Karen Armstrong, who wrote such books as "History of God" as well as a book about Gautama and Buddhism, and thought they were worth sharing here:

 

"Bad religion is the stifling of the individual's anarchistic search for transcendent meaning and absolute truth beyond ego. Good religion is the embrace of compassion and confrontation with the 'other'..."

 

"Religion is not about belief...Religion is about doing things that change you."

 

"There is a linguistic connection between the words 'myth,' 'myticism,' and 'mystery.' All are derived from the Greek verb musteion: to close the eyes or the mouth. All three words are rooted in an experience of darkness and silence. They are not popular words in the West these days."-

 

Just to add a few snippets from the East, some lines from the old zen poem, the Sandokai:

 

"The spiritual source shines clear in the light.

the branching streams flow on in the dark.

Grasping at things is surely delusion...

In light there is darkness, but don't take it as darkness.

In dark, there is light, but don't see it as light..."

 

Have a good one, Earl

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I was just reading some of the words of modern religion writer (and ex-nun) Karen Armstrong, who wrote such books as "History of God" as well as a book about Gautama and Buddhism, and thought they were worth sharing here:

 

"Bad religion is the stifling of the individual's anarchistic search for transcendent meaning and absolute truth beyond ego. Good religion is the embrace of compassion and confrontation with the 'other'..."

 

"Religion is not about belief...Religion is about doing things that change you."

 

"There is a linguistic connection between the words 'myth,' 'myticism,' and 'mystery.' All are derived from the Greek verb musteion: to close the eyes or the mouth. All three words are rooted in an experience of darkness and silence. They are not popular words in the West these days."-

 

Just to add a few snippets from the East, some lines from the old zen poem, the Sandokai:

 

"The spiritual source shines clear in the light.

the branching streams flow on in the dark.

Grasping at things is surely delusion...

In light there is darkness, but don't take it as darkness.

In dark, there is light, but don't see it as light..."

 

Have a good one, Earl

 

These are good quotations Earl. Thanks. I took a moment to copy them down in my notebook and googled Armstrong and read a few interviews with her. I've been familiar with her for some time, but I have yet to get through one of her books. I started her, "A History of God" some time back and got distracted by other things and never finished it.

 

Some times the sheer amount of reading material available is overwhelming. Yesterday I went to Barnes & Nobles with the intent to buy Elaine Pagels "Beyond Belief" and instead stood in front of the bookshelves in the Christianity/Religion department of the store with my mouth open. I ended up walking out without buying a single book.

 

I can relate to Armstrongs period of "disgust with religion" and go through that rather regularly myself. There are days when I feel an actual physical aversion to religious talk and study and wonder if the advice the poet Rilke gave to "the young poet" he corresponded with does not apply to those with religious passions as well. He said, "to feel that one could live without writing is enough indication that, in fact, one should."

 

 

lily

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I enjoyed "Beyond Belief" but wish I had checked it out from the library instead of buying it because 1) It's so short and was too expensive for the length and 2) It's not what I was looking for or expected. I will probably read it again though. If I remember correctly, she contrasts the book of John with Thomas, which is kinda funny imo, because I think John fits more with the Gnostic gospels than with the synoptics and could be COMPARED with Thomas (instead of contrasted).

 

I don't own the book anymore, however, so I am not sure I'm remembering it correctly. :rolleyes:

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I enjoyed "Beyond Belief" but wish I had checked it out from the library instead of buying it because 1) It's so short and was too expensive for the length and 2) It's not what I was looking for or expected. I will probably read it again though.  If I remember correctly, she contrasts the book of John with Thomas, which is kinda funny imo, because I think John fits more with the Gnostic gospels than with the synoptics and could be COMPARED with Thomas (instead of contrasted).

 

Well...I think in a way that's her point. Why did the Gospel of John "get in" and the Gospel of Thomas get left out? But I haven't read the book yet obviously...so, I'm only going by her statements pertaining to this in "The Gnostic Gospels".

 

Yeah, it did seem a short book and my book budget is so low and there is SO much to read that I think I'll take your lead and check it out at the library.

 

 

lily

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Changing back to mystical experiences... thought you all would like this:

 

RETURN TO THE GARDEN

 

We have been away from home for a couple of days. All the way home, from airport to bus to subway to train to taxi, I have been thinking about little but the garden. The lupine seeds: up yet? The adenaphora confusa: too big to transplant? The tulips: how many, and did the new ones bloom? The transplanted roses: over their shock? Was there enough rain? It is hard to leave the garden in the spring -- so much is going on.

 

The taxi pulls up and we get out. One glance and my heart leaps: it is even more beautiful than it was when we left. Glorious daffodils and more tulips, purple, white, deep pink. The redbud tree is blooming, and the forsythias send their graceful branches toward the sky.

 

And less obvious beauties have continued in our absence: the lavender plants all have new leaves. The little cotyledons of the lupines are, indeed, green against the dirt. There is a nice blue bell-shaped clustering flower whose name I don't know: I must have planted her last year and forgotten -- the lighter side of memory loss.

 

You start a garden, but God takes it from there. You care for it the best you can, but it is already endowed with its own powerful vector of life and fecundity: beauty comes naturally to every citizen of it. But maybe even God longs to check on it: He was walking in the Garden of Eden the morning after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Maybe God hungers to see how things are doing, just as we do. And maybe the heart of God leaps at the beauty of it all.

 

 

Copyright © 2005 Barbara Crafton - http://www.geraniumfarm.org

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'd definitely call myself a mystic Christian, mainly due to left-over beliefs from the years I spent studying Buddhism & Hinduism (Yoga). I still believe in reincarnation (which I can support with scripture refferences), and a lot of other Yogic teachings. If you haven't already, I'd recommend checking out two authors, Paramhansa Yogananda, and Kriyananda (J Donald Walters). Yogananda founded what is basically a Hindu-Christian Mystical tradition, and Kriyananda (Yogananda's closest disciple) has been carrying the torch for his guru since his death back in the '80's if I remember correctly. They both wrote a lot, and Kriyananda is still writing a lot. Their writings are basically Christian Mysticism thats deeply rooted in Hindu Yoga. Be sure to read their autobiographies first ("Autobiography of a Yogi", and "The Path: Autobiography of a Western Yogi" respectively) before you read anything they've written.

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>Well...I think in a way that's her point. Why did the Gospel of John "get in" and the Gospel of Thomas get left out? But I haven't read the book yet obviously...so, I'm only going by her statements pertaining to this in "The Gnostic Gospels".

 

We were discussing this in our discussion group, not the Gospel of Thomas per se, but just why some things got in and some things were out. I can't claim to really know much about this, but one criteria is a passion story.

 

But it may partly be a who is who thing. If John was related to the Johnian (sp??) school, you know it could have been more "in" and acceptable. (If the Johnian school was acceptable that is.) I'm sure many inclusions/ exclusions were political. And some things almost didn't make it. I read that Martin Luther wanted did not want Revelation in. Gosh that would have ruined many a rapturites whole day. :-)

 

>Yeah, it did seem a short book and my book budget is so low and there is SO much to read that I think I'll take your lead and check it out at the library.

 

Or go to your favorite book store with lots of chairs and sit down and read things. I have done this. I am pretty frustrated about really *looking* for something at the public library. I can always find something to read, but to actually look for something specific mostly it isn't there or some other library has it and they can take your name.... I got on the list for God's Politics. I will no doubt hear from them some day and will prob. have forgotten all about asking for it. :-)

 

Theo-Manic, I think some Christians do believe in reincarnation. I believe the Waldorf schools were founded by Christians with a belief in resurrection. I'm not sure it is quite the same as Eastern thought though. There are some interesting Bible verses ( I think the key one, might be "Did this man sin or his parents that he was born blind?" Jesus repeats that this man did not sin. Kind of funny since he was born blind. Then again, they were trying to trip him up and Jesus often was quoted as saying usual things. There may well be others but this is the one I remember anyway.

 

AFAIC, well it makes more sense than a physical heaven and hell. However, I am fairly agnostic on any specific after life ideas. I just don't think we can ever know.

 

>lily

 

--des

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I'm not saying I know this is the case of course (nobody does for sure, and probably never will), but I personally believe, as I think I've said before on this board, that Heaven and Hell are states of consciousness that we experience here, in this life, Hell being seperation from G-d and living purely in the physical world. I feel I can say this with some assurance, as I experience it vicariously through my father, who has no spiritual grounding, lives purely in the physical realm, life dictated by his job, money, and alcohol.

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I feel when mytics experience Jesus Christ and his pure consciousness they feel a part of life and notice that it does not matter if something is good or bad because everything makes a difference in life. Therefore, acceptance is practiced by observing life without judgment, living in the present moment, not attached to memories of the past nor attached to schemes for the future. Acceptance does not punish or reward a man because it is simply to help people live with happiness, health, success, sorrow, disease and failure. It helps us live in harmony with Nature's Laws, observing the law of cause and effect in perfect harmony with one's individual demands; therefore, mysticism is a way to change our condition in life to change our mind about life. Cheerful, constructive thoughts set in motion vibrations that bring us good results such as happiness, kindness and love. They propel us forward and upward, physically, mentally and spiritually because thoughts, feelings, and attitudes provide the cause for the effects that the mind experiences in the outer world.

"Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 KJV

 

Heaven and Hell are in your mind. Think divine thoughts and you are in heaven. Think thoughts of harm and destruction and you are in hell. “Reap what you sow” The perfect justice and learning tool to learn to think good thoughts.

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Theo I was just supporting what you said. I like the word you used consciousness. I like to talk about Christ consciousness and pure cconsciousness., when taling about mysticism.

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