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The origins of Christian Mysticism go back to the very beginnings of Christianity. From the earliest days, devoted seekers have searched for theosis, or union with God. These mystics pursue the goal of Christ himself--to become "a son of God", reaching unity with the Holy Spirit so that God himself may be seen directly, face to face. God, the mystics say, dwells in the heart of all people. While most Christians view God "through a glass, darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12) the mystics wish to remove the obscuring glass and experience God directly.

DIARIST'S NOTE: Since "religion" is, in general, one of the topics that habitually produces pie fights here at DKos (like gunz and I/P and Snowden), I must note the following--This is a history diary. Period. The diarist does not believe in any god, gods or goddesses, and doesn't give a rat's ass if anyone else does or does not. Thanks.

Christian Mysticism

"God became human so that man might become God."--Athanasius of Alexandria
In many ways, Christian mysticism is similar to the Asian mystic traditions such as Zen, Taoism, and Buddhism. Indeed, most mystics would declare that these traditions all have the same goal--unity with the Divine--and that each merely uses different symbolisms and paths to reach that goal. Those who are familiar with the Eastern religious traditions (or even with the Islamic Sufi tradition) will recognize much in Christian mysticism that is familiar--and that is no accident. As the Chinese Taoist says, "There are many paths to climb a mountain. But once you reach the top, the view is the same for everyone."

Christian mysticism is reflected in several Biblical passages. The most often-cited verse is John 3:2--"Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth appear that we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." Another prominent passage is Galatians 2:20--"I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Unlike the Biblical literalist fundamentalists, the mystics view the Bible as poetic and symbolic, as a map that points the way inside one's own soul. Like a Zen koan, these written words might appear paradoxical or nonsensical, yet to one who has understanding, they are wonderfully transparent. To all mystics, the direct experience of the Divine cannot be described in words--words may help others find the beginning of the path, but the words cannot be understood completely without experiencing the things they describe. Mysticism is, above all, nonverbal awareness.

And because mysticism is an individual journey, and does not require any outside authority, it often leads to direct conflict with organized religion and church authorities. Rare indeed is the Christian mystic who has not been condemned, excommunicated or executed by the organized church.

The Christian mystic path has been described as having three steps. The first step is the loss of egoism. To see God, the mystic must learn to stop seeing with his own eyes, and learn to see with God's eyes. This involves the loss of selfish or self-centered desires and outlooks. Through prayer and faith, the mystic expands his love from merely himself to encompass all his surroundings, and thus gives up his own desires and focuses on the larger picture around him and his place within it. The Bible says we must "put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 8:13).

The second step is sensing the Divine. Through contemplation, illumination, and what can only be described weakly as "visions", the mystic begins to see the workings of God in all his surroundings. God is everywhere, the mystics say, if we are only willing to look. In many cases, this insight comes quite suddenly as the result of some apparently random thing--an experience the Zen refer to as satori.

 The third and final step is unity with God. In this transcendent state, God and individual are no longer separate, but the individual soul, as with everything else in Creation, becomes just another facet of God. "God is love," says the Bible, "and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (John 4:16). This theosis is the highest goal of Christian mysticism.

Jacob Boehme

"When thou art gone forth wholly from the creation, and art become nothing at all that is nature and creature, then thou art in that eternal one which is God himself, and then thou shalt perceive and feel the highest virtue of love. Also, that I said whosoever findeth it findeth nothing and all things; that is also true, for he findeth a supernatural supersensual Abyss, having no ground, where there is no place to dwell in; and he findeth also nothing that is like it, and therefore it may be compared to nothing, for it is deeper than anything and is as nothing to all things, for it is not comprehensible; and because it is nothing it is free from all things, and it is that only Good which a man cannot express or utter what it is. But that I lastly said, he that findeth it, findeth all things, is also true; it hath been the beginning of all things, and it ruleth all things. If thou findest it, thou comest into that ground from whence all things proceed and wherein they persist; and thou art in it a king over all the works of God."--Jacob Boehme, The Way to Christ
Jacob Boehme was born in Germany in 1575, the son of a peasant farm-worker. As a young boy, he was apprenticed to a shoemaker and, at the age of 17, he traveled to Gorlitz and set up his own shop there.

Although unschooled and entirely self-taught, Boehme took up an interest in religion, and began to study the Bible as well as the writings of the Christian mystics Paracelsus and Weigel. In 1600, Boehme had his satori moment, when he happened to see a beam of sunlight reflecting off a polished pewter dish. In 1612, Boehme wrote a short manuscript about his mystic insights, which he circulated among friends. Although unfinished and never intended for publication, a copy was obtained by a local nobleman, who had it printed under the title Aurora. When the local Lutheran pastor read a copy, he condemned it as heresy and threatened to exile Boehme if he did not stop writing such "poison".

The threat was enough to stop Boehme, but only temporarily. By 1624, his first complete work was published, a collection of short essays titled The Way to Christ. Once again, the local church reacted, and Boehme was dragged before the Town Council and ordered into exile. He went to stay with a sympathetic nobleman named Von Schweinitz, where he wrote a number of books, including The Signature of All Things, and soon had a number of followers across Europe, known as Behmanites.

To protect himself from church authorities, many of his writings were couched in obscure astrological and alchemist symbolism, which made them all but impenetrable to outsiders. In Boehme's symbolism, God is depicted as Fire, Christ is depicted as Light, and the Holy Spirit is depicted as "The Living Principle" or "The Divine Life".

Several mystical themes run through Boehme's works. Humans, Boehme pointed out, originally had a unity with God, living with the Divine in a state of grace. It was selfish ego desires, represented in the form of Satan's rebellion, that broke this unity and led to the separation of man from God. The goal of both God and Man, then, is to re-form that original unity by giving up ego-centered desires.

In Boehme's view, the Creation itself was an attempt by God to become more self-aware, by providing himself with an opportunity to interact with an entity that was part of God, but also distinct and independent of God. The most profound level of this interaction comes with humans, who are made "in the image of God". By giving free will to humanity, God gave himself a unique opportunity to learn about himself by interacting with an entity that was very much like him. Because of this, Boehme concludes, all individual humans have the capacity to see and understand God, so that God can better see and understand himself.

In the birth of Christ, Boehme further concludes, God chose to make himself a part of his Creation, and takes on all the sufferings and challenges that the rest of Creation labors under. But Christ, who is both human and divine, shows that unity with God is also possible for humans, and that this unity leads to the end of suffering. Boehme also points to the example of Mary, who, though human, is chosen by God to become the vehicle of the Divine. God, Boehme concludes, must be reborn inside each of us, as he was within Mary.

In November 1624, Boehme, dying of an intestinal disease, traveled home to Gorlitz, where the church refused to give him the Sacraments until after a long interrogation. He died a few days later.

Meister Eckhart

"The Eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me."--Meister Eckhart, Sermons
Eckhart Von Hochheim, known as "Meister Eckhart", is probably the most famous of the Christian mystics.

Eckhart was born to a minor noble family in Thuringia in around the year 1260. He joined the Dominican Order and was sent to the University of Paris in 1300. By 1307, he was the Dominican Vicar-General for the entire province of Bohemia. In 1311, he was appointed as a teacher at the University of Paris. Most of his Sermons were apparently written during that time.

Within a few years, Eckhart had become a teacher at the University of Cologne, and it was here, in 1327, that the Archbishop made charges of heresy against him. The local Dominican authorities exonerated Eckhart, but the charges were then taken all the way up to the Pope. Eckhart protested that he did not intend any violations of church doctrine, and he repudiated any parts of his writings that could be viewed as heretical. Before the Pope could make a decision, Eckhart died. After Eckhart's death, the Pope issued a ruling, aimed at Eckhart's surviving followers, which concluded that some of Eckhart's statements were heretical, and some others were suspected of heresy. Eckhart's followers, however, formed a group called the Friends of God, and carefully preserved the Meister's writings and views.

Eckhart's basic message was the underlying unity between God and Man. His Sermons were written at a time when there was chaos in the Catholic Church--rival Popes sat in Rome and Avignon and fought over doctrinal authority, and the Dominican and Franciscan Orders examined each other for heresy. In response, a large number of lay groups, not connected with the Church hierarchy, began appearing, in which ordinary people tried to find their way through the theological (and political) minefield. It was to these lay groups that Eckhart wrote his Sermons. The Sermons were written in vernacular German rather than in the Latin used by the educated Church hierarchy, and they were intended to be practical straightforward messages whereby people could give up their attachment to the world and see the "Godhead" within themselves, free from all the current theological and political conflicts and controversies.

The Cloud of Unknowing

"And so I urge you, go after experience rather than knowledge. On account of pride, knowledge may often deceive you, but this gentle, loving affection will not deceive you. Knowledge tends to breed conceit, but love builds." --The Book of Privy Counseling
The author of The Cloud of Unknowing is unknown. The manuscript, written in Middle English, appeared throughout Europe in the second half of the 14th century. Because of literary and thematic similarities, it is believed that the same anonymous author also produced a somewhat later manuscript titled The Book of Privy Counseling, and may also have written a number of shorter Epistles.

The Cloud of Unknowing emphasizes a theme which is also present in most other mystic works--the insufficiency of words. The mystic way is above all experiential--the Divine, being beyond human logic and beyond the capacity of intellectual reasoning, cannot be understood logically or rationally, and cannot be adequately expressed with our limited language. "If it could be talked about," say the Taoists, "everyone would already have told his brother." The only way to understand the Divine is to experience it directly. To attain freedom from the illusions of the intellect, one must discard the use of logic, words, and rational categorizing, and intuitively grasp reality with your entire being.

The Cloud of Unknowing, then, is a collection of prayers, meditations, and rituals, all of which are designed to quiet the mind and allow the student to experience the Divine directly, without allowing the intellect to interfere. We understand God by seeing him and experiencing unity with him, not by reading about him. The author of The Cloud of Unknowing points out the crucial difference between "God" and "A Book about God".

Originally posted to History for Kossacks on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:06 PM PDT.

Also republished by Anglican Kossacks and Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  there are many similarities between the (14+ / 0-)

    medieval Christian mystics and the Asian mystic traditions in India and China. And of course the Muslim Sufi tradition.

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:10:09 PM PDT

    •  historically, it makes one wonder how much actual (5+ / 0-)

      exchange there was between Asia (via India) and Europe (via the Arabic world) during this time.  After all, European contact with India goes all the way back to Alexander the Great, and the Islamic missionaries made it all the way to Indonesia and China.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:29:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also with Jewish mysticism and Kaballah (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lenny Flank, Wee Mama, G2geek, FarWestGirl

      "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

      by Navy Vet Terp on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:42:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes indeed /nt (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama, Ojibwa, G2geek, FarWestGirl

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:44:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The Zohar as an assimilation of Gnostic ideas (8+ / 0-)

        Gnosticism drew a lot from various Hellenistic schools, which were known throughout the West in the broadest sense: not just the Roman world, but the Persian empires to its east.

        Since not all of this speculation was comfortable for the Church, there was a lot of Gnostic activity in Persia.  Which was there waiting when the Arabs invaded and made that entire region Muslim.  And the Sufis explored the mystic nature of Islam.

        Jewish mystics read and translated Sufi works into Hebrew.  And they read Gnostic works as well.  The Zohar pulled from earlier Jewish traditions that had heavy Sufi influence, but seems to have swallowed large parts of Gnosticism whole, changing the terminology to be consistent with the Torah.  Arguments about how Christ was God Made Flesh weren't going to fly, but the ideas about different levels (eminations or sefirot) are Gnosticism reworked.

        I'm not sure how much information went in the other direction, but it would be interesting to know.  Certainly, late Medieval Europeans read Jewish and Arab works on science and medicine.  I suspect some philosophical and even religious works got translated as well.

        To be on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is to be on the right side of history.

        by mbayrob on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 02:58:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  on a quick scan, this looks really well done. (5+ / 0-)

      I'm at work right now so I can't read & comment thoughtfully but will get back to this tonight.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 04:17:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And even in modern times. (7+ / 0-)

      I remember once reading of an international conference on religion -- probably back in the 60's, I'm guessing, because this has stayed with me for at least 35 years.  (I wish I could remember where I read it, or what it referred to.)

      At this conference there was a lot of tension among the priests and officials of various religions -- the theologians, academics, definers of rules, etc.

      But the monks and nuns of the various religions -- the mystics, the ones who focused on the experiential side of religion -- all got along famously and got excited meeting people from other cultures who knew what they were talking about.  They all felt they were talking about the same thing, albeit in different cultural idioms.

      •  a well known aspect of mysticism... (5+ / 0-)

        ... all the way through history, is that mystics have always gotten along with each other across denominational lines.

        This in sharp distinction to fundamentalism, which has always been notoriously associated with conflict.

        Mystics have also tended to get along well with science, and there are well known instances of scientists getting along well with mysticism.  In the 20th century, Erwin Schrödinger endorsed The Upanishads, root text of Hinduism, and also endorsed Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy.  Einstein was an atheist who also endorsed "the sense of the mystical" in viewing nature at-large.  The Dalai Lama of Tibet has met with various groups of scientists and said bluntly that where science and religion are in conflict, religion must change.

        We got the future back. Uh-oh.

        by G2geek on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 06:07:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Saving for a good read tonight (10+ / 0-)

    much more interesting than the legal work piling up in front of me.  Thanks.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:13:08 PM PDT

  •  Great piece, I will read it in detail and see if I (7+ / 0-)

    can contribute, too.

  •  beautiful diary. n/t (7+ / 0-)

    "To take another person's life from the bench is no better than to take another person's life from the street"

    by commonmass on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:20:41 PM PDT

  •  My religion sez (6+ / 0-)

    When Lenny speaks...

    "the northern lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see. Was that night on the marge of Lake Labarge, I cremated Sam McGee". - Robert Service, Bard of the Yukon

    by Joe Jackson on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:25:38 PM PDT

  •  yummy reading - (5+ / 0-)

    thanks L F - anything else I read today has been rendered irrelevant.

  •  The same could be said for dreams (6+ / 0-)
    The mystic way is above all experiential--the Divine, being beyond human logic and beyond the capacity of intellectual reasoning, cannot be understood logically or rationally, and cannot be adequately expressed with our limited language.
    We really can never express to others what a dream felt like when we were in it. At a more crude level pain is also impossible to articulate. What counts as a "ten" on your pain scale might be a "four" on somebody else's the reverse. For all the power and flexibility of human speech it doesn't allow communication of feelings very well.

    GOP 2014 strategy -- Hire clowns, elephants, and a ringmaster and say "a media circus" has emerged and blame Democrats for lack of progress. Have pundits agree that "both sides are to blame" and hope the public will stay home on election day.

    by ontheleftcoast on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 01:55:06 PM PDT

    •  but differently: words, and math. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ontheleftcoast, Lenny Flank

      And not just with dreams or pain.  

      How can we tell if your experience of seeing the color blue is the same as mine?  This is the eternal problem of subjective qualia.  We can even map out the spectrum of visible light on a graph showing the wavelengths in angstroms, but when each of us points to a particular spot on the chart, can we be sure of what the other is seeing at that very spot?

      And then there's math.

      I've had my fair share of mystical experiences, per the standard definitions in comparative religion and psychology.  Very often the subject matter has been nature at-large, in some very particular ways, one of which turned out to be convergent with a thread in philosophy that was also espoused by a bunch of mainstream scientists since the mid 20th century.  

      I'm also good with words, and when I ran across the criterion of "ineffability" in the definitions, I thought "that can't be; I can describe this in detail," including in ways that embody the current understandings in cognitive science.

      But ...aha!, not so fast!  Recently a friend sent me a link to a peer-reviewed paper on a subject of mutual interest.  Reading that paper and thinking about it, a minor illumination dawned:

      There's the ground of being.  Then there's the mystical experience of direct encounter with the ground of being.  In that state, one sees a glimpse of things as they are, beyond the scope of one's current knowledge (such as by a sudden and comprehensive synthesis that's ultimately based in one's current knowledge).  Then one comes back from that experience and describes it in words.

      The words may accurately reflect the experience itself, and the sense of deep understanding, and that which is understood.

      But compared to math, words don't even begin to get at the content.  Using words is like trying to perform brain surgery with a butter knife, compared to using math which is like doing it with a laser.  Even if one uses words with deliberate precision, math is always the most precise way of describing the deepest level of physical reality.

      This analogy might be useful.

      You go into a dark room and suddenly there's a brief spotlight on a painting.  You have a deep aesthetic appreciation of the painting, and you take a photo of it.  But that photo is taken with a digital camera and is comparatively low resolution.  Then you try to describe it verbally, and that's even lower-res than the photo.  But a description in math has much higher fidelity to the original, like a photo taken with the best possible professional camera.

      This kinda' makes you wonder what sort of mystical experiences Einstein might have been having, that led him to his theory of relativity, which he was able to express accurately in math.  He knew the territory well enough to use the term "mystical" accurately, and as an atheist, he knew that territory well enough to know that mysticism is an independent axis of activity from religion as such.  

      I'm inclined to think this sort of thing is far more common than we ordinarily recognize.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 06:33:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  hallelujah atcha (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, Wee Mama, Ojibwa, G2geek

    The disclaiming non-belief seems rat’s-bas-akward for this theme and its illuminating examples, but okay.

    Elaine Pagels wrote some good books on the persecution and ultimate demise of Christian Gnosticism. Quoth Emerson,“the highest virtue is always against the law.”

    •  I studied Zen for a while (8+ / 0-)
      The disclaiming non-belief seems rat’s-bas-akward for this theme and its illuminating examples, but okay.
      There's no god in Zen. Or more correctly, Zen simply doesn't care if there is a god or not. Zen is all about learning how to be yourself--and that is something you MUST do for yourself.  Not even god (if it exists) can do it for you.

      So I guess that makes me an "apatheist"--I simply don't care if there is a god or not.


      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 02:10:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This comment reminds me of what someone (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lenny Flank, Wee Mama, G2geek, FarWestGirl

        ... who had a near-death experience once told me (which seems to fit in with what other experiencers have said about the value system of God/the Being of Light/the Universal Consciousness/Whatever -- namely, emphasizing personal responsibility above all):  

        "God wants us to live as if there is no God."

        In other words, do what's right and good for the universe because it's right and good for the universe;  not for any thought of reward, or trying to win brownie points.

        Another experiencer put it a blunter way to me once:  "God's message to us is basically ... GROW UP!"

        •  "not for any thought of reward." (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          niemann, Lenny Flank

          That's also a useful definition of a "pure moral act."  Something that one does because it's intrinsically right, without expectation of external reward for doing it or external punishment for not doing it.  

          Or conversely, something one does not do, because it's intrinsically wrong, without expectation of external reward for not-doing it or external punishment for doing it.

          We got the future back. Uh-oh.

          by G2geek on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 06:41:05 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  To the mystics, it's not at all about belief. (4+ / 0-)

      God is just one way of describing the All That Always Already Is.  But for so many, God comes with cultural baggage, & more importantly, limitations. Hence the use of words like Void or Emptiness: concepts that seem alien, even scary, until experienced & understood.

      Deity mysticism is one stage one encounters on the path...  the experience of the deity is inevitably informed by culture/nurture; this doesn't invalidate it, but that can be mistaken for the final stage of enlightenment, when there is more path yet to travel.

      It's time to start letting sleeping dinosaurs lie, lest we join them in extinction by our consumption of them.

      by Leftcandid on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 06:47:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  most interesting; say more. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Leftcandid, Lenny Flank

        By this do you mean that beyond the encounter with deity is the encounter with the void?  

        "Nothingness" isn't so scary if one spends time contemplating it and seeking brief moments of it (the latter is more difficult than it may seem).  This would be a useful exercise for atheists who are terrified of the prospect of nothingness after death, for example Ray Kurzweil.

        We got the future back. Uh-oh.

        by G2geek on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 06:44:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, ish. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lenny Flank, G2geek

          The tricky thing for an atheist is to engage in meditation in a way s/he finds useful, because of the spiritual language associated with it.  Really,  anyone can achieve  moments of oneness/clarity/universal love; this should not be in doubt.  

          The saying common among mystics is: if you die before you die, then when you die, you don't die.  Contacting the true Self is ultimately resting in the Emptiness/Oneness.

          It's time to start letting sleeping dinosaurs lie, lest we join them in extinction by our consumption of them.

          by Leftcandid on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:58:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  well said, and.... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lenny Flank, Leftcandid

            .... I'm actually engaged in some more extensive writing toward the goal of making some of this more accessible to atheists.

            There is this:  "we aren't asking you to 'believe something,' only to 'do the experiment' and see what happens."  One can of course come to the firsthand experience of oneness and clarity and love without having to espouse theistic beliefs.

            I haven't heard the exact quote "if you die before you die..." though I've run across many similar over the years.  And there is also an interesting parallel to the reports of  near-death experiences (NDEs), in which people come back to say that they have lost all fear of death.

            Methinks it would be interesting to try to "organize" our fellow mystics on DK (pardon the apparent self-contradiction;-) by way of a) developing a coherent response to right-wing fundamentalism and b) finding ways to bridge the growing divide between "religion and science" among progressives.   What do you think?

            Lastly:  How common is it for people who are engaged with a mystical worldview to eventually develop their own outlook and praxis, as distinct from pursuing or continuing in one of the recognized traditions?  

            We got the future back. Uh-oh.

            by G2geek on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 12:28:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Those are all supercompelling ideas & questions (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lenny Flank

              that I am also considering.

              Ken Wilber has been (via his books) my introduction to the path of the modern mystic, & the synthesis of religion & science--among other things.  He's very good about talking about meditation as science, as you said: Do The Experiment, Get A Result, Peer Review Your Result.  That
              paraphrased quote comes from him, as a distillation of crosscultural mystic advice.  Anyway, if you're familiar, you know, but he's interested in the same things.

              Your last question is the Bodhisattva question, no?  Some choose it; some don't.  I'd guess, though, that the modern shrinking of the world makes the world so much more accessible to universal compassion (haha) & that such development is trending up among whoever our modern mystics are.

              It's time to start letting sleeping dinosaurs lie, lest we join them in extinction by our consumption of them.

              by Leftcandid on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 07:14:05 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Republished to Street Prophets nt (5+ / 0-)
  •  Remember the Women Mystics too (9+ / 0-)

    Women mystics include: Hildegard of Bingen, Theresa of Avila, Briget of Ireland and one of my favorites, Sor Juana Inez De La Cruz of Mexico.

    Women mystics, especially Hildegard were respected thinkers even by Kings who sought them out for advice and counsel.

    They often ran afoul of Church authority when they dared to apply their thinking to theological arguments.

    Sor Juana's writings, especially her poetry and later theological arguments (Respuestas, the Anwers) were the envy of many Bishops of Mexico who were jealous of her fame in Spain.

  •  My favorite Meister Eckhart passage is about his (8+ / 0-)

    dream of being a pregnant man, and concludes with "What is the good if Mary gave birth to the Son of God 1,300 years ago, if I do not give birth to God today?  We are all Mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born."

    He's still ahead of his time today; I can't imagine what they thought of him 800 years ago.

  •  I took a class at Uni about Western Mysticism (4+ / 0-)

    that included Christian mysticism.

    We studied Giordano Bruno and the excellent book by Yates: "Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition". In this book, Yates argues that Bruno was put to the stake for his Hermetic teachings, and not so much for his Science. It is a compelling argument.  Having then read Bruno's Spaccio de la Bestia Trionfante (Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast) I could see why he threatened the Church at that time.

    The Hermetic Tradition could be several diaries unto itself, but one could say it was a pre-cursor to, or at least influenced in parallel, the development of Christian Mysticism.

    •  mystics have always been at odds with... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lenny Flank, Wes Kobernick

      ... religious authority, in a manner that religious authority finds uniquely threatening.

      This is also true today vis-a-vis the fundamentalist religious right.  

      For many years I've been saying that one of the surest ways to take down the religious right, would be through a major uprising of mysticism.  By this I don't mean the usual popularizations such as were common in New Age religion, but something that is more informed, broader, and more abstract.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 06:48:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  History is typically quite an interesting thing. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, G2geek

    Out of all the branches of christianity, I think Catholicism is the most objectively interesting, precisely because of the mysticism built via a long history of contemplation in different historical eras.

  •  All the priests argue; all the monks agree. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, G2geek, FarWestGirl

    Religion is just the layers of cultural trappings that accrue around the mystic path that is central & common to all religions.  Those who focus on the laws & commandments are trapped in a moment in time; those who focus on ever decentralizing their perspectives discover the true Self that is ultimately One.  

    But it's so goddamn hard.  The ego fears its loss of dominance & fights transcendence every step of the way.  And its reasoning is oh so compelling until suddenly one day it quiets a little.  Just a little, & that's good enough for today.

    It's time to start letting sleeping dinosaurs lie, lest we join them in extinction by our consumption of them.

    by Leftcandid on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 06:56:10 PM PDT

    •  yes, yes, and yes. and also... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Leftcandid, Lenny Flank

      ... the surest way for the ego to get out of the way, is via the simple built-in reinforcement of the ecstatic sense of joy one feels in entering into that state.  That does a pretty good job of causing fear to evaporate.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 06:51:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Generally well done (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, G2geek

    It is too easy to see mystical union from the outside in metaphysical terms, particularly to get caught in the naming of ideas, and to fail to grasp the essential compassion implied when you are your brother and sister.

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

    by Mokurai on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 09:00:48 PM PDT

  •  Terrific diary, Lenny (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, G2geek, FarWestGirl, RonK, Eowyn9

    I was expecting something on the Gnostics and the early Coptics and the "lost" bible books, and how the Council of Nisea screwed everything up.

    Instead you wrote movingly about some of our great, and underestimated, thinkers.

    I rarely see Boehme or Eckhart, discussed, much less treated as straightforwardly as you have done.

    If I'd graduated divinity school (less likely than winning the lottery) I'd be quoting both of them in every sermon.

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 10:00:55 PM PDT

    •  and yet these are the people, and this is the... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, Lenny Flank, Eowyn9

      ... perspective, that's so desperately needed today, when absolutist fundamentalisms run rampant, capture the public mindset, and gain temporal power.

      It's long overdue that we start bringing mystical philosophy & religion into the public discussion of religion and policy.

      Envision what mystics have to say about the Hobby Lobby decision, for example.  Envision an interdenominational mystics' council that gets called upon to provide counterpoint to religious-right spokespeople in the media.  Envision what they'd say and how that would reach people.  

      This needs to happen.  We need to put these perspectives forward in the public realm.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 07:00:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One of the branches of Gnosticism was (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank, Eowyn9

    associated with early Christianity.

     They posited that the divide between Man & the Divine was flesh vs spirit. Embodied entities got caught up in themselves and their egos. Leading to narrow, selfish pursuits, whereas the mystics and those involved with the spiritual had a more encompassing, broader viewpoint.

    Some people think that the Cathars were closer to Gnosticism than Christianity, but whatever their origins, their presence and outlook deeply threatened the (at the time) very corrupt Catholic Church so deeply that it launched the only Crusade that was confined to Europe, the Albigensian Crusade.

    Here's a bit more of an overview.

    And some refinements, including the origin of the saying 'Kill them all and let God sort it out', (Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius - Kill them all. For the Lord knoweth them that are His.), attributed to Abbot Arnaud Amaury, who led the massacre of Beziers.

    (Yeah, I have a long standing fascination with the Cathars, hope I'm not thread jacking here)

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
    ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

    by FarWestGirl on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 08:47:56 AM PDT

  •  It's a little known fact that... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank

    "Woe unto ye beetles of South America." -- Charles Darwin, about to sail on The Beagle, 1831

    by Katakana on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 09:29:35 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for this diary -- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lenny Flank

    and for introducing me to a new mystic. I'd heard Boehme's name before, but nothing more about him. Will have to look up his writings.

    My personal favorite is Julian of Norwich -- "All shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well." Her writings are not only deeply moving but also intellectually quite amazing, especially given that (by her own admission) she had no schooling and wasn't even able to read! (She dictated her visions to a scribe years after she experienced them.)

    It's also great to see a prominent female author that came from the medieval Church. (Hildegard of Bingen is another example -- a mystic, scholar, scientist and even inventor of a secret language!)

    "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

    by Eowyn9 on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 07:07:31 PM PDT

  •  Rare indeed is the Christian mystic who has not (0+ / 0-)

    been excommunicated or executed by the organized church? Rly? Links?

    Fight them to the end, until the children of the poor eat better than the dogs of the rich.

    by raincrow on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 02:44:51 PM PDT

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