Defining The Christian Mystic

Christian mysticism refers to the human being's direct experience or consciousness of ultimate reality, understood as God within the context of Christian faith. The essence of mysticism is the sense of some form of contact with the divine or transcendent, frequently understood in its higher forms as involving union with God. Mysticism has played an important role in the history of Christian religion, and it has once again become a noticeably living influence in recent times.

- Encyclopedia Britannica

Mysticism is concerned with the nature of reality, the individual's struggle to attain a clear vision of reality, and the transformation of consciousness that accompanies such vision.

- D. Platt

Undoubtedly, a mystic is someone who has a direct experience of the divine. In addition, many mystics are broad-thinking, intelligent and have a good grasp of the concepts of infinity and transcendence. Many people today see mysticism as a facet of new-age or Eastern religious thought. However, Christian mysticism is as old as Christianity itself. Possibly the first Christian mystic was St John the evangelist. The Gospel of John presents a mystic's view of the life and work of Jesus.

- Jenny Smith

Mysticism, immediate, direct, intuitive knowledge of God or of ultimate reality attained through personal religious experience. The authenticity of any such experience, however, does not depend on the form but solely on the quality of life that follows the experience.

A mystical life is characterized by enhanced vitality, productivity, serenity, and joy as the inner and outward aspects harmonize in union with God.

Saint Paul was the first great Christian mystic. Christian mysticism as a system, however, is derived from Neoplatonism and the mysticism of early Christian theologian Saint Augustine. In the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century), mysticism was often associated with monasticism.

Monks such as Meister Eckhart, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Saint John of the Cross were dominant figures in mysticism. A number of the most distinguished Christian mystics have been women, notably Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa of Avila..

By its pursuit of spiritual freedom, sometimes at the expense of theological formulas and ecclesiastical discipline, mysticism may have contributed to the origin of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation.

Modern mysticism finds expression in the theology of many Protestant denominations and is a salient characteristic of such sects as the Anabaptists and the Quakers.

Mysticism manifested itself in England in the works of the 17th-century Cambridge Platonists and in the art and poetry of William Blake.

The religious revivals that spread throughout the United States during the 19th century derived much from mystical principles. The 20th century has experienced a revival of interest in both Christian and non-Christian mysticism.

- Encarta Encyclopedia

These mystics see in the historic life of Christ an epitome--or if you will, an exhibition--of the essentials of all spiritual life. There they see dramatized not only the cosmic process of the Divine Wisdom, but also the inward experience of every soul on her way to union with that Absolute "to which the whole Creation moves."

This is why the expressions which they use to describe the evolution of the mystical consciousness from the birth of the divine in the spark of the soul to its final unification with the Absolute Life are so constantly chosen from the Drama of Faith.

In this drama they see described under veils the necessary adventures of the spirit. Its obscure and humble birth, its education in poverty, its temptation, mortification and solitude, its "illuminated life" of service and contemplation, the desolation of that "dark night of the soul" in which it seems abandoned by the Divine: the painful death of the self, its resurrection to the glorified existence of the Unitive Way, its final reabsorption in its Source--all these, they say, were lived once in a supreme degree in the flesh.

Moreover, the degree of closeness with which the individual experience adheres to this Pattern is always taken by them as a standard of the healthiness, ardour, and success of its transcendental activities.

- Evelyn Underhill

Discovering spirituality is like discovering you are in a boat. Mysticism is like pushing off from the dock. Since many leave safe mooring and perish in the waves, this is not to be done in a cavalier fashion - even though it can be exciting to push off into the deep.

The issue is not of whether we should push off, for Christians must do so as well if they intend to get anywhere (and that is what boats are for), but rather of where you are going...The Christian casts off from this world as well, but with clear intent to where he is headed, with the best of maps, circumspectly, deliberately.

The Christian Mystic arrives, against all dangers and odds. Thus we launch out with fear and trembling, but trust that He who commanded us to do so can calm the waves, and see us through to His real, safe port.

- C.S. Lewis

There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. Iíve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic. We believe our work should be our example to people. We have among us 475 souls - 30 families are Catholics and the rest are all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs -- all different religions. But they all come to our prayers.

- Mother Theresa