Who is a Christian Mystic?

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
(1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV)

At every turn, Jesus seems to be saying quite clearly that closeness to God's Presence is not bound up in time or in geography, but rather that it was eternal, timeless and hidden in the most obvious of places -- one's inner self.

During a period in Church history, while the Church murdered and tortured, argued and punished, politicized and jockeyed for power and position, there emerged an inner channel of spiritual exploration by various figures in the Church. Their courage and persistence did more to explain and demonstrate the true meaning of Jesus and the Christian experience than all the manipulated, self-serving doctrines or bonfires of death. Some of the basic beliefs of a Christian Mystic are outlined below, but a more in-depth look at each can be found elsewhere on the site.

What are the beliefs and/or practices that defined the beautiful tradition of Christian Mysticism and continue to define Christian Mystics today?

Meditation: Oddly enough, in the history of the Church the terms for meditation and contemplation are 180 degrees different than are used in the East. In Christian terms, "meditation" means conscious thinking on a subject with the objective to raise one's spiritual awareness or deepen one's spiritual understanding. This means thinking something over, letting the heart of the subject melt into one's own heart.

A perfect example is to take the Prayer of St. Francis and commit it to memory. Then, quietly, one can sit and allow the words one by one to pass deep into the soul. Others can be added as the person sees fit, but always positive and not the negative that has infused the religion.

Contemplation: In Christianity, "contemplation" more approximates the Eastern tradition of meditation. Perhaps the premiere handbook in Christianity for this is The Cloud of Unknowing which stresses the abandonment of the soul, intellect and psyche to the very presence of the Transcendent. As with the other tools presented here, this will be discussed in depth in a different section of the site.

Prayer: There are ample misunderstandings about prayer and the power of prayer. At the very base level, prayer is an attempt to somehow cajole God into doing one's will by flattery on the one hand and absolute personal debasement on the other. "Get me through this horrible airplane flight, God, and I'll never sin again."

Jesus' use of prayer is a model -- it is not to be done in public in an effort to impress God or others with one's sanctity and piety. It is a private affair.

Prayer is also not a grocery list of wants, but a chance to experience one's self and one's needs from the highest possible point. One doesn't have to try and convince God that you are worthy of love -- God is love and so how else can God relate to you?

Prayer, discussed in detail at another place in this growing website, is a moment of cleansing, of "coming out" with one's priorities and needs and hopes made manifest. It is characterized by one phrase, "nevertheless, thy will be done." A prayerful attitude, then, is letting go in life to the protection and reassurance of His Presence.

Action: What distinguishes Christian Mystics from many others is that a person who walks the path, who prays and meditates, who contemplates wisdom simply cannot be satisfied with having achieved some amount of inner peace. That is because, ultimately, the way as taught by Jesus is dynamic not static, ongoing and not a destination.

Action, then, becomes one of the great keys to the kingdom. It is absolutely essential that the realization of Christ within is radiated out in kindness, compassion, charity and generosity. If some of the other practices indicated here are the keys to the kingdom, love in action is what keeps one within the boundaries of the country of love wherever they are in this world.

The Great Commandment:

"28. And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" 29. Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31. The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." 32. And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34. And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions."

Mark 12:28-34 (English Standard Version)