Mysticism: A Simple Definition
Time and time again, I see people arguing that mysticism = “Eastern” concept = not Christianity = evil. I know these people because I’ve been these people. (Not in actuality, of course. That would qualify as disassociative identity disorder or multiple personalities which would just be silly.) But here I am, years later, with more information behind me and a wish to go back to my former, ignorant self, and help shine some light on things.
Mysticism is simply direct experience of spiritual realities. This being the case, it has been going on throughout time.
When Adam walked with God in Eden, that was mysticism.
When Cain heard God ask him what he was thinking, that was mysticism.
When Abram heard God tell him to hightail it to the Promised Land or that he would have a son, that was mysticism.
When Jacob wrestled with God, that was some serious mysticism.
When Joseph received insight into Pharaoh’s and his fellow prisoners’ dreams, that was mysticism.
The burning bush? Mysticism.
Moses on Mt. Sinai, particularly seeing the back of God declaring His name is mysticism.
I’m not even out of the Torah yet.
When Mary talked with Gabriel, that was mysticism.
When Joseph had dreams of Gabriel (or was it just an unnamed angel?), that was mysticism.
When Paul speaks of someone (himself) taken up into the third heaven, that was mysticism.
When John received one heck of a vision on Patmos and wrote the book of Revelation, that was mysticism in spades.
Mysticism is strewn throughout Scripture. And unless you’re hard set on dispensationalism, then what God did then, He is completely free to do now. He is still free to offer us mystical experiences, and therefore mysticism is not something that should be utterly shunned. It has its place in Christianity.
Now, is mysticism or mystical experience the point of Christianity? Certainly not.
Could mysticism interfere with Christianity, one’s faith or growth, or the gospel? Absolutely.
However, God may desire to use mysticism in His work in the world or in individual people, and if we deny or are hardened against it, then we may be hindering what God is trying to do. Wisdom will note the dangers of mysticism but will also acknowledge its reality and the possible good that God may attempt to bring about through it.
So this is me, talking to the old me (and those like the old me), saying: do not write off mysticism too quickly as “Eastern religion” or heretical. Be careful with it, but don’t demand its demise.