A question that has come up for me time and time again is about how mysticism is viewed in the Bible and in other religious practices.
To begin studying this, I first looked up the definition of mysticism at Wikipedia.com.
Mysticism (from the Greek μυστικός, mystikos, an initiate of a mystery religion) is the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight.
I also found a separate definition under Christian Mysticism that appeared to be nearly identical.
Christian mysticism is the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight. Christian mysticism usually centers on a practice or practices intended to nurture those experiences or awareness, such as deep prayer (i.e. meditation, contemplation) involving the person of Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. This approach and lifestyle is distinguished from other forms of Christian practice by its aim of achieving unity with the divine. In the words of Oswald Chambers, “We receive His blessings and know His Word, but do we know Him?”
The full definition of Mysticism is an interesting read as it includes information about different faiths and what they think about mysticism. If you have time, check it out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysticism.
My next step in trying to answer my own questions was to look up several Bible passages that deal with witchcraft and astrology. I found:
Deuteronomy 4:19 (New International Version)
And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.
Job 9:9 (New International Version)
He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
It seems strange to me that the items in the next quote are considered to be detestable practices. From what I know of mediums and those who interpret omens, they seem to be very similar to what the Bible calls a prophet. The Bible does say that false prophets are bad, but what of a true prophet?
Deuteronomy 18:9-11 (New International Version)
Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.
Worshiping Other Gods
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.
And the last verse I wanted to mention…
Deuteronomy 18:21-22 (New International Version)
You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
Just as an aside, I have had many tarot readings done in my life and not once has the reader ever tried to get me to follow a different God than my own. Religion has never been the topic of discussion.
After looking at these passages, I checked out Beliefnet’s message board for Judaism, I found this information and thought it might be somehow relevant to this post. The original question asked on their board was, “Are there any Jews on here who practice some form of mysticism in their faith?” Here are a couple of answers:
“Actually, in Kabala, there are no ‘mystical practices’. A Jewish mystic simply does normal Jewish stuff with mystical mindfulness. Ultimately, Kabala is just a way of interpreting the Tora (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), by scrutinizing the details to reconstruct how Gods spirituality works,” (yesh).
“Kabbalah is rather the study of the mystical interpretation of the Torah and the regular practices of Jewish religious life. Kabbalah is not a separate doctrine or disciple from mainstream Judaism; rather it purports to hold the deeper meanings of things that stand behind the surface and prima facie interpretations,” (nieciedo).
I am completely lost on the whole Judaism/Kabala thing and I’ll have that discussion another day, but I think what was said here generally makes sense. Lots of times, I believe that people mistake having a different interpretation of something for an incorrect practice of the thing.
Looking at your faith from a mystical perspective doesn’t mean you still do not have faith. It doesn’t mean that you have a weaker relationship with God or that you are not living in a way that God would find worthy of His acceptance. So, if I study the Bible and Christianity from a mystical standpoint, I’m actually looking for deeper meaning (according to my definitions above) in what I am reading than what I get simply from reading the text. If I pray from a mystical standpoint (still not sure how to achieve this), I am looking for a stronger connection to God than what I might get from a simple conversational prayer.
In my case, I believe that all things come from God and that He sends me information that I am supposed to process and use to fulfill His plan for me. Everything I write, everything I read all comes from God. He wants me to know certain things and I believe this is how He communicates with me. But, that’s just my interpretation. 😉
Note: I am, by no means, an expert in theology, religion, mysticism or anything else. I am just a seeker of information, a sometimes floundering follower, who is trying to understand all that God has put in front of me and to write about it as a means of processing the big picture.