Thursday 25 April 2019

Why Christians Now need to become 'mystics'

I keep stating variations of this assertion - and since it sounds implausible, it is probably necessary that I keep explaining why I believe it.

By 'mystic' (or Romantic, in my preferred nomenclature) - I mean that Christians need to become directly, personally aware of things that previously could be accepted on the basis of church or scriptural authority.

This personal element has become necessary as the effectiveness of external authority has dwindled. In the past people believed that the church knew better then themselves - modern people simply do not believe this, and apparently cannot force themselves to believe it.

Likewise scripture - the whole matter of scriptural translation, scholarship and interpretation has become so complex and confusing, so much a matter of competing assertions - that any simple attitude of 'following' 'clear' Biblical teaching has gone. People can try, they can assert - but the clarity, simplicity, and belief seem to have gone. 

When external authority goes, then how can Christians be sustained in face of a demonically-motivated Global Establishment that actively acts to eradicate Christianity?

Sooner or later every Christian will find themselves under extreme pressure to stop being Christian: what then? He will be challenged, repeatedly, to justify himself. He will be pushed-back to seek resources for resistance. What can help?

The answer is that Individual Experience needs to replace External Authority.

That is what I mean by saying that every modern Christian will (sooner or later, when challenged) need to become a mystic.

Each modern Christian needs to know what is right and what to do; and he needs to know this from his own direct, personal, mystical experience.

For this to happen, he has to know that it is 1. possible and 2. a good thing - from God, and then 3. be able to recognise and respond to divine mystical experience as it presents itself for modern people here-and-now - which is very different from the past.

And That is the topic of much of this blog: how to be a modern mystical Christian.


John Fitzgerald said...

I sometimes wonder if this is what the Gospel line about 'the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory' points to. As far as I'm aware, this scripture passage is usually interpreted as a sudden apparition in the sky of Christ coming in judgement. But what if it's something inward and something that doesn't appear all at once out of nothing but rather the mystical presence of Christ in the hearts of men and women? A presence which only a few might experience at first but will spread from person to person and grow exponentially, though secretly for a long time, until a 'tipping point' is reached and Christ's active, living presence becomes clear and visible to all. And that will be the moment of clear and unambiguous decision for each and everyone, 'the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds with great power and glory,' etc.

Bruce Charlton said...

@John - That's a hopeful and motivating interpretation! Which is the kind of thing we most need.

By contrast, some interpretations of the end times or second coming tend to induce passivity and fatalism - which surely could not have been the intention.

I am very unsure about the usual understanding of end times/ second coming prophecies - e.g. given their absence from the Fourth Gospel - but I do believe in the linearity of history and that these times are unprecedented and 'terminal', one way or another.

And also that we do need a 'second' coming of Christ into our hearts, since the older ways of 'being a Christian' are being eliminated. And on the other side, there are 'new possibilities' for becoming aware of the living presence and guidance of Jesus; new levels of theosis becoming possible...

So in the final analysis, I reach the same ideas (end times, second coming) via a different route; which is usually a sign of truth.

William Wildblood said...

From a mystical or Romantic perspective Christ must be born in our hearts if we are really to know him and start to become like him naturally rather than self-consciously imitate him. Merely following him externally is not enough and not what he wants us to do. That is an essential beginning and necessary balance to inner knowing which can tip over into illusion while developing, but we can only grow spiritually (which is the point of it all) if we seek to know inner truths inwardly and for ourselves. This, after all, is reflected in the pattern of growing to maturity in the normal sense in which first we follow external authority and then learn to govern ourselves.

Mysticism in this sense is not the search for peak experiences which is a childish pursuit, not to mention spiritually greedy. They come if they come and if they don't, they don't. They will not necessarily make you a better or wiser person. It is growing in Christ which means becoming like him and maybe even suffering like him though not literally so, of course.

Anonymous said...

Bruce, President Nelson agrees with you.

"One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will. The privilege of receiving revelation is one of the greatest gifts of God to His children."

" If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation."

"But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost."

B. S. Linger

Mark A. Clifford said...

Dr. C.:
Every day, long time reader, rare commenter, but this post provoked me to consider the (many) ways that your intuitions mirror the Revelations of the CJCLDS; especially in parallel since you first encountered it:
The already mentioned and increasing emphasis on personal revelation as the key issue in surviving the End Times;
The urge to deinstitutionalize – that is, to have less church, and less reliance on the Church to provide all direction and teaching – despite the risks of “losing” more marginal members. This is particularly remarkable as it coincides with what might be a natural or predictable “counter-reformation” move to make the church more centralized and more regimented (rather than less, which is what is happening);
The strong exhortation to make the home central to one’s religious life (the new “home centered, church supported” model), which risks losing the more marginal members in favor of the more motivated and stronger ones, who have homes that can do this;
The re-emphasis on the teaching that in Heaven, there is no church, there is only the Family; and that “the proper end of all worship is for a man, his wife, and children, to be happy at home” both now, and Eternally;
The recent work to “de-brand” Mormonism; a very counter-intuitive move, as President Nelson himself admits; and therefore to distance the Church from Mormony-ness and re-identify itself as the Lord’s;
The ongoing and arresting work to discontinue long sought, expensive, and nurtured relationships with institutions that are lurching leftward (the Boy Scouts of America, for example);
This leaves out some more “insider” but still significant changes to the organization of the time-cherished and very regimented “Home Teaching” (to the relatively free form and unregimented “ministering”); the alteration in the organization of the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums, the ordination of younger men to the priesthood, the revealed adjustments to how the Temple is organized and the Endowment is presented)…
All of these “adjustments” have, frankly, left members of the CJCLDS somewhat thunderstruck; kind of reeling, though they seem small (and were already inherent in our doctrine and practice) they add up to something extremely striking, which we are still struggling to both put in practice and to deeply understand; they amount to a massive realignment, reemphasis, and deinstitutionalization of the tradition to focus on:
Romantic Christianity! Huh.
Mark Clifford

Adil said...

It is the inward aspect of man that must be primary, not the external depiction and scrutinising of it. As you have stated so many times, it is the primary assumptions that are wrong. The outside is believed to be more real than the inside, thus constraining the inside and bloating the outside. This is spiritual exile.

Since inner insight is not 'meritocratically' attainable for everyone, the esoteric teachings of Christ are missed. It seems to me that the bible is essentially a concentrated document of ancient human wisdom, regarding the condition and origin of man translated into personal human language. It doesn't necessarily contrast biology or nature, but describes it in a human way that is deeply real more than we recognize. This is the divine side of it - reflecting a deeper part of us that we do not have conscious access to. In the same way our body has its own self regulating intelligence that is wiser than the scope of our conscious knowledge, our spirit is even more so. And the bible is like our collective spirit body.

Thus it seems to me that an esoteric hermeneutics is as important as scriptural exegesis. Yet modern theology is the same as modern science, - materialistic, reductive, hair splitting rather than holistic and integrative. The immaterial side of the Bible is dismissed, not worked with..

But external symbols only work if they remain dynamic. If people think that symbols only are representations of an objective outer reality they lose their power to bring forward the living spirit.

lgude said...

@Bruce - I certainly have come to mysticism by a different path than yourself, but had not recognised so sharply that such convergent experience is often a sign of truth. I was listening to a very bright young man recently who thought that our problems were solvable at the collective level by collaboration between humans and 'sentient machines' and that 'wisdom' could be discovered by such means. I do not bring him up to mock him, but as an example of how modernity has completely lost touch with the fundamental nature of consciousness or that any inward experience could have value, much less transcendent value. It is hard to see how humanity can get beyond the current degenerative state, but your post and the excellent responses in the comments remind me that James Joyce had the location right when he wrote of "The Smithy of the Soul".