Friday, December 9, 2011


This is ironic, but I have really been drawn to certain aspects of the Catholic faith.  It's very strange to me, because I've always viewed Catholicism with quite a bit of suspicion and disdain. (like all good Protestants do)  And now after I've sort of 'dumped' religion altogether, to then want to study something as strict and unyielding and unmerciful as I have conceived the Catholic tradition to be...well, it's pretty baffling.  The thing is, within Catholicism there are some people who are quite simply inspiring.  Who can deny that Mother Teresa is a picture of what it means to love God?  And deep within this tradition is something I would have until recently been too terrified to even think about, much less want to understand..."Catholic Mysticism". (oogala-boogala)  I know for many the word 'mysticism' implies sorcery or seances and the like, but the definition is:
1. belief in or experience of a reality surpassing normal human understanding or experience, esp a reality perceived as essential to the nature of life.
What is wrong about believing in a reality that surpasses normal human understanding?  The problem with religion is, it thinks it can take this reality and shove it in a box.  Anyone that challenges this box and questions, "maybe your ideas about God are not completely correct" is perceived as a terrible threat. (how many wars have been waged because of religion?) 

But that's the problem with religion...and not everything about religion is bad.  The truth is, I haven't exactly 'dumped' it.  At the heart of any religion is a passing down of an experience of the spiritual realm--either by a person or a community.  Many people (in fact, the majority) believe in a spiritual realm...but they have not had any experience of it.  They need to rely on the experiences of others, and believe those experiences are true in order to have faith.  But this is not the case for those who have had their own spiritual the Apostle Paul. (author of most of the new testament)  He did not experience Jesus in the flesh, nor did he believe in the religion of Christianity...he had an experience of Jesus that was outside of a normal human encounter.  Isn't that 'mysticism'? 

The religion of Christianity is the passing down of Paul's (and others) spiritual experience, except now it has a stamp of approval on it-- making it safe.  (If your with the group of people who believe in that stamp of approval.  Obviously it's not safe for those who believe in some other group's stamp of approval)  Now that I disagree with the 'stamp of approval' of what the religion of Christianity has taught about the teachings of Jesus and the letters of Paul, I've had to 'dump' the religion.  Although, I still believe in the original mystical experiences...only now I'm free to consider that other people's mystical experiences can be true as well, even if they do not belong to my religion.  Except, I'm not really all that interested in studying other religions.  I'm interested in learning from others who love and follow Jesus, but who are not afraid of the spiritual realm.   And those crazy Catholic Mystics who boldly teach of having touched the spiritual realm all have something in common...they say it's found 'inside'. (nor shall they say, Lo, here; or lo, there; for lo, the reign of God is within you.' Luke 17:20 ) The method many of them teach in regards to having access to this inner place is something called "Centering Prayer" or "Prayer of the Heart" or "Contemplative Prayer".  I'll talk more about it another time.