The heavyweight CCEL.org site holds a wealth of primary sources for Christian history. Imagine my surprise today with this quote in their newsletter:
The word ‘mysticism’ has scary connotations for some. Part of the problem is that the word is used for everything from Babylonian astrology to New Age speculation. Webster defines mysticism as “the doctrine that it is possible to achieve communion with God through contemplation and love without the medium of human reason.” That definition captures what I have in mind by the term. If you believe in the possibility of a relationship with God that is more than knowledge about God, you are a mystic. In this sense, mysticism is at the heart of true Christianity; even the devils know about God.
The author’s understanding of mysticism, from the definition, is woefully inadequate. Communion with God is achieved solely by the sacrifice of Christ. Our consciousness of that communion is enhanced, certainly, by contemplation, meditation upon his word, prayer.
But the definition is nonsensical, also, for there is no contemplation without the use of human reason. If the definition is accurate, that’s one reason mysticism … mystifies.
In his Concise Dictionary of Religion, Hexham shies away from defining it:
MYSTICISM: the implications of this word are often unclear. In the study of RELIGION it refers to the immediate experience of a SACRED-human relationship, and in particular to the experiences of oneness with a DIVINE or trans-divine BEING or STATE. It is difficult to study and describe because MYSTICS tend to claim that their experience is self-authenticating, and that it cannot be satisfactorily expressed in words.
He defines mystic as “one who claims to know GOD immediately through a FORM of SPIRITUAL inwardness, as against knowing through sensation or ratiocination, i.e. through logical processes.”
Being the case, Christianity has no truck with mysticism, since it is based upon the communication of the divine revelation through words and objective comprehension.
Mysticism is ingrown Christianity, spiritual navel-gazing; the true grace of God is ever outward looking, and upward, always aware of the divine mission to be fulfilled in a world controlled by Satan.