Mysticism and Ecstasy – part 3: Evaluating Mystical SpiritualityAugust 31, 2018
(Ruach HaKodesh, Session 9c)
This episode of the Ruach HaKodesh series wraps up our three-part rabbit trail on the subject of mysticism and ecstasy. Part 1 focused on the debate regarding “ecstatic” experiences described in Scripture. Part 2 offered a very rough overview of mystical streams within both Judaism and Christianity. This current episode, part 3, seeks to evaluate mystical practices as we grapple with the essential question: what does it mean to be “spiritual”?
Our study will focus on four main aspects of mystical practice and spirituality and evaluate them in the light of Scripture. These four areas are:
- Meditation. This is an essential component of mystical spirituality. The Bible talks about meditation in numerous places (e.g. Psalm 1:2). But is biblical meditation the same as mystical meditation?
- Union with God. One of the chief goals of mysticism is to achieve union with God. Scripture speaks of believers having “communion” or “fellowship” with God (e.g. 1 John 1:3-7). But is there a difference between communion and union?
- Revelation. God has revealed himself to us. Were it not for his gracious revelation of himself, we could not know him. The question is, is God’s revelation something that is objective or subjective? Or both? In fact, it seems we get off track by emphasizing one at the expense of the other, and it is possible that mysticism has done just that. But neither is it healthy to err on the flipside. God’s Word must never cease to be our objective standard, yet that Word must penetrate to the depths of every believer’s heart.
- Spirituality. There is a tendency to define spirituality as purely emotional and experiential. Along with that comes an increased emphasis on the individual. To be sure, every believer must have a relationship with God that is deeply personal and individual, and it ought to be characterized by healthy emotions and experiences. But it is possible to take this emphasis in an unhealthy direction.
Some of the pitfalls of mystical spirituality are:
- Individualism: emphasis on oneself, sometimes at the expense of others.
- Inwardism: seeking truth/God within oneself rather than outside oneself (in the Scriptures).
- Subjectivism: reliance upon subjective experience or revelation.
- Anti-materialism: denigrating physical needs such as eating, drinking, sleeping, having children, working for a living, etc.
A final point to emphasize, however, is the need for grace and suspending judgement. It is okay to disagree with others and even expound on why we feel certain practices are unhealthy. But we have to be wary of developing a negative, critical spirit toward others. At the end of the day, we still need to walk in Messiah’s love.